Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Grill

I'm exhausted today. I haven't had much sleep this weekend and I woke up with the burgeoning cold. I should work out, but I don't believe I will. I don't think I'll plan to do much today. Except write up a quick entry.

My mom just flew back from Arizona yesterday afternoon and spent the night before heading back home. We had talked about doing a number of things together, but ultimately ended up spending most of the afternoon and early evening assembling a new grill.

Mom gave it to Mark and me as a wedding present, but the thing came to us in a giant box. I've been meaning to spend time with Leslie all this past week assembling the thing, but could never find the time.

Anyway, the salesman told Mom it would take an hour and a half to assemble. We started around 1:45 PM and -- barring a supper trip to the HuHot -- ended up working on the blamed thing until close to 9:00 PM! And we ended up with one extra screw that I'm not quite sure where it goes.

Mark told me that I get to light it up once we take it out to the deck and purchase our propane tank.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sadness at SeaWorld

My family went to Disney World last spring with Mark's parents. It was a wonderful vacation and I really look forward to returning there or one of Disney's other vacation destinations at some point in the hopefully near future.

While we were in Orlando, we traveled over to SeaWorld, which is one of Mark's mom's favorite places. It was a nice change of pace from Disney. I didn't like the rides as much, but I really enjoyed the various dolphin and whale shows, particularly the "Blue Horizons" show and the "Believe" show. The first one had really hot guys in wetsuits in it, which was nice. But "Believe" was really cool to watch because of the close interactions between the whales and the trainers. Plus, we were right up front in the splash zone, which gave us a great view and periodic splashes of whale spit to cool things off.

You'd have to be living under a rock these days to have not heard about the trainer, Dawn Brancheau, who was pulled into the water earlier this week by one of the whales, Tilly, and ultimately battered and drowned by the animal during the "Believe" show.

I'm terribly saddened by Dawn's tragic death. She was a beautiful woman and a talented performer. I remember her performance quite well all these months later. The one thing that struck me about SeaWorld was that it has wonderfully gifted and loving trainers. You could really sense the bond forged between the people and the whales and dolphins. You can't make that up and you can't fake it. It was real and it was genuine. The reflections from Dawn's family and friends only confirms that sense of commitment and passion that she had for her work and for the animals in her lives.

I am also glad to hear that SeaWorld won't be killing Tilly, even if they haven't figured out what's going to happen to him. These are wonderful shows and the animals do excellent jobs. But the truth is that these are still wild animals. Performance animals can strike out. We've seen it with tigers and elephants. We've seen this with apes and chimps. Heck, we see it quite often with domesticated dogs. They're wonderful creatures, but they're also one step away from the wilderness. Trainers like those at SeaWorld presumably know this. I'm sure that Dawn did. I can't imagine her wanting Tilly euthanized. Killing Tilly won't bring Dawn back, but I'm not sure that it's ever going to be safe to return him to the shows. Not that it would be safe to return him to the seas.

It'll be interesting to see how this story unfolds.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Headline Hopping

It's that time again. Time to zero in on a few news stories and/or blog articles that attracted my attention. Starting in no particular order:

*Here is an interesting article about the massive amount of snow that left thousands of people without electricity or water or even an escape route over at the Cheyenne River Lakota Reservation in South Dakota. I had first heard about this mess on MSNBC's Keith Olbermann's program. Fortunately, his coverage helped to initiate a successful fund-raising campaign to assist this community with making repairs and assisting these folks. I'm glad to hear that those within my denomination, the United Church of Christ, were part of this relief effort. They managed to provide $8,000 in aid. I hear lots of complaints about how many is being spent within the denomination. I can't imagine anyone objecting to this effort. You can read more about the storm, the Resevervation, and the relief effort at this link.

* has an interesting interview with science fiction/comic book writer Peter David about one of the more unexpected, yet interesting mutant romances over in Marvel's X-Factor comic book. The piece talks with him about why he decided to (re)introduce this subtexted romance late last year, about how difficult (not) it was to get it red-lighted, and about fan reactions to the romance. The Rictor/Shatterstar romance was always one of those hint-hint-nudge-nudge things that writers skipped around for years, but never really dealing with it. David finally kicked open that closet door. It's been really interesting to read the responses from fans, most of which seems to be positive. The biggest detractor came from Shatterstar's creator, Rob Liefeld, who has vowed to undo this particular character development. I guess, several of Liefeld's fans have accused David to portraying this relationship as a personal dig towards Liefeld. He had an interesting response to all this:

"I was saddened by it, really, because I thought it brought out all the worst possible sentiments," said David. "First there were the Liefeld fans who believed that I 'made' Shatterstar gay because I was trying to somehow hurt Rob, which just goes to show you how people view someone being gay; that it's some sort of insult. I'll bet you if I'd killed him off, people wouldn't have seen some sort of personal enmity behind the move. But follow-up on subtext created by other writers for nineteen years and, hoo boy.

"If I'd brought Shatterstar back and had him get involved with Monet [a girl], my suspicion is that he'd have had nothing to say about it. There wouldn't have been any of this 'But he's not supposed to be interested in sex' stuff. I think it's foolish to expect a character to remain frozen in creative amber for decades. What makes a character last is his ability to change with the times. That said, I have to add that, just as a rule of thumb, if you're going to contend that your character isn't gay, don't compare him to ancient Greek warriors (as Rob did), because anyone who has the slightest awareness of history is going to start laughing uncontrollably. We've seen good characters turned bad, evil characters turned good, characters killed off, change gender, etc. But the line is to be drawn [and] the squawking starts when one of them kisses another of the same gender? I don't buy it."
*There've been a couple interesting blog discussions going on. The first is over at Andrew Marin's blog where he addressed the issue of why gay people hate ex-gay people. The second is over at Rob Turner's blog where he asks gay people how they made that personal decision to become sexually engaged with people of the same-sex. Not why they're attracted to others of the same-sex, but how they made that leap to consider actually doing anything besides penile/vaginal sex. Check out the discussions and add your two cents if you're so inclined.

