Violence in the Big O!

By: Mr. Wilson on August 21, 2008
Another day, another shooting in the big O. This time a police officer was on the receiving end of a bullet. O! If Omaha isn't careful, they're going to go from The Big O! to The Big Bullseye! I don't think that would work as well from a marketing standpoint.

Recipe Box

By: Mr. T on August 20, 2008
I know there are a number of pretty good Lincoln-based cooks out there, including The Beer Orkid Dude, West A Dad, The Swoofster, Lynda, Jake, and others. This may be of interest:
For Immediate Release NET Television Looking for Recipes & Stories for Cooking Show LINCOLN, Neb. (Aug. 20, 2008) -- Small and unassuming, a recipe box holds within its confines a treasure-trove of homemade memories. "The Recipe Box" is a new NET Television production featuring homegrown Nebraska cooks sharing their favorite family recipes and the stories behind them. The first phase of the production is a statewide call for recipes and stories. Recipe submissions will be accepted from Sept. 5 through Oct. 17, 2008. Entry forms are available at all Nebraska Walmart stores or, beginning Sept. 5, the public can enter submissions online at NET's "The Recipe Box" website at Requests for entry forms can also be made by calling NET Television toll-free at 1-800-868-1868 or 472-7777 in Lincoln, or by writing to: The Recipe Box, NET Television, 1800 North 33rd Street, Lincoln, NE 68503. Finalists will be judged on the best combination of story and recipe. Six finalists will be chosen to appear in the production with program host Brian O'Malley, chef/instructor at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha. O'Malley and an NET Television crew will visit the home of each finalist to videotape a segment featuring the cook preparing their dish and sharing their recipe story. "The Recipe Box" will be broadcast on NET Television in 2009. "Nothing is better than great food and great stories," says Kay Hall, producer of "The Recipe Box." "We think Nebraskans will enjoy hearing these stories and trying the recipes." "The Recipe Box," underwritten in part by Walmart, is a production of NET Television, a service of NET. For a complete program schedule, visit NET's Web site ( net PROGRAM CONTACT: Kay Hall, 402-472-9333, ext. 732, or e-mail at RELEASE WRITTEN BY: Larry L. Kubert, 402-472-9333, ext. 389, or e-mail at

Texas T. Boone

By: Mr. Wilson on August 20, 2008
T. Boone Pickens is in town today for a 10:30am talk at the Lancaster Events Center. If you go, be sure to let us know if he has anything exciting to say.

Sounds of the Season

By: Mr. Wilson on August 20, 2008
Ahh, the annual band camp article in the Journal Star. I love reminiscing about my time in the Cornhusker Marching Band. Those were the days. If you need a good giggle today, go read the comments on the article. They're already great, and I'm sure they'll get even better as the day goes on. I do have just one response, directed at "Worst in All Big". He says:
I really wish they would learn a few more songs, rather than playing the fight song to death.
Have you ever been to a college football game, good sir? Everybody plays their fight song to death. At least UNL's band has two fight songs to alternate among ("Hail! Varsity" and "There is No Place Like Nebraska".) Check out an Okalahoma game sometime, for example. Not only do they only have one song, that song consists entirely of the same four bars repeated over and over. And over. It doesn't help UNL that most of their non-fight song ditties are pretty craptacular. I could definitely go for some innovation there.

