Is it just me, or does it seem that many industry associations and contractor groups are adding a lot of "non-industry" topics into their respective meetings and annual conventions? At the Quality Service Contractors' (QSC) Power Meeting held this summer in St. Louis, for instance, I learned a lot about nutrition.

Yes, nutrition. Don't get me wrong. Speaker and nutritionist David Meinz gave some helpful information. In fact, he provided his material in a very entertaining way. However, I just did not expect to sit in on such a talk at a gathering of HVACR and plumbing contractors.

Employee: "So, boss, what did you learn at the QSC meeting?"

Boss: "The most important healthcare decisions you will make throughout your lifetime won't take place in your physician's office or at a hospital. They're made at the supermarket and the restaurant. The healthier the food you bring home, the healthier you'll be."

Employee (wearing that "deer-in-headlights" look): "Huh?"

When it came time to report on the QSC meeting, I did include information from Meinz's session, but some of it was left on the cutting room floor. After all, why would subscribers of The News want to read about what they should and should not eat in the pages of The News? (But if you did want to know, here is Meinz's suggested daily intakes: fat - 50 grams or less; sodium - 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams; fiber - 30 grams; sugar - 1 teaspoon (or, 4 grams); and cholesterol - 300 milligrams.)

Then again, why would HVACR contractors and plumbers pay good money and take off work to find out the three steps to long-term successful body fat loss?

(By the way, the three are:

1. Eat fewer calories, primarily by watching fat and sugar intake;

2. Make physical activity part of your permanent lifestyle; and

3. Throw away the bathroom scale.)

"The scale doesn't tell you the whole story," Meinz said. "If you lose fat and gain muscle, the scale might not move as much as you would hope. Fat takes up room, but muscle weighs a lot. You'll think you've failed when, in fact, you're a success. Throw your scale away and buy a tape measure."

Oops! You did not want to hear that, did you? That's not HVACR-related!

You Just Never Know

At most annual conventions of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association (SMACNA), there are many talks from "high profile" speakers and celebrities, which have included former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, General Colin Powell, former President Gerald Ford, and much more. For the most part, each says profound, interesting, and sometimes inspiring thoughts, but should such material be included in the pages ofThe News?

I am waiting for a fashion show next, where technicians come out wearing uniforms available from various vendors. Sound far-fetched?

Maybe. But, I never expected to see and hear from a blind speaker - Jim Stovall - at an industry event either. This took place, again, at the QSC Power Meeting.

In this case, Stovall, at the age of 29, lost his sight. The one-time national champion weightlifter contemplated staying in his room for the rest of his life. However, the avid movie collector one day happened to turn on "The Big Sleep," starring Humphrey Bogart, and realized then that a blind person could not see what was happening on the screen.

"I remember shouting, ‘Somebody ought to do something about that,'" said Stovall, who was brought to the stage by Kelly Morrison, his long-time friend and business partner. "The minute this happens, you have two voices: One telling you that you can do it; the other telling you, you cannot."

The blind Stovall retold the trials and tribulations he experienced starting the Narrative Television Network (NTN), which makes movies and television accessible for 13 million blind and visually impaired people and their families. NTN has grown to include more than 1,200 cable systems and broadcast stations, reaching more than 35 million homes in the United States, and NTN is shown in 11 foreign countries.

"Everyone has one right, and that right is to choose," he summarized. "You are where you are right now because you chose to be where you are. If you want to change your life, then you have to change your mind."

Again, words of advice I never expected to receive at an industry event.

Mark Skaer is senior editor. He can be reached at 618-239-0288 or

Publication date: 09/26/2005