*Lastly, I've been seeing all sorts of Lent-related posts these days. This one from the Jesus in Love Blog really struck me. I'll just give you the title and invite you to check it out: Ash Wednesday: Our Fast Has Been Imposed by Others.

Mom Angry at School for Feeding Child

I read an interesting article today about a mother whose fourth grader forgot to pack his lunch, so she let him go to school without it. She then e-mailed the teached and told him/her not to let him eat. The principal disagreed and fed the boy a cheese sandwich. Mom's very upset with the school for undermining her authority. She now plans to home school the child next fall.

My immediate thought is "what a control freak". Let the kid eat his meal. I can understand withholding a snack. I've done that myself when D'Angelo forgot to pack his snack for school. But let the kid eat his lunch.

Now I don't believe this is abuse. Don't get me wrong. But I do believe that this is a signal for concern. He's 9. 9-year-olds are not going to get it right 100% of the time. Not even honor students. They're not always going to be super-organized. They're going to get distracted. I get that. I live that a lot in this household.

But make your point with something else besides the kids' lunch.

Or make your own point on your own time. Don't force the school to be the bad guy for you.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Touching Base on Tuesday

Nero graduates from kindergarten tonight. His family is very proud of his accomplishments and hopes that he's able to remember his "shakes hands" trick at the end of class (who said I'm not a show-off?). Anyway, I have an hour to kill, so I thought I'd check in with a few current headlines.

*Are you on Facebook? Have you had any friends ask you to join a group warning people of an upcoming $3.99 monthly fee to remain on Facebook? Tell them "NO!" and let them know that it's a malware scam. Here's the news from Facebook, "We have no plans to charge users for Facebook's basic services. Facebook is a free service...".

*Avenue Q's a bit too racey for Colorado Springs, CO. At least, it's advertising is. Bus-stop advertising for the adult-themed Sesame Street-like musical has been banned from Colorado Springs' bus stops due to images of muppet cleavage.

The puppet's name is Lucy the Slut. She's a pink Sesame Street-like puppet in the touring Broadway show “Avenue Q.” "Avenue Q" is a Tony-winning musical about twenty-something New Yorkers, both human and puppets, searching for life and love. The show addresses issues like sex, drinking, and surfing the Web for porn. Lamar Advertising rejected the ad for bus shelters, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper. "We were in the process of putting it on the presses when one of the top execs saw it and said, ‘I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Colorado Springs market,’" according to Kristy Maple, marketing director for New Space Entertainment.
*Not that it's likely that there are any functional bus-stops in Colorado Springs these days following a series of budget short-falls that have lead the city -- known for its wealthy mega-churches, Air Force academy, and defense industry factories -- to lay off scores of beat cops, fire fighters, vice cops, and burglery investigators. Not to mention, the street lights that are being turned off, the city trash cans that are being removed, the bus routes that are ending, the community rec centers that are closing, and the streets that will be left without routine repairs. The city's voters had the chance to vote for a property tax increase that would have done away with the need for these cut-backs, but they turned that down.

*Lastly, let me just say that I'm embarrased to admit that I know the woman involved in this local news article. 'Nuff said...
"I guess we're going to find out what the tolerance level is for people," said businessman Chuck Fowler, who is helping lead a private task force brainstorming for city budget fixes. "It's a new day." Some residents are less sanguine, arguing that cuts to bus services, drug enforcement and treatment and job development are attacks on basic needs for the working class. "How are people supposed to live? We're not a 'Mayberry R.F.D.' anymore," said Addy Hansen, a criminal justice student who has spoken out about safety cuts. "We're the second-largest city, and growing, in Colorado. We're in trouble. We're in big trouble."

Alleged TV Thief Arrested After Asking Victims for Remote

An Iowa City woman who allegedly stole a flat-screen television has been arrested after police say she went back to the victim to ask for the remote.

Investigators developed 52-year-old Virginia Palmer as a suspect after employees at Aaron’s Rental at the Sycamore Mall reported that she had come in twice within the last two weeks to ask if they had a remote for a Sylvania television. The television Palmer described was similar to a $631 television that had been stolen from the store’s back room between February 3rd and 14th.

Aaron’s employees went to Palmer’s apartment at Dolphin Lake Point Enclave Monday morning to investigate. They told police that she spoke to them through an upstairs window saying she needed five minutes.

Iowa City Police then arrived on the scene, and Palmer invited them into her home to investigate. The 32 inch flat screen was found under a bed upstairs, and was identified by its serial number.

Palmer told police that she had no idea how the television got there, although she did admit to asking about the remote and to being in the back room at Aaron’s.

Palmer is charged with 3rd Degree Theft, an Aggravated Misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Lisa Miller: Fugitive

It took long enough, but a Vermont judge finally issued an arrest warrant for fugitive ex-gay parent, Lisa Miller. Check out the back story here and here:

Family Court Judge William Cohen found Lisa Miller of Forest, Va., in contempt of court during a hearing Tuesday and issued the arrest warrant. Miller was ordered to surrender custody of her daughter on Jan. 1 but failed to do so and has since disappeared. Their daughter is now considered a missing person. Miller and Jenkins got a civil union in Vermont in 2000, had the baby two years later and broke up in 2003. Miller moved to Virginia, where she renounced homosexuality and became an evangelical Christian.
I've always felt that this case stinks of post-break-up jurisdiction-shopping on Miller's part and I'm glad that they've finally taken this additional step in the process. There's not much more to add except to repeat what I've written before: If you bring a child into the world and/or into your life with another parent and then you break up, suck it up. It's no longer about you. You owe it to your child to do everything in your power to minimize the harm of your break-up on him/her.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Story of Martha (or What Makes A Good Campanion?)

