A fairly comprehensive history of my recent interactions with law enforcement

I got to thinking this morning and decided to catalogue all the times in the last, say, five or six years that I’ve interacted with law enforcement in some way.

  1. I’m driving to San Diego with my boyfriend on I-15 in very rural southern Utah. I get pulled over for doing 88 in an 80. While the highway patrolman is processing my plates, another patrolman pulls up behind him and they have some sort of conversation. When the first patrolman comes back and delivers my warning, I ask him to settle an argument as to whether Joe Walsh was originally a member of the Eagles. I’m released with a warning and nothing more happens.
  2. I’m driving with my dad in his truck through Steamboat Springs on US-40. There’s a big downhill and I end up going too fast directly into a speed trap where two or three highway patrolmen are waiting in a wide shoulder off the road. I get pulled over. My dad, looking for his insurance card, searches through his whole glove compartment and his whole center console with no luck. The trooper, seemingly bored of waiting, sends us on our way. I get a ticket and nothing more happens.
  3. It’s Christmas Day and I’m driving through the southeast corner of South Dakota, coming back from a visit to see my husband’s parents. I’m doing about 85 in an 80 zone and I’m literally the only car on the road. A highway patrolman coming the other direction sees me, makes a U-turn, and pulls me over. Probably because I have Colorado plates, he directs me to get out of my car and enter his vehicle while he runs my plates. There is a drug dog in the back of his vehicle; I suspect he’s trying to get the dog to alert to any smells I might have. I get a ticket and nothing more happens.
  4. I’m driving through southern Wyoming on the stretch of I-80 where the speed limit changes from 75 to 80 several times. I’m pretty sure I’m in an 80 zone. A highway patrolman is doing about 77 and I pass him. I was not in an 80 zone, and I’m therefore pulled over. He says something like, “you’ve got some nerve to pass a highway patrolman!” I explain my confusion and he says some various numbers of mile markers where the speed limit is 80. I get a warning and nothing more happens.
  5. I’m on a UTA Trax train on my way back from a soccer game with my husband. The transit policeman comes through to check fares. My Westminster ID card has a fare chip embedded in it, but for some reason it hasn’t been scanning consistently — it works fine on bus scanners but not reliably on Trax scanners. I hand it to the transit policeman anyway and when it doesn’t scan I explain the issue. Maybe I am slightly snide about this because it seems to me that the card itself should be enough evidence that I have a fare. The transit policeman asks me to visit the card office on Monday to get things sorted out. He moves on and nothing more happens.
  6. I’m driving with my dad to Moab, about 10 miles out of Price. It’s dark and there’s not much of anyone around. I get pulled over for speeding. My dad has some sort of conversation with the highway patrolman and mentions the name of a friend who recently retired. The highway patrolman knows this guy and there is a moment of levity. I get a ticket and nothing more happens.
  7. I’m at the Denver airport and I see the light rail train sitting around ready to depart. In my rush to the ticket machines, I see that RTD now has an app that I can use to purchase tickets, which will allow me to bypass the line for tickets and get on the train that seems to be just about to leave. I jump on the train and start downloading the app. Since my cellular internet connection isn’t particularly stable, it’s taking sort of a long time. The transit policeman comes by and asks to see my fare. I explain the situation and he waits for a bit to see if the app will finish downloading. He asks where I am going, and I say I’m going all the way to Union Station. He says he will come back and check in a bit. He never does, and nothing more happens.

These instances, and I’m sure several more like them that I haven’t immediately remembered, are reflective of my great deal of white privilege. I cannot say with any certainty that these interactions would have gone differently if my skin were a different color, but I also cannot say with any certainty that these interactions would have gone the same.

I’m a fairly law-abiding citizen. My worst vice is my lead foot, clearly. Even so, I’ve had seven interactions with law enforcement that I can quickly remember in just the last five or six years. In each of these, I was very probably protected from unpleasant escalations by the color of my skin and the societal status thus bestowed on me.

What if these seven different law enforcement officials were even slightly less predisposed to be nice to me? It wouldn’t take a big perturbation to the way events went to leave me with higher fines, a lengthy arrest record, or maybe even a history of being subjected to police violence.

