Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween: Ghost hunters chase spirits through Charm City

We were featured in the Baltimore City Paper with Inspired Ghost Tracking, and our friends Margaret, Ronda, Roy, Mike, Anthony and Chrissy.  Happy Halloween!!  Article:

Ghost hunters chase spirits through Charm City

By Baynard Woods, Baltimore City Paper  Published: October 24, 2012
I’ve never interviewed a ghost before. But medium Beverly Litsinger swears she’s in conversation with a 200-year-old woman in the space above Bertha’s and is ready to pass along my questions, so now’s my chance.
Photo: J.M. Giordano, License: N/A
J.M. Giordano
Litsinger, a short, round woman who tends to close her eyes and raise her hands as she talks, says that she is a “sensitive” and has seen ghosts since she was a child. At first, she says, it was rather infrequent, but as she grew older, her sightings became more common—to the point of occasionally being a hassle.
“My husband occasionally sees them because of me, but he hates it,” she says.
When she meets with me and a CP photographer at Bertha’s as part of our ongoing interviews with paranormal investigators, she is lugging a bag loaded down with photo albums full of hundreds of blurry pictures of orbs and apparitions.
“They can materialize as either,” she says. “And they become vortexes when they want to travel really fast.”
After a half an hour or so of looking at pictures, we get the bartender to let us wander around upstairs. At first, it seems like it’s going to be a bust, as Litsinger isn’t sensing any spirits. Then she says, “I just caught some movement.”
She introduces herself to the ghost and asks us to do the same. She assures the ghost that we are not here to hurt it. “We’re happy that you decided to join us. It looks like they’re going to have a nice meal up here,” she says, as if talking to a child or a very elderly person. “Are you going to come join the meal you think? [pauses] She says she’s going to watch it.”
“Do you see her?” I ask.
“She’s not letting me see her; she’s just letting me know she’s here.”
Photo: J.M. Giordano, License: N/A
Mediums Troy Cline and Rob Gutro on the hunt
But a moment later, in a teasing, sing-song manner she says: “You have dark hair. Ah ha ha! I just got a glimpse of you. I got a glimpse of you.”
After another moment or two of small talk, Litsinger says, “She stopped talking. I think I bored her.” To me, it seems like Litsinger is the bored one, but I am not going to let the chance to interview a ghost get away.
“Can you tell when she lived?” I ask.
Litsinger cannot tell, but she asks the ghost.
“Come on,” she says, after a moment of silence, facing an empty corner of the room. “Try to give me the year of your birth.” Silence. “That was a long time ago. [turning to me] 1811.”
“Does she know what year it is now?” I ask.
“She hasn’t been interested in the years,” Litsinger responds after asking the ghost, then she turns back into the void. “Why not? [turning to me] They go so fast. [turning back] They go fast for you too? That surprises me. I thought they would go slow for them.”
Litsinger turns her back on the ghost and starts talking about the faces she has seen on the ceiling here.
“Can you ask her what she does with her time?” I press on.
“She watches a lot of people,” Litsinger says. “Is that interesting?” she asks. “Sometimes,” she responds and then returns to her photographs, which, to be honest, aren’t very convincing. Many of the blob-like orbs seem to have ghost eyes drawn on them—the big white ovals with dark pupils that you see in cartoons.
“Would she be stuck here?” I ask. “If she wanted to go on, could she become a vortex and go quickly?” I ask.
Litsinger sighs with exasperation. “Do you ever leave this building? [she pauses] She’s never left the building. Do you ever want to leave the building? [pauses] She didn’t know she could. Well you can, anytime you want . . . ”
“Does she know she’s—”
“I wanna show you a picture of Poe,” Litsinger says, pulling out yet another blurry photograph. “This is Edgar Allan Poe at his grave site. Can you see him?”
I answer her with a nod about as vague as the picture.
“I was talking to him,” she says.
“What did he tell you?” I ask.
“That all of these people are dumbasses about how he died. It should have been very obvious that he was mugged very badly and hurt very badly. They took all his money and he’d just gotten paid by a patron who wanted him to write a story. Paid him $1,500, plus he had his own money. And he always wore very, very refined clothes. I mean he dressed, like, to the nines. He had wonderful hats, wonderful shoes. And the person who robbed him put him in the clothes they were wearing, which was rags. And the clothes had holes in them and the shoes had holes in them and the straw hat had holes in it, and if it hadn’t been for the person who found him, who knew who he was, they would have buried him as a nut. But his friend said ‘This is Edgar Allan Poe and how in the world did he get in these horrible clothes?’”
I wonder why a mugger would take the time to dress a man he has just killed. I ask if Poe is angry about the way his death went down.
“Yes. He says you got to be an idiot not to know.”
“So he knows he’s dead?”
“Yes,” Litsinger responds.
“Does she?” I ask, lowering my voice and nodding towards the corner where the ghost presumably sits, waiting for us to finish talking about her more famous fellow.
“Do you know that you have died?” Litsinger asks. “Yeah, she knows. Why haven’t you passed on to go with your family?” Silence. “She didn’t know how. I can tell you how. You have to feel the love for your family in your heart and think about it and this bright white light will come to you, and when it comes to you, you’ll walk into it. You’ll see a tunnel which is kind of scary, but when you get to the end of it, you’ll find your family members waiting for you.”