Last week, I finished reading "Doctor Who: The Story of Martha" by Dan Abnett, which explores the hidden year at the end of the revamped Doctor Who's third season (or the 29th season, if you're more of a traditionalist). Basic plotline: The Doctor was captured by his nemesis, the Master, who had succeded in enslaving humanity and was threatening to destroy time and space. All seems lost for the good guys, but the Doctor managed to help his companion, Martha Jones, escape and initiate a secret mission to save everything. A year later, Martha reappears and it becomes clear that she succeeded in her mission (no big spoilers considering that we'll be starting the fifth season in a couple months).

The Story of Martha walks us through that missing year and tells us how Martha managed to use her skills and her wits to keep alive during that terrible year of enslavement, famine, and death. It was a good story and I'm glad that I read it, but the biggest thing that struck me while reading it was that I can't imagine Doctor Who's creators pulling off such a story with many of its past companions.

That right there is one of the key factors that's made the revamped Doctor Who series so appealing: it's consistently fleshed out companions. Not only do they travel with him and offer a human sounding board for the Doctor, but they come with rich backgrounds and interactive family members and survival skills that are not always dependent on the Doctor.

The new Who gave us Rose, Captain Jack, Martha, Mickey, & Donna and revived old favorites like Sarah Jane Smith and K9. The old Who certainly had some interesting stand-out companions like Jamie, Romana, Leela, Tegan, Nyssa, and Ace. But way too often, viewers were treated to folks like Vicki, Dodo, Victoria, Jo, Harry, Peri, and Mel. Some of these latter characters started out with good intentions, but most often they reverted to cookie-cutter screamers whose main attribute was to ask "Why is that, Doctor?" and to get rescued from lumbering monsters. They were essentially adult children being herded about and protected by a cosmic nanny.

In contast, the first batch have acted as true partners for the doctor. Some have been his protectors. Others have been foils for him. Others have his conscience. And others still have been respected students. Their varied, fleshed out roles have made the Doctor more real. And that's made the program much more enjoyable.

Matt Smith will be jumping into the role of Doctor Who this Easter and will be joined by his own companion, Amy Pond. I know next to nothing about this new character, outside of the fact that she appears to be some sort of a police officer. Matt Smith will be joined by a new producer and a mostly new creative team. One can only hope that this new creative team will follow precedent and make Amy into a wonderfully rich individual. Time will tell.


This one's short and sweet: my last weigh-in was 239. That's a 13 pound loss since mid-January. Not bad. :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Marriage Equality in Minnesota?

I wouldn't hold my breath, but three bills will be put up for discussion soon that will work towards better protecting gay households in Minnesota. One would make all marriages in Minnesota gender-neutral. The other would create civil unions. The third would recognize all legal marriages performed in other states -- like neighboring Iowa, which allows both het and gay couples to marry. The hearing is scheduled to begin this coming Monday.

This would be nice. I grew up in Minnesota. I noted earlier this week that I might like to move back to Minnesota someday to be closer to family, but don't really dare because my family would not be protected there to the extent that it is here. Don't get me wrong. I love Iowa. But I like Minnesota, too. Such a bill would open us up to potential employment and geographical opportunities that are currently not feasible for us. So that's cool.

On a related note, a new poll bolstered the results of an earlier Des Moines Register poll stating that Iowans don't want the legislature to pursue a constitutional amendment nulling gay marriages. I doubt the GOP will care or listen. But hopefully the Democrats will.

Cultural Identity (or the Anatomy of a Guidette)

I read an article over on AOL the other day about a potential scandal involving Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi of MTV's Jersey Shore: she's not Italian (or Italian-American). She's actually of Clilean descent and was adopted by an Italian-American family. So the article talks about how some people are calling Snooki to the carpet for identifying as a "Guidette" and, more broadly, with an Italian cultural identity. Others talk about how being a Guido or a Guidette is more about living a certain lifestyle and less about being Italian or demonstrating a sense of pride about one's Italian lifestyle.

All of this got me wondering about cultural identity. What does it mean? Does one have to be born into it to celebrate it? What if you're married into it? What if you're adopted into it?

I'm of Norwegian descent. I went to a Norwegian college and studied Norwegian literature and culture (among other things). I enjoy celebrating Nordic Fest. I enjoy lefse and hope to carry on a tradition of preparing this dish, among other Norwegian desserts. Etc, etc... My cultural identity is that of a Norwegian-American.

On the other hand, I adopted a biracial black boy. I know that he has some European ancestry in him, but I'm pretty sure it's not Norwegian -- though he is certainly growing up with our cultural traditions. Can he identify as Norwegian-American? How much of his cultural identity will be determined by upbringing and how much will be determined by ancestry?

I asked Mark about this. He noted that cultural identity does indeed have a lot to do with where you're from. There are certain inherited conditions that are predominate amongst Italians or Irish or Africans, for example.

So I guess it's a combination of the two. I mean, there are plenty of Norwegian-Americans who have no interest in Norway and live their entire lives removed from the country and its customs. Can those individuals truly claim a Norwegian-American identity more legitimately that a biracial adoptee who eats his lutefisk and dances to Scandinavian folk tunes? Truthfully, I'm not sure, but I'd like to think not.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Real Men Marry Women

So say the Concerned Women for America (source).

