Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

(Legal) Gang-banger news…and other stuff

In Editorial on February 29, 2012 at 11:08 am

The Phyne Dyner recently took some R&R time and look what he missed:

In a last, dying gasp…

The official news organ for the Iowa Ministry of Economics and Tourism (The Des Moines Register) will begin charging a “subscription fee” to its online readers next month. The venerable newspapering business, as a whole, has fallen on hard times in recent years. Driven by declining readerships, newspaper publishers sought out high tech ways to fleece businesses out of advertising dollars.

It didn’t work.

Nebulous “page views” and “clicks” became the sales pitch and those terms replaced verifiable “circulation” and “cost per thousand” data. The Register sales staff hooted unverifiable reader statistics, but the paper’s advertisers were not buying any of it.

Online readers simply ignored ads and swatted away pesky banners and pop-ups like mosquitoes.

Every Sunday, racks of the Register sit ignored in the aisles of local mass food retailers. They simply take up space the retailer could use to sell their products.

On a recent shopping expedition, a bubbly (recently) post-teen harangued shoppers with, “Would you like a free copy of the Des Moines Register. There were few takers.

Phyne Dyning wholly supports the dying Register’s bid to remain profitable and will not be affected by the planned online subscription charge.

If only the Register’s managers would realize that profitability goes hand-in-hand with quality.

One need only take a few peeks at the Register’s professionally written pages for syntax errors, poor fact checking, and spelling mistakes to understand why nobody wanted a free copy of their paper…like…”the cause of the crash was faulty break (sic) lines”


Not the best place to be Black…

“I heard screamin’
And bullwhips cracking
How long? How long?”
– “Southern Man” (Neil Young)

Central Iowa’s conformist monkeys point and hoot at the reconstructed Old South and Jim Crow…


Prosecutor John Sarcone

…and ignore the increasingly obvious racial bias of Polk County Prosecutor, John Sarcone.

After members of Iowa’s largest, legal street gang, the Des Moines Police Department, gave Octavius Bonds an undeserved ASP-whipping (An ASP is a collapsible police truncheon.), and roughed up his companion Erin Evans, Sarcone failed to bring charges against the officers. Bonds and Evans are both African-American and were alleged to have failed in their civic duty to “Get on the f-ing ground” fast enough for the white officers.



In an embarrassment to Iowans, the feds had to step up with federal civil rights violations charges and obstruction charges against former DMPD


officers John Mailander and Mersed Dautovic. Mailander has since pled guilty to those charges. His arrival is being eagerly awaited by inmates at an undisclosed penitentiary.

Then, there is the case of Jay Lewis.

Lewis, a former (reformed) police officer, spent almost six months behind bars for defending himself against a pair of drunken thugs. After being pursued by the pair, Lewis dared to defend himself using his legally carried pistol. Despite strong evidence that Lewis was not the aggressor and that he acted reasonably and prudently, Sarcone filed felony charges against him.

Lewis, unable to make bail, lost virtually everything and found himself homeless after a jury found him not guilty of all charges and sprung him from the county gulag.


Mr. Lewis (Photo: Des Moines Register)

Mr. Lewis is African-American and dared get “uppity” by defending himself in West Des Moines. His assailants were both white. At least one of them was a convicted felon with numerous previous arrests for assault.

Under Iowa law, John Sarcone is immune from civil liability in the Lewis, Bonds, and Evans cases. But, he is not immune from federal prosecution. It is past time that federal authorities take a long, hard look at Sarcone’s office for being a potential harbor for Mississippi-ish racial bias.

Sarcone is beginning to look like a big-bellied, redneck sheriff.

Protecting the Constitutional liberties of everyone is one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government. Looking into Sarcone’s prosecutorial record is more appropriate for federal officials than spying on members of Occupy Des Moines, the Quakers, and Catholic Workers.

More gang-related news…

A member of Clive, Iowa’s legal street gang may have forgotten he was off-duty when he allegedly groped a female party guest against her will.

Lt. John Brodersen, 47, was charged with assault with intent to commit sexual abuse no injury, an aggravated misdemeanor.

He may have been following leads of Fort Dodge’s convicted uniformed sex abuse squad or the DMPD blue-suited gang-banger who attempted to sexually assault an intoxicated female while on duty.

But, seriously…a misdemeanor?

If Brodersen were African-American, and was not a member of a local badge-carrying street gang, he would be decorating the interior of a Polk County jail cell under felony charges.

Gang-banger seeks promotion…

Sergeant “Dave” Murillo, member of the (legal) DMPD street gang and radio bombast, is seeking election as Warren County’s Sheriff.

Readers will recall that Murillo regularly referred to criminal defendants on his radio talk show CopTalk as ‘pukes’ and ‘mopes’. Those of us whom Murillo sees as unapprehended criminals (citizens), he demeaned as “people doing stupid”.

Murillo does not “do stupid”.

He changed his party affiliation from “Democrat” to “Republican” and thereby raised the IQ average for both parties.

Oooooo, Andy…

Proving, once again, that intellect is not required to become one of today’s blue-suited street thugs, I submit West Des Moines PD’s very own Officer Adam Porath.

