Monthly Archives: February 2016

Food, Mostly Hot Pot

Ramen Bowls

Ramen Bowls

Carol is allergic to any food containing cow dairy products.  It is like she has been poisoned.  With my ADD, foods containing gluten tend to make me irritable, as gluten is a precursor for glutamine, a neurotransmitter ADD’s have too much of.  It is always a bit of an adventure when we go to a restaurant.

The upshot is we are fairly aware of the dietary requirements many people have these days.  Entertaining is a challenge, preparing vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, organic, free range, sugar free, low salt, on and on.  Maybe hosts should just serve organic oatmeal with rice milk and be done with it.

Carol belongs to a cookbook book club at the library.  That means interesting and sometimes weird food and cooking techniques.  Currently we are engaged in a ramen quest.  Previously we had never been to a ramen restaurant.   So far every one has been an adventure, with different ingredients and sauces.  Denver is such a great town for exploring cuisines.  By the way, the ramen is only distantly related to those ramen packets you ate in your impoverished youth.

Japanese Hot Pot

Japanese Hot Pot

I like ramen so much we acquired a Japanese Hot Pot to do ramen and other hot pot dishes at home.  Years ago I liked to cook Mongolian Hot Pot meals for friends.  The Mongolian hot pot for heating the broth was a charcoal burner, and I always worried about carbon monoxide.  Our new hot pot is electric, not exactly traditional, but safe and controllable.  I am just learning what to do.  The pot has a divider in it, so it an heat two kinds of broth.

When we think of Japanese food it is usually sushi or teriyaki.  Typical Japanese at home food is usually from the hot pot.  Broth, vegetables, noodles or rice, maybe some meat, and family.  The broth is either a simple meat broth or dried seaweed with some dashi for umami.



Two Dishes, One Pot

Two Dishes, One Pot

I have cooked two meals so far with the hot pot.  Both went pretty well.  We have two cookbooks, but they aren’t really necessary.  You heat some broth, throw your veggies, meat, tofu, mushrooms, dumplings, and anything else in the pot, let it cook, and fish it out with the little baskets on a handle that come with the pot.

You have two choices for the noodles.  Cook them separately and put the stuff  from the pot on then and eat, or cook them in the broth after you are finished with the meat and veggies and have noodle soup for the last course.  The kind of noodle is up to you. Ramen, or any other variety is fine.  Wheat, rice, buckwheat, or corn noodles are fine. You can also put your stuff on cooked rice, preferably short grain sticky rice so you can use chopsticks.

Have condiments on the side.  Condiments can be soy sauce, hot mustard, wasabi, srirachi sauce, or anything else.  I get the sense that every Japanese household has its own way of doing hot pot.  It is a fun way to eat, and keeps you at the table instead of in front of the TV.

Writing Short Essays

You have seen my ravings on this site for some time now.  I have written about not being able to write for many years, which I attribute to my Attention Deficit Disorder. I just did not have the focus.  Getting a diagnosis and treatment changed my life.  The ADD is still enough of a problem that I don’t think I have a novel or long nonfiction book in me. Maybe I could come up with a long piece on regional geology, but it has been done many times.  Someday, maybe.  

I love writing these short pieces.  I have wide interests, and there is no one telling me what to write.  I do think I will do some independent reporting the next time we have a big geology related event.  A good flood, landslide, or dam burst will do fine.  There is an opportunity to write for our neighborhood association, but I will not sit through meetings. 

Why not fiction?  I probably have as many ideas for fiction as nonfiction, but the craft is more demanding.  I can hammer out 500 to 1000 words in an hour or two, revising as I go, and it usually works just fine. I have a good editor/wife that straightens me out from time to time.   

I have always had some talent and encouragement from teachers in high school and college about my writing.  In college, I made some money writing papers for people for $10.00 a page.  It had to be a subject I liked and knew something about.  My best customers were forestry majors, who seemed to be only semi-literate.      

Now, with the help of a lot of stimulation in the coffee shop, I can scratch some things out.  My pieces seem to be getting longer, not because of any design on my part.  I also plan to write more.  No shortage of topics.  I just hope I can avoid politics for the most part.  Trevor Noah and Steven Colbert help me discharge most of my disgust for the current political climate. 

I would like to do more humor, but I don’t seem to have the reservoir of funny stuff people like Dave Barry seem to have.  People do tell me I am good at smart-ass remarks, however.  My favorite writer is John McPhee, who is the best expository writer in the business.