Guess I fall among the ranks of America's faux men...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gay Vampires

I've been watching reruns of one of my all-time favorite TV programs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, lately on MTV. Wonderful show, much of the time, though it certainly began to lose itself well into it's last season or two. That's neither here nor there, except I came across one of the kookiest blog comments in recent memory while watching Buffy and it all made a little bit of sense. And I'm pretty sure that this guy's serious.

My thought? Why not share the love? This one goes out to you, Vanhellslinger!:


We are living in earth’s darkest hour, the years, months or weeks preceding Armageddon. Taking advantage of this horrific time, homosexual vampires are coming out of the closeted grave they have survived in for thousands of years. Using this cloud of darkness that is shrouding humanity the gay vampires are running amuck, sucking out the life blood of billions. The blood they drink isn’t real blood, but is the life force of thousands of years of culture, history, heritage, religion, and family. They have drained us all of a pint just with this gay marriage quest, and another with a gay military. As we approach world war the light of reason and sanity is fading from the minds of men who once would have not tolerated homosexual armies on the rise. Now normal men are confused by things like political correctness, technological advancement, diverse happenings, and overpopulation issues, they can’t fix their cell phones let alone understand global warming and gay marriage, and so they stand by idle not knowing what to do or say.

As Mother Nature, the other nature from Gods intelligent design, creates homosexual armies that serve as a cure for world overpopulation, we must ask ourselves, “do we want this cure”? Do you want nature to fix our problems of population without any input from us? Is nature creating nonbreeding humans? Do you want homosexual real life vampires draining your humanity and replacing it with a global liberalism that would make us into a planet of the sodomites? The rise of the new gay armies is evident with their new found political aggression. Gay marriage and adoption is only the tip of the iceberg, when they are done we may see the reincarnation of Caligula and perversion on every corner of the world.

When God destroyed Sodom it was the only recorded time in biblical history that God executed not only the men of the city but he killed the women and children as well. This is proof that God hated the homosexual enough that even their infant children were to be slaughtered. Liberalizing your hearts to homosexuals may bring great destruction on all mankind. There may very well be a greater enemy in the world, growing new found wings, the wings of a vampire! The gays are using every type of psychological brainwashing warfare tactic in their attempt to conquer us, and convert us to their lifestyle. They are a combination of religion and cult based in sexual cowardice that depends on the sex act as the bonding agent of peace. Sex is not a guarantee of peace, harmony and happiness, as we see in heterosexual relationships the proof by divorce and separation.

Gays in the military is an abomination unto God and man. If men must make war, let not their honors by defiled in death by homosexual innuendos. A gay army would require separate housing, as it would be unforgivable to barracks gays with normal men. The price for a separate army would be astronomical and unthinkable. We don’t house women with men and the same should apply. Gays under the current “don’t ask don’t tell” prove their true character by serving deceptively knowing they are liars and, nobody forced them to join. Even if gays can serve the cause of war, doing their job correctly their life outside of the battlefield is not in harmony with the family ethic. Gays are highly promiscuous and were considered the primary cause of the AIDS plague. Give them an inch and they will take the mile!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday Headlines

I've been rushing around all evening getting the house ready for my mom's overnight visit. I was getting one more walk out of the dogs before she was due to arrive when it occurred to me to check the messages on my cell phone. Turns out that she ended up leaving about two hours late, so I know find myself with a bunch to waste. So, here's a mish-mash of articles and opinions to lead us out of Ash Wednesday:

Washington Archdiocese gives up helping children for Lent: Catholic Charities, citing Washington DC's newly enacted recognition of and legalization of same-sex marriage, has decided to stop providing foster care services within the city, as well as all other charitable services. DC city officials noted that there have been no other faith-based organizations that've felt obliged to stop serving the public because gay couples can legally marry. The Archdiocese is concerned, among other things, that they may be forced to provide health care benefits to potential married gay employees. Presumably, they provide such benefits to non-Catholic married employees, who happen to be adulterers in the eyes of the Catholic church without any drama. Prepare for lots of moaning and finger-pointing at the awful gay couples and city legislators.

Republican Congressman Steve King Shoots Raccoon: Congressman King is making news again for taking out a raccoon with one of his pistols last week. When all's said and done, this was probably one of his least controversial headlines in the while. Like when he skipped his son's wedding so that he could vote on the health care bill or when he told a group of supporters that they can't be pro-life if gay couples maintain the ability to legally marry. Personally, I don't see what the people of western Iowa see in the guy. At least he's not trying to get rid of 12th grade like other legislators...

Union Leader Proposes No More ATM for Democratic Leaders Who Like Our Cash, But Never Reciprocate: So says AFL-CIO president Ken Sagar. Good for him. There are those in the gay community who are advocating the same thing (No More GayTM!). The Democratic Party is notorious for courting our cash, but then getting cold feet when it comes to fighting for actual pro-labor legislation or pro-gay legislation. We need Fair Share! We need DADT repealed! There's no reason why these can't be passed, but the Dems are afraid of pissing off independent voters so much that they're afraid to support their base. Enough is enough. They won't find themselves out of jobs next election cycle because they backed their Union and GLBT supporters. They'll be out of jobs because their base got fed up and stayed home from the polls.

Finally, as predicted Saturday, Andrew Marin managed to piss off the TSA last week for video-taping airport security entrances. It's actually pretty funny. Check it out!

Black Babies: Endangered Species?

I read an interesting piece about Georgia Right to Life’s new billboard campaign, which reads “Black Children are an Endangered Species”. 65 of these billboards have been posted and that number will soon be increased to 80 total. The campaign aims to highlight to disproportionate number of pregnant black women who choose to abort their kids.

