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Monday, April 25, 2011

[Earth Day Edition] pop-we Dinner Club Reviews Texas Roadhouse

Texas Roadhouse in Omaha, NE.
In March the population-we™  (pop-we) Dinner Club went to our first chain restaurant, the Texas Roadhouse. Each month a member picks a restaurant to dine at this month's was Randy's pick. The Texas Roadhouse has 340 locations in 46 states with plans of expanding over the next couple years. The restaurant in Omaha, NE., sits at 156th and West Dodge Road.

This place is always busy! People standing outside and sitting at benches met us as we arrived. When you walk through the doors, you arrive at a hostess stand to be greeted, and you are given a buzzer to let you know when your table is ready. To the left of the stand is a small waiting room, straight ahead there are a couple benches then the bar. The bar area is quite large. Unlike a lot of restaurants the tables situated in the bar area are reserved and you must be seated at one of these tables by the host/hostess. There are a number of barstools around the bar but these fill up quickly. A perk, free peanuts to snack on are available to patrons throughout the restaurant.

This night we had 10 people. They do not take reservations -- we tried to accommodate this fact by arriving early. The plan was to have dinner about 5:30, and to arrive a little after 5 o’clock, to get our name in for 10. However, like most weekend nights it was packed. We hung out in the bar area, where we got our fill of free peanuts, until our name was called. When they seated our party we found out they really do not have tables for large parties. Even though when Randy called ahead they said they did. We had to break up into 2 booths, which were next to one another. The first booth had a small table pulled up to it which allowed us to seat 6; the other booth 4 from our party sat at. So, if you're planning a large gathering and wanting to sit together -- beware.

BBQ ribs & pulled pork combo
I ordered their BBQ chicken with shrimp combo and my wife ordered the ribs with pulled pork combo (pictured at right). The BBQ chicken was juicy, tender but the sauce was a little sweet for me. I did try the ribs my wife ordered and they were excellent, fall off the bone tender and very tasty just as advertised. Usually what a chain claims and what you get are two different things but the ribs were very good. Texas Roadhouse is also known for their buttery rolls with cinnamon butter, which they give you basket of when you sit down. These rolls can be addictive…be careful or just plan on a doggy box.

Not to get away from our Earth Day theme for April the Texas Roadhouse earned A+ for their recycling efforts from this newspaper.

According to their website they've also won the following national awards:

- Ranked in the top 40 on the Forbes® Best Small Companies list.

- Named to the list of Best Family Restaurants by Parents Magazine.

- Ranked “Best Value” by readers of Consumer Reports magazine.

- Ranked in the Top 10 on Forbes® Fastest Growing Retailers list.

- Winner Large Company of the Year Business First Magazine.

- Winner Large Employer Top Places to Work Courier-Journal Newspaper

After compiling the surveys from the other foodies the pop-we Dinner Club gives Texas Roadhouse: 3.8 star average on a scale of 1-5.

Atmosphere/Decor - 3.6

Cleanliness - 3.8

Wait Staff - 4.2

Menu - 4.2

Food Presentation - 3.8

 Food Portions - 3.8

Food Taste - 4

Cost (was the cost worth meal?) - 4

Noise Level - 2.6

Overall Experience - 4

Fellow population-we™ readers, if you’ve been to the Texas Roadhouse leave us a comment and tell us what you thought?

Want to do this yourself? To review how to start your own dinner club, visit our January post about doing just that. Remember it is a template; tweak it to fit you and your friends’ tastes. pop-we Dinner Club: good food…good friends…good times.
Texas Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

In celebration of the 41st anniversary of Earth Day population-we™ staffers will celebrate our love for planet earth with green posts the entire month of April! Thanks for reading our final Earth Day post
-population-we™ blog post by Brian Brown
If you enjoyed this post, then make sure to leave a comment or 'Like' it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

[Earth Day Edition] Conduct Your Own Trash Walk or Trash Blog

Trash doesn’t discriminate you can find it in any neighborhood, village or farm anywhere. Do you have an empty lot or field in your area that is an eyesore because of litter? This spring my husband and I encountered two types of litter scenes and decided to blog about it.
Elkhorn Litter

Rural Litter - April 17, 2011:

My husband and I recently moved to a more rural neighborhood in Elkhorn, NE., and after the snow melted this winter remnants of trash were uncovered everywhere. I picked up trash in lots around our house but didn’t blog about it. I decided to do it again but on a bigger scale. I chose my birthday and recruited my husband to assist. So, read on to see what we uncovered -- something we’ve termed as “wind litter.”

