A Little Food Blogging for the Weekend

Prairie Mary sent a review of Bill Buford’s excellent new book Heat, which describes how a fancy New York editor (The New Yorker, Granta) decides to learn to be a Tuscan butcher under the influence of Mario Battali.

Italians and others from Catholic cultures (Battali blurbed the hilarious Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living, which features a roadkill recipe alongside saint’s days) seem to be utterly free of neo- puritan food prejudices. At Crunchy Con, Rod Dreher mentioned a wonderful- sounding Cuban beef dish, and I wrote for details, promising a trade. He replied in a recipe post:

“Steve Bodio asked me in the weekend cooking thread below to post the recipe for the Cuban fried beef I prepared last night. Happy to oblige. As Julie and I ate it last night, I said to her, “Is there any other dish that provides so much pure pleasure with so little effort?” The answer is, yes, there is: ripe tomatoes with kosher salt and a drizzling of olive oil (which I also had this weekend, thanks to my kind neighbor Laura bringing over tomatoes fresh from her garden). Still, you should make this; it’s insanely delicious. I think the only reason Castro still rules Cuba is that a well-made vaca frita is the opiate of the people. I’m still pie-eyed from last night.

“What you do is the day before you’re planning to eat the vaca frita, take 2 1/2 lbs. of flank steak, and let it simmer in a pot of salted water with a bay leaf or two for 90 minutes. When it’s done, take it out and let the meat cool. Then, tear it into strips with your fingers. That done, you’ll want to put the meat into a non-reactive bowl, and over that pour the juice of six limes and three lemons (at least), as well as three diced garlic cloves. Mix this together, and put it in the fridge to marinate overnight.

“The next day, cut an onion in half and slice the entire thing into thin strips. Then, remove the marinated beef from the bowl, and squeeze out all the marinade. Set the meat aside. In a deep saute pan or black-iron skillet, heat a half-cup of olive oil until fragrant, then put the beef in. Let it sizzle cheerfully for about eight minutes, stirring attentively, then put the onions in. Mix the meat and the onions well, and stir for about 10 to 15 more minutes, until the beef is crispy brown.

“Salt and pepper to taste, and squeeze a couple of lime wedges over the top before serving, if you like. The thing to serve with vaca frita is white rice. The thing to drink with it is cold lager. The thing to listen to while eating it is Jesus Alemany.”

It is as good as he says. I replied with this:

“One of our favorites is Macedonian lamb stew, adapted froom Paula Wolfert. A few hours before you start cooking, put 3 cups of plain yogurt (real yogurt, not the kind with gelatin added to it) in a colander or seive that has been lined with three layers of cheesecloth. Sprinkle it with a few teaspoons of kosher salt and leave it to drain for a few hours — it will become quite thick as the water drains out. Once it has thickened, add a few (or more as we do) tbsp. of finely chopped garlic and let it sit until you eat.

“Wash and dry 1-1/2 pounds of fresh spinach. Place it in a colander and sprinkle it with 1 tbsp kosher salt, making sure that the salt is dispersed throughout. let the spinach sit at room temperature for at least an hour. Salting it beforehand enables the spinach to maintain its bright green color when you later add it to the stew.

“Now you’re ready to start cooking.

“Cut a lamb leg or shoulder into strips about 1″ wide and 3″ long, maybe 3/4″ thick. Brown them in a large dutch oven or braising pan, and then cover with chicken broth. Simmer gently until tender. In another pan, saute 16-20 scallions cut into 3” lengths in a few tbsp of olive oil until they wilt; add a tbsp of paprika and some resh ground pepper and add this to the meat along with 1 tbsp or so of tomato paste. Let it simmer another ten minutes, then add the spinach. Cook until the spinach has collapsed.

“Serve this with the garlic yogurt on top, which really pulls the whole dish together!”

Usually we cook this in winter but this is making me hungry..

Care to reply, Roseann? Tag!

Update: Roseann responds here.

“Entering Human Lives “

A friend, a serious writer and reader of this blog, is now working on some tales of her life as an Animal Control Officer (“dogcatcher”) in a big city. Here is a tale of life at the sharp end. Take it away….

