Boy Scout Training Weekend: Terror in the Woods

Well, my days of being a Scoutmaster are winding down. This weekend (from Friday to Sunday), we have our semiannual (twice a year), Troop Leadership Training (TLT). This will be my last one. Yeah!!

Now, this weekend isn’t super hard if you enjoy 8-12 Boy Scouts (ages 11-15) attempting to learning positive leadership qualities, cooking awful food, and staying up way too late. They also have very boring presentations (really not their fault) that I get to listen to.

Luckily, the adults cook and eat seperately from the Boy Scouts so I don’t have to worry about eating some gross hot dog dinner (for the millionth time).

I do want to spice things up a bit, so I thought we should watch some classical horror slasher movies. I figure a psychopath killing off a bunch of teenagers (in the woods) would be a prefect movie.  I think I could further the Boy Scouts’ experience with the addition of various adults wearing Halloween masks, running around, screaming….Oh, and perhaps a chainsaw running at full speed? And all of this would be done under the cover of darkness.  We want to make sure the scouts learn all about “team building” as they try to stay alive.

I’ll also probably start saying stuff like “Hmm, that’s an odd noise.” Or “Funny, did you hear that?” Or “What the heck was that? Did you see something over there??”  Sometimes the shear anticipation and the fear it produces is the real key to a scary experience.

What if I just start to giggle to myself for no reason whatsoever?  Or “talk” to a ghostly figure once in a while?  That might help the scouts freak out that much more.

Now, it won’t be all bad. We have a fairly nice location with flush toilets, hot water, and a large covered area. We do have to sleep in open air cabins. At least I don’t have to squeeze into some little tent and I’ll be dry too!  I’ll bring my comfortable air mattress, a good sleeping bag, and my pillow. Heck, I can even wear my Hello Kitty pajamas!

Do dear readers, feel free to add in your suggestions on other fun activities we could do? Or movies to watch?

I’m an Energy Whore….

Just last week, I was called an “Energy Whore” by my beloved public utility company: Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Puget Sound Energy likes to mail out a 3 month Home Energy usage report (which is separate from my bill) that ranks my household’s energy use compared to other similar homes in the area. It ranks efficient neighbors, all neighbors, and then us: energy whores. It says we use 31% more energy than our neighbors. It also gives us a 12 month Neighbor Comparison where it tells me that we use 54% more electricity than our neighbors and 5% more natural gas than our neighbors in colorful graphs that clearly demonstrate that we are energy whores.

On the top of the report it says “You used 100% more energy than your neighbors.” Ouch!

Overall, it is a quite depressing little piece of mail.

How can we be this way? We turn off our lights at night and have CFB lights everywhere. We have an automatic thermostat that turns down the temperature in our home when we aren’t around. Sure, we have three flat screen TV’s (which I thought were pretty efficient) and other numerous electronic devices like any other average American home in the Pacific Northwest but we use 100% more energy than our neighbors? We have one A/C unit (which is a blessing in the few hot days we have in Seattle). We don’t have central air or a heat pump running 24 hours a day. We don’t use our sauna except for maybe once or twice a year. The hot tub is broken so that isn’t sucking energy. How are we using 100% more electricity than our neighbors? We have a natural gas furnace and a gas fireplace and we only are 5% more usage than our neighbors (in regards to natural gas).

I’m guessing my second fridge and my chest freezer are skewing the numbers. Probably my swimming pool pump and my fish pond pump running 24/7 doesn’t help matters either. I also work from home so my computer is on all the time. My house isn’t huge but it is larger than the “average” 1936 sq. ft. house they use. So I have some valid reasons why I’m an energy whore.

Then the report goes on to make you feel even worse. Once you flip over the Home Energy Usage Report, you see on the second page your “Neighbor Efficiency Rank”. Mine says my rank is declining. It’s not getting better or staying the same; it’s declining. It says my rank is #98 out of 100 neighbors. #1 is the most efficient so basically, I’m an energy whore that is sucks up energy like no tomorrow. No one likes to be called a loser and an energy whore. Nobody.

What is one to do with this information? My solution is to run long power cords from my six neighbors and use their power to help my numbers. I figure that with the winter months coming, they won’t be going outside much and they won’t notice long power cords running from their house to my house. You can buy green and brown power cords so it should be fairly easy to camouflage the power cords.

Clearly, by spreading my whorish energy usage over six other houses is better than me being burden with the guilt of being an energy whore. A little bump in their electric bills won’t be noticeable. Ah, free power…here I come!

