Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Night I Discovered the Living Dead

I have a dreaded obsession: death. More specifically, I dread the walking dead. It isn't as bad as it used to be. I used to have nightly nightmares of being swarmed by ravenous zombies. I would run as fast as I could to escape their menace, but it was never quite far enough.

Even my waking hours were haunted by the possibility that they might be there. Would they be on the often-empty third floor of my office building when I went up to search for records. Would there be a safe place to seek refuge if the dead rose up? What was that sound I heard while walking the dog at dusk? It was totally irrational, but it took me a lot of time and effort to fight against that silly source of anxiety.

My husband Mark once told me that something must have happened to me at the right (or wrong) formative moment for it to affect me so profoundly and he was right. I actually know when that moment was: Halloween 1989. It was the night I first watched Night of the Living Dead.

You gotta remember that this was the late 80s. VCR machines were relatively new. Cable had been around for a while, but there were fewer channels and most of the horror movies didn't get as much play-time as they do now.

I was planning on going out with some friends later that night, but decided to watch a 20-year-old movie about the walking dead while I waited for my friends to pick me up. It's not that I hadn't heard of zombies before. I just had never sat back and actually watched such a movie before.

You know the plot. The recently dead mysteriously begin rising from their eternal slumber with all-consuming murderous appetites. A handful of strangers find themselves fighting for their lives in an isolated farm-house with no way to escape. One by one, they all fall. And then one by one, they all come back to join the horde.

It wasn't even terribly gory compared to other movies I'd watched before. Stuff like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc... But this movie was haunting. The black-and-white nature of the film added to the suspense. The atmosphere was darkly riveting. And, worst of all, nobody made it out alive. Not the resourceful lead black actor. Not the catatonic blond woman. Not the little girl. Nobody. For whatever reason, that affected me the most.

The movie ended and my friends showed up and we went out to do what teens do: which was pretty much nothing but hang around and talk about nothing. And, for whatever reason, my friends decided to go to the cemetery on the edge of town. I have no idea why we went there. Probably because it was Halloween. It's not like we vandalized the place or anything. We just sat around this place of eternal resting and chatted for a while.

And all the time, I couldn't stop thinking about Night of the Living Dead. I couldn't stop my ears from hearing the rustling of the wind or the leaves, nor could I stop my imagination from bracing for that moment when the first hand would reach up from the ground and start pulling me under. We stayed in that cemetery way too long that night and the self-induced fear of that encounter stuck with me way longer that it ever should have.

It took me a long time to work myself out of this anxiety. I eventually watched the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead about ten years after it was made. That was easier for me to wrap my mind around. One person escaped from the house in that movie

My zombie anxiety really picked up at this point in my life. There were more "dead"-themed movies being produced by now and I responded to them with much more fear than was healthy. That's when the nightmares increased, as well as moments of the involuntary escape planning.

I finally forced myself to watch the 2004 Dawn of the Dead movie over and over and over. I would watch as much as I could take and then I would take a break. I would return and watch a little bit more and then take a break. I also forced myself to watch other zombie-like movies such as The Crazies and 28 Days Later.

I immersed myself in the subject. I over analyzed each movie. I noted each bit of unrealistic nonsense surrounding the idea of the walking dead. I basically overwhelmed my imagination and worked it out of my system.

Now I can watch The Walking Dead or read AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE with little fear that the undead will begin pounding on my door. The nightmares still come, but they are less frequent. And I don't find myself flinching very often anymore when an elevator door opens.

But that is the story of the night I discovered the living dead.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee Endorces Tyler Olson 2014 Iowa Gubernatorial Candidacy

Iowa will have a campaign next year for governor and several candidates have stepped out to run on the Democratic ticket. I received the following message today from Danny Homan, president of the AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee. The PEOPLE Committee has thrown their support behind Democratic candidate Tyler Olson. Here is why:
Today, I am proud to tell you about a very important announcement – the announcement of the AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee's recommended candidate for Governor.
Our current Governor has sought to turn Iowans against one another for political gain. He has sought to vilify hard working public employees and has shown no interest in building a positive relationship with us so that we can be partners in improving our state. Our members feel strongly that it is time for a change. Iowans want to move on from Terry Branstad and his politics that divide us. We need a new Governor whose focus is on the middle class, not extending a historically long political career.
After carefully reviewing the candidates for Governor, our PEOPLE Committee has found the candidate who will lead Iowa into the future.
I am proud to announce that Tyler Olson is the AFSCME Iowa Council 61 PEOPLE Committee recommended candidate for Governor.
AFSCME members were impressed by Tyler’s commitment to strengthen and grow Iowa’s middle class. We know that he will bring Iowans together and focus on making sure that all Iowans have the opportunity to achieve and maintain the American Dream. We were also impressed by the strong campaign organization that his campaign is building. We know that Tyler Olson is the candidate who will end the divisive politics of Terry Branstad by winning on Election Day.
I ask you to join me in supporting Tyler’s campaign.
Tyler Olson knows that even in good times, many middle class Iowans are hanging by a thread, doing everything they can to hold onto the American Dream. He knows that many Iowa parents worry about whether their children will still have the same opportunities they have had. Tyler Olson also knows that many Iowans are struggling to get by and desperately trying to get ahead in life and join the middle class. Tyler has spoken many times about the need to invest in education, health care, and economic opportunities that create good, solid middle class jobs.
Together, we can make a difference by electing Tyler Olson as Iowa’s next Governor.
It's all about growing and strengthening the middle class.