In the throes of a gallbladder attack, citizen Angela Smith dared to drive a whopping 14 mph over the posted speed limit. As Smith struggled to keep her bodily contents inside, Porath gave a prolonged roadside lecture on highway safety…and promised to deliver a traffic citation at Smith’s hospital bedside.

This is not the first time WDMPD has shown its officers to be dumber than a bag of hammers.

Okay, there’s the Jay Lewis case.

But then, there was the ongoing harassment by WDMPD of anti-torture demonstrators at Valley West Mall. Here ( quick-witted WDM officers tell the demonstrators it’s “okay to do legal things”.

Oy vey!

One more reason to avoid jury “duty”…

While idling away time as a potential juror, John Young sought to make some spare coin by boosting the wallet of another potential juror.

He may have a defense!

Jury “duty”, AKA legal involuntary servitude for the state, is an unfair labor practice and he was reduced to stealing to make up for income he lost when he was commanded to show up for a state-mandated indoor work detail (jury duty).

Screwing the pooch…

A northern Iowa man was charged with bestiality after he had a “sexual encounter” with a dog. He did so under a ruse that he was delivering propane to a customer.

Here’s where he went wrong.

Sex crimes are not to be committed by ordinary people.

Who did he think he was, a cop?

Stating the obvious…

Banks in Iowa made more money in 2011 than they have in at least two decades.

Yes, it sucks to be a bankster during tough economic times and this is why banksters turn to Iowa politicians for help they can count on.

And there are still some slower-witted folks out there who do not know why the Occupy people are pissed. Yikes!

If I am only for me, what am I?

Temple B’nai Jeshurun recently hosted a large group from embattled Sudan to speak about the ongoing ethnic cleansing and warfare there. The conflict has spread from Darfur into the Nuba Mountains.

The event was attended by (almost) a minyan of local Jews. Phyne Dyner and Mrs. Phyne Dyner joined in a rousing rendition of Hinei Ma Tov with local activist Elton Davis and the ever civilly disobedient Sally Frank, led by Rabbi David Kaufman.

Local Yom Ha-Shoa (Holocaust Rememberance Day) events will be, conversely, attended by hundreds of local Jews.

The Jewish Federation of Des Moines was represented by Mark Finkelstein who, I am sure, was delighted by the presence of an American flag. Finkelstein stormed out of a September 11th multi-national and multi-faith memorial because there was no American flag (or any other flag) displayed at that event.

Word up!

If ya want Mark, ya gotta have an American flag.

We’re Number Two (Oh, the irony!)…

Forbes rated Des Moines as Number Two, nationally, for best cities for jobs. One of Phyne Dyner’s readers inquires, “Then why am I still unemployed?”

I dunno, Paula. Maybe you just haven’t been trying. I don’t mean to be rude, girl, but jumping on the blame the victim train is often the “Iowa Way”.

The best thing you can do to boost local employment figures and tumble unemployment statistics is to stop looking for work and don’t file for unemployment benefits.

Remember the motto: “If we can’t see you, you don’t exist.”

The City of Des Moines is doing its part to keep unemployment benefits clerks busy. The city council idled ten workers; two of them were fire department medics.

Fortunately the legions of clerks and city paper pushers were immune to being made redundant. Also among those sent home jobless…cemetery grounds-keepers and public works employees.

Now there will only be three city workers to watch the one using a shovel. There will, however, still be one clerk to hold a stack of forms while a second staples them together.

*Looking under a stack of papers*


That’ll teach me to take some time off.


Not just your average hottie…

In Shameless plug on February 29, 2012 at 7:27 am

One of my pre-meditation pleasures I missed when I was on the road recently, was my daily (morning) bowl of rice. Every day is started with strong coffee and 3/4 cup of white rice fired up with my home made kim chee or a whopping tablespoonful of Huy Fong Foods “Tuong Ot Toi Viet-Nam” chili-garlic sauce. My Vietnamese and Hmong friends simply call it Rooster Sauce.

This stuff is (seriously) good!

Not only good when solo, it is one of the main ingredients in my homemade kim chee. (NOTE: I finished my half-gallon of my homemade kim chee in record time. The remaining “broth” swirling malignantly at the bottom of the container went on my morning rice too. DEEEE-licious!)

Out of kim chee drippin’s?

Just add this sauce (start slowly) to a bowl of white rice and season with a bit of dark, rich soy sauce.

That’ll wake ya up in the mornin’, Boyo!

Quinoa Varnishkes

In Recipies on February 16, 2012 at 9:55 am

This is a dish I can’t believe Phyne Dyning hasn’t’ offered up yet.

The traditional version needs some color!

Kasha varnishkes!

“Kasha”, or buckwheat groats, is a staple in the Russian diet and kasha varnishkes exist throughout Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine in many variations. Kasha varniskes are a typical uzhyn (supper) meal for Russian families.

Looking forward to my recipe for kasha varnishkes?

Well, you’re outta luck.

I set forth recently to make a batch and discovered, too late, that I was out of buckwheat groats.

I thought long and hard about substituting pearl barley, but I would have to soak it for at least four hours (or overnight). Time was wasting and supper needed to be on the table in less than an hour.

What now?

What about using bulgur wheat? Nah…I’d still have to prepare it.

What about quinoa?

Now we’re talking Phyne Dyning.

