Website scores kill our success, waste our time

Many websites score us. They measure our reputation or activity.

Do you want to be successful? Don’t focus on these website scores. Focus on outcomes.

Example scores

Website scores are really gamification. With these scores, site owners induce you to do things that benefit them.

Here’s scores from some nerdy sites I use:

Github scores my contributions:

Aren Cambre’s Github score

Stack Overflow scores the judgment of others on my activity:

Aren Cambre’s Stack Overflow score

Hacker News scores the upvotes of my submissions or comments:

Aren Cambre’s Hacker News score

None of these scores meaningfully measure anything important about me.

Scores don’t matter…

Your time is your most precious asset. When you focus on these website scores, you’re giving away your most precious asset, just to enrichen company owners.

These scores don’t matter. These websites don’t even know your goals!

…unless you made the score

The scores that matter will be the ones you’ve created, that measure your progress to your own goals.

For example, I ran a Cub Scout day camp for four years. Wanting to have maximum positive effect on the community, I have a “go big or go home” approach to Scouting. I rated myself in part on how well the camp recruited participants. That is a score I made for myself. It helped us set new records.

Participant registration trends at a Cub Scout day camp I ran.

Focus for success

If website scores end up being good, that’s fine! But make sure those great scores are merely incidental. They should not be your goal.

Focus on scores that matter. They will be the ones you created. They will help you know your path to your goals.

Installing R on Raspberry Pi 4 with Ubuntu 20.10 (64-bit)

The Raspberry Pi 4 is a great incremental improvement of the RPi platform. It handles Ubuntu 20.10 64-bit decently.

I mainly use R for my data-science practice, and I wanted to try R on this RPi. As of November 29, 2020, there are no pre-built packages I can use to install R. At a minimum, no r-base-core package is available for the arm64 platform at the R package repository. You have to compile R yourself.

Here’s a way to do it. Andrés Castro Socolich provided most of this, and I edited a couple of steps. Open a terminal window (Ctrl-Alt-T) and run the below lines, one at a time. Be advised: I have an RPi 4 with 8 GB RAM, and it used almost half the RAM at one point. Also, the first make command will take a long time.

  1. sudo apt update
  2. sudo apt upgrade
  3. sudo apt-get install -y gfortran libreadline6-dev libx11-dev libxt-dev libpng-dev libjpeg-dev libcairo2-dev xvfb libzstd-dev texinfo texlive texlive-fonts-extra screen wget zlib1g-dev libbz2-dev liblzma-dev libpcre2-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev openjdk-11-jdk
  4. cd /usr/local/src
  5. sudo wget
  6. sudo su
  7. tar zxvf R-4.0.3.tar.gz
  8. cd R-4.0.3
  9. ./configure --enable-R-shlib
  10. make
  11. make install
  12. cd ..
  13. rm -rf R-4.0.3*
  14. exit
  15. cd

You’re done! To run R, type R (yes, capital R) at the command prompt.

DISD’s busing is a clown show

Dallas ISD’s Student Transportation Services (STS) is a clown show.

Violations of DISD’s pandemic practices: too-small bus and no temperature readings.

This school year starts my eighth year of enduring poor busing service. This year started with a comedy of failures, and STS slashed its bus-stop count.

STS had the whole summer to get everything right. They also had a full week of route-running under their belt: the first grade of each school was in session a week before all other grades.

As is DISD STS’s custom, school-year start is a series of failures:

  • On days 1 and 2, the bus driver declined to check student temperatures, even denying that it’s her responsibility. (See above video. It may not be fully intelligible in the video due to other noise, but the driver both says 1. she has no temperature sensor and 2. it is someone else’s responsibility to check student temperatures.)
  • On day 1, five kids on the route were abandoned at their school. DISD sent a too-small bus. It had less capacity than the number of students who entered the bus that morning at just one stop!
  • On day 2, despite a promise made to me late on day 1 by a director at the Lawnview Service Center, DISD continued sending a too-small bus. Bus was overloaded per one-student-per-seat rules, and had wrong number on placard.
  • On days 1-3, the bus was missing from the My Stop app.
  • While STS finally added a way for parents to contact them in writing, the feature has a confusing interface, so it will block many parents from submitting concerns.
  • STS continues to direct parents to school staff for matters that are STS’s responsibility, including but not limited to questions about routes.

