00:11:42 - 00:20:25 Travel
Travel, Norway, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, meetings, international standards Japan, Department of State, trade, flying, coach, negotiations, politics, industry
So you mentioned travel. Did you get to go anywhere interesting for your job, or spend any time anywhere else?
Yeah, I did. I guess, over the first twenty, twenty-five years I'd say, we generally did, most of the researchers had one or two significant trips a year, most of it domestic, but national type, either professional society meetings or standards meetings or something like that. You could generally get one or two trips a year in the budget. And then, once I became project leader and became involved in more, more international stuff, then I, I actually made quite a few foreign trips---that was to Scandinavia, Norway, and Sweden, related to some research we did. I was to Australia, Australia, New Zealand, and I got, the most travel I did, let's see, where else? Oh, I visited Slovenia, we had a co-op contract in Slovenia, Spain, I was to Portugal, Spain on some national, these are some national meetings for presenting papers and stuff like that.
But, and then the last five years I worked, in that mid to late '90s---I retired in '98---I would say over the last five years we were involved with the Department of State, in international standards for wood products. And a lot of our trade at that time in wood products was with Japan. And, like any country, Japan had an interest in protecting their own industry so their standards were written to protect their own industry, and yet our trade agreements with, with Japan said that we were supposed to, they were supposed to harmonize these standards, so that you'd look at a U.S. standard and look a Japanese standard and say lets bring these together some way. And the U.S. interest was, of course, to try to get the standards as near like ours as possible, so that a product produced here, could be immediately adapted in Japan. And Japan, of course, the industry over there was interested in just the opposite. They wanted their own products to be, to maintain their price structure and stuff like that. And, at that time, our wood products could be imported; we could compete very well with their products at that time. And so, that was, it was very interesting; they wanted a technical expert on these engineered products in the trade negotiations, and so I probably made eight or ten trips to Japan, and, with the State, paid for by the State Department. And of those times, I would sit in meetings and sometimes I'd sit two days and never say a word, and the Japanese counterpart, they had a Japanese expert, whom I knew, and we had, we had met before and stuff like that, but they just wanted the people there in case something came up. And very seldom did something come up because it was mostly controlled from the political standpoint rather than the technical standpoint. And, and you'd try to get some tech, try to figure out how to get the technical part in there to support some of the political stuff. But it was interesting, and it was frustrating in some respect, because you'd go over there for a while and it just wipes you out as far as the trip is concerned, and stuff like that.
I'll never forget the flying coach class, you can see by my size, coach class is not a very comfortable way to go. And a thirteen hour trip, something like that, a thirteen hour flight---and I remember one time I woke up, and you're crowded, and this little Japanese woman had her head, her head on my shoulder, sleeping. So, and my knees---I have bad knees from football, many years ago---and my knees would cramp up in there. I talked to my doctor; I talked to them and said, look, can't I get some different seats? Well, it's coach class only for U.S. government travel. So I, and I thought there's got to be some way to do this. Well if you have a doctor's excuse that you need something like that, so I got my doctor to say that he needs more room when he travels because his legs cramp up. So I was able to use my miles to upgrade.
Oh, that's pretty good.
Well, nowadays, of course, they get to keep their miles. Back in those days when you traveled with U.S. government and you earned miles, you had to use them for government travel. I understand, nowadays, that's changed a little bit. But that's just a little trivia.
So what came out of the Japan negotiations? Did that affect your work at all?
Not, not really. No, it didn't affect my work any, and I guess we were able to successfully develop some markets in the thing. But, just like everything else---the yen versus the dollar changed so much over a period of years that there came to a point where the competitiveness was not nearly as great. I mean, we still export stuff to Japan, but it wasn't near as lucrative many years later. I don't know where the standards sit today, but I know, I know we were able to accomplish some changes in the standard and they were, we got them closer---we thought we knew how to write the standard, and, of course, they thought they knew and we tried to inform them on the background of some of this stuff. And, but we were able to successfully do that. And, for a time, there were several manufacturers in the US who had a significant market in Japan, would export a lot, a lot of material to Japan. So, I think we played some role in it.
So, was your job political in any other sense?
Not really. Nope. I would say that was one of the nice things about here was the---well, we were pretty isolated from that. And, I mean, industry always had an interest in, there was always industry interest, we would have meetings annually with advisors, a lot of them were industry people, and they were always trying, you know, trying to tell us what research we could do to make the products more competitive and stuff like that. Or, but, that was, I would say that was a minimal - you know, you're trying to do things, I mean, research you want to do things that are eventually applicable, and, and they were probably in a better position, often, to look at the short-term marketing and see what was applicable. But we, again, we had interest looking longer-term. We say that may help us in the next year or two, but let's look at ten to twenty years, where we want to be. And we said our role should be more in longer-term stuff, rather than solving the day-to-day industry problem.
And how was that reconciled with industry? Or was it ever?
Well, I think, I think we did a mix of things. But I think our, I like to believe that our mission was guided more by long-term stuff. And, and we were, I mean, we would---annually, our advising, advisory committees would make recommendations in certain areas. And they, oftentimes these, these reports would be, you know, many pages long. And they would be, maybe twenty, thirty recommendations that may affect different things and stuff like that. And, and I remember each year before the meeting we would look at last year's reports, and we would make a report on what we've done in answer to that. And in some instances, I remember we said we decided this is not an appropriate area to work on, that this should be, it's an issue that should be more addressed by industry themselves or something like that. And, I don't recall that those things ever became big political issues. We would do some things, and we would try to---one of our jobs was to try to educate the industry people, too, on what some of these longer-term research needs are.