The early complaints about this case were about noise from barking dogs, a kind of complaint so common and so related to the state of the complainant (sad, angry, lonesome people are hypersensitive) that they tend to result in not much more than a door-hanger for the dog owner. This one was about a big old house along Powell in a place where the street was going to be rebuilt and widened. The houses would be torn down soon, so no one was maintaining them. This one appeared to be empty. I heard and saw no dogs. No one answered the door.

The complaints kept coming until one old man called up to say that there was a pack of chihuahuas running the streets at night and if we didn’t do something about them, he was going to start shooting them. A pack of chihuahuas sounded pretty ridiculous, but when people say they will begin to shoot, it’s past time for intervention. Actually, later I talked to an old Mexican guy who said that packs of chihuahuas were like land piranhas and could bring down a cow by taking bites out of its ankles until they severed the tendons so it fell over. Then, untroubled by any need to kill it, they ate it.

But I was so convinced that the designated house was empty that I couldn’t believe it was the source of the dogs. Finally I just went door-to-door looking for information but people were reluctant. A block away was a kind of hippie co-op food store and they finally told me that an old woman they called “the goat woman,” because she smelled so totally horrible, would sometimes come in and ask to use their phone. She carried with her a shopping bag full of restaurant scraps which she claimed was dog food. They pointed out that same decrepit abandoned house. I went back, and then went back again, and finally noticed that there was mail being delivered and letters put out for pickup. One is never supposed to touch mailboxes (a federal offense) but I got her name off the letters anyway. Helen. Then I wrote her a letter myself and put it in the box. (Also illegal if it doesn’t have a stamp on it.)

Next time I went back and knocked, the piece of cardboard covering the place where there had been a glass window in the door was pulled aside and there she was: the Goat Woman, wearing a bright red wig with a sweater tied over it by the arms and about six layers of clothes, most obviously a big nightgown. Behind her, ranged around a gloomy room six inches deep in dog shit, were the glittering eyes of the chihuahuas, dozens and dozens of them. All of them were named for politicians, which tells you something about Helen.

She said her life had been perfectly normal in this house until she had to have an operation for cancer. In those days there were only three chihuahuas and a friend promised to take care of them while she was in the hospital, but didn’t quite keep up with the messes. When Helen came back, she thought she’d just let it go a little longer until she felt better, and as the months dragged on, she got used to it. But as there began to be more and more dogs, she had worried about feeding them until she resourcefully hit on the idea of restaurant scraps. She was resistant to the idea of any new plan. She had a welfare worker and gave me the name. She claimed she had permission to live there.

I also went to the records to find out who owned the house and called that person, who turned out to be a widow on vacation in the Caribbean. Her lawyer was not pleasant. Helen had been given several eviction notices. Her welfare worker was a young man who hadn’t seen her for a long time. She regularly called in and told him she was doing fine. I told him what I saw and asked for his supervisor, whom I told my next call would be to a television station. Then back to Helen to pressure her to give up the dogs.

At last she handed them out the hole in the door, telling me the name of each. She claimed that one was named for a popular sports caster and that the dog would sit on the couch and watch when he came on the TV, which miraculously worked even though coated with what appeared to be cow patties, the kind out in a field where bugs have been making little holes in them. I doubted this practice on the part of the dog since the couch had rotted through until it was only springs.

The dogs all had diarrhea and all were wild, unsocialized. Most of them bit me and all of them shat on me. By now the police had been attracted and were sitting in their squad car laughing their heads off as I juggled dogs and tried to wrap them in my big tough law enforcement jacket to keep them from biting me. I was tempted to chuck one through their patrol car window.

My truck was filling up, so I called for a second truck. It was Renee and one whiff of the waves of head-clearing ammonia coming from the house was enough for her. “Do you know what diseases might be in there?” She said she’d hold the door of her truck for me while I brought the piranhas out. In the end there were 67 of them. More or less. Back in the shelter kennels they piled on top of each other, glassy-eyed with terror, so it was hard to count them.

Helen was crying and begged for just one dog to keep so she wouldn’t have to stay in the house all alone. But I went back to welfare and insisted they get her out of there TODAY, not tomorrow. The young man whined, “Well, if she’s lived in that mess this long, one more day isn’t going to kill her.” I pointed out that now she would be all alone, but he didn’t get it. Finally he found a place for her in an emergency shelter for abused women.

