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Monday, August 27, 2012

pop-we Dinner Club Reviews Longhorn Steakhouse

This month population-we™ (pop-we) foodie Scott took us to the Longhorn Steakhouse. In the U.S. they have 370 restaurants in 35 states. There are three locations in the Omaha metro area: 7525 Dodge Street, 3040 S. 143 Plaza and 3727 Denmark Drive in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Our dinner club went to the Omaha location on Dodge Street. All Longhorn Steakhouse locations are decorated like the Wild West. The steakhouse we visited had antler chandeliers, saddles as well as taxidermy animals and scenic pictures along the walls. It is a relaxing atmosphere with a very rustic American West decor.
Boots above the threshold greet patrons to the steakhouse.

According to their website, they have been serving steaks, chicken and fish for more than 30 years. Always fresh, never frozen with a passion for grilling and hand seasoning. Known for Flo’s Filet and the Bone-In Outlaw Ribeye, fall off the bone ribs and hand cut salmon. While we were there I had one of their monthly specials: steak and bacon wrapped shrimp. The steak was cooked to a nice pink (medium) with flavorful seasonings. I enjoyed the steak as it was cooked perfectly, tender and juicy -- the way a steak should be savored. The bacon wrapped shrimp also was tasty and succulent.

Also, some pop-we foodies tried a couple appetizers. The stuffed mushrooms drew much praise with a creamy blend of cheeses and herbs. The button mushrooms were big and full of flavor. The other appetizer was a bacon wrapped potato wedges, though they were seasoned nicely the potato seemed quite dry; therefore, fell flat…disappointing.

After compiling the surveys from the other foodies the pop-we Dinner Club gives Longhorn Steakhouse: 4.3 star average on a scale of 1-5.

Atmosphere/Decor – 4.18

Cleanliness – 4.36 
Steak and bacon wrapped shrimp special.

Wait Staff – 4.72

Menu – 4.18

Food Presentation – 4.54

Food Portions – 4.45

Food Taste – 4.72

Cost (was the cost worth meal?) – 3.9

Noise Level – 3.45

Overall Experience – 4.54 

Fellow population-we™ readers, if you’ve been to the Longhorn Steakhouse 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.
Longhorn Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

- population-we™ blog post by Brian Brown
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Finding Inspiration at Sea

Editor's note: I am pleased to join the Write Now Project as one of its contributors. To celebrate Shark Week 2012, read some of my very first essay on SCUBA & Project Pink'd, Inc. below:

All of us need inspiration in our daily lives, when you’re an athlete it is even more important. At the 2012 Olympics, the world has seen the fury of Olympic gold-medal swimmer Missy Franklin, who is also a resident of Colorado. She has been able to channel inspiration from a town where she trains and a movie theatre she has frequented in Aurora, Colo., the site of the recent Aurora movie theatre tragedy.

I am no different. I am by no means an Olympic athlete but this May I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried a new recreational sport. Similar to Missy, I was not alone in my endeavor. With my husband at my side and miles away from the states, I was channeling inspiration from a dear friend and breast cancer survivor, Cynthia Sturgeon.

Sporting a Pink'd hat in Jamaica.
My husband and I usually don’t exchange birthday gifts; however, he had a significant birthday coming up and I told him I’d buy him something. He thought on the proposition and told me he wanted to learn SCUBA diving. Not too surprising; since one of Brian’s best friends, Mark “Skippy” Sidwell, is a SCUBA instructor at DiVentures in Omaha.

I discussed his gift with one of my best friends and it was decided I would take lessons with him. I’m not a swimmer. All the sports I’ve ever excelled in were on the land. This is really out of my comfort zone. As I thought, Brian took to SCUBA quickly. He was on the swim and dive team in junior high.

I had several mishaps in class at DiVentures. First time in the pool under water I flashed the wrong sign making everyone from class have to surface. It was so embarrassing – I now know the “okay” sign versus the “to surface” signal. Also, I had issues equalizing my ears and contracted a sinus infection. Something you’ll learn quickly is not to dive if having any allergy or sinus related issues. I got medicine and bought vented earplugs from DiVentures, which I highly recommend. Finally, we passed our written test and would now be tested on our water disciplines. We were at the second to last discipline when I got a cramp in my leg. I surfaced with Skippy and he told me to hang out on the side of the pool. I worked the cramp out and in a solo check out session with Skippy passed.

