“The impossible will take a bit longer”

This month we traveled up to Port Angeles to something “impossible to imagine” a few years ago in operation at the Hermann Bros. log yard, where their water treatment plant is treating water run-off, and meeting Washington State DEQ operating standards. Two years ago Bill Hermann shared this good news with us at that year’s Olympia Logging Conference during a meet and greet, but asked us to hold off until the full scale facility was up, operating and performing up to what they felt was possible. Last winter the main plant was completed, and while still making minor adjustments, their log yard meets DEQ standards.

The difference in this success comes from the willingness of the three private enterprises involved: Hermann Bros., OSW Equipment and Repair, Inc., and Clear Water Services working together, tapping then blending their individual expertise to understand what was necessary to achieve the final results, clean water. The interests were clear, the goals were clear, and finally achieved at a reasonable cost where business, and the environment benefits.

The credit, as Bill Hermann noted, is to the teamwork, flexibility, and commitment to finding a solution cooperatively. See the story titled “Problem Solving... Log Yard Run-Off,” which starts on page 16 of this month’s Loggers World.

Future myopia

In most of the country students are returning to classrooms in September for the coming school year. We have ongoing discussions on the future, short comings, and successes of our country’s education system, and depending on who’s involved the solutions vary. To the education “professionals” and their union representatives, what’s needed is higher salaries for teachers and smaller classes. The colleges want students with the background and preparation to learn, and industry wants a work force capable of reading, following directions, the ability to learn and the work ethic of their parents and grandparents. All are laudable goals, yet the foundation and goals of our public schools are seriously missing a few key elements in their thinking.

First and foremost, our schools job is to prepare students to work and compete in world market and be an active participant in that job and business market.

The schools were not the ones who dropped the ball on teaching work ethic, that falls to the well-meaning but wrong-headed public policy drive (state and federal legislators) in the 1970s to remove youngsters from the work force in the mistaken belief they could “preserve” one’s childhood, by discouraging businesses, through rules, fines and permits, from hiring anyone before they were 16, and even seriously limiting their involvement then. Thus rather than the ambitious kids being able to pursue an after-school job, they’re not allowed to “learn” work habits until they enter the work force at 18. 

Second, is the absurd notion that we are all equal, self-esteem trumps all other values, and we can elevate self-esteem by reducing competition and treating everyone equally. Again, this sounds appealing, but it does not reflect reality locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. 

The world IS competitive, business is competitive, the work place is competitive, excellence is rewarded, and mediocrity is not. 

What pushes an individual to do their best, and ingrains that thinking into their psyche is the recognition from their peers, from their leadership, that they are “better” than the others, duh.

When coaching seven to nine year old kids baseball locally after a decade away from it, towards the end of the season of the parents asked me “...what are you going to do about trophies for the kids at the end of the season?” When I asked why, I was told “...well everybody does it.” I was truly dumbfounded, and said “...but all they did was show up. It was nothing special. If you want to recognize them do it with a piece of paper and a handshake. Showing up is expected, not an achievement.” What nonsense... if you want to send a message, send it about excellence not just appearing.

The schools need to recognize that aside from the top 30% of high school students who seek higher education, and the bottom 5% of trouble makers there is a large majority of students who need to be prepared to enter and supply the workforce doing a whole host of businesses and jobs who are ill prepared to face the competitive world they’ll inherit. The programs and curriculum need to reflect the needs of today’s world where competing is the norm, the ability to read, comprehend, learn, and communicate with others, work with others and perform are the difference between success and failure. 

Surely this chafes the education crowd, in that they enjoy working with the college bound crowd (because they share some of their teacher’s background), but the glue and sinew that keeps our culture moving depends on the next generation who enter the work force prepared for work, to maintain and build the infrastructure, wire homes, repair and install pipes and plumbing, and keep participate in life. While self-esteem is important, it does not trump the ability to do your best in the real world.

Grand Prix driving

In the logging business, we all drive a lot of miles, and many of those driven by this author are on highways. While it may be coincidence, of late we’ve seen countless instances a number of drivers who bob and weave, at break-neck pace, lane to lane, riding bumpers and very aggressively speeding along with no regard to traffic, speed limits, or rules of the road.

Perhaps this sudden surge is related to video games where driving manically is the norm, or the desire to imitate Hollywood race car flicks, but regardless it is damned annoying.

The last encounter with one such driver took an interesting turn when my reaction was to pick up my cell phone and dialing 911. At first the pilot of the offending vehicle was not deterred. That changed when they noticed I was looking in my rear view mirror for their license plate number, and that I had my cell phone in hand. Suddenly their focus changed to the first exit from the freeway.

Today holding one’s cell phone in hand in the People’s Republic of Washington would get you a $100+ fine, and of course I’d not dream of doing that.

by Mike Crouse, Publisher