Cider Press Hill


Wednesday, 2:42 pm

By Kate





Keurig coffee maker This is a coffee maker. It is named Keurig and it seems to be taking this area by storm—I can’t speak for other areas. But these things are popping up all over the place. There’s even one in the grocery store for customers who need a coffee fix. There’s one in my kitchen, too.

The Keurig is the most wonderful coffee maker in the world, I’m convinced. It also brews one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever tasted and only takes about 15 seconds to brew a mug of fresh, piping hot coffee. I mean hot coffee. There is nothing quite like an almost instant mug of delicious steaming coffee first thing in the morning.

It also solves the problem of figuring out how to keep an entire pot of coffee hot for the next eight hours. Not an issue now.

However, the Keurig is potentially one of the most environmentally irresponsible products on the market.

Each cup of coffee is brewed using one of these K-Cups. The number of K-Cup boxes lining the shelves in my grocery store is horrifying. There is also a local coffee vending company that almost exclusively trades in K-Cup products. They are doing a booming walk-in and mail-order business.

For the occasional at-home coffee drinker, K-Cups might possibly be excused. Nice for guests, too. But for those of us who swill coffee in quantity, they are horrible little plastic things. It’s just too bad that they work so well.

I figure, with my coffee intake, I’d end up with about 150 used K-Cups per month. For most people, those probably end up in the landfill. Imagine 150 K-Cups per month times a village of similarly dedicated K-Cup users. That’s a lot of plastic in the ground. And, of course, at about $11.00 per 24 K-Cups, that adds up to a sizeable amount of money every month for coffee.

After the first blush of thrilling delicious convenient coffee last month, my conscience started bothering me mightily (although I was relieved to discover these things are recyclable and they make excellent little pots for starting seeds). My checkbook wasn’t all that excited, either.

Enter the more environmentally responsible (and cost effective) solution—a reusable filter. Keurig at least tried to offer a mitigating product for the consumer. Their parent company, Green Mountain Coffee, has admitted that the K-Cups are a thorny little environmental problem for a company that has highly touted their social and environmental responsibility. I don’t, however, see K-Cups going away. They are kind of integral to the Keurig reason-for-being.

I ordered my reusable filter from Amazon and haven’t looked back. The thing works beautifully, despite the odd complaint in the Amazon reviews. Perhaps the gizmo has been re-engineered since the first reviews—not sure—but it has worked well for me every single time.  And I get to select my own favorite coffees at a fraction of the K-Cup price. I will say, though, that through my initial K-Cup experimentation, I discovered Green Mountain’s Nantucket Blend, which is one of my new favorite coffees. I can buy whole beans at the store and grind to my own specification.

Okay, so now my conscience doesn’t bother me. I love my Keurig coffee maker. Love. It.


Surrounded by stupid

Monday, 9:27 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

Even without a television, I can’t escape all the babble and screeching going on in the media about poor Wesley Clark’s misguided statement: “I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”

Misguided only because he left himself wide open for concerned parties to throw sensational hissy fits over it.

I’m so sorry that John McCain got shot down and spent five years in Hanoi Hilton. I am. No one should have had to endure that. But you know, that was 40 years ago. Time marches on and just what does being a POW forty years ago have to do with the price of eggs (which were $4.99 at my grocery store this weekend)? He’s the one running on his war record and POW status rather than on his vision for the future. The media eat it up with great big spoons.

Have the media happened to notice lately that things in this country are in bad shape? I’m sure it’s more fun to write about so-called scandalous statements that seem to be mostly of interest to the insulated and privileged journos, but come on.

It’s getting rough out here. Gasoline is well over $4 a gallon here. Diesel is over $5. Heating oil is $5/gallon. Natural gas has taken a leap upward. Electricity has taken a huge leap upward. Food has taken a monstrous leap upward. And probably will get monstrously worse after some 5 million acres of prime corn and soybean crops got washed away this past month in Iowa and immediate environs. Corn prices have already exploded. Cattle eat corn, too. Watch meat prices soar now. Watch ranchers slaughter their herds because they can’t afford to feed them this winter. Iowa is, incidentally, the leading corn producing state in the US—and one of the leading exporters.

We also have a teensy credit problem ongoing in the country. We have foreclosures at record highs. Consumer confidence is in the crapper. We have people living in their cars and in tent and parking lot cities. We have bank failures happening and more about to happen. More and more economists are starting to talk about a total banking system collapse in the near future. Scares the hell out of me. It’s beginning to make the Great Depression sound quaint.

Does anyone in the media care? Beats me. They can’t seem to focus on anything important. No one talks much about things coming apart at the seams. If they ignore it, maybe it’ll go away? I don’t think so. We are coming apart at the seams.

