Monday, December 31, 2012

Another Gay Wedding Option Emerges in Iowa City

Both the Press-Citizen and KCJJ report today about a new wedding option for gay and lesbian couples here in Iowa City. Iowa City is fortunate in that engaged gay and lesbian couples seeking to get married in this community currently has at least two or three potential options (including my own Faith United Church of Christ). However, another church has taken the step towards officiating at the weddings of gay and lesbian members or other interested parties:
First Baptist Church has become the first American Baptist Church in the state of Iowa to join the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. The church’s nearly 50 members were almost unanimous in their decision to join the AWAB and to begin hosting same-sex weddings.

The 500 Clinton St. church is one of 50 churches nationally belonging to the AWAB, which works to include LGBT individuals.

First Baptist Church, which is among the oldest churches in the city, has long held the motto of “An Open and Inclusive Community of Faith”. On their website the church says, “people of all ages, cultures, personal backgrounds, political affiliations, socio-economic circumstances and sexual orientations are welcome and active in this church."
The Press-Citizen notes that First Baptist Church has not yet officiated at any gay weddings yet. It was noted that their wedding policies for gay weddings will be the same as their policies for heterosexual weddings, though the article doesn't articulate those policies.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Honey Boo Boo & Family Named "Least Desirable Neighbors of 2012", According to Online Poll

Zillow performed its annual celebrity neighbor survey last months and found that most Americans would really like to live next door to Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton (a country music pair that I've never heard of, but that doesn't mean anything). But the celebrity family that Americans would least like to live near doesn't shock me, even if I disagree with the majority. It seems like most Americans would hate to live next door to Honey Boo Boo and her family:
Twenty-one percent of respondents to the sixth annual Zillow Celebrity Neighbor Survey voted the cast of the reality TV show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" the least desirable neighbors of 2012...

"This year we noticed a trend on the worst-neighbor side; for three years in a row now, the casts of reality television shows have dominated the top of our worst celebrity neighbor list. Not surprisingly, celebrities with full-time camera crews, in addition to paparazzi, aren't America's top choices to live next door," real estate website Zillow's chief marketing officer Amy Bohutinsky, said in a statement. "But it isn't just reality television stars that are getting the neighbor boot. Most people don't want to live next to any celebrity, regardless of why they are famous. In fact, more people voiced their desire not to have a celebrity neighbor in 2013 than in any of the past years we've run this poll."
Honey Boo Boo was followed closely by Kim Kardashian & Kanye West and then Donald Trump. I wholeheartedly agree with both of those choices!

Personally, I think it would be fun to live next door to Honey Boo Boo, Mama, Sugar Bear, Uncle Poodle, and the rest. They clearly care for each other. They have fun together. They take care of each other. And they take care of their community, as evidenced by their annual community Christmas toy drives (to name one example).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The FAMiLY Leader's Year In Review

Bob Vander Plaats of the FAMiLY Leader released the following video recap of 2012, highlighting the past year's wins and losses:

1. We endorsed Rick Santorum as the eventual Iowa Caucus leader! -- Even if he eventually lost steam and got replaced by Mitt Romney.

2. We pushed for a human trafficking bill! -- Though you'd have never known it if we hadn't brought it up at the end of the year.

3. We organized an anti-marriage equality rally in Des Moines!

4. We held a FAMiLY leadership summit!


1. Despite our efforts, neither our guy Rick Santorum nor the actual GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney actually won the presidential campaign. President Barack Obama is still the President of the United States of America.

2. Despite our efforts, the Democratic Party still controls the Iowa Senate -- by a larger margin than before.

3. Despite our efforts, Iowa Senate majority leader Mike Gronstal was re-elected.

4. Despite our efforts, Justice David Wiggins retained his seat on the Iowa Supreme Court.

In 2013, BVP and his cohorts will continue fighting against gay families and our marriages (and apparently human trafficking). Of course, they need your financial support to accomplish this goal, so visit their web-page and help out.


Chill out a bit and learn how to coexist with Iowans whose families might not resemble your own. After nearly four years of gay marriage, surely you can see that Iowa with marriage equality is no worse off than Iowa without it.

Nero at Daycare -- 12/27/12

It's been a long day. Sorry I haven't had time to get anything blogged yet. Fortunately, tonight's first blog entry is a fun one. After a long Christmas break, Nero finally got to break lose at doggy daycare. As he ages, he's definitely able to handle more relaxing days, but he still needs time to romp! Check out these pics:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

SyFy to Explore Myth Behind Iowa City's "Black Angel" Statue

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports today that producers from SyFy Channel's "Haunted Highway" program will be coming to Iowa City early next year to learn more about Iowa City's Black Angel statue, located at Oakland Cemetary:
Mystery has surrounded the statue — which marks the grave of Czech immigrant Theresa Dolezal Feldwert, her 17-year-old son Eddie and her third husband, Nicholas Feldwert — from turning black over the years to the angel’s posture to the life of Dolezal Feldwert, who commissioned the statue. Stories have been passed down in the community since the statue was erected in 1912.
There are tons of stories about the Black Angel statue. The biggest one that I remember says that any non-virgin who touches the statue after dark will die instantly, but there are other urban myths about the Black Angel statue:
Many students and surrounding residents of Iowa City visit the statue. The biggest night of attraction is Halloween where students and residents gather around the statue, some test their luck by touching or kissing the statue. It is said that if one touches or kisses the statue they will be struck dead, unless that person is a virgin. It is also rumored that if a pregnant woman walks beneath the statue’s stretched wings that she will miscarry.
The Press-Citizen shared some other urban myths about the Black Angel statue:
Any girl kissed near the Black Angel in the moonlight will die within six months.

