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.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My friend Sherwood has been reliving his 2006 trip to Ireland in his blog, and every morning it brings this song to mind. If you're going to get a song stuck in your head, this is a pretty good one. Planxty was a legendary Irish band of the 1970s and I consider it the apex of the ballad movement begun by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. Nor am I alone in that assessment.

So hit play, and then open another window and read Sherwood's blog with this as background.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A chip off the very old block. This is my granddaughter, playing with a dog her parents are dogsitting for. They didn't add a soundtrack, but I'm assuming it is a melange of growling and giggling. I particularly like the part where Johanna turns away and Anna drops the toy over her shoulder in front of her as if to say, "Wait! I'm still playing with you!"

UPDATE: Gabe posted a version with the soundtrack -- it's quite understated but that makes it even better -- two non-verbal types engaging in an intense bit of play and negotiating the rules as they go along. I tried to swap it into the original posting, but ran into enough snags that I decided to just re-do the whole thing, losing a couple of comments. But I like the small giggles and protests that went along with the game. So there.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Say hello to my li'l friend!

The grass in this picture is slightly-shaggy lawn length, which gives you a feel for just how tiny this youngster is -- about squirrel size, though with a more delicately shaped head.

And the position of the tail gives you a feel for just how much my tiny friend cares about relative sizes.

And little people know
When little people fight
We may look easy pickings
But we've got some bite

It did occur to me that this incredibly cute little critter was at an age where, with some slow, cautious feeding and gentle coaxing, you could end up with a house pet that wouldn't spray. I know people who have done just that.

However, not being out of my mind, I made this as an observation and not something upon which to act.

And in any case, this encounter happened about a mile from the house, which is a good thing, since I suspect mon petit Gavroche, if encountered in our backyard, would have no scruples against showing Des and Ziwa what lies beneath that fluffy white plume.