“Is she going to do it?” I ask
“Do you think you’re going to do it?” she asks, then pauses, before turning to me.
“She’s thinking about it.”
almost all of the ghost hunters talk about the bright light. Among the people involved in the nearly 50 groups devoted to paranormal research in or near Baltimore, Litsinger is unique in that she regularly carries on conversations like this with ghosts and tells them how to leave this world; she even helped her father cross over in the same way. “It makes dying easier. But it doesn’t make me any more clear about my life,” she says, laughing.
Most of the ghost hunters or paranormal investigators rely on a variety of devices to find evidence of the paranormal or supernatural. This is the kind of stuff you see on the Ghost Hunters TV show: Electromagnetic field meters (EMFs), digital thermometers, DC TriField meters, AC meters, cameras, and digital voice recorders.
Litsinger uses this stuff too, but she didn’t bring it with her to Bertha’s. And while I had a quite pleasant conversation with the ghost, as a reporter, I can’t really take Litsinger’s word for it. I need to see something that amounts to evidence. Litsinger’s photos just don’t cut it. (Russ Nortel, the head of the Baltimore Society for Paranormal Research, says: “All the pictures of orbs are just because cameras have gotten smaller [and flashes are closer to lenses]. I could take one right now and show you a couple orbs.”)
In order to explore the real world of ghost hunters—if not ghosts—I need to go on an investigation and see what happens. At first, no one I talk to will allow me to observe a private investigation because the researchers believe a reporter’s presence would betray the trust of the residents of the “haunted” houses.
“We just don’t do that,” says Vince Wilson, who founded the Baltimore Society for Paranormal Research and has written several books. Russ Noratel agrees. “I’d take you to a public place,” he says, but he needs more time than I have to arrange a meeting.
I end up calling Margaret Ehrlich of Inspired Ghost Tracking. At first she will only agree to meet at a public place. When I make the trek to Federal Hill, however, it turns out that our interview is part of a rather standard ghost tour where she and a colleague guide paying customers around the neighborhood. The photographer and I are two minutes late and they have already left, so we are forced to run, chasing them down the street.
When we catch up, the two customers on the tour are carrying EMF meters, but we are told that the activity—flashing lights on the meters—is the result of cell phones and electric lines. We listen to stories about historic murders and they’re interesting, but damnit, they are not why we are here.
I’m convinced that we won’t see anything interesting as long as we hang around in haunted bars and look at historic murder locations.
Just as the photographer and I are about to split to find some more readily available spirits in a nearby bar, Ehrlich tells us that she has an investigation in a suburb of Baltimore the next day. She agrees to ask the family if we can come, as long as we don’t reveal their identities or the location of their home.
A family moved into a two-story house on a cul-de-sac in a suburb south of the city about three weeks ago. Immediately, the 19-year-old daughter—let’s call her Sarah—was so terrified by a shadowy figure that appeared in her room on her first night there that she has not slept upstairs since. As strange things kept happening, they began to keep track of these occurrences and wrote them on a dry-erase board hanging on the wall as you enter the kitchen. The board reads:
“Steps upstairs/voices saying Sarah/I miss you/ I love you.
Different voice says come upstairs.
Banging in the bath tub, door squeaking.
Vents moving, walking up and down steps
Un-understandable whispers, door handles jiggling
Dog looking at something, scared, winces
Banging on kitchen counter while I’m making food
Banging in basement.
Spoon moved on counter.”
On the refrigerator door was the Serenity Prayer.
Sarah said that she reached into a cabinet and when she brought her arm out, there were red lines going down it, like scratches in the shape of an arrow. Except she wasn’t physically scratched by any object. A little while later, she had friends over and they watched the marks disappear.
The family ultimately grew so distressed that they found Inspired Ghost Tracking. The process began with a series of interviews, during which, Ehrlich says, “we ask all kinds of personal questions. Do you drink? Do you do drugs? Do you have a history of mental illness. And when we go there for an initial investigation, we’ll open up the medicine cabinets.”
During this process, Margaret Ehrlich and Krissy Ford, an investigator, became quite interested when they discovered what was going on, and they believed Sarah was a sensitive, like Beverly Litsinger.
When we arrive at the house, we park behind a car with the Inspired Ghost Tracking decal on the side. The team—most of whom are wearing gray shirts with the same emblem across the back and their names on the breast—is in the backyard. The shirts and decal on the car make them seem a little more Ghostbusters than Ghost Hunters. There are six on the team, in total. Erhlich, Ford, and Mike Ricksecker, a serious-looking young man with all black clothes and a lot of equipment, make up the team of scientific investigators. (Another man, Anthony Holmes, arrives a little later.) These are the people who will take the readings, run the tape recorders, and snap the photographs looking for evidence. They also know all of the details going into this house.