Somehow she got my phone number. Maybe I was rash enough to give it to her. Anyway, at ten o’clock she called me at home, frantic over money in her house, now unguarded. She hated the shelter (“These women are nuts!”) and was so hysterical (what a manipulator!) that I agreed to go. It was raining. It’s ALWAYS raining in Portland at night. I called the precinct and asked for cover — “for WHAT?” they asked incredulously — and packed up a hammer, nails, and my biggest flashlight. This was completely out of line — I was in a very gray area indeed.

The young male officer refused to go into the house. “I’ll stand here and shine my light on you,” he generously offered from the doorway. I followed the instructions Helen had given me. There was a big pile of old purses in one corner downstairs. (in fact, there were boxes of old clothes everywhere.) In them, in no particular order were handfuls of envelopes, some with corners of checks sticking out: it was the mail she’d been receiving. I suspect it was some sort of maiI-order scam she was using to augment her welfare. Putting all the envelopes into one handbag, I went upstairs to get what she said were two mayonnaise jars of quarters.

The electricity, which had worked when she was there though there was dog excrement on the lightbulbs (how?), was now off so it was hard to tell what I walking on as I went up the stairs. I could hear water trickling someplace and scuttling — either I’d missed a dog or two or there were rats. One bedroom door was hooked. Inside, as she had explained, was an ordinary clean room. On the bureau were the two mayonnaise jars of quarters.

The officer nicely held my swag while I nailed the door shut. He was trying to compose his report when I left to take Helen’s money to her. She was waiting for me and not particularly grateful. I was a little worried that she would accuse me of taking some of the money. Months later I saw her at a bus stop wearing a blue suit and a nice lady hat, all cleaned up and looking normal. I didn’t stop to visit.

The dogs were a different story. The shelter vet shook his head over them, but by now the media was onto the story and the politicians wanted a good face on the event. He picked out two animals that seemed healthy and we adopted them out to a lady in the country. Next day she brought them back by the scruff of their necks: they had killed every chicken she had. By this time we had realized that the dogs were so inbred that they were mostly blind and their innards were so deranged by their irregular food that they didn’t digest dog food. Euthanasia was the answer.

The point of this story is that animal control, like every other emergency responder and social regulator, is connected to every aspect of the households that are visited in response to complaints. Usually there are several factors in operation, assigned to different governmental bodies who may or may not be in sympathy with animal control. To be an effective agent in society, it’s as important to be a networker as to be a specialist.

It takes resources to RESIST pets. Dogs and cats know how to insert themselves into human households — have known since the houses in question were caves. And once the family has major problems, animals are way down the list.

One complaint arrived in the form of a three-page single-spaced letter that itemized social offenses that ranged from letting kids run naked in the street to parking cars at the curb facing the wrong way. It was this last offense that the complainant really could not tolerate. When I went to the house, the teenager’s probation officer was just leaving, and when I left the public health nurse was just arriving. The fire department had been there the night before because of a mattress on fire — now in the backyard, having been pushed out the window, and proving to have enough bounce left for bare-butted kids to enjoy. The fire was from a nodding drug addict, not her husband, the lady of the house was glad to announce. (The husband was in prison for something.) Her damned brother. This exhausted woman, the only responsible person in the house, stood in the doorway with a baby on her hip, hugely pregnant. They were hippies, they believed in the free life (their broken VW van, complete with daisies, was in pieces in the driveway), but somehow it had escaped control. Dogs and cats lolled here and there — all mellow, none licensed or confined.

The woman was intelligent. I rather liked her. “Don’t you feel kinda like the soldiers in the fort being circled by Indians?” I asked her.

“Yah.”

I never could solve the problems. The household eventually just left.

But it wasn’t always the complainants who were the problem. In a very nice neighborhood I got a complaint about barking dogs. The family was Asian. “We don’t want trouble. We get rid of dog.”

I explained that it wasn’t necessary and made suggestions about how to keep the dog from barking. It wasn’t barking at me and seemed like a normal happy dog. The kids were very attached to it and held onto it tightly, crying, but the mother said, “We no want trouble. Dog goes.”

A few weeks later I got another complaint about the other end of the block, also about barking dogs. This time the owner was a woman who was defiant. “These are purebred collies, show dogs, and I will not be intimidated by that Nazi! My dogs are not the problem — HE is the problem.” I talked to the people in the house on the other side of the collies and they agreed that the dogs were not a problem.