I have been published.  I wrote a book review for the journal of the Oregon-California Trails Association.  I plan to do more writing about pioneer trails and history.  The Western History section at the Denver Public Library is a good resource, but they won’t let you check anything out.  It is necessary to go there, and they don’t have a coffee shop. 

One thing is sure, I will keep inflicting my writing on you as long as there are a few of you to read my writing.  I would like more feedback and criticism, however.  Also, tell others about  It’s easy to remember, dof stands for doddering old fart.  I started this with around thirty readers.  Now I average about 100 hits every week.  No Pulitzer yet, but I would write for just myself if that was it.  Extroverts do like an audience, however.


Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse, 1940. The engineer commited suicide.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse, 1940. The engineer commited suicide.

Engineers design things.  It may be lines of code for a computer application or the Golden Gate Bridge.  They have been at it for a long time.  Stonehenge, the pyramids, Petra, Roman roads, bridges, and aqueducts; all started as an idea in someone’s mind.  He then added the details to make the thing work.   

The details.  You can conceive of a bridge over a stream, but it has to be assembled, stay in one piece, support the loads going over it, and hold back the flood.  It would be nice if it looks good.  In addition it should not cost more than is necessary.  That is asking a lot, and in most cases the product is good at its job.  Think of it, are the stream banks solid rock or mud?  How deep is it, how do you support the bridge as it is being built?  What material to use?  Stone, wood, steel, iron?  What about the approaches?  How do you get the rainwater or snow off?   

Roman Aqueduct

Roman Aqueduct

There are lots of questions to be asked, and the answers have to be backed up by the numbers.    Stress, load, vibration, weather, wind, soil characteristics, and myriad other details have to be calculated.  Calculations can be avoided only if the thing is so overbuilt that little harm can come to it.  It is hard to do stress analysis with Roman numerals, thus things were overbuilt enough that they are still in service today.   

Currently, overbuilding is not an option due to cost considerations.  The thing has to do its job, last for its design life, be easy to work with, and not cost too much.  I spent thirty years in the water treatment business, and everything in the business has engineering behind it.  Most of the time everything works fine.  But, engineers make mistakes.  Walls collapse, processes don’t work, the power to a pump shorts out, the concrete leaks.  When you turn the new thing on, the software may not work.  All the engineering is critical, because the water has to go down the pipe to the customer, safely. 

For thirty years, I treated water using the engineers products.  Sometimes the product was faulty, but we had to make it work anyway.  The net result of this is that after working with the mistakes for so long, I have a deep, strong, profound anti-engineer bias.  In addition, engineers tend to be serious nerds.  They often are weak in social skills, and have difficulty communicating with others.  Lots of them know they are right, and refuse to listen to input from others who are not engineers.  Mistakes get perpetuated.  I must concede, however, that their stuff mostly works. 

The problems can be minor, like not putting the drains in the low spot to forgetting to account for water hammer in a piping system and pipes separate, flooding things.  A big problem we had to deal with was leaking concrete.  Denver Water has been pouring concrete since about 1900.  A lot of experience is in the specifications provided to the contractor building a new plant.  The contractor failed to follow those specifications and water poured out of the filter walls.  Water also came up through the floor from the channel bringing water into the plant.  It was necessary to take the plant out of service, drain the tanks, clean the walls, and coat them with epoxy.  That epoxy will not last as long as the concrete. 

There was one major exception to my dislike for engineers.  The plant where I worked had elements dating back to the 1920s as well as new construction.  Part of the new project was automating the entire plant.  There are lots of valves, motors, pumps, blowers, and other equipment, all interdependent.   

The software developers worked for months writing the programs to run everything.  There were twelve foot diameter valves, 400 horsepower motors, sensors monitoring every process, and it all had to work.

Water Plant Control Room With My Doppleganger

Water Plant Control Room With My Doppleganger

When we turned the plant on for the first time, it worked.  Everything did what it was supposed to.  This in a three hundred million gallons per day water plant.  In contrast, I started up a 10 MGD plant that just barely worked.  The biggest design flaw was a tank that was supposed to even out the water flow coming from the watershed to the water demand of the plant, which tended to fluctuate.  There were valves at the intake up the mountain, at the tank outlet, and at the plant.  The tank was too small to handle the fluctuations.  The plant was either starved for water or the tank was spilling.  There was software to sense tank level and flows, but it could not keep up.  The tank should have been at least twice the size.   

Don’t get me wrong, the work was challenging, interesting, and sometimes even fun.  There was enough variety to keep boredom at bay, and those engineering mistakes added to the challenge.  What the engineers did right, we just took for granted. 