If a girl who is innocent of men and the world is kissed in front of the angel, the angel will return to its original color, and the curse that turned it black will be lifted.

Touching the angel at midnight on Halloween means death within seven years.

Anyone who kisses the angel will die instantly.

Every passing Halloween causes the angel to turn one shade darker as a reminder of all the people she has killed.
In other words, there are lots of myths (and conflicting myths) about the curse of the Black Angel. So there should be lots for SyFy to explore when they investigate the Black Angel statue and her curse.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Iowa City Man Accused of Cutting Step-Daughter on Christmas Eve

Most families spent Christmas Eve watching television specials, opening presents, or attending Christmas Eve candlelight services. But one Iowa City family found themselves experiencing a more unique Christmas Eve.

Iowa City Police were called to a family disturbance late last night and ended up arresting 53-year-old Henry Brown for allegedly cutting his stepdaughter. According to KCJJ News, Brown and his stepdaughter got into a heated argument that became heated. He claimed that his stepdaughter threatened him with a liquor bottle, which prompted him to grab the knife and stab her.

News reports claim that the stepdaughter and witnesses dispute Brown's version of events, instead asserting that the stepdaughter only armed herself with the liquor bottle after she got cut by Brown's knife.

Brown was arrested last night and charged with Assault Using or Displaying a Weapon and faces a maximum of two years in prison if convicted.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Celebrate Christmas at Faith United Church of Christ -- 6:00 PM on 12/24/12

You are invited to attend Faith United Church of Christ's Christmas Eve Candlelight Services. The service begins at 6:00 PM on Monday, December 24, 2012. The service will consist of Christmas Scriptures, Stories, Carols, and Candles.

Faith United Church of Christ is located at 1609 DeForest Avenue in Iowa City. All are welcome and all are invited.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Justice Not Politics" End of Year Summary

I received a letter today from Justice Not Politics Action (which I financially contributed to earlier this year), which talked about how much money they raised and how they utilized their funds to successfully back Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins and other judges and justices who might have been targeted by conservative forces and out-of-state political forces.

According to JNPA's co-chairs, Hon. Joy Corning and Hon. Sally Pederson, Justice Not Politics and Justice Not Politics Action raised a total of $437,287 throughout the 2012 election cycle (compared to Iowans for Freedoms' slightly less that $500,000). JNPA made 190,000 direct mailing to Iowa households. They called 210,000 Iowa household to educate Iowans about why they should vote for judicial retention. They connected with over 400,000 Iowans through social media. And they reached out to over 680,000 Iowans through online advertising.

According to JNPA, 242,631 more Iowans voted in the 2012 retention election compared to the 2010 retention election (which lost three of Iowa's Supreme Court justices in response to the 2009 Varnum v. Brien case, which struck down Iowa's DOMA law and allowed the state's gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to legally wed). 218,654 of those extra voters voted in favor of Justice Wiggins while 23,977 of those extra voters voted against him. In other words, JNPA's education efforts worked!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Marvel to Publish "Star Wars" Comic Books in 2015

Back in October, it was big new that the Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilms. I wrote at the time about my early memories of the STAR WARS comic books which were published at the time by Marvel Comics and got to wonder if Marvel Comics -- which is owed by the Walt Disney Company -- might eventually reclaim its comic book publishing license.

Apparently, the answer is yes, once Lucasfilms' current contract with Dark Horse wraps up:
The Suits in the know have determined that no new contracts will be given to Dark Horse after the current ones expire. So all new projects after 2013 will be handled internally by Marvel.

It's not known yet if titles will be worked into the regular line up, or will Marvel create a special branch of the company that deals with Star Wars. It'll take a couple of years for the old deals to work there course, but the stories that Dark Horse have coming down the pipeline will be the last. And you can expect anything new from Marvel dealing with Star Wars to arrive around 2015.
It's been noted elsewhere that the new Marvel Comics STAR WARS comics should be beginning right about the time that the recently promised new "Star Wars" trilogy will be released. Presumably that translates into a comic book adaptation of those new films (assuming they actually make comic book adaptations of films these days).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The World Ends Tomorrow... But Probably Not

The world will end tomorrow morning, if the Ancient Mayans are to be believed. Or, I should say, if those who believe that the end of the current Mayan calendar signals the prophesied end of the world are to be believed. Keep in mind that the Mayans themselves think this whole Mayan doomsday calendar is bogus:
The ancient people measured time in cycles called "baktuns" of 394 years each, and the winter solstice coming Friday marks the end of the 13th baktun. Some who study the calendar say the date for the end of the period is not Friday, but Sunday.
The Mayan calendar is based on the position of the heavenly bodies -- the sun, the moon and the stars -- and was meant to tell the Mayan people about agricultural and economic trends, said archaeologist Alfredo Barrera...
The hubbub about a calamity occurring comes from a Mayan stone carving called monument 6, made in 700 A.D., which predicts a major event at the end of this baktun, Barrera said. But half of the broken tablet is missing, so one may only speculate on what the complete message may be.
Whatever it is, it's not about the end of the world, he said. "We don't have a prophecy or inscription related to the finish of the world. It just mentioned a deity."

Barrera said he believes the hullabaloo about the end of the world has been whipped up by online speculation -- and he finds it a bit ignorant...

In Merida(, Mexico), Mayan priest Valerio Canche conducts an ancient ritual to honor the dead in light of the upcoming end of the 13th baktun. "It is considered the closure of the great cycle of Mayan time," he said. "But, of course, the cycle (14th baktun) begins the following day. For the Mayans, it's not the end of the world."
Meanwhile, my friend Andrew and his wife Brenda are hosting an "End of the World Party" tonight for several of their friends. They figure it's a good excuse to get together and spend some time together -- just in case.

