Buy Now!!

One of the good things about maintaining a website for the camp is that you are able to have a presence on the Internet if someone is searching for "Northwest Boy Scouts" or "High Adventure" as well as having a good resource to be able to make information available for troops that are coming to camp.  Despite that, a good portion of the e-mails that I respond to are questions of which the answers could be found if someone took the time looking at the website.  Of course, that is probably a good indication that we are not making it easy enough to navigate around the web page so that may be an improvement we should undertake soon.  Having the website has been good for us, but there are some drawbacks.  The first one is you really have to make sure you keep it up to date.  We add and subtract information such as summer camp availability, staff interviews, etc. but we usually do not "officially" update our program material until we get closer to camp.  This is the second most asked question that I get; "Your advancement roster says 2011, is it the same for 2012?"  A valid question of which the answer I always give them is "the program that is posted currently is the program we have currently.  If we update anything it will be posted first on the website, so keep checking."  For the most part, the structure of our program has not changed much over the years as we have found it to be a successful undertaking.  Some folks would say change is good; I say most scouts and scoutmaster come back enough to notice the difference......and the few of you ancient scoutmasters that do, well I think you know that it works well....otherwise, why do you keep coming back?  The advancement schedule does not change much unless we add or subtract a merit badge, but the times and offerings are pretty stable.  What I try to impart to the scoutmasters that do ask me whether or not we can offer a badge that is not on the list is that we certainly support anything they want us to do.  Merit badge classes are not required to obtain the merit badge; successfully completing the requirements is what is required to earn the merit badge.  Classes only build skill and time for the scout to pass certain requirements.  If you want, we can offer you a counselor to sit down with your scout and assure that they are able to demonstrate each requirement, just as if they had made an appointment with a counselor at home and went for the evening to do that.

The other main drawback is that we receive a lot of e-mail from either individuals or companies trying to sell us software products to help manage our camp.  Some of these "companies" are designed for any type of summer camp operation, for profit or not-for-profit and some are designed specifically for Boy Scout camps.  The pitch is always the same and somewhat generic; "Are you tired of all the hassle........", "Do you wonder how your money is accounted for............", "Are you tired of having to keep inventory and would rather be prompted on when to order..........".  We probably have had about 10 different vendors try to sell us their wares in order to make our summer lives more manageable and therefore more enjoyable.  Buy now so we can save later and have a more efficient system which will actually earn us money.  Sounds like a winner, eh?  It may make sense to look at a system if we truly ran a day to day business year round, but it would have to be in conjunction with the council's financial tracking system.  Right now, I would be just as happy to have them open a "deposit only" account at our local bank instead of having to hand cart cash and checks to Seattle.  It would be efficient, safe, accountable and less possibility of misplacement or loss.

This is not the first time modern technology with associated software has darkened our doors.  There have been talks about having online merit badge sign ups.......folks, that really doesn't help you and it really does not help us.  Scouts change their minds when they arrive to camp or you might come to camp and say...uh oh....little Johnny shouldn't be taking that merit badge.  If you want, you have the advancement sheet readily available, write out who you want taking what and hand it to us when you arrive.....what is the difference?  We do not shut down classes so nothing really "fills up".  Do you want to help yourself AND the camp?  Push for electronic rosters; an online form that you can log on to, populate with the scouts and adults attending camp, the dates the adults will be there (rotating) and then the program automatically fills in your insurance number and calculates how many scouts and adults will be there on a day to day, meal to meal basis so you know that you are going to be a few extra at one meal and WE will be prepared for that one or two extra persons.  With a click of a button you can add or take off scouts that either come at the last minute or don't show up instead of trying to cross them off or fit them on the roster.  Going even further, a program that will automatically tell me that all adults are registered scouters with the BSA.  Now that is a program I would buy and would buy now!!

Stolen Identity?

One of our former staff members forwarded me the e-bay listing of this particular patch which he saw a few days ago.  I don't think I am violating any rules or laws by displaying it here, but we will see.  The question he had was "Is this really one of ours?"  The answer I had was that I didn't know, but I don't think it is.

For years (up to the 50's, even the 60's) Camp Parsons has had a yearly patch; far much better than the little segments that we hand out weekly.  The patches usually contained aspects of Camp Parsons such as the mountains, the hood canal or the signal tower......never a canoe and tent.  The CP has also been somewhat unique in its design as well and never like this one depicted here.  I have seen just about every variation of this patch from the beginning of camp to present and I can safely say that I have never seen this rendition above.  Now that being said, this may have been made by a troop that wore it when they came to camp sometime in the past and has nothing to do with the summer program.  We see that today with t-shirts.  Many troops have a "summer camp" t-shirt that they design specifically for being at Camp Parsons that week.  One troop asked permission to use our Thunderbird design for their shirts and did a very nice job of it so as not to have anyone confuse it to be a staff t-shirt.  I guess I could e-mail the gentleman (or woman) who has this for sale on e-bay and find out the story, but it really is not that big of a deal for me....after all, it is just a patch.

