Finding the Needle in the Haystack

The two instances on the news recently where they have caught kids with arsenals ready to do harm BEFORE they did anything are applauded for very good reason.  Astute people observed their actions and what they were posting on social media.

However, the challenge no one seems to want to talk about is the more general question of how you find these individuals and help them before they go off the deep end or intercede before they actually commit such horrible acts.  Yes, we have way too many of these events, but how willing are we to truly address them.

My premise is that one measure, such as better checks on the sanity and wellness of the gun buyer or owner will do little to stop mentally unstable people from doing things like this.  They will get what they want and need somehow.  They will learn to not post their evil ideas online.  Bad people are not stupid.  Speed limits and police do not stop speeders and the horrible consequence of their actions.

My wife Susan and I were going to work and were harassed by someone wanting to speed, slaloming around all the cars.  Just as we were shaking our heads in disbelief a police car pulled them over.  Oh, that was a sweet moment and I will cherish it… but it is way too rare.

Things like this should cause us to think deeply about the realities of avoiding rare and high consequence events.  Yes, they are rare as percentages go, but they are way too common in aggregate.  The problem is that they are rare so detection and avoidance pose a very real opposite problem: the invasion of privacy and intrusion plus false accusations of those who MIGHT do something this bad.  There are thousands of these for everyone that does them.  So, are we willing to embrace a police state?

Now, let me take you into my world of artificial intelligence, which is precisely the software they would use to cull out these prospects.  The errors in this process are called alpha and beta errors: false detection and false nondetection.  That is even with the best of these computer algorithms you run the risk of thinking something is true when it is not, and then even worse is thinking something is not true when it is.

As you tighten down the criteria for either one of these, you make the other one worse.  That is what we face as a society.  But, the best we can all do is be on the alert for signs of trouble: if we see something, say something.  That at least can help in the short run.

We May Not be Alone

That was the sobering thought I heard as a kid about our solar system.  On a statistical basis alone, it is almost impossible to believe we are the only planet with life.  Admittedly, life on those other planets probably did not evolve the way life did here, but it is something to think about.

Of course, my engineering mind says stop trying to broadcast to others in the universe that we are here!  They may not have the best of intentions for us if they found out just how nice it is here.

An article in the USA Today struck me along with the artist rendering of what that planet might look like.  The article said that scientists have found one “nearby planet” that is ONLY 100 light-years away.

Read the USA Today Story 

So, given we traveled there at the speed of light we would all die in transit since it is 100 years away. And, if they were looking at earth they would see it as it was 100 years ago.

Also, do we really think we can travel at those speeds?  It is nice to talk about 100 years of time for light to be seen from a distant object because that is how old the image is we are viewing.  But, to put this in travel terms, the Mars landing expedition took the better part of a year to get there.  Light would take just over 3 minutes to get to Mars.

It would be really interesting to see what the average person in the world thinks about this.

Do they understand how truly silly it is to think about things like this?

How about we spend more time cleaning up our act here?

What happened to grace, forgiveness?

My recent article on civility and the need for it is well explained by a recent article in USA Today.  Here is a full copy of just a part of it written by Jon Gabriel, editor in chief of and a contributor to

The Arizona Republic:

We now live in a “Cancel Culture” which is the tendency for public-facing organizations to cancel speakers or performers because of something done a long time ago that is now deemed inappropriate.  It is spreading for one simple reason: It works. Instead of debating ideas or competing for entertainment dollars, you can just demand anyone who annoys you to be cast out of polite society.

Way back in the mists of time, say five years ago, if you didn’t like a TV show or movie, you wouldn’t watch it. Now you can ensure that no one watches it, just by slinging some outrage on social media.

Our new-found “woke mentality” is America’s new Puritanism. Instead of using a handy list of sins written thousands of years ago, modern sins are ever-changing. A joke that was deemed progressive a decade ago is retroactively condemned as hate speech.

“If you say the wrong thing, everyone is throwing the first stone. It’s a perversion. It’s really, ‘Look how righteous I am, and now I’m going to press refresh all day long to see how many likes I get in my righteousness.”