It gets worse.

Last year, in Dallas ISD to worsen bus service and fix no problems, I predicted DISD STS was going to turn the screws on parents. They exceeded my cynical expectation: they are now twisting the knife!

DISD STS deleted almost a third of all choice-school bus stops!

This is how you completely screw over parents: delete a third of bus stops.

DISD STS’s “make things better by making it much, much worse” bus-hub proposal is now our reality.

Transportation is a crucial service. It should not be a clown show. Check out my Improvement plan for DISD Student Transportation Services (busing).

Reopen Scouting in Texas!

Governor Abbott,

EO GA-30 bans most Scout activities in Texas.

It does this with the 10-person outdoor gathering-size limit.

Scout units could resume by moving everything outdoors. That would be safe—outdoor Coronavirus transmission is rare, especially if everyone masks when distancing is not possible.

While the EO excepts “youth camps” from the limit, that is widely interpreted to apply only to professionally staffed youth camps. That excludes the vast majority of Scout camping events, like troops going on a weekend campout.

I urge you to do two things:

First, permit Scout units to re-engage in unit camping. Only one safety-measure is needed: mask when distancing is not possible.

Second, exempt state parks from the gathering limit, at least for Scout units.

Thank you for your consideration,

Aren Cambre
Advisor, Venturing Crew 863
Assistant Scoutmaster, Scouts BSA Troop 861

Signing off from the greatest leadership experience I have ever had

On March 1, my younger son graduated from Cub Scouts. That was also when I ended my five-year, eight-day term as Cubmaster of Pack 862.

Below is my sign-off email to the pack’s leaders, one week later. I wrote it both for my own catharsis, to celebrate what the pack has accomplished, and support the pack and its leadership.

Man, this is hard.

The email:


Thank you for a great ten years with Pack 862!

I joined the pack in June 2010, when my older son aged in as a Tiger (that was before the Lion program was introduced). This is a promo photo I used in the letter to Alec’s friends’ parents:

I was Den Leader of the prior Den 3 for five years. It was a great run! The parents were so supportive!

This is from our last meeting, in February 2015:

I tell new den leaders that the hardest meeting they will ever have is their last meeting. You can’t tell, but I was crying like a baby right before that photo was taken!

How could it get any better? Hold my beer…

I went on to become Pack 862’s Cubmaster two weeks later (Feb. 22, 2015), about three months before Ethan became age-eligible for Cub Scouts.

We got off to a rough start, where the spring family campout had to be canceled due to weather concerns (in retrospect, that may have been a mistake!), we weren’t able to break past a 20% membership decline (versus when I joined), and our popcorn fundraiser’s sales tanked.

But things turned around, and man, what a great ride it has been. Thanks to the incredible support of YOU, the leaders, and the parents, in the past five years, Pack 862 has:

  • Grown 82%, from an already large pack, to become the largest pack in the 24 county region!
  • Became the primary Cub Scout pack for two new schools (Reilly and Reinhardt) and is also the home for kids from many other schools.
  • Grown the pack committee to become a model committee. If BSA wanted to produce a “how to” video for Cub Scout packs, all they have to do is put cameras in this pack’s committee meetings!
  • Opened the program to girls.
  • Created a culture of continual improvement and of welcoming feedback.
  • Increased popcorn sales by 213%.
  • Set a new record for pinewood derby entries.
  • …and much more!

It was such a privilege to be a part of this. I have never, ever experienced an organization so mission-focused and united as this pack.

When prepping for large pack activities, I felt deep burnout several times. Despite that, I always was back in my happy place when the event was happening and, when it was done, I was eagerly anticipating the next event.

