Murder Suspect Caught

By: Mr. Wilson on March 31, 2009
I hope Marvin Eduardo Carias is the man who killed Nathan Johns. If he is, then the Lincoln Police Department has taken a murderer off the streets. It sounds, however, like the case is far from closed. We'll have to wait and see how the case evolves. In the article, I noticed one of my little pet peeves. The article says
Just before 11 p.m., police read [Carias] his Miranda rights, and he invoked them, refusing to talk, according to the affidavit for his arrest.
It may seem trivial to most of you, but I don't like the use of the word "refusing" in that sentence. It makes the act of invoking a fundamental right sound obstinate, rather than admirable. Why not "declining" or "choosing not" instead? If you watch the media closely, you will see some interesting word selection patterns, of which this is just one example. Most of it is the sort of unconscious word selection bias we all display in our daily lives. Trouble is, one reporter's word choice affects countless individuals' perceptions of a story. I would like to see media organizations make a conscious effort not to portray the invocation of rights as an act of rebellion or obstinance. Rather, I would like to see a more active celebration of those rights. The legal system is far from perfect. Knowing and using your rights could very well spare you or someone you know a heap of trouble.

Theft by Nebraska

By: Mr. Wilson on March 31, 2009
Would you be surprised to learn that it is legal for the State of Nebraska to steal cash from you without convicting you of anything or even charging you with a crime, and without any legal due process? All the government needs is a "belief" that the cash was gained illegally. They don't need proof, and they don't need to take you to court. They can literally gather up your money and walk away. Which is odd, because I thought there were rules about that sort of thing.

Hat Tip to Grain Bin

By: Mr. Wilson on March 31, 2009
I like to give kudos to local businesses that provide excellent customer service, products, or both. Today I want to offer a tip o' the hat to The Grain Bin, located near 48th and Highway 2 in the Briarhurst Shopping Center. I have enjoyed Grain Bin's products for as long as I can remember them being open. Since moving within a quarter mile we have been fairly regular customers. The Missus and Robbie go there often enough that the folks behind the counter are always ready to offer Robbie a piece of the product of his choice. (The other day he opted for a slice of spinach, artichoke, and cheese bread.) I'm not sure which is my favorite product, but I do know that I first came to love Grain Bin via their honey wheat bread. Good stuff. Are you a Grain Bin fan? Which is your favorite bakery in town?

The LJS’s Bad Case of Classism

By: Mr. Wilson on March 30, 2009
The Journal Star editorial board isn't exactly a prime place to look for ideological consistency or logical reasoning, and today's editorial shows why. The editors have long been strong supporters of smoking bans. So naturally they should oppose the "cigar bar exemption" currently working its way through the Unicameral, right? Wrong:
A few cigar bars in Nebraska would be tolerable under a narrowly drafted exemption to the state smoking ban.
That's odd. After years of demonizing tobacco, what made them change their minds?
But allowing members of the public to light up a favorite Montecristo with a martini or a brandy snifter close at hand in the company of like-minded companions in a public bar strikes us as a worthy broadening of community options.
Oh! I get it now. It's fine if people who drink expensive alcohol while smoking expensive tobacco products want to gather with "like-minded companions" in a public bar. It's not fine if people who drink cheap beer and smoke Marlboros want to hang out with their buddies in a public bar. What a bunch of elitist bull excrement. Seriously, Journal Star editors, this is really pathetic. Your argument -- like-minded adults should be permitted to smoke in a reasonably-regulated environment -- is exactly the argument you should be using to oppose any smoking ban. And yet here you are trying to have it both ways: connoisseurs of snooty products should get a pass, while those silly blue collar types should suck it up and smoke outside. How do you justify freedom for some, but not for all? In related news, I spent 90 minutes in the presence of smokers on Friday, at a bar in Fremont. Oddly enough, nobody forced me to go inside and nobody forced me to stay. It was almost as though I were free to decide whether or not to patronize the business, and the business were free to decide whether it would allow its customers to smoke in the presence of "like-minded companions". What a refreshing concept, even if the air quality was awful.

Separation Anxiety

By: Mr. Wilson on March 30, 2009
I hope those of you with lots of yard waste in your yard had a productive weekend, because you're about to be charged extra for your grass and leaves. Tomorrow is the last day you can get away with not separating grass and leaves from your regular trash. Of course, trashing compostable waste isn't a very eco-friendly thing to do. Are you sure you don't have another option?

Craning My Neck to See ... A Crane?

By: Mr. Wilson on March 27, 2009
Did I see a crane flying toward Holmes Lake last night? I was driving south on 70th Street when a bird that resembled a crane flew over the road. I couldn't get a good look because the car in front of me wasn't being managed by the most competent driver on the road. It was probably one of Holmes Lake's more common long-legged visitors. If it was a crane, somebody should point out to him that his buddies are all a ways west of here.