I guess that I see their point, but the campaign seems problematic. Are black people a different species from other people? Are the number of black people dramatically decreasing in this country? I’d venture that most of us would answer “no” to both questions. If Georgia Right to Life had asked my opinion before launching the campaign, I would’ve suggested something less inflammatory. But that’s just me.

Truthfully, this campaign would’ve been more accurate if they’d focused on children with Down Syndrome. I can’t find the stats, but I remember reading about the huge percentage of children tested positive for Down Syndrome being aborted after prenatal testing. It’s pretty sad actually. Maybe Palin and/or some right to life group should put their money into advocating for unborn kids with Down Syndrome. Just a thought.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Marriage Equality Lobbying Letter, Continued

I just received word from One Iowa's Communications/New Media Organizer, Jennifer Merriman, that my marriage equality letter has been posted on their website as part of the "Our Stories" and "News & Events" sections of their website. You can read my letter to the states' legislators again here.

Happy Phat Twosday!

Today is Phat Twosday (AKA Fat Tuesday AKA Shrove Tuesday), the last day before Lent begins. One last chance to shake things up and get things done before Ash Wednesday and all of our Lenten fasts and reflections.

Phat Twosday is the perfect spelling and meaning for today. Check out its Urban Dictionary definition:

Twosday: N. The other name for the second day of the week (assuming you start from Monday) Tuesday. Twosday is the day of the week where anything interesting happens. It may also be used as an excuse for doing things.

Twosday is a very flexiable word and is most used to describe sexual happenings. This is closely associated to the phrase "Only on Twosday"
So get something done. Make it interesting. Enjoy the day. Get it all out of your system so that you're in the right state of mind for Lent. Peace!

Monday, February 15, 2010

What Would It Take to Relocate to Small Town America?

I came across the story of a Florida family that took up a small town in North Dakota's offer to move in. They were offered cash incentives and free land. After a few years, the family is moving back to Florida, complaining of insular (and sometimes hostile) neighbors and irreconcilable cultural differences.

The aspect of this story that was of most interest to me was that several small towns have initiated similar efforts at rebuilding their shrinking communities with transplanted families, some more successful than others. It was reported that communities with the most success are those within 30 miles of larger communities.

Which got me wondering if I might take up the offer to relocate my family to a smaller community if presented with opportunity. What would we do to support ourselves in this new community? And would we be able to make such a move work?

Ideally, such an opportunity would originate from one of the surrounding rural communities either in or around Johnson County. That way, both Mark and I could maintain our current jobs and incomes. Realistically, such a program would likely originate somewhere in one of Iowa's smaller western counties, far from our current lives. Which means we'd need to figure out if there are similar job options for us and, if not, carve out a new career niches for us. My initial thought would be to buy out, renovate, or build a nice little hotel. Something like those near my parents' community.

I could see both of the boys being interested in relocating to a small farming community, but I don't see D'Angelo liking it in the long run. Leslie, on the other hand, would love it. Lots of opportunities to perform seasonal farm work. Plus, I could see his gregarious nature attracting our new neighbors, probably more successfully than anyone else in our household.

Having spent my teen years in small town Minnesota, I have few illusions that such a move would be easy. As the family from Florida realized when they moved to Hazelton, ND, small town communities can be tough to break into. I'm sure that it might be much more difficult for a two-dad household with a biracial son and a disabled ward. Then again, our family has a tendency to keep to itself. With the right attitude, a bit of patience, and a sense of indifference, I could see Mark and I enjoying the quiet privacy of our new home and gradually getting to know our new neighbors.

Lots of what-ifs, but I really think that I'd be willing to give such an opportunity a try.

I've actually thought about moving nearer to my hometown. Maybe not the same community (given the marital rights that we would give up if we moved to Minnesota), but maybe in one of the nearby communities in northern Iowa. It would be nice to be closer to family. Not just my mother and sister, but also my various aunts, uncles, cousins, and more distant relatives. Maybe when my retirement account matures enough that I could safely retire from my current job and relocate to a new home and try out a new career.

Reading about the incentive program described in the attached article makes me wonder if there might be similar incentive programs elsewhere in Iowa and whether or not my desire to roost closer to home might become a true reality? Something to ponder..

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Submissions

Here are a few contributions offered by others recently that grabbed my attention:

*We Are The World 25 for Haiti released yesterday. I was tempted to purchase a copy, but was disappointed by Michael Jackson's post-death inclusion. Now I'm torn. Maybe I'll text another $10 contribution to the Red Cross instead...

*Christianity Today recently posted an opinion urging gay people to chill out about Uganda's pending "kill the gays" legislation. UCC pastor and Bulletproof Faith author Candace Chellew-Hodge rightly questions whether CT would urge patience if they were seeking to execute or imprison Christians? My personal guess is "no".

*Looks like the city of Iowa City has come up with a way to make of good profit from our winter snow. We managed to issue $38,500 in parking tickets during last week's snow storm and during a previous storm in December 2009. Not too shabby.

*A British Vicar managed to piss off the women in his congregation and led to the resignation of numerous female members with a sermon and a leaflet suggesting that women need to shut up and submit completely to the will of their husbands. The UK already has a big problem with church attendance and membership. I can't see this helping.

*And lastly, Christian/GLBT bridge-builder Andrew Marin recently suggested that we taunt the TSA and push open restricted doorways in airports. Totally joking, but that was the thought that came to me while watching his most recently video blog. Check it out and learn the true message behind his post. :P


Hangin' With D'

D'Angelo and I had a good evening last night. The evening started out with Tae Kwon Do practice. It was a sparring night, which is kind of cool. Right now, D' is one of a small handful who has his own sparring gear, so he gets a lot of attention on those nights. Which of course means that he's feeling pretty good about himself.

