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:

Leaders,

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!

Aren

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.]

DISD’s insane bus route proposal

UPDATE (7:42 PM): Routes have already changed. Route 3093, while still long, has different schools. Other long routes have appeared.

Despite platitude-filled community meetings, a good sign of dropping a stupid idea, and vague promises, Dallas Independent School District declined to fix its long, bizarre bus routes.

For example, this is an actual bus route for 2019-2020 for Sudie Williams TAG:

Route 3093 for Sudie Williams TAG Vanguard & Academy (link to map)

Google Maps says this seven-school, 24-mile route (!) takes 1 hr 10 minutes. DISD thinks it will only be 53 or 54 minutes. Hmm, what’s DISD’s logic? Slower vehicle (bus) + pause for several minutes at each school (load/unload) = 16-17 minutes faster drive time? Just like last year, a hefty dose of magical thinking!

All the schools served by route 3093, along with DISD’s laughable stop times. Morning pickup times on left, evening dropoff times on right.

This isn’t the only one. Many routes are long and complicated.

With half of his brain tied behind his back, one of my fans created a 10% faster route simply by reorienting the stops. And by removing one stop, he made a 30% faster route.

DISD Transportation repeatedly promised to fix this. They declined to. We’re seeing more of the same.

Superintendent Hinojosa, your “drastic changes” failed to deliver. Time for more firings.

(In case DISD makes further changes, here’s my own archival copy of the “special programs” bus-routing spreadsheet that shows the state of the routes when I saw them: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/103Y2aey36uDkAszoax7x8ZKBSMYsWWknrlKVrgmucwI/edit?usp=sharing.)

Dallas’s Carmel Car Wash sucks

Dallas’s Carmel Car Wash chain sucks for three reasons.

Problem 1: Their product is bad. I have an Infiniti G37 and a Honda Odyssey. For both vehicles, Carmel’s equipment isn’t able to get a good clean. Vertical surfaces, and some other parts, get missed unless the beginning-of-line attendant remembers to manually brush-wash those parts. Often, that attendant forgets or does a poor job.

Overall, their equipment just doesn’t do a good job. Here’s the result of a Sunday (July 14, 2019) wash on my van:

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that van just needed a second run through the equipment? I admit, it was pretty dirty. That leads to…

Problem 2: They don’t stand by their product. I went back to Carmel to ask for that second run on my van. (If you’re from Carmel, it is the Mockingbird Lane location. I was there on 7/16/19 around 5:30 PM and went to the left lane.) I presented my receipt, asked for a re-run, and was told they do not stand by their $7 wash, so I would need to pay for another $7 wash.

Problem 3: Plus-sales are out of control. Every time you do the basic, $7 wash, you’ll get hassled about gift cards or car-wash extras that Consumer Reports says are not worth it. This started a few months ago. I am tired of it!

We’re done, Carmel Car Wash. Not even #friendzone. Just done.

Adding books to Kindle Freetime accounts

If you want to add an e-book to your child’s Freetime account, it’s more complicated than delivering it to the device after you buy it. I cannot find any documentation, so this is how I did it:

  1. Visit www.amazon.com. Log in if you haven’t already.
  2. Hover over Accounts & Lists and select Your Content and Devices.
  3. Click Show Family Library.
  4. Place a checkmark next to all books you want to share with your child’s Freetime account.
  5. Click Add to Library.
  6. At the bottom of the Add to Library dialog, select the child you want to have the books.
  7. Press OK.

(EDIT (2020-08-07): This paragraph may be an unnecessary step. Let me know in the comments.) After that, you then need to pick up your kid’s device and exit Freetime. Restart Freetime, and when you do so, you’ll check the box for the book you just purchased.