Wednesday, August 24, 2016

One of Kate Gosselin's Sextuplets from "Kate Plus 8" Has Unspecified Special Needs & Out of the Home in Treatment Program

People Magazine recently did a photo shoot with Kate Gosselin and her kids to commemorate the 10 year anniversary since her family became famous on TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus 8" and "Kate Plus 8" reality TV shows. Photo shoots don't mean much to me, but I was interested to learn that one of her sextuplets, 12-year-old Collin, has some unspecified special needs that have led to him being placed out of the home in some sort of treatment program:
"Collin has special needs," Kate tells PEOPLE. "[There's] a fairly fluid diagnosis of what those needs are, but he needs to learn certain strategies to help him deal with things. This has been a struggle we've had for a very long time, and it's one I've dealt with on my own. I've felt very alone in this. By the same token, it's not something that has only impacted me or him – our entire family has been impacted." 

Collin is currently "enrolled in a program that is helping him learn the skills he needs to be the best him he can be," she says. "We miss him so much, so it's been hard because there is a huge hole in our family without him here. But it comforts us to know he's where he needs to be right now, and I can feel good about that."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

New Study Questions Origins of Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity; Not to Mention the Overall Mental Health of LGBT People

CBN News reported earlier today about a new article in "The New Atlantis" that explored issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Basically, they questioned the idea that sexual orientation is genetically innate and they questioned the idea of gender identity. They also asserted that we are more mentally ill than others in the general population:
New scientific evidence is refuting the claim that LGBT individuals are born that way. The report comes from researchers at Johns Hopkins University. And they say they aren't taking sides in the debate, but just reporting the evidence. The new report says the formation of sexual identity is complicated, but the evidence indicates environmental factors may play a role. For example, it states that homosexuals are 2-3 times as likely to have been victims of child sexual abuse. The report also concludes that up to 80% of teenage boys that report same-sex attraction no longer have those feelings as adults.
It appears that they pulled information from roughly 200 studies and came up with their data.

Personally, I don't really think it matters if gays are "born that way" or not. If it's moral for me to be gay by nature, then it's okay for me to be gay by choice. And I agree that issues of sexual orientation and gender identity are much more complex than choice vs. nature.

But I'm also dubious about the writers involved with this paper, as well as their conclusions and their motivations. Not to mention this publication itself. I'm really hopeful that someone with more time and interest besides myself sits down and reads the articles that they explored and compared their actual findings versus the conclusions from this article.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Trump & Grassley Win the 2016 Iowa State Fair Straw Poll by Large Margins

The Iowa State Fair just finished up. That means that the infamous Iowa State Fair Straw Poll results have been totaled and we've been offered our first glance at the results of November's presidential election:

Donald Trump won the ever influential Iowa State Fair Straw Poll against Hillary Clinton. The results: Trump 48% // Clinton 37% // Other 15%.

Chuck Grassley came out on top when it came to the U.S. Sentate vote against Patty Judge. Grassley 58% // Judge 37% // Other 5%.

Husband Mark would remind me that attendance at the Iowa State Fair tends to lean conservative.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Remembering "Degrassi Junior High" Episode 6 ("Rumor Has It")

It's time for another blog post about my more memorable "Degrassi" moments over the years. This week's show is episode #6 of "Degrassi Junior High" AKA "Rumor Has It." This program made its debut back in late February 1987.

Here is the summary:
Many of Ms. Avery's students think that she is a lesbian. Caitlin insists that her teacher isn't gay. After dreaming that her classmates think that she is also gay, Caitlin begins to feel self-conscious at school.
Caitlin became one of the most popular characters in "Degrassi Junior High" and "Degrassi High." She even appeared many years later in several episodes of the "Degrassi: The Next Generation" series. Stacie Mistysyn, the actress who portrayed her, was even one of the two main characters in the first episode of "The Kids of Degrassi Street" -- which is not one of my favorite episodes, but Husband Mark like it.

Ms. Avery didn't last as long as Caitlin, but she is still my favorite "Degrassi" teacher. She was portrayed by actress Michelle Goodeve.

As noted above, Caitlin began having strange dreams about Ms. Avery. Meanwhile, troublemaker Kathleen was spreading rumors about Ms. Avery being a lesbian because she lives with a woman. Caitlin begins worrying that she herself is gay. She doesn't want to be different than the other kids and she doesn't know who to turn to -- especially when the others begin questioning Caitlin's sexuality.

Caitlin finally has a heart-to-heart with Avery and tells her about the rumors. Ms. Avery explains that it's cheaper for two people to share expenses and that's why she lives with her friend Elaine. She also implied that Kathleen was lying about some of the rumors that she'd been seen kissing Elaine in town.