I knew that night, I’d have to dig a little deeper to make it through my open water check out dives in Montego Bay, Jamaica. So, I thought of Cynthia. She is the founder of Project Pink’d, Inc. The day before leaving for Jamaica, all of us board members met and signed papers committing to serve on the Project Pink’d, Inc. board of directors. Cynthia, our founder, was also present. Immediately after, I watched Cynthia’s video on YouTube of her tandem sky diving adventure to celebrate being four years of cancer-free living. Watching her hold up those four fingers, I was truly inspired by her enthusiasm and spirit.

While in Jamaica, Brian and I did a total of seven open water dives at different dive sites with the Ocheana crew of Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay.

What happened next? Continue reading my essay on “Finding Inspiration at Sea” at Write Now, an online publication produced by

- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown 
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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Monday, August 13, 2012

Pete Simi Encounters Sikh Temple Shooter During Research of Book

Editor's note: Recently University of Nebraska at Omaha's (UNO) Pete Simi spoke with numerous national media outlets to discuss meeting Wade Michael Page. Simi met -- Page -- the accused shooter who killed six people at a Sikh temple in a suburb of Milwaukee while during research on his most recent book. I interviewed Simi for a UNO Magazine article about that very book, which he co-authored with fellow sociologist Robert Futrell. The article is below:

Lifting the veil of darkness on White Power Movements
Toss any stereotypes about what you think a Skinhead might look like out the window. Because a Skinhead — or, more appropriately, a White Supremacist — could be your neighbor, classmate, coworker or church member, says American Swastika author Dr. Pete Simi.

Simi, an associate professor in UNO’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, wrote American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement's Hidden Spaces of Hate with Dr. Robert Futrell, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The two draw on more than a decade of research and interviews, from the infamous Hayden Lake Aryan compound in Northern Idaho to private homes in Los Angeles to hate music concerts around the country.

“They’re constantly vilified and getting the short end of the stick,” Simi says. “So, I wanted to get their perspective.”

The book is getting good press. In November American Swastika was named CHOICE magazine’s Outstanding Academic Title of the Year for 2010.

The book was a long time in the making. Simi started doing fieldwork on the Neo-Nazi movement in 1997. He gained close looks at the everyday activities of the white power movement, even spending five-weeks living in a white power home and attending Neo-Nazi events in the Southwest.

“I thought it was really important from the beginning to make firsthand contact with folks,” Simi says. “Most of us have familiarity with these groups based on movies, TV shows and newspaper articles — things of that nature. But I didn’t really have first-hand contact with members of these types of groups.”

Through descriptive case studies, Simi and Futrell examine hate in the home, talking with parents who aim to raise “little Hitlers” and discussing the impact home schooling and cultural isolation can have on children. The authors also describe Aryan crash pads, Bible studies and rituals.

“Observing their events, spending time with people in their homes and observing how they raise their kids and what they do on a daily basis in their lives,” Simi says. “What their lives look like. You don’t get that from reading their propaganda.”

His most interesting encounter, he says, was witnessing a white power baby shower.

In the book, the authors explain the history of the movement and describe the several different clans operating in the United States, including the KKK, the Aryan Nation, Skinheads and others. At gatherings, there is always an attempt to try to unify different branches of the Neo-Nazi movement.

They also discuss ways White Supremacists cultivate, maintain and spread their beliefs — largely under the radar of most Americans. Yet if you want to learn about them, they’re accessible.

“They’re very open to having outsiders attend because it is an opportunity to get the word out,” Simi says. “White and willing to listen — their assumption is they can convert you.”

California has the most active Neo-Nazi scene in the United States. During the summer of 2004, Simi spent five-weeks with a Neo-Nazi family in Southern California.

Simi says white supremacist prison and street clans have grown recently. Public Enemy No. 1 — or PEN1 — has more than 21,000 members. They’re activities revolve around organized crime like meth trafficking and counterfeiting.

“Their [White Supremacists’] strategy is not to conform or declare war on the system,” he says. “Within the last 10 years a key leadership vacuum has left the movement very decentralized.”

