Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tape Face Moves to Finals on "America's Got Talent!" #StayWeird

Confession time. I don't like "America's Got Talent." I only watch it because the family that I help out watches the program. Which is fine because it's their home, their television, their preference. The way it should be.

But there is one act that I really, really love on this season of the program: Tape Face!

He's great. And he just moved into the finals for this season!

Tape Face is this weird mime performer who does things like getting into staple-gun fights with balloons on stage. And I can't get enough of him.

Long live Tape Face!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

ARCHIE #11: Move Over Archies...

I had a good time reading ARCHIE #11 earlier this week. It features the creation of two new garage bands to the Archie Comics relaunch. I'm not talking about the Archies or the Pussycats or the Bingos or even the Madhouse Glads. This issue continued the story from last issue, where Mr. Lodge ran what appears to be a successful mayoral campaign against infamous teacher -- and Betty's uncle -- Mr. Collier.

Now half of Riverdale is mad at Veronica and Archie, so they've decided to perform a garage band and win back the adoration of Riverdale High at the upcoming Talent Contest. Except we're not talking about the Archies. We're talking about the Ronnies!

Check out this group. We have Veronica, Cricket, Jughead, Frankie, and Archie. Take that in. I mean, have we even seen Cricket O'Dell yet in the New Riverdale? But she made the cut and became a charter member of the band!

Of course, Betty is angry that her beloved uncle was run out of town. And she's jealous of Archie's new romance. So she creates her own garage band: Betty and the Waves!

I never did figure out how she came up with that band name, but this group consists of Betty, Moose, Dilton, Two-Fisted Toni Topaz, and Sayid. Betty started out playing this huge drum, but eventually shifted to a more traditional tambourine with some gentle nudging by Sayid and Moose.

I'm surprised that neither Reggie, Kevin, or Sheila made the cut with any of these bands.

But I do love to see Dilton strutting his musical stuff in this New Riverdale. First we learn that he's a dancing savant over in JUGHEAD. Now we see that he's a master keyboardist in ARCHIE. Top-notch!

Riverside, IA: US Postal Service to Hold Dedication Ceremony on September 10th for New "Star Trek" Stamps!

The US Postal Service has plans for new stamps with a "Star Trek" theme. The new stamps were created in recognition of the popular space franchise's 50th anniversary. That's pretty exciting and I'm sure that I'll pick up a few books of them.

But it's really exciting to learn that the USPS will be holding a dedication ceremony for the new stamps at the Riverside Post Office in nearby Riverside, IA!

For those who don't remember, Riverside, IA, is the official future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. Every summer, I travel twenty miles to the south for Trek Fest, the only festival where you can wear your Starfleet uniform to a Trek-themed trivia contest and a demolition derby!

Here is what you can expect when you attend this ceremony, which is scheduled for Saturday, September 10th, at 9:00 AM:
Several people will give speeches at the event, including Steve Miller, who led the campaign for Riverside being the future birthplace of Captain James Kirk, Paul McCracken of the Riverside Area Community Club, Ken McCracken of the Star Trek Museum, and June Martindale of the USPS will also address the attendees. 

Ken McCracken said the whole city is excited about the dedication, adding “That’s one of the most amazing things we could have ever had happen for us.” The event is open to the public and starts at 9 a.m., and people are encouraged to wear their Star Trek uniforms. There will be free refreshments and other activities including raffles, photo opportunities, and kids games. The stamps feature iconic Star Trek silhouettes against bright-colored backgrounds, and will be available for purchase at the event.
Frankly, it sounds like a lot of fun!

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Initial Reaction to the BBC's New "Are You Being Served?" Special!

Remember back in February when I shared the casting information for the updated "Are You Being Served?" special? It appears that the program aired last night and I had the pleasure of watching earlier this evening.

Most of the original characters (Mr. Humphries, Mrs. Slocombe, Miss Brahms, Captain Peacock, Mr. Grainger, Mr. Rumbold, and Mr. Harman) are back and joined by newcomers Young Mr. Grace and Mr. Conway. There's a Miss Croft also, but she only made a few short appearances.

It's 1988. The grandson of the original Mr. Grace has been running Grace Brothers Department Store for a few years and hopes to drag the store into the 80s with some much needed upgrades -- which is good since it's nearly the 90s! But will his upgrades come at the expense of the gents and ladies wear department?

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Richard Conway. He's a young salesman recently hired by Mr. Rumbold -- without consulting Captain Peacock! He adds a little color and youth to the cast -- not to mention an outsider's perspective to Grace Brothers.

