Biscuits in Divide

Saturday, June 24th 2017 at 4:46 pm
by Berck

Jonah used to make excellent biscuits, but then we moved to Divide. The difference in altitude (6,000ft to 9,000ft) was enough to turn her biscuits into greasy blobs suitable for packing to your next arctic exhibition. So I fired her from biscuit making and decided to try it myself.

There are a lot of myths about baking at altitude. Rules of thumb that say “add/subtract ingredient X per thousand feet of altitude” are generally terrible advice. Corrections that work at 6,000 feet may need to be completely reversed by 8,000 feet. In Colorado Springs, we mostly got by without changing much, but our house is at 9,200ft now, and that changes everything.

The most important information I’ve found is in a book that someone (she can’t remember who) bought for Jonah: Pie in the Sky by Susan Purdy. She actually has recipes for 10,000ft, all of which she worked out in Breckinridge, so they actually work. Looking at the altitude tables for each recipe in this book illustrate just how different things are at each altitude.

When it comes to biscuits, she had the most important piece of information: buttermilk biscuits are just not going to work at 10,000ft. The reaction is too quick, releases too much pressure, and eventually results in collapsed biscuits. She says that she had an incredibly hard time finally producing biscuits for this altitude.

So, I took that information, and her otherwise boring biscuit recipe and combined it with techniques from Peter Reinhart as well as a few tricks of my own to produce the first biscuits I’m actually happy with in Divide.

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup vodka
1 stick frozen butter
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour (though half pastry flour would be better if I could ever find it)

Grate the frozen butter into the flour, add the rest of the ingredients. Roll/fold the dough at least 4 times then cut into biscuits. Bake on a stone at 425F.

Organic CDs – a short story

Friday, January 6th 2017 at 10:08 pm
by Jonah

Organic CDs

By Jonah


“They’re organic, locally sourced CDs,” said my roommate proudly.

“What?” I asked.  We were at the farmers market on a Saturday morning.

“They’re also artisanal,” he added.

“Are they fair trade too?” I asked mockingly.

“No,” said Jake, almost condescendingly.  “They don’t need to be fair trade if they’re locally sourced.”

Jake is harmless but an idiot.  He works the graveyard shift at Comcast doing tech support.  He makes just about enough to be able to afford a room in my apartment.  He survives on mainly frozen pizzas from the freezer section of Whole Foods.  To say he’s a sucker for anything that has “small-batch,” “bespoke,” or “hand crafted” on the label is an understatement.  

That’s probably why he likes coming to the farmers market with me on Saturday mornings, even after he’s been up all night at work.  He certainly wouldn’t know what to do with all the great produce there.  Me, I definitely come for the super fresh vegetables.  In summer they’ve got huge peaches, as big as a baby’s head, astonishingly succulant and sweet.  If you hit the market at just the right time, they’ve got some halfway decent tomatoes.  And of course, there’s the stand with the local honey.  I say I buy it to fend off allergies, but really I just love fishing out chunks of honeycomb and biting into the stuff, while helplessly letting honey run down my chin.

There’s other stuff at the farmers market too that isn’t produce.  One of my favorite booths is the guy with crates and crates of old books.  If I’ve got a few extra bucks, I’ll dig through them till I get to the oldest one I can find and buy it.  Usually, it’ll be something like a book of manners from the late 1800s or something in some other language I can’t read.  But old books fascinate me.  Invariably, they’ve got their first owner’s signature inside the front cover, perfect loops all slanted at exactly the same angle, scratched expertly with a fountain pen.  This trip I’d scored an 1873 edition of fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm.  It was pretty beat up, but I was thrilled to add it to my collection.

Meanwhile, Jake had apparently stumbled upon the stand selling organic CDs.  “How can a CD even be organic?” I demanded.  “It’s mostly plastic!”

“…which is made from oil, which comes from ancient vegetable matter, which certainly wasn’t exposed to anything artificial,” Jake countered, clenching his teeth with the last syllable.

I sighed.  Arguing with Jake was like arguing with a brick wall.  I was holding many plastic bags at this point, including a big sack of zucchini. Twenty-five cents a pound, they were basically giving it away for free!  But the plastic bag handles were digging into the skin on my hands, and I was hot and thirsty.  “Fine.  Let’s go.”


I stumbled into the kitchen early the next morning to make coffee.  The refrigerator stopped humming as it cycled off.  And that’s when I heard it.

It sounded like whispering.

I looked around.  The kitchen window was closed.  The front door was deadbolted.  I swiveled my head around, trying to isolate the sound.  It seemed to be coming from Jake’s MacBook sitting open on the kitchen table.