On top of that, the Gazette is asking its readers what final meals they would like to treat themselves to on the final day of humanity. I saw everything from taco pizza to funnel cakes to pasta to burgers to BBQ ribs & cheesy potatoes. Frankly, I was surprised that people weren't seeking more exotic offerings.

And the Iowa City Patch posted a link to a 6.39 minute video titled "David Heffner: Reluctant Apocalypticist". It shows some of the steps an Iowa City man has gone to create his own survivalist hidey-hole.

It's easy to mock the apocalypse. After all, every predicted apocalypse has left us high and dry. But one can't help wondering if this apocalypse is gonna be the one that rocks our world -- literally.

On the other hand, life will end for each and everyone of us eventually. Probably not all at once, but one at a time. That's our fate. We get born. We get a few years to experience life. And then we die. And for some of us -- assuming that 12/21/12 isn't the actual end of the world for all of us -- tomorrow will be the end of the world for some of us. Because of old age. Because of illness. Because of car accident. Because of gunshot. Etc. Etc.

Let the mock apocalypse instruct you. Don't wait until some prophesied end-of-world to appreciate your life and the people in it. Enjoy a good meal. Spend time with your friends or family. Learn a new skill that will enrich your brief existence. Because tomorrow (or some other tomorrow that you likely will least likely suspect) will be your personal apocalypse. And who wants to end the world with regrets?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Iowa City Finally Passes "Urban Chicken" Ordinance -- However Neighbors Can Veto Your Decision to Build a Coop!

It has taken several years of active campaigning, but advocates of urban chicken farmers here in Iowa City have finally met their goal. The Iowa City City Council finally voted in favor of an ordinance that regulates the keeping of chickens within city limits. Those interested in raising chickens may apply for three-year permits that outline the structure of chicken coops and pens, which allow up to four hens, and which prohibit roosters.

However, there is one potential barrier that every potential urban chicken farmer will need to overcome before they can finally buy their hens. They better be on good terms with their neighbors, because their neighbors will have veto power over their ability to raise their hens.

Iowa City has been resisting chickens for years. Other nearby communities, on the other hand, have readily approved urban chicken ordinances and as near as I can tell, there have been very few problems with any of these communities related to urban chickens. These communities include Cedar Rapids, Mount Vernon, Hills, and Ames.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Married Moms Win Case Against Iowa Over Infant Death Certificate Snub

In September 2011, a married Davenport couple, Jessica Aiken and Jenny Buntemeyer, experience heart-break when their baby boy Brayden was born stillborn. They submitted a death certificate to the Iowa Department of Public Health, which issues birth and death certificates here in Iowa, and suffered even more heart-break at the hands of the state:
The couple’s grief was compounded by the state of Iowa, which essentially wrote Jennifer out of having any relationship to Brayden. The certificate of fetal death, which arrived late last month (January 2012) from the Iowa Department of Public Health, listed only Jessica as the parent, whiting out Jennifer’s name from the form the couple filled out and the funeral director signed. Jennifer left messages over four days for the one person at the IDPH she was told could explain the decision, but never even got a call back.

“It was like they were trying to erase all the commitment and love and work we had both put into planning a family,” Jennifer said. “They disrespected our marriage and poured salt on the wound of something that was already so horrible.”
Jenny was Baby Brayden's biological mother and Jessica was carrying him in her womb.

In February 2012, the couple filed a lawsuit against the IDPH with the assistance of Lambda Legal. Earlier today, Lambda Legal announced a sad victory for this couple in their lawsuit against the IDPH:
After a shocking and grueling ordeal, Lambda Legal clients Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer will finally get the justice they’ve longed for. An Iowa court today ordered the state health department to give the married couple an accurate death certificate for their son, Brayden, who was stillborn in October 2011. The department had erased Jenny’s name from the original certificate...

In his ruling, District Judge Robert A. Hutchison referred to Lambda Legal's 2009 case affirming the freedom for same-sex couples to marry in Iowa, and wrote:

Both partners in a same-sex relationship can also qualify as parents, at least in the ordinary and common sense. See Varnum, 763 N.W.2d at 899–901. Therefore, a mother's wife is a female parent.
Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project Director, says:

The court affirmed what should have been clear to the Iowa Department of Public Health from reading Varnum v. Brien—Lambda Legal's case that established that same-sex couples in Iowa have an equal right to marry—that a child born to a married couple has two parents, regardless of whether the spouses are same-sex or different-sex. Vital records document legal parentage, not biology. In this case, the state was not only denying that Jenny and Jessica are both mothers, it was trying to erase Jenny from the family. A death certificate for Brayden is their sole legal record of his existence and his significance to their family.
The Buntemeyers will always grieve the loss of their child. But, at least now they do not also have to face denial and discrimination from the government.
According to the ruling, the IDPH must modify the modify the death certificate form to list both mothers as Baby Brayden's parents.

Which Marvel Hero Will Contract Cancer in 2013?

Last year, Archie Comics' LIFE WITH ARCHIE launched a storyline that reintroduced Cheryl Blossom to the adult Riverdale gang. She came how after contracting breast cancer (here and here). That particular storyline is still ongoing in the "Archie Marries Betty" half of the comic book.

Now the new news is that Marvel Comics is teaming up with Komen For the Cure to create a storyline in which a big-name Marvel Comics hero will contract cancer later in 2013. Bleeding Cool indicates that the unlucky woman will be one of these four heroes: Captain Marvel, Red She-Hulk, Invisible Woman, or Rogue.

