Category Archives: Politics

Tale of two Senators

We’ve been taking advantage of some lovely fall weather over the past week or two, taking in as much autumn fun as we can before winter hits. I also got to hang out with Bernie Sanders on Friday and then Ben Sasse on Saturday, so I guess that makes me bipartisan.

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We had a quiet weekend last week, taking the kids for a long walk through Fontenelle Forest to get some fresh air and take in as some of the remaining fall colors before all the leaves were gone. The relatively bare trees gave us a nice view of the river in some spots and even a glimpse of downtown Omaha. The kids got to play on the playground for a bit as well before we were done.

Then on Sunday, we went to my parents’ house to let the kids watch the Wizard of Oz for the very first time. I’d seen the classic MGM film multiple times growing up, but seeing it through the eyes of my kids for the first time was a fun experience for everybody. (And having subtitles let me understand some of the lyrics and dialog for the first time as well.)

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On Friday, Bernie Sanders paid another visit to Council Bluffs for a rally, bringing with him fellow socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). The crowd of young, white, and rainbow-haired leftists seemed to be more eager to see her than the man running for President. Three musical acts preceded the politics — a lady playing a ukulele (while singing about “my body my choice”),  “Democratic Socialist Songsmith” Neal Francis and his funky band from Chicago (who were surprisingly good), and an eccentric banjo player named Adrian.

A few local politicians spoke before bringing out AOC, who seemed to be able to work the crowd up to a frenzy as she alternated between sitting and walking about the stage to introduce Sen. Sanders. The two politicians are half a century apart in age, but that gave them an interesting chemistry as they took turns exulting the values of socialism to a very friendly crowd. There were apparently over 2,000 people in attendance, but I managed to get a spot at the front to shake hands with both Bernie and AOC when they wrapped up and walked the rope line. I even asked them both if they would appear on the Ben Shapiro program. (Neither of them responded with much enthusiasm.)

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The next morning, Hannah and I both got to walk in a Veterans’ Day Parade with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. Vivian and Aaron were at a friend’s birthday party at the time, but Grammy was able to give us a ride to Olde Town Bellevue so we would meet up with the rest of the Sasse team. Don Bacon’s crew was also on hand (sans Bacon), and we walked between them and (Democrat) Carol Blood along Mission Avenue. Hannah got to ride in our little wagon and toss candy to some of the kids lining the streets.

The whole route was only around one kilometer in length, so it was over fairly quickly. Sasse stuck around for just long enough for a photo or two before vanishing like a ninja. Then Hannah and I walked on back along the route back to where Grammy was stationed outside the Dairy Queen, watching the rest of the parade pass by along the way. Once it was over, we got some ice cream together before heading home.

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The weather was lovely for the rest of the day, so we got the kids outdoors for some fun diving into a pile of leaves. Hannah also decided to build a makeshift shelter in the backyard where she could hang out with our neighbor friends on the other side of the fence. (And went it got too cold to be outside, she made a hammock in our basement.)

Then that evening, we brought some hot dogs over to my parents’ house and cooked them over their fire pit as the sun went down. My dad and I brought along enough makeshift firewood from fallen tree branches and debris to keep the fire going for an hour or two after the sun went down. There’s nothing quite like a fire to bring people together.


My brief encounter with Bernie & AOC

Halloween Countdown

Halloween’s almost here, and that means we’re close to the time of perpetual darkness — AKA the end of daylight saving time — with winter not far behind. In the meantime, there’s more non-stop autumnal fun to be had, at least until the snow starts falling (which could be this afternoon).

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I had a busy Friday night, starting with a party to kick off Don Bacon’s 2020 re-election campaign. The event was held at the Regency Marriott, and it seems like just yesterday I was in the same ballroom for a victory party back in 2018 (or his previous kickoff party earlier that year). Don arrived moments after I did and spoke a few minutes to members of the media. Local musician Kaylyn Sahs played to music to start things off, followed by the National Anthem. Then Don had a long list of endorsements from Mike Foley, La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig, Gretna Mayor Jim Timmerman, Bob Evnen, Aimee Melton and Brinker Harding from the Omaha City Council, and a few others. Then Don took the stage to give a stump speech touching on taxes, the deficit, abortion, and the current impeachment situation, among other things. His wife Angie and two sons were there as well, as he invited them on stage for a moment before meeting and greeting the couple hundred people in attendance.

