My CBR (cognitive background radiation, the thing you think about when you’re not thinking about something else) for the last three years or so has been women or some aspect of dating. With the advent of a job with an exam schedule and a few other things that has died and a certain creativity has popped back into my life. I’m singing more, I jot down more things on napkins and notepads, and I’ve been cooking more.

This evening at a Scout meeting, the other participants were talking about an event and how to improve it when I felt something at the back of my head. Initially, I scratched at it and found that there was nothing physically stuck to my head that shouldn’t have been there. It felt like it was getting larger and I was having trouble making out what other people were saying I was so distracted by this thing. After a bit of reflection, I realized what it was: an idea.

Good ideas are almost material to me. They feel like actual things in my brain. Photography related stuff tends to be in the center top, artier stuff behind my eyes, and more complicated systems-level stuff feels like it’s going to pop out of the back of my skull. This was a tickling of how to make a Scouting Alternate Reality Game. This is what an idea felt like, and I had forgotten.

Today was a task day where I had 12 things to do where I’d be happy if I finished six and wound up finishing four which is more than the three I had set as the “minimum to finish before sleep”. Life’s sometimes about managing expectations.

I baked nut-less banana nut muffins and edited enough photos that I’d only be slightly over a month behind. My dry-cleaning went undeposited, the floor was unvacuumed, and, to my probably future disgust, the kitty litter went unchanged. When the last happens, my free-thinking cat shits outside the box in a show of septic defiance.

While running on my treadmill I realized that I had completely missed the Webelos Weekend. I had no intention on running or providing program, but four the past four years that event had been my first weekend in October and now it had been covered in a pile of tasks including such quests as arranging a washing machine repair and buying new pants. Someone else spent a weekend showing children the joys of science and while I was glad it happened, I was saddened that it was not me.

We choose.

My opinions on Woodbadge are known and noisy and today they again came up. Councils often run this advanced adult leader training program bi-annually over the course of two three-day weeks and the staffs often spend a lot of time preparing for it, and that’s my problem. I don’t think Woodbadge is bad in any way but is simply inefficient. The staff spends too much time preparing and the training itself is too long. The National Leadership Seminar gets someone 80% there in two days which I consider preferable.

Bill Thompson and I butt heads over this every few months and we did again today. I feel bad bringing up my argument because it’s a “not good enough” argument. In Scouting, we’re often talking “good” vs. “not good” with few programs lying in between. I happen to think that Woodbadge is one of them.

At the end of the discussion, Joe Bell, Chris Crose, and I sat in the Dining Room of Totem and I smiled. Joe probably lost 60 lbs, Chris an impressive 110, and me 190. That’s two people’s worth of mass. Chris and I chatted about weight loss:

Chris: Do you find that you’re…. saggy.
Me: Yep.
Chris: Does it go away?
Me: Not really.
Chris: Someone said I should use it to remember how big I was.
Me: I think that person is talking like an idiot.
Chris: I do too.
Me: Any other changes?
Chris: I have a girlfriend. That’s kind of weird.

Chris, don’t tell her that.

The day after a large Scout event is usually a clean-up day for me as I pack up materials and compose notes on what to do with the event next time. After I cleaned my atlatls and wrote up the notes from the end-of-event staff meeting I had run out of Scout things to do. I went for a run, played TF2, and baked a cake.

If this is the future of my involvement with Scouting I’m fine with it.

Editor’s Note: I think this title sets my record for hyphens.

The Council Cub-o-ree mobilized about 400 participants and around 100 staff volunteers making the camp have as many bodies in it as a very light week of summer camp. The participants were smaller on average being Cub Scouts and slightly more diverse from the smear of white teenagers I usually work with. The camp was in good shape and the weather perfect.

I passed the atlatls over to the group running the station and gave them a primer on using them. I moved on to the group activity stations I had come up with and waited for the staff to run them which never arrived. This freed me to simply take pictures. So I did.

Picasa album

Tomorrow is the Council Cub-o-ree, the first event of its kind that the Council has done since I can remember and I was asked to provide program for six stations and walk around and take pictures. I had also done the web page and set up registration but this was peanuts compared to what I normally do for an event.