She then assures Caitlin that many girls and boys have sexual dreams about other boys and girls and that's it's a natural part of puberty. This provide a bit of relief for Caitlin who tells Avery that's she's a good teacher and that she's sorry for thinking that she was gay. "Would it make any difference if I were? Would you think less of me, Caitlin?"

Those two closing questions and Caitlin's response (a negative head-shake) ended up getting "Rumor Has It" banned in the UK and in parts of the Bible Belt.

I would have been 15 when this episode aired. This was before the Age of the Internet when you could seek out support from other gay teens via bulletin boards and chat groups, etc. It was also an age when it was still pretty rare to see any LGBT representation outside of afternoon talk shows -- as crazy as they were! So this episode was a welcome source of affirmation for me.

Incidentally, there is a reason that I love Melanie (portrayed by actress Sara Ballingall). She wanted nothing to do with Kathleen's anti-gay rumor-mongering and was pretty blunt with the other girls:

Of course, there's probably a reason that Melanie didn't get invited to Grade Seven sleep-overs also!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Iowa Gov Terry Branstad's Anti-Bullying Office Lacks Funding

Last year, Governor Terry Branstad set up his own anti-bullying organization called the Governor's Office for Bullying Prevention. It was an alternative to Iowa Safe Schools, which is an LGBT-focused anti-bullying group. Iowa Safe Schools has been chronically scrutinized by Republican lawmakers because of its annual Governor's Conference of LGBTQ Youth conferences -- even though Iowa Safe School, its programming, and its conference are all privately funded.

The Governor's Office for Bullying Prevention was created via executive order and was based at the University of Northern Iowa. It's mission is to "empower schools to provide 'each and every student with a safe and respectful learning environment.'" It's supposed to promote programming aimed at preventing and responding to bullying. It's also supposed to promote an existing 24-hour hotline for bullied students and their parents.

Turns out that Terry Branstad's anti-bullying program lacks funding -- either public or private:
The Governor’s Office for Bullying Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa has received no private grants since launching in September 2015, according to documents provided by the Cedar Falls school. The state also hasn’t provided funding, as Branstad decided in January not to allocate money, citing budgetary constraints.

The small office offers some programming, but the lack of clear or consistent funding raises questions about its long-term effectiveness in addressing statewide bullying and harassment...

UNI’s Center for Violence Prevention, which since 2011 has focused on issues such as domestic and sexual assault, oversees the bullying prevention office. When the office was initially placed under the center’s watch, Branstad’s office said the center had existing funds to house the anti-bullying program.

Although the center had at least $68,000 available in private grants for the budget year that began in July, a review shows most of the money is earmarked for efforts such as mentoring school athletes as it relates to sexual assault prevention and relationship abuse. Other money is for research.

Alan Heisterkamp, the director and only full-time employee at the violence prevention center and bullying prevention office, said that private funds for violence prevention have been used to provide training and legislative lobbying on bullying issues, but that it’s hard to specify the spending because the topics are similar. 

Heisterkamp, whose $97,000 salary is covered by UNI, told The Associated Press last fall that the governor’s office contacted the university about creating the bullying office less than two weeks before issuing the executive order. About four months later, Branstad opted not to recommend a $250,000 request from UNI to fund the violence prevention center, which in turn would have supported the bullying prevention office. Heisterkamp plans to ask again.
I love this quote from Nate Monson, the executive director of Iowa Safe Schools:
“It sounds like bullying prevention is not being treated like the priority that it is... It’s a new school year and I’m already receiving phone calls about kids being bullied or afraid to start the school year. Without a functioning office or without functioning guidance from the state, it doesn’t work.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Fixer Upper" Hosts Upset Over Remodeled Rental Homes

Do you watch HGTV's "Fixer Upper?" I don't, but know others who enjoy the program. It features Chip and Joanna Gaines. They help people purchase and remodel their dream homes.

It seems that some of these home owners are renting out their remodeled dream houses. And they're making good money off of these houses. For example, one house (called the "Chicken House") can be rented for $195 per night and another (called the "Barn-damonium") can be rented for more than $1200 per night(!!).

Chip and Joanna aren't happy about this rental trend:
Fans of the HGTV show "Fixer Upper" will be happy to know many of the homes that appear on the show are available to rent. 

But, that's causing the show's hosts to rethink contracts moving forward... A spokesperson for the show says the hosts want to do remodels for clients themselves, and they don't want that purpose to get lost in this new vacation rental trend.
Personally, I don't see the problem. I would completely rent out my home if I could get over a $1000 per night from guests! Why shouldn't they be able to set up a bed & breakfast or something like that?