Fellow white people, how has your skin very probably protected you from unpleasant escalations?

#BlackLivesMatter

Open letter: Move the conference online

I’m currently helping organize the MAA Intermountain Sectional meeting at Westminster College on March 27-28. Here’s an open letter about why I think we should move the conference online; I’m sending this letter to the local organizer Jonas D’Andrea and a couple of other people in section leadership. I think more people than just us will benefit from reading this argument, though, which is why I’m blogging it as well.

Hi all,

I was chatting with Jonas D’Andrea today over lunch about potential actions we might want to take with the conference in light of COVID-19. I said during lunch that I thought we should consider moving the conference online, but the more I think about it, the more strongly I feel: Let’s move the conference online, and let’s announce it now.

The present situation

It’s time for us to be clear-eyed about the present situation. COVID-19 is in the United States, and it’s here to stay. Every state, including Utah, will be impacted; we’re too interconnected to believe otherwise. The curve will not integrate to zero. The best we can do right now is work to flatten out the curve. We owe it to our colleagues in public health to believe them and trust their science.

Image

Our colleagues in public health are telling us that we should take common-sense measures to help flatten the curve: wash your hands, cover your sneeze, maybe replace the ritual of handshaking with something else. One of our public health colleagues’ most important recommendations is to avoid making a bunch of people congregate together. Let’s learn from the lesson of Philadelphia’s Liberty Parade. Let’s not make people gather together in person and sneeze on each other for a weekend in late March. There is a nonzero chance that if we do that, somebody will die as a result.

There has been some discussion of putting it to a vote. I think this is a good way for us, the organizers, to shirk our responsibility to make hard decisions. The buck has to stop somewhere, and if it’s not with us, then I don’t know who. We have the responsibility to make the hard decision.

We should do it now

The longer we wait, the more people firm up their plans, the more people register, the more contracts we sign, the more plane tickets people buy, and the more money everyone is out. What’s more, the longer we wait, the less time we have to plan for something different. Let’s pull the trigger and let’s do it today. It’s the responsible choice, and we are responsible.

This is of course a bummer…

Academic conferences are a lot of fun. There are a lot of opportunities during conferences to socialize with old friends, learn new things, and build new networks.  If you aren’t meeting together in person, you don’t have the opportunities for chance encounters in the halls. All of this is true and I will be sad not to have these opportunities.

… but it’s also an amazing opportunity

You’ll notice that I’m very carefully not saying that we should cancel the conference. On the contrary, we should move the conference online. We have, suddenly dropped in our laps, some very strong motivation to conduct a grand experiment, and to help design the future of the academic conference.

There are many reasons why the traditional academic conference model is problematic. Nobody will be surprised about these. I’m not raising any new concerns. These are well-known problems.

  • Conferences prompt a whole lot of airplane travel. We owe it to our colleagues in climate science to believe their science, and they’re telling us that we should be really mindful of the effects on global climate of hopping in a plane and flying across the country for a couple of days.
  • Conferences are often inaccessible to people with disabilities. This is an ongoing concern that a lot of professional societies are spending a lot of time thinking about. People with disabilities have been telling us for a while now that we need to do things better.
  • Conferences are expensive, and thus elitist. A large R1 institution has a lot more money to spend on professional travel than a small school, so professors from large R1 institutions get to go to more conferences than those at small schools, and thus give more presentations, and thus reap more professional benefits. I’ve been to two conferences this year, and since our travel awards at Westminster are capped at $1000, which almost covers registration and hotel, I paid out of pocket for the flight for the first one and everything for the second. This is not a situation that a professor at an R1 institution faces.

None of these problems are new, but all of them are thrown into stark relief by the present public health crisis, which suddenly gives us some life-or-death motivation to address them. Let’s explore some solutions to these problems, yes?

