Long in the Tooth

I was scanning the headlines this morning and this one struck me about an iconic NASCAR driver. Read the MSN article here.

So, as I am accustomed to do, I checked out where the phrase “long in the tooth” comes from.  According to many sources it derives its veracity from the fact that horses’ teeth continue to grow unlike us and most other mammals.  So, it is simply a statement that someone is getting old.  But, as you watch how the phrase is used, you will clearly detect a tone of disdain and disrespect.  After all, how can older be better?

The phrase being used today in our industry is DOUG: Dumb Old Utility Guy.  Sorry to those of you whose name is Doug.

Really?  Many of the ideas I hear from the newbies in the industry are DAD: Dumb as Dirt.  Those of us who have lived in the industry during the past few decades of change can see things that these very bright but totally ungrounded new entrants simply don’t.

Hmmm … it seems that every culture around the world values those who have lived a long time.  I remember constantly being told to respect our elders.

Seems like very good advice.

Tricorder X

I am sure most of you remember Star Trek and fully realized that it took on many societal questions way ahead of the mainstream media or even public concern. I still remember the warring nations they ran into between the white-black people who were in an all out to the death battle with the black-white people. It seemed that people whose left side was white, felt they were superior to those whose left side was black.

Well, more recently another Star Trek concept is about to go mainstream – the Tricorder. You remember that it would magically scan the body and tell the medical team what was wrong. Of course we now have personal wellness monitors, breathalyzers, etc. But, it appears we are about to see a new range:

Well, here we go watch this.

To me, this is nothing more than another example of how sensors and analytics are improving our lives in areas where subjective opinions dominated. Don’t get me wrong … I truly appreciate the opinion of medical professionals, but having lived through all too many errors in these opinions and spending money like water to give them a nice warm feeling they have covered their legal risks, I am ready for a better solution.

The phrase I would like you to consider here is “replace anecdotes with analytics.” Energy audits are one of our first new product areas where we are now using precision temperature analytics to tell the auditor the actual operating efficiency of the HVAC … even the gas furnace! Now, the energy auditor visits the house knowing precisely where to look for operating problems. Yep, we too now have the Tricorder … for the home and small business customer.

Straight to the Heart

Did you ever wonder why we all wear wedding rings on the left hand?  Well, a recent MSNBC report finally answers that question and the tortuous path to today’s customs since its beginnings.

Evidently, the union between marriage and the now-standard ring placement can be traced back to second-century Egyptians who falsely believed that “a certain most delicate nerve” began in the fourth left finger and stretched directly to the heart, according to the Greek scholar Appian. Centuries later, the Romans came to a similar conclusion. In place of a nerve, they were convinced that a vena amoris—or “lover’s vein”—connected this digit with the blood-pumping organ.

During the Roman engagement process, a well-off suitor who could afford a ring would slip it over his bride-to-be’s fourth finger. Thus, he’d always have a symbolic grip around her lover’s vein. The modern world may have adopted that practice from the Romans.

Still, others argue that reverence for the fourth finger begun as an early Christian ritual. While crossing themselves in an Orthodox Church, worshipers are expected to join the thumb with the index and middle fingers. Historians contend that the group represented the father, son, and Holy Ghost when placed together, while the “ring” finger signified earthly love, making it the perfect location for a spouse’s wedding ring.

Until the seventeenth century, Orthodox couples normally wore their rings on the right hand (an extremity that’s associated with strength) and most Europeans of all faiths followed suit. But during the Reformation in 1549, an English Bishop and Protestant reformer named Thomas Cranmer used wedding rings as a way to break from tradition. That year, he published The Book of Common Prayer, which instructs couples to ditch a centuries-old practice in favor of slipping their wedding rings over the left fourth finger. Before long, husbands and wives throughout the continent were doing so.

Who knew that what we all take for granted had such a tortuous path?

Staying Relevant

I seem to remember people telling me that the only sure-fired things in life are death and taxes.  That always implied to me that you would have no problem if you were in either business segments.  Well, maybe not.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, because more Americans are choosing cremations, funeral homes are searching for ways of growing their lost revenues from casket, burial plot, and dreary rituals.  They are having to reinvent their business and are finding ways in offering ‘multi-sensory’ rooms, weddings and other upscale services. Funerals have hit some serious headwinds.

I have been studying the work of Patch Adams and others who are reinventing the end of life approaches … improving the quality of life and the healthiness of the end-of-life experiences.  But, frankly, I hadn’t thought about the business implications of the changing preferences in the US might have had on the funeral business.

There are so many businesses that are in similar transitions: mail, tobacco, etc.  We are all witnessing a dramatic transformation here.

I wonder whether there are interesting parallels we could draw here to the traditional services the energy industry has offered.

No … I really don’t wonder at all.  Of course there are.

The Elephants Left the Room

Photo Credit: Brian Ach, Getty Images for Ringling Bros.

The article here from USA Today has played on all the news channels.  Some might compare this to the demise of Sears Roebuck’s catalog sales.  There is a lot going on when cultural icons go out of business as quickly as these did. Check this out: USA Today Story

Relevance and public opinion.  That is the obvious culprit, right?

Nope.  The business cratered when the elephants left the room.  On a personal note, I remember going to see this when I was about 8 years old.  It was magical.  I took my kids to see this.  Somehow the question of animal rights never came up in our minds at the time.  It was the greatest show on earth.  Well, after this May, it will be no more.

The fact is that while animal protection groups railed against their use, the reason most people went to see the circus was to watch the amazing, trained elephants.

There is something profound to be learned here.  Let’s start with the obvious.  If Ringling Brothers knew that the seemingly noble act of taking the elephants out of the three rings and giving them a better life in a nature preserve was going to destroy their business so quickly, would they have done that?  Could they have found another way to make the special interest groups happy and therefore keep the elephants?

Or what about the obvious questions this raises for NASCAR, Pro Football, Soccer … and … wait for it … professional boxing?  And, where is the comparison to Cirque du Soleil?  Why is one persisting while the other is not?  Was it all about the elephants in the room?