North Dakota Woman Will Pass Out "Fat Letters" to Fat Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween

A North Dakota woman called Y94 radio and told listeners that she plans to hand out "fat letters" tomorrow night to trick-or-treating children who she feels are "moderately obese." She apparently still will hand out candy to any and all children, but she has a special pile of sealed letters for parents. If your kid comes to her door and she believes they are not thin enough for her standards, your child will receive this letter.

According to the interview, she is encouraging other adults to hand out similar "fat letters" to fat children. She believes that parents of fat children will suddenly realize from this letter that their fat kids are at higher risk for various health problems such as diabetes or heart disease -- not to mention that their fat kids may be teased because of their weight. She hopes this realization will help these parents discourage their fat kids from eating sugary sweets.

You can listen to the interview here:

I personally think that she should give out stickers or tooth brushes or just turn off her porch light instead of giving out these "fat letters."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Police: Iowa City Robbery Over "Juicy J" Concert Ticket

People in and around Iowa City received the following Hawk Alert last night:
Robbery reported in area of Boyd Law Building, approximately 8 p.m. suspects are two males, unknown race, that did not display weapons, left west on a moped toward Kinnick, be aware of surroundings.
The Press-Citizen reported a few more details. The male victim was approached by the two suspects near the 200 black of Melrose Court in Iowa City last night at 8:00 PM. They took the victims coat and a concert ticket before fleeing on their moped. The stolen ticket was to a Juicy J concert. The only description we have of the suspects is that they are "larger framed males."

The victim suffered scraped knuckles, but otherwise escaped the incident unscathed.

Those with information leading to the arrest of these suspects are encouraged to contact the local CrimeStoppers phone line: 319-358-TIPS (8477). There is a $1,000 reward.

Nero at Daycare -- 10/29/13

It was another good day for Nero and his friends to play today at doggy daycare. Check it out:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Getting Ready for Halloween: Union-Made Candy!

If you're like me, then you haven't yet purchased your Halloween candy. Keep this list of Union-made candies in mind when you make your purchases:

Personally, I'm a big fan of the Laffy Taffies!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Campus Librarians Deny Study Materials to Student, Said He Looked Like a Girl!

Abdul Asquith is a student at Florida Atlantic University. Earlier this week, he went to the campus library because he needed to check out a laptop computer for his communications class. Unfortunately, he was turned away by two different librarians because they thought he looked too much like a woman:
"She looked at the ID and looked down at it. She said, 'You sound, look and act like a girl and in this ID is a man, therefore I'm not giving you a laptop,' " said Asquith.
Fortunately, a third campus librarian gave him the laptop that he needed for his classwork.

Asquith was wearing a FAU hoodie, shorts, and had his hair pulled back when he was accused of looking too much like a girl -- just in case you are curious about what I assume to be modern woman's fashion!

Personally, if it'd been me being denied the laptop I would have been tempted to pull up my hoodie and shown them that I don't have women's breasts!

Seriously though, why not just give the guy his laptop instead of making a big deal out of his more feminine mannerisms? I've seen the ID. It's clearly him. Denying him the laptop is just an attempt to hassle him.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Squirrel Vandal Terrorizes Iowa College Campus!!!

Associate professor of mathematics Matt Strom of Estherville, IA, found his bike vandalized this past Wednesday and Thursday. Both tires were ripped up. The bicycle seat was torn. Even the headlight and taillight were damaged. The police were called, but there weren't any initial suspects. In fact, they were unsure how anybody could have had the time to vandalize the bike, given that it was parked in front of a busy building on the Iowa Lakes Community College campus.

Finally somebody managed to take a picture of the vandal in the act of damaging Mr. Strom's bike: a squirrel!:
Shortly after the police left, aviation instructor Ron Duer spied a squirrel chewing on the seat of Strom's bike. He took a photo of the animal chewing on a tire.

Upon learning the news, Strom described the culprit in an email to colleagues as "the meanest squirrel you have ever seen."

The photo solved a mystery of how anyone could repeatedly vandalize Strom’s bicycle in front of a busy building entrance without getting caught, said Iowa Lakes spokeswoman Tricia Morfitt. "If somebody is walking by doing this, how is nobody seeing them doing it?" she said.
Officials at Iowa Lakes Community College are still trying to figure out what to do with this rogue squirrel. Most likely, they will use the bike as bait, trap the squirrel, and presumably relocate it to another college campus in Iowa.

