Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mastering OALM

Nentico Lodge is transitioning to a new membership database. In the process of centralizing the storage, we're distributing the data integrity responsibility. It's going to be an interesting next few months. Chesapeake Chapter will be first out of the gate as we have the earliest Ordeal in calendar year 2010. Here are a few comments from my perspective - non-authoritative, unofficial, and maybe helpful.

First, a process flow chart. I came up with this after working on the volume test in early December. It's broken into 2 main areas - Unit Elections, then Chapter Ordeals. The reason for this should be obvious, though the data hand-offs from unit to chapter, and from chapter to chapter, will need to be tested to see how it works.

The "In" circles are where someone will be entering data, either the Chapter Adviser or their designee. Likewise, the "Out" circles represent data reports, on-screen, on paper, or to various media formats. As an example, reports back to Scoutmasters on those elected can help find spelling mistakes or other inaccuracies. I've left out validation of BSA ID numbers for simplicity, but that needs to happen somehow.

The second page, the Ordeal process, looks more complex, but will probably be simpler in practice. The bigger adjustment at the Ordeal will likely be managing the transition from the "old way" to the "new way." I've seen challenges with pre-registration, especially when the forms don't make it to the Ordeal site on time. With a central database, this can be avoided with the up-to-the-minute synchronization process.

The trick to simplifying check-in will be to have as many of those elected on the records as possible. Given that April's Ordeal could include elections as far back as late April or early May 2009, it would not surprise me if someone showed up whose data was not online yet. We'll need a way to make sure they are recorded and the elections are checked.

Here is one screen shot of menus I saw during a test phase:

A few things to note about this:

  • Someone has to set up events if I can't access "Event Manager". For best results long term, we should agree on a format so they can be more easily found.
  • Membership Manager needs some practice, and also some rules around capitalization, abbreviations, etc.
  • Chapter Reports are useful. Once we're back online I'll highlight a few I found. I should have taken screen shots before, so there you go...
  • Unit Contact Manager sounds like an address book, but it seems to be more of a calendar showing who was contacted when. It's probably useful for tracking many elections, though it will take some time to become familiar with it.
  • There are exception reports, including a nice one that can do partial name matching to search for duplicates or typos.
  • I think Service Hours can also be used for meeting attendance. Again, once we're online I will try this at a Chapter meeting to wok out the kinks.

We talked about whether this tool can help the Extended Elangomat program. I believe it can, based on the reporting and organization logic. I hope so.

Lastly, this cryptic pop up:

The answer is not always one or the other. It depends what you want to do. So read, understand, then choose.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Eagle Court of Honor - Henry Sentz

Tonight, after spending a day at Scout Camp, I was privileged to assist at the Eagle Court of Honor for one of Troop 350's Scouts. After years of work, Henry met all of the requirements, with weeks to spare before his 18th birthday.

In this photo, Eagle Scout Lou Maggio Jr is leading the Eagle Charge and pledge.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rediscovering trails in Gunpowder State Park

In the geocaching.com site, there are 2 caches described along parts of the Orange and White trails in Gunpowder State Park:



I'm rather partial to these, even if my troop isn't the one listed on the one remaining "Nature Trail" sign, we've done a bit of trail maintenance there. Plus, the image on one of these cache pages is of an Eagle project by our troop.

The Friday after Thanksgiving we gathered at the Marina to begin a few hours of trail service. Besides a lot of leaves and branches in the trail, the Park Rangers wanted us to fix up some faded or missing blazes, and rework a couple of muddy sections.

The first photo shows Sam, Tom, and Mr. Joe placing rocks to forge the wettest area, while Kyle widens the trail step on a slightly drier area.

In the second photo, Sam is blazing a new marker using our impromptu duct tape stencil.

Here's what one of the fords looked like when we were done.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pumpkin carving at Elk Neck State Park

Cub Pack 350 is camping out at Elk Neck State Park, along with some of Troop 350. There are lots of activities to keep them busy despite the rain, with nature hikes, beaver dam viewing and pumpkin carving.

