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Monday, July 30, 2012

pop-we Dinner Club Reviews Johnny’s Cafe

The original Johnny's Cafe in South Omaha.
Who is Johnny you may ask? population-we™ (pop-we) foodie Conrad answered the question as we went to Johnny’s Cafe at 4702 South 27th Street in Omaha, NE. Johnny’s Cafe opened in 1922, which makes it the second oldest restaurant in Omaha. Johnny's also holds the designation of being the oldest and original steakhouse in town. Originally a 10-seat saloon, Frank Kawa bought the place made some changes including; banning guns and adding electricity. Throughout the years the restaurant has seen many changes but their focus on service and quality food has not changed. In 2001, Johnny’s was even a shooting location for the movie “About Schmidt” starring Jack Nicholson.

When you arrive at Johnny’s, you are greeted with a couple very heavy and huge scenic doors that lead into the lobby. The lobby is a big open space fashioned with red carpeting that has their logo in it. On one wall they have a few of their menus from the early days. During the hay day of the stockyards Johnny's was open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily with a coffee shop. They also have old photos in the bar from different eras. I always enjoy when a place has been around this long they show the history of not only their place but the area around it.

Tonight, I ordered the filet mignon that comes with salad and a potato. Meals come with complimentary cottage cheese spread, liver pate, also steaks come with a ‘from scratch’ mushroom wine sauce. The steak I had was done perfectly; medium so it was pink in the middle very juicy and tender.

After compiling the surveys from the other foodies the pop-we Dinner Club gives Johnny's Cafe: 4.07 star average on a scale of 1-5.

History in a bottle.
Atmosphere/Decor – 4.18


Wait Staff


Food Presentation – 3.9

Food Portions – 4.27

Food Taste 

Cost (was the cost worth meal?) - 3.45

Noise Level – 3.81

Overall Experience

If you would like more information regarding Johnny’s Cafe and about their wine tastings on Wednesday’s check out their website at

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.
Johnny's Cafe on Urbanspoon

- population-we™ blog post by Brian Brown
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Expert Offers Tips on How to Heal from 'The Dark Night Rises' Tragedy

Dr. Mark Lerner
On July 20, 2012, evil himself appeared in the exit of a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo. I’ve chosen not to give his name in this blog post. This post is not for the cruel maniacal person who entered that Aurora theatre to harm others; instead, this post is to help start the healing process. To date, there are 70 victims in this tragedy; 58 injured and twelve ranging from ages 51 to six-years-old lost their lives.

Notes of encouragement and solidarity from other states and communities across the U.S. are pouring in to let the people of Aurora know they are not suffering in this pain alone. For those family and friends who are grieving and watching everything unfold in-person and in the national news there is help. population-we™ has reached out to “America’s Traumatic Stress Consultant” Dr. Mark Lerner to help our readers. He has opened up his website,, to us with some practical information. First, Dr. Lerner will address advice for the Aurora theater victims.

A victim is someone who’s been harmed and who’s suffering.

A survivor is someone who, despite hardship and adversity, continues to function.

A thriver is someone who grows and flourishes. Read more here.

This shooting is close to home for many who live in Colorado. Only 15 miles away in Littleton, Colo., where the 1999 Columbine High School massacre took place. My great aunt and uncle lived only blocks away from Columbine High School at the time. I remember at a family gathering Evy telling the story that her and Doc (my great uncle Wayne) kept hearing sirens not thinking anything of it -- until the sirens didn’t stop. They turned on the television and watched in terror what had happened.

Another reason why we wanted to reach out, Omaha, Neb., where most population-we™ contributors reside has not been spared by these senseless shooting tragedies. In 2007, the Omaha Von Maur Westroads Mall was the site of a mass shooting where a sole 19-year-old gunman killed eight people and injuring five others before killing himself. My mom had just been shopping there the day before. In 2011, a 17-year-old senior at Millard South High School killed the principal before taking his own life in the school’s parking lot. We have a dear friend whose daughter was a freshman at Millard South at the time.
Courtesy of

Second, Dr. Lerner addresses tips on helping others grieve: “There are no ‘cookbook’ approaches to helping people who are struggling with loss. Perhaps the most important variable is ‘being there’ for the person. Encourage expression of thoughts and feelings without insistence.” Read more here.

Finally, advice on parenting in the midst of a crisis. According to Dr. Lerner, “Tell children what they need to know, don’t share more information than they’re able to hear or understand, encourage them to articulate their feelings, and answer their questions honestly and directly. And if you don’t know the answer, it’s okay. Tell them that you don’t know.” Read more here.

Those victims who managed to survive this senseless tragedy, as well as family and friends will never be the same. Let’s not let this gas-masked shooter steal anything more from us. Flags will fly at half-staff across the U.S. until sunset Wednesday, July 25, to honor the lives of the Aurora, Colo. victims. So, forget the killer's name and as a nation come together and start to heal.

- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown 
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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Monday, July 16, 2012

pop-we Founder Turns Jailbird for MDA’s Most Wanted Fundraiser

If you lived in Omaha like most of our population-we™ contributors you grew up watching the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) annual Labor Day weekend telethon. This was before cable television, and every year a big screen actor and local TV personality had us kids wanting to raise money for this cause. Legendary comedian Jerry Lewis and Omaha’s own Dr. San Guinary raised ample amounts of money for MDA.

With Jerry Lewis at the helm and seeing kids with MDS our age in wheelchairs -- Jerry’s Kids -- we’d plead our parents to call in with a donation to the telethon. Locally, Dr. San Guinary was a strong supporter of research on finding a cure for MDS and always put a scary but zany slant on raising money for "Jerry's Kids." My brother, sister and I all adored him. We’d get special permission to stay up late to watch “Creature Feature.” So, under Dr. San Guinary’s direction we’d scour the neighborhood with milk jugs looking for donations for the MDA telethon.

I’m taking up raising money for this cause once again. Today, I’m going to raise money for bail. You read it right -- bail. I’m going to be locked-up for “Good” at Omaha’s Downtown Executive Lock-Up for MDA on Thursday, July 26. I’m charged with having a “Big Heart,” and my bail has been set at $2,400. So, I’m asking population-we™ readers to help raise my bail money, which is tax deductible.

“Your ‘Bail Money’ will help support individuals in Nebraska affected by muscular dystrophy by providing clinic services, support groups, research grants, and a Summer Camp in Cozad, Nebraska,” said Kristin Schemahorn, MDA Warden.

I will Facebook and Tweet  my MDA day of being “Behind Bars for Good!”

The day will entail:

- Sentenced to serve time at MDA’s maximum appreciation “jail site” at Downtown Upstream;

- Mug shot taken;

- Jailhouse grub; and

- Meet other “MDA Jailbirds” from the Omaha community;

By jailbirds like myself committing to be one of MDA’s “Most Wanted,” MDA is able to provide help and hope to children and adults with MDA in our community. MDA's goal is to raise $52,000 this year. That's enough money to send 65 kids to MDA Summer Camp or provide 11 hours of MDA funded research. To contribute to my bail fund, click on this link.

“Your 100 percent tax-deductible donation will help MDA continue research into the causes of and cures for 43 neuromuscular diseases,” Schemahorn said. “Your support of the MDA Lock-Up will also help MDA provide repairs to durable medical equipment, clinic visits and summer camp for people in our local area.”

To our population-we™ readers who help bail me out -- thanks for making my bail and making a difference. Because it takes only one muscle to make a real difference, your heart!

- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown 
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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Monday, July 9, 2012

Nebraska Writers Collective Brings Poetry to Midwestern Youth

Think of mentors who have helped you to excel. Chances are that their passion was matched by their competence and their ability to teach the needed skills. Nebraska Writers Collective (NWC) is a non-profit group with a vision to improve literacy and encourage creativity through the medium of poetry among youth in the Midwest by using their engaging and energetic teaching styles. They have the credibility to carry out their mission as some members have Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry, have published their original works of poetry, and have edited literary journals. Since I was introduced to Matt Mason, the executive director of NWC, I have been witnessing “the snow ball effect” in the Midwest as they have shared their love for poetry in small and grand settings.

NWC outdid itself when it sponsored Louder Than a Bomb (LTab) in 2012 making Omaha the second city after Tulsa, Oklahoma to host this poetry slam and festival competition, which originated in Chicago. A Poetry Slam is judged on a numeric scale and is designed to foster a love of poetry with its emotionally charged style. Kevin Coval, co-founder of LTaB, and Lamar Jordan, a student shown in the documentary came to Omaha in February of 2012 and visited schools with NWC to promote the event. Several area high schools in Omaha and Lincoln participated in the competition, the workshops, and the three preliminary bouts, and the final culminating in the final contest in April of 2012.

The enthusiasm of the students who participated in LTaB was apparent when I read online responses to my questions. They were quick to give credit to their coaches. Marissa, a student representing Omaha South at LTaB, raved about her experience and coaches and has aspirations to inspire future generations with the love of language. She said, “They provided the world's coolest coach Katie F-S who has helped my poetry and performance a lot… “

She understands the process of writing and reciting poetry. She explains, “It's like... the words you wish you could say normally but instead throw up into a poem... in a really cool voice. Because you can't read poems normally they have to have an exceptionally loud and rhythmic voice.”

Marisha, was also very enthused about the event. Summarizing her experience as student representing South High she said, “The involvement I had with the NWC is Katie and Nick as trainers... this has been my biggest inspiration to move forward without looking back!”

I am not posting any excerpts from the poems as I decided that if I isolate a segment that it would not have the range of effect that comes from watching and listening to it on You Tube. I believe the meaning is so wrapped in the delivery, which includes gestures, volume, and pauses. There seems to be a beginning or an attention getting segment, a middle, and an ending. Rather than normal oratory which begins by telling what it is going to tell you, tells it to you, and tells you what it told you, you have to listen to each layer to get the full effect.

