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TSA At Your Service

Welcome home boys — TSA interrogates our soldiers

(This was emailed to me recently. There’s no way to really vet the information, but it didn’t show up on Snopes as bogus…)

As the Chalk Leader for my flight home from Afghanistan, I witnessed the following:

When we were on our way back from Afghanistan, we flew out of Baghram Air Field. We went through customs at BAF, full body scanners (no groping), had all of our bags searched, the whole nine yards. Our first stop was Shannon, Ireland to refuel. After that, we had to stop at Indianapolis, Indiana to drop off about 100 folks from the Indiana National Guard. That’s where the stupid started.

First, everyone was forced to get off the plane-even though the plane wasn’t refueling again. All 330 people got off that plane, rather than let the 100 people from the ING get off. We were filed from the plane to a holding area. No vending machines, no means of escape. Only a male/female latrine.

It’s probably important to mention that we were ALL carrying weapons. Everyone was carrying an M4 Carbine (rifle) and some, like me, were also carrying an M9 pistol. Oh, and our gunners had M-240B machine guns. Of course, the weapons weren’t loaded. And we had been cleared of all ammo well before we even got to customs at Baghram, then AGAIN at customs.

The TSA personnel at the airport seriously considered making us unload all of the baggage from the SECURE cargo hold to have it reinspected. Keep in mind, this cargo had been unpacked, inspected piece by piece by U.S. Customs officials, resealed and had bomb-sniffing dogs give it a one-hour run through. After two hours of sitting in this holding area, the TSA decided not to reinspect our Cargo-just to inspect us again: Soldiers on the way home from war, who had already been inspected, reinspected and kept in a SECURE holding area for 2 hours. Ok, whatever. So we lined up to go through security AGAIN.

This is probably another good time to remind you all that all of us were carrying actual assault rifles, and some of us were also carrying pistols.

So we’re in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they’re going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can’t take those on the plane.

Soldier: What? I’ve had them since we left country.

TSA Guy: You’re not suppose to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I’m allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah but you can’t use it to take over the plane. You don’t have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me: Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the f**k out of here. I’ll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security]

To top it off, the TSA demanded we all be swabbed for “explosive residue” detection. Everyone failed, [go figure, we just came home from a war zone], because we tested positive for “Gun Powder Residue”. Who the F**K is hiring these people?

This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 people re-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns-but nothing that could have been used as a weapon.

Can someone please tell me What the F**K happened to OUR country while we were gone?

English Onion Soup

(After watching a Jamie Oliver show on the Cooking Channel)

  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • sage
  • 3 large red onions, sliced
  • 3 large white onions, sliced
  • 3 leeks, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
  • 3 yellow onions, sliced
  • 3 T olive oil (maybe a bit of butter too?)
  • 3 cans of beef stock
  • bread for large croutons
  • grated cheddar cheese

Onion Soup

Final Product

Jamie made it look dead simple, and it was, plus I got to use my new food processor! I’ll reduce everything next time – I had a bit too much oniony stuff relative to the beef stock. Or maybe I’ll just make sure I have more beef stock around!

But the olive oil was put into a large pot (it’s 8 quarts or better), and the sage and garlic was tossed in as well. Jamie used sage leaves, but I just had ground. I don’t have an English garden and a gardener, either…

The leeks, shallots, and onions were tossed in shortly after, seasoned with salt and pepper, stirred around a bit, and then just left to cook, slowly over medium heat, for about an hour, stirring every fifteen minutes or so. They lost about 75% of their volume over time.

Then I poured in the beef stock, and brought it back up to simmer for another fifteen or twenty minutes.

Slice the bread into half-inch thick croutons. If you have the presence of mind to do this ahead of time, the croutons can dry out a bit to their benefit.

Ladle soup into oven-proof bowls, arrange a crouton or two to cover the soup, then cover the croutons with the cheddar. Pop under a broiler for five or ten minutes until the cheese is melted and browned.


Ravioli with Red Pepper Bechamel Sauce

I wanted to attempt (yes, just attempt – I was fully prepared to just walk away) making ravioli, so I started off by finding the pasta machine (well, I had Peg do it – she claimed to know where it was), and buying semolina. I’d made pasta before so it was reasonably straightforward to just make sheets of pasta – like lasagna noodles:

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 C semolina (about 2 C. What me, measure?)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 T olive oil

Dump the flour on a board, make a well in the middle, and put in the oil, salt, and eggs. Pull the flour into the eggs gradually until it all comes together. You might want a little water or a little more flour to make the mixture a stiff, yet pliable dough.

Read the instructions on the pasta maker, or roll the pasta out by hand until it’s ridiculously thin. Then keep rolling until it’s half as thick as that. Seriously, decent pasta is very thin.

