Superior Summer

By: Mr. Wilson on August 15, 2008
I'm probably jumping the gun -- not to mention cursing us all -- but it sure seems to me like the weather this summer has been nothing short of spectacular. We've had, what, three unpleasantly hot days? Shoot, that's nothing. And how many gorgeous days have we had? I can recall many days this summer on which I paused, looked at whomever I was with, and said "Boy, it sure is nice out here today/tonight". Even my lawn is still reasonably healthy, a near-miracle for this time of year. What is your take on this summer?

It’s Official: No New Taxes

By: Mr. Wilson on August 14, 2008
Good news, taxpayers: the City Council finalized the budget -- which Mayor Beutler is expected to sign -- and it doesn't contain a tax increase. The property tax rate stays at $0.288 per $100 of property value, representing 14% of your property tax bill. Unfortunately, the budget depends on some one-time solutions, and every year the cuts get more and more difficult. If we have to do this again next year ... well, it won't be fun. How would you grade (a) Mayor Beutler, and (b) the City Council on their performance with this budget? How could they have improved their grade?

A Gang’s Solution to the Energy Problem

By: Mr. Wilson on August 14, 2008
Gang of 10 member Senator Ben Nelson was in town yesterday promoting his bipartisan energy plan. Senator Nelson says the proposal represents "a dramatic change" for America and that it is a big step away "from the old energy economy to the new energy economy". I wonder just how far away from "the old" way of doing things Senator Nelson is willing to go. The plan puts a strong emphasis on ethanol, a fuel which is most definitely not new, nor is it markedly more efficient than straight gasoline (if not less efficient) and which is little more than a short term, partial answer to long term, large scale problems in both energy and rural policy. Senator Nelson has strongly linked his energy and rural solutions:
We must make a strong commitment to lessening our dependence on foreign oil in ways which provide positive benefits to the environment and encourage investment in new production plants and facilities for an added boost to the rural economy.
It's not a bad thing for a Senator from a substantially rural state to want to boost the rural economy, of course. It's his job. But the linkage of his energy and rural policies strikes me as pandering to the state's corn farmers and broader ag industry in a way that will ultimately prove harmful. It is harmful to rural areas because it increases reliance on a new, unstable and unsustainable industry; it is harmful to our energy policy because it keeps us mired in current habits and does little to move us toward the (apparently inevitable) electric future. In other words, the Gang's plan strikes me neither as what Americans want nor what we need. It's not a leap ahead; it's a small shuffle forward. What do you think? What do Senator Nelson and the rest of the Gang get right? Where do they go wrong?

So Long, Little County Fair; Hello Super Fair!

By: Mr. Wilson on August 13, 2008
The Lancaster County Fair attracted 73,000 attendees this year, up 11% from last year. I went for the first time in years, and although I didn't get to see very much, it was apparent attendance was healthy. Robbie was plenty enthralled with all the animals and people. This year marked the last "traditional" county fair, with next year's fair slated to be a "super fair". I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I take the general concept to be equivalent to a large middle finger pointed in the direction of the State Fair folks who refused to consider moving the fair to the Lancaster County Events Center. I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

Extraordinary Cuteness

By: Mr. Wilson on August 13, 2008
image I've got to hand it to the Lincoln Children's Zoo. Charging people $60 to keep tabs on their new baby red panda is a great way to raise cash. Sixty bucks is too rich for me just to read a blog and see some photos, but for folks who were already thinking about chipping in, it's probably enough to pull them over the edge. Apparently red pandas are very endangered. I know I would volunteer to keep one or two around the house if that would help. I'm sure Daisy wouldn't mind.

KLKN is Behind the Times

By: Mr. Wilson on August 13, 2008
It annoys me when websites aren't accessible to persons using a variety of web browsers. As a web developer, I see the act of blocking "incompatible" browsers as lazy. As a Firefox user, I see it as a slap in the face. Websites shouldn't worry about meeting every browser's needs, of course. Some browsers have such a small market share they aren't worth the time to support. And beyond a certain point it's too much hassle to support an antiquated browser. No web developer in his right mind still worries about Netscape 4, for example. Recently an employee with a local media company picked on me for not doing a better job of linking to news anywhere other than the Journal Star. Yeah, that's true. I've gotten lazy about diversifying my sources. The original reason I didn't link to, for example, KOLN/KGIN (10/11) and KLKN is because their websites were a drag to use. 10/11's website is still a cluttered mess, but it works fine for me -- including video -- so I will try to do a better job linking to it. In contrast, KLKN's website doesn't like Firefox, and in fact still recommends Internet Explorer 6 and Netscape 7.1. Yikes. That's not only bad advice, it's downright dangerous. So sorry, KLKN, you still won't be getting any links from here. I should also do a better job of linking to local radio sites, such as KLIN and KFOR. Speaking of which, a quick message for local radio folks, if you're reading: Have you ever considered packaging your local news headlines into a daily podcast? It could be short -- 3 to 6 minutes, say -- but would give you another way to get your voices heard.