Now it’s all done. It is so hard to leave that behind.

This may make me sound sheltered, but leaving Pack 862 is emotionally the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. I dreaded this for two years. When I broke down at one of the summer 2019 committee meetings, you were seeing that raw emotion surface. I somehow held it together during the Blue and Gold Banquet (except during the slide show, but you probably didn’t see that). Plus I’ve had waves of emotion ever since then. It’s hard!

But the change needs to happen. I really meant what I said at the banquet, that Cubmasters are like underwear, so they need to be changed occasionally. The longer I was Cubmaster, I could see the pack’s identity getting entangled with my identity. I’ve seen cases where other packs flopped due to them getting overly identified with a leader who moved on. Even at Winter Camp this year (that program is for older, Scouts BSA members), someone that I don’t even know mentioned Pack 862 as that huge pack (good!) that is Aren Cambre’s pack (bad!). On top of that, given that Ethan graduated to the next program, it was time to move on.

Now above, you see me writing a lot about the pack as an entity. You may remember me emphasizing that the den leaders are the most important position in the pack. And that exposes a conflict: I regret not investing enough time in you, the den leaders, and your dens. I am sorry for that. There were times when dens and den leaders needed an extra boost, and I didn’t always step up like I think I should have.

You are very lucky to have the current “key three” leaders:

Christopher Calle, the pack’s new Cubmaster, has the spirit of adventure in his core. He started Wood Badge, the highest form of local adult leader training in Scouting, just two months after joining! As a successful small business owner, he has a keen sense for how to operate an organization the size of Pack 862. He and I have been working on transition and handoff for a year. You may not have realized this, but I’ve been mostly phoning it in for a few months because Chris has been mostly running the show! Please be sure to support him in his new role! (Be sure to hassle him when he ad libs through an event error! 😁) Additionally, Christopher has shown dedication to where I didn’t do as hot: he ran a den for half a year that needed help (it wasn’t his own kid’s den!), and he is actively thinking through ways to improve den leader initial training in the fall.

Melody Stevens, Committee Chair, has organized the committee to become something I have never seen in the history of this pack. Dating before my time, the Cubmaster and Committee Chair have both shouldered far too much of the duties that the committee should be doing. That is not a great dynamic. Melody has done amazing work to turn this around. We have the best staffed committee ever, we have enthusiastic, committed committee members in key roles, and it’s working well!

Alesia Pearson, Chartered Organization Representative (COR), is our official representative to Central Lutheran Church. You don’t see her much, but let me be very clear about something: this pack is VERY lucky to have such a supportive COR and chartered organization! Alesia fully supported Pack 862’s move to include girls. Except for occasional scheduling conflicts, Central Lutheran has never said no to building use. That is a huge deal! I’ve seen other situations where Scout units struggle with chartered organizations that were disinterested or unsupportive. Pack 862 is VERY lucky to have such a supportive, community-minded organization that has its back.

Out of respect for Christopher, I need to keep some distance from the pack. Growing up in a Methodist minister’s family, I saw how it’s important to let the new leader take charge without the prior leader’s presence clouding things. I am still working with Chris and Melody behind the scenes on transition matters. I’m also sharing my crazy thoughts with them, which they are ignoring if they are smart.

Also, what I identified above are things important to me. This is your pack, so you will need to identify what is important to you! They may be different than my priorities. I can’t way to see how this pack grows and evolves with your new goals.

My own next steps in Scouting are continuing to build up Venturing Crew 863 (for ages 14-20) and support Ethan’s journey in Troop 861. I’ll still be around.

In conclusion, thanks again for a great ten years. I am not gonna Rickroll you because I do need to say goodbye. But I’m never gonna give you up: Pack 862 will always have a strong place in my heart.

You have great leadership, and I am excited to see Pack 862’s next steps!


P.S., Want some beeeeeeeanz? [Note from Aren: This is an inside joke. Ask me to serve you beans to see what this refers to.]