Jake lumbered into the kitchen wearing nothing but a pair of briefs and white athletic socks.  (We keep things pretty informal in the apartment.) For some reason Jake tried to wake and sleep at normal times on the weekends; if asked, he’d mumble something about circadian rhythms, but I think he just liked to have company.  He yawned and then asked, “What’s that noise?”

“You’ve got an audio file or something playing on your computer,” I said.

He tapped at the touchpad and answered, “No, nothing is open. And the sound is turned off.”

The whispering was definitely coming from the MacBook.  “Let me take a look,” I said.  I’m no computer expert, but I’m not an idiot either.  I tried to open an app.  It sadly bounced in the dock a few times before giving up.  “You must have downloaded a virus or some malware or something,” I said.  Jake had saved up for months to buy this MacBook, after I convinced him that it would be a lot less vulnerable to malicious software, but there does exist some malware that can infect Apple products.  

It occurred to me that I think better after coffee, and I turned back to the sink and started filling the kettle. 

“It sounds like it’s trying to communicate,” said Jake, picking up the computer and holding it close to his ear.  “I just can’t make out the words…”

“What’s the last thing you did on it?”

“Well,” said Jake, “I inserted one of my new CDs into it to backup photos and whatnot…”

“Oh, no!” I groaned.  “The CDs must have been infected!  This is why you can’t just stick stuff in a computer that you find randomly lying around!  We’re going to have to reformat the whole operating system…”

“NO!” screamed Jake.  He slammed the MacBook shut and hugged it tight to his hairy chest.  “It’s trying to tell me something!  And those are not random CDs.  They’re ARTISANAL!”


We found the guy selling the organic CDs at the far end of the farmers market.  “That’s him,” said Jake.  “That’s Gerald.”

Gerald was sitting behind a card table in the back corner of his tent, the only part that had any shade from the morning sun.  He had thinning red hair and a closely trimmed red mustache.  He was wearing a short sleeve plaid shirt with several pens in the front pocket and had eyeglasses frames that had gone out of style two decades prior.  It didn’t look like he had all that many wares to sell.

Jake lay the laptop on the card table and opened it up.  “This happened after I inserted one of the CDs,” he said, turning it toward Gerald.

“Oh, yes, sometimes this happens,” said Gerald with interest.

“…sometimes you sell virus infected CDs?” I asked.

“My products are of the highest quality!” answered Gerald, leaning back and sticking out his chest, dislodging one of the pens in his front pocket.  “I manufacture them all myself in my basement using only the highest quality materials.”

“Well?” asked Jake solemnly, “What happened to my computer?”

Gerald somehow magically opened a command prompt and furiously typed some gibberish into it.  An upside-down snowfall of characters sped to the top of the screen and disappeared, far too fast for the human eye to read, except for Gerald’s eyes.  “Yes,” he said, “Your computer has become self-aware.  It is now an artificial intelligence.  See?” he said, pointing to the speeding text, “It’s metastasizing into all the directories…”

At least, that’s what it sounded like he was saying.  He talked for a long time in full paragraphs using all sorts of technical jargon I couldn’t understand.  I knew Jake was catching even less than I was, but Jake stood there nodding anyway.

“Okay,” I said, when Gerald had paused to take a breath.  “But how do we fix it?”

Gerald looked aghast.  “You can’t FIX it.  It’s a sentient being!  It’s alive! Rebooting it or even letting its battery run out would be tantamount to murder!”

“Cool,” said Jake, still nodding.  “So it’s like a supercomputer now?  It can learn and think for itself?  I can have conversations with it?  It can solve real world problems?”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” said Gerald.  “This is an older version MacBook.  It will never be very smart.  Maybe about the intelligence of a two year old child.  If you’re lucky.”


The Macbook sits open by the window beside my bookcase of old books.  Jake thinks it likes sunbeams and looking out the window.  He lovingly dusts it once a week.  I’m not allowed to plug anything else into its dedicated wall outlet, in case a fuse blows or something.  The whispering has kept up and freaks me out a little, though I can easily drown it out by turning on the TV or playing some music.  

Occasionally, when he thinks I’m sleeping, Jake will sit by the MacBook and read fairy tales to it out of my Brothers Grimm book.  



Sunday, January 10th 2016 at 10:29 pm
by Jonah
One of the residents of our subdivision was kind enough to share the attached night-vision photos of some cats at work.  These were taken near Highland Lakes, south west of Divide.
“I came upon a fresh mountain lion kill of a 5×5 buck at work.  A friend put a trail cam on the site and the attached pictures show what came back.  Look carefully at the pictures and you will see the female cat had two cubs with her.  In one picture there is a cub on the rock ledge on the left side of the picture.  There were 500 pictures taken over the three days that they ate up the deer.  I’ll probably never get this lucky again with a trail cam”.
(Highland Lakes Resident)












New Job

Friday, January 8th 2016 at 8:20 pm
by Jonah

Well, I guess it’s official by now, so I can talk about it publically.