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Court Tells Feds to Stop Prosecuting Medical Marijuana Cases

Here's some good news for fans of medical marijuana. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco just pushed back against the Department of Justice and their effort to prosecute people involved in that industry:
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the federal agency to show that 10 pending cases in California and Washington state violated medical marijuana laws in those states before continuing with prosecutions. 
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but Congress has barred the Justice Department from spending money to prevent states from regulating the use or sale of medical pot. 
Federal prosecutors argued unsuccessfully that Congress meant only to bar the department from taking legal action against states and that it could still prosecute individuals who violate federal marijuana laws. The court rejected that, saying that medical marijuana-based prosecutions prevent the states from giving full effect to their own measures. 
"If DOJ wishes to continue these prosecutions, Appellants are entitled to evidentiary hearings to determine whether their conduct was completely authorized by state law, by which we mean that they strictly complied with all relevant conditions imposed by state law on the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana," Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain wrote for the panel.
DOJ officials are pondering whether or not to appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Somebody Just Gave Archie a Hoverboard!!

I was checking out my latest comic book acquisitions and found JUGHEAD AND ARCHIE COMICS ANNUAL #22, which features a variety of stories starring Archie, Jughead, Little Archie, Hot Dog, and Jellybean. But I was mostly interested in the story at the front of the comic book digest.

It's called "Shoe Me What You Can Do!" and it's a new short story that features story & pencils by Dan Parent, inks by Bob Smith, letters by Jack Morelli, and colors by Glenn Whitmore.

Here's the gist: Reggie has a new hoverboard and he's pretty good at riding it. Veronica is impressed because Reggie has the latest fad. Archie is upset because Veronica is impressed with Reggie's hoverboard. And someone thought that it would be a good idea to give Archie free reign on his own hoverboard -- because that never blows up in his face!!

It turns out that Archie doesn't have the balance to stay on a hoverboard. But -- genius that he is -- Dilton has figured out the trick to staying on a hoverboard: foot attachments! Unfortunately, Archie will find out that there's only one thing worse than falling off of a hoverboard and that's being unable to fall off of an out-of-control hoverboard!!

It was a cute story and I'm glad that Archie Comics continues to publish new stories at the front of their digests! Check it out!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Remembering "Degrassi Junior High" Episode 1 ("Kiss Me, Steph")

My mind keeps drawing me back to all things "Degrassi" this month. Last week, I posted blog posts about my two favorite episodes of "The Kids of Degrassi Street." That was the precursor series to thirty years of "Degrassi" continuity. I thought it would be fun to check in on other episodes of "Degrassi" programs. Keep in mind that I do not plan to do reviews of each episode. That would be crazy.

Today, I'm going go back to where the continuity began! "The Kids of Degrassi Street" might have kicked off the franchise, but "Degrassi Junior High School" kicked off the continuity. Everything that is currently happening in "Degrassi: Next Class" over at Netflix started here -- including one of the current characters: Principal Archie Simpson (AKA Snake!). Yes, Principal Simpson was once a gangly teen with a guitar and a stupid nickname.

Principal Snake
"Degrassi Junior High" first aired on January 18, 1987. I used to watch the program on public television and fell in love with the characters pretty quickly. The first episode was called "Kiss Me, Steph." It introduced Stephanie Kaye and her best friend Voula Grivogiannis. They were starting Grade Eight in this episode, which made Steph feel all grown up. So she updated her image with more "mature" clothing. Of course, her mother would never permit this. So she would wear more conservative clothes at home and then change into more provocative clothes and make-up once she made it to school. This worked great until Picture Day -- but that's an episode for another day!

On the first day of school, it is announced that there will be a school presidential election -- though you would think that there would be a school prime minister in a Toronto-based school. But what do I know? Stephanie is annoyed by a school announcement inviting the school's boys to apply for office. This annoyance quickly turns into a mission after she decides to run for president with BFF Voula as her very involved campaign manager.

Keep in mind that Stephanie Kaye was pretty much the Donald Trump of her day. Voula made up signs, wrote speeches, and created responsible campaign messages. Which Stephanie later transformed into her "All the Way with Stephanie Kaye" slogan. She also allowed any boy to kiss her in exchange for a kiss. This angered the girls, but Stephanie reasoned that she didn't need girl votes if she got all of the boy votes!

Things came to a head when Stephanie thanked the one person who'd stood by her side throughout that difficult 2-day election cycle: Joey Jeremiah! This really angered Voula, who felt used and cast aside. Stephanie ends up winning the election in a landslide.

Her disrespectful behavior towards Voula during the campaign pretty much kills their friendship. She begs Voula to forgive her, arguing that boys like Jeremy like compliments and attention. Voula points out that girls like acknowledgements also, especially best friends. Stephanie finds herself one of the most popular girls in school, but with nobody to turn to for help or support.