There's a pie baking in the Dutch oven. I'm Hungry!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Butch in Phoenix

Butch McNally joined other SAP Mentors Graham, Sue, Gretchen and I at the Matador Restaurant on the last evening of SAP TechEd 09. A great night, mates.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Waiting for camp dinner to boil

Evening at camp, tents set up, and the usual hot dog snack being prepared. The Scouts are tired and hungry, but nowhere near as tired as they will be tomorrow at this time.

A full day awaits. Lighs out soon... Not soon enough.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

First Class Camp

Taurean Branch teaching the first knot - the square knot.

(Ken) "Charlie Brown" showing Firem'n Chit basics.

David Hodnett supervising proper flag retirement. @BmoreScout on the left margin.

Bob Gleason supervised a Scout on proper tool care.

First Class Scout Camp at Maryland School for the Blind location 26-Sep-2009.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Long Tail of Cheerful Service

The Long Tail

On Friday, I spoke at the Boy Scouts of America Baltimore Area Council (BAC) about Twitter, but mainly it was about social media and its use in service organizations. I tried to emphasize the "why" social media more than "how" to do it. I hope I succeeded.

The meeting occurred out of my digital conversations with Ethan Draddy, the BAC Scout Executive & CEO, as we sparred about how best to use Twitter in our roles as adult leaders. He's a full time paid executive, while I'm a part time volunteer, though my tweet count is a bit higher. As he introduced me, he explained to his team that we had met through Twitter, which I thought was perfect background for why I was there. I suggested to him that my role had been a coach, one who had slightly more experience, but not all of the answers.

When I prepared for my lunch-and-learn session with BAC staffers, I thought of a few key lessons I wanted to share, from what "6 degrees" could mean, to comparing network chats to email, to how one might leverage existing guidance such as the Computers merit badge handbook (and related online resources such as meritbadge.org). One key idea I researched beforehand was the "long tail" theory. I found one explanation of that concept here:


There's even a book out on the large aggregate markets for relatively unpopular items. It's called The Long Tail.
The book referred to is subtitled "Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More". I'll come back to the "business" and "selling" part later.

As I approached this idea, I asked the audience who had heard of "The Long Tail." No hands went up. Great, a coachable moment for all. When I stepped back to as who took statistics in high school, or in college, then who liked it, there were a few hands for the former, just one for the latter. As a mentor, I realized transferring a concept like this was key to my goal in being there, and that it was going to be tricky.

I drew a curve resembling this image:

On the left, I wrote "Blockbuster"; on the right I wrote "Netflix". When I asked for comments, I heard "bricks and mortar" vs. "internet distribution". That's pretty close to the basis of this theory. The difference between the "long tail" for business and the "long tail" for charitable organizations is subtle. I proposed that the Boy Scouts aren't selling anything. Perhaps they are, but that's not the point. Scouts are a Service Organization. The motto of the Order of the Arrow includes "Cheerful Service".

The chart above shows a larger area in reddish-brown than it does in yellow. For the "long tail" concept to work, you should imagine that the yellow area extends off the chart to the right, and that the total area in yellow is greater than the reddish-brown. In other words, Netflix, with smaller sales of each item than Blockbuster, is more profitable. In the quote above, I'd quibble with the term "unpopular" item, replacing it with "obscure" or "less popular". Clearly someone wants to rent those low frequency titles.

A few thoughts on Scouting and the internet

Researching the concept of low frequency service, I found references to an instance where an individual Girl Scout had set up a web site to sell cookies. This early in 2009; here is one link:


An online article about the story is:


The former article contained a quote:

Turns out Girl Scouts, the organization, does not allow online sales and cites "safety reasons."
Sounds reasonable, though there are debatable points. One such point is doing fund-raising at the office (and where else do people have spare change?):


This article makes a bold statement:
Human resources folks, responding to pressures from above, state that no one should sell their stuff in the office, Scouters included. But promoting Scouting ideals is not the same, in my book, as doing fund-raising. I'm extremely fortunate that my management and company's philanthropic styles permit me time for camping and service projects. I doubt every company is so supportive.

By the way (did you know?)