A year or two ago, a Timberline award went up for sale on e-bay which caught my attention.  Apparently the story behind it was that the woman who put it up for auction got it from her husband, who went on a trek in the early 80's.  He was having some health issues so they were selling a number of items in order to raise money to pay their bills.  Of course this story came out after she received scorching e-mails from numerous members of the OSM asking why and how this came up for sale and did she know what she was doing.  I was a little annoyed at first, but after she gave her explanation, I could understand the reasoning behind it and again, it is a symbol of an achievement and only as good as the person who wears it.  If someone wishes to collect that award, fine.  If someone wants to wear it, well they will know that they didn't earn it, and that is all that matters to me.  The interesting thing about this particular rank is that the year it was awarded was one of the years that I was running the ceremony and handing out awards.  So I am sure I have seen that Timberline before.

Every year we admonish the staff about selling staff gear, particularly the staff patch let alone their marmot.  I must admit, I am surprised I haven't seen more pop up on e-bay in the past.  I know through the years we have had a number of staff members who don't really care about camp or the traditions that come with it.  I would imagine it would be easy for anyone of those people to give or sell something away.  Then again, maybe it means a little something to them after all......or maybe it is buried underneath a bunch of other junk; out of sight, out of mind.

A question came up about yesterday's post.  My ruminations were exactly that; an observation that I noticed as I began piecing the staff together.  Every year we have returning directors that come back to do their job for a second year, this year was just one of those years where I am going to get a lot of "new" directors even though they are veteran staff members.  Selection letters have gone out for the most part, a few will be going out later.  As usual, we have more applicants than positions.  If someone has not received a letter, either selection or non-selection by the end of the week then they should call camp.  As we get closer to camp, we may need to pick up more staff as at times, a few folks have to drop out for different reasons, so if someone is not selected now, we may be calling later.  Scouts applying for CIT positons will be contacted in May to schedule a week, so don't worry about those.

Where Are My Directors?

I am very pleased on the way the 2012 staff is beginning to shape up; we have a large number of returning staff members as well as a good number of previous CITs who worked for us last summer.  We also have a number of CP staff "veterans" returning as well which is always good as they bring a little camp history mixed in with "real life" experience with them when they return.  That being said, one thing we do not have are returning directors.

Now this is off the cuff a little bit as we do have a number of last years directors returning however none of them will be returning to their previous roles.  Don't get me wrong, we have selected a variety of different individuals for director roles and we are speculating on others but it is rare that we do not have a percentage of our staff returning to their previous roles.  It is good on one hand as we bring in fresh ideas and new enthusiasm; it is bad on the other hand as we also bring in less camp experience in that role and have to make the "same" mistakes that one makes as they fit into that role.  Neither one of these pros or cons is worse or better than the other, they just add another dimension to developing, training and running a staff.  This challenge is complicated even more by the requirements set forth by national on various operational aspects of each area.  Shooting Sports is a good example; we require two 21 y/o individuals both trained by NCS.  It is hard enough to recruit 21 y/o staff members at the salary we pay, even worse having to send them to a week long training program that really adds nothing to the quality OR safety of the shooting program.....but it is required.  The Aquatics Director has to be as good as any Red Cross Water Safety Instructor and although I like this idea, it should not be required to have that be the determining factor....I can hire teenagers that are trained lifeguards, what I need is someone mature enough to manage a safe beach as well as coordinate a program and maintenance.  Don't need to be a lifeguard to do that......but I have ranted about this before.

Regardless of my concerns, we will be fine, we usually are.  It just seems that every time you think you have a plan for the next few years, a curve ball is sent your way particularly when it comes to leadership.  However as I look back, we never have had an easy hit (well, there was that one time); there is always something that gives us a challenge but out of the blue and unexpectantly we find an opportunity that works out to our advantage and the camp's advantage which in turn works out to the scout's advantage.  Maybe I just need to change this post into a song, "Where have all the Director's gone....long time passing...."  I doubt Peter Seger would agree.

Back to NCAA basketball.........I was gloating about my NCAA picks in a prior I am slowly dropping to the bottom of the list now that Syracuse lost.  That was my last final four pick so I have no more points left but my competition has is lonely and cold at the bottom, but at least I am not in last place, heh, heh.....  Oh well, I still have the dawgs in the NIT.

