Pac 10 Teams Soon To Be Logs In Beavers’ Dam

Pac 10 Teams Soon To Be Logs In Beavers’ Dam

I’m from Nebraska and I live in Oregon. And I like college football. My loyalties to the Cornhuskers are well established. Whereas my new allegiances to the local teams are still forming.

I like that Oregon has Scott Frost on its coaching staff, because I’m a Husker and he’s a Husker. But I’m not ready to swan dive into the Ducks’ pond just yet. For one reason only–the team in black and orange to the north. I like the Beavs, what can I say?

Photo credit: The Oregonian

Unlike my Huskers, the Beavers go out of their way to play tough teams in September. They take their lumps, but the fact is Oregon State hung in there with TCU and Boise State, at a time when Boise State and TCU are both ranked in the top five in the nation. It sucks that the Beavs didn’t come away with at least one win, but my feeling is the team is all the more ready for Pac 10 conference play, which starts next Saturday in Corvallis.

As a football fan, you consider things like strength of schedule, offensive schemes, defensive tenacity and so on. But there’s more going on here than football–identifying with a college team is also about branding. Brand loyalty can come from having attended the school you root for, but that’s just the beginning for a big time college sports program. For instance, I didn’t go to Nebraska but I’m from Omaha, so the Huskers have always been part of my deal. I didn’t go to Oregon State or Oregon either, but I’m a fan of both schools and both football programs.

Most people in Oregon have well formed team loyalties. They’re either a Beaver or a Duck. For people who migrate to the state, they’ll no doubt be influenced by friends, by whether or not they like green and gold and countless other factors. That’s what branding is–the amalgamation of all your experiences with a company, or school/team.

Omaha—A Great Place To Call Home

Omaha—A Great Place To Call Home

I like to visit Omaha at least once a year to reacquaint myself with my place of origin. I need to walk the hills, breathe the air and feel the positive vibrations of the people of The Corn in order to remember who I am.

I am from the middle. The Heartland. It’s a place of immense beauty, but interestingly, not everyone can see it due to its subtle nature. My interest isn’t in moving people to see what I see in the vastness of the Nebraska sky or the swirly patterns of its rivers. It’s personal, this need to reconnect with the patterns of my making.

My grandpa, Eldon Burn, shared the best parts of Nebraska with me when I was young. For example, we used to load Prince in the station wagon and head south, past Nebraska City to farmland owned by friends. Prince (and later, Duke) always cried with excitement the entire ride, springing into action on the crunchy cold ground once we arrived, his nose and legs ready for duty. Duty meant finding a covey of Bob White quail, and Prince never failed to perform his assigned tasks, just as Eldon’s one good eye never failed to bring down one, two or three quail in perfect sequence.

It’s been decades since I have hunted quail, but the hunt is eternal. It’s the game that changes. Now I hunt for work, talent and hometown experiences that need revisiting.

Seeing the impressive collections at Joslyn Art Museum, especially all the Western and native art is an experience I need to have every so often. It helps me to vividly imagine what it was like for my ancestors who came from Europe to this totally wild place, where it was common to sleep with a rifle under your blanket in a house made from sod.

I think of the word “fierce” when I contemplate 19th century Nebraska. Even if you were headed for points beyond, just getting across the state on horse, foot or wagon would have been an epic journey. Just as it was an epic journey from the British Isles, France and Russia–the countries of my ancestors–to America and the Great Plains.

It goes without saying that people form their identities in response the climate and land where they live. On Sunday, I made it a point to climb the highest hill I could find near Omaha’s Old Market. From the pinnacle in Little Italy south of downtown, you can see for miles. In 19th century terms, you can “scout” and there’s a lot to pick up on, including a massive amount of building and rebuilding in downtown and along the riverfront.

In other parts of the U.S. ambitious developments are floundering. Not so in Omaha. Unemployment is under 5% and retailers have not fled, they’ve converged. There’s a new baseball stadium going up north of downtown, new hotels, new warehouse living, new running trails, a new pedestrian bridge across the Missouri, and that’s just a slice of the action.

Omaha has it going on, and I’m proud to see the city grow and become ever more vital to its inhabitants and visitors alike. If you’ve never been to Omaha and you don’t know people there, you might be wondering when you will have occasion to change that. There are myriad answers: the College World Series every June, Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder’s meeting, BigOmaha, or any number of concerts at Qwest Center or smaller indie rock shows at Slowdown, a venue owned by Saddle Creek Records. Once you visit, you will know people in Omaha, and that will make your return visits all the more enjoyable.