The internet exists

We’ve made incredible advances in telepresence in the last few years, and it’s incredible to me how little advantage professional societies have taken of it. Notably, telepresence solves all three of the problems I identified above:

  • Telepresence means you don’t have to travel. You can attend the conference from your couch in your living room. Forget carbon footprint, you’re not even putting shoes on.
  • Telepresence solves accessibility concerns. People with disabilities don’t have to worry about whether the room is accessible if it is in fact their room.
  • Telepresence means that conferences can be radically open. Because we’re eliminating the barrier of expensive travel, a heck of a lot more people suddenly find themselves in a position where they can attend. In fact, why not even remove borders altogether, and invite anyone who’s interested to join in?

To be sure, there are problems with telepresence, but based on my experience lately, these problems are way less severe than I think we fear they are.

People are already doing this

There is a biweekly MIT seminar, the Electronic Seminar on Mathematics Education, that is (a) excellent, (b) free and open to all, and (c) conducted entirely by Zoom. I’ve attended regularly and watched recordings of sessions I couldn’t attend live, and it’s a great seminar. If MIT is doing it, why can’t we?

Our colleagues at the University of Utah are currently running a seminar on mathematics education and teaching. They invited a speaker to present by Zoom because she is pregnant and doesn’t want to travel. By all accounts this went great. Another speaker will be presenting via telepresence in April. If Utah is doing it, why can’t we?

People are worried about glitchy connections and lag and delay. I’m saying that (a) these problems are way less present now than they were even five years ago, and (b) I’d much rather deal with those problems than with people maybe dying from COVID-19.

Decision errors

It’s entirely possible that moving the conference online is a Type 1 error. But let’s weigh the competing risks of the Type 1 error versus the Type 2 error. If we make the Type 1 error, and move the conference online, worst-case scenario: maybe some people will lose money on nonrefundable plane tickets, maybe the technology won’t work how we want it to, and maybe people will be sad and mad at us.

If we make the Type 2 error, and let the conference go on in person as scheduled, worst-case scenario: maybe people will be exposed to COVID-19, and maybe people will die.

I would much rather make the Type 1 error, because nobody will die from it.

Let’s join the grand experiment

Let’s move this conference online. Let’s take the opportunity to experiment and try new things. Let’s carefully document what we do, what works, what doesn’t work, what problems we encounter, and what solutions we create. Let’s ask our friends and colleagues who are already moving to telepresence what lessons they’ve learned. Let’s write all this stuff down and publish it.

I bet we can still deliver an exciting, stimulating, scientifically meaningful conference, all online, for less total cost to the section (we’re not paying for space or for coffee) and to the attendees (they won’t be paying for a hotel). I bet we can learn some interesting lessons that can improve academic conferences for years to come. I bet that all of us smart academic types can put our heads together and come up with interesting solutions to problems that extend way beyond our particular situation.

But most importantly, the counter-bet is way less tenable. The counter-bet is a wager that COVID-19 won’t reach Utah by March 27, and the chips on the table are, and I promise I am not being dramatic, people’s lives. If we bet wrong, people might die. That’s not a bet I’m willing to make.

So: Let’s be responsible, and let’s try something cool. Let’s move this conference online, and let’s do it today.

Thanks for reading!
Spencer Bagley
Assistant Professor, Mathematics
Westminster College

Sourdough master post

Here’s a post for easily sharing my favorite sourdough resources with people who are new to sourdough baking!

Care and feeding

Here is a good good episode of the new Good Eats that talks a lot about the basic techniques for care and feeding.

People will tell you that your starter is a pet and you should feed it every day and take it to bed with you. Calm down. If you’re going to bake daily, more power to you, but I promise you really don’t need to.

The night before you want to bake with your starter, pull it out of the fridge, scoop it into a big glass or plastic bowl, and feed it equal parts flour and water. How much flour and water? Well, y’know, however much you’re going to put into whatever you’re going to bake.

Your starter is ready to bake with when it looks like this: it’s bubbly and fluffy, it smells intoxicating, and if you drop a little bit in water it’ll float.

Go ahead and bake with however much you need, and then you can return your starter to the fridge. Into the jar, scoop your leftover starter, add a spoonful of flour and a corresponding amount of water, stir it up with a chopstick, and pop it right in the fridge. It will be perfectly fine for a couple of weeks or even a month.

