Howdy From the Big D

By: Mr. Wilson on April 6, 2009
Since Friday I have been down in Dallas participating in the Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup. It's a huge soccer tournament featuring teams and referees from across the U.S. and around the world. I will be down here through Wednesday. On Friday and Saturday I was invited to participate in a pro referee clinic. Although it was just ten hours of classroom time, it was by far the best referee clinic experience I have ever had. The clinic was mostly led by World Cup referee Brian Hall. It's amazing how much information one can absorb in very little time when it is presented by an excellent teacher. The teaching approach used during the clinic represents a pretty dramatic shift for U.S. referees. USSF is now pushing a criteria-based approach to instruction; that means that going forward there will be fewer "gray areas" and more absolutes when it comes to officiating soccer. It's a move that will not be noncontroversial among referees, but after spending the weekend digging deep into the new approach, it's easy to see how it is better not just for referees, but for the game. On Saturday morning I participated in a fitness test. I did ok, but it's becoming more and more obvious to me that I have reached the age where I will have to work harder and harder to meet the standards I set for myself. In the 12-minute run I went 2925 meters. Not bad -- better than I expected, actually, considering how I felt -- but below the 3200 meters (two miles) I would like to see. In the 50 meter sprints I averaged around 6 seconds; I averaged around 26 seconds in the 200 meter runs. I wasn't displeased with my times in the 50 and 200, but I was disappointed in how hard the sprints were for me, and how crappy they made me feel afterward. (My hamstrings are still sore as heck.) Regardless of my times, I want to be in good enough shape that I can run sprints like that without feeling like my legs are going to explode. I think it's time for some good interval training and ladders... My first match was yesterday, an AR on a U15 match featuring teams from Dallas and Mexico. Today I have three games, including an AR, a 4th, and a middle. Tomorrow brings one game, and Wednesday two (including a middle on a game that features a team from Trinidad and Tobago). Temperatures down here are perfect for this sort of tournament -- 50's to 70's through the week -- but the wind yesterday was killer, and it's not supposed to be much better today. That's my update for now. I will try to check in again tomorrow, hopefully with some actual Lincoln-related posts.

Nebraska 2014

By: Mr. T on April 6, 2009
Don Walton has an interesting column this morning, providing a good, helicopter's view level of the political landscape in the state for the next few years. I'd say its a pretty accurate one. Basically, he predicts that most of the state's higher offices will be locked up by current politicians. Its no secret that Jon Bruning has an eye on the governor's office, one he should be competitive for, and Mike Foley as a candidate makes sense too. I'd like to hold out for Mike "the Executioner" Flood, however. Flood has proven to be a very effective, moderate, and charismatic state lawmaker with a strong command of Nebraska policy issues. I'd much prefer to see him as governor than Bruning. Bruning - the idealogue that he is - would probably be better off in the house representing the state in its congressional delegation. The only problem with that is that our district is locked up by Jeff Fortenberry, who has also proven to be a very solid representative. Its too bad Bruning can't somehow try and bid for Lee Terry's position.

Tornado Time

By: Mr. T on April 6, 2009
Lets hope that this weekend was the last touch of winter we'll experience this year. But in addition to this late bout of winter, did you also know that four tornadoes touched down around the state over the weekend?

Three Years Later, Development in South Downtown?

By: Mr. Wilson on April 2, 2009
Three years after we first heard about it, could we finally see development on the block south of the Gold's building currently occupied in its entirety by a parking lot? It's possible. Of course, major Downtown projects have a long, sad history of coming in far (far) below expectations -- or not happening at all -- so forgive me if I don't jump up and down just yet. Still, just for the record, here's what the $45 million project might include:
  • A hotel
  • 120 residential rental units
  • 500-600 vehicle parking facility
  • Restaurant/entertainment complex
Not bad, right? I'm particularly intrigued by the fact that the residential units are rentals, rather than owner-occupied units. I suspect there's a very good market for that, especially being right next to the 11th Street bus stop. I'm also generally interested in the fact that the development occurs in the oft-forgotten south side of downtown. It's not on P or Q Street, it's not in the Haymarket, and it's not near Antelope Valley. That makes it a bit of an outcast. Not in a bad way, I don't think. Anyway, I'm crossing my fingers. I will be extraordinarily pleased if digging begins within a year.