But Troy Cline and Rob Gutro have been told nothing. They are mediums who will try to understand and assume the burden of the place by feeling its pain. It is not an easy or pleasant job and it requires work. Tom Williams, a medium in training—“medium rare,” someone jokes—is also along watching.
The two mediums work together, triangulating with one another. “We get messages in different ways and we get sensations in different ways,” says Gutro, who is also a meteorologist and tries to understand the paranormal phenomena as part of the natural continuum of energy without demystifying them. “I tend to get headaches whenever there’s some kinds of energy or entity, either intelligent or residual. Intelligent means it can talk to you; residual means it can’t,” he explains.
“You can feel sensations,” Cline says. “Sometimes it’s in your chest. Sometimes its in your head. For me, it’s more a sense of discernment. Being with other people—especially with Rob—once we start comparing notes, it’s pretty uncanny what happens. We use our different strengths to start piecing the story together.”
At the moment, as they walk around outside the house, Gutro feels a stabbing pain in his side and develops a headache, and Cline feels anxiety in his chest and a pulling, tingling sensation in his arms. “I feel like some kind of violent event happened here,” Gutro says.
“I have to go with you on that,” Cline says. “I feel like there were at least two people involved. I feel a female screaming.”
“Mediums sometimes feel the pain of people who have passed, and they share it with us to let us know they’re still here,” Gutro says.
These feelings increase as they move inside and walk throughout the house. “It’s definitely in this corner,” Gutro says. “I really still feel a stabbing pain in my stomach. And in my arms, it feels like it is cutting off the circulation.”
“It’s the right arm,” Cline adds.
As the mediums move upstairs, where their symptoms grow worse, they become convinced that a man killed a woman in the house. The rest of the team moves through the house, checking their EMF meters and thermometers or setting up recorders to catch EVPs.
EVPs are one of the hallmarks of this kind of research. Most investigators believe that electronic audio-recording equipment can pick up sounds that we do not hear. Ehrlich has a collection of dozens, if not hundreds of these and shared some with CP. In one snippet (go to to hear it), she asks a man if his grandmother ever lived in the house, and just after the man says that she never did, a voice says, “Prick!”
We also record the investigation, in hopes of uncovering a verifiable EVP, but the bustle of the investigators is all we pick up.
Upstairs, Gutro and Cline are both beset by vertigo. Though the feelings are unpleasant, it is clear that the other investigators wish they too had the paranormal sensitivity of the mediums.
As I’m talking to Ford downstairs, she also begins to experience vertigo and stumbles for a moment. “I need to sit down,” she says and staggers over to a chair. “There are strange feelings and intuition everyone gets. I wouldn’t say I’m a medium, but I would absolutely love to say I was.” She says that when she was first at the house investigating, she fell into a wall. “I thought, God, I’m so clumsy.” But when she got home, she found herself thinking, “Sonofabitch, I was pushed into the wall.
Ford, a thin woman with long, dark, Sigourney Weaver hair, got interested in ghosts when she was a senior in high school and a group of her friends from school murdered another friend with baseball bats at a shooting range. “They buried his body and came back a couple days later and dug him up and cut him up and buried him in different places. When we found out where it was, me and my friends went out there and that was the first EVP I got.”
The ghost said, “It was them.” She felt like the ghost stuck with her and began to feel she was in danger. Eventually, she learned that she could tell him to go away, and when she did, she never saw him again. She began doing more formal investigations after that but quit for seven years until she met Ehrlich and thought “I’m meant to do this, and I missed it so much.”
Ford conducted the most extensive pre-interviews of the suburban family, and the scenario the mediums come up with fits rather well with the descriptions she was given: a dark “shadow figure,” the focus on pain in the arms, and the presence of more than one spirit.
It is time for the mediums to go home, where Gutro will write up a detailed report for Ehrlich. She will put it with the rest of her evidence and present it to the family. If they are convinced there is a malevolent spirit in the house, Ehrlich and her team will offer to guide it into the other world. No one is ready to make such a conclusion right now, but the entire team leaves feeling that something supernatural is happening in this suburban home.
We are unable to verify that the mediums didn’t see the note posted on the wall or that they weren’t given any information by the rest of the team. Nor can we find any record of domestic violence or murder at the home’s address. Still, at the very worst, the group is subject to confirmation bias—the phenomenon of finding what you are looking for. They are sincere in their desire to help, though. They don’t charge money and, just today, they spent nearly four hours at this house.
I am no closer to scientific evidence of the existence of ghosts than I was back with Litsinger at Bertha’s, but I realize that, at it’s most basic, ghost hunting is not really about the dead or the undead. It is about the living—yet another way we seek to understand the world and our place in it. “It is about the mystery,” Ehrlich says.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Dog's Halloween Squirrel Horror!