This has led to growth in the Neo-Nazi white power music scene via the Internet. Simi and Futrell take readers through the hate music scene, from underground bars to massive rallies, examining how the Internet has shaped communication and created disturbing new virtual communities.

White supremacy has been more visible recently in at least two instances. Simi points to news of a wife who killed her Neo-Nazi husband. Police found that he had a type of biological weapon in his possession. There also have been connections between Neo-Nazis and the Tea Party. Simi wrote about that in American Swastika’s preface.

“Neo-Nazi’s are making efforts to infiltrate the Tea Party movement,” Simi says. “Most involved with the Tea Party are not Neo-Nazi’s; however, there is some degree of overlap. It’s an indisputable fact that this is happening. Some Tea Party members don’t appreciate that, but it is what it is.”

You can also read the original article, "Lifting the veil of darkness on White Power Movements" at UNO Magazine. The magazine is sent to 74,000 UNO graduates and friends around the world! This spring 2011 issue focused on "Crime, Safety & Justice for all."  This publication is produced three times a year by the UNO Alumni Association and University of Nebraska Foundation.

- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown 
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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Monday, August 6, 2012

The Wheeler’s ZNETH House

With more energy-conscious consumers an increasing number of builders are integrating more energy-efficient designs into new home construction. These new breed of homeowners are going beyond just including Energy Star-rated appliances and choosing to use even better sealing technologies, smarter floorplans and smaller but important structural modifications. Enter Zero Net Energy Test Home (ZNETH), participant and Omaha sustainability champion, Patrick Wheeler, who has tried to emulate the principles of ZNETH in a house of his very own.

He doesn't share this greener more sustainable lifestyle alone but with the other residents of the Elkhorn- based ZNETH home: his wife, Diane, and dog companion, Hope. “We started with the premise of wanting a healthy home, then tried to incorporate as much energy efficient and sustainable attributes as possible,” he said.

The Wheeler's ZNETH Home
With 1,735 on the main floor and 1,500 square feet in the basement to work with, they were very deliberate and judicious in the use of space. “Our bedrooms are small and we’re okay with that because we have a larger kitchen and dinette space.”

His wife, Diane’s favorite feature is that the kitchen is a living space – it’s so connected to the house.

“My favorite part of our new home is the natural light that floods our home,” he said. “With the help of our double pane Anderson windows and two sun tunnels, during the day there are only two rooms that light switches are used: bathroom and mudroom.”

The whole house is wired to someday be an electric house and run entirely off solar power. One solar panel already is placed on the roof. They’ve even prewired their three-car garage for an electric car.

It was a deliberate decision not to include natural gas in their new home construction. According to Patrick, Nebraska leads the country in number of deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning. So, they decided to go with a no emissions’ house. The biggest expense in the home is the geothermal system. They also installed an 85-gallon Marathon water heater as well as a 2-ton, two-stage heat pump.

The one thing lost in this building process according to The Wheeler’s is sleep. Since September of 2011, he has met weekly with his builder, Mike Preston of Home Building Construction  (HBC). “Though many compromises were required, we labored and lost considerable sleep in an attempt to balance those desires.”

Part of the original comprise, was how far away from work The Wheeler’s had to build their ZNETH home. It resides in Elkhorn, Neb., a nearly 38-mile round trip commute to work. Also, due to cost they will finish the basement at a later date.

There were some parts they didn’t budge on: sealed footings and foundation, 2x6 walls, type of insulation and hardwood and tile floors throughout. The wood flooring is all natural North American white oak and maple. He said, “We have no vinyl, the only place we have carpet is on the stairs leading to the basement.”

The flooring option is a choice The Wheeler’s made that existing homeowners can make in their own homes. Forgo the toxic glue and go with natural tile or wood floors. Other tips: insulate attic, caulk around windows/doors, replace windows, install an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) and invest in solar orientation practices.

“Best return on your money is to properly insulate your attic,” he said. “It pays off with heating and cooling.”

Patrick, Diane and their dog Hope officially moved in the week after this interview was conducted. In the future, Patrick plans to create a website to discuss the building process and sustainable choices The Wheeler’s made in building their very own ZNETH home.

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 feature on the The Wheeler's ZNETH Home.
- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown 
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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