It's pretty cool watching him spar with the others. He's pretty good at blocking, though he keeps wanting to punch and jab, when he should focus on kicking half the time.

Now other kids (and more importantly, other parents) are beginning to notice the sparring matches, which is getting them to ask questions about how their kids can get into sparring. Hopefully this means that we'll see more of the kids sparring pretty soon.

Later in the evening, D' and I decided to go watch a newer friend from church perform music at the Java House. Sara Kay has been sharing her musical gifts during church services recently. Her music has kind of a jazzy feel to it and it's always a job to hear her perform.

D'Angelo liked the music, but mostly he liked getting to go to an "adult" activity. No cartoons or play areas or anything like that. He got to purchase hot chocolate and listen to a live music performance at a coffee house.

Afterwards, we got to walk around Iowa City after his normal bedtime and watch listen to drunken college student sing "Hey Baby" outside local drinking establishments, which he found humorous.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Marriage Equality Lobbying Letter

This past Wednesday, One Iowa held its third annual Lobby Day in Des Moines. The main goal was to tell our stories and explain why marriage equality is important to us and to Iowa. Apparently, the day went well with at least 100 folks arriving for the event and somewhere around 300 constituents' stories distributed to numerous legislators.

I wasn't able to attend for reasons stated below, but I didn't want the day to go by without doing something. So I wrote up a letter about our family and e-mailed it to each and every Democratic state senator and representative. I know I should have sent it to those in the GOP, but ultimately decided to not bother given that their party is doing everything they can to undo our marriage. I've posted the letter below:

Dear Iowa Legislators,

I, like many gay Iowans, have been invited to come to Des Moines today to talk about my family and why marriage equality is important to us. Unfortunately, due to conflicting work obligations and potential weather concerns, this is not an option for me. It is my hope that this letter will serve as a suitable alternative.

My name is Jon (sitting in the bottom right corner). My husband – standing behind the couch – is Mark and our sons are D’Angelo and Leslie. Mark and I have both lived in Iowa since the very early 90s and hope to live out our lives in this wonderful state. We began dating in May 1994 and were joined together in a religious wedding ceremony in May 1997. In January 2001, we became licensed foster parents and eventually became legal guardians for one of our foster sons and jointly adopted another.

On January 9, 2010, Mark and I were legally married in Iowa City. It was a special day that included many of our family members, friends, co-workers, and fellow church members. It was important for us to take the steps to legally formalize our relationship. Because of our earlier religious ceremony, we had long viewed ourselves as a married couple, even if the law wasn’t quite there.

Our marriage license serves as protection for our family unit for those unanticipated life events and crises. We have wills and living wills. But we are all too familiar with situations involving hospitals or medical offices that don’t respect gay households. We worry about the transfer of our home and finances upon the eventual death of one of us. Our marriage license helps to protect the integrity of our family with situations like applying for family membership at our gym or accessing family benefits in the work place.

Our family truly appreciates those legislators who have resisted the effort to immediately respond to the 2009 Supreme Court marriage equality decision by seeking to reject same-sex marriages.

I understand that not everyone approves of such relationships, but I honestly believe that a culture that honors and nurtures both traditional and same-sex marriages will ultimately prove better for it. Married households are stable households. Children do best in married households because of the stability that comes from having married, committed parents. Married couples are statistically healthier, emotionally stable, and financially secure. All of this benefits the larger community.

In closing, I encourage each and every one of you to stand firm against efforts to do away with same-sex marriages. Give us a chance to demonstrate the societal good that comes from the promotion and protection of ALL families.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Midwest Multicultural Microcosms

Work took me up north to Fayette, Iowa, to visit a client at the Prairie View Residential Care Facility located in that community. These trips are interesting. You spend a couple hours driving each way to visit somebody for 20-40 minutes, which doesn't really seem all the equitable. But, it gets me out of the office for most of a day every once in a while.

Even though I spent work time in Fayette, I spent my lunch hour showing down at the Pizza Ranch in Oelwein, Iowa (home of my first ever speeding ticket -- but that's another story for another day...). It was there that I got to witness an interesting bit of Midwest multiculturalism. The dining area was littered with elderly white folks in most sections of the room. And then there was a section filled with DNR agents (all younger middle-aged white guys). And then there was a section filled with younger Hispanic folks. And then there was a good-sized section of the room filled with several Amish families. And then there was me listening to various conversations spoken alternatively in English, Old German, and Spanish.

Jumping ahead in the day, I got to deal with minor amounts of family drama this afternoon. Leslie received an iPod for his birthday last spring. It's one of his most cherished items. He likes to download inappropriate music and show it off to his buddies. Plus, he thinks it helps him look cool to wear around.

So anyway, he keeps taking it to school. We find out about it and tell him that he can't do this or else it'll get lost, broken, or stolen. We crack the whip a bit and he promises not to do it anymore. And then he gets caught having snuck it to school again a few weeks later and the cycle continues.

Until today.

Les' cherished iPod finally got stolen today at school. He got in trouble for taking it to gym, so he stored it in an unlocked locker. It was gone when he came back to get it. He filed a missing item report and they're going to look into it a bit, but most likely he'll never see the stupid thing again.
I've tried talking to him about it, but he's convinced that his friends are going to track it down for him. Whatever. His iPod's gone and now he needs to decide if he's going to save up and replace it. Hopefully, he'll learn a valuable lesson about this incident some day. But not today...