This is a true dog's Halloween horror!! This squirrel apparently picked up a Halloween skull-face decoration! This photo was taken in The market town of Fareham lies in the south east of Hampshire, England. Fareham is in extreme southern England, located between the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth and on the Atlantic Ocean. 

Hurricane Sandy on the Homefront: Update

We were fortunate as it appears we didn't have any damage, but many in the Wash, DC region have - there's a lot of flooding (and River flooding hasn't begun yet as Sandy's heavy rains upstream still need to travel down our rivers). The rains here in the Washington, D.C. area are not over, however, and more is expected today.

So far, we've received about 7.5" of rain so far and the winds were strong but not hurricane force last night, so we maintained power.- That's likely because of all the tree trimming and securing of cables and lines after the Derecho in June.
NOAA GOES-13 satellite image of Sandy, Oct. 29, 2012 at 8a.m. EDT
Post-tropical storm Sandy:  This morning, Oct. 29 at 8 a.m. EDT, Sandy's center was located over the western mountains of Maryland, and sustained winds were near 65 mph. Tropical-storm-force winds extend almost 1,000 miles .The winds are going to continue being a problem from the northeast into the Ohio Valley today. The strongest winds are being experienced now in the Great Lakes Region.  ** Right now, nearly 8 million people were without power this morning up and down the East coast.   The Appalachian Mtns. received some heavy snow from western Md. down to Tenn. and N.C.  * Here is a look at the storm from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite at 8 a.m. today, Oct. 29.