Copy-2-of-CIMG0019-212x300I have fallen four times, fallen off the ladder twice, and bounced down the stairs twice in less than a year.  OK, so I am 73 years old, left-handed, have ADD, and balance problems.  This still should not be happening.  I still think of myself as younger than 73, even though the DOF in the name of this site stands for Doddering Old Fart.

After our snowstorm I was out shoveling (I can still do that), came into the house in my wet boots, headed downstairs, and slipped on a stair.  I bounced down about four steps thinking this should not be happening.  I bruised my thigh and reinjured the ribs I broke last summer falling down the stairs.

The first night was rough, I couldn’t find a position that didn’t hurt.  Now I am sleeping OK and am almost fully mobile, just sore.  This has to stop.  After the four falls I got a referral to physical therapy.  That PT has made a big difference.  It seems that as we age, we rely more on vision for balance than the proprioceptors in our feet and the inner ear for balance.  That is not enough.

Inner Ear

Inner Ear

I had a top notch PT.  I did a lot of exercises to improve my balance that actually worked.  There is a remaining problem.  I have a significant hearing loss and wear hearing aids.  I also have constant tinnitus.  It seems that the Army likes to make loud noises.  Often when noises damage the auditory nerve the vestibular nerve sending information from the semi-circular canals is also damaged.  My balance is weak in the dark, especially when turning.  I have an appointment with the ENT clinic at the VA to see if anything can be done.

This balance thing goes way back, probably because of the inner ear problem.  I have always fallen more than most people, but I always attributed it to general clumsiness and ADD.  I am somewhat skilled at falling because I do it so often, but the last year has not gone well.

I managed to avoid injury with the falls and the two events with the stepladder, but no luck with the stairs.  The first time I was going down in the dark and missed the bottom step.  I did my tuck and roll, but the stool was in the way.  I broke two ribs in my back.  OW OW OW.  Don’t break ribs.  It took about two months to heal.  We now have two motion activated lights in the stairwell.

The fall the other day was entirely my fault.  My boots were wet and my mind was elsewhere.  I slipped on the front of the stair tread and went down.  Bouncing down stairs is no fun.  My thigh Is doing well, but those same ribs hurt.  So what is going on?

Some of it is the aging process, and my refusal to acknowledge I am not the young whippersnapper I used to be.  I am now restricted to the bottom two steps on the ladder.  Some of it is obviously balance related.  Some of it is my distractibility and inattention.

I think the real meaning goes deeper.  Carol and I are in to Jungian Psychology, which pays a lot of attention to dream images and symbols to examine the unconscious part of the psyche.  When a series of waking events occurs, our question is, ” If this was a dream, what would it mean?”.  The Universe is trying to tell me something, and I am not paying attention.

When I don’t pay attention, things tend to escalate until I get the message.  This happens to a lot of people.  It sometimes takes a life-changing event before we pay attention.  I am paying attention, but I am not sure of all the meaning.  Part of it is Slow Down, Dude!  Part of it is to stop trying to do it all, despite the risk.  I am not very good at doing it all, and we can afford to have someone else do it.

There is a spiritual meaning here, and I am not clear what it is.  I think some of it is to write more than three hours per week and spend less time looking at junk on the iPad.  I also need to do more spiritual work.  I have a block in this area, with times that are spiritual and other times, like now, when all I can do is pray and try to meditate.  I get too distracted in meditation.  I keep forgetting to go to my Sunday evening meeting.  I do not get out in nature enough.  Is there more?  I’ll tell you when I know.

Riding in Cars

Denver Rush Hour

Denver Rush Hour

Here in the big, rich USA we are slaves to the automobile.  Cars give us the illusion of freedom.  We can go where we want to, when we want to, without asking anyone but the banker.  You pay for the privilege.  In New York, cars are too expensive, so people use mass transit.  It works well in New York, Boston, and Chicago. Other cities have transit systems, but they are not as comprehensive as the big three.  A person can get around, but it is not very easy.  Here in Denver it is getting better, but still a hassle.  We are waiting for the rail line to open to DIA.  Our light rail station is just a few blocks away. 

What if you live in Denver and want to go to Dinosaur?  Live in Fruita and want to go to Grand Junction?  It means riding in cars.  There used to be more public transit systems in our country.  General Motors bought many of them and shut them down.  The financial and environmental impact threatens to overwhelm the planet.  What logic is there for millions of people to get into. Three thousand pound car with a life of about fifteen years to drive to work alone on streets clogged with hordes of other cars.  The whole thing must change. 