Complainants are always harder to deal with than offenders, maybe because they feel they are on the side of virtue. This man was Scandinaavian, not German as his neighbors thought, and he was a big tough guy who began a tirade as soon as he opened the door. In the middle of it his wife came halfway down the stairs in a blouse and slip, holding her skirt, desperate to stop him.

It was quite a story. She had divorced this man because of his unreasonable temper. She was a nursing supervisor. He was an artist — I was invited in and looked at his work. Wonderful paintings of sailing ships, almost other-worldly in their suggestion of freedom and peace. Then he developed terminal cancer and she let him come back to the house so he could paint until he died. He was refusing pain killers so he could be clear-headed. But his wretched temper had turned on all the neighborhood dogs and kids. “I’m glad the dogs are being killed — the kids should go next.”

“You don’t mean that,” I said.

“He does,” said his wife. And to him, “I should throw you out. I have to live here after you’re dead, you know.”

We talked quite a while. I doubt we reached any conclusion. She was late to work. But he must have turned his temper on something else because there were no more complaints about barking and I didn’t go back. From our point of view, the problem was solved.

I had no business trying to counsel these people. I could have gotten sucked into all kinds of accusations, to say nothing of being attacked on the scene. I should never even have gone into their house, but how can one keep from trying to offer human sympathy? Even if you are only the dog catcher.

One case comes back to my mind often. It was like a TV show. A woman had a big St. Bernard named Brandy that attacked people. She refused to tie it up. She said “they” would kill her if she had to tie it up. We insisted and threatened to impound the dog. So she tied it up and she was right: “they” killed her. Never did find out who “they” were.

In hospitals, I discovered years later when I did a chaplaincy as part of training for the ministry, there are “case conferences” where all the professionals involved in a specific patient’s care meet and try to get the big picture of what’s going on. The same is sometimes done with juvenile delinquents. The idea that one kind of agency can bring to bear a comprehensive approach that will resolve neighborhood problems is outmoded. In fact, I’d like to see some kind of neighborhood board that could address these problems of multiple anguish and aggravation. Some places have tried them with considerable success. But the simple machinery of getting people to meetings, compiling information, and enforcing recommendation is a huge burden on a community if there are more than a few dilemmas like these.

On the other hand, such a process can at least get people to realize what’s going on in their streets. Over and over I dealt with many wild events that no one even on the back of the block knew about. Probably one of the most memorable was a case of Wheeler’s. We picked up animals even in houses when the occupants were dead or arrested without anyone immediately available to care for them. When Wheeler got a 10-? on the radio, that’s what he expected. The police and coroner sometimes called us to help with bodies, even if no animal were involved, because our uniforms were wash-and-wear, but theirs were wool that had to be dry-cleaned.

In fact, the man of the household had freaked on drugs and gone berzerk with an axe. The woman and a couple of kids had escaped but the madman had chopped up a pekinese dog and a blonde toddler. Wheeler’s job was to help the coroner sort out and bag which little bits were child and which were dog. The child must have been holding the dog, maybe to protect it and maybe in hopes it could protect him.

Sometimes there are police cases that are too shocking to be put in the newspaper and that was the case this time. People who faced or adjoined the house knew something had happened, but not what. People on the back of the block never had a hint. All emergency responders see things that no one else realizes ever happen. Wheeler’s response was to be tough — he was a survivor himself and a lively cynic.

My own response began to push me towards a wish to intervene or at least understand. I had a wicked appetite for knowing just what it was going through that insane man’s head, the toddler’s mind — even what the dog was thinking. I couldn’t help wondering who “they,” the murderers of Brandy’s owner, really were. And I had a vivid fantasy of a pack of 69 Chihuahuas running in the moonlight through the night streets of Portland. I really wish I’d seen that just once.

Working Like a Dog

A new trend in officedom seems to be bringing your pet to work. According to Ellen Wulfhorst of Reuters, several thousand US companies (possibly one in five) allow employees to keep animals at the office and/or telecommute in order to spend more time with their critters.