Husband Mark thinks that Red She-Hulk will be the character who contracts cancer. I tend to agree with Bleeding Cool that Captain Marvel seems like a good choice from a nostalgia perspective -- given that the original Captain Marvel ultimately died from cancer way back before I began reading comic books.

What do you think, readers? Which of the four super-heroes listed above do you think will get cancer in 2013? Feel free to share your theories in the comments section below.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Devil Dinosaur: Agent of S.M.A.S.H.(?) // UPDATED: Marvel Comics Responds!!!

(Originally written on 12/15/12): Last year, we learned that a new Marvel Comics cartoon called "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H." would be airing on Disney XD effective summer 2013. I know almost nothing about it except that it would feature Hulk, Red Hulk, A-Bomb, Skaar the Son of Hulk, and She-Hulk (presumably the Jennifer Walters version of She-Hulk). Presumably, S.M.A.S.H. will be a super-secret program filled with gamma-powered secret agents who like to smash. Frankly, I haven't paid much attention to the new animated series.

Until now...

Earlier this week, comic book fans received advanced notice of the comic books that would be made available for the May 2013 Free Comic Book Day. FCBD is a promotional event where the various comic book publishers offer up free comic books for new and existing readers. It gives new readers a chance to get sucked into the world of comic books and it gives existing readers an excuse to try out something new.

So I was looking at the upcoming FCBD options and noticed this one from Marvel Comics: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE/HULK AND THE AGENTS OF S.M.A.S.H. #1. Here is the description:
It's out action featuring the newest stars to be of Disney XD: Avengers and the Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.! Featuring art pulled directly from the animated series, this sneak peek at the two newest animated series from the geniuses at Marvel Animation promises to make this the biggest Free Comic Book Day Ever!
Check out that cover. If I'm not mistaken, that is Devil Dinosaur in the back! I absolutely love Devil Dinosaur!

Devil Dinosaur might not be a gamma-radiated hero, but he certainly likes to smash things. He and his little monkey-friend Moon Boy are visitors from either another dimension or from the distant past (different creators haven't been consistent with this, unfortunately). He came to the Marvel Universe back in the mid-80s when he joined the Fallen Angels. In recent years, he and Moon Boy have been hanging out in the Savage Land, a prehistoric jungle hidden away in Antarctica.

I'm totally excited to learn that Devil Dinosaur might be showing up in this new cartoon series. I'll definitely be seeking out the comic book when it shows up during FCBD.

Updated on 12/16/12: Newsarama also noticed Devin Dinosaur on the cover of the new AVENGERS ASSEMBLE/HULK AND THE AGENTS OF S.M.A.S.H. #1 and had the opportunity to ask their sources at Marvel Comics if Devil Dinosaur will indeed be in the new Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. animated series. This was their reply:
We can’t say anything right now—but you’ll get the answer when the series premieres in 2013!
So, maybe yes. Maybe no. I'll let you know more when I learn more.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Iowa Lost Roughly 4 Thousand Residents in 2011

The Gazette reported today that Iowa lost more residents than it gained during the year of 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau:
According to the Census’ American Community Survey, 74,516 people moved from Iowa over the past year, while 70,405 were moving here from somewhere else.
According to the Census Burea, most of Iowa's new residents came from our immediate right and left. Illinois gave Iowa 13,725 new residents compared to the 13,345 new residents who moved here from various other nations.

Meanwhile, most exiting Iowas went west and east. We lost 9,575 people to Nebraska and 8,490 people to Illinois.

I've wondered for a long time why more people don't give Iowa a chance. There's lots of space, the cost of living is fairly reasonable, and our politics are fairly balanced. The biggest negative is the never-ending presidential campaigning, but many folks avoid those calls by getting rid of their landline phones and only carrying cell phones.

Friday, December 14, 2012

27 Killed in Shooting Spree in Connecticut School

By now, everyone is aware that 20-year-old Adam Lanza apparently killed his mother and then 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school (including 20 young children) with two pistols and one .223-caliber assault rifle. I was aware of the situation earlier today while working, but was distracted from the details of the situation due to my work responsibilities. Unfortunately, I just spent three hours in the car driving my one son to his mother's home which means I got to listen to three hours worth of details and commentary regarding today's shooting spree.

I feel sick. Sick for the families who've lost their loved one. Sick for the many students and school staff who were traumatized by the events of today. Sick for this country and its unrestrained love for high-power military weapons.

Today, it was Newtown, CT:

A few months ago, it was Aurora, CO (and it could've been Iowa City):

The 21 years earlier, it was Iowa City:

Mostly, I feel exhausted tonight.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected by today's violence and for our country as we move forward.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

University of Iowa Becomes 1st U.S. University to Include LGBT Status on Admission Application

The University of Iowa recently became the first U.S. public university to ask potential student to about their sexual orientation and gender identity when they complete their admission application. This plan will go into effect in Fall 2013:
UI Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice President Georgina Dodge says inviting students to provide this information will help with both student success and retention... Dodge adds that UI administrators recognize that not everyone will wish to identify.

"But for those who do, we want to demonstrate our appreciation of the diverse contributions they bring to our community," Dodge says. "Our ultimate goal is to create an environment where all personal identities are celebrated, and increased visibility is certainly one way to help eliminate stigma..."

The new UI application for admission asks an optional question—“Do you identify with the LGBTQ Community?”—and offers “Transgender” as an additional gender option.

The questions will be used to determine incoming students’ needs, track retention rates, potential interest in campus programs, and to offer support resources. The optional identity question appears in a section of other optional questions asking students about family connections to the university, parents' educational background, interest in ROTC programs, and interest in fraternities and sororities.