When the mob has burned one witch, they tighten the buckles on their hats and pore through old YouTube videos for their next victim.

It’s time for the perpetually offended on the left and right to bring back two concepts the Puritans were at least familiar with: grace and forgiveness.

Cost-Effectiveness of Relationships

After attending a three-day meeting on EE and DR programs, the trend these days was obvious: program cost-effectiveness is a real challenge!

People were scraping up crumbs and peeking under rocks searching for savings.  Others were quietly celebrating a trend they find appealing given flat or declining load growth and load factors.

No one ever raised the question:  If we stop working with our customers through these EE and DR initiatives, is that going to open the door to others to come in and replace our relationships?

Yet, when I talked to these professionals, most agreed said it was going to be extremely hard to reacquire this position of “Trusted Energy Advisor” in the future and that all of the investment in that trust built over years would atrophy.

Well then, shouldn’t the future costs of trying to rebuild this relationship be a factor in the formula?  Why should cost-effectiveness be all about a historical point of view?

Or, if you really don’t care about your customer’s success with EE and DR, are you prepared to lose that relationship to others?  And, are you really all that comfortable letting your customers know you only care when they are valuable to you?

All this reminds me of the slogan on my dentist’s lighted mirror:  Only floss the teeth you want to keep!

Want to learn more about this topic? Join us on Nov. 14th at 1:00 PM Eastern for an AESP Webinar Event: Achieving Cost-Effectiveness Amid Increasing Challenges. 

Yucky Blog

I recently read an article in USA Today that made me cringe.  Evidently, according to the survey, almost half of Americans do not change their underwear every day with some wearing the same pair for a week or more.

Maybe I am oversensitive, but that made me say “yuck!”  Then again, perhaps we live in a country that has become obsessed with cleanliness.

This study brought to my mind an encounter I had with a key energy executive from Canada at a national energy conference.  We were enjoying dinner together when he told me that he believed energy efficiency has to start in the home.  Feeling he had a story behind that I asked what he had done … which I assume is what he wanted to talk about.  Here is what he proudly shared:

“The key is to conserve and reuse hot water in the home.  After dinner, we fill the tub and I take my bath first, then my wife bathes in the same water. Then we bathe the children. Then we add some soap powder to the water and pre-wash the day’s dirty clothes before putting them into the washing machine.”

A member of my staff was listening to the story and asked him how much money he thought he had saved with this energy and water conservation program.  He was quick to respond with, “I carefully analyzed my usage over time before and after we instituted this procedure, and I know for a fact we have $79 a year!”

I noticed my employee taking out his checkbook from his coat pocket, making out a check and handing it to the executive, saying, “Here is $79;  I want you to stop doing that.”

Here is the article:

A survey released by underwear company Tommy John suggests Americans might not be changing their underwear.

Or, at least, quite a few aren’t bothering to put on a fresh pair every day. 

Tommy John surveyed 1,000 Americans and discovered 45 percent wore the same pair of underwear for “two days or longer.” The results of the survey were released this month on Tommy John’s website. 

Thirteen percent of those surveyed said they wore the same underwear for a week or more. Tommy John said men were 2.5 times more likely than women to wear the same underwear for a week or more.

In a separate survey of 1,000 people, 46 percent of those surveyed by Tommy John said they owned the same pair of underwear at least one year. An additional 38 percent said they had no idea how long they owned their oldest pair of underwear. 

“It’s crucial to update your underwear wardrobe every six months to a year to ensure you’re protected from harmful infections and health risks,” Tommy John said. “Women should be especially careful, as they’re more at risk than men to experience health issues due to unclean underwear.”

The company even provided a few tips for keeping underwear clean:

    • Tumble dry your underwear on low heat for 30 minutes after washing.
    • Don’t mix your underwear in the same load with your significant other or children if they’re sick.
    • Avoid washing contaminated underwear with other pairs and clothing.
    • Wash your underwear separately from clothing containing other bodily fluids. If any article of clothing is stained, it’s better to wash it separately from your underwear.