Disclaimer: Of course, I’m not really going to run power cords from my neighbors’ houses to my houses. Just another worthless advice blog idea. But what if….

Image from
Image from

Demotivitional Saturday

Ah, Saturday. A day of rest and relaxation after a week of extremely hard work. You work hard, don’t you? You’d like more time off while at the same time make more money, right? You want the finer things in life, don’t you?

Then reading my blog will change your life! Now, I’m not sure if your life will change for the better, but it will change. Over the years, I’ve read enough self-help books and watched enough TED talks on YouTube to be a self-made self-help guru. And I’m pretty sure I could attend an online university and get my PhD.  Basically, all I need to do is introduce the pain of your failures and then ask questions that you have to answer in the affirmative.

You do want to be a better person, right? You want a better life for yourself and your loved ones, right? Do you love your family?

You already know you want to be better. You want to improve. You just need me to push you a little.

Fit Bit Woes

Fit Bit Woes
In August, we purchased the little blue tooth versions of the Fit Bit devices for ourselves. That is a Fit Bit for my wife, myself, and my daughter. Now, these are nifty little devices that you wear on your wrist (like a bracelet) that tracks your steps. You move around walking, running, or do some kind of exercise, it records your “steps”. You can set your own goal but in general, the common goal is 10,000 steps for the average person to do. Supposedly, this will keep you healthy. That, and cutting back on the double cheeseburgers and three daily beers would also help.

Now, the Fit Bit is pretty easy to use; slap it on your wrist, download the app onto your phone, and away you go. I have the Bluetooth version so it syncs up fairly easy. The only problem I have is remembering to keep the darn thing charged. It seems to hold a charge forever and then just dies. I look at the thing every day, yet I am unable to remember to charge it until it is too late. Then my valuable steps are never recorded and it looks like I had a day of laying on the couch, watching TV.

For example, I just synced my Fit Bit after being up for the past three hours and it says I have a whopping 6 steps. A bit annoying. I thought since it had a full charge, it would be automatically recording my steps. How am I suppose to crush my daughter and her friends if my Fit Bit isn’t recording my steps?

My daughter, a few of her friends, and a few of my friends all compete to see who has the most steps. I’m doing OK but I still think some of the girls strap the Fit Bit to their dog and then throw the ball for the dog to fetch. Either that or they just walk back and forth to the candy store about 30 times.

Overall, it has been a good experience with the Fit Bit. It is a nice reminder that you should be getting your steps in daily and live to a ripe old age.
 Because if you don’t live to a ripe old age, who else is going to bug your kids with worthless advice?

Who’s Advice?

Thanks for Nothing!
Occasionally, I get advice from people who know nothing about my business, absolutely nothing. This is pretty much worthless advice. They aren’t business owners, they aren’t school photographers, and usually they are someone that really doesn’t have a clue on how the world works. How they manage to survive is beyond me. Regardless, sometimes I do get a golden flake of good advice after the yards of worthless and useless advice. Hmm, perhaps this is why I have a worthless advice blog? 
Now, if I’m in a brainstorming session with someone or a group of people, I love to hear every crazy idea they have. It is a free for all and the crazier the idea, the better. This is when I want those ideas no matter how worthless or ill conceived they might seem to be. Enjoy…toss out that new idea of how your cat can become the next bestseller! You have an idea for a novel? Spit it out! Maybe you have a desire for a wacky trip to New Zealand. Let’s go for it!

I do like to listen to people who have blazed a trail, made mistakes, and have beneficial advice because of their success and failures. I enjoy learning all about how they got there, the steps involved, and the process involved. That is the kind of advice you should listen to: advice from people that are where you want to be.

Enjoy your day!

When you have a crazy principal….

Summer is over for my family; it’s dead and gone. School started for the kids last Monday and they actually attended a whole five days before the Labor Day Weekend. That is pretty usually for our school district. We usually go for two or three days, have the Labor Day weekend and they do a four day week. I’m not complaining and the kids aren’t complain either. They both seem excited to be going to school this year. That is always good for a parent to know that their children don’t hate school.

The weather has also turned into days of rain, clouds, cold temperatures, and windstorms. My white trash pool is full of debris and with no sunshine, the solar panels are not heating up the pool water so I’m not going inside it. I’m pretty sure the water in the pool is now 65 degrees F. In the middle of the pool is a pile of cedar branches. Oh, poor me, I have First World problems. 