Friday, October 25, 2013

University of Iowa Student Struggles to Cope After Receiving Accidental Nude Pics from TA

I wrote yesterday about that University of Iowa teaching assistant who made a huge mistake and accidentally sent four pics of her and a man engaging in a "sexual video chat." She had originally meant to send out math problem solutions to her students. It obviously created a huge stir and she was ultimately reassigned from that class.

I think it was a good decision that she wasn't fired from her teaching assistant duties, though agree that it was wise that she was removed from that class. Pretty much everyone I've spoken to agrees that she shouldn't be fired. But it turns out that not everyone thinks that people should forgive and try to forget...

The Daily Iowan interviewed a UI Freshman who was part of that TA's class. He's already complaining that this incident -- from earlier this week -- is negatively affecting his ability to successfully complete any of his UI classes:
“Maybe she shouldn’t be a TA anymore, regardless of the class,” (a freshman student) said. “That would be very hard to get over what happened. I would never look at her the same. That should never happen.” 
(He) continued to say the incident has affected his learning environment, specifically when the math lecture was interrupted by a misconduct officer. 
Since this happened, I’m getting asked about seeing pictures and it’s kind of getting hard to study,” he said. “It affected my studies in other classes.”
I know that this freshman student is new to the university. But there are always going to be inopportune distractions at school and later at work. You will be teamed up with a lazy lab partner. You will be assigned to a terrible professor who jerks you around in his classroom. You will go through a horrible break up or suffer some family tragedy. You will have a terrible manager or employee once you begin your career.

My point is that there are always distractions. If you want to succeed at life, you need to learn how to roll with those distractions.

"Archie: Riverdale Rescue": Halloween!

Earlier this month, I began writing about the new "Archie: Riverdale Rescue" iOS gaming app. It's an oddly addictive game where you are tasked with the improvement and beautification of Riverdale USA using a variety of recognizable characters, such as Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. A big part of the game also involves building emotional bonds between the various characters, leading to romantic couples, BFFs, and overall friends. I thought it would be fun to discuss aspects of the game that I find exciting, disappointing, and/or note-worthy.

We're going to talk today about Halloween! Earlier this month, "Riverdale Rescue" went through an upgrade that not only sought to correct a few glitches. Some other things were adjusted to make the game a little more fun. But the biggest part of the upgrade was the introduction of Halloween designs to the app!

The following image shows Veronica's house upgraded to look like a Haunted House. You can grow or purchase additional Halloween decorations, such as Jack O'Lanterns, gravestones, and creepy trees. Plus they came up with a bunch of Halloween story lines and tasks, which are all fun. Check out this screen captured pic:

But the "Riverdale Rescue" Halloween upgrade also introduced some new character costumes/skins, including Halloween costumes and "Afterlife With Archie" zombie designs! Let's take a peek at some of these designs:

Archie: Werewolf Costume // Zombie
Jughead; Mummy Costume // Zombie
Veronica: Monster Bride Costume // Zombie
Betty: Witch Costume // Zombie
Reggie: Vampire Costume // Zombie
The main five characters are the only game characters who get to be zombies. But there are a few other characters -- mainly the five buy-in characters: Cheryl & Jason Blossom, Ginger Lopez, Kevin Keller, and Kumi -- who also have Halloween costumes. I only pulled images of Jason and Kevin (below), but Cheryl has an Angel costume, Kumi has some sort of a Ancient Greek toga costume, and Ginger appears to be dressed in some sort of a masked hero costume. In the meantime, check out Kevin's and Jason's costumes:

Kevin: Space Hero(??) Costume // Jason: King Costume
I will do my best this weekend when I have a bit more time to pull up images of the other three characters.

I'm curious what will happen on November 1st. Does Veronica's house begin the process of shifting back to normal? And what happens to all of these pumpkins and crazy trees?? I'm envisioning the creation of a Riverdale Cemetery in the near future in order to deal with all of those gravestones!

Joking aside, the Halloween upgrade has been a lot of fun. I'm curious if we will see anything similar for Christmas. That would be cool! Especially if they can somehow incorporate Jingles and Sugar Plum into that upgrade! *hint! hint!*

Updated Later on 10/25/13: I spent a little time this evening pulling Halloween images of Cheryl Blossom, Ginger Lopez, and Kumi. I'm not a huge fan of Ginger's and Kum's costumes, but I really like Cheryl:

Cheryl: Angel Costume // Ginger: Super Hero(??) Costume // Kumi: Ancient Greek Costume

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Culture War PACs Spent $833,000 to Influence 2012 Iowa Supreme Court Justice Retention Campaign

The FAMiLY Leader and several other anti-marriage activists spent a huge amount of time and money leading up to the 2012 in an unsuccessful effort to sour the retention vote of Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins. Bob Vander Plaats teamed up in 2010 with NOM and several other out-of-state groups and spent roughly $1.4 million in out-of-state funds to eliminate three of Iowa's other Supreme Court justices because of their unanimous ruling that struck down Iowa's DOMA law and paved the way for gay and lesbian couples to legally marry. They tried to repeat the cycle in 2012 against Justice Wiggins, but they ultimately failed.