On the other end of our household junior spectrum, it occurred to D'Angelo that he needs to have cards for his Valentine's Day party tomorrow. Of course, he forgot the list of kids in his classroom. Fortunately, I found what I believe is the most up-to-date list. But I ended up having to rush over to Walgreens to sort through what's left of the cards. It was a cross between Disney Princesses, Toy Story, Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, or Camp Rock. He chose the Jonas Brothers.

Fortunately, I got to run off to the gym with Leslie, leaving Mark in charge of reigning in D's distractions and finishing up all 30 of so cards.


Here's my latest weight loss post. Contrary to my assertion in the video, I'm actually only down one pound this week. Guess I should've skipped that Pizza Ranch visit after all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Day Summaries

It's a snow day. School's been canceled, which means I get an unscheduled vacation day! I have four goals today: schedule Nero's rabies vaccination appointment; purchase a new stocking cap to replace the one that I lost last night; take the boys sledding; and watch "Judge Judy". I've already completed my first goal (scheduled for Friday morning). The rest will happen.

In the meantime, I thought I'd post a few headlines and share a few observations:

A Des Moines Register poll reported yesterday that Iowan voters care about texting while driving, but don't want our legislators to mess with the whole same-sex marriage issue. Of course, a group of legislators are jostling to force a vote on this issue this morning, though today's efforts failed. Mark assures me that yesterday's poll results are a good thing. Of course, he says, the GOP is going to continue to harp away about our families. But the poll also serves as some support for our Democratic supporters, who've been pretty good during the past year with keeping anti-marriage legislation off the docket. Box Turtle Bulletin has an interesting commentary on the issue.

Tomorrow's Lobby Day. I'm being encouraged to travel to Des Moines and talk about my family and our story to any and all legislators who will listen. Of course, I've got appointments and who knows what the weather will be like, so I won't be able to attend. I've decided to write a letter and send it out to all of Iowa's legislators tomorrow, complete with pics of our family and a link to the newspaper article that we were recently featured in. It's not perfect, but it's what I can do.

Speaking of family, I read an interesting piece yesterday about a military dad who waterboarded his 4-year-old daughter for failing to correctly recite the alphabet. The story's not all bad, I guess. This incident torture was supervised by her mother, so thing's wouldn't get out of hand...

I found this interesting. Stephen Colbert is urging his viewers to sieze the moment and cry out "Sarah Palin is a F*cking Retard". But don't worry, it's all in the name of satire. Fortunately, Meghan McCain called Palin out for her disturbing double-standards.

Anyway, the sledding hills beckon. Enjoy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Newspaper Etiquette

Last week, I shared that our family was featured in The Cedar Rapids Gazette in an article about Iowa families headed by gay dads. Since then, I’ve been keeping watch on the letters to the editor pages to watch out for reader reaction. So far, nothing. Which is nice, as I’d been half expecting at least some negative responses.

Real life reactions were something altogether different. Both Mark and I have been approached by various folks about the article. Some were people we know from work or church, which is to be expected. But then there will be random contacts from parents of clients or from people on the bus. I was contacted by one of our county’s supervisors. Even D’Angelo was approached by a couple different teachers and by one of the front-desk workers at my gym. Each one of them has been extremely complimentary about the article and its message.

The most interesting thing is that everyone wants to give us a copy of the article. We’ve received close to a dozen separate copies of the article, including a really nice laminated version given to us by the bank employee who helped process our mortgage 4-5 years ago!

I’m curious if this happens to other people who end up in the newspaper?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

James O'Keefe Shows that Het People Abuse Marriage

James O'Keefe, best known for his anti-ACORN videos and his recent arrest for trespassing in Senator Mary Landrieu's office, apparently shot a lesser known video that apparently reveals that heterosexual men are capable of committing marital fraud. Seems like we saw this type of scenario in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and, a few years earlier, in The Drew Carey Show.

I'm pretty sure that the intended scandal is that the various public servants processed their marriage licenses even though he and his friend openly admitted that they're really straight and only interested in marrying for insurance coverage. If indeed this was the purpose of the video, then I fail to see the relevance. I mean, I wasn't aware that it's the county recorder's job to assess the emotional commitment of each marriage applicant. I thought it was their job to confirm that they meet the legal marital requirements and to process the application.

Then again, it's not like this sort of thing hasn't happened before. Columnist and out gay man Dan Savage successfully married his lesbian friend back in 2004 with the government's full knowledge that they aren't really interested in marrying each other:

Heck, most of the anti-family, anti-marriage activists who campaign against marriage equality freely and repeatedly tell gay people that we have the same right to marry as anyone else. We just have to marry heterosexually. It's all a big fraud and a big game to them. Meanwhile, they successfully campaign against our families and we come out with sad situations like this and this.
The clerk called over her manager, a nice older white man, who explained that Amy and Sonia couldn't have a marriage license. So I asked if Amy and I could have one--even though I'm gay and live with my boyfriend, and Amy's a lesbian and lives with her girlfriend. We emphasized to the clerk and her manager that Amy and I don't live together, we don't love each other, we don't plan to have kids together, and we're going to go on living and sleeping with our same-sex partners after we get married. So could we still get a marriage license?

"Sure," the license-department manager said, "If you've got $54, you can have a marriage license."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

243 (& the Molding of a Mouth-Guard)

So I'm now down to 243. I'm actually doing better than I thought I was in the video. I thought I'd only lost a pound. I've lost two. So not bad.

