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Bob Meade - A Christmas story. . .

They were poor. It was during the depression so they were not alone. Six kids, a widowed aunt, and only occasional work opportunities for dad. Tough to scrape up the $14 to pay the rent, and thank God for the corner store. Ralph would provide the food and "put it on the book" until mom could pay it down . . . a little. Not uncommon, it was the depression. A story shared by many.

It was cold. The oil man walked up the three flights of stairs in the back and tied his rope to the railing and dropped it down to his truck. He walked back down the stairs and tied the rope to the oil hose nozzle. He then walked back up the stairs and pulled on the rope to bring it up to the fifty gallon barrel that sat on the porch. Each pull of the rope made it all the heavier for him. When the barrel was filled he would gently lower the hose and drop the rope, and walk back down the stairs. He would put the hose back in its place and get the ticket that came out of the meter showing the gallons delivered. He would make his third trip back up the three flights of stairs to present the bill, often around forty five gallons at 10 cents a gallon, while hoping that this time the tenant would have the money to pay the $4.50. Not uncommon, it was the depression. It was getting dark. It was cold. He was tired and hungry. He still had four more deliveries to make.

Snow was hoped for as it provided the boys a chance to earn a few quarters by shoveling snow. A few quarters to give to mom to help pay the bills or buy some groceries. The neighbor's kids did the same. Not uncommon, it was the depression. No shoveling in the neighborhood because no one had any money. A few blocks away were the "rich" people. They lived in a house not an apartment building. The mister had a real job. Some even paid a half a dollar, but you had to shovel the sidewalk and the driveway, too. All the kids ran there first hoping to get picked. Sometimes the nice lady would come to the door and give the young worker a cup of hot cocoa. What a treat!

Afterwards, when mom had gotten the quarters, she would sometimes give the eldest a quarter and tell him to get a couple of boxes of raspberry Jell-O . . . and a banana. She would make the Jell-O in a big bowl and, before it had completely solidified, she would cut up the banana, spreading out each slice as best she could.. She knew that each of the kids was hoping to get a slice of the banana in their bowl of Jell-O. It was not uncommon, it was the depression. What a treat! Dessert and it's not even a holiday. If it snows tomorrow will mom make Jell-O with banana again?

Dad turns on the radio and turns the dial until he gets a station with music. They're playing Christmas carols. Another treat! The kids run to find the Christmas carol books the John Hancock insurance man left when he came to collect the 15 cent premium on the $150 life insurance policy. Every time he came to collect the 15 cents he had to walk up the front stairs, and that was four flights, not like the three flights in the back. As each of the carols came on the radio, the kids found the page in the Christmas carol book and sang along. Mom, Dad, and auntie sang too. It was a happy time. Not uncommon, it was the depression.

When the kids ask mom what they might get from Santa Clause, she gently tells them not to expect much because it's the depression for Santa, too. It's getting hard for him to get enough money to feed the reindeer and provide the food for all his helpers. He had to lay off some of them, too. But the young ones still dream of a sled, or maybe some ice skates to clamp on their shoes, and candy canes would be nice. It was the depression, but it didn't prevent dreaming.

Mom takes a trip up to the rubber factory where they make sneakers. The ones that have a little blemish in them can be bought for 50 cents a pair. Still a lot of money but not as expensive as in the shoe store where they charge $2.29. She arranges for Santa to bring the young boys the sneakers. The older boys get a new pair of pants and a football for all to share. Little sister gets a dolly. It was the best that Santa Clause could do . . . it was the depression for him, too.

Dad cooked the really big turkey and made the gravy and his special stuffing. Mom made the pumpkin and minced meat pies, and did the turnips, the regular and sweet potatoes, and the cranberry sauce. Auntie made her delicious bread and rolls. What a meal! I bet even the rich people didn't have it any better. What a great Christmas!

It's not what's under the tree; it's what's in your heart. A merry and blessed Christmas to all.

(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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If we manage trash properly, we wont' need many landfills or plants

To The Daily Sun,

First it was plasma generation then it was plasma gasification. Make up your mind! There is the plasma generation hoax, but plasma gasification is a way to manage municipal solid waste. Trash! It's a newer conversion technology and it's not a panacea, as Mr. Earle seems to imply.

Wind and solar are here to stay. The technology was designed to replace traditional mass burn incinerators. The byproduct, syngas, when properly cleaned of contaminants and impurities can be used as a fuel, but presently that process is very expensive. Until new ways to clean syngas emerge, "most plants simply burn their syngas in a boiler and then scrub the emissions. This leaves gasification and related technologies only negligibly cleaner than modern mass-burn units and sometimes less efficient," says waste management researcher Umberto Arena. Mr. Arena also notes, "If your main interest is to produce electric energy, so far the combustion-based systems are clearly better. If your interest is to strongly reduce the material that is sent to landfill, as in Japan or Denmark or some other areas of Europe, then you could be very interested in gasification."

It's not that "too many people are invested in windmills and solar panels and are suppressing the information" as Mr. Earle claims as if there is a conspiracy. It's that the technology itself is plagued by delays, high-profile failures, operational challenges, high costs, lack of financing, misrepresentations, opposition, and concerns about toxic emissions.

Gasification to energy is a troubled industry. Nobody wants a gasifier in their neighborhood. Just this year, Air Products took a billion-dollar hit and closed both Lees Valley plants in England basically on the grounds of unfeasible technology. It wasn't cost effective enough for Air Products. In Scotland a plant committed over 200 breaches of emission limits in its first two years. In 2011, operations were restricted at the three-year-old Scotgen plant after it admitted to releasing dioxins at two-and-a-half times the permitted rate. Ian Conroy of the Scottish EPA claims, "The facility has consistently failed to meet any reasonable expectation of environmental performance and the predicted level of energy recovery at approximately 3 percent is particularly disappointing and unsatisfactory." Three percent!

Complicating this more are philosophical differences regarding trash solutions. Researcher and writer Nate Seltenrich puts it like this: "Proponents of a decades-old philosophy called 'zero waste' contend that at least 80 percent of the typical MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) stream can be recycled or composted (e.g., through anaerobic digestion), and that reuse and waste prevention can reduce the remaining portion — if not all the way to zero, then close."

California recycles 50 percent of its trash and the nation, 34 percent, so we could vastly reduce what needs to be landfilled, incinerated or gasified. Maximizing recycling and composting has to be our priority before waste-to-energy solutions are considered. Consider the Columbia Ridge Landfill. It receives 35,000 tons of trash a week from the Portland and Seattle regions and the gasification plant there processes 175 tons of waste per week at full capacity, so clearly we have to do much more recycling and composting.

Shlomo Dowen, of the United Kingdom Without Incineration Network makes a important point. He believes, "There is very little by way of 'unrecyclable' material that could not be addressed by redesign, better source separation, and better sorting technologies. And much of what would remain would probably have little or no calorific value so would not be suitable for energy recovery." In other words, if we manage trash properly, we won't need so many landfills or plants.

James Veverka

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