In addition to the usual folks, there was a handful of little ones running about, including Phil with his son Gabe, so it really was an event for the whole family. I got to speak to Don for a few minutes about the Democrats’ “impeachment inquiry” being held behind closed doors in the capitol basement. Don said he actually walked in on Matt Gaetz’ attempt to walk in on the proceedings, but he only saw it from the back and had no idea what was going on. He said he’s only been able to get about 25% of the transcripts from the proceedings himself, so his view of what’s going on isn’t much better than anyone else’s.

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I returned home long enough to help tuck the kids into bed and then changed clothes for the Jitterbugs’ Halloween Party. I decided to go as “Pierre Delecto,” AKA Mitt Romney’s Twitter alter ego, which was outed only a few days earlier. Vivian donned a mask and cape and came as Super Mom. There was a fairly good crowd, though I’m no longer a regular at JNO, so I only saw a few familiar faces throughout the night — Eric, Mike and Merinda, Lacey, the Hamiltons, and Takashi (who led us in Thriller, of course), among a few others. We had a costume parade and a contest, and the winners being Napoleon Dynamite, Rey and Kylo Ren, and Star Lord and Gamora (though they were ALL winners in my book).

In addition to all the dancing, Billy managed to score a bunch of leftover food from another party that somehow didn’t need it, so Vivian and I both got some Lindy Fuel that kept us going past midnight, once the dance was done. Special thanks to Donna for letting us stay out that late!

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We started off Saturday with nothing on our agenda, but the weather was too darn nice to stay inside, so we headed off to Gifford Farm to enjoy some fresh air, see some fall colors, explore a few hideouts, and do some trick-or-treating. The staff had stations all around the farm set up for kids to collect candy, play games of ring toss (or ball toss), and many remaining animals to see, from chickens we could pet (or chase), to a horse, a donkey, sheep, pigs, and a bunny. We got a ride around on the hay rack and let the kids zip down the slides inside the straw barn for a little while.

A reporter from KETV stopped by to get some footage of Hannah that may or may not have been in their evening broadcast, which we never saw due to a football game delay. We finished off our visit by decorating some cookies with the River City Confectioners Association, which has always been a tradition, thanks to Vivian’s mom.

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And as if all that weren’t enough, we had a quick lunch at McDonald’s and then went all the way down to Union Orchard to get some pumpkins from their pumpkin patch. Vivian had lamented us not finding any “on the vine” this year or in years’ past, but they fortunately had plenty of pumpkins — large and small, orange, green, and white — all waiting for us to pick. They were quite a deal, too — just $1 each for the big ones, and three for a dollar for the little ones (which Hannah got for her dolls). We also got some acorn and butternut squashes for a dollar each as well as some apple donuts for the ride home.

It was a fun, busy weekend, with more fun this coming week in-between Halloween and potential snow. Hopefully it’ll stay warm enough for the kids to get an obscene amount of candy once again.

Bacon, Steak & Wine

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Bright and early Saturday morning, Don Bacon held another feisty town hall, this time down at Liberty Middle School in Papillion. There were about 250 people in the cafeteria to hear Don talk, split around 50/50 Republicans and Democrats (and a few troublemakers), if my estimation of cheers and boos is correct. Many of the left-wing agitators who couldn’t get into his last town hall seemed to be there, jumping to their feet and yelling at Don before he was even done with his opening remarks. Things calmed down a bit once L. James told these guys they’d have to pipe down or be asked to leave, but they still made their grievances known throughout Don’s hour-long Q&A session.

A lot of the discussion was about impeachment and how Don wouldn’t put “country over party” by simply siding with the Democrats to overturn the 2016 election, but he still got in a few good words on the economy, health care, and other issues people in his district are actually concerned about — particularly “finding common ground.”

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Then on Sunday afternoon, I took Vivian down to James Arthur Vineyards to enjoy one of her birthday presents from the week before — a steak luncheon and a hayrack ride with some of our friends. The guys at JAV grilled up rib-eyes over a swinging grate above a campfire for everyone, and we ate and sipped a little wine as local musician/storyteller Chris Sayre played music (on strings and a saw) and told a ghost story or two. (There’s apparently an apparition named Chris who haunts the winery by leaving the lights on.)