On the Cover of the Baltimore City Paper!

We were pictured on the front cover of the Baltimore City paper with Inspired Ghost Tracking! We were investigating a house near Baltimore when a reporter came along.

Issue 43: Bew, Hon!

In this week's super spooky issue of Baltimore's haunted alt-weekly, Baynard Woods' feature takes us on the search for spirits with Charm City's ghost hunters.

Photo: J.M. Giordano, License: N/A
J.M. Giordano
Photograph of, from left, Rob Gutro, Tom Williams, Anthony Holmes, Mike Ricksecker, Margaret Ehrlich, Troy Cline, and Krissy Ford

In this week's super spooky issue of Baltimore's haunted alt-weekly, Baynard Woods' feature "Bew, Hon!" takes us on the search for spirits with Charm City's ghost hunters.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Founding Fathers: Separation of Church and State

President James Madison
For those who believe America was founded on Christian principles, that the United States is a Christian nation, and that the Founding Fathers were all God-fearing Christians, the collection of quotes below seem to indicate quite the contrary.  The Founding Fathers it seems were well aware of the dangers posed by religion, and why religion has no place in politics and has to be distinctly separate from the creation of laws in this country. 
 - For any Church or Religion to think they can dictate the rights of marriage, abortion, contraception, etc. - they are sorely Wrong. 


“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect.”
  -- President James Madison
“Let us with caution induIge the supposition that moraIity can be maintained without reIigion."
Pres. Thomas Jefferson
 -- President Washington
"History furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose."
 -- President Thomas Jefferson 1813
"As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation and made them the most bIoody reIigion that ever existed?"
 -- President John Adams, letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816
"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."
 -- President Jefferson
"If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution on the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice themselves both there (England) and in New England."
 -- Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Huricane Sandy to Bring Extreme Weather to East Coast

Hurricane Sandy on Sunday, Oct. 28, from NOAA's GOES satellite.

Historic Storm: Hurricane Sandy Affecting the U.S. East Coast
*Expect Heavy Rain, Strong sustained winds over 40 mph, Flooding, Downed Trees, Power Outages* -- Expect these conditions for at least 3-4 days. Here's a full update on local conditions from Hurricane Sandy from Eastern Virginia to Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City. **This is a dangerous storm, MUCH more dangerous than a Category 1 hurricane... because of the size and duration (It's a SLOW MOVER) - and it's tropical storm force winds Span 500 MILES! That's as far as Boston to Richmond, VA!

TIPS:   Be careful, expect power outages, COOK FREEZER food today; get batteries. Load the Freezer with ICE, Get out Blankets (It'll be cold over the next several days). **CLEAN leaves out of street drains** Expect Flooded roads and downed Trees** ***LIMIT OR DON'T TRAVEL TONIGHT, TOMORROW or TUESDAY if possible**

WHAT'S HAPPENING:  the National Hurricane Center forecasts hurricane Sandy to track to the northeast to a position well off the North Carolina Coast Sunday night...before shifting to the northwest and moving toward the southern New Jersey and Delaware coasts Monday into Tuesday. The track of sandy is expected to bring high winds to the region Monday through Tuesday evening.

TODAY'S NASA HURRICANE PAGE UPDATE/Satellite video/image: ( I wrote this today)
NASA Satellites See Sandy's Winds Expand as Storm Intensifies
-   Hurricane Sandy should not be considered a category one hurricane because it has drawn energy from a cold front and become a monster storm that covers about one-third of the U.S. Sandy's massive size out-classes most hurricanes, and the depth, winds, storm surge and rain over such a huge area hasn't been seen in recent memory. NASA satellite imagery provided a look at the 2,000 mile extent of the monster storm.

