Top Ten Fruits

Some days you’ve got deep, insightful posts, and some days you just have random stuff that occur to you at the last minute. I have nothing profound to say, so I’m going to give you instead:

My Top 10 Fruits

Honorable mention #1: Cherries. Love them, but I don’t eat them often enough to have them crack the top ten. Also: the pits.

Honorable mention #2: Grapes. I eat a fair bit of them, but they’re round, and roll all over the place too easily. They’re hard to eat quickly, because some of them inevitably have started to rot on the stem, and they sit there waiting for you to be lulled into eating them by accident. Boo!

Honorable mention #3: Apples. Just too hard. I’m sorry. I like them baked, but I actively dislike them raw. I’ll only resort to apples if I’m really getting desperate. But yay for apple cobbler.

10: Cantaloupe. Generally good fruit. I almost never pass it up on a buffet. But let’s be honest: it’s not going to win any awards. It’s just generally good. Better than honeydew, but that’s all it’s really got going for it. Can’t bake with it. Hard to peel it.

9: Oranges. I’m a big fan. Honestly. But for the love of all that’s sweet, I can’t stand peeling the dang things. Any fruit that can physically harm your fingernails has to get docked a few places. It’s a rule. But they are a key ingredient in my favorite kind of roll (orange rolls), so they’ve got that going for them.

8: Tangerines. Not as good as oranges, if I’m being honest, but so much easier to peel. It just goes to show that if the end result is easier to get to, then it wins out over a superior product that’s obnoxious to access.

7: Watermelon. Nothing like a good watermelon, right? Except they’re such a pain to actually buy and bring home and cut up. It’s not like you can just grab one on the way to work. You need a honking big knife and a cutting board to really get at them. And good luck telling if it’s going to taste good or not. I have to dock points for that.

6: Pineapple. Good stuff, the pineapple. Why did I dock the orange for being hard to access, but the pineapple gets a pass? Because the pineapple isn’t trying to be anything it’s not. It’s doesn’t pretend to want you to eat it. Its entire outside is basically a big “GO AWAY” sign. And yet once you’re able to get in there, mmmmm mmmmm good.

5: Peaches. Very tasty, but they’ve got such a narrow window of actually being good. If they’re not ripe enough, then they’re hockey pucks that taste like cardboard. If they’re too ripe, then they drip juice all into my beard. Come on, peaches!

4: Strawberries. Great fruit. Lovely in salads. But such a wide range of tastes. Finding a really perfect strawberry can be difficult, and once you finally do, you’ve eaten it in like two bites. Plus, they go rotten in the fridge too easily. On the other hand, you can cover them in chocolate really easily, since they have that built in handle. Genius.

3: Mango. My golly. Talk about a premium fruit. Honestly, this one might have made a go at one of the two top spots, except for one thing. How in the world do you eat the thing? It’s got this peel that won’t, and this pit that tries to hold onto the fruit for dear life. If my wife wasn’t around, I don’t think I’d ever eat a mango, because I’m convinced she’s one of the few people in the world who knows the secret.

2: Bananas. Probably not the flashiest fruit out there, but also the one I eat the most of. I have one for a snack every day, and I have one in my smoothie each evening. Which maybe means they should be my number one, but I just can’t. Still, they’re super easy to peel, they’re sweet and delicious, and they go great with baking. They’re just a bit . . . generic. Sorry, bananas.

1: Blueberries. In a landslide. I’ve loved these since forever, and I would gladly eat them by the bucketful. No wonder I moved to Maine. They’re great in smoothies, by themselves, on pancakes, in pancakes, in muffins. You name it. They are the best fruit ever.

On Trump, “White Culture,” Mormonism, and Reality

I have a thousand different thoughts flying through my head right now, which probably explains why the subject of this post is so broad. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get them all down into a coherent blog entry, but I’m going to try. Wish me luck.

Right off, I want to express my extreme disappointment in Donald Trump. His news conference yesterday, in which he denounced “both sides” for the violence committed in Charlottesville, was a sign to me that the man has totally lost touch with reality. But to justify the statement I just made, I have to back up and talk about “reality.”

We like to think we can all come to an agreement on events that happened in recent history. In today’s cell phone culture, there’s typically video evidence of just about any event of significance. I saw first hand the incident where the car plowed through a street of people. I didn’t have to read someone’s description. I could click a link in YouTube and see it for myself. Likewise, there’s video evidence of the alt-right protesters. What they were dressed like. The flags they were carrying. The slogans they were chanting. There are interviews with some of their leaders, in which they outline their goals.