After lunch, the gray skies cleared up and we got a tour of the vineyards via hayrack, puttering around the countryside to see the rows and rows of grapevines and apple trees. When this event is held in the evening, it’s a “haunted hayrack,” which apparently has some apparitions that don’t appear in broad daylight.  so we only got to see a few excitable donkeys (and other creatures) on our way back to the lodge, where we hung out for a bit before heading out.

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Grammy watched the kids in the meantime, and around dinnertime she took them by First Presbyterian for a movie night, where they got to have some hot dogs and nachos before watching the Pixar movie Coco. Vivian and I joined them for most of the movie before it wrapped up with coloring and running around before bedtime.

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Things stayed nice and busy on Monday, as Vivian took the kids down to Pump It Up for another evening of fun and slides for the kids — hopefully burning off more energy before bedtime.

I dropped by to join them for a little bit, and then I headed down to La Vista for a meet-up with a bunch of liberty-minded folks at Pizza West. Stephen Bader put the meetup together with Jon Tucker and spoke about pushing the Republican party in a more libertarian direction. There were a couple dozen guests, including my old state Senator Tommy Garrett, Millard candidate Andrew Sakalosky, Sarpy county commissioner David Klug, and even Matt Tompkins from 1290 AM. I was particularly glad to see how many young people were getting involved — there’s definitely a place for liberty in the next generation of voters.

Rare Breeds

We’ve had a few gorgeous days here and there this week, necessitating a trip or two to a park, but mostly it’s been hot and muggy as summer absolutely refuses to make way for fall. Fortunately, our tomatoes have started kicking into high gear, giving us plenty of tasty treats for bruschetta and such.

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On Wednesday, I spent the evening with Tom Becka and Jeff Koterba in Benson, who were helping to raise a few dollars to renovate the Benson Theater. The theater has been vacant for several decades, but there are some very elaborate plans to bring it back to life, and they’re about half a million dollars shy of meeting their goal.

The event was at the “B Side,” which was once the “PS Collective” connected to the Pizza Shoppe where 88 Improv used to perform (and Tom once “performed” for use amusement years ago). The room was now sealed of from the pizza, but there is now a bar where I got a “figure of speech” to sip as Tom and Jeff introduced themselves and dove headlong into a Facebook argument IRL on stage for us. The title of the event was “Rare Breed,” and asked “are cartoonists and commentators going extinct.” I would certainly say “no,” as the Internet has made it easier for anyone to have a platform to spread their views or cartoons with almost no overhead whatsoever, but it did launch into a long-form discussion on such things as “fake news” and red light cameras, among other things. We also got to try drawing our own editorial cartoons from a list of topics, a la the Kaneko event a few years back, so I tried my hand at a caricature of Ben Sasse.

It was a fun evening, primarily because I always prefer arguing “IRL” as opposed to online, where being snippy and sarcastic often gets you likes when thoughtful discussion gets ignored.

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Friday brought along some gorgeous weather, so we took the kids to the park for a lunchtime visit. Then that evening, Vivian and I attended a “Tribute to Patriots” event, where we got to hear from Congressman Devin Nunes of California, emceed by KFAB’s Scott Voorhees. He’s been in the headlines recently for his role in investing Russian collusion, but he had a few other interesting stories about his interactions with President Trump. We saw several familiar faces there, including Don Bacon, Lt. Gov. Foley, and the usual band of GOP volunteers. They had a few awards at the end for the “five that drive,” which included several of them.

It was a lovely evening, though I forgot my memory card, so I couldn’t use my “good camera” to get any pictures. We also had a late dinner, so we wound up crashing at our old Village Inn for chicken pot pie and a french dip sandwich together (and pie, of course) before calling it a night.

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Saturday turned out to be the perfect day for just about everything outside — including a bit more house painting in the morning followed by a picnic lunch at Hickory Hill Park with our friends, the Lenarts. We’d been aiming at having another meetup for a while and managed to land on the perfect day for grilling a few burgers outside while letting the kids play on a new playground together.

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Then that evening, we had another trip to the zoo, courtesy of the Autism Society of Nebraska. We dropped by around six and had a look around the mostly too-dark-to-film “kingdom of the night” beneath the desert dome. We saw an alligator or two in the swamp and some snakes before heading upstairs to the drier part of the dome, where we got a peek at a fox, some mongooses, and some rattlesnakes.