We learned today how much The FAMiLY Leader and their allies -- as well as pro-marriage equality and pro-judge groups like One Iowa and Justice Not Politics Action -- wasted to fight for and against the never-ending effort to legally nullify Iowa's same-sex marriages and to punish the Iowa Supreme Court Justices that ruled in favor of equal protections for all of Iowa's families: $833,000.

That's right. These groups all spent well over three-quarters of a million dollars in what's supposed to be a non-partisan judicial retention election:
Activists spent about $833,000 in Iowa last year trying to influence voters’ actions on retaining a judge who legalized same-sex marriage here, a new report says. “This signaled that retention elections are poised to become a lasting front in the nation’s judicial election wars,” says a news release from researchers at the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and Justice at Stake.

The researchers tracked spending on advertisements targeted at judicial votes in Iowa and elsewhere.

For example, one TV ad said Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins had imposed gay marriage on Iowans and legislated from the bench. That “vote no” spot aired 145 times for a cost of $86,000, according to report, called “The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12: How New Waves of Special Interest Spending Raised the Stakes for Fair Courts...”

Nationally, special interest groups and political parties spent an unprecedented $24.1 million on television ads and other election materials in state court races in 2011-12, making it the costliest election cycle for TV spending in judicial election history, the news release says. “Many of these races seemed alarmingly indistinguishable from ordinary political campaigns, featuring everything from super PACs and mudslinging attack ads, the report says.
The next election cycles involving a retention vote for any Supreme Court Justice involved in the 2009 Varnum v. Brien marriage equality case will be in November 2016.

University of Iowa TA Accidentally Sent Nude Pics to her Math Class

A University of Iowa teaching assistant is in hot water after accidentally emailing nude photos of herself to her entire math class. Apparently, the TA was trying to send out math problem solutions via email, but instead sent four pics of her and a man engaging in a "sexual video chat." It looks like the pics might have been sent to as many as 80 students, though different UI students have continued forwarding these pics to others via Twitter.

The UI has confirmed that this incident with the following message:
University officials are aware of this matter and are looking into it. We can confirm that a teaching assistant sent an email with inappropriate content to her students.

The individual who sent the messages has stated that it was an accident. She regrets her actions.

We will ask those who received the message to delete it and not to share the files with anyone else.

This incident was inappropriate, and the university will look into it and take appropriate actions under our policies and procedures.”

-Tom Moore, University of Iowa spokesman
Moral of the story? Confirm your attachments before hitting send!

Updated Later on 10/24/13: The Press-Citizen reports that this TA is no longer teaching this pre-calculus class. Fortunately, she is still employed and currently performing non-teaching duties. It was a serious lapse in judgment, but everyone involved acknowledges that this was a huge mistake. Nobody was hurt (except for the TA's professional reputation) and these were all adults involved here. Hopefully, we can all move on.

Nero at Daycare -- 10/24/13

Nero had a great time at doggy daycare today. Look at him run in this pic! He's going in for the kill! Needless to say, he crashed as soon as we got home this afternoon. Check this out:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Will Bob Vander Plaats Run for U.S. Senate in 2014? // Update: 1st GOP Senate Debate Scheduled, But No BVP!!

(Originally written on 10/21/13): Bob Vander Plaats has unsuccessfully run for governor here in Iowa three times. He then got involved with campaign to unseat Iowa Supreme Court justices for upholding the Iowa Constitution and striking down the state's DOMA law. Now folks around Iowa are beginning to wonder if BVP is going to take a stab at the U.S. Senate position being vacated by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin in 2014:
In an April interview for this blog, Vander Plaats discussed the field of senatorial candidates, including his belief that U.S. Rep. Tom Latham could backtrack and get in the race for the Republican nomination. Vander Plaats offered that he'd gotten support to run himself.

Here's info from that April post: "Republicans have also encouraged him to run for the Senate seat. He said he wouldn't make any sort of decision on that until he sees how the field fills out through roughly Thanksgiving 2013. Vander Plaats, who recently moved from Sioux City to central Iowa as he heads The Family Leader conservative group, added that he's got 'a statewide network already,' so he could afford to get into a race later than others."
It would be horrible if BVP actually became a U.S. Senator. But at least it would remove him a bit from Iowa's never-ending marriage equality fight. It's been nearly five years since gays and lesbians in Iowa began marrying -- with hardly any problems. Meanwhile, BVP and The FAMiLY Leader are still trying to legally void our families!

According to the above linked blog article, BVP will make a decision about his senatorial run by the end of 2013.

Updated on 10/23/13: I learned earlier today from the Cedar Rapids Gazette that Americans for Prosperity is hosting the first Republican primary debate for the 2014 U.S. Senate election. It's being held at Drake University in Des Moines. Heck, it's probably over by the time I write this.

Six potential Republican candidates are at this debate -- and none of them are named Bob Vander Plaats! The six hopeful candidates are Sam Clovis, Joni Ernst, Paul Lunde, Scott Schaben, Matt Whitaker, and David Young. That certainly doesn't stop BVP from jumping into the mix later, but it allows his opponents to put themselves out there without him and define themselves to potential voters.