We love quinoa. Toasted, it has a wonderful, nutty flavor and the toasting process gives the house a homey, peanut butter cookie smell. Quinoa is a wonderful substitute for rice and is high in protein. Before it is prepared, quinoa looks a LOT like Thelma’s bird seed. Cooked, it looks like little, white tadpoles with curly tails.


The issue settled; I began to explore my fridge for a few items to toss in, besides the traditional onion and mushroom mix.

There, lying forlornly in the bottom of my produce drawer, was a lonely carrot and a stalk of celery. The two would add some needed color to a dish that can be overwhelmingly “brown”.

The result here is not unique to one cultural flavor. It is a blend of South American, Russian, and Polish flavors and represents what wonderful things can come from mixing culinary heritages.

So, here we go!

1 C quinoa

2 C diced onion

2 C course-chopped mushrooms

½ C diced celery

½ C diced carrot

2 TBS vegetable oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

8oz uncooked bow tie pasta

1 tsp vegetable base or bullion cube

2 tsp dried dill weed

2 tsp Penzey’s “Krakow Nights” Polish-style seasoning blend

2 C water

Toast the quinoa in a (large) heavy, dry skillet (that has a cover, but do not use the cover at this point) over medium heat for about ten minutes or until the quinoa turns golden and the grains start popping heartily. Savor the aroma! Set the quinoa aside to cool and then remove to a clean, small bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and sauté it until it is just turning golden. Stir in the celery, carrot, and mushrooms. Season the mixture with one teaspoon of Penzey’s “Krakow Nights” and then stir in the garlic. Cook for one minute. Add the toasted quinoa, the vegetable base, and the water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes.

While the quinoa and veggies are cooking, begin cooking the pasta in the boiling water when about 6 minutes remain for the quinoa cooking time. The pasta and quinoa will finish at roughly the same time. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pasta from the water and transfer it to the quinoa-vegetable mix. Sprinkle the remaining Penzey’s “Krakow Nights” seasoning over everything and then sprinkle with the dried dill. Toss the pasta and quinoa well to mix.

Serve, Russian-style, in shallow bowls. Accompany with neat glasses of vodka or strong, sweet tea.

Prijatnova appetita! (Bon appetite!)

Equal justice?

In General Information on February 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm

According to news reports, the Washington County Attorney’s Office announced last Friday that it is dropping OWI charges against Keokuk County Sheriff, Jeffrey Earl Shipley.

According to Washington County Attorney, Larry Brock, his office “…deferred prosecution because Shipley was ‘still coping with the tragic events’ involving a fatal shooting of Keokuk County Deputy Eric Stein…” last April.

Say what?

Shipley refused to take a chemical test for blood alcohol content. He also refused to perform in the roadside gymnastics his fellow jackboots…errr, edict enforcers…call a “field sobriety test”.

News reports also state that Shipley “refused to go to the booking room” at the local lockup.

Ordinary citizens who refuse to “comply with officer instructions” can end up with boot prints on their foreheads as parting gifts from arresting officers and jail staff.

It seems “zero tolerance” for OWI does not apply to the Blue Brotherhood.

This was not Shipley’s first outing with Demon Rum and motorized transportation. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to operating a motorboat while intoxicated.

“Nothing to see here, folks. Move along!”

One of the complaints issued by American colonists against their lawful government (King George III) was that the king and his men (officers) exempted themselves from the king’s laws.

Here’s your sign!

In Editorial on February 14, 2012 at 11:47 am

When Fort Des Moines Church of Christ’s pastor, Mike Demastus, put “Gay is not okay” on his church marquee, all hell broke loose.

The preacher was deluged with mail, most of it impolite, and about a hundred gay, and gay rights supporting, protesters showed up during the church’s Sunday service.

Not being a Christian, I had no familiarity with whether or not Jesus ever issued a position statement on gay issues. But I am familiar with the writings Jesus, an observant Jew, used when discussing other matters of his policy. I recalled something about male homosexuality that is prohibited.

Just to be sure, I looked in each of the several copies I keep to see if G-d’s position on homosexuality had changed.

Nope. It’s still there.

Male homosexuality is specifically prohibited conduct. And by a stretch of the positive commandment to “be fruitful and multiply”, female homosexuality is also prohibited.

So, it would appear that, according to the rules of play set forth by Gee-Dash-Dee (AKA “G-d”), the pastor was correct. “Gay is not okay.”

In fact, at my last count, there are six hundred and thirteen things that G-d says we “shall” or “shall not” do. And, if you bring Talmud into the discussion, there are literally thousands of ancillary “shalls” and “shall nots”.

Evokes a "Jesus Facepalm"

Still, the state sells barber’s licenses to barbers who “round the corners of the beard” and shave men with knife-like razors. Adulterers can marry. Thieves are permitted to use money. Those who drive on the Sabbath are given vehicle


And my favorite: Liars and cheats are permitted to persist in the political world.

On one hand, Bob Vander Plaats and his merry band of Christian Talibanists are nowhere to be seen picketing barber colleges, banks, or the DMV. In fact, Bobby is a politician.


Go figure.

I guess it’s just “gay” that pisses them off.