The kids spent plenty of time playing on zoo statuary before we headed to the jungle to hang out for the rest of the evening. The bats were out in full force once again as we looked around upstairs and down, and then we dropped by the Wild Kingdom pavilion to cool off with a dance and a ride in a Humvee before calling it a night.

Balloons, bounce-houses, and talking trash

We had a delightfully short week, thanks to Labor Day, and now we’re speeding headlong into a busy fall season and another school year.

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On Wednesday, I attended a luncheon with Mayor Jean Stothert and the Business and Professional People for Life at the Garden Cafe. I’d attended this lunch many, many times before, but this was the first time I’d brought my dad along, who seemed to get a kick out of talking theology with the Catholics at our table.

Strangely enough, Mayor Stothert kept very much to a budgetary stump speech, talking mostly about the new trash contract with the city and other fiscal issues. She didn’t talk about pro-life issues until one person specifically asked her to during the Q&A, during which she briefly mentioned she’d been pro-life since her days as a nurse and it was one reason she didn’t attend the “Women’s March” that happened a few years ago.

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Then on Friday, we took the kids out to Ditmar’s Orchard for a lovely evening of balloon watching and quality outdoor time in the country. There were a few new additions to the playground, including a rolling slide made of PVC pipe and a teeter-totter airplane (in addition to the swings and monkey bars). There were a few other photo-worthy attractions, such as a set of stocks that we made use of, and a “Dr. Oxygen” was on hand to make bubbles for the kids to fight over trying to pop on our way back to our seats.

The balloons started sailing in around 7:30, sailing over the hills to the west before getting carted back to the orchard to re-inflate and glow for everyone. Our friend Lisa sat and had some snacks with us, such as some apple cider donuts I grabbed in advance. Then the balloons took turns glowing in sequence before the guests were allowed to come up close and take a look at them. This all seemed fairly routine for Hannah, who mostly wanted to get back to the playground, so we let her and Aaron have some more fun after dark as the band Clean and Easy played songs for us until around 9:30 or so.

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Hannah and mommy went to a birthday party for her friend Lily on Saturday as I stayed home with Aaron and set up my new Raspberry Pi to play BurgerTime for his amusement. Then around dinnertime we went down to Wildewood Christian Church for their Saturday Spectacular. This consisted of BBQ sandwiches and hot dogs for dinner, along with a few indoor games, and an inflatable bounce-house and obstacle course outside, which kept the kids busy most of the evening.

Then around seven, local comedian Jarrell Roach came to do a stand-up set, much of which included audience participation. He had us doing rock, paper, scissors and singing the ABCs, and he somehow made it funny. He also brought up one “lucky” audience member to demonstrate the difference between men and women toward the end of the show. It was the first time Hannah or Aaron had seen a stand-up comic, and they surprisingly seemed to enjoy every bit of it.

We’ve got more activities in store this week, much of which will be political. In the meantime, we’ll be busy recovering and hopefully be ready for more fun soon.


Fields of Flight 2019

Pink Poodle, Tailgate Breakfast, and Turning 41

I turned a year older on Thursday last week, and boy am I starting to feel middle age catching up to me — mainly because we seem to have a non-stop schedule full of fun this time of year.

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Vivian kicked things off early in the morning with some breakfast pizza and banana bread when I got up, as well as some fun maple bacon coffee I picked up at Aldi the day before. Hannah made her own card for me, and I played some video games with the kids before heading off to work.

At the office, I found a Happy Birthday banner waiting for me, as well as Pinkie Pie with a birthday card at my desk, courtesy of Dr. Keefe (as usual). I had my own little celebration over lunch taking a brisk walk to Walmart to splurge on a few childhood treats for myself, namely Ruffles, Cracklin Oat Bran, and Pimento spread (not eaten together, of course).

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Then that evening, my parents took me out to the Pink Poodle in Crescent, Iowa, a family-owned steakhouse in a tiny town along the Old Lincoln Highway just a few miles north of Council Bluffs. I had a rib-eye steak and baked potato, which came with soup, salad, and bread served family style. I even got some chicken livers as an appetizer, which Vivian always liked to point out whenever they’re on the menu (and I decided at last that they’re not my thing). The little restaurant had a lot of home-spun charm, including cabinets filled with antique dolls and a framed newspaper article about one of their servers, who had been working there since 1956. It’s the sort of place I’d definitely go to again, if only to get the prime rib, which apparently comes in Fred Flintstone sized slabs.