Call it a quirky, dot-com startup kind of idea, but I like it! And it’s not just for unsupervised, overpaid whizkids… For a couple years at (highly supervised, cash-poor) Florida Game and Fish, there were no fewer than five active falconers on staff, and the sound of screaming eyas hawks and ringing bells could be heard on any of several floors at headquarters. How cool was it to bring my hawk to work, park her on a screen perch next to my boss’s hawk, then head straight to the field at quitting time? Pretty cool.

My suspicion is that this happy, pet-to-work story suggests a great peril for the likes of Wayne Pacelle and the psycho-pet-castration set: Most of the people who support “humane” causes with hard-earned cash love their pets and like to spend time with them. Why is that a perilous thing for the AR movement? Because (as is so easily demonstrated) the movement’s leaders have no special love of domesticated animals and can’t even bring themselves to say the P-word in public. They want our pets to be “companion animals,” but only until systematic spaying and neutering eliminate them from the planet.

My love for Rina, our slightly manic but sweet-natured whippet, is seen through AR-colored glasses as the patronizing love of a master for his favorite slave. How sad! How ignorant. How utterly incorrect.

The animal rightists and welfarists (increasingly indistinguishable) will only be able to conceal their goals from their chief supporters—normal, pet-loving Americans—for so long. It would be best for them to have fewer pet owners to contend with at that time, and so toward that end they toil tremendously now.

Friends, resist! Love your pets. And if you can, take them with you to work!

An Artist on “Hands- On”

Blogger and wildlife artist Carel Brest van Kempen had alot to say in this old post about his attitudes to “hands- on” interaction with the biosphere (see Matt’s post below).

“A spoiled child of the west, I grew up in an area as sparsely populated as any in the temperate zone. Fences were few and easy to climb. As a boy, I could get on a horse and ride for days in any direction save one without running into other humans. Like many of the kids in my home town, I was an avid naturalist. If a species interested me, I’d capture a young one and raise it as a pet. We took foxes, coyotes, squirrels, woodrats, and scores of bird and reptile species, and in the process learned more about those animals than any college course could have taught us. Many of us practiced falconry, and a number of us have continued that sport into adulthood. Through our hands-on wildlife studies, we gained insights into the natural world that are the privilege of few in the industrialized world. To this day, I’m as likely to try to catch a wild animal, or climb to its nest as to sit silently and study its behavior.”

Another RTWT. And watch for a real review of his book. Right now suffice to say that it is a brilliantly- done collection that is the artistic equivalent of Darren Naish’s blog, but with some invertebrates added. Carel is less interested in conventionally charismatic megafauna than he is in the lesser known inhabitants of earth and their interactions, from Aplomado falcons picking insects out of the air over a burning cane field to horseshoe bats scooping minnows from a brilliantly- reflected, inverted tropical sky, to a nighthawk hunting over a thoroughly urban summer night scene to…

Well, buy the book– I did, even though I could not afford it. You might even learn how to get drunk on live palm grubs…

Lemaitre

Father Georges Lemaitre, mathematician, physicist, and diocesan Roman Catholic priest, is generally considered to be the father of the cosmic “Big Bang “theory. This informative TCS article suggests that he had admirably sane attitudes about the relations between science and religion too– sometimes ones unexpected by his colleagues.

“Back in the early 1930s, the Nobel Laureate Paul Michael Dirac had a chance to discuss the expanding universe with Lemaître. Dirac was an atheist, and yet later he recalled, “When I was talking with Lemaître about this subject and feeling stimulated by the grandeur of the picture that he has given us, I told him that I thought cosmology was the branch of science that lies closest to religion. However Lemaître did not agree with me. After thinking it over he suggested psychology as lying closest to religion.”

“This is fascinating, not because Dirac was an atheist and feeling mystical stirrings when he contemplated the cosmos, but because Lemaitre was a priest — and he did not.”

RTWT!

Self- Pollination


Self pollination is not all that rare, but this newly discovered Chinese orchid appears to be an extreme case.

“The orchid produces no scent or nectar, and the researchers did not see a single instance of pollination by an insect or by wind.

“Instead, the pollen-bearing anther uncovers itself and rotates into a suitable position to insert into the stigma cavity, where fertilization takes place.

“This sexual relationship is so exclusive that flowers do not even transfer pollen to other flowers on the same plant, researchers found.”