Getting People From A to B

By: Mr. Wilson on August 12, 2008
I'm glad to see that midday bus routes will probably survive, to the relief of those who use them. I wonder: To what extent does a community Lincoln's size have a responsibility for providing services to get people around town? Do we have more of a responsibility to certain populations than to others? I haven't decided on answers to those questions, though generally I agree that providing accessible public transportation is the just thing to do. It could also be an economically wise thing to do, though in Lincoln we haven't been so good at figuring out the economics of efficient public transit. What do you think?

Booze is OK for Raising Some Bucks

By: Mr. Wilson on August 12, 2008
The City Council decided to allow booze at city parks -- but only for Parks and Rec fundraisers at a select list of parks. It seems like a reasonable enough decision to me. Many policy decisions regarding alcohol are anything but reasonable. Wouldn't it be great if society were mature and responsible enough that we could allow anybody to have a beer along with their picnic lunch?

We Supped at the Cup

By: Mr. Wilson on August 11, 2008
The Missus and I dined at Bread and Cup on Saturday evening, a full year after they first opened. I don't have a good explanation for why it took so long to get there. I'll be honest, Bread and Cup isn't my kind of restaurant. Rather, it's the kind of restaurant I wish was my kind of restaurant. If I had to pick between the two, I'd call myself more of a quantity guy than quality when it comes to food. That's not what Bread and Cup is about. Not that I'm ashamed of my food profile, mind you. Food preferences are personal. I just think it's just unfortunate that my taste buds don't appreciate the amount of work that goes into some foods. So let me simply summarize my impression of the food in a manner befitting one of Lincoln's more prominent restaurant reviewers: the food was good. It's a poor and incomplete description, yes, but this isn't really a review so I'm going to get away with it. The food is easily worth the trip a couple blocks off the beaten path in the Haymarket. You know what really sold me on Bread and Cup? The atmosphere. It was magical -- and that's not an adjective I'm likely to use very often. We ate outside and frankly the experience was damn near perfect. The temperature, the evening sun, the lack of bugs, the pleasant restaurant environment. It all combined to turn discussions about Batman and pooping toddlers into something very memorable. I do have one negative thing I would like to point out. Nobody seemed to know which food belonged to which table. It was bizarre to see -- at a restaurant where almost everything is carefully thought out -- so many employees wandering aimlessly with plates of food. "Is this your melon dessert? Is this your salad? Is this your pork sandwich?" It happened several times to different employees, I have to think something goofy was going on. Overall I was very pleased. I will add Bread and Cup to my list of recommendations.

Unexplainable Exuberance

By: Mr. Wilson on August 11, 2008
Could somebody please explain to me why I'm still excited by the possibility that Hobby Town's move is just a way to make room for a new Best Buy? I don't even shop at Best Buy! I think I was last in Best Buy over a year ago. I dunno. Maybe I just like the secrecy of it all (even if there's no secret to uncover).

Sleep Deprived

By: Mr. Wilson on August 11, 2008
Hi folks. Remember that big project I had been working on? We finally launched it last night. Unfortunately, I am barred by a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) from telling you which site it is. I'm hopeful that restriction will be lifted later this week. The organization wants to let things sink in first. Drat. Hopefully I'll be able to spill the beans soon. In the mean time, I need to catch up on some sleep. I already took a 2-hour nap this morning after breakfast. I won't be surprised if I pass out again this afternoon. But for now ... back to work!

From Omaha

By: Mr. T on August 10, 2008
They say no one reads the paper on Fridays or Saturdays, especially the weekend when the Beijing Olympics kick off. The NYT came out with a nice article on Nebraska's own Bright Eyes.

The Other Mr. T and His Not-So-Secret Agenda

By: Mr. Wilson on August 7, 2008
Media heartthrob T. Boone Pickens is coming to Lincoln on August 20. Mr. Pickens, you may have heard, is the filthy rich Texas oilman who thinks the U.S. needs to invest in wind for our electricity and natural gas for our cars. His goal, he says, is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. While that's all well and good, Mr. Pickens isn't driven by patriotism alone. Profit -- as you might expect -- is one of his substantial motivators. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Indeed, profit seeking drives innovation. As oil prices increase we are going to see more and more individuals and corporations come forward with solutions they hope to make a buck off of. And thank goodness. What bothers me about good ol' T. Boone isn't that he wants to make a buck, but that he wants to make a buck using my tax dollars. Lots of folks are writing about this, but here is one summary. In short, Mr. Pickens has interests in water rights, wind energy, and natural gas. But in order for the profits to start rolling in, he needs you and me to wield our influence over our Senators and Representatives so he can get access to the resources he needs to put this all together. That isn't capitalism. That's robbery. Anyway, if you go see Mr. Pickens on August 20, and if there is a Q&A period, I encourage you to probe this topic with him. T. Boone says he wants to increase the use of clean (or cleaner) energy. Fantastic. But why must he use such dirty tactics to do it?
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