Letters to the Editor

Common Sense from the Old Days


Enjoyed your article on Louisiana Delta subsidence. Do miss "Stories from the E Files," but I realize that, even when you have been in the business as long as you and I have, eventually you run out of amusing antidotes and begin to repeat yourself. I was 12 a couple years before you, and my time in the Army was a little longer than yours. Putting myself through school working for a surveyor, as a draftsman, and as a contract miner I didn't manage to graduate until '72.
It is nice to know that other people grew up in a rural environment where it wasn't unusual for a boy to get a gun when he was 9 or 10 and start hunting alone or with a friend at about 10 years of age. My, how times have changed. I'm not sure for the better, either. Anyway, I enjoy your articles. They seem to interject some common sense into issues.

T.O. Livingston, PE, PLS
Alamosa, CO

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Four-Year Degree Contentions Continue

Click here for additional letters regarding the four-year degree requirement.

Dear Editor,

Congratulations on publishing a well thought-out argument against the four-year degree requirement that is all the rage out there in the survey world. I have known both good and bad surveyors over the years, and degree status was never a consistent factor in whether they followed the rules as established by the local board. Charlie Diggs [author of Guest Editorial] has it exactly right.

Experience and personal standards have a lot more to do with the quality of a surveyor's work than whether they went to college for four years. I am not discounting the value of a college education (I have a four-year degree). I am opposed to any requirement that would keep some of our best practitioners from getting a license that they have earned and deserve.

Dan MacIsaac, PLS
Canton, MA

Dear Mr. Diggs,

I recently read your article "A Four-Year Surveying Degree Should not be Mandatory." I want to thank you for putting those words to print, and in a professional magazine no less. I have been working in surveying for 35 years. I quit school when I was 16 and was married at 17 years old. I worked construction as a laborer and worked my way up to grade foreman for a large excavating company near my home.

As a result of my work I was introduced to surveying. I have loved it from the time I looked through my first T2. I love the math and the challenges surveying offers. I have attended so many night classes for various subjects from algebra to law and surveying I can't remember them all. I do not have a degree of any kind. I can honestly say that I must have taught at least 100 people how to do surveying after they received their 4-year-degree. Personally there is nothing like experience in my book.

I was recently hired to teach surveying at a local well known college in my area. I was treated like a second-class citizen because of my lack of that piece of paper you spoke of in your article. My comments at faculty meetings were disregarded as if I were trash. My insight to what is important in the area of study was considered irrelevant to my educated peers (who had no field experience). In my 35 years of doing surveying I have never felt so attacked for being intelligent as I felt while teaching along side the educated. I had to quit the job because I was beginning to believe that I was lesser a man, let alone a surveyor, than my 4-year-educated counterparts.

In my past 35 years I have built roads, bridges, homes, high-rise buildings, and dams. I surveyed for all of them. I just want to express to you the same words I expressed to my wife. "My marriage license never increased my love for you at all. I just had it in me to love you, and I did what I felt." The same is true for surveying I love it because it was in me to love it.

I sent one of my children to college for surveying; he has the degree and he loves the work. In Pa. there is a tremendous need for property surveyors for the gas industry. Every night we discuss the things he did not learn in school. I am not trying to diminish education; I know the value of it. I guess I am just trying to say that if George Washington considered himself a surveyor then by God I consider myself one also. Regardless if I receive permission from your insecure professional counterparts. Again, thank you for the article. I read it in my son’s magazine. Your compassion brought tears to my eyes.

Joe Pantella

Shelly (and Charles Diggs),

Regarding “A Four-Year Surveying Degree Should Not Be Mandatory,” Charlie really missed the boat. It has little to nothing to do with our insecurities. It is viewpoints such as Charlie's that keep surveying a trade rather than a profession.

Brian Dalager, PLS

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New Kid

I very much enjoyed reading "Where Does the Next Generation Stand?" by Nathan Bucholz. He seems like a young man with a passion for land surveying and for excellence. As a surveyor with an AARP card and many years of experience, it is good to hear perspectives about where they see the future of this profession. Technology has changed since I started, and sometimes keeping up with all the changes is a chore as we work every day to meet deadlines and to raise families. I hope Nathan has the opportunity to work with an older surveyor who will mentor him with his knowledge (as I had a chance to) and will allow Nathan to upgrade his business so it is positioned for the future. Wherever he ends up working, I know he will succeed, for "great opportunities can be found."