I was a bit leery when I heard that this much-beloved Britcom was going to be updated with a new cast, but I found myself really enjoying this special. The actors did a noble job with their portrayals of these iconic characters. The only one that I really struggled to adjust to was Sherrie Hewson's portrayal of Mrs. Slocombe -- but Mollie Sugden is a hard act to follow!

I have no idea about the ratings for the updated "Are You Being Served?" program, or about its reception, but I really hope that it does well enough that we get to see more episodes in the future!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Please Give to KICI Low Power FM Radio in Iowa City!

I found this great video on YouTube called "LPFM: The People's Voice," which tells about the effort to promote and expand opportunities for low power FM radio stations throughout America. It was produced by the United Church of Christ, which is an advocate of the LPFM movement:

Please watch it.

And then consider giving a tax-deductible gift to KICI LP-FM Radio. KICI Radio is a program of Uptown Bill's/Extend the Dream Foundation

You can give here.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Riverdale Podcast's Third Bookclub Episode: Featuring ARCHIE & FRIENDS: NIGHT AT THE COMIC SHOP!

I had the pleasure of appearing on the third and final Bookclub edition of the Riverdale Podcast. This is the only podcast dedicated to Archie Comics. I joined Riverdale Podcast host Jonathan Merrifield and friend-of-show Barbara Ann discussing ARCHIE & FRIENDS: NIGHT AT THE COMIC SHOP. This was the first Archie Comics trade that I ever read. I'm proud to say that I have a copy of this trade at my home, which is signed by writer/artist Fernando Ruiz! Great book that you should read!!

This trade featured a two stories where Archie and the Riverdale Gang found themselves meeting up with a variety of characters from Archie Comics'/MLJ Comics' distant past, including Suzie, Sam Hill, Squoimy the Woim, Pat the Brat, and Gloomy Gus!

We ended up talking much more about these old school characters than the story itself. And if you've ever wondered about some of the story ideas that I've wanted to pitch to Archie Comics, then Riverdale Podcast Episode #234 is the podcast that you need to listen to!

Sadly, this is the second-to-last episode of the Riverdale Podcast. The pocast will be ending next week. So check out the podcast while you still have a chance!

150,000 Rainbow Trout Evacuated by Iowa DNR from Elkador Hatchery Due to Flooding

It's raining so much in northeast Iowa that even the fish are being evacuated! I learned yesterday that roughly 150,000 rainbow trout have been evacuated from the Big Spring Hatchery in Elkader, IA, due to flooding along the Turkey River:
The DNR says it takes 15 months to raise trout for stocking, so the move was needed to make sure it had a supply of fish for the rest of this year and into next year. Fish from the Big Spring Hatchery supply 15 different coldwater streams in the area.
The trout were evacuated to other hatcheries in Manchester and Decorah.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Pat Robertson: New Age Water Products are Nonsense. Try My "Age-Defying Shakes" Instead!

I was watching today's Bring It On segment on "The 700 Club." Co-host Terry Meeuwsen shared one viewer's question about witchcraft, as well as a question about a new agey water product:
Would you please talk a little bit about witchcraft? I'm trying to understand a little more about why it is so bad in God's eyes. Why are tarot cards bad? Also, there are waters that are made with special ingredients to remove negativity from one's life and bring in love. These waters remove curses or anything bad that has been spoken over a person. Is it okay to use these waters to remove bad energy from ourselves.
Here is Pat Robertson's response:
First of all, that's a lot of nonsense. The waters don't do such things. You can't curse water and so forth. I don't buy that.

Why is witchcraft bad? Because these witches are in touch with demons. Demons are real, folks. They are real. The Devil is real and there are countless -- millions -- of demonic beings in the world. And those involved with witchcraft, tarot cards, the black arts, and all this other stuff are in touch with demonic spirits! And those demonic spirits will lead you to the Devil. The Devil wants to destroy you. He wants to kill and destroy. He hates people because people are made in the image of God. His desire is to destroy as many people as he can and take them to Hell. So that's why that stuff is bad! It opens the door into demonic possession.
Setting aside Pat's statements against witchcraft and tarot cards, I'm focusing on his brief response to the special waters. Pat might be against the water that this viewer mentioned, but he's been known to promote his own crazy products, as as his "Age-Defying Shakes," which have supposedly allowed him to leg-press 1,000 pounds and maintain his vitality.

You can watch the entire segment here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Fixer Upper" Hosts Upset Over Remodeled Rental Homes

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Court Tells Feds to Stop Prosecuting Medical Marijuana Cases

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

Somebody Just Gave Archie a Hoverboard!!

