2012 Tdw Editorial Graphic

Goodbye To A Tumultuous Year!

Dec. 3, 2020
There is a strong connection between Zozobra and our industry: Public Service Company of New Mexico has been a major participant in the Zozobra story almost from the beginning.

I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for 2020 to be history. It has been a remarkably gloomy year. We started out with a global pandemic that’s still a major disruption. Then there have been catastrophic wildfires of unparalleled dimensions, not to mention flooding of biblical proportions. The hurricane season has been so severe, we ran out of names for the storms and had to resort to the Greek alphabet. And what about those murder hornets — I mean did we really need that!

We have a tradition here in New Mexico for getting rid of our gloom that I’d like to share. In the early 1920s, a Santa Fe artist had an idea. Why not write down all the bad things of the year, put them in an effigy, and then burn it. The result was a 6-ft burnable puppet called Zozobra (Spanish for “the gloomy one”). It was a hit, and Zozobra grew into a huge marionette capable of holding all the community’s yearly gloominess and unhappiness. If there was ever a year we needed Zozobra, 2020 is it!

Going Virtual

Usually about 60,000 visitors come to Santa Fe for the burning, but there was talk that Zozobra would be canceled this year due to COVID-19. It was impossible to safely have such a large gathering in today’s environment. The Zozobra tradition, however, is important to New Mexicans, so a little of that outside-the-box thinking was needed. Suddenly Zozobra went virtual. No spectators were allowed in the park, but a local TV station broadcasted the event. As a result, Zozobra was streamed around the world and the burning of Zozobra became a global event.

Interestingly, there is a strong connection between Zozobra and our industry. Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) has been a major participant in the Zozobra story almost from the beginning. In 1933 Zozobra had grown too tall for its previous arrangements and Santa Fe needed help. Somebody talked with PNM and they jumped at the chance to help the community. PNM donated a 20-ft tall wooden pole, installed it, and provided the linemen to physically climb the pole and attach Zozobra. After many years of burning Old Man Gloom, the wooden pole was too severally damaged to safely continue. Once again PNM came to the rescue and donated a taller steel pole, which is still being used today.

Zozobra has grown into a 50-ft effigy that requires a couple of high-reach bucket trucks to get the job done. Meaghan Cavanaugh, PNM Corporate Communications, told me, “PNM considers being part of the community an important role for the company and its employees. The line crews have really become invested with their role in the Zozobra event too. It’s considered a big honor to be on the team that installs the marionette. So much so, PNM had to establish a lottery system to pick the crew members involved in event.” Cavanaugh said, “It is a tremendous morale builder for all participating.”

The virtual Zozobra celebration got me thinking about all the ways our industry has adapted to keep normal activities going on with virtual and augmented reality technology. Of course that meant getting more comfortable and proficient with all the technology available, but we are adaptable.

Most of us are now fluent in at least a half dozen virtual meeting platforms and have mastered the offsite workplace, but what about keeping up with grid technology? For the present, there aren’t going to be in-person classes or trade shows, but that doesn’t mean we have to sit at home sulking.

I went to cyber-trade show staged by Mitsubishi Electric recently. It was as close to going to a trade show as possible, but without the risk of lots of people. I even brought back some technical brochures on new equipment that will be used in some 2021 “Charging Ahead” stories.

Bentley put on a two-day virtual technical conference to demonstrate and explain the latest technological developments like its work with digital twins and cloud services. My favorite  virtual experience was listening to my friend John McDonald’s webinar. John is GE’s Smart Grid Business Development leader, and he talked about the growing trends with drones, robots, and IoT. All of these cyber-events give me a lot of hope for new year and our ability to deal with whatever is tossed our way by being adaptable, flexible, and extremely

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