Full Story/Images:


: A prolonged 24-to-36 hour high wind event will take place across the warning area. Coupled with heavy rains from Sandy...the high winds will lead to significant tree damage. Residents...visitors... and businesses across the region should plan for widespread power and communication outages, according to the National Weather Service.

The Forecast:
TODAY:  Showers (starting in early afternoon) becoming heavy at times overnight. North winds to 19 mph, GUSTING to 32 MPH Overnight.  High near 59.     Low 50. (About 1 inch of rain poss.)
 MONDAY:  Rain heavy at times. North Winds SUSTAINED up to 43 mph, GUSTING to 55 mph. High near 53.   *BETWEEN 2 and 3 inches possible.*
MONDAY NIGHT: Rain heavy at times, SUSTAINED winds to 43 mph, GUSTS to 60 mph. ADDITIONAL 2 to 3 inches of Rain Poss. Low. 41
TUESDAY: Showers, Some Heavy Rain. WINDS: Sustained to 36 mph, GUSTING to 55 mph!. *ADDITIONAL 1-2 Inches of Rain Poss.* High 51.
TUESDAY NIGHT: Cloudy, Showers on and off , WINDY, Low 42
*ADDITIONAL 3/4 Inch rain poss.*
WEDNESDAY: Mostly Cloudy, AM Showers. High 54.

Tom's Architecture Blog: Red Barn Gallery

Here's another architectural blog from Tom: 
Red Barn Gallery

How about a change?  Rather than bashing architects and complaining about all of the bad architecture out there, how about featuring one that is positive and good?  This one, in my humble opinion, fits the bill – the Red Barn Gallery located in Marquette, Nebraska.
Part of a 40-acre arts district, the Red Barn Gallery will serve as the public entry point and interpretive center for an Art Farm – an artist residency program that provides studio space in exchange for labor on an ongoing project on the farm.  The barn has been salvaged and moved to its new site.  The project is still in the fund raising stage of the project, and has been since 2005.  But the end goal is to masterfully restore and repurposed the barn for its new use.  Construction will be a collaborative effort of the architects, resident artists, and the Art Farm staff.  Here are some great pictures of the project that I cribbed from both the architect’s and Art Farm’s websites.

Moving the barn


  Artist rendering of the completed project

Architect’s model

Artist rendering of the gallery space

Check out more images at the architect’s website and other links below.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Judge Judy - "Dumb and Dumber" case

Tom sent me the video of this case of a stolen backpack. The two brothers that rummaged through the backpack and stole its contents tried to convince the judge they didn't do it... wait until you see the end -then you'll realize how dumb they truly are. Worth watching! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Civil Marriage v. Civil Unions: What’s the difference?

In Maryland -Please vote YES on Question 6 for marriage equality
Did you know that there are 1,138 protections missing from Civil Unions vs. "Marriages"? It's true. That's why people proposing that gay couples accept civil unions are proposing a second class-citizen.  That's why in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington State, it's important that people vote for the law to allow gay marriages. In MARYLAND -Vote YES on Question 6 (NOW endorsed by President Obama! )
To show you, here's an explanation from lawyers:

Civil Marriage v. Civil Unions What’s the difference?
SOURCE: (Updated December 2011)
Framing the conversation: What’s really at stake?
- First, let’s be clear. This discussion is about substance—not symbols. This blog explains why civil marriage, and not civil unions, is the only way to make sure gay and lesbian couples have all of the same legal protections as other married couples.
- Second, the discussion is about ending governmental discrimination against gay and lesbian families with respect to civil marriage and its legal protections and responsibilities—not about any religious rite of marriage. Every faith is and will remain free to set its own rules about who can marry and on what terms.
- Third, marriage is many things to many people. But it is also a legal institution in which governmental discrimination has no place.
Credit: Washington Post, Oct. 2012

Let’s compare civil marriage as a legal institution to civil unions as a legal institution.
What is marriage?