Our boss died on the first day of summer.  His work comp law firm is closing.  Three of the other attorneys in the firm decided to form a new firm.  (And one of our attorneys got appointed to be a judge!)  All of the paralegals who wanted to are coming onboard the new firm. Our last day in the old office building was today.  Our first day in our new offices is Monday. We’ve got internet, and hopefully, the phones will be up Tuesday.

We spent most of this week withdrawing from cases we’re not taking with us.  We’ve started filing Substitutions of Counsel (from John Smith of the law firm of Steven U. Mullens, P.C. to John Smith of the law firm of … I’m not going to put the new firm name here, because, if I do, this blog post will immediately become the number one Google hit for it).  It’s a huge pain.

The new law office is two exits south on the interstate from the old one, so it will add to Berck’s commute, who after dropping me off will have to head back to the north end of town to his office.

After we’re finished with the task of churning out all the Subs of Counsel, I think it will be good.  We’re actually going to be working in some unfinished office space until our new suite is built out, which will take 3 to 6 months.  It will be rough interesting.

I’ve been tasked with designing the new letterhead, business cards, and website.  I’ve got one and a half down.

I would be excited, but I’m just too exhausted.

I  think I’ll have a drink.


This is fucked up.

Friday, October 23rd 2015 at 9:56 pm
by Berck

I went to Mexico. It was awesome. I came back with dysentery.

Not really dysentery. But by the time I got back from Mexico, I was avoiding food and taking a daily dose Imodium to avoid shitting myself. And it had been a couple of weeks.

As a doctor’s son, I know that most things will get better if you ignore them. Two weeks is too long to have dysentery. Still, I was willing to ignore until I got to work one day it would not ignore me. I needed some 1970’s antibiotics to teach this thing a lesson. I know that, the internet knows that, everyone knows that, but people are stupid and I need a doctor to tell the pharmacist that.

As a doctor’s son, I don’t have a doctor. I do know that it’s hard to get a doctor. No problem, we have this awesome thing in America called urgent care. Urgent care is marketed as, “Need a doctor now, but don’t need an emergency room? Urgent care is for you!”

Because I’m a working American, I clicked on the, “I forgot my password” links to my insurance company and eventually logged in to figure out which urgent care I should go to. It matters, not because my insurance will pay anything, but because if it’s in-network, there’s a limit to what they can charge me. Doctors charge more than insurance companies will pay. They do this for lots of complicated reasons, but the end result is that you want to see a doctor that can’t charge you more than your insurance company will pay. Don’t have insurance? It doesn’t matter who you see, you’re fucked, and there is no free market.

I was really, really, surprised by the results provided by my insurance company. My insurance is Blue Cross Blue Shield Anthem. Or maybe it’s Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. In any case, it’s a lot of names that shield me from… who, exactly? Doctors that want to make a living?

Whatever. They returned exactly 1 urgent care center within 20 miles of my office. One. This is not right. I redid the search a dozen different ways and still only got one.

Which one? “Colorado Urgent Care Associates”, with an address on north Academy. That was 15 minutes away. Fine.

I drove for 15 minutes past dozens of urgent care centers.

I got to the address indicated and there were two options: Penrose St. Francis Urgent Care and Colorado Healthcare Associates. Hmm. Only one of them says urgent care. Both have the same address.

I walked into Penrose St. Francis and showed them the Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield (seriously? They’re going with that as a business name?) search results for Colorado Urgent Care Associates. I asked if that was them. “No, that must be the people next door,” says the young guy at the front desk. I walk next door. They insist it’s not them, and suggest that since it’s an urgent care it must be the Penrose folks next door. I return to the original guy and tell him the neighbors deny all knowledge. He also denies all knowledge. I would have gone anywhere else at this point, but Anthem has assured me that THIS IS MY ONLY OPTION IN A 20 MILE RADIUS.

I ask him if his phone number is the one that Anthem has listed. He admits that it is. I decide that means he’ll accept my insurance and tell him that I have the dysentery. He gives me forms to fill out.

I fill out so many forms. I disclose the same basic information a dozen times. I promise that I will pay them for services rendered. Magically, after signing this form and returning it, they’re ready to see me.

A nurse types my information into a computer, prints out a hospital band and puts it on my wrist. This seems genuinely fucked yup, but I blame the lawyers and ignore it. She asks me a few questions, tells me that I’ve been shitting too freely for too long and that it’s about time I see a doctor. I glare.