This is reality. There is no debating that these people said or did these things. I don’t have to wonder if they’re racist, because they helpfully talked about how Jews are ruining society, and how black people are destroying us all. How they want to make their ideology mainstream and accepted.

On the other side of this, there were people who showed up to protest the protesters. And there’s video evidence of them getting into physical violence against those protesters. Hitting them with sticks (and being hit back). Punching them. Macing them.

This is also reality. And if you listen to Donald Trump and some of the voices on the right, they would have you believe the anti-protesters are at the very least equally to blame for what happened. For events spiraling out of control. According to them, “the media” is just not reporting on all the violence caused by those on the left. So, researcher that I am, I took some time to delve into the filthier nooks of the alt-right to see just what their arguments were. To see what sort of video evidence they had of all these “terrible terrible things.” Could it be possible the media was just turning a blind eye to it all? Theoretically, yes.

But there’s no “there” there. The videos I’d already seen represented the totality of their “evidence.” People with sticks whacking and punching the other side, and the other side whacking right back. They would have you believe a bunch of anarchists, socialists, and communists showed up to battle. To pick a fight. Even in the videos they posted, all I saw was people enraged that neo-Nazis, the KKK, and blatant white supremacists were able to flaunt their beliefs in public. Yes, some of them showed up with helmets and sticks. Many of the alt-right showed up with guns and knives. (It’s amazing they didn’t shoot anyone, though some of them are already threatening that they will the next time it happens.)

Some have argued not all of the protesters were KKK members or neo-Nazis. They claim the media cherry picked video shots and pictures to make it seem like the group was far worse than it was. (I’ve even read some people claiming those KKK and neo-Nazis were actually LARPers (Live Action Role Players), which wins the award for most inventive excuse of the year thus far.) “Just because a few of the seedier people on the alt-right showed up doesn’t mean the rest of them were anything but earnest, concerned Americans who only wanted to exercise their free speech.”

Here’s the thing, folks. If you’re ever at a rally, and you look to your side and find a guy there literally waving a Nazi flag or wearing a white hood? Maybe it’s time to question what sort of a rally you’re attending. If the whole crowd starts chanting “Blood and Soil!” (the English equivalent of Blut und Boden, a Nazi rallying cry)? Same thing. If you’re against Nazis and the KKK, and you don’t want to be associated with them, you have a choice. Either leave that rally, or kick out the people dressed like that and chanting that. You can’t decide to let them stay and then claim you’re not affiliated with them.

There were two groups in Charlottesville. One of them was there to show support of white supremacy, nationalist ideals, racism, and bigotry, whether directly or indirectly by standing shoulder to shoulder with those bigots. The other group showed up to show their disgust of that ideology. Some of that group came planning to physically stop it with violence. Sure, you can debate whether violence was the right answer, but that debate doesn’t give a Get Out of Racism Free card to any of the folks on the alt-right. If it were up to me, no violence would have happened in Charlottesville, because I believe in free speech, and I believe violence just gives those on the alt-right the fodder they so desperately crave to try and prove their asinine point.

So now you’re wondering how in the world Mormons fit into all of this. For that, you’ll need a bit more background.

My church came out with a statement on Sunday in the wake of Charlottesville. I read it and thought it was a nice, fairly generic gesture. Racism, hatred, and intolerance are bad. Love and unity are good. Great. But then on Tuesday, they came out with an updated statement:

It has been called to our attention that there are some among the various pro-white and white supremacy communities who assert that the Church is neutral toward or in support of their views. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the New Testament, Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39). The Book of Mormon teaches “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).

White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a “white culture” or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.

I read that and had to wonder what in the world had precipitated it. What Mormon out there was actually trying to argue the church was secretly cool with white supremacy? Yes, Mormons have had a checkered past with racism, but neo-nazis? Anti-Semites? Whoever it was had to be pretty vocal to get that sort of a response from the church so quickly. And what’s up with this “white culture” thing? I get the white supremacy. But why single out that other phrase? What did it even mean?

So, researcher that I am, I did a little digging. It didn’t take more than one Google search to come across @apurposefulwife, a woman who used to be a vocal proponent of LDS women getting the priesthood, but has since decided she’s much more in favor of being a submissive wife and an ardent defender of (you guessed it) “white culture.” (I’m not going to link to her, because I don’t feel like giving her any more of a soapbox, but you can find her easily.)

She’d been slated to be one of the original speakers at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. She Tweets all about the importance of saving “white culture” from being destroyed by minorities. She’d been so happy with the church’s first statement, because she felt like it was a coded message that said she was right. And she was crushed by the second statement, which she now says is just a petty PR message that she doesn’t need to listen to. She has a full blog post up about why white culture is so awesome.