"From a political and social perspective, this has been a long time coming," Dodge says. "Asking LGBTQ students to identify themselves demonstrates that we value this aspect of identity just as we value the other categories for which students check boxes."
I asked a University of Iowa instructor about this new optional item on the UI admission application. He thought it was a good thing. He noted that many potential undergraduate and graduate students -- particularly those coming from the two coasts -- have this idea that both Iowa and Iowa City are LGBT-hostile. This despite the fact that we are the only Midwest state that allows marriage and despite the fact that there are multiple student, faculty, and community organizations that actively represent LGBT issues.

Asking applicants if they identify with the LGBTQ Community and then reaching out to those who opt in with an affirmative answer will hopefully educate new potential students and faculty that there is a place for them at the University of Iowa, as well as Iowa City itself.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

D'Angelo Earns His Red Belt in Tae Kwon Do!

One of the things that has snagged my attention over the past week has been my youngest son's recent testing in Tae Kwon Do. He earned his brown belt last spring and has been practicing all fall to learn enough moves and knowledge to progress to the next level. Fortunately, he did well last week during his testing event, including the successful breaking of a board with his bare foot:

The semester wrapped up this evening with a D'Angelo and the other martial artists being awarded their new belts and being cheered on by their teachers, fellow students, and parents:


I had him pose later at home wearing his new red belt!:

The next step will be earning a provisional black belt. My understanding is that it will take at least two semesters of dedicated work to earn that belt -- and I believe that D'Angelo can do that!

He told me that he was so impressed during his first TKD class at the age of eight-years-old by all of the instructors, more advanced students, and TKD traditions that he vowed to keep working at Tae Kwon Do until he earned his black belt. I assumed that this would be a fad and that he wouldn't last more than a few weeks. Four years later, D' has totally proven me wrong. He has lasted longer than many and he's even had the opportunity to help instruct some of the lower belts during a period when he was recovering from a knee injury.

I'm extremely proud of my son and his ongoing accomplishments. Congratulations, D'Angelo!

Nero at Daycare -- 12/12/12

Nero had another fun day at doggy daycare today. Check out his new 'do and Christmas-themed scarf. Check it out:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Peering Into the Future: Trek Fest 2013...

I was poking around the various corners of the Internet when I noticed the following bit of future fun in nearby Riverside:

June 28-29, 2013

I don't know anything else about this summer's Trek Fest, but it's exciting to see that the folks in Riverside are already planning ahead!

I will post more as I learn more.

NOM's Maggie Gallagher: "I Think Supreme Court Will Defeat DOMA & Uphold Proposition 8"

Maggie Gallagher (formerly of the National Organization for Marriage) added to Supreme Court/gay marriage discussion in the comments of this blog post. This is what she predicts will be the results on the U.S. Supreme Court's review of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the strike down of Proposition 8:
To strike down Prop 8 on "narrow grounds" proposed by the 9th Circuit is so intellectually dishonest that if that is what the Court wished to do I think they would have refused to hear the case.

I think Kennedy will overturn DOMA (perhaps joined by Roberts) and then uphold the right of states to refuse to accept gay marriage (i.e. uphold Prop 8).

The victories this November for gay marriage at the polls make that outcome more likely. Justice Kennedy will likely see it as not at all unlikely voters will overturn Prop 8 soon and see that as a much better outcome than constitutionalizing gay marriage.
Frankly, I think Maggie's predictions would be the best-case scenario for marriage equality supporters.

Honey Boo Boo's Father Has Health Scare at Christmas Party

If you follow her on Facebook, you know that the family of Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson has been gearing up for a major Christmas toy drive for several weeks. What you (or I, at least) haven't heard about on their Facebook page is that her father, Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson, had a serious health scare at the event:
Paramedics were called to Alana Thompson's home in McIntyre, Ga., after Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson, 40, fell ill... Sugar Bear, who usually dresses up as Santa Claus and greets all the neighborhood kids for the toy drive, allegedly had high blood pressure.

"Usually you're allowed to sit on Sugar Bear's lap... But he was not feeling well ... they were worried his blood pressure was getting high."

"An ambulance was called to the house, but he was not taken off in it," the insider added, "[he] just got checked out by paramedics."
Fortunately, it sounds like things worked out for Sugar Bear. This isn't his first health scare in recent history. Three months ago, Sugar Bear suffered a major infection in one of his legs that nearly led to its amputation following an ATV accident.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Illinois, New Jersey, and Oregon Voters Are Leaning Towards Support of Gay Marriage

Public Policy Polling has some encouraging poll results posted for supporters of gay and lesbian families and marriage equality.

From Illinois:
In Illinois even though there's only narrow overall support for same sex marriage the numbers are 58% for and 37% against among voters under 45, another sign that it's just a matter of time given the big generational divide on the issue. Black voters, perhaps following the lead of President Obama, think it should be legal by a 60/16 spread. That's a much wider margin than we see with them nationally... Illinois voters believe it should be permitted by a 47/42 spread.
From New Jersey:
New Jersey voters think same sex marriage should be allowed in their state by a 53/36 margin... A few things stand out on the New Jersey numbers. There are more Republicans (21%) who support same sex marriage than Democrats (19%) who oppose it. There's also 54/36 favor for it among independents. 72% of voters in the state think they should be allowed to vote on the issue.
And from Oregon:
Oregon voters are ready to legalize same sex marriage. 77% think they should be able to have a say on the issue, and 54% say they would vote to legalize it with 40% opposed. Independents support it by a 64/33 margin and there are more Republicans (17%) ready to make it legal than there are Democrats (15%) who aren't. Voters under 45 support it by a 68/30 spread.
All three states currently offer comprehensive civil union or domestic partnership recognition to its gay and lesbian couples, but do not recognize marriages performed in other states.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court to Rule on DOMA and Proposition 8 in 2013