Sometimes a Square Peg CAN Fit Into a Round Hole

By: Mr. Wilson on April 2, 2009
The Missus and I did something last night we don't do very often: we hired a babysitter and went out for a nice meal during which neither of us had to say the words "sit down" or "eat your supper". We opted to go to 9 South Chargrill, one of our local favorites. The Missus went with the tuna melt ($7.00), which she said was fantastic, and a salad. I chose the teriyaki salmon ($13) with garlic mashed potatoes and mixed veggies (yellow squash, red bell pepper, broccoli). I wish I had taken a photo because the food was quite picturesque on my plate; it tasted as good as it looked. As we were leaving, The Missus and I talked about how 9 South is a bit of an enigma. The property formerly housed auto repair shops and used car lots, hardly the sort of place you would expect to look for a nice meal. Tina's Cafe, located just down the street, seems a perfect fit for that chunk of South Street. 9 South, on the other hand, seems better suited to a location on South Street closer to the Country Club neighborhood. And the size! 9 South is such a tiny space. Yet it works, and it works very well. The worst thing I've ever heard someone say about 9 South is that "it's ok", whereas most folks seem to think the food, service, and atmosphere is quite good. That all makes me wonder if there are "rules" about making a business succeed where you wouldn't expect it to. I suspect there's an element of misdirection involved -- if you offer up the right distractions, people will either forgive the "wrong" location or even fail to notice it altogether. What other examples of businesses in "wrong" locations can you think of in Lincoln? Do they share any commonalities?

A Tax By a Different Name Smells Sweeter

By: Mr. Wilson on April 1, 2009
In her column today, Deena Winter initially calls "preposterous" the idea that Lincolnites might volunteer their time and donate goods to support the city through difficult financial times. It's not unreasonable of her to think such a thing. As she notes, Lincolnites are no fan of taxes. Why would we willingly subject ourselves to what amounts to a tax by another name? Simple. People are more generous in two situations: First, people tend to be more generous when they get something in return for whatever they give. That's why so many fundraisers give donors a gift in return for their donation. That Tootsie Roll the bell ringers give you in December? The chance to enter a raffle? That brick in the sidewalk? All are examples of donors receiving something tangible for their gift. Few people will write a $40 check to an organization. Raise the cost to $50 and throw in a fancy meal and you've got yourself a full house of eager donors. Second, people are more generous when they know exactly where the thing they give is headed. People don't like taxes not just because we are forced virtually at gunpoint to pay them. (Yes, at gunpoint. If you don't pay taxes for long enough, who shows up at your door? That's right, dudes with guns.) People also don't like taxes because it's so easy to think that their little contribution does nothing in the grand scheme of things. If I already think that my $100 isn't doing any good -- or worse, is being wasted -- then I will resent any increase because that's just more of my money that disappears into the abyss. On the other hand, if I know that my $100 bought that pair of gloves for that fire fighter which protected her hands in that fire, allowing her to help save that family ... it's easy to see how a person would feel pretty good about that. Let's put this all together and imagine a simple fundraiser for the City. Imagine if B&R Stores started a Feed the Firefighter campaign. Their goal: cover 100% of grocery costs for local firehouses for a year. To raise the cash, cashiers would ask each person at checkout, "Would you like to give a dollar to feed a firefighter?" Folks who donate would get to write their name on a paper cutout of a fire engine which would then be taped to a wall at the store. Donors would also get a sticker that says "I Fed a Firefighter Today" -- not unlike the classic "I Voted Today" stickers. I wouldn't be surprised if the goal were met in a couple weeks. If you expand that concept even just a little, I suspect you could see quick and impressive results. Similar programs are already reasonably successful. Consider the Adopt-a-Mile trash pick-up program, for example, and Lincoln Cares. One of the keys, in my opinion, is being sure to send the message that for maximum effect the efforts should be ongoing. We won't do ourselves much good if we only get ourselves fired up for a month. Lincolnites are willing to get behind local rally-the-community efforts. Take a look at Tour de Lincoln, or the aftermath of a typical Cindy Lange Kubick column. With the right approach, there's no reason we couldn't do our city a lot of good by taking a few things into our own hands.

City Council Won’t Get Its Spice

By: Mr. Wilson on April 1, 2009
Drat. The Lincoln City Council won't get any extra spice this round, because "Dr." John Haltom won't be on the ballot. Not that he was probably going to win a seat anyway. I suppose less likely things have happened... I wasn't so much rooting for the Doctor on the issues as I was for the sideshow he represented. Politics is too often far too boring. When people like John Haltom show up it gets the public interested. One hopes that as a side effect voters also learn a bit about the issues. Voters tend to be frighteningly ignorant when they head to the polls. Anything that gets a little actual data into their heads -- as opposed to merely biases and preconceived notions -- is a good thing in my book.
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