I agree with Wesley Clark. I just don’t find John McCain’s POW experience particularly germane to the overwhelming issues at hand in 2008. Middle Eastern terrorism isn’t the only war we’re fighting. Lots of people are just plain fighting for survival. Like the 125,000 households in Massachusetts who had their utilities terminated this summer because they can’t afford to pay—with thousands and thousands more about to hit a brick wall this coming winter.

What I want to know is what these political dudes plan to do about it. I want to know why the journalists and reporters aren’t asking questions about these things and demanding some on-the-record answers. I want to hear in-depth energy policies. Serious answers that have roots in reality and not in the most generous lobbyist’s purse. I’d like to see something that resembles Vision. They’re hard questions with hard answers, but being the president is no walk the park either. If they want the job, they need to offer us something relevant to current issues. After a certain point, I just don’t give a rip about what happened 40 years ago. Character only carries you so far. I want answers to things that are important here and now, dammit. And I want the journalists and reporters to care enough to Do Their Jobs.

I’ve been accused of being an idealist before, though.


Brats of the Entitlement generation

Thursday, 7:10 pm

By Kate





I was just reading Paul Krugman’s blog post about the state of Social Security, which claims that SS will be quite solvent for a good long time to come, based on the *real* reading of the recent report by the Social Security Trustees. The same report that has set the right-wing into a frenzy about how insolvent the program is and how we baby boomers are like leeches on the body politic (greedy little brats). I don’t know how such disparate views can be reached reading the same words. And yes, I actually read the darned thing. It’s 120+ pages long, but, if you want to know what’s in it, the primary source is a lot more reliable than *interpretations* by political hacks.

But that’s not what this post is about. It’s the stupid and loaded word, Entitlement, that those who hate the idea of Social Security attach to the program. The comment section to Krugman’s post had a couple of references to the term which, more or less, sent me into orbit. As we all know, that’s a bad word in this free-wheeling, free-market (laissez-faire) economy. That free-wheeling economy that is currently going down the crapper because greed knows no bounds.

As far as I know, Social Security is an insurance program. It was set up to be an insurance program and it still works that way. I have paid into Social Security for a good long time, and when the time comes, I get to withdraw payments based on what I’ve contributed to it. Not one cent more. That’s how insurance works. And, y’know, if I’ve spent considerable years paying into it, I’d damned well better get something out of it, regardless if it offends someone’s laissez-faire ethic.

I’m equally certain that those who brand Social Security as an Entitlement Program are similarly appalled at their monthly/yearly house insurance payments so that if their house burns down, they will get a big fat House Entitlement check (which may include some of my money) to rebuild their house.

Entitlement is a sleazy, weasel-word. And it’s inaccurate. And a cheap shot. And did I mention sleazy and weasely? And slimy?

A happy note for those greedy little bastards who hate the idea of social security insurance...a third to half of us baby boomers will be dead in 20 years...just about the time you reach middle age or retirement. I know you can’t wait. There will be enough left for you guys, no problem. Relax.

Unless, of course, your free-wheeling, unregulated, free-market (laissez faire) economy has totally collapsed and you’re all living with your kids in a three room shack like third world has-beens by then. I’m not discounting that possibility.

Not that the word entitlement trips my wire or anything like that.....


May we live in interesting times

Tuesday, 12:19 pm

By Kate





With yesterday’s bloodbath in global financial markets (and still bleeding today) and a 3/4 of a point Fed rate cut today, one might get the impression that we’re in trouble. While the Dow might not totally tank today, it’s a pretty good bet that it’s not going to go all robust on us in the foreseeable future.

I’m not privy to the financial talking heads on the cable networks, but, from what I understand, they seem to be utterly shocked by what’s happening. Which leads me to wonder what world they are living in. This has been brewing for quite some time now and it was only a matter of when, not if.

It seems that the global financial markets were a little scared by the president’s stimulus package idea that we should each get an $800 check to help buy our way out of this mess. I think part of the problem is that we bought our way into this mess in the first place. He’s looking at a remarkable legacy at the moment...the guy who watched it all implode and told us to keep spending.

What can solve our insolvency now? I don’t know. I suppose giving up greed for Lent this year might be a good first step. Maybe not paying for two wars on borrowed money would be smart. Maybe ethical business practices would help. Maybe a little regulation of the financial industry would be a good idea. You know, loaning out way more money than they had on their balance sheets was, for quite a while, considered an unsound business practice. That compounded by handing out loans (sub-prime and conventional) for over-valued houses with little or no down payment and subsequent cash out refinancing...well, here we are. If financial institutions aren’t bright enough (or are too greedy) to follow basic sound business practices, maybe we oughta re-regulate them up to the eyeballs to make sure that they behave in the future. Again. When the financial institutions treat our houses and investments like monopoly money, it’s time to take away the keys to the vaults. It looks as if they’ve spent the golden eggs and overworked the goose into a coma.