A Pillar

I made my way to Seattle last Wednesday evening to attend the Chief Seattle luncheon the following day hosted by the Seattle Seahawks.  For those of you who are not aware of these events, every year there are three breakfasts or luncheons that are put on mainly as fund raisers for the council.  The downtown luncheon is usually the biggest of the three and has a fairly full and interesting program.  I had planned to head into Seattle on Thursday, the day of the luncheon but the more I looked at my schedule and the weather the more I knew that I didn't want to rush things or I would have been just that more annoyed.  So in the late hours of Wednesday evening I drove to Seattle in the pouring rain.....and I mean pouring.  Talk about being distracted; between the radio, the windshield wipers going back and forth, and the spray from cars and trucks, it was hard to focus on anything.  However as I neared Seattle there was a band of fading light on the horizon as the sun was setting and all of a sudden the rain stopped and sky was somewhat clear.  In my rear view mirror I could see the maelstrom that I spent a fair amount of time in, fading off into the distance.  It seems that Seattle has been spared most of the gloom that the rest of us have had to endure.  Even better, the sun was out on Thursday morning.

The luncheon was enjoyable.  I wasn't sure if I was going to go this year as work has been fairly demanding of my time, but when I heard they were going to honor former Governor Dan Evans as a scouting pillar of the community, I knew I had to go.  As many of you know, Dan is a Seattle native growing up in the Laurelhurst area of Seattle.  He is a civil engineer by training and served in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War.  He went on to be a State Representative, three time Washington State Governor and two term Senator (well, one and a half as he took Henry Jackson's seat when he passed thanks for the correction BOC).  He was also the driving force behind the development of Evergreen State College and served as its president for some time.  However, most important to me (and to the Governor) he was an Eagle Scout and a proud member of the Camp Parsons Staff.  As this was a scouting event honoring him, the focus was on his experiences as a scout and how they helped shape the man he would become.  It was briefly mentioned that he was on the staff at Camp Parsons but what was not told was that he served on the staff for two years, went into the service during the war and returned to serve another two years as he finished college.  That is four summers out of his young life he spent on the Hood Canal.  The Governor will readily admit there were many experiences in his life that helped shape who is today, but he has told me in the past that his time at camp were some of the most formative.  His love for the environment came out of his many hikes into the Olympic Peninsula.  The Governor has continued to be a huge supporter of the scouting program and a supporter of Camp Parsons.  He has come by on several occasions and was very helpful on our 90th anniversary celebration.  That is probably when I got to know him best as he had a tendency to call me when he was on the East Coast traveling.....usually around 0600 his time.  I think you know what time that is on the Pacific coast.  This was a well deserved honor for a man who has dedicated his life to public service and I am surprised he has not been awarded the Silver Buffalo from the National Council.....yet.  Perhaps that is our next push.

As I watched him receive this honor and listened to his short speech afterwards, my mind wandered back to my previous post of what the future holds for our current and former staff members.  How was Dan Evans when he applied to staff at age 16 and did the camp leadership see what the future might hold for him (or at least the potential) when they hired him?  When I interview scouts today I often think, "is this the next corporate giant?"  "is this a future Governor?" "is this person going to have any success as he does have the talent but does not have the desire to apply it?"

During the rest of the luncheon the council showed a video that was compiled and edited by Garrigan and Lyman Assoc. but was taken by scouts who were given small "flip phones" to take videos of things they did at camp.  It was actually well done, but there was hardly anything of Camp Parsons in this video which was introduced as a "Look at our Summer Camps" piece.  Not that it matters as the key thing was seeing scouts in the outdoors having fun, but it was interesting that the man being honored attributes his time at Camp Parsons which continues to operate as it did when the Governor was a child.  There were more pictures/video of Camp Sheppard than there were of Camp Parsons.  What they did show were two scenes; one where the scout try to get a tire over a large post and tug of war (hullabaloo), the other was a brief picture of two scouts in a canoe on a windy day.  Oh yes, there were a few pics of the Scoutmaster belly flop but that was about it.  When you think about scouts having fun at Camp Parsons what do you think about?  Right....jumping off the pier, something that no other camp can do.........not even a picture of the pier, just the pier float.  Regardless, it was well put together and enjoyable to watch and does show to a business audience what summer camp is about.

Word from camp is that the TP is pretty much all but done.  The water has been turned on and the concrete pads for the front and back decks have been poured.  What is left is the inside "dressing" and it will be good to go.  Staff letters are going out and some may have arrived.  Off we go.....