Free Money

By: Mr. Wilson on August 19, 2008
Mayor Beutler has provided some details about his housing stimulus plan. For starters, local homebuilders and Realtors have tossed $100,000 into the pot -- which tells us a fair amount about some of the folks who stand to gain from the plan. The plan looks like this:
  • $5,000 to purchasers of new homes up to $325,000 (72 homes)
  • $2,000 to purchasers of new homes up to $325,000 that have never been owner-occupied (i.e. they have been rented) (100 homes)
  • $1,000 to purchasers of pre-owned homes up to $150,000 (100 homes)
Councilman Ken Svoboda wants to increase the cap on home price to allow more expensive houses to qualify. He says that even though purchasers of more expensive homes aren't likely to be swayed by the payments, the increased tax revenue from their house purchase more than offsets the cost of the payment. His logic is screwy. If the payment has no effect on their decision to purchase, then why give them the free cash? For people who are going to purchase a house anyway, the cash giveaway is a net loss for the City, not a gain. In fact, the value of the plan to the City is only equivalent to the tax collections that would not have been made "but for" the stimulus plan. (It's the same "but for" test used in TIF decisions.) For pre-owned homes, then, the value to the City is always negative. Property taxes are always being paid by the owner (even if the house is empty) so the City isn't losing out on any income while the house is on the market. The only return on the City's $1,000 investment comes from: an increase in the taxable value of the property as a result of the house sale; sales tax revenue from anything purchased with the $1,000 within the City; and any "trickle-down" taxes as a result of purchases within the City. None of that adds up to an amount greater than $1,000. The same should be true of the $2,000 payments. That leads me to this question: Are unsold, empty, new houses subject to the same property taxes as their occupied equivalents? If so, then the same reasoning applies. If not, then the added value to the City comes from property taxes collected between (a) the purchase of the house thanks to the $5,000 payment, and (b) when the purchase of the house would have occurred even without the payment. For some houses that time will be zero. For others, it might be as much as a couple years. But even then the value is less than $5,000. This quick analysis leaves out a few things. For example, it doesn't include the economic value of occupied houses versus unoccupied houses. It also doesn't make any attempt to account for potential "snowball" effects. That is, if one or a few houses sell thanks to this plan and those sales (help to) kick off an earlier turnaround in the local housing market than otherwise would have occurred. All things considered, I can see how the stimulus plan is a boon to local homebuilders, Realtors, and developers, but I'm not convinced it helps out taxpayers to the extent that Mayor Beutler seems to think it will. Am I wrong? Is my logic illogical? Tell me all about it in the comments.

How to Save 9.1% on Your Electric Bill

By: Mr. Wilson on August 19, 2008
Now that we know our electric rates will go up by 9.1% beginning September 1, it's a good time to figure out how to offset the new costs. Here at 625 Elm Street we aren't the most energy savvy bunch, but we do try a couple things. For example, turning off unused lights. Actually, there's no "we" in this one; it's just me. The Missus is terrible about leaving lights on. It's not unusual for her to have 500 watts worth of lights turned on in rooms she's not in. That accounts for both wasted light and (during the summer) wasted heat. Unfortunately, her father was a big "turn off the lights guy" when she lived at home, so I have a hard time saying much to her. Who wants to remind his wife of her father? So I just follow her around and flip switches whenever I can. We have a programmable thermostat. It allows 4 settings per day for each of the seven days of the week. It's awesome for keeping the house at an appropriate temperature for specific days and time of day. Now if we could just get one that could sense the outdoor temperature (and humidity!) and open windows when appropriate. We also have ceiling fans in each of our bedrooms. Those help substantially. I'm not sure I could sleep without one on some summer nights. One thing I know we should do is swap out our incandescent light bulbs with CFLs. I'm still not completely sold on CFLs, but I hear they are getting better and better. I was hoping to skip CFLs altogether and go straight to LEDs, but LED technology just isn't there yet. Hopefully in a few years. What do you do to save electricity at your home? Do you have any recommendations with regard to CFLs?

Robbie’s First Spinning Ride

By: Mr. Wilson on August 18, 2008
The Wilsons went to the Christ Schools Fifth Annual Family Film Festival last night. They had a bunch of games, blow-up slides and bounce houses, a police car, a fire truck, and so on. They also had a ride that Robbie was really interested in trying. The man running it said The Missus was small enough that she could ride with him, so we thought, "What the heck". Famous last words? Robbie was enthusiastic from outside the gate, but once he got on, he wasn't so sure any more. Robbie and The Missus on a ride. Robbie looks uncertain. Uh oh, is he going to get sick? Robbie and The Missus on a ride. Robbie looks a little ill. Now he's relaxing a bit. Robbie and The Missus on a ride. Robbie looks much more relaxed. Aha, there we go! Now he's making faces for the camera. Robbie and The Missus on a ride. Robbie is making a face at the camera And so Robbie's first amusement park-style ride was a success. Next up: roller coasters! Well, ok, maybe in a few years.