Tips and tricks

If your starter has been in the fridge for a long time, you might have a layer of liquid on top. This is called hooch. Yes, it is alcohol; it’s the byproduct of the yeasts in your starter. I usually pour it off before feeding if there’s any substantial amount, because I’ve found that mixing it in can kill your starter, but ymmv.

This is maybe a folk belief that I’m not sure is scientific, but I have come to believe that the starter doesn’t like metal. So, use glass or plastic bowls to feed your starter, and wood or silicone utensils to handle it. I find it’s okay to use metal stuff on the actual bread or whatever you’re making, though.

The starter loves potato starch; don’t ask me why. If you’re making hash browns and squeezing potato water out of shredded potatoes, consider saving that water to feed to the starter.

Recipes

A fun place to start is with The Clever Carrot’s extremely informative Sourdough Bread: A Beginner’s Guide. This will teach you a lot of the key techniques and vocabulary, and introduce you to the wonderful world of freeform shaping. This loaf is a great template to experiment with. Try replacing some of the bread flour with whole wheat flour, or adding pretty substantial amounts of honey, or working in some par-cooked grains, or adding a bunch of garlic paste, or or or or…

Here’s my go-to sourdough sandwich loaf baked in a bread pan.

One of my favorite things to make with my starter is sourdough pizza dough. It’s fluffy and wonderful and tastes great under pizza toppings.

I also love these damn crackers. They do not last because they are delicious and I have no self-control. These are a fun base for improvisation with various herbs and spices. I’ve used garlic (both powder and fresh), rosemary (fresh or dried), red chili flakes, Mexican oregano, thyme,  etc. etc. Instead of butter, I use 40g olive oil, and I roll them out in a pasta roller to setting 2.

Finally, here’s my grandfather’s sourdough pancakes. They are fluffy and wonderful.

Happy baking!

 

Sourdough pizza dough

[Sourdough resources master post]

Recipe modified from here. I find that it makes two personal size, or else you can double this recipe and get three pretty nice-size shells.

  • 1 1/2 C mature starter (350g; feed 8-10 hours before starting)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (10g)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (10g)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 C bread flour (200g)

Depending on the humidity in the air, the water content in your starter, and the phase of the moon, you may need to add some water. You’re looking for a dough that’s sticky but cleans the bowl.

Bake hot – like at least 475°F. These freeze well if you par-bake them, and the dough will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days (but beware of off-gassing!).

EDIT: I’ve found that the dough behaves much nicer if you let it ferment in the refrigerator overnight. So, make the dough the day before you want pizza.

Sourdough pancakes

[Sourdough resources master post]

This is my grandfather’s recipe and I love them. I make them biiiiiig and fluffy in a cast-iron skillet and top them with peach syrup. Sometimes I have even put ice cream on the top because I’m an adult and nobody can tell me not to.

Wet

  • 1 1/2 C mature sourdough starter (350g; feed 8-10 hours before starting)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 T melted butter / oil
  • 1 C buttermilk
Dry
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t soda
  • 1 C flour

Sourdough sandwich loaf

[Sourdough resources master post]

Here’s my go-to sandwich loaf recipe. This doubles nicely but that’s a lotta bread. I think I got the original recipe from Reddit but I’ve made lots of modifications to it since. Maybe I’ll add pictures to this post eventually.

  • 270 g mature starter at 100% hydration (feed about 8-10 hours before starting)
  • 200 g bread flour
  • 200 g whole wheat flour
  • 10 g sugar
  • 11 g kosher salt
  • 15 g olive oil
  • Water (at least 180 g)

A note on water amount: 180g will get you to like 58% or 60% hydration. I think this is a pretty good balance: a loaf with enough structure to make sandwiches, but also not dense, and reasonably easy to work with. Lately I’ve been experimenting with like 200g or even 220g of water, which gets you to 63% or 65% hydration. I’ve liked the result but I feel like I’m getting close to where the dough is just too loose to work with.

Mix all the ingredients together until everything is uniform, adding water a little at a time until all the flour incorporates. The dough will be shaggy and sticky; see picture. Cover (I use a shower cap) and let it sit for 30 minutes (autolyse) somewhere warmish.