John represented Creighton Prep at LTab and after one experience in writing poetry was hooked. In answering the question of why poetry is relevant for youth in the 21st century, John was rather apologetic that he may have sounded like a broken record when he described how the world is becoming a scary place and that teens including himself at times can withdraw and become apathetic. To counter this, he relates how a creative hobby is so essential. He said, …” I think that it is important to find something you are very passionate about, something that absorbs your mind and elevates your heart. For me, that thing writing prose and poetry. For others my age, it's drawing or photography. I think finding that thing -- which is more than just a hobby -- is imperative.”

The LTab videos that I watched showed a range of serious subjects dealing with gun violence, faith, philosophy, and humanity. It was not without its lighter moments. Youth used their rhythmic voice, words, and at times metaphors to help us contemplate the subjects relevant today.

In 2011, Matt Mason assisted with the 8th Grade poetry slam and also engaged other students and adults while he was a presenter at the annual Literary Festival at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Lincoln, Nebraska. According to Mary Beth Rice who is currently the literary festival committee chairperson, the event serves both the school and also people in the Lincoln community with an emphasis on language exposure and creativity. As the theme in 2011 was storytelling and how we are all connected, Mason helped the students craft poems that told their personal narratives and shared his original autobiographical poem with humorous details, which can forever change how one looks at a baby. A friend of mine had a son at the school and was in attendance. She said Mason demonstrated poetry can fun and not just about “unrequited love.” The results of the poem that he created on the spot using words supplied by the students may have been nonsensical at points, but he was so expressive that the crowd loved it. In addition, he showed how different deliveries can effect interpretation. Now her son finds poetry less intimidating and has added a few poems to his writing repertoire. She adds that Matt is a true artist.

NWC can tailor their services to whatever writers’ workshops or literary experiences the community or school needs. Mason described some recent and upcoming events in the Omaha Public School system, which helps encourage literacy and creativity. He said, “We've produced two chapbooks with OPS Integrated Learning Program and are on track with a project where we will make a full poetry book with the students there. We're doing this by teaching writing, editing, and stressing the whole publication process and how that entails selecting the right pieces, finding the right title, design, etc.”

Andrew Ek is the president of the board of directors of NWC and the curriculum director. He believes that poetry is an effective way to reach students as it only requires a pen. Ek said, “I personally like teaching poetry because of the language awareness which comes from studying/writing it, and the deliberacy which is fostered.” Rather than doing repetitive exercises over and over, Ek takes every opportunity to get the students creating.

Reflecting on what NWC has accomplished, Mason said, “We are managing to do a lot on surprisingly little, so it's neat to just see it all happen!” Donations help defray cost and volunteers with a skill, energy, or services are also needed. Their services also benefit at-risk youth in the community. According to Mason,” We are setting up a program for later in the summer with a Sarpy County Youth Detention facility. We have also worked with OPS' Integrated Learning Program which serves a number of at-risk students.” Through their legion of events, NWC helps students of diverse backgrounds unlock their imaginations, and there is no telling where that will lead. As Albert Einstein said, ““Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

- population-we blog post by Barb Bohan 
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer 2012 Metro Commuter Challenge Starts Soon

Save energy. Save money. Get stuff. From Monday, July 9, through Friday, Aug. 3, Omaha metropolitan area employees can take the bus or carpool to work, log those trips, and get good prizes for doing so. population-we™ readers who live in the metro area are invited to participate.

The 2012 Metro Commuter Challenge is sponsored by the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) and Metro Transit. MAPA offers a free on-line carpool matching service for employees in the metro area, and MetroTransit’s bus system stretches from West Omaha to downtown.

The challenge is designed to reward not only those who take alternative transportation every day, but also those who want to try it for the first time. Never used alternative transportation? Find out how to try either Metro Rideshare or Metro Transit. Visit online resources on both to help you get started at

If you’re not familiar with alternative transportation, MAPA and population-we™ encourages you to try it the whole month, a week or even a single day.

MAPA reports:

- Taking alternative transportation helps keep Omaha's air clean. Right now, Omaha’s air quality is close to reaching non-attainment of federal standards. That could mean heavy fines for the Big O!.

- Commuting to work by alternative transportation saves people in the metro up to $2,500 each year.

Most population-we™ readers know that Brian and I are committed to a sustainable lifestyle. We both already carpool. Since March 2011, we have carpooled 3-5 days out of the workweek from Elkhorn to our Omaha job sites. So, two population-we™ contributors will be among the participants logging our miles.

Everyone who participates is eligible for weekly raffle prizes. The three individuals with the most commutes and the three individuals with the most miles logged win an iPad, $100 Visa gift card or Joslyn Museum family membership. For this challenge MAPA is focusing on bus and carpool, but you can get bonus points for walking/riding your bike to the bus stop or carpool. The company with the most commutes and miles per participants gets bragging rights and a plaque.

To register and find out all the rules and prizes, visit

Questions? Contact: Kara Focht, MAPA rideshare intern, at

In celebration of the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day population-we™ staffers will celebrate our love for planet earth with regular green posts the entire year! Thanks for reading our recent pop-we eco-living tips' feature on the 2012 Metro Commuter Challenge.
- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown 
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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