In the meantime, I am like most people in rich nations.  I love cars.  We are a two person household with three cars.  One of them, a BMW with rear wheel drive is currently sitting in the garage because it is helpless in snow.  In addition, if Carol rides in it for any distance the sexy leather covered seat with seven means of adjustment throws her back out and I am doing massage on her for weeks.  What are we?  Crazy?  You bet.  

2006 BMW 326i

2006 BMW 326i

That stupid car is the coolest car I have ever driven.  Driving it almost makes up for not having a motorcycle.  It is fantastic in the mountains.  It’s fast, handles like a Formula One car, and growls.  It is even fun going from one red light to another at 10 mph on Colorado Boulevard, Denver’s busiest street.   

My main ride is a four wheel drive Toyota pickup.  I can go four wheeling and camping in it.  It takes me to Lowe’s to get the stuff to replace the stuff I tore up or wore out.  It is reliable, gets decent mileage, takes me most anywhere I want to go in the back country and has a seat one step removed from a church pew bench.  A fella needs a truck.  Carol’s car is a Toyota Matrix.  Cheap to buy, plenty of room for big people, cheap to run, and doesn’t need fixing.  Why can’t Chevrolet do that? 

1955 Chevy

1955 Chevy

Cars became important to me at an early age.  We had a 1939 Chevy I loved.  I fell off the back and gashed my leg from my crotch to my knee on the license plate.  I still liked it.  Then, disaster.  My father started buying  Nashes.  The horror.  The first one was a bathtub Nash, named for its shape.  Ugly, slow, outdated, and a laughing stock.  He didn’t learn.  The next one was just as ugly and stupid.  My dad liked the salesman.  He then went to Ramblers, still awful but a little better.  Why not a Chevrolet?  One of the prettiest girls in school rode in a yellow and black 1957 Chevy that made my knees shake.   

The Infamous Bathtub Nash

The Infamous Bathtub Nash

One of the reasons I turned out the way I have is because I had to ride in Nashes.  I even had to take girls on dates in a Nash. I didn’t date much.  The only thing that salvaged my childhood was the 1953 Chevrolet pickup dad bought for hunting and fishing trips.  In those days it was only two wheel drive, because 4×4’s were scarce.  It was short, narrow, and with some rocks in the back, it would chug along into places that were supposed to be for Jeeps only.  I learned to drive in it, and drove around town for more than a year before I had a driver’s license.   

Later on when I had my own cars, Dad had a succession of International Scouts (same salesman) and Jeeps he used to explore the Colorado Mountains.  By the time he died, he had been over almost every mountain pass in the state.  He especially loved the San Juans and the Utah red rock country. 

1963 VW

1963 VW

My cars?  The first one was a 1957 Ford that wasn’t very cool, but got me around just fine.  And, it was not a Nash.  When in the Army in Germany I bought a new Volkswagen.  $1389 in 1963.  I paid for it with a paper bag of 20 Mark bills, the largest denomination American Express had.  They were the equivalent of a five dollar bill.  I brought it home and drove it all over.  Boy, it was cold in the winter. 

MGA Coupe

MGA Coupe

I then went through a sports car phase.  Everyone I knew was into hot rods, so of course I had to have sports cars.  The first one was an MG.  Fun, but completely unreliable, made when the British car industry was in decline.  The next one was a Sunbeam Tiger, another Brit, but with an American Ford V8 under the hood.  That one was really fun and fast.  I almost killed myself in Poudre Canyon rolling it.  Drunk. 

Back to a Volkswagen.  Cool, but slow enough to lower the risk of killing myself.  It was still too cold in winter.  From then, it was a motley assortment of pickups.  Nissan, Dodge, Toyota, both two wheel and four wheel drive.  I prefer smaller trucks, going back to my sports car phase.  My current Toyota is a midsize and too big.  I have always wanted a Jeep, but you can’t haul stuff in them and they break.  Toyotas just keep running.   

The problem is what to do with that BMW.  I feel like I am hot shit driving it.  No Mercedes, Audi, or Japanese sports sedan has anywhere the panache of a BMW.  Also Bavaria is my favorite German state.  BMW does make all wheel drive cars and Carol’s car is getting old.  Would a newer BMW not kill her back?  Do we need to be that cool?  The things are expensive.  They are not as reliable.  Parts cost a fortune.  But, “Bayern Uber Alles”.  We’ll see.