Marriage is a unique legal status conferred by and recognized by governments the world over. It brings with it a host of reciprocal obligations, rights, and protections. Yet it is more than the sum of its legal parts. It is also a cultural institution. The word itself is a fundamental protection, conveying clearly that
you and your life partner love each other, are united and belong by each other’s side. It represents the ultimate expression of love and commitment between two people and everyone understands that. No other word has that power, and no other word can provide that protection.
What is a civil union?
A civil union is a legal status created by the state of Vermont in 2000 and subsequently by the states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Illinois, Delaware and Hawaii. It provides legal protection to couples at the state law level, but omits federal protections as well as the dignity, clarity, security and power of the word “marriage.”
What are some of the limitations of civil unions?
Civil unions are different from marriage, and that difference has wide-ranging implications that make the two institutions unequal. Here is a quick look at some of the most significant differences:
Marriages are respected state to state for all purposes, but questions remain about how civil unions will  be treated in other states since very few states have civil unions.
Ending a Civil Union:
If you are married, you can get divorced in any state in which you are a resident. But if states continue to  disrespect civil unions, there is no way to end the relationship other than by establishing residency in a  state that respects the civil union.
Federal Benefits:
According to a 1997 GAO report, civil marriage brings with it at least 1,138 legal protections and
responsibilities from the federal government,
including the right to take leave from work to care for a  family member, the right to sponsor a spouse for immigration purposes, and Social Security survivor benefits that can make a difference between old age in poverty and old age in security. Civil unions bring  none of these critical legal protections.
Taxes and Public Benefits for the Family:
Because the federal government does not respect civil unions, a couple with a civil union will be in a kind of limbo with regard to governmental functions performed by both state and federal governments, such as taxation, pension protections, provision of insurance for families, and means-tested programs like  Medicaid. Even when states try to provide legal protections, they may be foreclosed from doing so in joint federal/state programs.
Filling out forms:
Every day, we fill out forms that ask us whether we are married or single. People joined in a civil union don’t fit into either category. People with civil unions should be able to identify themselves as a single  family unit, but misrepresenting oneself on official documents can be considered fraud and carries potential serious criminal penalties.
Separate & Unequal -- Second-Class Status:
Even if there were no substantive differences in the way the law treated marriages and civil unions, the fact that a civil union remains a separate status just for gay people represents real and powerful
inequality. We’ve been down this road before in this country and should not kid ourselves that a separate institution just for gay people is a just solution here either. Our constitution requires legal equality for all. Including gay and lesbian couples within existing marriage laws is the fairest and simplest thing to do.
How real are these differences between marriage and civil unions, given that a federal law and some state laws discriminate against all marriages of same-sex couples?
Right now, a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) denies recognition of same-sex unions conferred by any state for purposes of all federal programs and requirements. Only married same-sex couples have the right to challenge this discrimination, and, in fact, GLAD has filed a federal lawsuit to do just that.  For more information see If GLAD wins this lawsuit, or if Congress repeals  DOMA, then married same sex-couples will have access to the 1138 laws that pertain to marriage, but civil union couples will still not have this access.
About 40 state laws have laws and/or constitutional amendments that prevent same-sex couples from marrying. Using the term “marriage” rather than “civil union” is an essential first step to opening the door and addressing whether continued governmental discrimination against civil marriages of gay and lesbian  people makes sense.
How Does Marriage and civil unions remain different in practice and in principle?
- First, a few states have not taken a discriminatory position against civil marriages of gay and lesbian
couples. In those states, civilly married gay and lesbian couples should be able to live and travel freely and without fear that their relationship will be disrespected.
- Second, even as to those states with discriminatory laws and/or constitutional amendments, legally
married gay and lesbian couples from those states may well face some discrimination in some quarters, but their marriages will also be treated with legal respect in other arenas. Marriages are far more likely to  be respected by others than newly minted “civil unions.”
Using the term marriage also prompts a discussion about fairness.
Allowing same sex couples to marry (rather than enter a separate status) will allow gay and lesbian people to talk with their neighbors, their local elected officials, and the Congress about whether discrimination against their marriages is fair. Where gay and lesbian people and their children are part of the social fabric, is it right to continue discriminating against them in civil marriage? The federal government and states that have taken discriminatory positions against marriages of gay and lesbian couples could rethink those policies and go back to respecting state laws about marriage, as they have done for hundreds of years. In the end, we  will not be able to have this discussion until gay and lesbian folks have what everyone else has: civil  marriage.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Funny Superman Cartoon!

