Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another day at the office

I've been working insane hours since my job changed temporarily. This week, we put out the usual 12-page Livermore Falls Advertiser and the 16-page Franklin Journal for Friday. It was also an every-other-week when we put out the 50+ page Rangeley Highlander, and then on Friday we put together the 8-page Tuesday Franklin Journal. And we had a special publication, "Our Towns," another 50-plus paper we do once a year.

This is a slightly nuts pace, but somehow we all got through it without any blow-ups or freak-outs.

However, the 8-page Tuesday paper and the Our Towns special publication will actually be wrapped up Monday morning, so I drove up through the Carrabassett Valley this morning (Saturday) to pick up a few extra things for them.

The above is just a grab shot for the Our Towns tabloid. This isn't a magic spot up in the wilderness anywhere ... I just pulled over and walked down to the riverside and took a few shots. Admittedly, there was a cutout by the road, so I'm not the first person to think it was a nice spot on the river, but there were any number of other places I could have stopped.

This is near the Sugarloaf ski resort, but the whole area is like this. It really is a privilege to be able to pop out on a Saturday and find yourself here in less than an hour.

This is where I was actually going ... Stratton Lumber in Stratton, Maine. The Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association was having a lumber-graders contest, with 19 graders from about half a dozen mills in Maine and Quebec. Each grader had five minutes to inspect and grade 50 pieces of lumber and classify them as #1, #2, #3 or Economy. The top grader got a $200 prize and the top mill, based on the scores of its top two graders, got a trophy and bragging rights.

It was very loosey-goosey away from the actual grading. While they waited around the corner for their turn at the lumber, graders and their friends answered trivia questions, based of course on lumber grading, with the first person to answer getting a lottery ticket. There was a lot of laughter and, naturally, a lot of good-natured complaining about the low payoffs on those tickets.

This fellow, Bernard Isabel, was also acting as "translator" for the francophone graders, a couple of whom really didn't speak much English, during this trivia session. However, there was so much laughter and kidding back and forth that his efforts were as humorous as they were helpful.

The winning grader got 37 out of 50, but, the $200 and bragging rights aside, this was serious fun, because after the competition, each grader went back with the judges and looked over the pieces he had missed. (And I'm assuming they chose tough pieces to grade, since the standard is for grading to be accurate within 5%) He was able to ask questions and get answers about why it fell into a grade other than where he had put it, and this is a fun way to sharpen skills. I'm told that the fellow who won had never won before and, in fact, had really improved his scores in the past couple of years through this process.

Besides the beautiful drive ... and I took a loop back home so I could pick up more pics for the Our Towns section, as well as for the scenery ... it was really fun to be among people who are good at what they do and have so much pride in their work. Times like this, I really miss being a business reporter.

Fortunately, once we pick up a publisher and some of the pressure comes off my back, I'll be able to do more of this sort of thing. Meanwhile, it does mean that I won't have had a day off this week (I'll put in five or six hours in the office tomorrow).

But if you're going to have to work on your day off, this wasn't such a bad way to do it.

1 comment:

ronnie said...

Lumber-grading contest? I don't know what it is about these downeast boys, but they'll find a way to turn just about anything into a friendly competitive endeavour. I thought I'd seen everything when I moved to New Brunswick and learned about seriously competitive wood-cutters' competitions, but this beats that. (There's also speed-chainsaw-carving competitions, but I suspect you have to have fallen over the line between "competitive" and "slightly crazy" to participate in that.)

'Course, nothing wrong with having plenty of pride in your professional skills... enough pride to make showin' 'em off in public a fine way to pass a day.

Sugarloaf is a very popular destination among NB skiers. I didn't know you in the neighbourhood but then I am pretty vague on where exactly Sugarloaf is - or I was. I can tell you it's popular enough that it's mentioned on official highway signage when you get handy to the Maine border crossings.