On the other hand, we do not see secularists carrying signs protesting bearded rabbis. There are no representatives of the Free Love Movement picketing houses of worship where adultery is scorned. Paroled bank robbers have not taken to marching on institutions upholding property rights.

For Demastus and his followers, “Gay is not okay”.


For members of the GLBT community, Demastus’ religious beliefs should not dictate the law of the land or the social acceptability of homosexuals outside of his church.


As a long-time supporter of equal rights for everyone, I fail to see where Demastus erred. He simply made a statement that is consistent with Scripture. I saw nothing indicating that Demastus and his followers meant to harm homosexuals or that he incited others to do so.

On the other hand, Demastus received numerous threats against his personal safety.

How is that right? What was their message, “Show tolerance, or else”? Doesn’t anyone else see the lack of logic here? Threatening people who have a different point of view is not okay.

Demastus subsequently changed his church sign to read, “Adultery is not okay”.

I know a lot of people who have committed adultery. There were no calls on social media to picket Demastus and there were no threats made in retaliation for his stand against adultery.

What else could Demastus pick? Who else could he piss off with his sign?

Eating winged, swarming creatures is not okay!

Striking your mother or father is not okay!

Leavening on Passover is not okay!

Kidnapping is not okay!

Delaying payment of wages is not okay!

Oppression of another (with words) is not okay!

Demanding payment from those who cannot pay is not okay!

Gossip is not okay!

Revenge is not okay!

Mamzerim (bastards) marrying Jewish women is not okay!

A kohen marrying a zonah  (Look ‘em up.) is not okay!

There is a “not okay” for each of the 365 days of the year. Think of the possibilities!

According to Scripture, tattoos are also specifically “not okay”.

Hell-bound and doesn't know it.

If Demastus put up “Tattoos are not okay” on his marquee, would legions of local tattoo artists, merchant sailors, and most of the women under 50 years of age in Des Moines show up at his church and make death threats?

Why doesn’t the tattooed Popeye stand out as a symbolic example of “moral decay” for the Family Leader?

Demastus is the leader of a church. Houses of worship are where we do crazy. I am willing to stipulate that there is an equal amount of (secular) crazy on the streets outside.

So long as religious crazy stays inside the church, synagogue, or mosque, I have no problem. So long as the secular craziness outside stays out of churches, synagogues, and mosques, I have no problem.

I wonder how many of Demastus’ flock wore suits, dresses, shirts, pants, coats, hats, and other apparel made of mixed linen and wool to Sunday’s services?

That’s just as “not okay” as homosexuality.

What is my take-home message from Demastus’ sign and the resulting uproar it caused from some members of the GLBT community?

“Stupid” on both sides of the gay rights issue made headlines.

That’s not okay.

Megadarra: Lentils and rice soar

In Recipies on February 13, 2012 at 8:21 am

Megaddara (var. megadarreh) is a lentil and rice combination that is enjoyed across the Eastern Mediterranean region and farther east. In Greece, the dish has a pungent garlicky character. In Iraq and Iran it (the version offered today on Phyne Dyning) has a wonderful floral accent added with cardamom. In Israel, megadarra is flavored with cumin and turmeric. Bedouins prefer a “neat” version absent of spices that can be (in my opinion) a bit bland unless it is served, in the traditional manner, with a big dollop of strong yogurt.

We are particularly fond of the Persian version.

In my opinion, it is best to go gently when adding cardamom. You’re just after a bit of floral accent and cardamom can quickly overpower lighter flavors of the dish if it is used too generously.

My recipe is not entirely traditional and authentic, because I added a bit of texture (and color) with diced celery. Quite honestly, this is a very modest appearing meal that is mainly “brown” and it can stand a bit of color. A bit of added diced carrot could also brighten up its appearance without changing the flavors.

I recently took this to a Shabbat potluck where it met with rave reviews. The version below makes enough to feed a small army and I often cut it by over half for our own table.

A quick note about lentils: I use a mixture of green and brown lentils for megadarra. Any lentils must be carefully sorted for stones and then carefully rinsed. And, like beans, I do not add salt until the dish is nearly done. Adding salt early makes the lentils tough and chewy.

Let’s get started!

2 C green and brown lentils

2 C long-grain rice

4 TBS olive oil

2 C onion, chopped

4 C onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cardomom

4 C vegetable stock (or water)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 C celery, small dice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Carefully sort and rinse the lentils. Place the lentils in a large, uncovered pot and cover with about 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. If a thin “scum” forms on the cooking water, skim it off using a small spoon. Cook the lentils for 25-35 minutes, or until just tender but still firm. Do not over-cook the lentils or they will turn to mush.

Heat 1 ½ tbs of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent. Stir in the celery and cook until the onions are just golden. Add the garlic, ½ tsp cumin, ½ tsp cinnamon, and ¼ tsp cardamom, and then the uncooked rice. Stir until the rice is coated with oil and just turning golden. Drain the lentils or ladle them out of the cooking water using a sieve or fine colander. Add the lentils to the rice and then add the water or stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Cover tightly and cook about 15 minutes or until the rice is tender. Check the pot about halfway through and add water if the pot is getting dry. Do not allow the pot to dry out or the lentils will scorch.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and cook until they are deep brown, sweet, and crispy. You may need to add a bit more oil. When the onions are nearly done, sprinkle them with a bit of the remaining spices and then add the rest of the spices to the rice and lentil mixture.