Now laminate: Spray a clean counter with a spray bottle and dump out your dough. Stretch the dough out as large and thin as you can without tearing it too much; this will help develop the gluten. Fold in three, then fold in three again lengthwise.

Shape the dough into a nice round ball with a smooth surface and put it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover it and let it bulk ferment for 8-10 hours somewhere warm. You can stretch and fold a time or two during this bulk ferment if you want.

Shape the dough tightly, and put it into an oiled loaf pan (9×5). (My shaping is a little wonky here. That’s ok.)

IMG_20200408_234711

Two options for the second rise:

  • Cover it and let it rest for 1-2 hours in a warm location, or until the dough rises to fill most of the pan.
  • Cover it and refrigerate overnight. (Colder, longer rise = sourer flavor.) It’s ok if the dough doesn’t fill the pan, you’ll get big oven spring.

 

Preheat the oven to 400°. Put a little pan in the bottom of the oven; you’re going to throw ice in the pan when you put the loaf in.

Uncover the loaf, spray with water, optionally dust with flour, score it (one long slice right down the middle with a serrated knife will usually do just fine), and put it in the preheated oven.

Right when the loaf goes in, throw some ice in your preheated pan in the oven. This creates steam. Also spray down the inside of your oven with your spray bottle for more steam.

Bake for like 50 minutes. You want to hit 200 or 205 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Halfway through, rotate the bread, and spray down the bread and the inside of the oven again.

IMG_20200305_070353

Cranberry chutney

This is my adaptation of a family tradition cranberry chutney that I always insist on making for Thanksgiving. More story after the recipe, because that’s where stories belong.

Ingredients

  • 2 oranges, zested, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 chopped unpeeled apple
  • 4 C cranberries (that’s 1 standard package)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C dried cherries or craisins (cherries are better but also more expensive)
  • 1/4 C finely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • 1/2 t cinnamon (but c’mon, it’s cinnamon, it’s delicious, be generous)

Method

  • Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, stir to combine.
  • Heat on high with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until stuff starts boiling; then remove the lid and reduce heat to medium.
    boil
  • Cook (somewhere between a simmer and a boil) until most of the cranberries have popped. The sauce will be noticeably thicker and darker, and you’ll see cranberry seeds strewn about. Optional but highly recommended: grind some black pepper over the top.
    done
  • Let cool, then refrigerate. (It’s probably cold outside!)
    snow

This recipe is a family heirloom that we originally found in a grocery store ad. It’s good on turkey, obviously, and you should definitely put some in a sandwich with cream cheese and leftover turkey and grill it. However, it’s also awesome on pork. Ladle some of this over a seared pork tenderloin in the slow cooker, or put some on your pork chops when you move them to the oven, and you’re gonna have a nice dinner. I also think it’d be delicious on some good vanilla ice cream.

Peach upside-down brown butter cornbread

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I made a peach upside down brown butter cornbread

A post shared by Spencer Bagley (@rhinopotamus) on

It’s the beginning of the college football season, I’m going to my brother’s house tonight to watch the game, so I wanted to make something good. I love peaches and I love cake but sometimes cakes are too sweet. So, I thought cornbread might be nice, because it’s sweet but not too sweet. I hacked together the following recipe by combining the Serious Eats brown-butter cornbread recipe with a sort of generic upside-down cake method.

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 large peaches, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ slices

For the caramel:

  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C water
  • A little corn syrup

For the cornbread:

  • 7 Tbsp unsalted butter (one stick with one tablespoon cut off)
  • Dry:
    • 1 C yellow cornmeal
    • 1 C all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 C sugar
    • 1 t kosher salt
    • 2 t baking powder
    • 1/4 t baking soda
  • Wet:
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 C sour cream
    • 1/2 C buttermilk