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Day at the 2016 Marion Psychic & Paranormal Expo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Who is Billie the Kid?

I've written several times about Charlton Neo, which is a resurrection of the classic Charlton Comics lines; as well as Pix-C Web Comics, which features public domain characters from Charlton Comics as well as a few other original characters. Pix-C Web Comics recently launched a few new strips, including a western story titled BILLIE THE KID!

This would normally be the time when I would jump back into Charlton Comics' past and reveal her origin. However, Billie the Kid appears to be an original character created by Bradley Mason Hamlin and Mort Todd.

Billie the Kid is the distant cousin of Billy the Kid. Billie the Kid made her debut in CHARLTON WILD FRONTIER #1, an anthology published by Charlton Comics a year or two ago. In fact, Billie the Kid's Pix-C Web Comics debut story, "Kissin' Bullets," appears to be a reprint of that debut story. In this story, Billie the Kid is trying to track down her famous cousin -- but doesn't mind if she takes a break in her journey to get some revenge on her rival: Jessie James!

For the record, Billie the Kid is the blond woman and Jessie James is the redhead.

Billy the Kid made his Charlton Comics debut in MASKED RAIDER #6, back in February 1957. Billy Bonney was a misunderstood gunfighter who "didn't look for trouble... Trouble looked for him!" Billy's first story told about the time that a crooked businessman sent a series of gunman after Billy for proving that his roulette wheel was crooked. Even though he was defending himself, Billy was convicted of Disturbing the Peace and given a $10 fine with strict instructions that he would go to jail if he was involved with anymore gunfights! Determined to keep the peace, Billy the Kid hung up his gun-belt and faced a series of assaults -- not that the law cared. Fortunately, Billy was equally good with his fists as he was with his six-shooters!

Billy the Kid's peacekeeping efforts couldn't last forever. He was eventually attacked by one gunman while two others robbed the local bank. Billy took out the gunman and the money was returned, but he still couldn't catch a break. Billy the Kid finally gave up and moved to the next town -- where he presumably found himself similarly accosted for fighting bad guys!

But that's Billy the Kid. This post is about Billie the Kid! I have no clue about Billie's past, nor do I know why she hates Jessie James so much, but I bet that I'll get a better idea next weekend when the next installment of BILLIE THE KID hits Pix-C Web Comics!

You too can keep up with BILLIE THE KID and the rest of these weekly strips, but you first need to have access to Pix-C Web Comics' premium site if you want to see what's happening! You too can read BILLIE THE KID -- not to mention Yang, No Name, Tuffy Turtle, N.E.O., Kid Montana, The Knightingales, Deathwatch, The Spookman, Sadistik, Ms. Molecule, the Funhouse, Freddy, and several other great characters, by becoming a patron of Pix-C Web Comics. Those who become patrons (for as little as $1 per month) gain access to several weekly online comic strips. The more you pledge, the more perks you qualify for. I've been contributing $30 per month towards this venture. I encourage to you to become a patron too!

Incidentally, you can now read older Pix-C Web Comics on this Free website. Becoming a Pix-C Web Comics patron will give you advanced access to new Pix-C stories that are not readily available to those who access the Free website (such as BILLIE THE KID), so definitely make your pledge today!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Trans Woman Cannot Find Nursing Home in Iowa That Will Admit Her // Updated Below!

(Originally written on 05/18/16): An interesting article was posted by the Des Moines Register tonight highlighting the difficulty that one 52-year-old trans woman is experiencing in her search for a nursing home here in Iowa. LeQuan Edwards experienced a stroke last August. She spent time in a Clarinda-based rehabilitation center before being admitted to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines this past March due to severe wounds on her legs. Now the hospital is trying to discharge her, but cannot find a nursing home that will accept a trans woman:
She was scheduled to be discharged Tuesday. But a hospital social worker said hospital staff checked with roughly 90 nursing homes and rehab facilities and none — except one that was 2 1/2 hours away in Muscatine — would take her.

Edwards’ legs are wrapped in compresses. She has very limited use of her right arm and needs help getting to a bathroom. She also struggles with mental health issues, including bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders.

But those conditions aren’t all that unusual in the general population.

Carter said a hospital social worker told him Monday one of the reasons they can’t find a nursing or rehabilitation facility near Des Moines is that Edwards is transgender. He said the social worker told him that facilities are accepting new residents say men don’t want to room with a person who is biologically male but identifies as a woman. Neither do their female residents.

