Black Friday? More Like Intense Shades of Gray.

Black Friday absolutely mystifies me on every level.  Here are two+ facets:

Sociologic

Can anyone truly enjoy themselves by shopping on BF?  Surely one of the circles of Hell is perpetual participation in this retail version of Dante’s Inferno.  As loot grab I guess I understand why it happens.  I think it’s more a spirit of competitive consumption that drives its adherents more than “good deals”.  Now that the retailers have ceded the last vestige of dignity by opening at midnight or earlier and forcing their staff to forego the holiday with their families; what remains of the overshadowed holiday itself?  It has become mere prelude to folly.

 

Economic

“We lose on each sale, but we make it up in volume!”  That old joke appears to have been around since 1933 at least.  Doorbusters?  Really?  I have a hard time believing that the frenetic deal-making of the BF event is good for those businesses foolish enough to participate in it.  It’s unilateral disarmament to not participate, so I understand the driving forces here, but I wonder at what point do we see some participants opt-out of the insanity?  Most of my friends opted out of the shopping, so hope springs eternal.  What does retail leadership look like anyway?

Is it not obvious that BF is mostly merely a time shift in spending?  In that regard, it’s sleight of hand.  BF is a snapshot view of the spending on one day.  It’s nothing more.  The entire season tells the economic story; not the day.  Black Friday is nearly as poor a representation of the economic pulse and health of the nation as the stock market on a given day.  Perhaps nothing so dramatically points out the rot in our body economic that is the consumerist vision of our nation than this single day.  For more detailed analysis of the numbers behind BF and its real meaning to us, please visit Charles Hugh Smith’s always thoughtful blog and read Just a Holiday Reminder: Black Friday Is Utterly Meaningless.

Environmental

I won’t even go into the reality of the stuff that’s being bought, that will be for another post as it’s far from just a Black Friday issue.  See a great post from EnergyCircle Pro about how to deal with the energy that stuff will be using.

What to do instead

My good friend Allison Bailes at Energy Vanguard has a great suggestion:

10 Reasons to Buy a Home Energy Audit on Cyber Monday (Okay, it’s not Black Friday but…)

Participate in Buy Nothing Day  (for the extreme – but like fasting, it’s good for you):

Here and here

Here a few of my suggestions from a list that is infinitely longer than going shopping (some of which involve spending, but thoughtful spending):

  • Go for a hike
  • Make something with your own two hands
  • Repair something that’s broken instead of sending it to the landfill
  • Volunteer somewhere
  • Attend a cultural event
  • Don’t shop on Friday and be part of Small Business Saturday
  • Play a game with your kids
  • Write letters (to love ones, politicians, editors, etc.)
  • Make some music

 

 

 

What I’m Thankful for…

  • The First Amendment in particular, but also
  • The Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights
  • The chance to use the above to change the direction of this nation and be part of the solution that pulls us back from the abyss
  • The chance to lead this great company through these difficult times
  • The opportunities that I’ve been given
  • The education that the US Air Force Academy gave me
  • The beauty of this natural world – under assault though it is
  • My small town, fractious as it can be at times
  • A good beer
  • My health
  • My relative security in this world
  • Feeling capable – able to grow some of my own food, fix things, help others, think through tough problems
  • My families – near, far, close and extended
  • My communities – energy and environment, neighborhood and especially the EnergyLogic staff
  • My Kids
  • My Wife
  • And you for reading this – Happy Thanksgiving

 

EnergyLogic Training Philosophy

This post was begun on the RESNET-BPI group on LinkedIn.  The original post was asking for advice about training in Ohio.  The ensuing discussion ended up focused on training approaches.  There was a concern that some “sales pitch” had crept in, I think that’s fine if it’s obvious or declared.  So, here’s a big fat disclaimer: this is a sort of a sales pitch in that it’s about our philosophy, read no further if that will bug you…  It’s also a bit long…

We’ve been conducting HERS training since about 2000 as instructors and since 2006 as our own provider.  We’ve been doing BPI since 2007.  We’ve done it old school that entire time; sit in class while we regale you with endless hours of PowerPoint. Then, we take you to the field for, at best two days of field training.  Then you test.

We’ve made it a point to not teach to the test.  There is too much to know to be successful that the test doesn’t even begin to touch on.  In the beginning, this all worked out pretty well.  We had experienced and/or highly motivated people who did quite well and our pass rate was about what we were looking for mid 80’s or better.  We’ve never believed that in that environment, everyone would pass the test.  If we wanted to teach the test I’m sure we could get it up into the mid 90% range without any trouble.  However, back then especially, most of our students were indeed going on to start their own businesses, we felt strongly that we would be short changing them if we didn’t prepare them for the “real” world.

 

As time has gone by, we’ve seen a slow decrease in our pass rate.  We continually work to get better, so we don’t frankly think it’s us per se.  On the other hand, it is us, as we need to respond to a changing student demographic.  Students now (in general) are less experienced, less motivated by vision and passion, and more likely to have funding support (i.e. they have less or no skin in the game).  This has been a huge challenge to us.  We allow anyone in, but we have every student go through a pretest to assess their readiness for the class.  If the pretest says the student is weak on basic construction, we give a variety of ways to remedy that before training. I could go on in this vein.