I know I'm late on this one, but that's how it is sometimes. Did you hear that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to review a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case AND the Proposition 8 case?:
The United States Supreme Court announced that it will grant review in two marriage cases challenging the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, and California’s marriage ban, Proposition 8. DOMA excludes same-sex couples that are legally married from more than 1,110 federal protections and responsibilities that the government provides to other married couples.
In 10 rulings, eight federal courts have found the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional –specifically Section 3, which excludes gay and lesbian couples from marriage. The Supreme Court will also hear Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case challenging Proposition 8, California’s marriage ban. Instead of allowing the Ninth Circuit ruling to take effect immediately, which would have allowed marriages to resume in California, the Court will consider the case.
Rulings in both cases are likely in 2013.
Am I the only one freaking out about this??? I'm not sure that I trust the U.S. Supreme Court to be fair and impartial when it comes to America's gay and lesbian couples.

Husband Mark tells me that it's no big deal. At worst, they will uphold the existing DOMA law. At worst (in his mind and I cannot say that I disagree) the U.S. Supreme Court will grant marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples throughout the country (similar to Roe V. Wade). While this would be wonderful for all of America's gay and lesbian people, it would create a long-term culture war as people react and overreact to having marriage equality foisted involuntarily against their states (similar to Roe V. Wade).

But it would be great if Section 3 of the federal DOMA law got struck down so that those gay and lesbians (like me and Mark!) who can go ahead and get legally married in our own states can have our marriages recognized and treated equally under federal law.

According to SCOTUSblog, arguments on these marriage cases will take place around March 25-27, 2013, and a court decision will be issued in late June 2013.

Judge Mary Yu Will Marry You

I wrote earlier this week about how gay and lesbian couples in Washington have been applying for marriage licenses, but -- because of a three-day waiting period -- they have to wait until tomorrow (Sunday the 9th) before they can actually get married. That's assuming you're a gay or lesbian couple in Washington as early as possible. And that's the problem. Because gay and lesbian couples can now marry in that state, demand for marriage licenses in Washington state has risen by 1200%(!). Of course, that means that demand for people who can officiate at weddings in that state has also spiked and there just aren't that many people who can normally handle that volume of weddings.

(Judge Mary Yu)
Fortunately, judges in various corners of Washington have volunteered "on their day off, unpaid, to meet the demand." And (this is the best part) the following King County Superior Court judges have volunteered to marry gay couples tomorrow:
Judicial Officers who are available are:
Judge Mary Yu: midnight to 7 a.m. 
Judge Kimberley Prochnau: 9-11
Judge Carol Schapira: 10:30 to noon
Judge Richard McDermott: 11-1
Judge Bruce Heller: noon to 4
Commissioner Meg Sassaman : noon-4 
Judge Judith Ramseyer: 4-7 p.m.
Judge Tim Bradshaw: 5-8 p.m.
If you didn't notice the list of judges, check out the name of that first judge again: Judge Mary Yu.

Isn't the precious? If you live in Washington state and wanted to get married ASAP, the first available judge who will marry you is Judge Mary Yu. Too cute.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Honey Boo Boo" Reality TV Personality Arrested for Gorilla-Costume Prank // UPDATED on 12/07/12: Crazy Tony Wants His Suit Back!!

(Originally written on 12/01/12): I've written a couple times about my interest in Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, her family, and their Reality TV show. Over the past few days, an article has been circulating about an incident involving one of Thompson's relatives, "Crazy Tony" Lindsey. Lindsey is accused of dressing up in a gorilla costume late at night and acting like he was going to jump into the lane in front of traffic. The prank apparently backfired when he was sighted by a police deputy, which ultimately led to Lindsey's arrest!:
A police report says that Lindsey was among a group of men arrested for reckless behavior after one of them, dressed in a gorilla suit, prepared to jump into a lane along Highway 20 at approximately 11 p.m. Unfortunately for the band of wrongheaded pranksters, Deputy Joe Rozier happened to be driving by as he was about to take the leap from the side of the road.

"I observed a white male dressed in a gorilla suit acting as if he was going to jump into my lane of travel. I swerved into the left lane to avoid an accident with the person," Rozier said in a police report.

Rozier took pursuit, and "observed several white males run up the embankment and into the woods," the report notes. After threatening to release his police dog, he heard a voice yell back, "You don't have to do that, we're coming back." A group of five adults and two minors emerged - but with no gorilla suit. After a while, however, they admitted to hiding the suit in the woods.
Different sources assert that alcohol was involved. Another report that I've read questions whether or not Honey Boo Boo herself was at the scene of this prank -- but I have seen absolutely NOTHING that would indicate that she, her sisters, or her parents were there. It's unclear whether or not the prank was being filmed for the "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" show, but I sincerely doubt it was.

This was a pretty stupid stunt. Just this past August, I wrote about a similar situation in Montana involving a prankster dressed in a military-style "ghillie" suit who ran onto the highway in an attempt to fake a Bigfoot sighting. He ended up getting struck and killed by two separate vehicles.

Updated on 12/07/12: TMZ reported a couple days ago that Crazy Tony wants his gorilla suit back -- PRONTO!:
Lindsey wasn't wearing the suit, but cops arrested him anyway for taking part in the stunt -- along with the other adults involved. Meanwhile, the gorilla suit was booked into evidence while police investigate the incident.

But Lindsey -- who loves the suit and uses it often to scare his buddies -- is pissed, telling TMZ, "It's wrong of them to keep my gorilla suit ... they're treating me like I killed somebody!"
According to TMZ, the gorilla suit is being held as evidence by the Wilkinson County district attorney and that it cannot and will not be released to the "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" personality.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gay Marriage Acceptance Stats // PLUS Gay Marriage in Washington State!!