Found at Elkhorn site:  Wine bottle, water bottles, beer cans, Frisbee, empty hamster cage box, ribbon, cereal boxes, mail, plastic netting, pop cans, foam, Styrofoam, strands of plastic, trash bag box, plastic bags, beer box, Pringles carton, landscaping border, plastic and Styrofoam cups and food cans. 

Urban Litter - March 19, 2011:

Habitat Litter
Brian and I recently volunteered for an Alternative Spring Break event through the University of Nebraska at Omaha Service Learning Academy. We along with other volunteers partnered with Habitat for Humanity to prepare an inner-city site in North Omaha for a future house. Besides clearing brush we also picked up litter from the two lots.

Found at Habitat site:  Beer bottles, broken glass, plastic bags, fast food wrappers, straws, receipts, cups, car mats, pliers, lighter, paper plates, pop cans, hot dog wrapper, CD, oil cans, cigarette pack and parts from a lawnmower.

Trash Walk Synopsis

The inner-city lot had litter that varied a bit from our rural neighborhood litter. The litter at the inner-city site was more foot traffic but had some characteristics that the lot had been used as a dump site with oddities of broken glass and car mats. Biggest difference between our neighborhood and the Humanity house lots: there was not a lot of foot traffic trash we encountered like at the inner-city site. We found more blown remnants, which came from trash day, which my husband and I deemed “wind litter.” The saddest discovery included the fact we picked up two full trash bags of litter in our Elkhorn neighborhood. No matter that we called it “wind litter” -- it is still litter. This type of litter may not be of human doings but still creates an eyesore and is hazardous to wildlife.

I can’t take credit for this blog post. I borrowed this concept from a colleague -- Professor David Corbin. He’s done his own Trash Blog in Midtown Omaha for years. Read about it at

So, this Earth Day do what Dr. Corbin and we did and conduct your own Trash Walk or Trash Blog. If you’re up for the pop-we eco living challenge: go a step further and help fight litter in your community by throwing trash away properly before it becomes litter. Let’s keep the world beautiful not just on Earth Day but year round.

In celebration of the 41st anniversary of Earth Day population-we™ staffers will celebrate our love for planet earth with green posts the entire month of April! Thanks for reading our third Earth Day post. 
- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
If you enjoyed this post, then make sure to leave a comment or 'Like' it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

[Earth Day Edition] Johnny Apple Seed and Earth Day Should Take a Bow from AmeriCorps NCCC

When one thinks Earth Day what is the first nonprofit organization that comes to mind? For my family, it is AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). Recently my husband and I had the opportunity to work with AmeriCorps NCCC on a University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) 7 Days of Service and Habitat for Humanity cleanup effort but we’ll talk a about both of those other organizations in a later post. Our focus for this post is AmeriCorps and what NCCC evolved from – the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCCs).

My grandfather had a sorted story to tell. I grew up hearing stories of the dreaded U.S. dust bowl of the 1930s, where he endured living on the Nebraska and Kansas plains. A massive dust storm, which without a moment’s notice, would blanket the landscape and cover all in its path including humans and livestock. However, he was proud not to brag how he and others helped to prevent dust bowls from occurring today. Generations later should take note of his and other’s valiant efforts. Grandpa was part of the CCCs. For a very low wage at the time - they traveled the country clearing brush and planting trees in sandy terrain. An indentured servant at the time, joining the CCCs was a way out for my grandpa. It gave him a fresh start and helped him gain confidence and give him money in his pocket to eventually move to the big city -- Omaha.

Sign posted at Omaha work site
“The government took over the CCCs and that is what we are today NCCC,” said Calin Stearling, AmeriCorps NCCC member. “AmeriCorps NCCC have been around since 1993.”

Omaha meet the 2011 AmeriCorps NCCC. They make up young adults ages 18-25, much older than my grandpa’s crew. They arrive and line up like a well-oiled machine in their gear. Today’s NCCC offers a much nicer wage and way to earn college tuition unlike grandpa’s time. To voluneer you need to give 10 month commitment and be ages 18-25, the youngest among this crew is 20. Omaha is this AmeriCorps team first project site.

“Our team started February 15 and we’re stationed in Vinton, Iowa. Over the course of 10 months we will be going to four to six different work sites,” said Dana Fytelson, AmeriCorps NCCC member. “Our team will be doing anything from working at a camp, doing Habitat for Humanity work and trail building. So there is a variety of different projects we can get.”

All AmeriCorps NCCC team’s serve in five areas: (1) energy conservation, (2) environmental conservation, (3) infrastructure improvement, (4) natural disaster, and (5) urban and rural development.

“Anything that falls within these categories AmeriCorps can do,” Fytelson said. “Our main focus is disaster assistance -- so if a disaster were to happened we’d be called off whatever we were working on to go to the disaster site.”