Nero Inspires New Costume for the Equalizer!

Last week, I shared the new official design for the Equalizer. The Equalizer is the superhero alter ego for Archie Comics' Kevin Keller. My friend "Stuffed Animal" wasn't a big fan of the new costume. He thought it was dull and uninspired.

Who knew that it only took one nip from my favorite poodle, Nero, to inspire a whole new look for the Equalizer??? Check this Stuffed Animal original out:

Here is how Stuffed Animal describes his process of inspiration:
Last night, I sat down to design a Golden Age costume for The Equalizer, Archie Comics' newest character.  I was inspired by the look of Golden Age superheroes from the 1940s. 
Just as I began to sketch, I felt a sharp set of canine teeth bite me in the ass!  I yelped in pain and spun around.  Standing there behind me was Nero the Dog.  He had a torn piece of my jeans in his mouth, and man!  Was he pissed!  "One side, b*tch!" he snarled at me in his gravelly voice.  "Nero is the only artist who can design an authentic Golden Age superhero costume for Kevin Keller."  
He took my place at the desk and began sketching furiously.  With pencil, pen and paintbrush, his bushy tail twitching like crazy, he attacked the art paper again and again, whipping his fabulous design into shape. A genius at work, I tell you!  And now, let me show you: Here is the fruit of Nero's labors.  It's dashing!  It's sexy!  It's BITCHIN'!
The costume is great, but I can't help but worry about Nero breaking out of his crate -- much less the house!! -- late at night!

Incidentally, you can't help but love Nero's beret!

Thanks for sharing, Stuffed Animal!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

United Church of Christ Celebrates 14 States of Gay Marriage!

Effective yesterday, 14 states in the USA became marriage equality states because of New Jersey's elevation from a civil union state to a marriage state! Some are still grousing about this development. But many leaders within the United Church of Christ are celebrating:
Midnight on Monday, Oct. 21 brought marriage equality to New Jersey, and the Rev. Ann Ralosky, pastor of First Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Montclair, N.J., was more than happy to usher it in. "I'm thrilled to tell you that I presided over a wedding of two men from our congregation at 12:01 this morning," Ralosky wrote. "For me, this was a moment of great joy – and of history. It was a privilege to preside over the legal marriage of two people who had been in a committed and loving relationship for 22 years. The love was there, the commitment was there, but the protection of the law was not..."

The UCC's General Synod affirmed full marriage equality for all couples in 2005, making it the first mainline Protestant denomination to allow same-sex marriages in the United States. The General Synod also stated that government should not interfere with couples who choose to marry, and instead should share full equality in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriages. There are now more than 1,000 open and affirming churches registered with the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns.

UCC Central Atlantic Conference Minister the Rev. John Deckenback is delighted that marriage equality has finally come to his childhood home state. "United Church of Christ ministers and members through their public statements, demonstrations, and legislative testimony and  have long advocated for full inclusion," Deckenback said."We feel blessed that marriage equality is now legal within the Central Atlantic Conference from Washington, D.C. to northern New Jersey."
There are still portions of the UCC that disagree with homosexuality and believe that expressions of such love and affection are sinful and that our families are flawed. But, overall the UCC remains one of the most affirming Christian denominations in North America.

33% of Americans Now Live in a Marriage Equality State!

The American Foundation for Equal Right created the following infographics, based off 2010 U.S. Census data, indicating that slightly over 33% of Americans live in a U.S. state and/or Washington DC where same-sex marriage is allowed.

Check this out:

Keep in mind, this does not count the various American Indian tribes (roughly a half-dozen) who also allow same-sex marriage. Nor does it count the handful of states like New Mexico or Pennsylvania where certain chunks of the gay population are gay married. Nor does this count states like Oregon who don't allow same-sex couples to marry there, but whose attorney generals have said that they would recognize same-sex marriages from other states. And then there are states like North Dakota that are so much against recognizing same-sex marriages that they've come up with their own income tax form for married gays and lesbians whose marriages are federally recognized, but not recognized by the state itself (except for the income tax form!!).

However you look at this, this is definitely progress!

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Archie: Riverdale Rescue": The Gas Station... & Cosmo the Merry Martian!!

Earlier this month, I began writing about the new "Archie: Riverdale Rescue" iOS gaming app. It's an oddly addictive game where you are tasked with the improvement and beautification of Riverdale USA using a variety of recognizable characters, such as Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. I thought it would be fun to discuss aspects of the game that I find exciting, disappointing, and/or note-worthy.

I want to talk about the Gas Station tonight. "The Gas Station??," I hear you collectively cry out. "Why are you bothering us about the Gas Station? And what does that have to do with anything Archie?"

I'm glad you all asked.

When players reach Level 14, you get to introduce Miss Grundy to the game and unlock her home. However, you don't just get to introduce Miss Grundy's home to your own private Riverdale. You also get to unlock an old, dilapidated Gas Station. Archie is assigned several tasks designed to get the Gas Station ready for business. After that, characters are allowed to work shifts and earn a little extra cash.