While I was away, there were a series of marriage equality polls -- and most of them were pretty position, according to Think Progress. A Quinnipiac University poll showed 48% supports for marriage equality VS. 46% opposition. Meanwhile, a new USA Today/Gallup poll shows 53% support for marriage equality VS. 46% opposition. And check out the graph below from the USA Today/Gallup poll:

Check out that trend since 1996. That shows pretty progressive increases in support for same-sex marriages. 27% support in 1996 compared to 53% support in 2012 compared to 68% opposition in 1996 compared to 46% opposition in 2012. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that these trends continue!!!

Meanwhile, gay and lesbian couples in Washington state have been getting their marriage licenses today! These couples will have to wait three days before they actually begin marrying in that state. Check out these happy grooms- and brides-to-be:

Among the first couples lining up to apply for marriage licenses was Dan Savage and his Canadian husband/American fiance Terry Miller:

Peter LaBarbera, president of the anti-gay Americans for Truth and Homosexuality, wished Savage and Miller well with the following "classy" tweet:


Updated to Include: In this video, Dan Savage discusses his marriage, marriage equality in Washington, and the heterosexual supporters who helped make this a reality. Check this out:

Nero at Daycare -- 12/04/12 & 12/06/12

It's been a long week. I just got back from a three-day training event in Minneapolis, MN, designed to learn new job skills to serve the people I work with more effectively. It was a really good program, but my head is still spinning and I'm pretty tired from all of the traveling. But...

... That didn't stop my beloved standard poodle Nero from enjoying his doggy daycare! I was feeling pretty bad. It'd been rainy, so we never got a chance to go to the dog park this weekend to burn off energy. By the time I left home Tuesday morning, Nero was looking pretty darned mopey. Fortunately, Husband Mark made arrangements to take him to Lucky Pawz Tuesday and Thursday afternoon this week. Check out these happy pics!:

I love looking at dogs at play. The joy on their faces just melts your heart. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Nuts & Bolts of Raising Urban Chickens in Iowa City

I have written quite a bit over the years about the phenomena of raising chickens within city limits -- way more than I ever would have anticipated when I created this blog. Now that Iowa City's City Council is painstakingly close to passing two ordinances that will finally allow interested Iowa Citians to raise up to four hens in their backyard, I found this good article that moves beyond the debate of whether or not to allow urban chickens in Iowa City and actually explores the process of getting approved to raise urban chickens in Iowa City.

According to the article, it appears that people will contact the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center and have their yards inspected and their pens evaluated before they get their "chicken permit":
“When somebody applies, they’ve got to have a good idea of what they need to do,” (Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center director, Misha) Goodman said. “When they apply, we’re going to say, ‘What’s your plan?’”

The proposed chicken ordinance outlines specifications on where the coop and pen may be located and requirements on cleaning up after the chickens and collecting eggs. Goodman said the pen can take up the entire yard as long as proper measures are taken to keep the birds from getting out and predators from getting in. Applicants will be subject to a visit from animal services to make sure their setup makes the grade.

“Let’s say we go out and in their yard they have a tree — like in my yard — a conifer with a bunch of lower limbs right next to the fence,” Goodman said. “We’re going to say, ‘You need to figure out a way to keep the chickens away from this tree.’ We’re going to be doing a lot of that in the inspections.”

As for the coop, Goodman said the permit doesn’t outline how the shelter has to be built, but there are some requirements. The coop has to be draft-free but ventilated, have a floor off the ground and be set up to protect the birds from predators. The coops can be handmade or kits can be purchased online.
Goodman tells prospective urban chicken farmers that people should research the requirements of particular breeds and ages of chickens that they might raise -- particularly so that they are prepared to successfully make it through a (normal) Iowa winter. She also reminds people that hens will "highly reduce" the amount of eggs that they lay after three years.

Monday, December 3, 2012

51% of Americans Support Gay Marriage

Think Progress shared the results of a new CBS News poll that shows a slim majority of Americans -- 51% altogether -- support marriage equality, while only 41% of Americans oppose equal marriage rights, responsibilities and protections for gay and lesbian couples. Both Democrats and Independents show the most support for gay and lesbian families (63% and 55% respectively) while Republicans predictably oppose our families by 66%. And, as always, the older you get the more likely you are to support gay and lesbian families. Interestingly, married people are nearly tied is supporting and opposing gay and lesbian families (45% VS. 47%).

Check it out:

I'll Trade You One Abomination for Another

Found on Facebook:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Debating Urban Chickens in Iowa City

I wrote last month about Iowa City's City Council voting in two subsequent votes in favor of two ordinances that ultimately would allow Iowa City home owners the ability to build urban chicken farms and raise up to four hens. Since then, I have found myself debating the subject with an Iowa City Patch blogger named Maria.

Maria and I found ourselves going round and round in a circle debating the issue of chickens in Iowa City. Maria is very much in favor of granting neighbors veto-power over urban chickens. She acknowledges that such veto-power is "a dangerous precedent" and fully embraces that precedent. She is upset that some of her neighbors have dogs that bark at night and that the Animal Shelter and the Iowa City Police Department do nothing to enforce existing noise ordinances. She believes that chickens in the neighborhood would create more noxious noise -- something that makes no sense to me.

I am not saying that uncontrolled dogs don't make noise. I hear dogs late at night. I also hear loud pedestrians, traffic ambiance, and sirens most nights, too. But I also acknowledge that I live in a small city. I don't expect silence in my neighborhood -- not even at night. If I wanted that, I would move out into the country where there are many more chickens but much less noises.