To see more photos from my visit, click over to this Flickr set.

What Americans Are Afraid Of: Just About Everything

Frustrated with the lack of meaningful dialogue around the nation’s health care debate, columnist Paul Krugman let one rip in The New York Times yesterday.

Washington, it seems, is still ruled by Reaganism — by an ideology that says government intervention is always bad, and leaving the private sector to its own devices is always good.

Call me naïve, but I actually hoped that the failure of Reaganism in practice would kill it. It turns out, however, to be a zombie doctrine: even though it should be dead, it keeps on coming.

Yes, because the zombies–in this case the insurance companies and big pharma–have lots of money at stake. When there’s lot of money at stake, the public will be under-served every time. That much we know.

Krugman, unlike most Americans, is a student of history.

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. “We know now that it is bad economics.” And last year we learned that lesson all over again.

Or did we? The astonishing thing about the current political scene is the extent to which nothing has changed.

Sadly, our present day recession is bad, but not bad enough to break the stranglehold. We haven’t reached a tipping point yet. In the 1930s one-in-three Americans was out of work and let’s remember that women typically didn’t hold jobs at that time, which meant one-in-three households had no income whatsoever. Today, things are falling apart, but not as fast.

More importantly, the psychology of the situation isn’t leading Americans to fundamental change. Instead of coming to terms, millions are busy trying hard to hold on to whatever they have—their boat, their home, the college fund for the kids and/or a retirement nest egg. Let’s just get back to normal is the prevailing mindset and that’s not going to lead to radical change.

We needn’t look back very far to recall what a miserable start the Clinton White House had in 1993 because of health care. Whatever the powerful interest–health care, the gun lobby, welfare farmers, warring oilmen–they can be outdone, but only through a massive public uprising. And who has time for that kind of vigilance when there’s a job to keep (or find), kids to feed, dogs to walk and favorite TV programs to capture on the DVR?

Krugman is astonished that nothing has changed in America. He knows we ought to know better. But we don’t know better and therein lies the real challenge. How do we lead our neighbors, friends and family from the fear that binds them into a new era of cooperation and trust? I don’t know any way other than to write it out and talk it out.

Smart, Good Looking and Hard Working

Smart, Good Looking and Hard Working

As a native Nebraskan, I make it a point to keep up with the progress being made by other Huskers.

Interestingly, new media stars keep shooting from the corn. Evan Williams founded Blogger, sold it to Google, then founded Twitter. Ana Marie Cox rode Wonkette to a book deal, a job with Time and talking headom on the cable news circuit. Now, Rachelle Hruska, creator of is making some noise.

According to The New York Times:

Ms. Hruska arrived in Manhattan in 2005 to work as a nanny, after graduating from Creighton University, a Jesuit school in Omaha, and ended up an Internet entrepreneur — a small-town-girl-makes-good tale, with a New Media gloss.

Guest of a Guest chronicles night life from the city and the Hamptons through dozens of daily posts and photographs. For followers of such coverage, the coin of the realm has traditionally been exclusivity, a sneering velvet-roped rejection. But GofG, as it calls itself, gives civilian readers the illusion that they can attend these parties, too, as virtual guests. Who would believe that the effusiveness of Nebraska Nice could sell? But in bad-news times, maybe that’s precisely why it does: the site, Ms. Hruska said, which began on April 1, 2008, broke even just this month.

What a charming assessment. But it’s safe to say there’s more than “Nebraska Nice” at work here.

The Oregon Trail, Circa 2008

The Oregon Trail, Circa 2008

We just completed a nine day journey cross country by car from coastal South Carolina to Portland, Oregon. On day one, we stopped for lunch in Asheville, NC to say “hi” to Gary and Katie. We then pushed on to Lexington, KY for the night. From the hotel we walked first to Mexican food and top shelf margs, then over to the historic Red Mile for harness racing. In the morning we found our coffee place downtown, before heading out to horse country for a tour of the distillery where the world’s best bourbon, Woodford Reserve, is made.

From the limestone hills of Kentucky, we headed north for Cincinnati where our wonderful hosts, Dave and Tera Ackerman, plus their kids, dogs and friends entertained us in their fine Craftsman-era home. That was fun. Day three took us northwest to Chicago where Casey and Gwen opened their Ravenswood apartment to us for the night. Stef came over and we walked down to Pizza D.O.C. on Lawrence to meet Liz and Buban for dinner. Pizza D.O.C. rocks, as does having dinner with friends one hasn’t seen in years. There was more drinking at two Lincoln Square bars after dinner–hey, this is Chicago we’re talking about here–before retiring to Casey and Gwen’s.