Here's a funny Superman cartoon that one of my co-workers sent me. Note the silhouette on the door and Superman's cape. :) Funny!

Maryland Anti-Equality Campaign: Gays Who Don’t Change Are ‘Deserving Of Death’

So, you think gay people aren't discriminated against or Threatened by Religious Zealots?   Think again. This  panel of "religious conservatives" are calling for the Death of gay people.   I can't believe that we call ourselves a civilized society. This kind of hate speech should be categorically condemned and yet None of our leaders are doing so. These people need to be Locked up!

Maryland Anti-Equality Campaign: Gays Who Don’t Change Are ‘Deserving Of Death’

What to Evil people look like disguised as religious people?       Here you go: Greg Quinlan (PFOX), Austin Nimocks (ADF), Derek McCoy, and Rob Anderson

 The Maryland Marriage Alliance, the group of religious conservatives campaigning against Question 6 to approve marriage equality in Maryland, held a panel over the weekend that demonstrated how anti-gay their campaign truly is. Jeremy Hooper noticed two important details: the inclusion of an ex-gay advocate, and the violent Biblical language promoted by one of the religious leaders.

Greg Quinlan is the President of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays), an ex-gay advocacy organization that manufactures visibility for the supposed ex-gay community. He also serves as director of government affairs for the New Jersey Family Policy Council, which has advocated against LGBT equality there. In his testimony, Quinlan claims that the only reason he was ever gay was because he was abused and sexually molested, and that now he has left the “lifestyle” and identifies as ex-gay. By advocating that gays can and should change, the Maryland Marriage Alliance proves that its motivation is not just about the definition of “marriage,” but clear animus against people who are not heterosexual.
If that weren’t proof enough, consider the testimony of Pastor Robert Anderson, who joined the panel to share a Biblical perspective for why same-sex marriage should be opposed. After comparing homosexuality to prostitution, bestiality, polygamy, and incest, Anderson endorsed the Biblical interpretation that both gays and their allies are “deserving of death”:
ANDERSON: The Scriptures in Leviticus 18:22 — you know what that says, that a man is not to lay down with another man; if they do that, it’s an abomination. But there is one verse I really wanted to drive home and then I’ll stop, but that’s in Romans Chapter 1. And it’s the very last verse — as you know, Paul addresses this. Listen to the last verse: “Knowing the righteous judgment of God that those who practice such things are deserving of death. Not only do the same” — but watch this — “for those who also approve of those who practice these things.”
If we don’t vote against it, then we are approving these things that are worthy of death!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NOAA Graphic: 10 Signs of a Warming World

For those interested in science and wanting to understand how our warming world is affecting land, sea and air, take a look at this graphic from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It's from their website: -
  Anyone that doesn't believe that the world is warming, and that mankind has had something to do with it is denying the Facts. I work for an agency that has proven countless times anthropogenic (man-made) global warming is a fact. -  Rob

The 2009 State of the Climate report served as a basis for the poster and this website. This report draws on data for 10 key climate indicators that all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report, which confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years.
This set of indicators was selected, as we would unambiguously expect them to increase or decrease if the world were warming. In a warming world, based upon simple physical principles we would expect some indicators to increase land surface air temperature, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, tropospheric temperature, ocean heat content and specific humidity.
Conversely, we would expect the following indicators to decline: snow cover, sea-ice extent, glacier mass, and stratospheric temperatures. Stratospheric temperature decline is also influenced by ozone depletion.

Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

About us

We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next