It might seem silly, but Archie's old jalopy ain't gonna drive on fumes forever!

But there is more to the story. Once Archie gets done sprucing up the Gas Station, players are treated to some beautiful artwork by artist Fernando Ruiz! He actually does all of the original artwork for "Archie: Riverdale Rescue." Anyway, we all know Fernando's favorite old school Archie Comics character: Cosmo the Merry Martian!

That's right! Cosmo makes a cameo in "Riverdale Rescue!" It could only get more perfect if Cosmo was introduced as an ongoing character player! *hint hint!*  Check this out:

Gravestone Shaped Like Spongebob SquarePants Removed from Vet's Grave

Iraq war veteran Kimberly Walker (age 28) liked SpongeBob SquarePants a lot. She liked the cartoon character so much that her family had a life size gravestone created in his image. The cemetery had initially approved the gravestone. But one day after it and its pair (meant for her surviving twin sister) were installed at the grave site, the family was notified by cemetery staff that the SpongeBob gravestones had to go!:
The 7-foot headstone, along with a near-exact duplicate erected for Walker's living twin sister, have been removed and will not be allowed back up, cemetery President Gary Freytag said Monday. "We've decided that they aren't appropriate for our historic cemetery and they can't be displayed here," Freytag said, adding that the employee who approved the headstones made an inexplicable error in judgment, given the cemetery's traditional, stately appearance.

He acknowledged that the cemetery is at fault and that staff members would be meeting with Walker's family on Tuesday to try to find a solution, which could include a more traditional gravestone bearing small likeness of the character.
The family reports that the two gravestones cost roughly $26,000. The cemetery has indicated that they are willing to reimburse the family for those gravestones and to pay for new ones. But the family wants the original gravestones replaced.

I wrote about SpongeBob SquarePants back in August 2012 when I relayed a story about how SpongeBob SquarePants was invited to worship by the now-former general minister and president of the United Church of Christ after the walking sponge was attacked by Focus on the Family!

Gay Marriage In America -- Effective 10/21/13 // Important Update!!!

(Originally written on 10/19/13): Same-sex marriage in the USA very convoluted these days! Things keep advancing and it's hard to keep up. You have full-on gay marriage states like Iowa, New York, Vermont, New Jersey (effective Monday, 10/21/13), and several others. You have some states that are civil union/domestic partnership states. Some of those states recognize the gay marriages from that first bunch of states. And then there are states like Oregon that are technically marriage inequality states, but they still recognize marriages formed in marriage equality states. Like I said, it's convoluted.

Anyway, Wikipedia has an updated marriage equality map posted effective 10/21/13. Enjoy!

Updated on 10/21/13: This post is already slightly out-of-date!! I shared earlier that New Jersey was effectively the 14th marriage equality state. The state was appealing a court ruling, but gay and lesbian couples were able to file for marriage licenses in the meantime.

Earlier today, the state of New Jersey dropped its appeal. This makes New Jersey the official 14th marriage equality state!

So which U.S. state do you think will end up being the 15th marriage equality state? Michigan? Illinois? Hawaii? New Mexico? Hmmm...?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Jonathan, Johanna, and I Dish About "Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch" on The Riverdale Podcast #85!

I've written about the new "Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch" animated series that premiered last weekend on The Hub (here and here, for example). Jonathan Merrifield from the Riverdale Podcast began chatting with me last month about getting together once the cartoon to discuss our reactions. He also invited Johanna Draper-Carlson from Comics Worth Reading to share her thoughts. Thus, our Sabrina Panel was born!

Jonathan posted our panel discussion on issue #85 of the Riverdale Podcast on his blog. It's starts at the 22 minute marker and, as Johanna noted, we ended up talking about the first episode -- titled "Dances With Werewolves" -- much longer than the actual cartoon episode!


Friday, October 18, 2013

New Jersey Will Be the 14th Marriage Equality State!

Back in 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Lewis v. Harris that same-sex couples in that state must be allowed the full rights, responsibilities, and protections of marriage. The legislature was given a few months to work out the details, which led to the passage of a civil union law in December 2006. Same-sex couples then began civilly unionizing in February 2007.

The problem is that separate-but-equal isn't equal. Those in civil unions continually found their rights to access equal benefits stalled in both the public and the private sector by laws that favored marriage over civil unions. In June 2011, Lambda Legal represented several same-sex couples and argued that barring gay couples from marriage and relegating them to civil unions violated the New Jersey Constitution and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Then, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal DOMA law. Lambda Legal filed a motion for summary judgment in  this case, arguing that civilly unionized families are being denied all federal marital benefits and responsibilities as a direct result of the DOMA decision. On September 27, 2013, the New Jersey Superior Court ruled that same-sex couples in New Jersey must be allowed to marry and that those marriages will begin effective October 21, 2013 (i.e., Monday).