Sunday we dropped in on Evil Vince for a visit, before heading west. When Chicago started to give way to the fields of corn, I started to feel good. I felt even better when we crossed the Mississippi River and drove through the picturesque hills of Iowa. The sunset and simultaneous moonrise, as we were pulling into Omaha on night four, was stunning. We grabbed some salad, pizza and wine for dinner at a patio table in the Old Market before heading over for a free night on points at Hilton Garden Inn. In the morning I met with Shawn at his work place and had a chance to talk to his boss about picking up some copywriting assignments. We then met my aunt Leanne for lunch at Kona Grill in West O before heading for the Sandhills on Highway 2. We stopped in Halsey–where my grandpa and I used to go deer hunting–to mail some letters. At Seneca, we pulled over to see the Middle Loup River up close. A local gentleman directed us to his “rickety” cable and plyboard bridge over the river, a kind gesture we greatly appreciated.

We looked for a dinner spot in Alliance but decided to head on to Scottsbluff for the night. When we got there places were closing, but The Gaslight in Gering took us in and made steaks for us. I love Nebraska and Nebraskans. On day six we took the back way to Laramie, seeing the North Platte River near Fort Laramie. In the college town of Laramie we ate a kind hippie lunch at Jeffrey’s Bistro before heading over to Martindale’s for some new pearl snaps and a straw hat. That’s Laramie in a nutshell–part hippie, part cowboy.

We pushed westward on I-80 to Salt Lake City, where DK was entertaining his family rooftop at American Towers. DK and Anina recently purchased a truly outstanding 19th floor apartment in American Towers, with south-, west- and north-facing views. In the morning we headed up City Creek Canyon for a hike, then ventured across the tracks to Red Iguana for a mole festival at one of the nation’s best Mexican joints.

We were tempted to stay another night in SLC, but opted instead to drive five hours further west on I-80 to Winnemucca, where I thought we’d rent a cute little cabin or roadhouse room for the night. Instead, we looked at several flea-bitten options before settling in to the Days Inn. Thankfully, the grocery store had a Peet’s Coffee in it, so we fueled up in the morning and headed onto one of the loneliest stretches of two-lane road you’ll find anywhere in America. North of Winnemucca about 40 miles, we turned left onto Highway 140, which goes for many miles before delivering one to Oregon and the homey little town of Lakeview. Jerry’s Restaurant in Lakeview made us perfectly prepared hash browns to go with our sandwiches and iced tea. We then took more country roads toward Crater Lake National Park, a park we’d never visited before. After you enter the park, you climb up several thousand feet to the rim of the ancient volcano and peer into the pearl blue otherworldly lake. Wow.

We took Highway 138 north from the park and wound down the canyon with the North Umpqua River as our guide. Another major wow. We caught up with the interstate highway system again in Roseburg and punched it up to Eugene for the night, where we dined on Thai food and infused ginger-cranberry cocktails. We made it to Portland by mid-day on Friday and began to settle in.

Omaha Hears Sounds of Music

Omaha Hears Sounds of Music

Metropolis Magazine published a feature last September on the rapid acceleration of New Urbanism in Omaha.

The magazine claims much of the groundwork for Omaha’s urban-design plan was put in place by the Omaha Community Foundation, which started working on a vision for the city in 1999. In 2002 the foundation asked Connie Spellman from the chamber of commerce to spearhead Omaha by Design, a nonprofit set up to focus their efforts, and they brought in Fred Kent of Project for Public Spaces to help.

Omaha by Design came up with 73 urban-design recommendations as part of the Omaha Master Plan. The plan encompasses everything from the landscaping of street corners, the design of important civic sites, and streetlamp choices available for neighborhoods to regional development, protection of watersheds, and the creation of a citywide trail system.

“Corporations were realizing that Omaha didn’t have the energy that a lot of young workers were looking for,” Steve Jensen, Omaha’s planning director says. “They’re saying, ‘It’s important to have a city that’s interesting and active—and a little edgy.’” That’s something community leaders appreciate about Saddle Creek Records. According to the Omaha World Herald, the city helped finance Saddle Creek’s new entertainment complex in NoDo. The 56,000 square feet complex consists of Saddle Creek Records, live music venue Slowdown, the Film Streams art-house theater and spaces in which artists can work and live.