A Full Day for the Ankle Biters

By: Mr. Wilson on August 18, 2008
If I'm not mistaken, this is the first year that all Lincoln Public Schools kindergartners will be stuck in school all day long. As a former kindergartner myself, to that I say, "Pbbbbbbbb!" I shouldn't be so down on all-day kindergarten. I'm sure it does come with plenty of benefits. And it's certainly a better experience than what a lot of kids would otherwise have -- i.e. half a day in front of the television. Since LPS did a phased start-up of all-day kindergarten, I really hope somebody -- calling all grad students! -- does a study comparing educational attainment of kids who had all-day kindergarten versus those who didn't. Is there a difference? How much? Does the difference change over time?

The Haymarket Convention Center Bites the Dust

By: Mr. Wilson on August 18, 2008
Did you notice that the proposed Haymarket convention center is gone from the most recent Haymarket redevelopment plans? Its absence isn't the only notable thing; the lack of fanfare surrounding the disappearance is also noteworthy. Only a few months ago officials trumpeted a 60,000 square foot convention center. Now they say existing conference space -- plus planned space currently in the pipeline -- is sufficient. In contrast to the convention center's disappearing act, the overall project seems to have gotten larger, with more mixed-use space, more parking garages, and a more prominent Breslow Ice Center. In addition, despite UNL's assurances that it is not yet on board with any plan, two pieces of evidence suggest otherwise. First, the phrase "practice facility" is now prominent on project sketches. Who besides the Huskers would be practicing in the new arena? Second, UNL is hosting an open house at Memorial Stadium at which the public will be able to see how the various proposals will look. Why would UNL host an open house if it doesn't plan to play an important role in the project? If the Huskers are on board, I have to think this project is all but a slam dunk. The arena needs a consistent tenant, and the Huskers want a home they can be proud of. It's a win-win. And Lincoln and UNL have Haymarket Park to point to as an example of just how successful these partnerships can be. Are you sold yet?

Drat, No Jax, But Welcome Nu Vibe

By: Mr. Wilson on August 17, 2008
Dang, my hopes for a Pepperjax Downtown have been dashed. But all is not lost. Matt Olberding tells us that local coffee and smoothie shop nuVibe will occupy the former Erbert and Gerbert's between 'O' and 'P' on 14th Street. I don't know that Downtown is dying for another coffee shop, but nuVibe's smoothies and other items -- they plan to offer breakfast and lunch items, for example -- will definitely get people in the door.

Roses are Ready

By: Mr. Wilson on August 15, 2008
I admit that I know absolutely zilch about rose gardening. So I ask those of you who are pros: why did it take a full two years to renovate the rose garden near the zoo on 27th Street? Regardless, the garden's dedication is being held on Sunday at 4:00pm. I didn't realize this, but it will now be called the Don Hamann Rose Garden in honor of Sartor Hamann's own Don Hamann. You know the guy, he's the one from the dorky radio commercials. (Not to be confused with the guy from the annoying Nebraska Diamond commercials.) Thanks, Mr. Hamann, for your donation to the garden.

No Movies on the North Side ... Yet

By: Mr. Wilson on August 15, 2008
Sorry north siders, but Marcus Theatres opted not to purchase seven acres of land at 27th and Folkways owned by Douglas Theatres. Had they purchased the land it wouldn't have guaranteed a new theater would arrive any time soon, but it would have given hope to all those who are sick of having to drive Downtown, to East Park, or even farther south to see Hollywood's latest and greatest. Likewise, the fact that they didn't purchase the land doesn't really mean anything. Maybe they have their eyes on a different spot, for example. Or maybe seven acres isn't big enough for them. (It doesn't sound very big to me, not that I would know how much land a theater needs.) You know, now that I think about it I wouldn't be surprised if north Lincoln's first theater shows up in the vicinity of 84th and Adams. Hmm...
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