Accepting that there is a noise ordinance in Iowa City that may or may not be unevenly enforced, I pointed out that it is a lot easier to report a chicken coop whose construction or placement within a yard violates zoning laws than it is to register randomly occurring noises. It is also pretty concrete to acknowledge if someone is violating the law by allowing the hens to escape their pens or if they have too many hens or if they purchase a rooster (which is a violation of the proposed "urban chicken" ordinance). I received the reply that someone still has to enforce the law and ordinances are supposedly already enforced selectively.

That prompted this final response by me:
I get it. We shouldn't give people the option of owning up to four hens within city limits because someone may obtain an illegal rooster and because someday Iowa City might get struck by a bird flu virus that will force the city to slaughter all existing chickens. And people shouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt that they will build zone-complying structures on their own property.
(Did I forget to mention that she is worried that the presence of chickens in Iowa City will compromise our immune systems and subject us to a "deadly bird flu H5N1" and lead to the slaughter of all nearby chickens?)

I don't disagree that there are bad neighbors in Iowa City, nor do I disagree that some people who want to raise chickens might be bad urban chicken farmers -- just like there are bad parents and bad home owners and bad pet owners, etc. But I definitely do disagree with starting from the assumption that everyone will be a zoning-violator or that everyone will be a bad neighbor or a delinquent urban chicken farmer. Iowa City's City Council will approve zoning ordinances to regulate those who build coops and raise chickens and if/when there are problems with individual zoning-violators, there will be remedies for addressing those problem people.

I disagree with giving neighbors the ability to veto whether or not people can build chicken coops that conform to city law or whether or not they can raise hens in their own yard. I agree that it would be nice to notify your neighbor of your plans to raise chickens, but I don't believe that they should be required to do so. Ultimately, it's my home and my property. My neighbors shouldn't gain the ability to veto whether or not I decide to raise chickens, nor should they be granted the "dangerous precedent" to veto if I build a garage or add onto my house or get another dog or get licensed again to become a foster parents or whatever else.

Personally, I don't think that many people will actually choose to raise urban chickens in Iowa City and most people who choose to raise them will eventually discover that their chickens will eventually stop laying eggs without the presence of a rooster. But, based off the precedent of other nearby "urban chicken" communities, I strongly predict that Iowa City will be safe from roaming chickens, stinking coops, and noisy roosters if the City Council goes ahead and approves this new ordinance -- which is what they need to do at the third and final reading of these two zoning ordinance changes.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tackling the Disparity: Children With Married Heterosexual Parents VS. LGBT Parents

This was seen today at Facebook. It lays out the difference in protections when you compare children with married heterosexual parents vs. most children with LGBT parents. This seemed especially pressing since the National Organization for Marriage has been going through another round of articles discussing the how children are less advantaged when in LGBT homes. Well, let's look at some of the reasons why disparities might exist:

Northstar and Kyle Go On Honeymoon OR Is Astonishing X-Men's Kyle Jinadu-Beaubier the New Madelyne Pryor?

ASTONISHING X-MEN ANNUAL #1 came out this week. It interrupts the honeymoon between Northstar and Kyle. I'm beginning to wonder if Kyle is fated to become the new "Madelyne Pryor" of the X-Men -- at least before she went all Goblin-Queenie. You know, a human companion who acts as support all the time for the mutants.

Almost since the beginning, Kyle has been the victim of one enemy or another. There was the Purple Woman and the Unity Party over in Alpha Flight. Then there was Karma's wicked half-sister and the Marauders and now the Friends of Humanity. I'm thinking he needs to take up Tae Kwon Do or Judo or touch a radioactive meteorite or something. That way, he might stand a chance next time one of Northstar's enemies comes knocking!

Much of the issue dealt with Northstar and Kyle feeling torn between heroic obligations, a desire to be left alone, and worry that they rushed too fast into marriage. Most of the X-Men told Kyle that everything would be fine. Gambit, on the other hand, gave some interesting advice to Kyle: Run! Kyle and the readers were reminded that pretty much every mutant marriage has ended in tragedy or divorce. If Kyle wants to break the cycle, it might be in his best interest to pull Jean-Paul off the team. Is this romantic angst and tension, or creative foreshadowing?

I wish we'd see more family from the other Astonishing X-Men. I would love it if Karma's little brother and sister hung out with the group, for example. Or maybe we could learn a little bit more about Dr. Cecilia Reyes. Maybe we could finally learn how Dr. Reyes survived and escaped from the Neverland mutant concentration camp.

The comic book ends with a reprint of ALPHA FLIGHT #106, the infamous "Northstar officially comes out of the closet while beating up a never-before-heard-of WWII hero and then adopts a baby who happens to be dying of AIDS" issue. Can you sense that a lot happened in that one story? It was nice to be reminded that Jean-Paul adopted a daughter. Maybe that storyline will plant a seed towards another adoption at some point in the future.

As stilted and forced as that original "coming out" story reads (and keep in mind that subtext regarding Northstar's homosexuality had existed for pretty much most of his creative existence), it's definitely led to much progress. Ten years earlier, Marvel Comics had a policy that homosexuality officially did not exist (following the attempted shower rape of Bruce "the Hulk" Banner at the YMCA -- don't ask). Twenty years after he came out, Northstar got married at Central Park and there are tons of openly gay and lesbian heroes in the Young Avengers, in the X-Men and at the Jean Grey School, and at Avengers Arena. Heck, there was even a gay wedding in an Archie-frickin'-Comics last year.

These are exciting times for comic book fans who appreciate stories involving gay and lesbian heroes. It's just good to remember that this current crop of stories got seeded by ALPHA FLIGHT #106.