Now, add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Toss the rice and lentils with a fork to fluff and then heap them in a serving bowl. Scatter the fried onions over the top and garnish with a bit of chopped parsley.

This can be served as a side dish or as a vegetarian main course.

Better Homes & Gardens Food Storage

In Shameless plug on February 9, 2012 at 11:18 am

It’s been a while since I offered up a shameless plug for a kitchen product. Given my recent experience with pantry moths, I thought I’d share a success story about a product.

Some time back, I purchased Better Homes & Gardens food storage containers. These are really nifty, semi-vacuum sealed containers for stuff prone to invasion by kitchen pests. This particular product exceeded my expectations because of a few design characteristics.

First, the tops tightly seal. The seal consists of a thick, rubber gasket. The top inserts into the container and you flip a large latch on the top. This draws the bottom of the container top upward, creating a slight vacuum and expanding the rubber gasket tightly against the container sides.

Second, (and this is way cool) the containers are made of clear, food-grade plastic. Consequently, you can see the entire gasket and whether or not a “critter” has invaded around the seal. I found a few of my supplies that I had stored in plastic, screw-top jars had been contaminated with moth larvae around their seals. The food inside was not contaminated, but merely opening the jar would probably send a shower of moth eggs into the contents. Yech! All  of the BH&G containers were 100% impervious to larvae. As a precaution, I simply wiped down each container with bleach.

The containers are available almost everywhere for $3-7 each, depending on the size.


Unwelcome kitchen guests…

In Tips and Hints on February 9, 2012 at 11:03 am

I’m a neat-nik in the kitchen. Every few months, I clear out my cabinets and vacuum them thoroughly. Afterwards, I wipe down the shelves with bleach water. The countertops and prep surfaces are bleached regularly (at least weekly). The floors are vacuumed and mopped daily. I only use non-porous cutting boards and those are scalded and bleached regularly. I learned kitchen hygiene professionally and can proudly say food-borne illnesses stand no chance on my watch.

That said, kitchen pests can move into places even where good kitchen hygiene is practiced. But they are a sure thing whenever cooks drop their guard or if cleanliness is not diligently practiced. I once cleaned out a “kosher” synagogue kitchen where rodent droppings hid amongst the (unsealed) supplies. GACK!

That’s why I was dismayed last week when “a little something” flitted by my eye as I did my cleanup after that week’s baking chores.

A pantry moth.

“Arrrrgghhhhhh!” I screamed. I immediately began scouring the kitchen for their source.

“Pantry moths” cover a lot of territory. There are bunches of species of these things and they all have their own food preferences. Unfortunately, many of them like a diverse diet and will eat: sesame seeds, nuts, chocolate, peppers, paprika, flour, matzos, grains, glue, dried flowers, and most other things we humans consider “ours”. One of the best sources of pantry moths is pet bird foods. YIKES!

Pantry moths are serious business. They can infest virtually anything not sealed in a can. When you see “one” moth, you’ve already got a pretty heavy infestation going. Once a food product is contaminated, there is no salvation. The product must be (quickly!) disposed of to prevent a bigger infestation.

I had a pretty good idea where I would find the source of our infestation. A few weeks earlier, I purchased two boxes of Mother’s barley from my local Target store. I mildly suspect any organic grains and dry goods as “potentially contaminated” and those get regular inspection and are carefully stored in sealed, vacuum pouches.

I sent an email to Target, giving the lot number and dates from the barley package. No response. Not even a “We regret any inconvenience…” To be fair, neither Target nor the manufacturer can be faulted much for a few bugs. These things can be found anywhere. Hopefully, Target and Mother’s did a spot check for bugs and the problem was confined to just a few unhappy cooks…or very surprised diners.

My duty to my fellow consumers fulfilled, I turned toward salvage and mitigation of the damage.

I opened the plastic bin where my whole grains were stored and out flew a moth. I picked up the box of barley and opened it…the barley was moving.

The box was full of moth larvae. These are thin, wiggling worms that are about a half-inch long. Gross! The box was spirited away to the dumpster and then the serious work began.

Each container of food had to be carefully inspected for pests. Fortunately, I almost never rely exclusively on twist-tied bags. Still, I found the infestation had spread to a jar of dried mushrooms (the top was loose), a poorly closed Tupperware container of basmati rice, and a long-forgotten bag of brown rice in the back of the pantry. These were all carefully bagged and destroyed.

All of the bins were removed outside and sprayed with kitchen-rated, pyrethrin-based insecticide. We had several nights of below-zero weather, so we left the bins outside to freeze…freezing kills larvae. The bins were thoroughly cleaned with soap and water and then a bleach rinse.

The food products we deemed “clean” were put inside other zip bags and removed to the deep freeze where they would remain for four days. No sense in having a new batch of eggs hatching.  Oh yes, the eggs are pretty ubiquitous in any grain or whole food and one moth can lay 100-400 eggs!

