Monday, February 23, 2009


Last night, with the Phelps family protesting in full force outside, Dustin Lance Black, creator of the script for "Milk", received the Oscar for best screenwriter. His acceptance speech brought me close to tears:

hat tip: Pomoprophet

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Getting Married in Iowa

At 4:30 this afternoon, an Iowa District 6 judge directed me and my husband to sign our names on an Iowa marriage certificate.

As witnesses.

C's sister married her new husband this afternoon in a simple, beautiful ceremony held in their home. District 6 Associate Judge Steve C. Gerard officiated the brief ceremony. Afterwards, the judge took the newlyweds, C, and myself aside to complete the legal paperwork.

For a moment, I just stared at the document in front of me. It was strange. I recalled in December watching the Iowa Supreme Court hear two attorneys argue why gay couples like us should or shouldn't be allowed to marry in that state. I reflected that so many people have struggled and labored and fought so that couples like C and I should or should not have the chance to sign an Iowa marriage certificate--not as witnesses, but as legally married spouses. The Iowa Supreme Court could rule on marriage any day now. I was struck that--if the Court rules for marriage equality--C and I might find ourselves completing an Iowa marriage license of our own some day soon.

C's sister signed her name; her new husband signed his next to hers. I signed my name; C signed his name next to mine. The judge advised the newlyweds that it would take the county government about 7 days to process the paperwork to recognize them as a legally married couple. I wonder how long C and I will have to wait for similar recognition.

The photo above left is of Sean Fritz and Tim McQuillan who, on Friday, August 31, 2007, became the only legally married gay couple in Iowa. The fate of their marriage hangs on the Court's pending decision.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Congratulations Congresswoman

After work yesterday I drove to the local offices of our newly elected state representative, Jehan Gordon. I'll confess I did not vote for Gordon, but I enjoyed meeting and congratulating our new congresswoman. She made quite a good impression on me when I met her yesterday--very professional, very well spoken.

We'll see how this, her first term serving at the state level, goes. I may be contacting her soon if the civil union bill (that has been sitting dormant in the Illinois house for almost 3 years now--arrgh! frustration) comes up for a vote.

Side note 1: Gordon was elected to the state house seat being vacated by Aaron Schock, who was recently elected as my U.S. representative. Schock is not only the youngest member of the U.S. Congress, but is apparently also the hottest.

Side note 2: The good news about Illinois politics stops there. Don't even get me started on certain Illinois senators. Yeesh.


This week marks 6 months since I began working for Caterpillar. So this week I had my 6 month performance review. I'll admit I was a little nervous going into the meeting with my boss.

I came out smiling. My boss gave me a rating of "3A". It would take a long time to explain exactly what that means to Caterpillar's internal performance ranking system, but the short story is that it means I've performed very well. My boss said I have exceeded his expectations. He was particularly pleased with my ability to take on several mathematically dense problems and come up with solutions.

Wow, what encouraging feedback to get. I'm feeling good :-)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Top 10 Countdown

Well, it's Thursday. The President of the United States stopped by Peoria for a brief speech at a Caterpillar plant--unfortunately a plant 20 miles from the research and development campus where I work :-/ I'm disappointed to have missed the Prez, so I decided to cheer myself up by posting my top 10 favorite Daily Show segments. The list is inspired by my husband, who helped me assemble the list last weekend.

UPDATE: Some of the video links pasted improperly the first time. They should be correct now.

  1. N.I.L.F. Hunting

  2. Honoring Britian's Humorously Named

  3. Inside the Larry Craig Airport Bathroom

  4. Viacom vs. YouTube

  5. Fellow Vagina-American

  6. Sarah Palin and Katie Couric

  7. Alberto Gonzales Telenovela

  8. The Sordid Truth about the Iowa Caucuses

  9. Small Town Values

  10. Charles Doty for President

Did I miss any? Let me know your favorite; better yet, post a link to your favorite segment of the Daily Show.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Obama Coming to My Town, My Company Thursday

Wow, wasn't expecting this:
President Barack Obama's efforts to promote his economic stimulus plan will include a stop in central Illinois. Obama visited Indiana on Monday, and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says the president plans to be in Peoria on Thursday. Gibbs says Obama will visit a Caterpillar plant.
Interesting. I'll bet I won't be able to see him, but it would be cool if I could make it happen...

hat tip: NPR

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sweet: Hundreds Turn Out Against Phelps at Protest

14 members of Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church (including several young children--so sad) picketed a high school in Prairie Village, KS, a suburb of Kansas City. They were met by an enormous crowd of counter-protesters. Police estimate 450 people, many of them high school students, waved signs of their own in support of LGBT folks.

The Kansas City Star has a cool photo gallery of the scene. Awesome. Encouraging.

