Children In the Corn

By: Mr. Wilson on November 30, 2011
Nebraskans are up in arms because the Feds are talking about tightening child labor laws on farms. Detasseling in particular would be affected, a job that employs hundreds of sub-16-year-olds every summer. From what I understand, detasseling is a difficult job, but one that pays youngsters relatively well. Considering that it's very difficult for kids under age 16 to get any job, many youth rely on detasseling for spending money they wouldn't otherwise have easy access to. I remember being very excited about detasseling when I was a kid. I couldn't wait to be old enough and tall enough for the job. I was all set to go ... and then I got a paper route instead. It was probably for the best. Considering how poorly my body deals with heat, detasseling probably would have killed me. (I don't mean that figuratively.) I wonder how many of you detasseled when you were younger. What was it like? Was it worth it? Based on your experiences, should regulations be tightened to keep 15, 14, and 13 year-olds out of the fields? I of course want to protect kids within certain parameters, and in particular I want to protect them from idiot adults. But at the same time I don't want to take away perfectly good work opportunities. We need to find more opportunities for young teens (and even pre-teens) to work hard and earn some cash, not fewer. I'm not sure what role detasseling plays in that goal of mine, but it appears to my uneducated eye to be an appropriate component. I want my kids to have job opportunities when they get older. Sooner rather than later, in fact. I'm all for reasonable regulations to protect my kids while they hold those jobs, but if regulations become so stringent as to eliminate opportunities for the kids, they're doing more harm than good.

Looking For a Home?

By: Mr. Wilson on November 30, 2011
If you've been looking for a new home in Lincoln, I have just the place for you. They're practically giving the thing away. And it's only 3/10 mile from the nearest Taco Bell! You can't afford to not give this place a look.

Plugging Along

By: Mr. Wilson on November 28, 2011
Today's Pluggers comic was inspired by Harry Heafer of Lincoln. That may be the most exciting thing to happen in Lincoln all week! Seriously though, if you see Harry today be sure to give him a slap on the back.

One More Step

By: Mr. Wilson on November 22, 2011
The paperwork is done. The court date is set. The Wilsons will officially be a family of five on December 22, 2011. When I first saw the email from our attorney it felt like just another step in the process. But now that it has settled in for a few minutes I'm not sure whether I should smile, cry, or go to the bar down the road and buy a round for everybody. I was awfully nervous we wouldn't be able to wrap things up in 2011. It has been a long, difficult journey for the two boys; for Robbie, as he went from only child to middle child; and for The Missus and me as parents and spouses. There's a lot of road ahead, but there's light at the end of *this* tunnel and that's what I'm thankful for right now. So far I haven't said a lot about the boys here or in other public venues in order to protect their privacy as foster children. I will introduce them -- complete with new names -- on the 22nd.

Efficiency’s Cost

By: Mr. Wilson on November 21, 2011
Lincoln is considering a code change that would require all new furnaces to have an efficiency rating of 90 percent or better. The question of the day, then, is this: Is it a good idea? High-efficiency furnaces are unquestionably better for just about everybody. Better efficiency means lower heating costs for homeowners. Higher purchase prices mean more money for sellers. Less wasted energy means lower contribution to global climate change. And so on. But there are costs. Most obviously, generally speaking the higher the efficiency rating, the higher the cost of the furnace. If code mandates a higher-rated system than what you would otherwise purchase, you're effectively being forced to pay a "tax" of sorts. Arguably the extra cost would pay for itself over time, but the return on investment over 15 years is little consolation to somebody who is forced to pony up hundreds of dollars today that they don't want (or aren't able) to spend. An additional, less obvious cost is the freedom to purchase the product that's right for you. There's no such absolute freedom, of course. You can't go out and buy an asbestos comforter for your newborn, for example. We as a society have decided to protect others from their own stupidity by outlawing such things. On the other hand, you can go out and buy alcohol more or less at will despite its capacity for killing and maiming.

