Scott Arnold's Blog

The Fondest of Farewells

After nearly 18 years, 214 print issues, 334 electronic newsletters, and several dozen webinars, I am saying goodbye to HPAC Engineering.

After nearly 18 years, 214 print issues, 334 electronic newsletters, and several dozen webinars, I am saying goodbye to HPAC Engineering, having recently accepted the new position of manager, industry content, with Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA) International.

It would be difficult for me to overstate what my association with HPAC Engineering has meant to me. As I reflect on how I arrived at this point in my career, I ask for your indulgence, not to mention your forgiveness for any seeming grandiosity or self-importance on my part.

Though I typically am not given to quoting Bob Dylan, he said something in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2012 that resonates with me to this day:

“Everybody has a calling, don’t they? Some have a high calling, some have a low calling. Everybody is called but few are chosen. There’s a lot of distraction for people, so you might not never find the real you. A lot of people don’t.”

If that is true, I count myself among the lucky few.

While I would not go so far as to say editing is “what I was put on Earth to do,” I can think of no vocation better suited to me. Since my days poring over box scores in the newspaper and devouring trivia on the back of trading cards as a sports-obsessed kid, I have been, for lack of a better term, an information junkie. At a young age, I discovered a passion for not only consuming information, but gathering it, organizing it, and sharing it. It is that passion that drove me to a career in journalism, and it is that passion that has sustained me all of these years with HPAC Engineering.

To illustrate, early in my tenure—before marriage and children—the end of the year would come, and I would be informed I had used only a small portion of my vacation time. Such was the case in 2003. When our administrative assistant at the time expressed surprise at how few days off I had taken, then-Managing Editor Tim Baker chimed in.

“Here’s what you’re missing,” Tim wrote in an e-mail message, “Scott’s a cyborg. He requires virtually no sleep, no time off, and bland nourishment that can be consumed while at his desk. His programmer sent him back from the future not to terminate anyone, but with the prime directive ‘to edit dry technical copy’ in order to save the world at a later date.”

I relay that story not to make myself out to be a martyr or hero, but to indicate just how into my work I was. I would have so much unused vacation time because I seldom felt the need to “get away.” And when I would take time off, I would be itching to get back into the office after a few days. To some, that makes me a workaholic, to others, a stooge. To me, it makes me incredibly fortunate, as not many people can say they make a living doing something that challenges them intellectually, stimulates them creatively, and satisfies a need deep within, which, in my case, is to gather, to organize, to correct.

Some may find it odd, maybe even sad, that I am so committed to a job so seemingly dull and inconsequential. After all, it is not like I am curing diseases (although I would argue the underhyphenation of compound modifiers is reaching epidemic proportions) or brokering peace (unless you count that between subject and verb). But we are who we are, and who I am makes me a good fit for the job of editor, and I embrace that.

What has excited me so about working for HPAC Engineering, however, goes beyond the act of editing. In October 2014, I wrote about the impressive engineering library—at the time including approximately 1,700 three-ring binders full of technical articles torn from trade magazines—HPAC Engineering editorial adviser Bill Acker had amassed in his basement.

“Whenever I find myself in an existential crisis of sorts, wondering if what we in the trade press do really matters, all I have to do is think of Bill’s story, and I am reminded of the role the content we produce has played—and will continue to play—in furthering careers, advancing the HVACR industry, and raising the bar in the engineering profession,” I wrote. “... We are contributing to a body of knowledge used to protect the health, safety, and comfort of building occupants and the bottom lines of building owners/operators.”

If this were an Academy Awards acceptance speech, the orchestra would have played me off the stage or the producers would have cut to a commercial long ago. I would be remiss, however, if I ended this post without acknowledging those who most helped me get to this point in my career:

• To the men who hired me, former Publisher Terry Tanker and former Editor in Chief Michael Ivanovich: I remember my first day with HPAC Engineering, Oct. 4, 1999. I recall sitting in a staff meeting listening to my new colleagues casually toss around HVACR-industry jargon and acronyms. I had little idea what any of them was talking about and was starting to wonder if I was in over my head. Fortunately, I did not have much time to dwell on that thought, as my first assignment, I soon would learn, was to edit the cover article for our next issue. Weeks before, I was in Orrville, Ohio, toiling for a small specialty-publications outfit, editing, among other things, a tourism magazine called Amish Heartland. Now, here I was in downtown Cleveland, employed by one of the largest business-to-business media companies in the world, editing a technical article contrasting the equal-area and log-Tchebycheff methods of measuring airflow in rectangular ducts. Thank you for seeing something in me and giving me my “big break.” Your trust and confidence made me want to “bring my A game” to every project, no matter how big or small; I didn’t want to let you down and hope I never did.