As an aside, the Erielhonan were relatives of the Iroquois; their name means "long tail" (per itcbsa.org). And the Lenai Lennape word Quenischquney or "panther" translates as long-tailed. When I searched for "Scouting" and "long tail" two other definitions of the term appeared, one being story telling at length, the other being animals with long appendages.

The Lone Scout

In times of less mass transit and no interstates, the Lone Scout program was created to serve youth isolated from others. While it existed separate from the Boy Scouts for under a decade, the Lone Scout concept continues. Per Scouting magazine, there were about 400 Scouts active worldwide as of 2001.


The handbook is online, too [PDF - 7.2 MB]. It includes a brief discussion of distance communications, suggesting email, and says one Lone Scout "even has his own web site."


On the diagram I drew during my chat, I replaced the dollar sign for Sales on the left axis with the word Service. I propose that instead of individual items for sale, that we're talking about individual good deeds, and that reaching out to Scouts, potential Scouts, the general public, and particularly those skeptical of the relevance of Scouting in the 21st century, is imperative. Jim Milham's closing remarks echoed this when he said Scouting needs to continue evolving or we will be left behind.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Question 1 - Red Trail

After about 5 months since I started trying to complete the Red and Yellow trails at Broad Creek, I reached Question #1 on the Hiker Award list. It's not because I could not find it before, it just wasn't on any hike plans yet.

The rain kicked up a notch, making trail blazes even harder to see than
normal. But I found the marker for the first question and now have 11 left. The biggst distance is in the southeast part of the Reservation, and the most questions left are on the Oest side of the Yellow Trail.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

How to behave like an adult

In the tweet http://twitter.com/LatterDay_Scout/status/3758177998 "LatterDayScout" asked:

Anyone have a good document/policy for adult leader behavior online? I thought I had one, can't find it.. want to put up policy b4 website[.]
A few Scout guidelines came to my mind:

  • Scout Oath / Law
  • Patrol method
  • Buddy system / 2 deep leadership
A reply to the original request mentioned the Oath/Law; I say more specifics are needed here, as not every situation is obvious to all. I added "Patrol Method" as another guide point - if the group agrees that a particular behavior is acceptable, then as an adult leader, I'm going to accept it unless I see a health/safety concern. For buddy system, think about asking another adult to concur with your web publishing ideas.

Youth Protection

The most recent time I updated my Youth Protection certification, the instructor was a long-time Scouter who has dial-up, uses email fairly exclusively, and has little understanding of blogs, wikis, much less Facebook or Twitter. I doubt this topic would get a fair hearing.

"Common Sense" should prevail. However, as new technologies appear, with previously unimagined data sharing capabilities, we need to continue communicating the risks.


Guide to Safe Scouting and http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/34416.pdf

There isn't much there about the web or the internet. All I see on the Sep-2009 release are references to 2 Cub Scout publications:
Power Pack Pals Tackle the Internet (No. 33981)/Power Pack Pals: Seguridad en la Internet (No. 3344646)

Computer merit badge

I'm a counselor for the Computer merit badge, though I've yet to have any candidates despite being registered for several years. One of the first requirements is to talk about online safety. That's where a Scouter can coach a youth how to act responsibly. How a Scouter should act is a different topic.

I believe a Scouter should be a:

  • Mentor
  • Role model
... with the former being an active role and the latter being a passive role. I try to be a Mentor to other adult leaders (just ask @EthanDraddy :-). This involves reaching out with new ideas, comments or constrictive criticisms of other Scouters' online behavior, and, well, writing blogs like this one.

Being a role model is having the confidence that your online persona (and believe me, your posts are very persistent - there is a 1992 email from me online: http://www.columbia.edu/kermit/ckubwr.html ) represents the ideals of Scouting. I know that I vent sometimes about poor computer software, poor computer performance, and, yes, poor computer software support. I try to maintain a positive attitude, though, and try to find ways improve support, rather than just griping "Augh! I've been put on hold again!"


Adding friends on social media has been the trend for a few years. How should a Scouter behave here? First, there's a "degree of separation" between me (or you) and a youth or another Scouter. I have no problem asking Scouters to "join my network" - I belong to several.