Of course, we also had a smiley-face themed party waiting for me when I returned home, including a smiley-face cake and gifts from Vivian and the kids.

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Then on Friday night, I had a “pizza picnic” at Soaring Wings with a handful of our mutual friends. I’ve been to this venue for birthdays twice before, and it seemed the perfect venue, with a live band playing music on Friday nights, and with the weather clear, dry, and in the 70s, it was a perfect evening for food and drink on their lawn. Of course, I snapped a few photos of the picturesque scenery before having a few samples of time inside, eventually settling on a rosé called Hummingbird (that’s the word). We’d dropped by Papa Reno’s for a Supreme Pizza beforehand, coupling it with an alfredo pizza courtesy of Jenny and Kody and a cheese steak pizza from Jon Paper. Venche and Ben joined us as well, bringing along baby Anya and a selfie stick for our amusement.

The band played a handful of cover songs and even announced my birthday to the crowd, which was delightfully embarrassing. We even had the chance to dance a couple times down in front, which seemed an appropriate way to wrap up the night.

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I was up early the next day with my dad for a trip down to Lincoln to attend a “tailgate party” down at the Governor’s Mansion. The day started off gray and rainy, but we were quickly led inside to meet and greet Gov. Ricketts and his wife Susanne in the parlor. Then they had breakfast for us out back underneath a couple pavilions in the backyard, so we didn’t get too wet. We sat with a few other guests and talked about politics and such as we ate. One was Bob, the guy whose photo I snapped at the Millard Days parade as he walked up and down the route carrying a batch of GOP yard signs.

A couple hundred other guests came and went throughout the morning before kickoff, and I didn’t recognize anyone else other than the Foleys, who sat next to us. Dad and I headed home afterward, taking scenic Highway 6 back to Omaha as a line of cars came crowding into Lincoln, apparently quite eager to see the Huskers struggle to beat the South Alabama Jaguars.

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We had church and some more house-painting on Sunday with some truffle mac and cheese and pot roast to hold us over until Labor Day. Then my parents had a lovely cookout for the whole family on their lawn, with my dad smoking two tiers of burgers in his backyard smoker and Jack and Donna bringing up baked beans and cobbler to have with it. Uncle Nathan even took some time to draw with Hannah as Grandma introduced Hannah to a thing called a “newspaper” before we headed home.

Then that evening, because we’re gluttons for punishment, we took the kids down to Pump it Up to let them bounced around, slide, and bat some balloons to burn off whatever energy remained before bringing our long, long weekend to a close.

Waning wet days of summer

We’ve had a week or so to recover from our camping trip, but we’re quickly transitioning into another school year in the process. Aaron will be spending his pre-Kindergarten year sharing home-school activities with Hannah and doing some other work to prepare him for the possibility of full-time public school. Hannah’s also got her home-school class lined up and just got to meet her new teacher with classes nearly ready to start.

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In the meantime, Vivian was brave enough to leave me alone with the kids over the weekend as she went off to a B&B with her lady friends for a girls-only weekend. I took the kids to grandma and grandpa’s house over the weekend to mow their lawn and have some burgers for lunch. We also played some Pictionary-style games on Uncle Jonny’s Nintendo Switch, which even Hannah was able to participate in.

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Then on Wednesday, I dropped by Barley’s in Council Bluffs to see Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, one of about five hundred Democrats currently running for President. His brief stump speech was more criticism of Trump than talk of actual policy, though he only briefly touched on overturning Citizens United, which seemed to get the most response from the crowd (aside from a brief mention of Congressman Steve King).

Bennet was probably the most punctual candidate I’ve seen so far, starting and stopping nearly to the second between noon and one. He stuck around for fifteen minutes afterward meeting and greeting guests, and even signing autographs for one super fan, who had a gift for him from Nebraska.

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With summer winding quickly down, Vivian and I decided to have one last rendezvous at the park before they shut off the fountains for the winter. There were far fewer kids with school back in session, so we had the place almost to ourselves. After a quick bite and a swing, Hannah and Aaron had a good run getting wet around the spire through the water. I forgot to bring my trunks, but that didn’t stop me from rolling up my pant legs and joining them for a bit as well.