New Jersey is appealing that marriage decision and they filed for a stay on next week's marriage date. Earlier today, the New Jersey Supreme Court failed to allow a stay in the October 21, 2013, marriage date. That means, there is nothing to stop same-sex couples from marrying next week.

Keep in mind that the appeal on the marriage case itself is still moving forward. The New Jersey Supreme Court will hear that case on January 6th or 7th, 2014. But (despite being an eternal pessimist), I don't see how we can lose this case given the earlier Lewis v. Harris decision coupled with the Windsor (DOMA) decision. Meanwhile, new same-sex marriages will have been created and it's really hard to put that collective genii back into the bottle.

So New Jersey is now the 14th Marriage Equality State!!!

Riverdale's Newest Superhero = The Equalizer!!

Many years back, Archie Comics created superhero versions of their main characters and called them the Super Teens (Pureheart the Powerful = Archie; Evilheart = Reggie; Super Teen = Betty; and Captain Hero = Jughead). The Super Teens were brought back briefly in the 90s, where two new Super Teens were introduced, including Veronica as Miss Vanity and Moose as Mighty Moose. Even more recently, I read a great Captain Hero story from a few years back that introduced Big E (Ethel). These original Super Teens stories have been collected a few times and reprints of those stories routinely show up in the various double digest magazines.

We learned yesterday that Archie Comics plans to create its latest superhero character. Kevin Keller will be getting his own superhero makeover! The Equalizer will make his comic book debut in KEVIN KELLER #14. According to Archie Comics, the Equalizer "fights for equality along with his sidekick Veronica!" (Not sure if we will be seeing Miss Vanity again, but I really hope she gets a costume makeover!!)

I love the Equalizer's costumes. No word yet on his powers. I'll post more as I learn more!

Nero at Daycare -- 10/17/13

Nero had a blast yesterday at doggy daycare. The weather was a bit brisk and the best way to minimize the chill is to romp around real rough! Check this out:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Honey Boo Boo and the Family Go Purple for Spirit Day 2013!

Kevin Keller and the people at Archie Comics aren't the only ones going purple for Spirit Day. Honey Boo Boo and her family have been long-time supporters of the LGBT community. They went purple for Spirit Day last October and they went purple again today. Here is their Spirit Day message:
We r sporting our purple 2 support against bullying in the GLBT community so if u can join us they r real ppl with real feeling so stop the bullying #glaad #purple #stopbullying #honeybooboo — at McIntyre, GA.
I have always been impressed with this family's support for each other and for everyone else around them. In a world of stereotypes, this family would be a bunch of anti-gay rednecks. Fortunately, they aren't that type of rednecks!

Thanks for your support, guys!

Kevin Keller as GLAAD's Spirit Day Ambassador!

I shared last month that Archie Comics' famous gay teen character, Kevin Keller, was chosen to serve as GLAAD's Spirit Day Ambassador for 2013. Spirit Day is an annual anti-bullying campaign that specifically reaches out to LGBT youth. This honor made Kevin the first fictional character to ever be selected as a Spirit Day Ambassador.

Today is Spirit Day. Supporters are encouraged to wear purple in order to raise awareness against bullying. Kevin was seen running around in purple, but he wasn't the only one. Check out Pop Tate's restaurant:

But it's not just the residents of Riverdale who wore purple today. Check out the various staffers at Archie Comics:

Then there's Kevin Keller's creator, Dan Parent, who talks about Spirit Day in the following video:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Archie: Riverdale Rescue": Hot Dog!

Earlier this week, I began writing about the new "Archie: Riverdale Rescue" iOS gaming app. It's an oddly addictive game where you are tasked with the improvement and beautification of Riverdale USA using a variety of recognizable characters, such as Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. I thought it would be fun to discuss aspects of the game that I find exciting, disappointing, and/or note-worthy.

Last time around, I noted that players gain experience and money over the course of the game. When you achieve the right amount of experience, you move up a level and are allowed to introduce new characters to the game.

However, there is a collection of characters (Cheryl & Jason Blossom, Ginger Lopez, Hot Dog, Kevin Keller, and Kumi) who players can use actually money from their iTunes accounts to buy into the game. Once I realized this aspect of the game, it was a no-brainer that I would buy in Kevin Keller. Gradually, I made the decision to purchase the rest of the characters -- much to Husband Mark's chagrin!

I want to talk about Hot Dog tonight. I didn't know what to expect when I purchased the Hot Dog character. I assumed that he would be played like most of the other characters. I figured that he would develop friendship bonds with other characters, but obviously not romantic bonds with any of the characters.

Instead, he was set up with a doghouse and pretty much sat there waiting for people to take him for a walk. You didn't even to building upgrades on his doghouse, so I initially thought that this purchase was a pointless one.

But Hot Dog has a unique ability that makes him a great asset to "Riverdale Rescue" players. I mentioned in the original post that the community needs constant upgrading and maintenance. At least once daily, you will find areas where there is tall grass that needs to be mowed. Or you find litter that needs to be picked up. Or you find huge chunks of landscape that someone needs to repair.