Basketball and Things.......

I have mentioned many times before that things have been very busy at work and it is rare to get any substantial time off to do anything.  This past weekend was no different, however I was able to get some relief and have some time to myself to celebrate St. Patrick's day with a few friends.  It was also the beginning of March Madness and we were besieged with games over the weekend, something I enjoyed very much watching; partially because I enjoy tournament season and partially because it doesn't require me to "think".  That is something completely different to my regular job.  Although I am not as savvy as many of my older staff members, I do find it amusing that (so far) I have been on top of our CP bracket picks.  Now, I have no doubt I will fall before the end of the play offs, but for now.....I get to gloat.

Unfortunately, I was not able to make the AWP this past weekend, but from what Ken told me, a fair amount of work was completed including the lights in the new TP.  I felt a little guilty about surrendering camp for a weekend of some revelry however I really wasn't looking forward to a drive through the rain and snow.  I was glad to hear that there was a good turnout and that many projects were completed.

I was able to spend time with some friends and colleagues that I have known for over twenty years now as well as a handful of senior CP staff; some of which still work at camp and several that have moved on.  I find it interesting how easily these younger guys mix well with some of my older friends who are as bitter and cynical as myself (well, in a way they are).  However camp has always attracted quality individuals and that particular characteristic is easily seen and welcomed by others.  Indeed, as I have mentioned before I think this is the key to why we have a successful program.  Quality begins with character and quality is not just a program but a way of life.  These guys care about what they do and who they are and I think that is the ultimate competitive advantage when you compare our program with others.  This is a trait I see in many of my staff members both current and past and I think it is the trait that makes my interaction with staff members enjoyable.

So now I am back to work, happy of having a little bit of a break and currently being on top of the bracket.  That should last to the next round. 

Excellent Things Are Rare

That statement comes from the musings of Plato and begs the question; what do we mean by "excellent"?  When I have performed evaluations on students in the past, the options I am given to the rate the individual comes down to three things; "Excellent", "Meets Expectations", or the crushing "Below Expectations."  There are examples for each category and to be honest I would have to say that most of the people I teach fall squarely on the "meets expectations" category which usually has the characteristics of knowing your stuff, being on time, etc.  However it seems less that what you want to impart.  Is the individual truly outstanding or good.......and good doesn't mean bad.  Too many people would default to the "Excellent" line as they would feel they are being too harsh by choosing anything else and who wants to rate anyone as being "average"?  People don't go to school or take on a profession to be just average, do they?  Then again, if you rate everyone excellent, then what is the standard? Aren't you just adding to the growing academic issue of grade inflation?  Is the bell curve shifted now that it encompasses all the "A" grades?  Seriously though, what is the standard for being "excellent" as opposed to other things and how do we keep evaluators truly "honest"?

So many questions.

I think about this during our staff interviews.  With every scout that we talk to I ask myself, "is this the next staff member of the year?  Is this the next one who will work for several years and possibly become Program Director some day?"  It begins with a hand it the "dead fish", sweaty palmed half hearted handshake followed by a bunch of "uhms...." to the questions I ask, or is it a strong handshake with the individual looking you straight in the eye and begins their conversation with, "good afternoon sir, thanks for taking the time to interview me."  We have many, many staff members that are very good and certainly add to the camp's "excellent" program, but in many ways, they "meet the expectations" (which is good) as a staff member.  I am seldom wrong in picking out the individuals that I think will be scouting "rock stars" but there have been a few that interviewed very well but performed very poorly.  I often wonder if there was something that I missed during the interview, but a few people have the talent to talk a good game.....they just can't play it.  So now when we come to selecting the staff, do I take those I don't know that well but at least meet our expectations knowing full well that we most likely will develop their skills as time goes on to be more than just above average and also knowing that true excellence is probably rare.  Then again, we are back to the question....what is excellence?  Hard to define, but we all know it when we see it.....right?

Now it may sound like I have an unrealistic expectation of my staff to rise to the level that I consider being excellent but you have to one rises to low expectations.  Our staff as a whole is fantastic and each member contributes to our program and our customer service that combined gives us excellent reviews regarding program as well as developing a reputation that is known across the nation.  It is that teamwork that allows all of us "common" people to obtain uncommon results.  Although we have exceptional standouts on the staff every year (and we usually all know who they are as we look at past seasons) it is important to remember that individuals may help win battles but seldom can they win a war.  The staff guide, the song leader, the guy in all the skits may be a standout, but they don't carry the program through the eight weeks of the season.......that is something we all do and that is what meets my expectations.....anything more is great, but it is also rare.