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Then after work, I joined the kids for a spur-of-the-moment trip to Fun Plex. The Omaha water park is only open for a few more days, and they had a deep discount for guests this week only before shutting down for the season, so we dropped by with the kids to take advantage of it. After getting a bit wet in the children’s area, we took the kids for some floating in the giant wave pool and then along the lazy river. They both had the most fun over on the water slides, of course, and both Hannah and Aaron went down on their own this time around, which was something of a milestone.

We had just a couple of hours to enjoy ourselves before heading home, grabbing some Krispy Krunchy Chicken for dinner at the corner of 36th and Chandler. The place was highly recommended by my dad and was much better than you may expect coming from a gas station.


Fun at Fun Plex

Feeling Sassy

It’s been a fun week in politics leading up to our annual camping trip with the Mills.

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First up on Monday was an event with Senator Ben Sasse, who announced the kick-off for his re-election campaign in a hot, steamy airplane hangar in Millard. A crowd of a couple hundred people were there and included GOP all-stars past and present: Don Stenberg, Kay Orr, Dave Heineman, Jean Stothert, Pete Ricketts, Congressmen Bacon and Fortenberry, and many others. The oppressive heat didn’t seem to be anybody down (even the ones in suits), as a couple folks broke out dancing waiting for things to get started. Jim Rose from KFAB acted as emcee and introduced Sasse with a brief line-up of VIPs before the junior senator took the stage with his family. He then gave a brief stump speech on civility and socialism, touching specifically on the aftermath of the mass shootings over the weekend.

Sasse stuck around to meet-and-greet and get selfies with several of people in the crowd (including me, of course). Then he and his family rolled off in a giant campaign travel-trailer as his 2020 bid for re-election officially began. Sasse didn’t do any interviews with the press afterward, however, but several of his guests did. The rest of us stayed and mingled for a while, and I enjoyed seeing Jon Tucker and Tom Becka get into a real-life Facebook argument before I headed out.

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Meanwhile, Vivian took the Hannah and Aaron to “Pump it up” for a night of bouncing in a large, inflatable playground to burn off some energy. It was hosted by the Autism Society of Nebraska, so there was no blaring rock music overhead this time around, which made for a strangely more peaceful event.

Then on Wednesday, Vivian took the kids on their last trip to “Mud Pies” at the Fontenelle nature center. They’ve been going to this little program since Hannah was barely a toddler, but now they’re remodeling and restructuring or something so the program they knew won’t be there any longer. It was kind of a sad way to say goodbye to the days of painting and visiting animals (both real and plush) that they’d grown up enjoying for so long.

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Then on Wednesday, Congressman Don Bacon hosted a town hall, the first since the one I attended in Omaha back on May. The event was held at the Fire Barn in Waterloo in a room that only held around 120 people. A campaign staffer apologized for the small venue, saying that they couldn’t get a larger one due to “liability concerns.”

Whatever those concerns might have been, they didn’t materialize as the town hall started. The folks in the room were largely friendly, and there were only a few times people seemed to be yelling out of term (unlike previous town halls where it seemed more the rule than the exception). Many of the questions were on gun control, assault weapons, red flag laws, and racism in America (particularly relating to President Trump). Bacon answered the questions drawn randomly from a box, even if they were from people who hadn’t made it into the room. There were about four or five protesters outside, but the back-and-forth inside was congenial to say the least, even among those who disagreed with the Congressman.

There was also national media present in the room, with folks from the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and even Vice among them. It’ll be interested to see the reporting on the event, since there weren’t the partisan fireworks some might have been expecting.

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Then on Thursday, just to be bipartisan, I swung by the “Tech Brew” event in Council Bluffs to catch a glimpse of Andrew Yang, who today qualified for the next Democrat debate). About 70 people (including a handful of media) turned out at the Kitchen Council to see the entrepreneur turned Presidential candidate. I’d heard a bit about him via the Joe Rogan and Ben Shapiro podcasts, and I’d also read a bit about his proposal for a $1,000/month Universal Basic Income, which sounded a bit far-fetched to say the least. He was a very interesting candidate, however, sounding very reasonable as described how workers displaced by automation had helped elect Trump. I didn’t have long to stick around after the Q&A, but I’m hoping he has the chance to swing by again before the caucus is over.

Bookin’

Summer’s now on a downward slope, with a week of muggy hotness and scattered days of showers, with time for some house painting, VBS, and a few visits from politicians in-between.