Kerry Hotaling
Springfield, MA

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Ohio Land Survey Resources


I am writing to you out of fear! I fear that the book review by Wilhelm Schmidt titled “The Official Ohio Lands Book” will be seen by your readership as the official book on Ohio land surveys. In spite of the title to this pamphlet, the official book—the one the Board of Registration currently uses to develop the Professional Surveying Exam questions—is Original Ohio Land Subdivisions, by C.E. Sherman. This book is volume three of a final report by the Ohio Cooperative Topographic survey, published in 1925. This book is available for purchase, along with a large map of Ohio, showing the survey divisions, from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Regarding the pamphlet that is the subject of Mr. Schmidt’s review, it was originally developed by the Ohio State Auditor’s office as a hand out for school children and was developed by Mr. Thomas Aquinas Burke. It was then called Ohio Lands: A Short History. I believe Mr. Burke was in charge of those original records that were, at that time, kept by the auditor’s office. These records are now kept by the Ohio Historical Society.

To mention one other point regarding the book review: while Mr. Schmidt is correct that there was not a comprehensive account of the many survey systems in Ohio published in the 19th century, that fact is partially an accident of history. William E. Peters (1857-1952) published a comprehensive account in 1917, after many years in the field as a surveyor and attorney, most of that field work being done in the late 19th century.

The most definitive book on the subject, however, is one that is in the final stages of being written by James L. Williams PS. Anyone who has attended one of Jim’s lectures can attest to his encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. If we all keep the pressure on him, we will soon see a history of Ohio Land Surveys unmatched by any other.

Charles Coutellier, PS

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Ambiguity Is the Real Enemy: Problem #207

Hi Jim,

I got the August issue here and had a look at the problem corner. I'm not sure the answers are numerical to this question. It does raise some important points in intergalactic survey though, points like making assumptions about a job before you engage in it.

I understand what the question is asking when they want to know the distance of this road, but it isn't described as a perfectly smooth planet; it might have gone over mountains of cool whip and gumdrops. (This assuming the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Counsel approved the construction to Earth’s standards and didn't demand some anti-gravity devices versus the standard cantilevered bridge construction over the vestigial pudding pools.)

A surveyor proposes an underground tunnel between these points, awesome! What is the planet made of again? Was this a Magrathean planet? How about this, so long as we're guessing about details: say we have a pair of devices to generate a subspace wormhole between BMA and BMB (Star Gate, anyone?) and then the physical distance of this chord could be +-0.0001'—I suppose—heck we're on another planet where surveyors are allowed to make engineering proposals!

Maximum depth of this tunnel? Well, you see where I'm going with this. Ambiguity is the real enemy, not mathematics in the office, I find.

Thanks for the magazine; it's a nice break from things here. I haven't worked in a few years; the market is down and it's hard to keep paying on my degree in surveying with so little use for it apart from my own amusement. Luckily I know other things than survey and we're getting by, and some day I'll get back to field work, hopefully before they find planet ProfS and need it surveyed!

Malachi Doane
Corinthy, NY

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Informing Law


I am both a lawyer and a LSIT. As a lawyer, I do spend a lot of time with land problems. Having the LSIT, acquired about three years ago, helps me understand a lot more. Your magazine helps quite a bit.

The issue for July 2010 was particularly beneficial to me. “Retracing Colorado’s South Line” is a very interesting read. A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Four Corners Monument, and I have very happy memories of that visit. What was equally valuable to me in the article was the treatment of old surveys.

I would correct the writing of the author where he says, on page 31, “Right or wrong, original is right” to read “Right or wrong, what is original is correct.” It’s like in shooting—what may be precise is simply not accurate; all of your shots may be close together, but the bull’s eye is over there.

Another article that captured my fancy was starting on page 36: “Embracing Mobile 3D Laser Scanning.” That went a long way in helping me to understand lidar and its use. Yep, the author’s subheading “changing a mindset” is so on point (pardon the pun—it is intentional); all of the article meant a great deal to me. Thank you for a wonderful magazine. Now if only I could get law schools, in their property courses, to teach a little about surveying.

Stuart Home, J.D. LSIT
Fresno, CA

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Glad to see you on board as the new Editor.

I just got the August copy of PSM—LOVED YOUR EDITOR’s DESK article. I taught the surveying program in Richmond, VA for 10+ years, and prior to my departing in 2006, we were able to bring in GIS to the program. Many resisted the idea, but the last time I heard it was growing.  I have be preaching for years that surveyors need to grow and learn and improve themselves with technology and skills to do a better job and to be professionals!

I have also been using aerial mapping for years with great success, only to be looked down by other surveyors as a  “ waste of time “—it will never be accepted in the profession. Guess what? NC to VA and a few other states now require aerial mapping to be done under the license of a PLS or licensed photogrammetric surveyor!

The sky is the limit on opportunities for surveyors, and I am glad to see you and PSM are taking the bull by the horns  and waking up the profession. Keep up the good—no, GREAT—job, and if I can be of assistance or help, let me know.

John Wiley, LS

» Back to our September 2010 Issue