Why are the talking heads so surprised?

I’m thrilled. How about you?

In another bit of greed news, I read someplace yesterday that two of the large oil companies (Shell and BP, I think) have suspended contributions to their pension funds for the next year. Weren’t they among the number who have seen billions of dollars in profits the last couple of quarters? And obscene bonuses? But they’re too strapped to meet their pension fund obligations? Huh.


Have you forgotten?

Tuesday, 3:50 pm

By Kate




heavy rain

Today is the anniversary of that day, six years ago. Has anyone forgotten? Does anyone really need a memory nudge to recall those hideous pictures of planes crashing and exploding into buildings?

I know people react to things differently and I’m not discounting, for a second, the traumatic effect it has had on many. It scared the hell out of me, that’s for sure.


I’m curious to see how many years will have to pass before I stop seeing “NEVER FORGET” banners popping up on blogs, in front yards, on cars, (etc. etc.) as the day approaches.

For me, seeing “NEVER FORGET” is like fingernails down a blackboard. There is some inherent hostility in the simple phrase as well as an unhealthy dose of victimhood. As if the Never Forgetters are stuck in time and can’t get past it. Or don’t want to. That might be what grates on me most—not wanting to get past it. There is something unhealthy in Never Forget. I think forgetting is quite out of the question for those of us who were sentient on that day. I’m positive that I will always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the towers were hit. And, certainly, the relational events of the past 6 years haven’t been lost on me, either. Why do people think we need to be reminded? What is it that they want us to NEVER FORGET? There is an entire psychology bound up in that phrase.

I think it likely that my son’s children will grow up learning that something terrible happened on September 11 and they will be tested on the date and significance in social studies classes, but it will be another date to memorize for them. Same as December 7 was for me. I was born only 12 years after December 7, 1941. My parents, who had not forgotten the day nor the terror (and believe me, December 7 knocked them sideways and readjusted their world view considerably), at least understood that time marches forward and people do forget. They thought that was healthy. They wanted to forget the rawness and the terror, yet give it its due for the importance in their lives. They never forgot the date nor the significance nor the lives lost, but they let it go and were not surprised nor upset that subsequent generations relegated the day to history. It didn’t need to be kept alive. It just was. It happened and the world went on. Many other people across the world and through time have faced their own September 11s and the world still moved on, they along with it. It is probably too soon to do that for September 11, but it will happen. As it should.


Go shopping

Monday, 2:02 pm

By Kate




sunny Out of habit, I almost wrote “Happy Memorial Day.” That’s an automatic salutation for a holiday. But I don’t think there is anything happy about Memorial Day, especially this year. Nor should there be anything automatic about referring to it as a holiday. It is kind of an automatic response and I even made that reference in my last post. But, it’s not really a holiday, is it?

Sure, we’ve turned it into the great summer kick-off weekend filled with mega-sales and picnics and get-aways. There were tons of fliers in my Sunday Boston Globe advertising blow-out sales and great savings. There was much made of the people going away for mini-vacations despite the high price of gasoline.

The front page of the Boston Globe, however, didn’t mention Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Memorial Day. Complete silence about them. And complete silence about the service men and women who are the reason for this Memorial Day weekend.

Actually, I take that back. There was one mention of Iraq in the front page’s side bar. The headline was “GOP rivals embrace unproven Iraq-9/11 tie.” Well, that’s not exactly Memorial Day deep thinking or reflection or introspection, is it?

What I did find on the front page, however, were headlines like, “Behind the wheel, on the phone, styling hair....” and “No place like home” and “Heavy TV viewing under 2 is found” and “Cuts put towns’ libraries at risk” and “Boston 2017” and “Ready to roll: NASCAR 600, Indy 500 hit the tracks today.”

I don’t get the Globe during the rest of the week, so perhaps they saved it all for today. But it is Memorial Day weekend and you’d think maybe they could devote a weekend to it. But that’s probably not what their readers want to read. Heaven forbid that we should have to be exposed to the horrors of war any more than absolutely necessary.

By inference, I suppose that means we shouldn’t have to think too hard about the service men and women who have fallen in all our names this past year, either. Maybe it makes us too uncomfortable. And, from what I’ve heard over the past few years, it is patriotic to go shopping which is, apparently, exactly what this ‘holiday’ has become. Pardon me if I don’t quite get the connection between shopping and dead service men and women.

Well, I do think about our dead service men and women nearly every day. Maybe we all do. Or maybe not. I guess we shouldn’t really need a ‘holiday’ to remember them and honor their service. But, as long we do have a national ‘holiday’ weekend designed specifically for remembering our war dead, it seems to me that we should do a more believable job of it.

I guess that’s just me, this year. It feels far more like a day of mourning than a happy, happy hot mega-sales kick-off to summer.


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