Let's assume that you assign Jughead to these tasks. It takes about 10 full seconds to take care of the litter or the tall grass. It takes a few minutes to take care of the torn up landscape.

But if you assign Hot Dog to do it, he'll take care of it in an instant!

That's a huge time-saver! It allows you to focus your characters' attention on larger tasks, which helps move the game along faster. Not only that, but players still earn a little money and a little experience even though it was Hot Dog that did these three clean-up tasks and not one of the human characters.

So assuming you are playing "Archie: Riverdale Rescue" but are not inclined to spend any or much of your actual money on the game, I strongly encourage you to invest in the Hot Dog character. He cute AND a great helper!

If only I could train Nero and Ms. Lion to manage my household lawn care!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Missing Door from Airplane Found on Motel Roof!

Here's an interesting true story. A door fell off a small airplane last Thursday. It took a while, but the missing door was finally found... on the roof of a Monterey, CA, motel!:
The Salinas Californian reports the door fell from a Beechcraft King Air twin-turboprop plane that took off from Monterey Regional Airport Thursday afternoon. The pilot heard a pop and turned around the land. He realized the door was missing when he was back on the ground.

But the door wasn't discovered until Friday morning when a contractor working outside the motel noticed it.

The front desk manager at the El Castell Motel says no one heard the 75-pound door crash into the tile roof because the room below was unoccupied.
They haven't yet figured out why the door fell off, but the Salinas Californian assures us that detached doors are quite rare!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Archie: Riverdale Rescue!

I have been a big fan of the "Archie: Riverdale Rescue" iOS gaming app (originally called "Archie: Betty Or Veronica?") since it was released to the American market back in July 2013. I play it pretty much every day except for the month long gap where a glitch knocked me out of the game. Fortunately, I was eventually able to troubleshoot the game back onto my iPad and -- even though I had to start over from scratch -- I was given a bunch of credits to help catch me up to my old game levels. I keep meaning to write about the game, but then I procrastinate. Tonight I finally decided to kick off a series of blog articles about "Archie: Riverdale Rescue."

Here is the concept behind the game... The Archies return from a tour and discover Riverdale in ruins. The town's corrupt mayor took off with all of the money and now everything is in shambles. The landscape is torn up and hasn't been mowed. Businesses and the school are in disarray. Private homes are messed up. It's not pretty.

So who do the people of Riverdale look towards to make things right? Who else? They turn to a bunch of high school kids (and Pop Tate)!

This intro leads into the game, which is a never-ending series of tasks aimed at improving and beautifying Riverdale -- all the while creating romantic relationships and friendships among the active players. These emotional bonds go a long way into shortening the amount of time it takes to complete assigned tasks. Gradually, you earn money and experience and move up in levels. As you move up in level, you can introduce new characters to the game.

The game starts off with Archie and Jughead. You quickly get to introduce Betty and Veronica. Then comes Reggie and Dilton. Then comes Moose and Pop Tate. Etc... You have the opportunity to introduce new characters into the game as you complete tasks and begin new levels.

Additionally, you can purchase kisses through iTunes, which can be used to buy additional characters into the game, including Hot Dog, Kevin Keller, Cheryl & Jason Blossom, Kumi, and Ginger Lopez. One might be tempted to skip out on these characters, but I strongly encourage people to buy at least Hot Dog into the game for a reason that I will go into in a subsequent blog post.

Like I wrote earlier, I'm pretty obsessed with the game. It's quick and easy to peek at the game on my iPad and progress the characters along. I just progressed to the 13th level tonight and am just about to introduce both Miss Grundy and Coach Kleats to the game.

Additionally, "Riverdale Rescue" is doing a Halloween promotion so the Lodge's house is all decorated as a Haunted House and the five main characters have monster costumes, as well as "Afterlife With Archie" zombie costumes, that they get to run around in! 

Check out the screen-capture of my little Riverdale from earlier this evening:

I plan to write up periodical posts about aspects of this game that I really enjoy in the near future. Stuff like the amazing Hot Dog and the unexpected elements of same-sex loving by Kevin Keller and several other Riverdale kids. Who knew there were so many bi-kids in Riverdale!!

In the meantime, check out "Archie: Riverdale Rescue." It's super-addictive. And super-fun!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Iowa DHS Steps Up During Nationwide SNAP Food Assistance Outage

There was a glitch with the SNAP food assistance EBT cards this weekend in Iowa and many other states. Basically, the EBT cards aren't working. Fortunately, the Iowa Department of Human Services has announced that they will step up until this is resolved:
Iowa DHS says anyone whose card is rejected because of the national outage can still fill out a voucher at grocery stores for up to $50 daily.  Some 400,000 Iowans receive some food assistance every month.
This is very good news for those depend on SNAP food assistance, including the poor (working poor or otherwise), their children, the elderly, and the disabled.

For the record, my family relied briefly on food stamps during a rough financial period during my teen years. Additionally, my mentally disabled adult boy depends on SNAP food assistance to supplement his monthly SSI check.

Check out this link to learn six myths about food stamps.