Method

  1. Trace the bottom of your 9″ cast-iron skillet onto some parchment paper and cut out a 9″ round. Set it in the skillet to make sure it’ll fit, and trim off any stray edges. Take the paper out and set it aside.
  2. Put the butter in the skillet and put the skillet in the oven. Preheat to 425ºF; let the butter brown. This will probably take 10 minutes.
  3. Put the caramel ingredients in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium or medium-high heat. Cook together until it’s amber in color, whisking occasionally. This will probably take 10 minutes, i.e., the same amount of time as the butter.
    • You want just a splash of corn syrup because the fructose will help keep the caramel from crystalizing.
    • If the caramel is done before the butter is ready, take it off the heat. It might set, but that’s okay, just slap it back on high heat until it loosens up.
  4. In separate bowls, whisk together the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients.
  5. Arrange the peach slices on the parchment in some kind of pretty design.
  6. When the butter is browned, pour off all but maybe a tablespoon into a heat-proof vessel. Put the skillet back in the oven.
  7. Whisking constantly, drizzle the butter into the wet ingredients, then whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
  8. Working quickly (so the skillet stays hot):
    • Pull the skillet out of the oven and slosh the remaining butter around to coat the sides and bottom.
    • Drop the parchment in the skillet. (This is tricky. I used my pizza peel.)
    • Pour the caramel evenly over the peaches. (Optional: Stir in a shot of whiskey or bourbon first.)
    • Pour the batter over the peaches and smooth out the top with a silicone spatula.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating once halfway through. The cornbread should be golden on top, a toothpick should come out with just a crumb or two sticking to it, and your instant-read thermometer should register around 205º.
  10. Let cool in the skillet for 10 minutes, then invert:
    • Run a butter knife around a couple of times to help release the cornbread from the sides of the skillet.
    • Put your serving plate over the top of the skillet.
    • Use two pot-holders to grab the skillet and the plate with both hands. Put your fingers on top.
    • Take a deep breath, hold on tight, and flip! (Be confident!)
    • Whap the bottom of the skillet a couple of times for good luck, then take another deep breath and lift it off.
    • Peel the parchment off the peaches.

 

“O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” and other reactions to the new policy

Yesterday, the church announced that there is no longer any restriction on baptisms or blessings of the children of LGBT+ parents. Hooray!!!! What an exciting, “stunning”, “revelatory” change!!!

Let’s dig into this announcement a little more, shall we?

“Previously, our handbook characterized same-gender marriage by a member as apostasy.”

Yay, I’m not an apostate anymore just because the person I love and chose to share the rest of my life with happens to be the same gender as I am!!!

“While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline.”

Oh, so, nothing is really changing? Got it.

“While we cannot change the Lord’s doctrine, we want our members and our policies to be considerate of those struggling with the challenges of mortality.”

Thank you, but who I am is not a “challenge of mortality.” (Also, and I don’t really want to get into this because I frankly don’t care about theology anymore, but isn’t changing doctrine kind of the point of revelation?)

“These policy changes come after an extended period of counseling with our brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles”

And, let’s just all stipulate, an extended period of zero discussion of any kind with actual LGBT+ people. Because, here’s the thing about this new reversal of the policy, about which all of us LGBT+ people are supposed to be so happy, and that will supposedly allow us to feel good about everything and reunite with the church — here’s just the real crux of the matter:

This policy is not about us

This policy is about our children — you know, those hypothetical children that very many of us do not have and will never have. And, to me, that’s why it feels like such a slap in the face when it’s sold to us as something that is for us and about us. The church’s view on LGBT+ people has not changed one iota. We are still in the grip of Satan himself when we choose to live openly and honestly as who we are. We are still putting our immortal souls in mortal danger when we choose to love who we love. We are still committing a sin most grievous when we have sex — even within the bonds of a loving marriage. Nothing has changed here, and I’m not holding my breath that anything ever will.

It’s a double slap in the face precisely because many of us probably will never have children — at least not without going to great and expensive lengths to have them. Adoption is expensive. IVF is expensive. Surrogacy is problematic at best. To those of us who will never have children, it feels like this new policy is once more throwing that painful fact directly in our face. “We’ll never fully accept you, you serious transgressors, you deviant sinners, but your kids are sure welcome!! 🌟🎊🎇🎁🎆💫🎉✨ Oh, you don’t have any and never will? Well they’re welcome anyway, yay!!!!”