Michael, your idealism inspired my sense of professional purpose. Thank you for impressing upon me that, as a member of this industry, I am part of something bigger than myself and that I am contributing to a greater good. I am thrilled to be re-teaming with you with AMCA.

• To former Associate Editor Megan Hernandez: Professionally speaking, 2005 was a challenging year for me, to say the least. Long story short, in four weeks’ time, I went from the lowest-ranking of three editors on staff, with no real leadership or management responsibility, to the only editor on staff, a distinction I would hold for the next four months, as we searched for the right people to fill the other two positions. You were one of those people, and you were well worth the wait. Although I was burning out, considering your relative inexperience, I planned to bring you along slowly, but you proved to be a quick study, and soon you were carrying a full workload. Together, we held down the fort for another nearly five months, until we were fully staffed again. Frankly, I do not know if I would have made it through the year without you. Thank you.

• To all of the contributors—engineers, building scientists, association leaders, public-relations professionals—with whom I have had the pleasure of working: Thank you for entrusting me with your work; I hope you feel I was able to add value to it.

• To Editorial Advisory Board member Ken Elovitz: You are as deliberate in your writing as I am in my editing and have the strongest grasp of grammar and punctuation—and the keenest interest in debating the finer points of it—of any author I know. Thank you for caring about the little things—things I obsess over—and for keeping me on my toes.

• To Editorial Advisory Board member Jerry Williams: Once, an engineer said to me, “Why should I write an article, give away my knowledge, and help my competitors get better?” It is a fair question, but one I cannot imagine you asking. More than anyone I know, you are concerned about the future of the industry and committed to leaving it better than it was when you entered it. I was moved by your January 2016 essay on your mentor, the late Bill Coad (“The Importance of Mentoring,” part of “Trends, Issues, and Best Practices in HVACR and Buildings 2016, Part 1”). I have talked to an engineer, a long-ago colleague of yours, who regards you similarly. Thank you for “paying it forward”; the HVACR industry—indeed the world—is a better place because of people like you.

• To Editorial Advisory Board member Larry Clark: There are authors with whom I have been working longer, but none with whom I have worked as often—more than 100 times in the four-plus years since you started your semimonthly Clark’s Remarks blog alone. No one else comes close. You are more than a prolific and reliable (only one missed deadline in the four-plus years of your blog, and that was because of a stay in the hospital) source of content; you are someone I consider a friend. I will miss our twice-monthly conversations about family and the Pittsburgh Steelers, but hope to still be able to catch up at the AHR Expo. Thanks for your loyalty and commitment and for being such a joy to work with.

• To Editorial Advisory Board member Ron Wilkinson: Although engineering content probably never will be anyone’s idea of a beach read, I have tried to have a little fun with it, namely by experimenting with content forms not typically seen in technical publishing. To the extent I have been successful, I have no one to thank more than you. It began with HVAC in Popular Movies: Did Hollywood Get It Right? In you, I had the perfect author: a professional engineer who moonlights as a film critic. You struck just the right tone with this series, and your wonderful sense of humor shines through. From there, we resurrected your Adventures of Johnny Tundra, Cold-Weather Engineer adventure stories and turned them into “graphic galleries.” And, of course, I cannot forget Choose Your Own (HVAC) Adventure, inspired by the series of interactive gamebooks for younger readers, on which you assisted Larry Clark. Thank you for going along with me on my ideas. These have been my “passion projects” and represent the most fun I have had working for HPAC Engineering.

If you still are reading, I probably have tested your patience and endurance for this sort of thing enough (frankly, I am a little sick of me after writing all of this), so I will conclude. In short, I could have picked a career more lucrative (though I am not complaining), more exciting (I doubt I will be fielding many invitations to speak at my kids’ school’s Career Day), and more stable (the other day, I saw newspaper publishing, my entree into journalism, on a list of “America’s 25 dying industries”), but, considering my personality and interests, could not have picked one more satisfying. Thank you to Penton for giving me the opportunity to ply my trade all of these years, and, of course, thank you for reading.

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