(Allow me to digress for a moment. White culture isn’t a thing. It’s putting a skin color in front of a heritage. This woman tries to conflate other cultures together. “There’s black culture and Asian culture and white culture. See?” But that’s now how culture works. There’s Irish culture. German culture. Chinese culture. Japanese culture. Somali culture, Ethiopian culture. And sure, you can try to jam those cultures together by race, but who does that? Racists. If you look at all those cultures and all you see is skin color? You’ve got problems. But this blog post is too long for me to go into detailed arguments about just how confused and wrong that line of thinking is.)

Where was I? Oh yes. Mormons and “white culture.”

I’m very happy my church spoke out so strongly against that woman and those of her ilk. I’m disappointed to see so many blatant racists still trying to hide in church doctrine, and I hope this sort of thing will shove them into the light, where they can either shrivel to nothing like the spiritual vampires they are, or come to an understanding of just how off base they’ve been.

But let’s bring this back to “reality.” Because I believe for people on the alt-right, they sincerely think their flavor of reality is the only one. They listen to news stories that confirm their prejudices. They ignore “fake news,” and they throw that label on anything that shocks their worldview. In many ways, they remind me of the dwarfs in CS Lewis’ The Last Battle. They’re a group of people so convinced of how right they are that they are unable to break through those beliefs, no matter what evidence is placed before them.

Which is just where Trump is. When he spoke at his news conference yesterday, you could tell exactly what news sources he had been reading and paying attention to. He’s a perfect example of the end result of that line of thinking, and he has become a literal Nazi sympathizer. And if you’re reading this and thinking I’m wrong to call him that, then you’re a Nazi sympathizer too. You can try to disavow the Nazis who showed up to that rally, but no one at that rally did. Which means they were all cool with the Nazis being there. Which is what “Nazi sympathizer” means. And if you’re defending them, then you’re sympathizing with sympathizers. Do the math. And if you’re not defending them, and you still support Trump, then ask yourself what in the world he’s thinking.

When a bunch of racist scum online is singing the praises of a US President’s news conference, what does that say about the news conference?

Because being a Nazi isn’t just about wearing the uniform and sieging the heil. It’s sitting back and being content to use those people in their uniforms to get the things done you want to do. Regardless of what other consequences using them may have. There is only one responsible choice when a Nazi shows up at your party, wanting to keep being a Nazi and still play along with you. Show them the door.

And now I’m officially out of lunch break time, so that’s all I’ve got to say today. Comments are welcome, but keep them civil.

A Camping Report

As I mentioned last week, the family and I headed to the great outdoors to go camping for our first time in five years. I really wasn’t sure how the trip would go. It was MC’s first time. DC’s second. And while I always would tell people that I liked to camp, I clearly haven’t done much of it recently. Plus, this wasn’t just going to be a camping trip. It was going to be a Camping Trip. I mean, we weren’t going to drive up to a camping spot, throw up a tent, and eat food out of the cooler we stored in our car. We were going to drive two hours, load all our stuff for three days into a canoe, and then paddle for 1.5 miles to our camping site, far from wifi and electronics.

This might not have been the full Lewis & Clark experience, but it was at least a Lewis solo record.

So we had to be sure all of our important things were in bags that would keep them dry. I’d like to say that I prepared like a professional for this trip, figuring it all out and becoming a camping master in the process, but that would be a lie. I just have a friend who’s a Maine guide (his wife is too), and he pretty much did everything for my family on this trip other than pack our bags. He picked the spot, planned the menu, brought the food, brought the tents, gave me the right bags, brought the right mats, brought the canoes, brought the fishing poles.

I bought my own fishing license. Does that count as preparation? Probably not, since I forgot to do that until we were already almost out of cell range and had to pull over to the side of the road to do it.

But this is the sort of thing he does professionally on his summers, and I’d always wanted to do it, so I’d planned this with him for quite some time. I wanted to see what it was like, and he was gracious enough to agree to take on the Bryce family for a few days.

I’ll admit that I’ve been stressed out enough the past few weeks that I didn’t leave on the camping trip in the best of moods. I have this writing deadline that’s taking up all my free time, and plenty of chores at home that needed doing. Why was I leaving to go do nothing for three days? Not only that, but I had to pack those wet bags oh-so-carefully. So as I was cursing under my breath, packing said bags, I really wished I’d never scheduled this thing in the first place. It was just one more thing to do.

Thankfully, that’s exactly why I schedule things ahead of time. Because past Bryce knows that future Bryce will be really happy he did cool things, even if present Bryce is a real stick in the mud.