I made cheese filling because I wanted to concentrate on the ravioli making part of it, not get all caught up in the filling. So

  • 1/2 C grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 C grated mozzarella
  • 1 C “4 cheese pizza mixture” (it was leftovers from making pizza earlier in the week)
  • 1/2 C ricotta just to hold it all together
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mix all of that up until it’s workable. Add more ricotta if it’s not binding together.

Then I laid out a sheet of pasta, and placed teaspoons of cheese mixture on the pasta, staggered so there was some room between the filling. I wet a finger with water and traced around each ball of filling to help seal the pasta sheets.

I laid another sheet of pasta out over the filling, and pressed gently down around the filling to squeeze out the air and form a good seal. Then I used a large shot glass (seriously, this is about a 3 oz glass!) as a cookie-cutter, and cut out the individual ravioli, reserving them on a plate. I made about 12 or 15 ravs with the materials I had made.

Into the boiling water for about 8 or 10 minutes they went. Only one ravioli broke open, so that was considered successful.

The sauce recipe came from a cookbook “365 ways to cook Pasta” that we’ve had forever:

  • 12 oz jar of roasted red peppers, drained
  • 3 T butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 C milk

In a food processor, puree the red peppers and hold.

Melt the butter in a quart saucepan. Add the flour and stir. Cook this roux for a minute, then slowly whisk in the milk, ensuring that the mixture stays nice and smooth. Gently bring this basic white sauce to a boil for a few minutes until the sauce starts to thicken nicely. Slowly whisk in the beaten egg, remove this bechamel sauce from the heat, and mix with the pepper puree in the food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Grate a little parmesan cheese over the sauced ravioli, and graciously accept the compliments.

I think it was pretty good…

13 things your burglar won’t tell you

I got this in an email the other day. Presumably these helpful hints were gleaned from conversations from some 105 burglars in North Carolina, Oregon, California, and Kentucky. There are actually 21 of them – a list of 13 and another list of 8 that seems to have joined later:

  1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning
    your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
  2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in
    your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to
    make my return a little easier.
  3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste… and taste
    means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out
    always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
  4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway.
    And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes
    you to remove it..
  5. If it snows while you’re out of town, get a neighbor to create
    car and foot tracks into the house.. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a
    dead giveaway.
  6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let
    your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That
    makes it too easy.
  7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the
    windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom – and
    your jewelry. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
  8. It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget
    to lock your door – understandable. But understand this: I don’t take a day
    off because of bad weather.
  9. I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions
    somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don’t take me up on it.)
  10. Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always
    check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.
  11. Here’s a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids’ rooms.
  12. You’re right: I won’t have enough time to break into that safe
    where you keep your valuables. But if it’s not bolted down, I’ll take it
    with me.
  13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm
    system. If you’re reluctant to leave your TV on while you’re out of town,
    you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering
    glow of a real television. (Find it at
  14. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn
    guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.
  15. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.
  16. I’ll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he’ll stop what he’s doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn’t hear it again, he’ll just go back to what he was doing. It’s human nature.
  17. I’m not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?
  18. I love looking in your windows. I’m looking for signs that you’re
    home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I’d like. I’ll drive or walk
    through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to
    pick my targets.
  19. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It’s easier
    than you think to look up your address.
  20. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a
    way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it’s an invitation.
  21. If you don’t answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I
    hit the jackpot and walk right in.

If you see yourself in any of these scenarios, pay heed.

Tip o’ the hat to Kathy!

Fun with orzo

I’ve eaten orzo a few times in salads, but I don’t think I’ve ever had it as a pasta dish. I was slogging through the grocery store a couple of weekends ago, and tossed a box of orzo into the cart. Nothing fancy – just the Market Basket store brand orzo.

The recipe is simplicity itself.

  • 1 C orzo
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 C grated parmesan (I’d capitalize it to Parmesan, but it was from Wisconsin, not Parma)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Grate the parmesan
  • Boil some water
  • Stir the orzo into the boiling water, and bring it back to a boil
  • Turn down to a gentle boil

When the orzo is “done” per your definition of what constitutes pasta done-ness, drain it, and put it back in the pan with the butter until the butter is all melted, then stir in the cheese until it’s all melted. Grind in some pepper (salt is very likely not needed), and serve.

Some chopped fresh parsley would have been nice, but I didn’t have any.  Maybe next time.

Pecan Pie

Auntie Glenna always used to make pecan pie for Thanksgiving, and always got rave reviews. But in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, my Mom always made SO many pies – apple, pumpkin, blueberry, mince (her rule of thumb was “one pie per person”) – that I never got around to appreciating Glenna’s contribution. Until she and Mom were both gone.

Thanksgiving in its current form provides a much smaller audience, but a few years back someone lamented that nobody made pecan pie any more. I stepped forward, and true to form, I asked my wife for help. She told me to use the recipe on the Karo syrup bottle. “That’s what Glenna used.”