Asking a youth is a different story. Here are my personal rules.

"Friending" is similar to photo-id'ing (tagging someone in an online photo).

I limit who I ask to:
- my troop members
- my OA chapter (or in some case, active lodge members)
- Ordeal clan
- trail crew (the youth who worked with me on ArrowCorps5, for instance)
- merit badge counseled (since I have met their parents / guardians)
- hikers (e.g., Nemat)

I prefer to have youth ask me, rather than me ask them.

Once they reach 18, I'm OK with posting camping trip photos.

Under 18, it's a good question whether or when photos should be posted.

If a Scout parent/guardian signs the latest health form where there is a "media release" question, I feel a little safer uploading photos.

Should a Scout participate in a public event (say, the Dundalk Fourth of July parade), then posting the troop photo seems not only permissible, but a fine way to publicize Scouting.

The main issue I look out for are situations where parents may not know where a Scout lives. This is the leader nightmare, of course, where a Scout's whereabouts are revealed unintentionally. But again, with a signed health form and other notifications - "I've updated the troop web site" I'm not losing any sleep.

Our troop site:


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Baltimore Area Scout Tweeters

The Sep/Oct 2009 (Baltimore) Area Scouter lists twitter IDs for a few staffers. I'm following most of them, but they aren't saying much. Here's the list I collected:

id . . . . . . . tweets
sonyagreene . . .4
stevebortz . . . protected / requested
kathyherche . . .2
ghurt32 . . . . .0 [new]
Casey_Snyder . . 30
bsacarroll . . . 153
Jim_Barton1952 . 0
luihernandez . . 17
Brian_Debease . .protected / requested
hteller . . . . .0
RiverTerp08 . . .2
MrsCityScouter . 31
mcclellandkevin .23
ahutton0 . . . . 0

I was already following those not protected from view, except one.

The Council Chief Scout has had more to say:

id . . . . . . . tweets
EthanDraddy . . .906

But I have been doing this a while longer:

id . . . . . . . tweets
jspath55 . . . . 7312

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A trip to the Hardware Store

Once again, I found a project that required a trip to Hodges Hardware.

To fix a lamp for my Mom, I needed a socket, plug, lamp cord, and craft glue; the glue to replace the felt on the bottom that I will need to tear off to get the old cord off. The other parts should be self-explanatory.

The filing system at Hodges must be experienced first hand. It is nearly always faster to wait in line for the key cuts, glass and screen door repairs, and propane tank refills and just ask for a part. The staff knows right where everything is, and even more, knows where the part you really wanted and didn't know to ask for, how to describe, much less knew it existed.

I found the socket after prowling the aisles, couldn't find just the right plug, did find the glue, but totally missed the lamp cord. It's in the back room where paint, blinds and other household repair items are. The clerk said "pick out what you want, bring it up and I'll cut it."

Here's what I faced:

The brown cord was behind the white spaghetti on the middle right side of the image.

I'm now confident this lamp will light up again.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Scout Camp The Movie - A Review of Sorts

I watched "Scout Camp - The Movie" on DVD over a couple nights last week. I would have shared it with my troop, but the Scoutmaster and SPL went on vacation, and I like to keep my Netflix queue churning. Can rent and/or buy later.

Though Netflix had said there was a delay, the movie shipped right away after it came to the top of my list. This is a review (of sorts), but a little background. I heard about the movie a few weeks ago, but then looked for it online.


  • Home from meeting at Baltimore Area Council and meanwhile Netflix has delivered "Scout Camp" ( #scouts the movie). Maybe tomorrow night zzzz
After I posting that, I got replies:

So, a few of my takes:

  • I enjoyed the movie, on the whole, and particularly liked the Spirit Stick emphasis, although I failed to see the point of the "free sticks" subplot.
  • The scenes with Scouts doing flag ceremonies, falling out, patrol yells, and general pranks were about as accurate as you can get, without resorting to plain silliness or typical Hollywood script-by-committee tinkering. Likewise with uniform wear.
  • Biggest downside from my view was lack of 2-deep leadership in many situations. We don't go on solo trips. Dangerous in several ways.
  • Do not miss the outtakes with the assistant directors [incorrectly] herding cattle. I was tipped off to this with the altered text of "no animals were harmed during the making of this film. However..."
  • Troops are rather on the Caucasian side. But, that's probably a truism, unfortunately. Working on it.