So, no. This policy is not about us, and so you’ll forgive us for not celebrating. What’s more:

This policy is not for us

This is because the church itself is not for us. The church was built by straight people for themselves. The most foundational doctrines of the church deny our existence. Our continued inclusion in it, and the degree to which we are ever welcomed, are tenuous at best, as they’ve made abundantly clear multiple times. Our status has not changed here, and it probably never will, because if it did, the church would have to admit that they were wrong and have been wrong for a long damn time, and that’s not something that the church is built to do.

That’s why I’m not celebrating this reversal of policy, three whole years after it was first announced. That’s why I’m not celebrating this “positive and inspiring instruction,” because it is not all that positive, and it feels neither inspiring nor inspired. That’s why I’m not celebrating the church’s progress:

This is not progress

Here, let Malcolm X tell you something about progress.

If there is ever going to be progress, the church is going to have to own up to the hurt it has caused. In fact, the church is going to have to own up to the suicides it has caused. There’s a reason why Utah’s teen suicide rate is so high that literally the governor had to do something about it. There’s a reason why the rate of LGBT+ teen homelessness in Utah is double the national average. There’s a party line in this church, people toe it, and then other people die.

I want to be clear: progress is possible. Adopting inclusive policies reduces suicidal ideation among LGBT+ youth. There are some very specific laws and policies that would greatly increase the well-being of LGBT+ youth and adults in the state. If the church flexed its substantial legislative muscle to get these laws passed, things could legitimately be a lot better for us LGBT+ people. The church could be such a force for good — for tolerance, for acceptance, for love — for all those things the Jesus of the New Testament talked about. It could be doing so much.

But instead, here’s what the church did: its lobbyists released a lukewarm message that it is “not opposed” to a stronger hate-crimes bill. It announced “positive and inspiring instruction” that demonstrates that it cares more about the hypothetical, probably-straight children of LGBT+ people than about LGBT+ people themselves. It has does nothing to change the ecclesiastical status or cultural perception of LGBT+ people. It has done nothing else. The church has done so little, yet has expected so much in the way of celebratory back-patting. I won’t participate.

Don’t expect me to celebrate your ~*~*~”progress”~*~*~ when people are dying because of the policies and doctrines that you are choosing to leave in place.

Now what?

I don’t know. I keep thinking I’m done being hurt by the church, but then every time they blunder their probably-well-intentioned way into yet another hurtful announcement, old wounds get reopened. Maybe someday I’ll heal. I just know better, at this point, than to think that the church will ever help.

Further light and knowledge

  • The blog post I wrote in November 2015 when this policy became widely known and decided to officially leave
  • The second blog post I wrote about how the policy didn’t even internally make sense
  • Kate Kelly on why these changes are too little, too late — especially for Berta Marquez

I made cookies

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They are cakey and extremely chocolaty, being constructed with both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, and they have some of that good good Mexican hot chocolate flavor. I modified this recipe. I’m not going to tell you a long story about them because you just want to see the recipe. Yields 3 dozen.

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 oz bar unsweetened chocolate
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar

Brown your butter. (I mean, always.) While the butter is browning, chop the chocolate. Once the butter is browned, take it off the heat and throw the chocolate in. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, then add the sugars and stir until mostly dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

  • 2 C flour
  • 1/2 C cocoa powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 t cornstarch
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • Hefty pinch cayenne

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Sift the cocoa powder when you add it, because it’s always so lumpy. The chocolate mixture is probably cool by now.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t vanilla extract

Whisk these into the chocolate mixture until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold until everything is nicely combined. Last ingredient:

  • One 3.5 or 4 oz bar of good-quality dark chocolate

You want something you’d eat on its own. I used a Trader Joe’s dark chocolate truffle bar. Chop this roughly into chunks, and mash it into the dough with your hands until well-distributed. Put the dough in the refrigerator for half an hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment, then smash them down a little with the heel of your hand. They won’t spread much after this, so you don’t have to space them very far apart. Bake 15-16 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. You’re looking for the tops to crack and the edges to just set.

Yields 3 dozen.