Secondly, I didn't realize it quite so much before but I was kind of... dare I say effeminate in this video. Mark confirmed that this isn't anything new. He told me that I seem to look inward and see an inner cowboy lassoing cattle while the world looks at me and sees a slightly masculine woman wearing a boa. So this might be something to work on. Or to accept. I'll have to consider.
Anyway, with the molding of his mouth-guard, D'Angelo is ready to begin sparring against his classmates. Most of those sparring are higher belts than him, which is kind of cool. He's already received compliments from his instructor about his blocking moves. I'm sure we'll post some of his moves in future segments. Later!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Iowa City Redistricting Plans Attracts Parents' Ire

The Iowa City School District is looking at a new five-year redistricting plan that’s shaking up the community. The redistricting plan is largely the result of the school officials’ desire to even out the current imbalance of children receiving free or reduced-price lunches. There was a meeting last night for public input that drew somewhere between 360 and 400 concerned parents. There will be a similar public forum tonight and a couple more meetings to come.

Let’s just say that most of the parents present at last night’s meeting oppose this redistricting plan. Some school boundaries are largely untouched, but several others are radically altered. Lemme Elementary School’s current boundaries will be split between four different schools, two of which would require busing to schools across town.

My own address was affected by this new plan. Currently, my son could walk to our elementary school within five minutes. There’s another nearby school that I could see us redirected to that’s only a bit further away. However, we’ve been shifted to a school that’s about three times the distance as our current neighborhood school. There’s no way that D’Angelo could safely walk to this new school and that makes me a bit peeved. I understand the school district’s desire to even resources out a bit, but I really worry that they’re too focused on socio-economic mixing and not enough on neighborhood boundaries.

As noted above and in the accompanying article, there was almost universal opposition to this proposed plan and lots of feedback was made. But, I doubt these public comments will do any good. The school district has its priorities and will ride the wave of negative public opinion until things settle.

(Proof that I was at the event. I'm the guy with dark hair and glasses in the left hand corner)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Humpday Headlines

Here are a bunch of little things that I wanted to comment on, but nothing that's really linked together. Just stuff that's grabbed my attention so far this week.

Siege #2: Check out Marvel's latest cross-over series. It's fast-paced and pretty exciting. Nutshell Summary: Marvel Earth's go-to superhero commander-in-chief/closet nut-case and supervillain Norman Osborn (AKA Iron Patriot FKA Green Goblin) teamed up with Norse god Loki to blow up a chunk of Chicago and declare war on Asgard, which just happens to be located these days in Okahoma -- just go with it. Issue #2 continues with this storyline. It's a bitter battle of Norse gods vs. superhumans. The real heroes have begun to rally against Osborn and for Asgard, but we won't see the results of this until next issue. But Thor gets some punches in and the Sentry (Marvel's schizophrenic version of Superman) finally cuts loose. Let's just say that it doesn't end well for one of Norman's Dark Avengers. If you're into comics, I really encourage you to check out this book.

American Prayer Hour Organized by Progressives as Alternative to National Prayer Breakfast. You can learn more about APH and its reason for being here. I have to say that they had an interesting mix of people at this press conference: Harry Knox, Director of Religion and Faith for the Human Rights Campaign; the Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Metropolitan Community Church pastor; Bishop Carlton Pearson, interim senior pastor at Chicago’s Christ Universal Temple; Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay man elected bishop in the Episcopal Church; Frank Schaeffer, son of pre-eminent conservative theologian Francis Schaeffer; and "Moses", a Ugandan citizen and asylum-seeker who appeared in disguise for fear of violent reaction from his own government. It's an interesting event and I'm curious to see what comes of it.

Fight 4 Christ: This is totally something the UCC needs to get behind. The New York Times wrote about it recently. On the one hand, it seems like a train-wreck, but then again...

This could be the coolest outreach tool for teens and the unchurched. Plus, Matt Horwich is totally hot, which it another point in its favor IMHO.
Recruitment efforts at the churches, which are predominantly white, involve fight night television viewing parties and lecture series that use ultimate fighting to explain how Christ fought for what he believed in. Other ministers go further, hosting or participating in live events. The goal, these pastors say, is to inject some machismo into their ministries — and into the image of Jesus — in the hope of making Christianity more appealing. “Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too,” said Brandon Beals, 37, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church outside of Seattle. “But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter.

The outreach is part of a larger and more longstanding effort on the part of some ministers who fear that their churches have become too feminized, promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility. “The man should be the overall leader of the household,” said Ryan Dobson, 39, a pastor and fan of mixed martial arts who is the son of James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical group. “We’ve raised a generation of little boys.”

My Kingdom for a Kong

About a week ago, we discovered the joy of Kongs. They're these Buddha-shaped dog toys that you cram with biscuits, peanut butter, cheese, and/or Kong-brand live paste. Kongs were never a big priority with our previous dogs. I've written before that all my earlier dogs were small dogs and while they certainly chewed on things, it never seemed severe enough to warrent a Kong. Plus, Moogie never seemed to like rubber or latex toys, so that was another strike against them.

Anyway, it was recommended by Nero's kindergarten instructor that we purchase a Kong for him. It was the best thing ever. Instead of struggling with him during meals, while folding laundry, or while making a bed, I just squirt in some liver-paste, pop in a little biscuit, and he's effectively preoccupied for at least 20 minutes.

I'm not sure what happened yesterday, but apparently Nero's Kong sprouted legs and sentience cuz the stupid thing's gone. I have no clue where it's at, but I've looked through every possible hiding spot at least three times and it can't be found. It's really frustrating.

I ended up rushing out the evening to the pet store to purchase a new Kong, fully expecting that the old one would be found by the time I returned home. No such luck.

So now we have one, possibly two Kongs around the house, which ultimately pleases Nero. So I guess it's all good.