Normally I run things and the feeling of unimportance regarding the Cub-o-ree was wonderful. My presence or absence would probably just nudge the success or failure of the event but not cause it. This realization has created a rule for me that I’m going to try to follow in the future:

“What I will provide: a pair of hands to run program, the materials for a program, or the idea for a program. Choose one.” I don’t mind doing photography or web stuff, but the above rule is something I’ll try to stick to for most future programs.

Tonight was a meeting of the Bucks County Council Technology Committee and at its end we discussed when to reconvene.

Leader: So when do we want to meet here again?
Me: We’re the technology committee and there are five of us, can’t we use a conference call, or Skype?
Leader: But I like seeing people’s faces.
Me: How about we do a monthly conference call but have a physical get together every quarter when we start forgetting what people look like?
Leader: I like it.


The son of someone I know through Ockanickon asked me to serve as her son’s Eagle coach, a new position in Scouting with the goal of guiding a Life Scout through the steps required to get Eagle.  When I arrived, the kids were largely sitting and the adults were woodworking away building the project and I cringed a bit.  The Eagle Scout in question passed me his workbook and the number of cases where “my mom” or “my dad” was the answer to the question of “who will do x?” made me somewhat uncomfortable.  I could find nothing wrong with his work except for a few insignificant misses and signed off on the section verifying his prep work and oversight of the project.

Leadership is a cornerstone of the values of Scouting and the rank of Eagle is a milestone in its training.  Leadership to me is best shown in one of two ways: dealing with a problem or opportunity that popped up facing a group or building something over the course of many years.   Neither of these scenarios is conducive to the timescale of Scouting rank advancement so the Eagle Project is used as a proxy for it.  An Eagle Project must be lead by the Scout, help a non-Scouting community, and be both tangible (something gets made) and definite (not ongoing).  Sometimes this works as a platform of leadership but often the only skill proven is that a Scout can navigate paperwork and cooperate with multiple people.  I’d say this is an important skill but it is not quite Leadership.

A debate in Scouting rages over whether or not one can be “too young” to get Eagle.  I don’t necessarily believe this to be the case but I have found that older Scouts tend to be more ambitious with their projects which in turn requires leadership.  They focus on the outcome rather than completing the project as a check box and I believe that creates a more impactful project.  Do I hold anything against this Scout for how he’s getting his Eagle?  No.  Do I wish there were a bureaucracy-friendly way to create a crucible of leadership a la the Kobayashi Maru of Star Trek?  Hell, yes.

Yesterday was Bucktail printing and today was Bucktail assembly.  Bucktails had to be labeled in the past, but with the power of mailmerge in MS Publisher that is no longer required.  I’ve done this for three years and each year I have to re-invent a way to do it.  I hope I’m at least getting faster at it each time.   I got home and slept for a few hours but was still very tired from the miles of walking I had done as shown by my Fitbit activity log:

Each spike is me running a lap around the building and that morning is about five to six miles of walking.  Next time, I think I’ll just set up a baby monitor and see if I can hear the silence of a printer having jammed.

The assembly at the lodge meeting went well and everyone helped, including people who traditionally just watch.  I miss the simple satisfaction of cases where everyone has a task and every task has someone working on it.  Maybe it’s time to start running Scout events again.

The Bucktail is my combination trophy piece/albatross in the Order of the Arrow.  The printing of this annual newsletter is preceded by months of requesting content and receiving none followed by a few days of frantic assembly and finally printing.  I received no Chief’s report, not committee reports save one, and two chapter reports, making this year’s edition a shadow of the publication that once rivaled the New Yorker, in my youth, in my head.   These scant articles fit nicely onto two pages and became a wrapper for the stack of forms and notices we were sending our members which totaled 14 page faces.  These 14 page faces were to be sent to 800 people plus 50 spare copies netting 12000 page faces to be printed.  Our office printers go about 20 ppm for a total print time of 600 minutes minus any hiccups.  I had no intention of staying 10 hours late at work so I started producing copies on all six large printers on the second floor of my workplace.   I quickly lost three of these printers to various outstanding maintenance issues I didn’t have the tools to solve then leaving me with three printers each in different wings of my building.

As midnight rolled around and my eyes got heavy, I set myself a 20 minute alarm whereby I’d take a nap, then check on the printers, fix any issues, and check to see if anyone had popped back into work who might notice.  I finished around 8 AM after losing a few hours to two fuser replacements and stubbled home with roughly .72 good-sized trees worth of paper.  And some people have had the audacity to say I’ve quit Scouting.