Now, how will we use this film? It's definitely superior, from a reality check standpoint, than the training clips distributed at round table and similar sessions. Will it recruit more boys into Scouting? Possibly, though my guess will be it will help Webelos and other Cubs get a better idea of what camp is like than the brochures and web sites tell them, much less the incomplete (almost said incoherent - and realized that is untrue) stories from our not-yet-First Class Scouts.


p.s. They're going to need to alter the lettering from this:

To this:


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Trail work at Camp Saffran

We were asked to upgrade water bars on the trail between Lookout cabin, Timberline adirondack and the Nentico Pavilion. A couple of the "before" shots depict the prior water bars, steps, or 2x8 dirt barriers installed with the runoff slope facing up the trail instead of down, weathered or kicked away, or only part way across the trail.



The 'During' photos show a bit of the work done by Troop 350, starting with 6x6 treated lumber at the top, pieces rescued from a previous live elsewhere on the reservation.

Stakes were made on site, with points sharpened and the other end wrapped to prevent splitting during installation.

Lower water bars were made from various tree limbs found around camp, such as Scoutcraft, Pioneering and a couple of fire rings. The largest limb is about a foot in diameter.


Only 1 'after' picture is shown, although a couple of the 'during' pictures depict the troop testing the stability of the installed logs. We watched as Scouts moved up and down the trail to see if the distance between water bars was correct, and if there was any motion of the logs.

We finished 6 of the water bars, ending up removing one older step that was loose and just backflling the area. Several Scouts commented we should have one more at the lower point of the trail, but as we ran out of time during our Summer camp week we deferred that to another day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Blue, Red Yellow trails

On the second full day of Scout camp, I took a morning hike up the Blue trail from Camp Saffran toward Camp Finney and the new water front. I only had about 3 hours before lunch, not to mention it was quite sticky.

I sent time recording locations of trees across the trail, other than small or dead ones I could remove. After meeting the Red trail, I took that to where it meets the Yellow trail at Broad Creek. Along the way I knocked out a few more Broad Creek Hiker patch questions. The answer to #5 was hard to find, even with a GPS, though the number marker was easily visible.

I doubled back up to the Blue Trail for a short tangent, but didn't make it to the waterfront as time was passing. The bird feather in the trail was on BigFoot Road.

More camp fun the rest of the week!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hacking a rechargeable camp lantern

I had a basic 6 volt lantern that used standard dry volt batteries, but decided to try to update it to use rechargeable lead acid power supply after disassembling a lantern I bought a few years ago. The fancy one came with a solar panel, a 12 volt car adapter and a 120 volt wall transformer, and included an LED lamp as well as a fluorescent bulb, with a switch for either or both light sources.

The friendly folk at Baynesville Electronics set me up with a "super bright" LED bulb ($2.79) and a pack of 68 Ohm resistors (4 for $1.39). The LED part number is NTE30045 (NTE Inc. link). Oh, yeah, and a couple spade connectors for 35 cents each. Both were red, so I marked one with black magic marker. I also used red and black wire, so that should keep the polarities straight.

First problem was unexpected - while the old and new batteries were about the same size, the wet cell was a bit taller, so the lid didn't fit back on. I chipped off 2 of 4 fins that were in the bottom to keep the square dry cell from spinning.

Then it was time to dip into the parts box for soldering iron, wire, and, eventually, a switch. I was unable to reuse the existing switch as I had to break off part of the metal ring to keep the new battery from shorting, and could not get a wire to stick to the remaining section. It might be aluminum; I'm not sure.

The next to last shot shows the LED bulb lighting up the scene; the last shot was after all the switch rewiring. I believe it should be pretty easy to pull this battery out and swap it into the larger lantern with the solar panel feed.