Kazakhs in Space

I often say “Kazakhstan is a player”. More eveidence can be found here at the Moscow Times: “Kazakhs Put First Satellite In Space”– may be behind a firewall but it is an AP report and you might Google it. In case not, some snips:

“Kazakhstan sent its first satellite into space Sunday in the country’s first step toward fulfilling its ambitions to join the club of space-exploring nations.

“The KazSat 1 satellite, mounted on a Russian-built Proton-K rocket, soared into the pre-dawn skies above Baikonur Cosmodrome in the middle of the harsh Kazakh steppe, watched by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and President Vladimir Putin.”

(Snip)

“Kazakhstan had long ago leased the cosmodrome to Russia, but now Nazarbayev wants his nation to build its own space industry, the government’s ambitions fueled by its economic success, pumped up by oil-dollars.

“Kazakhstan is planning space-exploration missions and has reached an agreement with Russia to be part of all its projects involving Baikonur, said Serik Turzhanov, who heads the country’s space agency, Kazkosmos.”

(Snip)

“Kazkosmos also intends to build a control center in the capital, Astana, to monitor launches from Baikonur and another center at the Sary Shagan missile test site that would monitor satellites that fly over Kazakh territory.

“The Kazakhs are also forming their own squad of cosmonauts, who have been training for a few years at Russia’s cosmonaut-training center.”

Kazakhstan is nobody’s “satellite” (ouch!) As it is the freest , least Islamic, and most economically powerful Central Asian state, it is always interesting to watch its maneuvers…

Condors and Lead

This NYT article tells of the (recurrent) problems with California condors acqiuring lead poisoning from carcasses.

“Wildlife officials laid traps for California condors to test for lead poisoning after many were spotted feeding on squirrels that had been shot.”

“Even microscopic lead traces from ammunition can paralyze digestive systems in the endangered species and cause the birds to starve to death, park officials said.”

I am sure this is a real problem, and I am also sure that some groups will immediately call for a ban on all hunting in southern California and Arizona– and also that certain recalcitrant “hunters” will say, in effect, “Who needs the condor?”

At least one biologist on the case, Denise Louie, is more sensible: “We don’t know who shot the rodents or why,” Louie said. “If rodents have to be shot, maybe their carcasses can be buried to protect not only condors but other carrion eaters and raptors.”

I can resolve the problem right here, for free. First, if you are hunting birds in Condor country, use non- toxic shot.

If there is really a problem with big- game bullets– it is not clear to me– there are now even non- toxic alternatives there. It might also be nice if Americans were allowed dogs to track wounded deer too, as in Eastern Europe and France, but I am not holding my breath about either hidebound Game departments or AR- ists getting behind that program!

If you MUST shoot varmints, a category that does not exist in my worldview (I hunt some “varmint” SPECIES, but consider them as valuable as all others); and won’t eat them or feed them to other animals or otherwise use them respectfully, at least have enough courtesy to the other inhabitants of the wild to dispose of them harmlessly by burying them. If you don’t want to put out a little effort perhaps you should stay home and watch TV.

Stolen Petroglyphs

USA Today brings us the sad news that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out the convictions of a Reno man and a co-defendant who stole this beautiful petroglyph from the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Government prosecutors proved that the men took the boulders containing the petroglyph from USFS land, but the 9th Circuit threw out the Antiquities Act violation saying that the prosecutors failed to prove that the defendants knew or should have known that they were stealing something of archaeological value.

RTWT. As one of the commenters from the government said, this is an impossible standard of proof. “Essentially the government must prove the defendant knew this was an archaeological resource and knew the actual scientific benefit — which essentially says only archaeological scientists could be convicted in such a case.”

The bedrock of protection for archaeological resources on public land in this country is the Antiquities Act of 1906 as amended by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA). The ARPA definition of resources is:

The term “archaeological resource” means any material remains of past human life or activities which are of archaeological interest, as determined under the uniform regulations promulgated pursuant to this Act. Such regulations containing such determination shall include, but not be limited to: pottery, basketry, bottles, weapons, weapon projectiles, tools, structures or portions of structures, pit houses, rock paintings, rock carvings, intaglios, graves, human skeletal materials, or any portion or piece of any of the foregoing items.

That sounds pretty plain to me, but often common sense and the law don’t seem to intersect. The 9th Circuit is known for goofy rulings, after all, it’s in California, but this is nonsense.

The only saving thing in this case is that the fellows are still guilty of stealing government property.