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On Friday, it was Cory Booker who dropped by. About a hundred people came to the Gathering Room to see the New Jersey Senator and Presidential Candidate (polling around 1.5% nationally). He was introduced by three local Democrats and then gave a brief stump speech focused on “values” rather than “policy.” He had a great deal of enthusiasm and energy, which made for more interesting photos than most other candidates I’ve photographed. He also seemed to enjoy making a number of “dad jokes,” asking me personally during the Q&A if I were walked on as a child since my name was “Matt.”

My question was a bit more seriously, as I briefly relayed the assault of journalist Andy Ngo by Antifa in Portland and asked Sen. Booker if he would condemn them for it. You can read a partial transcript of his answer here, but he essentially condemned the violence but not the group itself, saying he wasn’t familiar with the situation. I thanked him afterward (during selfie time) for the question and said that the sides these days are not so much right and left but fringe versus mainstream, and we all should be OK with calling out the fringe, no matter which side they think they’re on.

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In the meantime, our kids were having a week of VBS at First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, learning about Jesus healing lepers, washing feet, and being a servant in many other ways. We went to the church for service on Sunday so they kids could stand up front and (almost) sing a song or two from their week with their little friends. Our friends the Mills were there as well, and we stuck around afterward for fried chicken and some playground time before dragging the kids home.

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Then on Wednesday night, I dropped by a town hall with Jeff Fortenberry, who actually represents my district here in Nebraska. It was a packed house, and as usual the crowd seemed to be peppers with members of the opposite party. Things stayed mostly cordial, though one lady seemed to want to talk over everyone else during their questions before being told my another audience member, “We came to talk to him, not you.” Another woman wanted to argue with Fortenberry over the words “climate change” and seemed uninterested in his actual proposals on green energy and reducing carbon emissions, and another wanted him to condemn President Trump’s tweets (which he did).

A few more people had more serious questions, such as a woman whose parents died of carbon monoxide after their car, which had a key-less ignition, was accidentally left running. There was also a blind veteran who talked about the difficulty deaf veterans have getting help at VA hospitals when nursing staff have to deal with calling “711” and TTY machines. It was a good exchange overall, and it was especially nice to be able to have a back-and-forth with someone who will actually be on my ballot next year.

Biden my time

It’s the dog days of summer, with highs breaking the century mark, right on schedule for our anniversary (which we usually celebrate at a water park). Naturally, we’re finding ways to have fun while keeping cool, like running through the fountains at Stinson Park and installing new light fixtures in the basement.

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Over the weekend, Hannah and Aaron got to participate in the annual River City Confectioners’ Association cake show once again. Hannah made a cute little snowman while Aaron made a shark cake, and they each won a ribbon and a bag of prizes for participating. The cake show was held at the Douglas County fair, which itself was inexplicably held in a series of empty storefronts at Village Pointe Mall. I didn’t see any show animals or rides, but we did stop by an exhibit full of science-related toys and activities. They also got some balloons and paint-work done before we called it a day.

A few days later, my Uncle Andy and Aunt Nancy stopped by for a visit, so we took the kids over to visit with them a bit and play a few rounds of charades with the kids.

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A few days later, former Veep and Democrat front-runner for President “Sleepy” Joe Biden stopped by Council Bluffs for a visit. The button brigade was outside as usual as a couple hundred people showed up to squeeze into the Grass Wagon events center. The crowd included the usual media types along with former Congressman Brad Ashford, local blogger Dave Begley, and the  pair of autograph hounds who followed every candidate back in 2016. Biden was introduced by a local cancer survivor named Connie Gronstal shortly before eleven, and then Biden gave a remarkably short stump speech — just under 19 minutes — focusing on standard Democrat topics like healthcare and free college.

Afterward, Biden stayed for nearly an hour afterward to greet everyone along the rope line and get photos with anyone who wanted one (including me, of course). I’ve never been a fan of Biden, but sticking around to meet and greet that many people when you’re already the party front runner put him up a notch in my book.

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That day also happened to be Grammy’s birthday, so we had her over for dinner and cake that evening. Jack grilled up some “tomahawk” rib-eye steaks, which he carved up for us (letting Aaron take a whole bone to devour). The kids had also decorated a chocolate bundt cake, which we lit with candles and let Grammy blow out afterward. Then Grammy opened a few presents with the kids as the evening wound down afterward.