Cider Press Hill

What is his problem!?

Sunday, 5:12 am

By Kate




partly cloudy

I used to be such a nice girl. Quiet and reserved and all.

But there is this guy who has annoyed me for the last 10 years. He lives two streets away and I pass his house when I come home. He lives at the bottom of a hill, two houses from the corner.

If I was to meet this guy on the street, without prior experience, I’d think he was a fairly normal man. He’s fit and dresses very well, an executive type. Bright and intelligent eyes, impeccably groomed, and tanned most of the year. But he has some issues.

I don’t have enough fingers and toes or hairs in my head to count the number of times that I’ve driven past his house while he’s been out walking his little fuzz ball dogs. He pulls them to the side and huddles over them as if I was going to plow into them all. And then he raises one hand, like a traffic cop, and urges me to slow down. With a little pouty face of disapproval. Every Single Time.

The speed limit on the street is 30 miles per hour. However, one tends to decelerate as one approaches an intersection with a stop sign. As his house is only 100 feet from the stop sign, there are probably very few people who fly past his house at the legal speed limit only to slam on the brakes for a tire screeching stop. It would, in fact, be rather difficult to do given the steep angle of the hill.

Last summer during our week-long Homecoming Festival, I happened to roll down the hill just as the 5k racers were passing at the end of the street. There were some grandmas sitting across the end of the street in lawn chairs, watching the runners go by. I maneuvered carefully to a stop to wait for the race to end. Just before I rolled to a stop, I noticed him standing on the corner with his arms folded across his chest and he noticed me at the same time. Instantly he strode into the street toward me and waved both palms, urging me to stop, with that frowny disapproving face he always gives me. Did he really think I was going to take out the ladies in their lawn chairs and a few runners too? I wanted to get out of the car and give him a good whack for his imperious air.

Early last evening, I returned home from an outing and there he was out walking his dogs. I glanced at my speedometer and it said 14 mph, which is, you know, a conservative speed when one is on imminent street corner approach.

This time he pulled his overcoat away from his body and huddled over to hold it around his dogs. He waved a hand at me to indicate that I should slow down. And that was it. The last straw. I threw the car in neutral, yanked on the emergency brake, and jumped out.

What is your problem?” I demanded.

“You were going too fast,” he said.

“I was going 14 miles an hour,” I yelled.

“That’s too fast,” he insisted.

“If I go any slower I’ll have to be towed to the corner. Just stop it. Don’t raise your hand to me again. Do you understand?”

“You scare my dogs,” he said.

“They don’t look scared to me,” I said, noting their wagging tails. In fact, they were trying to sniff my legs, probably smelling Terry. I gave one an ear scratch and he just about died with pleasure.

“Do you do this to everybody?” I asked.

“If they’re going too fast, yes,” he said.

“You’re only two houses from the corner. Nobody is speeding by your house. And your dogs aren’t scared. Stop doing it. Just Stop It.”

“I don’t want my dogs to get hit.” he said.

“I’m not going to hit your dogs,” I said. “I see you and your dogs. I make it a point to drive slowly down your street. You convinced me a long time ago. I’ve been driving past your house for ten years and I have never even come close to hitting your dogs. I’m...Not...Going...To...Hit...Them. Don’t raise your hand to me again.”

“You go too fast. Just slow down, okay?” he said.

“You are dense.” I yelled.

Got back in my car and peeled to a screeching stop at the corner. Nothing like vindicating his concerns.

He has given my temper such a workout. And I’m sure he will continue because we didn’t accomplished anything last night other than making us like each other even less than before.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have even considered a confrontation. But I snapped. I really did. Ever since last night I’ve been imagining all the possible ways to drive him ever-lovin’ bonkers. But I think he’s already there, so maybe I should find a new way home. Save us both the wear and tear.


Wildly growing things

Friday, 7:31 am

By Kate





Good morning. The sun brightly shines and the birds are in the family way. Birds of all sizes have one thing in common this week—they all have tufts of nest building materials hanging out of their beaks. Bits of straw, string, fur, paper, twigs. You name it. The male mockingbirds have also been sitting on the front porch roof, singing through the night. They are a bit loud. I do hope they settle down soon.