The Greenway is the Right Way

By: Mr. Wilson on November 18, 2011
Imagine a prairie greenway all the way from Pioneers Park, through Denton, and down to Spring Creek Prairie. It could happen. It should happen. For a relatively plain little city in a not-particularly-scenic (by most folks' standards) part of the country, Lincoln has some fantastic park and greenspace resources. Wilderness Park is one of our gems. Imagine, if you will, adding a six-mile-long corridor along Haines Branch within the same spirit as Wilderness Park, but with fewer trees. The idea gets me excited. Even better if we could get a similar strip of open space around the entire city -- Stevens Creek, I'm looking at you! But one step at a time. I occasionally fantasize about what I would do if I won the lottery.The BIG lottery, giving me a couple hundred million bucks to work with. I always come back to how I would establish a legacy. What could I do with the cash that would really leave an impact? One idea I've always really liked is buying up land encircling Lincoln to establish a giant parkland and recreational loop. Can you imagine? It would be fantastic. Seeing a project like this gives me hope that some variation on my dream could actually happen. It probably won't turn out as grand as my dream, but hey, I'll take it.

Food Rumors

By: Mr. Wilson on November 16, 2011
Some buzz suggests that Misty's is due to open today just south of 40th and Old Cheney. At one point I had heard the 17th (tomorrow). Their website still lists "two locations", but many joints don't keep their websites updated very well. Let me know if you drive by and see the doors open. In more certain news, PepperJax Grill, a philly joint based out of Omaha, has opened south of SouthPointe next to Chipotle. The opening comes after two false alarms, but this time their own website confirms it right on the homepage. El Sitio appears to be getting ready to open at 48th and Pioneers. I had heard they were going to sit back and take their time, waiting for the intersection of 48th and Pioneers to reopen before they open their doors. Based on what I've been able to see over the past couple weeks, that's exactly what they're doing. Smart move. Any other new food news we all should know about?

Dear LPS

By: Mr. Wilson on November 16, 2011
Dear LPS, We had an agreement. We agreed that our boy wouldn't be permitted to [activity redacted]. This morning you allowed him to [activity redacted] without our permission. What part of "No" was unclear? Why did you deliberately undermine our parental authority? I'm unhappy. Sincerely, Mr. Wilson

