Corona Chronicles: September 19, 2020
Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at email@example.com.
Enveloped in verdant green,
I spy a single yellow leaf floating through the locust trees,
An acapella lament,
A melancholy shiver mars my mood.
Yet, still the Black-eyed Susans
Dance in the roadside ditch,
And Queen Ann’s Lace trims the field in elegant bridal gowns.
Tomato plants drag their crimson bellies
Some burst and spill their seeds, musky. over ripe and rotten.
Green wears a dusty dress of gray,
And light starts to slant in purple streaks,
A somber clue to fall and winter sleep.
Kristin Frangoulis writes and paints in Belfast. She lives with her husband, George, and several cats. She also hosts WBFY radio show, “Poetry By The Bay,” and co-hosts the TV show, “Good Morning Belfast” with her husband.
Waiting on Labor Day
Labor Day triggers a train of thinking that brings back a young adult memory that now seems newly relevant in our present societal crisis. I had just decided, to my surprise, to go into ministry. When I told my father, his response was “You can’t trust the clergy.” He said that in spite of the fact that he took the family to church every Sunday, admired ministers for their learning, borrowed books from a local minister in Depression-era North Dakota, and was a fan of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. “Ministers don’t have sympathy for working people; they are members of the business and professional class.”
Dad was a linotype operator (a now extinct occupation) and proud member of the International Typographical Union. Sensing my puzzlement, he said, “If you need proof, notice that you never hear a Labor Day weekend sermon that celebrates organized labor.”
Dad passed away not long thereafter, but he was right; I never did hear such a sermon. No end of generalities about the virtue of work but nothing at all about the working class or organized labor as a movement for social justice.
Later, when I had my own pulpits, I would always mention labor on Labor Day, but it rarely resonated since most of the church members were likewise of the business and professional class. And it wasn’t that Dad thought I should be “carrying a lunch pail” like he did either.
Today, along with the pandemic and racial crises, we are facing political and economic crises in good part stemming from the diminishment and marginalization of organized labor, the skilled trades, and manufacturing. Large numbers of Americans who previously would have enjoyed middle class lives with blue-collar jobs are now dangerously alienated from a society that doesn’t seem to have their interests in mind. Ironically, many have gravitated to the political party most overtly hostile to labor. Racial animus has apparently succeeded in overcoming economic interest. But how could that happen? Wasn’t there another political party that would be the working person’s champion? My dad was sure there was — but the sixties were a different era.
In the meantime, changing global economic and intellectual trends led both parties to become “neoliberal,” thinking in terms of globalization, outsourcing, automation, privatization, higher education, innovative modes of financing, and the reduction of government as keys to a better future.
I must confess to having played a small part in this trend myself. The graduate business school at the college where I was an academic adviser instituted a “professional option program” allowing undergraduates to count their first year in business school as their final year of college. I was asked to administer it from the college’s side — thereby making me a minor functionary in one of the premier temples of Mammon! Free markets, shareholder value, utility, profit maximization (owners, executives), cost minimization (think labor). The benevolence of greed (Invisible Hand), the selfishness of altruism (hidden agendas).
Being fed a steady diet of the like was quite an education for me, and I took advantage by exploring Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and Milton Friedman. To my Divinity student mind the whole enterprise had an evangelical feeling to it – like they were proclaiming newly discovered laws of nature that could explain most everything and would liberate the human race from its countless inefficiencies. It was all very impressive – the people, the societal reach, the institutional apparatus – and I enjoyed my work, even if I was, you might say, “in it but not of it.”
From the college’s point of view, it seemed like all of a sudden everyone wanted to major in finance and get an M.B.A. That wasn’t quite true, but there was a dramatic shift in the mid-1970’s. The general outlook was coming to prevail in political and economic thought and remains the “gospel” college students are taught to this day, and not just in business departments.
Now, however, it seems it might be time that we are collectively having to pay the piper. The downsides of globalization, outsourcing, switching from manufacturing to services, financial shenanigans, sidelining labor, allowing fiscal policies to favor high earners, and minimizing government services are widely commented upon. What I want to highlight is the incomprehension so many of us on the educated and relatively privileged side of things have about the alienation of so many out there in the “flyover zones,” which would include a good part, if not all, of Maine.
This alienation plays itself out disturbingly in our politics, in rising inequality, in societal polarization, even in response to Covid-19! Here is another area in which the forced Covid-19 waiting could possibly allow us to remove the blinders and see more clearly.
“You can’t trust the clergy,” my working father said. Here it is fifty some years later, and I have been a professional clergyperson myself much of that time. Do I feel differently about it now? Not really. The same limitations, I am afraid, still apply, but the Covid waiting provides us all an opportunity to grow.
The Rev. Dr. Arlin T. Larson has taught courses at Senior College at Belfast since 2006. He has served on the Board of Trustees for eight years, three of them as president. He retired to Belfast in 2011 after serving as minister of First Congregational Church of Searsport.
Octagon of ivory,
Spout, a swan’s neck,
Tip stained brown with tea,
Handle a gentle curve,
Eight sides wear a garden of purple violets.
Lid fits with a precise china click.
Blue crown and England mark the bottom,
A gift from my mother, the fine taste police,
Matching cream and sugar missing,
Remembered somewhere in a stack of cartons.
