The buzz from our readers.

"Back to Basics: Checking Distance by Pacing"

February 2000 As you may already know, the Roman troops recorded distance traveled in milia passuum or thousands of paces. Their pace was about equal to our length of 58"; so a thousand such paces would be about 4,830' of our measure. Our word "mile" comes from the Latin mille (thousand), the plural of which is milia. Also, our word "mil," for a thousandth of a dollar, comes from the same root.

I think I read some time ago that when Thomas Jefferson was setting up the federal survey system, he considered establishing a mile as 8,000' and a township as an area 10 miles square. He finally settled on the present dimensions.

Can any readers verify this or refer me to a source of information on it?

Richard Pugh, PE

Williamsburg, Iowa

"Question of the Month"

April 2000 POB Online I could not give an answer to the survey question: "Which do you prefer, working in the field or in the office?" I would personally prefer to do both. I believe surveying should get back to its roots and get the professional back in the field and then have that same person process his or her work inside the office. The "office-only" or "field-only" mentality has not only widened the gap for field personnel to gain registration but also has enabled office personnel to remain out of touch with how long it takes and what it takes to do proper field work. I'm willing to bet it wasn't a field person's decision to go to two-person field crews. My experience in this profession began in the field and now I'm in the office sitting in my chair getting soft. It's a shame that the only way to have both is to work for yourself.

Joseph C. Thompson, LS

Via E-mail

"You Be the Judge"

May 2000 In the second paragraph, the word "adjacent" is used. According to Black's Law Dictionary, adjacent means "lying near or close to; sometimes contiguous; neighboring." Adjacent implies that the two objects are not widely separated, though they may not actually touch. Also, Lot 23 infrequently abuts or adjoins Lot 25. Consequently, I have trouble visualizing the situation. A sketch would have been of immense help.

Please fill the publication with "The Surveyor and the Law," "Surveying Solutions" and "You Be the Judge." These are items many surveyors need.

Paul N. Scherbel, PLS

Big Piney-Marbleton, Wyo.

Editor's Note: Excellent suggestion. I will do my best to include a sketch on the next "You Be the Judge."

"The Grammar Police"

June 2000 To your list of commonly confused words, "... here/hear, it's/its, there/their, your/you're...," looks like you could add another one: i.e./e.g. (that is/ for example).

David K. Caselli, PE

St. Louis, Mo.

As a liberal arts graduate, I was pleased to see your editorial regarding grammar. As with any profession, we should first become educated and only then go on into training as surveyors.

I will fault your essay in one detail. Its penultimate paragraph introduces examples with the abbreviation "i.e." (that is). This should be "e.g." (for example).

Richard R. Mayer

Schoylerville, N.Y.

Editor's Note: Good catch! I graciously accept my citation from the grammar police.

I have also been following the grammar/writing discussions on Your editorial was right on target, although in my case you are preaching to the choir.

While I realize the importance of your comments and agree with you, my focus is on public speaking and personal appearance. I currently give a state-approved PDH workshop for NJSPLS titled "Public Speaking for Surveyors." I've given similar programs for the Michigan, Kansas, Texas and Colorado surveying societies. I like to think of myself as a reasonably polished speaker, but I will admit that it was a very painful learning experience.

I am amazed that so many of my colleagues think that looking and talking like a rough-and-tumble woodsman is what it is all about. The Colorado and California societies were particularly tough on me until I took them to task during one of my trips. They called me a "suit from the Potomac," implying that I was either a government employee or an educator. I informed them that I spent many years in the field and that during that time I owned one suit, shirt and tie. I also said they would never be considered professionals until they looked, spoke and wrote like professionals. Hopefully some of them heard me.

Nicholas A. Mozzachio, LS, PP, CP

Mt. Laurel, N.J.

I agree emphatically that it is important for all engineers and surveyors to be proficient in oral and written communications. I disagree with your statement, "Most science and math-based curriculums are woefully short on writing and composition requirements."

I was appointed by the ASCE in 1976 as a program evaluator for ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology) and have reviewed 16 two- and four-year engineering and surveying technology programs. ABET's criteria for reviewing these programs states: "Good oral and written communication are considered by ABET to be a necessary achievement of a college graduate¿Moreover, the visiting team will be looking for evidence that both oral and written communications have been taken into account in the review and evaluation of student technical work." Two-year programs require at least six semester hours or nine quarter-hour credits in communications. Four-year programs require at least nine semester hours or 13-quarter hour credits in communications. I can state from experience that ABET considers the area of communications to be a high priority in the accreditation process.

Paul K. Male, PE, PLS

Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

"Letters to the Editor: Public Image of Surveyors"

June 2000 In reading your magazine and letters to the editor, it seems to me that you wish to promote surveying as a profession with qualified employees. I agree!

My question is what to think of a surveying and engineering firm that requires the party chief and the chainman to travel to the jobsite in their own vehicles as to avoid portal-to-portal laws and thus avoid paying travel time. Are surveyors becoming laborers with no pride in their companies? Has there been a decline in the quality of work?

I'd like to know readers' feelings regarding this disturbing change in our industry.


Mountlake Terrace, Wash.

"Tree Savvy"

July 2000 Mike Aimonetti's article is informative reading for surveyors. However, Mr. Aimonetti addressed the scientific name of the sycamore incorrectly. He assigned three scientific names to the sycamore, giving the impression that his sycamore has a generic, specific and sub-specific name. In taxonomy, the generic names of living organisms are capitalized, followed by their specific and sub-specific names, which are not capitalized. The apparent scientific name Mr. Aimonetti gives his sycamore presumes it to be a subspecies, having the third scientific name, occidentalis. This is not correct, because he incorrectly italicized the family name of the sycamore, Platanaceae. The appropriate labeling of the genus and species is either underlined or italicized. The taxonomic family from which the organism belongs to is not italicized. The correct scientific name of the American sycamore is therefore Platanus occidentalis.

When Mr. Aimonetti briefly mentioned the ecological stages of succession, he should give the reader more insight as to the ecological significance between pioneer and climax stages, and what it means to both the public and makers of environmental policy. Surveyors need to understand more than just the name of a tree and its monetary value. Their value in terms of economic, aesthetic, historical and ecological importance goes beyond the scope of this letter.

David A. Rolbiecki

Via E-mail


The Surveyor Historical Society was omitted from the Association Directory in POB's July 2000 issue. The Society possesses a library and a collection of antique survey equipment, and publishes a semi-annual publication entitled "Backsights." Its address is: 300 West High Street, Suite 2, Lawrenceburg, IN 47025-1912; Phone: 812/537-2000.