This project wasn’t a disaster site. The day consisted of clearing brush and chopping down trees and limbs at a future site for a Habitat for Humanity house in North Omaha.

“We’re looking to do any extra hours outside Habitat for Humanity that we can -- we’re off on Sundays and Mondays. We have to get 80 service hours outside the assigned project,” Fytelson said. “We’d love to help with anything with Earth Day/month in April. We’re here through May 13 so we’re open to anything.”

If you’re in the Omaha area and need the assistance of the Americops NCCC team you have until May 13 to put in your request. If interested, contact Dana Fytelson at

Grandpa Rickels would have been proud to know that his legacy lives on as CCC alumni celebrate their 75th anniversary this year.

Editor’s note: Everyone volunteering got a first-hand glimpse into AmeriCorps NCCC mission -- service through teamwork. Special thanks to the UNO team of volunteers, Patty from Habitat for Humanity for her leadership and John for his team’s arborist efforts that day too.

In celebration of the 41st anniversary of Earth Day population-we™ staffers will celebrate our love for planet earth with green posts the entire month of April! Thanks for reading our second Earth Day post. 
- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
If you enjoyed this post, then make sure to leave a comment or 'Like' it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

[Earth Day Edition] ‘Citizen Scientist’ Volunteers Sought for April 23 UNO Elkhorn River Study

Waterway just down the road
My husband and I moved out to Elkhorn, Ne., about a year and half ago. Brian and I grew up and lived most of our lives in the same zip code in Benson, an area in Omaha, Ne. We now live on the edge of town -- only a block away from a farm with a steer and two horses. It has been an adjustment from the hustle and bustle of Midtown Omaha to the Boonie's but we love it. When I saw this recent call for volunteers to help collect data on the waterway just down the road we both jumped at the chance. So, if any other population-we™ readers reside in Elkhorn and want to join in the spirit of Earth Day read on.

Students and anyone with an interest in science can volunteer to participate in a University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) water research experiment on the Elkhorn River Basin for the “What’s In Your Watershed?” Test Day this month.

On Saturday, April 23, about 150 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds in Nebraska will become “citizen scientists” and collect small samples of water from the Elkhorn River. With an easy-to-use kit – resembling an at-home pregnancy test – provided by UNO, volunteers will test the level of atrazine in the river water and then visit a UNO webpage to enter their data.

In Omaha, volunteers can collect water at the Elkhorn River Research Station near 245th and Q Streets.

The Elkhorn River
Outside Omaha, volunteers can collect water along the Elkhorn River watershed as far west as O’Neill. A detailed map of the Elkhorn River watershed boundary is available online at Volunteers can also view a video demonstration at the webpage.

No previous research or experiment experience is necessary to participate.

The research project is organized by Alan Kolok in the Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory, housed in UNO’s Department of Biology.

“The data that we will gather from the experiment on April 23 will be used to advance the knowledge of how atrazine is transported in the environment,” Kolok said. “Although atrazine has been used for nearly 50 years, never before has anyone attempted to gather pesticide data across an entire watershed.”

Atrazine is the most commonly applied herbicide in the U.S., with more than 75 million pounds used annually across the country. Being a largely agricultural state, Nebraska farmers apply thousands of tons of the herbicide each year to their fields.

Although atrazine can increase crop yields, large amounts often escape through rainwater runoff and enter waterways. Once in the water, atrazine is taken up by aquatic life and can have a negative effect on reproductive organs.

“The phenomenon is commonly known as endocrine disruption,” Kolok said. “The Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory has been researching endocrine disruption in the Elkhorn River for the past several years; and now we’d like the public’s help, as citizen scientists, to perform a one-day, large-scale inventory of atrazine in the basin.”

To volunteer as a citizen scientist on April 23, contact Research Assistant Gwen Ryskamp at (402) 554.3302 or

“We chose April 23 to coincide with the opening of our Elkhorn River Research Station as well as get the first bits of runoff from planting season,” Ryskamp said. “We're hoping for some residual runoff from last year's season and to find out if Atrazine remains in the environment over the course of a year.”

My grandfather was a farmer and for his time was very diligent when using pesticides. If he were still farming today his methods might be deemed organic. A man who loved science, I know he'd be intrigued with this project. So, we dedicate this Earth Day post in memory of Grandpa Bohan.

In celebration of the 41st anniversary of Earth Day population-we™ staffers will celebrate our love for planet earth with green posts the entire month of April! Thanks for reading our first Earth Day post. 
- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
If you enjoyed this post, then make sure to leave a comment or 'Like' it.