Last week there were very few flowering plants in the neighborhood. This week, the trees are in nearly full leaf, the forsythias are in full bloom, the azalea blooms are out in a multitude of colors. So are the daffodils and tulips. Also the tulip trees and flowering dogwoods (except mine). And, this morning, the crab apple trees burst out with their beautiful pink blossoms. Our neighborhood is a riot of color.

With the recent rains, my grass has started growing madly. As well as the weeds. My yard simply doesn’t understand discipline. In all my years of yard and lawn care, I’ve never had such a challenging yard. It’s not very large, you know, but when everything wants to grow in it without regard for my yard plans, the battle of wills seems to maintain a fevered pitch for the duration of the growing season. There is no restraint whatsoever. Is that a small yard quirk? I’ve had large yards that maintained orderliness. Maybe it was because there was enough room for volunteers to sink down roots without looking as if they were determined to take over. I am already tired of fighting with weeds and we aren’t even into the main growing season yet. It’s going to be a long summer.

I like gardening. And I like nurturing plants. What I don’t enjoy is having to murder plants on a darned near daily basis. I wish they’d understand that.


Peak Oil. Get informed.

Thursday, 5:29 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

Peak Oil

The Politics of Oil: The Discourse Must Change.

The more I’ve heard this week regarding high oil prices, gouging, the monstrous ExxonMobil, rebate checks to tax payers and, nauseatingly, ad infinitum, the more frightened I get. I want to crack skulls and explain that unless we get a grip on what is going on and LEARN how the oil industry works and what makes these spikes in oil and gas prices, we are like little silvery schools of fish who dart one way and then the other at someone else’s whim—without having any idea why. We’re going nowhere fast. Misinformation abounds. Disinformation could be lethal. We have a problem and if my non-engineering type brain can easily grasp it (and find it fascinating), anyone’s can. Be informed. We have a lot of gutless politicians from both sides of the aisle who are afraid to say what they know. It would be easier for them, and, subsequently, us, if we were informed. These are two very good sources. Stick around the latter, The Oil Drum, and read. They’re smart, informed people and really interesting. Best comments/commenters of any blog I know.

Update 4/28: The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) (US Army Corps of Engineers) completed a study late last year that also reaches the same conclusions. The study outlines a plan of action for the Army to take in the face of declining petroleum. The report (Energy Trends and Their Implications for US Army Installations)(pdf) states: In summary, the outlook for petroleum is not good. This especially applies to conventional oil, which has been the lowest cost resource. Production peaks for non-OPEC conventional oil are at hand; many nations have passed their peak or are now producing at peak capacity. Polar, deep, and non-conventional will contribute to future resources. Most conventional oil production reserves are in OPEC nations, mainly Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Oil demands have not been as high as projected during the last decade due to worldwide recessions and this may stretch out the OPEC peak a bit. Currently, non-OPEC nations have been at maximum production and will most likely peak as predicted. [my note: they defined that peak earlier in the report as 2005-2008]...Production over the next decade or so will increase at a rate of about 1 percent per year. This will not meet demand and prices will reflect this. After that, worldwide production will begin to fall. [see graph](pp. 31-32)

More background on this report found at The Energy Bulletin. At the time the Energy Bulletin article was published, 13 March 2006, the report had not yet been posted on the US ERDC website. It is now.


The Ice Cream Cone

Thursday, 7:41 am

By Kate





Last night the lad and I were talking while I made dinner. He asked when the realization hit me that life wasn’t always fair. Sometimes his questions give me pause and I’m not always able to come up with a ready answer. This time, though, I didn’t have to think twice.

“I was six years old,” I said.

“You can remember when you were six?” he asked.

“Oh yes,” I said. “I remember.”

It was a Saturday afternoon in the summer between kindergarten and first grade. My best friend, Janey, was having a birthday party. Her Mom had reserved a car on a train and we were going to spend the afternoon riding between our town and the next largest city, about an hour away. And then we’d come back. That was exciting, since I don’t think any of us had ever been on a train before. But the most exciting part was having ice cream cones. When I was six years old, ice cream was the most indescribable treat. It was something that we rarely had.