“How do you know if something is ‘clean’ versus ‘infested’?” Pantry moth larvae are prolific web-weavers. Anything with a web inside is deemed ‘contaminated’, even if the package appears sealed. Anything with a dead ‘anything’ inside is likewise deemed contaminated. Since only the adults lay eggs, one can safely assume that a product absent of a dead adult inside does not contain eggs…the larvae may enter but they have to mature (pupate) before they can lay eggs. Ergo (I love that word), no worms and no adults, no webs…”probably” clean.

Fun Fact: The moths lack chewing parts but the larvae can (!) chew through paper, cellophane, and thin plastic wrap. I found a “sealed” commercial package of panko with a minute hole in the side. Inside? Yep. Bugs. So be sure to inspect everything. “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Next, came fumigation.

With everything out of the pantry and cabinets, each closed space got a generous spray of kitchen-rated pyrethrin-based insecticide and then the doors were sealed with painter’s tape. [NOTE: Pyrethrins are very toxic to birds. “Thelma” was removed to a remote part of the house and kept behind its closed door for two days, until the other rooms had been carefully ventilated.] After a few hours the closed areas were reopened and the shelving was washed down with soap and water. Then, came the bleach.

The whole debugging process took about a week. The cost? About $100 in foodstuffs were lost or considered “possibly contaminated”.

What’s next?


I messed up and got the infestation because “just once” I brought in a raw grain without using (and checking) it immediately after purchase. Because the one box of barley was good, I assumed (incorrectly) that the other would be fine too. Given the time lapse between purchase and discovery and the level of infestation in the box, the box was likely infested at the time of purchase. Normally, even newly purchased grain items (in their original containers) are minimally placed in a zip-bag as a precaution. I goofed up.

Our normal protocol when buying bulk (10 pounds or more) supplies of grain and flour products has always been to place them on the bottom shelf of the deep freeze for at least four days. Then, they are carefully repackaged in vacuum-sealed bags. The bags are then stored in bins or in sealed 5-gallon pails. The process worked, as none of our long-term items were found to be contaminated. Whew!

Our new protocol has the added precaution of freezing all small quantity items that are not used within two days of purchase. These products are then placed in zip-bags with a bay leaf nestled alongside. Bay leaves repel most kitchen moths. The bagged items are then put inside a sealable tub for storage. NOTHING goes directly on the pantry shelf, unless it is in a can or bottle.

Going one step further…

Really neat preventative measures are “moth traps”. These are paper “houses” with flypaper on the floor and pheromone bait inside. They are non-toxic and safe, except to moths. Costing about six bucks for two, they last about three months.

Some species of kitchen and pantry moths adore peppers and dried flowers. Our pepper riastras were taken down, bagged, sprayed, and placed outdoors to freeze. It is likely that the little nasties had taken up homesteading inside them as well. Dried flower arrangements were similarly treated. Thankfully, the infestation was discovered in winter! Alternatively, such things can be bagged with mothballs for a few days; but do not use this method for any food items. We gave our decorative edibles the double treatment!

Opened boxes of anything are stored in the fridge. Low temperatures inhibit bugs but do not entirely stop them. Even if your dried, whole foods are properly stored, you must still be vigilant for the critters.

The traps have been clean for several days. It’s probably safe to say that we got lucky and successfully eradicated our “guests”. But the critters can be pretty cagey and seeing one moth will mean we will repeat our search for more.

Unfortunately, if you cook long enough and cook enough (period) you’ll have an experience with routine pantry pests (rodents are NOT routine). Even the cleanest places have the occasional outbreak. But, if you practice secure food storage and monitor your supplies regularly, you can minimize the damage and your financial loss. Our damages came to about a hundred bucks because I was absolutely ruthless in pronouncing something “unclean”. In a very busy home kitchen or in a commercial operation, an infestation of pantry moths can cost the cook thousands of dollars in lost food and cleaning expenses.

All it took was one un-examined box of barley…

Split Pea Soup!

In Recipies on February 9, 2012 at 9:08 am

It’s been a great winter. Very little snow and the temperatures have been quite mild. Even so, our daily menu still consists of hearty soups and stews having a “stick to your ribs” quality.

With America’s Ukraine (Iowa) finally in the grips of winter, it’s time to pass along another soup recipe. And, to kill two squirrels with one stone, today’s recipe does not come from lands afar…this is an American traditional favorite.

What then, to do about a tribute to America’s Ukraine? I know, how about some Russian poetry?

Karashnikov’s “Another Christmas of Agony”:

 “Mischa the dog lies dead in the bog.

     The children cry over the carcass.

  The mist chokes my heart, covers the mourners.

     At least this year we eat.”

No, that’s not authentic Russian poetry, it’s a gag from the old sit-com Cheers. But if you’ve ever read Russian poetry (or prose) you’ll find the gag hilarious because it reflects the prevalent tone of the genre.

Okay, what about the recipe?

How about a little split pea soup?

I have to admit that I was periodically off the stuff during the Exorcist years. But on a cold winter day, split pea soup stands tall as a favorite of mine.

This soup can be made with meat or as a vegetarian meal. Since my Invisible Friend has an edict prohibiting pig-eating, I substitute turkey “ham” for the porcine stuff.

Morris, a rabbi, and Patrick, a Roman Catholic priest, had been enjoying lunch together in the park for many years. They’ve grown fond of each other and have always been respectful of their deeply different beliefs. Then, one day, Patrick leans over and whispers, “Morris, you Jews are not allowed to eat pork. But tell me, haven’t you ever at least tried it?”