To address this, we’ve changed our philosophy in a dramatic way.  Over a year ago, we began an initiative to address our weaknesses, improve our training, meet students where they are and up our game to meet the realities of today’s market.  We’ve come to believe that classroom training is good for some students and really poor for others.  The various learning types are not all served by the classroom approach.  We’ve spent a lot of time and money thinking and developing our training for the online environment.  It is important to us that we continue to do as we’ve done, and not teach to the test.  We are adamant that we must do the best to train people for success in the industry, not just success on the test.  Yes, the test is the first hurdle, but we’ve had far too many folks come to us for HERS Provider services that simply weren’t ready for prime time.

Our eLearning environment is self-paced within the context of a cohort of other students (in other words, you still have a class group to keep up with, but there is enough time to make it convenient).  This is also important as we believe strongly that our andragogy (that’s a big ass fancy word for adult education as opposed to pedagogy, which is a big ass fancy word for child education) needs to have a social aspect.  Our classes include class projects, social interaction, and the creation of something “real”, another important feature of effective learning.

I’ll leave the discussion of the eLearning aspect at this point and turn to the field portion.  I hope that we’d all agree that field training is incredibly important.  Of course, it’s also required, but again, we’ve had folks come to us who never actually touched the equipment in class.  That’s just wrong.  So, we are now delivering our classroom online.  The field remains the field.  Students can either come here to lovely Colorado or to one of a number of locations around the country via our Training Partner network.  What’s that you say?  Well, we can’t be everywhere at once (aka Training Mill approach and they obviously can’t be everywhere at once either see my blog post on this ) so we’ve worked with a number of our best and most trusted friends to create a network of people that can deliver the field portion of the training in their region.  This also deals to a large degree with the regionality issue which I believe is a valid one.  Our long term objective is to be able to offer field trainings that can be as small as three students.  That, in our opinion, would enable the level of quality that we all would like to see in the field portion. One requirement that we have is that a student will never leave our field training without demonstrating competency with the diagnostic testing equipment.

We’ve got a long way to go, but this outlines our approach.  It’s sure to evolve as we and the industry grow.  Thanks for hanging in there for this lengthy post.  Comments welcome, but discussion will be on the Residential Energy Professional Training group on LinkedIn.

-Steve

 

My Family is Weird and That Makes Me Fear Even More for Our Nation

At dinner last night, my twelve year old daughter related the following story (paraphrased a bit):

In science class, the teacher asked, “Who can name some root vegetables?”

My daughter was the only one in class who could respond.

She answered, “Well, carrots, potatoes, beets.”  Her teacher praised her and her classmates asked how she possessed such mysterious and arcane knowledge.  She told them that we have a garden in our front yard.  They were flabbergasted.  Specifically they said, “Weird!”

What else do you grow?  She related a number of other strange crops like cabbage, strawberries and (okay this is a little weird) Brussel sprouts.

“Weird!”

photo credit Deanne Fitzmaurice

“You guys are hippies!”

Hmmmm.  This summer a nice lady walked by our (weird) front yard garden and asked my wife what a particular type of plant was.  It was esoteric I suppose; If tomatoes are esoteric.  Sigh.

Where does food come from?  The grocery store of course.

 

Since when is it weird to grow some of your own food?  Does that make one a hippie?  Here is a picture of me from our website (scroll down just a bit).  I know that a picture doesn’t tell you everything (in fact, I have a substantial amount more gray hair now), but this image is pretty much what you get.  Hippie is not a term that many would use to describe me.

So, this made me reflect on energy, as I am wont to do.  The same phenomenon exists in the public conception of energy, where it comes from, how it works, how much we waste (about half), etc.

The same thing exists with money.  We do not understand money any more than food or energy.  Where does it come from, where does it go, how is it created?  How much of it is required to do various things in our society; provide for the common defense, fund entitlement programs, feed pension plans.

We don’t understand simple math.  We don’t seem to grasp that a nation that maybe will eke out 2% growth this year doesn’t square with pension plans that are predicated on 8% growth.  How is that going to play out?

I could go on, as I’m sure most of you could.  I don’t think it is actually a failure of our educational system, though that is certainly a part of the issue.  I do believe we’ve become intellectually lazy and in some cases downright intellectually dishonest (see the current cast of characters we’ve elected to office with few exceptions).

I don’t have the answers (well maybe a couple, but I’m sure you do too!).  I’m not expecting a leader to ride in on a white charger and save the day (see intellectually lazy and dishonest).  But I do want to see a leader that will stand up and tell the truth.  That will be a painful exercise.  It will be exceptionally difficult for anyone telling the truth to be elected (see intellectually lazy and dishonest).  In some instances, one might say, “I’m not asking for much.”   In this case, I am and I know it.  But that is what I want and I intend to demand it from anyone expecting to receive my vote in the future.