Joe Gudenrath, spokesman for Mayor Mike Fahey, said the mayor’s office was “active in encouraging them to locate in north downtown.”

“We didn’t want to take the chance of losing Saddle Creek Records to another city,” Gudenrath said.

Leading From The Middle

Leading From The Middle

“I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators, to look in that camera, and you tell your people back home what you think. Don’t hide anymore; none of us. That is the essence of our responsibility. And if we’re not willing to do it, we’re not worthy to be seated right here. We fail our country. If we don’t debate this . . . we are not worthy of our country.” -Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) during a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Hagel tells it like it is. I like that about him. But before I get too thrilled with his truth saying, another truth begs to be observed. This time, it’s from Huffington Post writer Matt Browner Hamlin.

Chuck Hagel’s voting record is clear. He votes with Bush and he votes the way conservatives want him to vote. Hagel votes against abortion rights, against civil rights, and against environmental protections. Hagel’s beliefs are squarely in line with the Republican Party platform. Period.

Please, the next time you hear Chris Matthews, Tim Russert, or even a Republican blogger claim that Hagel is a moderate, a maverick, or any other adjective that paints him as an anti-Republican figure, remember that it simply is not true. He remains a purebred Republican despite his correct positioning on Iraq.

Hamlin makes a good point. But I’m not as willing, nor as quick, to downgrade the man. Despite his voting record, Iraq is the central issue of the day and he’s right on Iraq. Just as importantly, he’s also right about another critical issue of our day–that’s it’s our duty as Americans to think critically, then stand up and be heard. He’s totally consistent on this issue. In fact, I’ve posted twice before about his opposing stance to the President and his administration.

Blogebrity Gets Book Deal. Times Not Impressed.

Blogebrity Gets Book Deal. Times Not Impressed.


Janet Maslin of The New York Times is not loving Dog Days, the new first novel by Nebraskan Ana Marie Cox, better known as Wonkette, thanks to her political blog of that name.

Dog Days manages to be doubly conventional: it follows both an old-fashioned love-betrayal-redemption arc and the newer, bitchier nanny-Prada chick-lit motif. Melanie is a myopic and self-interested heroine by the standards of either genre.

Anyone expecting Dog Day to sound like Wonkette will wait a long time for any Wonkette wit to kick in.

Jessica Cutler, a woman who once worked on The Hill and gained fame via Wonkette’s reporting, also has a book out. The Washingtonienne is a fictionalized account of her real life sexual antics/conquests.

[UPDATE] As hard as this is to comprehend, Cox–who is without a doubt a media darling–now has a more complimentary second review in the Times, care of Christopher Buckley. Buckley says Dog Days is a “brisk, smart, smutty, knowing and very well-written first novel.”

There Is One Decent Republican In Congress

There Is One Decent Republican In Congress

Nebraskans are notorious for being straight shooters. Chuck Hagel, Republican Senator from the Cornhusker State is no exception. Earlier this week Hagel took President Bush to task for his comments criticizing Americans who would dare question his decision making in regards to the war in Iraq. Given that Hagel is a decorated Vietnam War vet, he has strong legs to stand on.


According to U.S. Newswire, Hagel said, “the Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them.”

Hagel also said the Vietnam War “was a national tragedy partly because members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the administrations in power until it was too late. To question your government is not unpatriotic — to not question your government is unpatriotic,” Hagel said, arguing that 58,000 troops died in Vietnam because of silence by political leaders. “America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices.”

Lincoln Cops No Fan Of Musburger

Lincoln Cops No Fan Of Musburger

KETV: ABC sportscaster Brent Musburger was ticketed at the intersection of 9th and T Streets in Lincoln after Saturday’s Husker game.


Lincoln police said Musburger was a passenger in the ABC crew’s rental car.

One witness said a traffic officer had just waved traffic through the intersection when he spotted Musberger drinking a beer.

The witness said he saw other passengers with alcohol, but Lincoln police said only Musburger was ticketed.

The driver was not drinking.

Musburger was given a $144 citation, including court costs.

[UPDATE] This is classic. There’s a Brent Musburger drinking game. “It may be the only way to listen to a Musburger broadcast without throwing a hammer through the screen,” says its propagator and fellow Big 12 fan.

Here’s one of the rules of the game:

Rule #8: Mentioning a Big 10 school during a non-Big 10 game. Whenever Brent does this, the first person who names the Big 10 school’s mascot gets to make somebody drink for 11 seconds, since there’s 11 schools in the Big 10.