Morris nods sadly. “Yes, I had a ham sandwich once. It was pretty good.”

The two men resume sitting quietly for a few minutes. Then, Morris leans over to whisper to his old friend, the priest.

“Pat, you priests take a vow of celibacy. All these years, I’ve been dying to ask you: Have you ever had sex?”

Pat nods, also sadly. “Yes, I had sex once. She was beautiful.”

Morris smiles broadly and slaps his friend’s knee…“And…it’s a hell of a lot better than a ham sandwich!”

Okay, okay…the recipe!

Some cooks like to use a bit of thyme or marjoram in pea soup. Other cooks make theirs with a bunch of bouquet garni. I like the clean, fresh taste of the peas and a bit of bay leaf helps bring out their flavors without overpowering them like other herbs might.

Remember our previous lesson on using lemon juice to brighten soups? We’ll do that here too. Go easy on the salt and let the lemon juice bring out the flavors of the peas and veggies.

Too many good pea soups get ruined when cooks add far too much salt. Potatoes and peas can handle a lot of seasoning (and may seem like they need it). But pea soup should not be overly salty. Again, use the lemon juice!

1 lb dried split peas

6-8 C water (see below)

2 bay leaves

1 C minced onion

3 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 large baking potato, large dice

2 C (turkey) ham, diced (optional)

2 cloves garlic, minced

¾ C instant mashed potatoes

½ tsp liquid smoke

1 TBS lemon juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Carefully sort the peas to remove foreign matter (like stones) and rinse at least twice to remove any grit. Place the peas in a large pot and add 6 C of water. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to (low) simmer. Cook about 4 hours or until the peas are soft. When the peas are soft, remove them from the heat and allow them to cool a bit. Then, using a hand (stick) blender, process the peas into a smooth consistency. You can also use a food processor or blender, but you will need to let the peas cool completely and work in batches.

Re-heat the peas over medium heat and add the bay leaves, onion, potato, garlic, and celery. Add another two cups of water. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the turkey ham, liquid smoke, and the carrot. Cook for an additional 20 minutes or until the carrot is tender. Slowly stir in the instant mashed potatoes until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and re-check seasonings. Serve with crusty bread.

Of cameras and common sense…

In Editorial on February 3, 2012 at 11:54 am

The horn of the car behind me blared insistently. The driver sat behind its wheel gesturing with his hands, palms up. In the universal language of the impatient he was demanding, “Hey! What gives?”

I didn’t budge. The car behind the gesturing, horn-blower joined in with a toot of its own.

I didn’t budge.

I was at an intersection that is diligently guarded by the corporate interests of the City of Des Moines and Gatso-USA. I was in the right turn lane and was dutifully stopped almost one foot behind the painted white pavement bar of “No Man’s Land”.

When it comes down to it, a government may fix a noose about your neck, but you are not compelled to jump from the gallows on your own volition.

According to the Iowa Code dealing with motor vehicle laws, a driver may turn right on a red light, but there is nothing to compel him/her to do so…

…unless he/she is intimidated by the blaring horn of the car behind.

I was not intimidated. There was no way under the sun that I would risk garnering a sixty-five dollar pledge card from Des Moines/Gatso. I certainly would not risk my wallet contents to someone I didn’t know, beyond his impatient gestures and horn-honking.

And, I am not compelled to drive at a speed above the posted minimum. Consequently, the I-235 Des Moines/Gatso fundraiser does not affect me. I dutifully drive a prudent 5mph below the posted limit.

Sure it annoys other drivers. But, nothing says I must drive as they wish and thereby subject myself to the “good will” of Des Moines/Gatso and hope they are honoring their “11mph threshold” of speed leniency.

It’s called a “rules strike”.

The principle of a rules strike is that absolute cooperation with the rules will ball up a system that depends on a percentage of rules violations to exist. In other words, 100% compliance with 100% of the rules of a system will cause that system to collapse.

If every driver dutifully drove 5pmh below a posted limit and refused to turn right on red at “camera protected” intersections, the cameras would become unprofitable and would go away.

The system depends on, and hopes for, a certain number of violations.

“It’s for safety.”

I call “BS”.

What about ‘other measures’?

Many Australians have come up with their own methods of dealing with Gatsos. Some Ozzies have “necklaced” the infernal devices with “tyres filled with petrol” and set them afire.

Justice: Ozzie-style

It is a sure venture that Des Moine’s unattended mobile speed trap, were it in Australia, would be neutralized with 1) a cricket bat, 2) two liters of petrol, and 3) a book of lucifers (matches).

No, violence is not the proper means. When the state holds all of the cards, and superior firepower, non-cooperation trumps violence as a means of protest.

Why the anger?

Why do these devices raise the hackles of people from across the political spectrum? Why are Iowa lawmakers considering a ban on them?

Low-tech Ozzie solution

Americans have a love for fairness. In long-gone days past, before “three-strikes laws” an American felon (after serving his/her time) could re-join the ranks of his fellow citizens in most things. Immigrants, fugitives or ex-convicts from regimes across the globe could come to America for a fresh start.