With the disappearance of our wonderful sunny summer weather and the start of school, I’m back in the thick of my school photography season. Most of the prep work of my business has been taken care of but I still have schools booking into dates. I have one holdout where the principal has decided that she wants a new photographer. She is making it difficult for the PTA and I to book a date for school photos at her school. She blames me for her royal screw up. She is a narcissistic control freak who has to reinvent the wheel and touch every program. She believes she is an expert in everything (including school photographer and yearbook design and production). I’ve heard from various staff members, parents, and PTA members she is changing how everything is done in the school. Systems that worked fine in the past and that are time tested, refined, and work are now changed because “she has a better idea”.

I mentioned she blamed me for a failure on her part. I didn’t know she blamed me until the PTA president told me. Let’s take a trip back memory lane, to last spring. I’ve been trying to get the school to schedule the activity photo day for the yearbook group for months because the yearbook deadline was approaching. Little did I know the principal has to personal look at everything and had created a bottleneck in the communication process. Instead of a principal focusing on school administration, she is to focusing on micromanaging everything in the school building. I’m surprised she hasn’t personally told everyone to just have their email accounts come through her first.

In the past, for activity group/club/sport team photo day, we worked with the main office, had a time schedule, and the office would make an announcement that a certain group should now come down to have their photo taken. The system had worked for the past 15 years.

 Well, the Principal (brand new to the school) decided she didn’t want to do it that way. She decided that they would send runners to get the kids. She neglected to inform the teachers of the new process or me. She thought God would someone let us know.

So I’m photographing the various groups on time according to the time table and the schedule I was given. No one gave me rosters to check if the kids were all there or a walkie talkie for communication. No staff members came out to tell me that kids were “missing” from the photos. I was doing it the exact same way I have always done, you know, the way that actually worked.

So now the principal is trying to get rid of me because she blames me for her failed system. She doesn’t like to admit that, hey, she screwed up because she didn’t want to listen to her staff or the photographer with 22 years experience. We had a system that was time tested and worked. It has been refined and adjusted over the years by a team of people, not one person who had an “idea” of how to do it.

She also tried to get the PTA to purchase 300 yearbooks, when in the past, the PTA (I’m also a PTA member) has sold only 223 yearbooks in their best year (which was last year). We did not want to have unsold 75 yearbooks which the PTA would have had to eat the cost of. The PTA and I refused to do it so she took the yearbook project over and purchased 300 yearbooks with school funds. Did she sell 300 books? No, she didn’t. She has at least 50 yearbooks leftover that you and I (as taxpayers) paid for. That is at least $750.00 wasted (some estimates put unsold books at 75 copies for a loss of $1125.00). That’s money that could have been spent directly on the education of the school children in her school. She blames the lack of sales to kids missing from the yearbook group photos. Hmm, with a turnover of 400-500 kids out of 600 kids in the school per year, there isn’t a lot kids that stay a whole school year. Maybe if she knew her student population and the demographic make up of her families, she might have a better clue of how the yearbooks would sell. But again, why listen to historical sales figures. She must be a business expert too!

Now, I’m all for continuos improvement. I have a business degree from the University of Washington and have been in photography for 22 years, I know a little bit about how to photograph large number of people in a short amount of time. I also know about yearbooks and looking at past sales figures to project what future sales will be.. I like to improve sales because that leads to more business and profits for me. However, I will not take an order just for short term gain when I know the end product (in this case yearbooks) won’t be all sold. That’s bad business and bad business ethics.

I really dislike how this principal is trying to make me the scrape goat for her mismanagement. I’d like to go over her head and complain but I honestly don’t think the district cares about this problem. And the policy is usually to leave decisions up to the principal. The PTA and I have a school photo contract but the principal just says she wants to find a replacement for me.

I think a better solution is to contact the local newspaper or Jessie Jones from KIRO TV Channel 7 CBS news to talk with her. Ask why she is wasting taxpayers money and stealing money from the PTA (I pay them a commission from the school photo sales). With everything on her plate, I can’t imagine she will remember she also needs to book a school photographer. I’m hoping she forgets and then in November, when parents ask the school when “Photo Day is?”, she will be like “Oh, crap! I forgot I was trying to do a power play with the PTA and didn’t schedule a photographer for school photos!”. Of course, I suspect she is already talking with another photography company and will book with them. The PTA and I will be cut out, they will lose their commission, and the parents will get crappy school photos. So everyone wins, right