Eventually I see a doctor. He tells me that antibiotics can cure me of this unpleasantness. This is not a surprise to me, because I have Wikipedia. I am surprised that when someone brings in the prescription 30 minutes later that it is precisely what Wikipedia prescribed. Usually, these days, doctors are way behind Wikipedia.

In the meantime, between the 5 minutes a well-qualified doctor spends with me and gives me all the information I had already acquired from Wikipedia, another girl walks in and asks me questions. Like, “Do I have insurance?”

You bet I do! I proudly produce my Western Digital Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Bullshit Signifier, and she disappears to memorialize it with a photocopy. She assures me that some company I’ve never heard of (that is neither Penrose nor Colorado Ugent Care Associates) will bill me for my visit. I tell her that I wan’t wait for them to do that.

Eventually, I leave the office with my prescription for 3 days of Cipro that Wikipedia told me was the preferred treatment. I stop at the first pharmacy I encounter. I stand in line for 5 minutes and they tell me it will be 4 hours for them to take the pills from the big bottle, put them in the little bottle and put a label on it. I tell them that I’ll pay someone else and drive to the next Walgreens that tells me the same thing. Eventually, I give my well-worn script to a very nice lesbian at King Soopers who tells me it will be half an hour, and that they’ll send me a text message when it’s ready.

I’ve lost all will to live, so I drive across the street to Home Depot to buy some phosphoric acid for my motorcycle tank. Because this is a terrible endeavor in and of itself, when I return to the King Soopers phramacy, it’s been 45 minutes. My phone has not peeped.

The lesbian expresses outrage at computers, but assures me my script is ready. I pay $4 for it, and leave.

I take the drugs, and within a few hours, all is good until I get the bills.

The first seems totally normal and I have no qualms with it. $220.00 billed for a 99203, new patient office visit level 3. I could reasonably argue that the standard of care to which I’d been subjected was far lower than that expected of a new patent level 3 office visit, but how could I prove it? I’d like to say that you should at least have to weigh someone to provide the minimum level of services required for a 99203, but who am I? Now, no insurance company would pay $220.00 for a 99203, so only poor schmucks who don’t have a job or insurance have to actually pay that much. I have insurance, and an insurance is only going to pay $126.36 for a 99203, whether or not they weigh me or take an actual medical history. This is what my insurance company approves, and because I have a million dollar deductible, this is what I will pay.

This sounds exactly what I would expect. And, you know, I worked in billing at a doctor’s office for a good many years, and while this is way more than we would have charged for a 99203, and while this is way less medicine than we would have provided for a 99203… times have changed and who am I? Sure, fine, new patient office visit level 3 by the rule of law.

All is fine until I receive a bill from Penrose St. Francis. This St. Francis guy must have been a real schmuck. They wanted an additional $252.15 for G0381 (Level 2 hospital emergency department visit). My insurance company was happy to approve $184.00 of that as my responsibility.

What? $120 for a 99203? Sure. What the hell is a G0381?

Apparently, because this urgent care is operated by Penrose St. Francis (a hospital company, founded by St. Francis, because he loved fucking innocent people in the ass), they are allowed to pretend it’s an Emergency Room. With a capital E. They have to meet some sort of minimum standard for Emergency Room, and now they are an Emergency Room. Nevermind that this particular facility is not a hospital, it is an Emergency Room.

Wait, what? It says that it’s an urgent care. But, according to their insurance billing, they are an emergency room. Oh, and they’re only open from 8am to 8pm. Emergencies never happen after 8pm.

I contacted Anthem. They assure me the billing is correct. The $184 is for the use of the facility, and the $120 is to pay the physician. They admit that there are nearly 100 urgent care centers in the city of Colorado Springs that would not be able to charge the extra $184, but that I went to the single one that could. Because it’s owned by a hospital, and because it’s an emergency room.

Because it’s an emergency room, had I gone to an actual emergency room I would have been charged EXACTLY THE SAME THING. Think about this a second. This is brilliance for Penrose St. Francis. They buy a strip-mall doctor’s office, call it an urgent care, and are able to bill for EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS. For the money they receive for those visits, all they have to do is keep a strip mall office location open for 12 hours a day. But, you know, Doctors are expensive. Oh, wait, THEY AREN’T PAYING THE DOCTORS. The doctors bill for their services totally separately. $120. $120 is fair, it’s after hours, they have a whole office to maintain… Wait a minute. Penrose is paying for the building, the staff, everything but the doctors and are still collecting $184 for a visit. The doctors are ALSO collecting $120 per visit, which is exactly the same as a doctor with his own office would be able to charge.

This is fucked up.