And Medicaid, Edwards’ health care provider, won’t pay for private rooms, except on a temporary basis.
The article goes on to interview Donna Red Wing of One Iowa who discussed their recent effort to create a resource guide for LGBT seniors in Iowa. They sent out materials to 50 nursing homes in Iowa. Only three bothered to respond.

You can (and should) read the enter story here.

Updated on 08/13/16: It took 137 days, but 52-year-old trans woman finally found a nursing home that would accept her. LeQuan Edwards -- a stroke victim with a health history of bipolar disorder who has been treated at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines since March 2016 -- was recently placed at Norwalk Rehabilitation Center. It was noted in media that staff at this facility have been trained specifically to work with transgender people.

It looks like Medicaid only paid Mercy Medical Center for two of her 137 days of treatment, costing the hospital roughly $142,000 while they searched for a long term facility. This also prevented other patients from being treated at the hospital.

Nero & Chevy at Daycare -- 08/07/16-08/13/16

I've been vacationing with the family over the past week. We had to fly away to get to our destination, which meant that the animals all had to stay behind. Nero and Chevy ended up sharing a room at their favorite doggy daycare. Both dogs showed up periodically on Lucky Pawz's photo blog and it appears that they both had a good time -- though they both clearly needed baths after a week of nonstop doggy play!

Check it out:

Friday, August 12, 2016

Remembering "Kids of Degrassi Street" Episode 24 ("Martin Hears the Music")

I wrote earlier this week about one of my two favorite episodes of "The Kids of Degrassi Street." I thought I would share my other favorite episode today. It's an episode called "Martin Hears the Music." It originally aired on December 22, 1985. Here is the description for the episode:
Nobody wants to be different from everyone else, and Martin is horrified to discover that he is going to have to wear a hearing aid. And it certainly does not help that everybody starts acting so weird around him.
I should clarify early on that this episode is not my "favorite" episode so much as it's the most memorable one from my childhood. Honestly, I didn't remember the main story when I was trying to track it down. I'd totally forgotten about Martin and his hearing aid.

This episode stuck with me because of the other "different" child: Rachel. Rachel was one of the kids' leaders. She was smart. She was an organizer. She was a great singer. And she was chubby.

I was chubby as a child also. I still am. But I did not have a positive body image as a child and I was teased by my peers because of my weight. So anytime there was a television program that dealt with chubby kids, I was all over it!

You've seen the episode description. Here is the rest of the story. The Degrassi kids are planning a talent show to raise money for some project. Rachel is going to sing for the audience. She cannot wait. In fact, she has the perfect dress for her performance. It's a dress that her mother made for her and she loves it.

However, Rachel is chubby. And she's growing. She quickly discovered that she no longer fits in her dress, which is terribly upsetting. So Rachel goes on a special diet of weight loss drinks (accompanied by hungry binges of donuts!) Needless to say, she quickly becomes grumpy and bossy towards the others!

She writes a poem and anonymously submits it to the Kids' club. It's a sad poem about being different and unhappy. Everyone assumes that Martin wrote the poem because of his hearing aids. Nobody suspects that Rachel wrote it.

To make matters worse, Rachel's crash diet isn't working. She isn't losing weight, which only makes her angrier!

Anyway, the whole thing blows up and Martin -- whose mother happens to be a dietitian -- tells Rachel that she's always grumpy and points out that it's probably because she eats junk food.

To her credit, Rachel reflects on his words and decides to go speak with Martin's mom. She confesses about her crash diet and is quickly treated to a healthy meal of salad and milk. She receives a gentle lecture about growing bodies and sensible meals. Message received!

Rachel shows up at the talent show in another dress and sings the poem that had perplexed everyone for the past week:

I look in the mirror and what do I see?
Someone who's different. That someone is me.
They're laughing and pointing. They're calling me names.
They're talking about it. Why aren't I the same?

I want to belong. I want to be
just like the others. Why don't they like me?

I look in the mirror and what do I see? 
Someone who's different. That somebody's me.
There's no reason to change. Just be true to yourself.
It's not wrong to be different from everyone else.

It's nice to belong. It's important to be
accepted by others. I'm glad to be me!

I'm glad to be me!
I'm glad to be me!
Looking back at the episode 30 years later, it's interesting to note reality versus perception. Rachel wrote about being teased and alone for being different. But the kids (at least these kids) haven't been teasing her or ostracizing her. In fact, their relationship didn't become strained until she went on her crash diet and began experiencing erratic mood swings.

Still, there was a good message in this episode about positive self-image laced with healthy self-improvement.