I hardly remember the train ride. It was the means to the ice cream. That was the main event and we lined up, waiting our turn. Janey’s mom handed each of us a cone and then scooped a perfect round ball of green ice cream out of the container and plopped it on top. After she gave me mine, I turned and walked away, busily licking my ice cream. The rest of the world ceased to exist until, a second later, one of the other girls bumped into me and my ice cream toppled right off the cone and went splat on the floor. What else would a kid do but turn around with her empty cone and ask for another. I pointed to my ice cream melting on the floor and held out my cone. Janey’s mom said that she was very sorry, but there was only enough ice cream for one scoop per girl. And not an ounce of sympathy, either. I was stricken.

And out of luck. The only kid on the train without an ice cream cone. All the other girls enjoyed theirs while I watched mine melt on the floor. No ice cream. The biggest event of the day and I was totally screwed. My heart was broken and I simply couldn’t believe that, through no fault of my own, I lost my ice cream and it wasn’t going to be replaced. It was the worst day of my six year old life. It was crushing. Life wasn’t fair. Just.Not.Fair.

I must have relived it so well in the telling that the lad gave me a big hug and said, “Whoa, that was a tough one. I’m really sorry. Did you cry?”

“No,” I said. “I didn’t. I wanted to and I felt like it, but I wouldn’t cry in front of everyone else.”

That’s the only thing I remember about the entire day. I don’t remember what the train looked like. I can’t even remember what Janey looked like. She moved away the next summer. But I surely do remember the agony of watching my one and only green ball of ice cream melt into a puddle on the gritty floor.


Decision made

Tuesday, 8:11 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

Today the lad learned that he has been accepted at Lafayette College. After a flurry of emails it’s now a done deal and that is where he will be going. Funny how things change so quickly. We’re thrilled for him. And he is REALLY happy!


The Stranger

Tuesday, 5:01 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

Last night I plunked myself down in my reading chair—a large overstuffed chair where I can throw my legs over one poofy arm and lean against the other poofy arm—and read Albert Camus’s The Stranger in about two hours. It has been years since I’ve read the book and I thought it was time to read it again. Since the lad just finished reading it for his English Lit class, the book was sitting there waiting to be picked up.

The translation I read was by Matthew Ward, a vast improvement over previous translations. It gets back to Camus’s simple language without added expository phrases. Camus wrote the first half of the book in short, simple phrases. Nothing added. The previous translations that added descriptive phrases (for clarity) obviously subtracted meaning from what Camus was trying to say. I love this translation.

I’m not much of a fan of existential thought and the book’s main character, Meursault, is existentialism personified. He seems to be a detached character with little emotion. Life doesn’t matter and we all die in the end. The details are the only things that change one life from another, but the details don’t matter. In the end, we’re dead. What we see and do is what we see and do. We get up, we eat, we work, we go places, we sleep. It has no meaning, it is arbitrary. One second can change everything, and yet nothing is changed.

Meursault often seems to come across as a dead man inside. But, in this translation, the sparsity of phrasing accentuates his engagement with his life. We aren’t told anything superfluous. Meursault’s observations, thoughts, and behavior speak for themselves.

He is interested in the people around him, yet with a detached perspective. He makes no judgments, yet is concerned with judgments other people make of him. Until he reminds himself, again, that it doesn’t matter. He is likable, even warm and kind. He is honest and naive in his thinking and behavior. He is genuinely surprised by the leaps in logic that people make, based on moral codes. He is even wounded by and uncomprehending of the labels people place on him. The absurdity of the unrelated ties in the leaps of logic baffle him completely. And, finally, make him angry.

Meursault is a sympathetic character. And that’s a remarkable feat to accomplish for a murderer who doesn’t see what he did as wrong. He is without remorse, yet he’s innocent. And after reading the book again, it’ll be days before I stop thinking about it. Meursault makes me angry because he is so detached from life and relationships. He seems incapable of going deeper. And sees no reason for doing so. Until prison forces him to reflect.

It’s a book that I don’t want to like, but I love it. And I understand and like Meursault. Camus’s genius is contained in the 123 pages of this book. If you haven’t read it, do. It’ll work on you for days after you’ve put it down.


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