My Day at the 2016 Marion Psychic & Paranormal Expo

I spent most of yesterday over in nearby Marion, IA, attending the 5th Annual Marion Psychic & Paranormal Expo. It was actually a two-day event, but I wasn't able to attend Saturday due to vacation travel. I'd never been to this paranormal expo before, so made sure that I had my day free to check out this show.

This was the third expo that I've attended (the other two were in Iowa City). I've found that they feature plenty of vendors, including mediums, ghost hunters, Reiki practioners, aura photographers, shamanic healers, and assorted shops specializing in oils, crystals, and other spirituality-themed merchandise. Meanwhile, there is a calendar full of speakers talking about anything paranormal.

The first thing that I did today -- after doing a quick check of the vendors -- was attend a program called 19th Century Seances with Doc Anderson of Readings by Doc. Doc is a psychic medium who knows quite a lot about the origins and history of seances here in America and abroad. In fact, you can hire him to host "spirit theatre" at your home, recreating early seances for parties using the tools and methods of the earliest mediums. Doc's program was scheduled for a half hour, but was written as a two hour program. So it was largely condensed. But it was also a good program and left me wanting more.

I then attended a program called What Is Intuition by Kelly McCarville of Readings by Moonspinner. Kelly is one of the expo's organizers. She describes herself as an empath, clairsentient, claircognizant, and medium. Basically, she's sensitive to others' feeling, she experiences a sense of knowing important information that she normally shouldn't know, and she has the ability to sense certain future events. She teaches classes on helping others to enhance their own sense of intuition. She believes that all of us have some level of psychic or intuitive abilities, but that most of us either stamp down on those feelings or mistake intuition for coincidence.

I then took a break from the speakers to spend some time in the vendors gallery. I bought some bath bombs and then talked myself out of getting some books. (I love buying books, but I have so many at home and need to get through some of them before adding to the pile!!)

I then got a psychic reading by Eric and Burt of 2GuysInTheKnow. They offer paired readings to their customers. I met these guys two years ago at my first Iowa City expo and then got a gallery reading from them last summer (here). They gave me some vocational advise last summer that actually played out. Yesterday's reading was a private reading at their table. I asked them about my vocational future. The gist of their answer was that I'm where I should be, but that I should remain open to new opportunities at work -- even those that don't seem like good opportunities because they will lead to something that I would really enjoy. They also suggested that it might be time for me to investigate a new part-time employment opportunity in addition to my full-time job. Something that scratches my creativity. We talked for a bit about my involvement with an effort to get a community radio station going here in Iowa City -- assuming that we raise the money needed to purchase the rest of our equipment before the end of the year (please donate!!). They felt confidant that we would get KICI Radio on the air in time. I wrapped up by asking them about something that someone said about me last year. I was called a "healer" and that has stuck in my head. I asked them for some clarification. Bert talked with me about how healers can channel healing to help others. Often people use this gift as Reiki practitioners, but also suggested that I'm already using my healing abilities in my day job.

I then attended a program called Channeling Angels, Guides & Fairies with Laura Jones AKA Lauracle. She is a clairvoyant, clairaudient, and clairsentient. She gave a brief description of her abilities and beliefs and then did a gallery-styled program where she gave brief readings for everyone in the room. I was one of the early readings. She said that she could sense butterfly-like wings blossoming from my heart and that I should encourage that.

I then attended the Moon Family Psychic Experience with Chris Moon and Mama Moon. He was one of the featured guests. They are mediums and paranormal investigators who've appeared on shows such as "Paranormal State," "Ghost Adventures," and "Door to the Dead." They do numerous shows at expos and college campuses where they discuss their work -- as well as his Spirit Phone communication device -- and then lead certain attendees on private investigations. They shared their story and family history, as well as various videos and images from some of their earlier programs. People then lined up for a chance to communicate with the dead via his Spirit Phone.

Next, I attended a presentation on the Mason House Inn, which is a haunted B&B located in southern Iowa. The building has been active as a hotel or bed & breakfast since 1846 and is reportedly filled with many ghosts -- including one ghost cat! We learned a bit about the former residents and then saw photographic images of orbs and spirits. Even President Abe Lincoln has been known to visit the Mason House Inn! They offer regular guest bookings, or you can attend special "ghost hunting" events.

After that, I toyed with getting a second reading by another medium that I've gotten to know over the past year but he was busy and I figured that I would see him again in a couple of months at the next Iowa City Metaphysical Expo. So I decided to call it a day and travel back to Iowa City.

Over all, the 5th Annual Psychic and Paranormal Expo was fun and well organized. I understand that the 6th expo is being scheduled for sometime in July 2016. Most likely, I will attend.

It's weird. I started going to these events out of curiosity and a somewhat open mind. Since then, I've attended numerous classes -- both at expos and elsewhere -- and met several practitioners. And I've really grown to enjoy several of these folks! I have no clue where this path is taking me, but I am enjoying the journey.