This is My Brother Darrell and This Is My Adopted Brother Darrell

By: Mr. Wilson on November 15, 2011
Jeff Korbelik has written up a nice story about ESPNU (and former KLKN) anchor Dari Nowkhah's fundraising efforts to honor the death of his infant son. The rant in which I'm about to engage doesn't have anything to do with the overall topic of the article, but does involve something in the article. Please go read it and, if you are so inclined, chip in. Then come back here and watch me be cranky. Back? I want to draw your attention to this paragraph:
A month later, he and his wife, Jenn, whom he met in Lincoln, welcomed their third child, Hayden Michael, into the world. The Nowkhahs have a 6-year-old son, Nicolas, and 2-year-old adopted daughter, Nahla.
Unremarkable, right? For most people that's probably the case. For me it features an all-too-frequent sin that I wish would go away. See it yet? The paragraph describes a family's three children: an infant and two older children. The oldest is described as "a 6-year-old son". The middle child, on the other hand, is a "2-year-old adopted daughter". She's not just a daughter, she's an adopted daughter. The author wants you to know that she is different in a very important way. I asked Mr. Korbelik about his word choice:
@LJSjeffkorbelik Is his "2-year-old adopted daughter" less his child than his "6-year-old son"? If not, why the implied pejorative?
And he replied:
@MrWilson Nope. Just wanted to make a (good) point about adoption.
A friend had suggested that perhaps Korbelik was trying to make Mr. and Mrs. Nowkhah look more noble so as to help their fundraising, and Korbelik more or less confirmed that theory. Yet in many ways Korbelik's explanation rings hollow. He says he was trying to "make a ... point", but how does a single, context-free adjective make a point about anything? It doesn't. It can't. As the story was written, Mr. Korbelik merely labeled the daughter in a way that, in many folks' eyes, has pejorative connotations. He didn't make a point about adoption and he didn't try. In an appropriate context there is not anything wrong with saying that a person was adopted. It's true, after all, and sometimes it's relevant to the conversation. In this case, little Nahla's origins have nothing to do with the story. The story is about a family's response to tragedy. Inserting an extra adjective into the daughter's introduction serves only to assert to the reader that she is different from her siblings. And for what purpose? Certainly not one that serves the story he tried to tell. Imagine having been adopted and seeing youth described as either "children" or "adopted children". Think for a moment about the consequences that has on a child's self-perception. How would you like to be constantly reminded that you are an outsider. You aren't a "real" child of that family. Your siblings aren't your "real" siblings. You're still loved, of course! There's nothing wrong with having been adopted and you're exactly the same as everybody else! But you get a label that other kids don't get. Many of you can relate from a different angle. How many of you have married somebody who was previously married to somebody else? Imagine for a moment that every time you are introduced, you are introduced as your spouse's "second husband/wife". At every gathering you hear "This is Mary, and this is Mary's second husband Bob". You're exactly the same as a regular ol' husband! You're just as good! But you get a label. The unnecessary labeling of adopted children isn't something unique to Jeff Korbelik. Not by a long shot. News media seem to love to describe children as adopted, relevance to the present circumstances be damned. Nor was his mistake as horrible as it could have been. As one example, he could have made things far worse by talking about the Nowkhah's adopted daughter and "their own" 6-year-old son. I see that a lot and it's maddening. If you're the sort who talks about a family's "own" children versus their "adopted" children, knock it off. Children who were adopted are, to the family to which they belong, nothing more and nothing less than sons and daughters. To imply anything else -- even with benevolent intent -- is to insult the family. It's not that the word "adopted" is bad, nor, of course, is it bad to have been adopted. But words carry weight, and labels are particularly heavy. I ask that Jeff Korbelik and the entire Journal Star staff think about the burdens they place on individuals when they hang labels around their necks. And don't forget that labels affect even those to whom they haven't been directly applied. Is the label relevant? Is it important? Does it advance the story in a meaningful way? In this case of Mr. Korbelik's use of the word "adopted", the answer to all three questions is no. It does not "make a (good) point about adoption", as was his goal.

Who Wants to Ban Smokin’ Chicks’ Butts?

By: Mr. Wilson on November 11, 2011
(I apologize for the title. I'm tired and not thinking straight.) You knew it was coming eventually, didn't you? Lincoln Parks and Rec is pondering a smoking ban at parks and along recreational trails. Or perhaps just near playgrounds. Whatever the specifics wind up being, don't be surprised if some sort of smoking restrictions come into play within the next few years. Those of you who remember my opposition to the city-wide restaurant and bar smoking ban might be surprised to learn that I'm actually somewhat in favor of a Parks & Rec smoking ban. Why the difference? Because parks are truly public spaces, whereas restaurants are private spaces generally (but not entirely) open to the public. The fact that a park is public doesn't mean that the public can do whatever they want while they are there. You can't blare music at rock concert volumes at Hazel Abel Park, for example, because of the effects it has on those around you. Smoking in the vicinity of those who wish to avoid second-hand smoke is comparably obnoxious. It is of course permissible to play music at a reasonable volume without harming others. If there were a way to keep the effects of smoking confined to a personal bubble, I should think it would be less of a problem. Unfortunately air currents tend to be tricky little buggers. I spend enough time at parks, trails, and ball fields to feel like I have a good sense for how big of a problem this is. In short: we don't need to rush to solve something that's far from a crisis. Most smokers seem to have enough common sense to stay away from places where kids -- well, other peoples' kids -- are hanging around. There are the annoying exceptions, of course, and as with most calls for "There oughtta be a law!" it's those people who get folks all atwitter. This may be a problem worth solving, but it's not such a problem that we need to rush in and do the job poorly. What do y'all think about smoking in parks and near trails? Is it a problem? Is it enough of a problem that we need new rules (or City ordinances) to solve it?
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