It’s simplicity itself. I even use the pre-made crusts, so it’s even easier (though this past Thanksgiving I made a crust of my own just to show that I could, and it turned out pretty well.)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Prepare the crust according to package directions. Try to make it pretty. Neatness does count.

Melt 3T of butter (15 seconds in the microwave – not 30. Don’t ask)


  • 3 eggs – beaten lightly
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C Karo syrup (I’ve used light and dark with equal success)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • the butter

Just mix it nice and thoroughly.

Add 1 1/2 C ( 6 Oz) of pecans. I usually go kind of overboard here (I’m not trying to make a profit). I’m just saying that if you “accidentally” put in 12 Oz of  nuts, the universe won’t collapse…

Pour it all into the pie shell.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes. If you press lightly in the center of the pie and it springs back, the pie is done.

Corn Chowder

Peg has a recipe for corn chowder that contained, in my humble opinion, far too many ingredients, required the making of a roux, opening a bunch of cans… Feh! So I went online, searched for corn chowder recipes, and kind of ORed them together to get to my recipe for corn chowder. Now, most of you that know me would think that I’d opt for clam chowder, or fish chowder, or the entirely generic-sounding seafood chowder. Then again, those of you that know Peg know that seafood, in any way, shape, or manner, is completely out of the question. (I don’t think she’d even eat Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers…).

So tonight I made a batch:

  • 12 oz of salt pork, diced. I’d been using bacon, but Mom used salt pork.
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 16 oz bag of frozen corn. It’s January, and real corn is quite rare in New England. (even if it weren’t rare, it would be dear, and I’m just too cheap. A pound of frozen corn for 99 cents is right up my alley…)
  • 8 medium potatoes, peeled and diced to about 3/8″ or so.

I rendered off the salt pork in a touch of olive oil. I always use olive oil when I cook. It’s good for you.

Then I tossed in the onion and pepper and let that cook for a while, followed by the corn. I do fear that I put the corn in too early. It doesn’t really need to cook as much as the onions and pepper.

The potatoes were covered in water, salted rather heavily, and put on the heat. After they boiled for a while I tested (e.g. tasted) for done. They were still a bit rare, but I drained off most of the cooking water, coarsely mashed some of the potatoes as a thickener, and returned everything to the pot, including the pork and vegetables.

Tomorrow (and this will be really good after clearing all of that snow that’s coming), I’ll take the pot out of the fridge, add about two cups of milk, a cup of light cream, and a dollop or three of butter, and bring it almost to a boil. It still needs some salt, I think.

Hope I have some oyster crackers.


Turned out that this was quite salty. The 12 Oz of salt pork might be too much for this recipe. And I didn’t really care for the salt pork so much – even diced up pretty small, there were chunks of it that were just fat. And Peg opined that the corn/potato ratio was too low. Otherwise it was pretty good, I thought. I saved the leftovers – though I might dilute the salty flavor with a bit of milk.

So the next batch will have a half-pound of bacon instead of 12 Oz of salt pork, and more corn.

My friend Angela

Angela is the daughter of our friend Mike. She’s all grown up now (we knew her when she was just a teenager, so we can say that), and has a family of her own down in Virginia. She’s just started her own blog so you can stop in to see what she’s doing. She’s really quite perfect. Ask Peg.

Thanks, Emeril

I was watching one of Emeril’s shows Sunday AM as I finished my coffee (after a French Toast breakfast). He tossed together (I bet his production staff had something to do with it…) a very quick meal, and it inspired me as I got to the grocery store later that morning.
– some Italian sausage – I used sweet, Emeril mixed hot and sweet
– onion – I used a small sweet onion, Emeril used a large Spanish onion
– red bell pepper
– escarole – I used green chard because I couldn’t find escarole
– rigatoni – I used fettucini

The pasta water went on first, of course.

The sausage was broken up and cooked off in a bit of olive oil. When it was nice and brown, the onions and peppers went in with a bit of salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. The fettucini went into the water as well.

After the onions and peppers were tender, I tossed in the chard, which I’d rinsed nicely and coarsely chopped. I should have used the larger skillet, but I muddled through.

When the pasta was done, it was drained and returned to the pot, and the sausage mixture was tossed with it.

I served it with some fresh Parmesan cheese grated over it, and it was pretty excellent. I wanted to go back for the rest of it, but I am actually trying to loseWeight Exercise some Lose Weight Exercise. Peg tasted it (she was going out for a dinner date) and claimed that she liked it. We’ll see next time I make it.

I think the escarole would be better, and rigatoni would have made it a bit easier to mix together. But I really like fettucini…

Black Appliances? Feh!

No, I didn’t make a resolution to start blogging again, but I got a few new toys recently, so I thought I’d comment on some experiences.

First – it was a huge mistake to get a black range. It’s beautiful when it’s clean, but cleaning it is a bear. First it has to be washed, then dried with a paper towel. Then the remaining smudges have to be cleaned with Windex or something.

This is going to be a pain in the tuchus…