Today this teapot sits on a tray beside our bed,
A pitcher from Good Will,
An antique covered bowl painted with faded for-get-me-nots,
Filled with sugar,
Our mugs mismatched.
We sit in bed,
Day breaks though the curtain lace,
Before the world crowds in.
Before the refrigerator was invented, people used natural ways to preserve food. Ice houses date back to the 4th century BC. They used tons of ice harvested from lakes and rivers each winter. Wooden buildings constructed atop cold springs helped preserve dairy products, as did cool cellar holes covered with thick reed or straw roofs for insulation. Meat and fish were salted or smoked. Vegetables and fruit could be dried after harvesting, then soaked before cooking. The 19th century introduced the ice box. In towns and cities ice men delivered ice to households. A large block in the icebox would gradually melt, cooling the food until a new block was delivered.
Vapor-compression, invented in 1834, was the first practical refrigeration technology, still widely used in kitchen refrigerators. In a continuous loop, a compressor pressurizes a circulating refrigerant, causing it to warm. Then, before entering the refrigerator’s insulated box, the refrigerant is allowed to expand, reducing the pressure and cooling the refrigerant, which absorbs the heat from inside the fridge and releases it through exterior coils.
General Electric’s “Monitor-Top” refrigerator was the first, in 1927, to replace the icebox on a commercial scale. It was a smallish steel cabinet with a single door and a big compressor on top, using sulfur dioxide for refrigerant. Ether and ammonia were among other common refrigerants until the 1930s. Several were flammable and toxic—people died because of gas leaks from their fridges.
Albert Einstein patented a safer refrigerator with no moving parts, requiring only a heat source and ammonia. However, the Einstein-Szilárd design was never commercially produced, largely because in the 1930s Freon was introduced as a non-flammable, low toxicity refrigerant. The first Freon, dichlorodifluoromethane, was used in millions of refrigerators and home air conditioners. But chlorine depletes the ozone layer, so most uses of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were banned or severely restricted by the Montreal Protocol of 1987. Later versions of Freon contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) instead, but they too came under strict control under the Kyoto Protocol, as “super-greenhouse gases.” The next generation Freon is supposed to be a single component refrigerant, with one-third the global warming potential of HFCs.
Refrigerators account for 7% of the average home’s energy use. Today’s Energy Star certified refrigerators use 70% less energy than those of the 1970s. By 2010, Energy Star’s efficiency gains saved Americans enough energy to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 33 million cars—and also avoid some $18 billion on utility bills.
Frozen foods were a luxury until the first freezer compartments were built into refrigerators. But early freezer units built up ice on their walls requiring manual “defrosting.” The “frostless” fridge was introduced in the late 1950s. Many Americans have a separate chest freezer. It usually maintains a lower temperature than a refrigerator’s freezer compartment. Energy Star certified chest “deep freezers” consume around 210 kWh annually. That’s about as much as a mini-fridge consumes and half the energy used by a 15-year-old refrigerator.
An Energy Star certified refrigerator can minimize our carbon footprint while also saving hundreds of dollars. A 2020 model consumes roughly 350 kWh and emits 540 lbs. of carbon (assuming conventionally generated electricity). Compare at 440 kWh/ 686 lbs. for a 10-year-old unit, 651 kWh / 1,050 lbs. for a 20-year-old, and 1,031 kWh/ 1,607 lbs. for a 25-year-old model.
Most of the energy in a refrigerator is consumed by the compressor. However, while a new fridge consumes 390 kWh annually, it will use 471 kWh with an ice maker added. Some new fridges even include “smart home” features that prepare your coffee, let you talk with virtual assistant Alexa, or include a touch screen that displays the weather. All that increases energy use.
To operate a refrigerator efficiently, don’t install it next to hot appliances—oven, stove, or dishwasher. Clean any exposed condenser coils regularly. Accumulated dirt and dust makes the compressor work harder to deliver the same amount of cooling. Inspect and clean the seals and gaskets with warm water and mild soap. Loose seals may need to be replaced. Maintain an internal fridge temperature of 35F – 38F. Limit how long (and how often) you open the refrigerator door. It takes more energy to return to the set temperature after the warmer outside air gets in.
Refrigerators can last up to 25 years, but their energy costs, compared to new units, increases over time. If you need a new fridge, the best time to shop for one is in the fall, when new models are introduced and the current year’s models are often discounted. Check out the Energy Star website for the most efficient models.
Paul Kando was educated in Hungary as a scientist and researcher. In 2006 he trained with Al Gore on how to present complex science to lay audiences. As an engineer working internationally, Paul learned that the success of any system depends on whether it matches the needs it is expected to fulfill. After arriving in the US 60 years ago he was employed exclusively as a researcher in various fields – textile chemistry, chemical energy storage, solar energy, building technology and more.
Lost Letter Sonnet
Do you remember waiting for a letter?
How anticipation grew delicious,
Whether it love or business matter,
Whether delicate or hilarious,
You savored the tension and the leisure,
Words written with a fountain pen’s wild flourish
On paper fine, with words well measured,
Letters of desire, anger and courage.
No Instagram, codes, tweets or emojis.
The salutation “dear,” with words spelled right.
The meaning clear – ending with sincerely.
If for speed you breathe, keep delete in sight.
But give to me the snail mail’s stamp and pace.
I wish to wonder, ponder and not race.