I love the sign on guy held up: "I kissed a Phelp and I liked it!" ROFLMAO

hat tip: Google News

Please Don't Divorce Us

So Prop 8 passed in California, putting an end to gay marriages in that state. But what to do with the 18,000 gay couples who married prior to passage of Prop 8? On behalf of gay marriage opponents, Kenneth Starr--yes, the same attorney who prosecuted President Clinton--has filed legal documents with the California Supreme Court asking that they invalidate all 18,000 of those marriages.

To be sure, supporters of gay marriage have brought in their own legal muscle to argue for the preservation of those marriages. But on the softer side, an organization called the Courage Campaign has collected photos and videos from the gay couples, their friends, and their family and compiled them into a beautiful montage with a simple message: "Please Don't Divorce Us."

Touching :-)

hat tip: Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More Gays than Lesbians Seek Civil Unions in UK

I'll bet you've heard this joke before:
Q: What does a lesbian bring on the second date?
A: A U-Haul.

Q: What does a gay man bring on the second date?
A: What second date?
The joke plays on the prevalent stereotype that lesbians are more likely than gay men to settle down. Interestingly, data collected over the past three years since same-sex civil unions were introduced in the U.K. indicates the opposite is true. Gay couples in Britain not only seek civil unions in greater numbers than do lesbian couples, but their unions also last longer.
Gay men, though often characterised as promiscuous, are settling down in greater numbers than lesbians. Men have out-partnered women in every quarter since civil partnerships were introduced; in London last year nearly 75% of those contracted were between men. Some unions have already broken down; but so far male partnerships have proved less likely than female ones to end in dissolution.
Hat tip: my husband

Monday, February 2, 2009


This past weekend my husband showed me a review of a paper that appeared in a recent issue of the journal Nature Genetics:

ZA Kaminsky, T Tang, S-C Wang, C Ptak, GHT Oh, AHC Wong, LA Feldcamp, C Virtanen, J Halfvarson, C Tysk, AF McRae, PM Visscher, GW Montgomery, II Gottesman, NG Martin, and A Petronis. "DNA methylation profiles in monozygotic and dizygotic twins." Nature Genetics 41 (2009), 240-245.

Last week The Economist carried a review of the article, which you can read here. According to the review, the study documents a process called epigenesis which may explain physiological differences observed in identical twins. While identical--or monozygotic--twins share the same DNA, they don't always share all the same characteristics.

It is not, however, enough for organisms to share DNA in order to share characteristics. Those genes must also behave in the same way. One of the ways that the behaviour of genes is regulated is by the application to their DNA of particular clusters of atoms, known as methyl groups. Methylation shuts a gene down. To the extent that the pattern of methylation is passed from parent to offspring, it forms a second, “epigenetic”, inheritance mechanism parallel to the primary DNA-based one. The importance of epigenetic inheritance is now a matter of hot debate.

Dr Petronis and his team therefore looked at methylation patterns in DNA from cheek swabs, blood samples and gut biopsies that had been collected from 57 pairs of monozygotic twins. They uncovered a significant amount of variation between twins, possibly enough to explain why apparently heritable diseases that require the coincidence of several genetic risk-factors do not, in practice, always appear in both twins. Schizophrenia, for example, has a family component. But if one twin of a monozygotic pair develops it, there is only a 50% chance that the other will too, rather than the 100% chance that you would see if the sequence of genetic “letters” in the DNA were the only cause.

Dr Petronis then looked at whether the amount of difference between the epigenomes of identical twins was similar to that between non-identicals. He studied samples from 80 pairs of twins, half of whom were non-identical, and, once again, created epigenetic profiles for all of them. The results suggest that although monozygotic twins do differ epigenetically, they differ less than dizygotic twins.

Very interesting. I wonder if this line of research will shed some light on the similarities and differences in the sexual orientations of identical twins that were noted in the famous 1991 and 1993 Bailey and Pillard studies.

Hat tip: the man I love :-)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

(Belated) Happy Birthday, Jim Burroway

I just wanted to express some belated happy birthday wishes to one of my personal heroes, Jim Burroway. Jim edits the Box Turtle Bulletin, an insightful blog where he writes illuminating articles explaining academic research on homosexuality and exposing misinformation about LGBT folks. (Jim is the handsome guy without glasses in the photo. I dunno who the other weirdo is.)

Jim's work on the Box Turtle Bulletin played a key role in the coming-out processes of many young gay and lesbian people I know--including myself and my husband. His work has also impacted the lives of LGBT people across Arizona as he recently co-chaired "No on Prop 102", a state-wide effort to oppose the anti-marriage equality amendment that was on the ballot there last fall.

Oh, and did I mention that he's also an engineer? What's not to like about this guy?!

As he announced on Facebook yesterday, Jim has been "42 for six years."

Happy Birthday, Jim. And a heartfelt thanks from my family to you.