From its beginnings, Americans have harbored a reasonable expectation that, if they encounter the American law enforcement community and the judicial system, they will be treated fairly.

The automated enforcement devices run counter to American expectations for such fairness and it makes people angry.

The first unfair step…

The principle unfairness begins with how “violations” captured by the cameras are adjudicated.

Under the traditional American system of criminal justice, the state must prove its case against the accused “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The goal of such a system was to prevent government from using criminal

Counsel for the State

law as a means of intimidating the population. If it were hard to gain conviction, the state (goes the logic) would think twice before bringing specious charges against a citizen.

The first step the fundraising politicians engaged in was to move citations from criminal law into civil law.

In civil law, the burden of proof by the accuser is limited to “a preponderance of the evidence”. The difference between these levels of proof is enormous. By moving prohibited activities to civil levels of proof, it tips the scale of justice in favor of the state.

That’s just wrong and it runs counter to American sensitivities toward justice.

The “crime”…

It’s difficult (and immoral) to decry punishment of flagrant violations of law that place others at risk of injury or death. But it is neither difficult nor immoral to protest heavy-handed punishments of “technical violations”.

Many years ago, I taught community college classes to law enforcement officers. One of the courses was “Traffic Law Enforcement”. One of the fun facts cited in our text was that drivers on an interstate (freeway) commit about one to three technical violations per five miles traveled. In urban areas, drivers can be expected to make almost the same number of technical violations for each mile driven.

Hence, the financial bonanza for cash-strapped cities. One can almost hear city leaders bemoaning that they cannot apprehend (and fine!) every technical violation committed.

I urge readers to consult any state publication for driver training. Carefully read what is deemed proper and improper driving per that manual for lane usage, stopping, turning, signaling, etc.

The most egregious abuse of the red light cameras is capturing technical violations caused by turning right on red.

The driver stops behind the painted bar and then pulls forward to, according to the manual, “assure that the turn can be completed safely”. To do so, the driver must cross the painted bar…FLASH…gottcha! Now, the driver is wholly dependent on the mercy of Gatso, who has a financial horse in the race, to be merciful.

Sure, the driver can appeal. But remember under what rules!

The traditional, American fairness standards…

Remember the stereotypical motorcycle cop behind the billboard of years past? Even their fellow cops didn’t care for them.

Becoming the stereotype

Remember speed zones dropping from 65mph to 30mph in less than a few hundred feet with no warning?

Remember cops sitting a few feet inside of a speed zone with radar?

Many states enacted laws against those kinds of police conduct entirely because the practices were not fair to drivers.

We need to return to those standards.

Cameras will make us less safe…

Enforcement cameras do nothing to interdict impaired drivers, reckless drivers, and habitually bad drivers. A bad driver can garner hundreds of camera citations and, so long as he/she has the money to pay up, can continue driving badly and dangerously.

Enforcement cameras do nothing to apprehend people who tailgate, ignore lane markings, merge improperly, or drive on the shoulder to pass slower traffic.

With the cameras comes police complacency. “The cameras will handle the area. No need for patrols there.”

Enforcement cameras do nothing to assist stranded motorists and do not offer aid to motorists who encounter those who are truly criminally bent.

The cameras drive scofflaws from the camera enforcement areas and into neighborhoods. To “make up time” lost by innumerable red lights, speed zones, etc…folks will barrel through residential areas. To avoid camera “protected” intersections, people will bypass those intersections into neighborhoods where they can run stop signs with impunity.

The “it frees officers to do “more important jobs” myth…

Having cameras at intersections and set as mobile speed traps allows police officers to concentrate on “real” crimes involving the oft-cited trilogy of “guns, gangs, and drugs”.

If a community is so badly plagued by “guns, gangs and drugs” that officers do not have time and resources to devote to community policing in a traditional role, the war is lost and its time to nuke the city from space.

I have a question for police administrators who cite epidemics of “guns, gangs, and drugs” as an excuse for automated traffic enforcement.

“How could you let that happen?”

If a community is overrun with gangs and criminals of all stripes, I blame the police. They have failed. Where were they when the barbarians breached the city gates?

Of course a fourth element has entered the equation. The police now “fight terry wrists” on a routine basis.

Oh dear…the war was lost.

Toward Iowa common sense…

If Iowa has the common sense it touts to the nation every four years, it will reject turning crimes into civil cases simply because doing so is convenient to ensure victory in court. The state’s image of common sense and friendly people is not augmented by turning stretches of highways into speed traps where the cop in mirrored sunglasses is replaced by a camera.

Iowa common sense says that flagrant traffic violators should be apprehended and punished according to criminal law. Relying on technical violations smacks of mean-spiritedness.

Unless reined in, the cameras do not bode of an Orwellian dystopia, as some libertarians wrongly surmise.

No, the cameras will fade away and will be replaced by better enforcement technology.

What technology?

Cars can be equipped with GPS enabled transponders that interact with speed zone and traffic control devices. If a diver commits a violation, the transponder logs the time, location, and nature of the violation and the owner of the car gets a civil demand letter a few weeks later.

Zero-tolerance for traffic violations.

It’s the stuff that gets school kids handcuffed for eating a bag of fries on a city bus.

I don’t think that’s using common sense.