Deep Cuts

By: Mr. Wilson on March 26, 2009
Look, I agree with the Platte Institute's position that some of Nebraska's spending and tax policies are out of whack. I also agree that some of Nebraska's public school structures are anachronistic and inefficient. But I have a hard time giving the report (PDF) a fair shake because I get distracted by one of the suggestions:
Consider increasing the student-teacher ratio in Nebraska’s public school classrooms
The single most effective and simplest policy to improve public education would be to decrease the student-teacher ratio; increasing the ratio might be an effective short-term money saver, but over time the costs of a diminished school experience in Nebraska would hurt us dearly. Mine is not a reflexively pro-public school opinion. On the contrary, over the past few years my opinion of public schooling has soured considerably. One of the reasons: public school teachers too frequently do not have the resources they need to effectively teach the kids in their classrooms. Increasing the student-teacher ratio will only make that problem worse. Seeing a noted economist propose what is, to me, such a transparently terrible "solution" to Nebraska's problems makes it very difficult for me to take the rest of the report seriously. What do you think of the report? Is it more right than wrong, or more wrong than right?

I’ll Bet Family Gatherings are Tense

By: Mr. Wilson on March 26, 2009
I get the feeling Shoemaker family gatherings are a little tense these days, what with a nephew building a new truck stop at NW 48th and O to directly compete with his uncle's place, and the uncle filing a lawsuit related to the matter. The lawsuit is interesting to me. Is it common for a lease agreement to stipulate that all tenant improvements to a property remain the property of the landlord? I also wonder about the location of the new truck stop. If I had to pick a location in town for a brand new truck stop, I think I would have gone for 56th Street / Highway 77 and I-80. Not that I know anything about traffic patterns either there or on NW 48th Street. It just feels like a better spot, what with the intersection of the highway and interstate, and the nearby industrial areas.

A Quick Trip up North 48th Street

By: Mr. Wilson on March 26, 2009
The Missus and I made a quick trip up 48th Street yesterday evening to visit Boston Market and Schaefer's. I only get to Boston Market about once each year, if that often. Yet every time I go I leave fairly impressed. When you strip it down to its essentials, Boston Market is basically just a fast food joint. From that perspective, BM has to be near the front of the pack. The facility is clean and inviting. The crew working last night were friendly and efficient. The quality of the food was high and it was presented well. The whole experience goes along pretty well until they hand you your food on a plastic plate, along with plastic utensils in a flimsy plastic wrapper. Prices are on the high side for fast food, but I think what you get is worth it. For example I ordered meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a piece of corn bread for $7, while Robbie's mac & cheese, fruit, corn bread and milk were $3.70. Next stop: Schaefer's. I hadn't been to Schaefer's new facility yet. I was very impressed. It is a wonderful showroom for appliances (we didn't get to the electronics side of the store). Yet something was off. Despite their commercials' promise that "the only thing better than our prices is our service", after 15 minutes of looking at refrigerators we weren't approached by a single sales person. For that matter, we didn't even see a sales person. It wasn't like we were lurking in the shadows; we had a two year-old with us, after all. I'm willing to brush aside the lack of attention as an uncommon glitch. But the experience at Schaefer's does stand in contrast to our subsequent visit to Lowe's. At Lowe's we were quickly asked if we needed any help; the salesman answered my question knowledgeably; he told us about an upcoming sale (bonus points!); and then he left us alone when I said that's all the help we needed. Good stuff.

Six and Out

By: Mr. Wilson on March 25, 2009
LPS Superintendent Susan Gourley will call it quits in June 2010. Plenty of LJS commenters are either happy to see her go or furious that she will have only been here six years. I don't have any specific beefs with Dr. Gourley. I don't care for some of LPS's priorities, but LPS was and remains a decent school system. Most of my complaints about public education have little to do with the district's superintendent; instead, the state, the feds, and the culture of public education get most of my ire. I'm curious to hear what my friends and family in LPS will have to say about Dr. Gourley's retirement. I can imagine there will be no shortage of opinions within LPS. What do you think about Dr. Gourley and her eventual departure?

Learning to Ride a Bike

By: Mr. Wilson on March 24, 2009
I learned to ride a bike on the sidewalk in front of our house on South 44th Street. My first bike was a hand-me-down: my sister's garish pink Huffy with white tires and streams on the handlebars. You can imagine how excited I was to receive a "boy" bike for my birthday. I bring this up because Buffmeat asked for some information about good places to teach a child to ride a bike without training wheels. We are looking for flat, level areas that "give" a little upon impact. Various parking lots are, of course, an option. But falling off a bike in a parking lot can be awfully unpleasant. Do you have any suggestions? Buffmeat lives on the north side of town, if that affects your input.

Tuesday Morning Skits

By: Mr. Wilson on March 24, 2009
Kent Seacrest isn't looking so well these days: A promo for the Journal Star I don't ever remember seeing on TV:
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