Armed Insurrection

Ammon Bundy and the Boys

Ammon Bundy and the Boys

Currently we are following the occupation of a federal wildlife refuge by a group of men quoting the Constitution and claiming the land for incarcerated ranchers who do not support the occupation.  The real reason for the occupation is to attempt to force the federal government to relinquish all the public lands in the west to private ownership.   

The premise is that the land should be owned by the local residents for their benefit.  For many years in the rural west, the local ranchers acted as if the land was theirs.  They ran their livestock, built reservoirs and roads, and built fences.   

At first, the policy of the government was to encourage settlement with the Homestead Act, land grants to railroads along their rights-of-way, and direct sales.  As population increased, the policies began changing.  The Grazing Service leased land for livestock grazing at very low rates, in effect subsidizing the industry.  Many ranchers got rich.  They would homestead the water and run their stock on government land.  As their land ownership increased by various means, they became the major taxpayers in many rural counties.  As the big landowners they tended to control the local governments. 

In 1949, President Truman created the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also known as the Bureau of Livestock and Mining.  The Forest Service policies were similar, cheap timber sales and low cost grazing leases.  In addition, anyone could stake a mining claim, prove it out, and own the land. 

The BLM and the USFS were understaffed, with many of their employees second or third sons of ranching families who went to the Forestry Departments in the cow colleges.  The net effect was to encourage rampant cheating, cutting more timber, running more stock, and damaging the ecosystems. 

Delta - Grand Junction Colorado Desert

Delta – Grand Junction Colorado Desert

My father told of the lush grass growing between Grand Junction and Delta, Colorado when he was young.  The grass is gone, the area is desolate.  There is more sagebrush today than before the land was settled.  Sagebrush is resistant to trampling.  The deep, steep walled gullies all over the west are recent, caused by erosion caused by the loss of root systems that held the soil. 

Today all that has changed.  The BLM and the Forest Service actively manage the lands.  The populations are much larger, with much of the rural west not so rural.  Ranchers can no longer treat public lands as their own.  Many of them refuse to accept the changes, and the Malheur occupation is the result. 

The occupiers are the spear point of a movement of disenchanted mostly rural people who resent governmental control of land they tend to see as their birthright.  The rural people are fiercely independent.  They do not like cities, don’t want others telling them what to do, and want to use the grass and timber that surrounds them.  They are usually very conservative politically. 

There are not many ways to make a living in those areas.  The land is either owned by a few ranchers or the government.  There are government jobs with the BLM or the Forest Service, schools, county road maintenance, the state highway department, or low paying service and retail jobs in town.  Most of the young people move away. 

I am one of the ones who moved away.  I was a town kid, but the same conditions applied to me.  The best job I had before I left was with the National Park Service, and was seasonal, as many of the trade related jobs are.  I worked for the Park Service, went to school and the army, returned to go to school at the local Junior College, transferred to a University in the city, and return only for visits.  That is the story for much of my high school class, even with growing Grand Junction just down the road. 

In the rural west that is the story.  Locals who just scrape along, the ranchers, and all that beautiful government land surrounding them.  They won’t or can’t make it in the city and feel trapped in a situation beyond their control.  Some of them turn to hard line right-wing politics facilitated by online websites.  In addition, almost every television set is tuned to sports or Fox News.  

The Feds have yet to come up with a consistent policy to deal with militants

LaVoy Finicum Shot

LaVoy Finicum Shot

like the Bundys and their allies.  They must deal with the lawlessness, but do not want a situation like Ruby Ridge or Waco.  Thus they do nothing, which encourages the militias, or precipitate a violent confrontation with loss of life.  The dilemma is how to deal with an armed insurrection without gunfire.  Many of the rebels are sworn to die fighting.  Must that happen?  Letting the nuts go is unacceptable.  Letting them run loose while occupying government land and trying to arrest them when they leave has led to killing.  My thought is to lay siege and starve them out.  They failed at Waco when the Feds lost patience.  Lots of innocent lives were lost.  The problem is that the law enforcement agencies tend to lack patience.   

Maybe the solution is to have an interagency federal siege team, trained to deal with armed standoffs.  They have their government salaries while the insurrectionists can be isolated from their outside support.  No power, no food, no water, they won’t last long.  Outside militants may try to lift the siege, but the government has the resources to surround and isolate them as well.  Will there be shooting?  Probably, as many of the militants are glory seekers, willing to be martyrs.  When the occupations all fail, the movements will lose their motivation.  Maybe.  As long as the militants are able to arm themselves, these occupations will probably continue.  As we saw, road stops do not work.