We went on the trip, and we had a glorious time. It was an entire lake, and there were literally only two other groups on it. We canoed, swam, read, played games, ate like kings, fished, and explored. The kids paddled around on solo canoes. Tomas lit a fire from scratch without using matches. We picked wild blueberries and ate bass that we’d caught hours before. I even managed to stay on track with my writing goal, typing on my iPad during a brief rain break. The weather was cool, not hot, and it only rained a little. We went to sleep listening to loons calling on the water, and I woke up each morning to watch the mist clearing from the mountains around us.

It was about as Maine as you can get without having a wild moose walk through your camp.

Better yet, the whole family loved the experience, and they all wished we could have stayed longer. (Pro tip: always leave wishing you could have stayed longer. If you’re on vacation and are really wishing you could be home, something’s not going right with the vacation, and you’re blowing time off that could be better used at another time. I’d much rather my kids leave a camping trip wishing it could have lasted another day than come home wishing it had ended a day earlier.) I believe we’ll do this again next year.

In the meantime, if any of you out there is considering going on a camping trip of the kind I just described, exploring the Maine wilderness for a few days, either canoeing down a river or paddling over to a site and settling in, let me know. Like I said, my friend does this professionally, and I can now say without a shadow of a doubt that he provides a wonderful experience. He knows just what to do, he has all the equipment you’ll need, and he makes a mean sweet and sour chicken dinner. The only down side is his schedule fills up fast, so it’s kind of first come, first served.

I think it would make for a fantastic family vacation, especially if you’re not from Maine in the first place.

Nazis are Bad

I watched videos of the event at Charlottesville over the weekend. Seeing a car plow through people, with bodies flying left and right and pedestrians running in terror. It was horrific. I’ve been trying to come up with an adequate response to it, and I’m just left speechless. How in the world is it difficult to say “I abhor white supremacy”?

On November 15, 2015, Trump Tweeted: “When will President Obama issue the words RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM? He can’t say it, and unless he will, the problem will not be solved!”

Well, if words are so important, when will President Trump issue the words WHITE SUPREMACY? He can’t say it, and unless he will, the problem will not be solved!

Though of course I realize that simply acknowledging the white supremacy movement is real and evil won’t magically make it go away. But I do wish I lived in a nation where the cockroaches of society felt the need to scurry to the shadows and hide, rather than one where they feel like they can make themselves comfortable and maybe check the fridge for tasty leftovers.

It continues to astound me that a man who prides himself on being brash and the antithesis of political correctness suddenly becomes this person who has to weigh his words oh-so-carefully and be sure to analyze all the sides of a complex problem as soon as someone asks him “Are white supremacists bad?”

There are many evils in the world. There are people who do awful, terrible things for all manner of reasons. Conservatives and liberals. But I’d always just sort of assumed we could all agree on some basic tenets. Tenets like “Nazis are bad” and “Hitler was not a good person.” And that we could agree on those tenets without feeling the need to throw in any qualifying statements.

I guess we’re not there yet. A guy can keep dreaming, though.

Gone Camping

I suppose that should technically be “Going Camping,” as I haven’t left yet, but that didn’t sound as good.

You know, for a person who has listed “camping” among his various likes, I hardly do it anymore. Or at all, really. I just looked up on my blog, and the last time I went camping was more than five years ago. Before that, it was another five years, right before we left for Maine. So apparently when I say I like to camp, I mean I like to camp every 5 years.

Then again, the reason we haven’t been camping is that I didn’t really want to go camping with a baby or toddler. And we’ve had babies or toddlers in our household for much of the last 10 years. We’re on the flip side of that now, though, and I honestly do hope I have time and the occasion to camp quite a bit in the next five years. (For values of “quite a bit” that involve “about once a year.”)

Of course, this feels like the wrong time to go camping. Simply heading out past the range of the internet doesn’t make my writing deadline go away, and it doesn’t magically make all the things I have to do around the house disappear either. But this is why you schedule things. So that when the time comes, you can’t just throw in the towel and ignore that thing you wanted to do. So we’re going, dagnabbit. Although I will be bringing my laptop with me, which is something I really didn’t want to have to do.

But I believe I will have more fun if I can get my writing done, so there you have it. I might be able to get away with just bringing my iPad. My plan at the moment is to write tomorrow morning before we leave, then write on Friday for a couple of hours, and then write again on Saturday once I get home.

Where are we heading? Spencer Lake. I’ve heard there’s good bass fishing up there. I’ll let you know how it went when I get back. In the meantime, don’t expect me to post anymore. I don’t even want to look at the internet. Later!

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