The battery itself came from an Amazon reseller. SKU was UVUB645F1. Two of them showed up within a couple business days. My only complaint was the weak packaging - both batteries were in thin cardboard boxes, stuck in a padded mailing envelope. At least one of the terminal protection plastic terminals had slipped loose, and the cardboard boxes were torn a little from the mail handling.

We'll see how the light does at camp this week!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dog days of summer

Like a lot of projects, my Crumbs From The Spork blog posts have slowed down lately. It's not that I haven't been writing, it's that a lot of it is for work, with non-disclosure content. I did a bit of work getting WordPress installed on my NetBSD machine,thanks to a few links out there which I will recapitulate RSN (real soon now). I've been writing under SharePoint at work (about 70 blogs there in about 6 months), am nigh onto 150 blogs on the SAP SCN site, and generally tweeting short bursts of what has been called my inner monologue.

I also have been shooting Bengies Drive-In Theatre marquee changes nearly every weekend that it's been open this year. Here's one:

From Bengies

What else? Upgraded to NetBSD 5.0; trying to work through how to cutover to X11r7, the first dot release change to X Windows in a few years. Putting stuff onto Google Earth via Panaramio. Doing some geocoding of hikes and trails.

From Crumbs from the spork

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Drive-In Daydream

Here's a special thanks to Julian from the Hull Drive-In Theatre in Virginia. They said they are looking for someone to shoot a feature trailer for them. Wonder how you can convert digital to 35mm stock...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

WordPress on the second attempt

Last November I tried to set up SweetCorn with MySQL on my home system. It wasn't a total success; in other words a total failure. After that, someone asked me about deploying WordPress, which also requires MySQL, and PHP to boot.

The Apache httpd server needed a couple tweaks. Part of the clue to get me moving was a suggestion in a NetBSD mailing list to build the drupal package first. That didn't give me everything I needed, but it helped.

Apache needed a PHP hint in the httpd.conf file:

> LoadModule php5_module lib/httpd/mod_php5.so

It also needed to be told to treat index.php equivalent to index.html:

> DirectoryIndex index.html index.php

Lastly, it needed an application type (I think):

> AddType application/x-httpd-php .php .php4 .php3

I copied the WordPress files beneath the Apache root, and had a little trouble with the permissions, as I should have created them with the web server ID instead of mine (and certainly not root).

Getting MYSQL running was easier on the second pass, particularly with a terse help message found on Big Mojo: http://www.bigmojo.net/monsters/?p=33

Or, as they called it:

> Wordpress and the dreaded “Your PHP installation appears to be missing the MySQL”

I learned that php.ini (on NetBSD: /usr/pkg/etc/php.ini) needed tweaking:

> extension=mysql.so

The directory for this is /usr/pkg/lib/php, and the drupal build should have dumped the mysql, gd and mod.so files here:

> /usr/pkg/lib/php/20040412/

If not found, the error messages can be daunting. Finally, after several hours of debugging and building, I had a working Wordpress install ("the 5-minute install"), and proceeded to bring up a blog space.

> WordPress has been installed. Were you expecting more steps? Sorry to disappoint.

The last piece to unwind (so far) was wrong permissions on the image upload directory, announced with this message:

> Unable to create directory /home/pkg/share/httpd/htdocs/wp-content/uploads/2009/06. Is its parent directory writable by the server?

Fairly self-explanatory, including the fix, which is an improvement from the majority of error messages that say something like "if you see this message, that's bad."

Replicating the install behind the firewall at work was a lot quicker than the home server test, so now I have 2 installs. Just in time for the 2.8 upgrade available this week!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Life In The Slow Lane at ASUG09 with Bike Taxi Drivers

(1) The Past

A little history of me and the bike taxi drivers. In 2008, ASUG had our annual conference in Orlando Florida at the Orange County Convention Center. I wasn't there very long when I noticed the bicycle taxis go by, with Oracle database advertising on the seats, and on the drivers clothes. "Pretty neat" I remember thinking, "I wonder who set that up?"

While my hotel was close enough to walk to the conference in about 15 minutes, I saw the bicycle taxis go by often. Noticing the group of bikes gathered on a sidewalk beneath shade trees, I struck up a conversation with them one day, learning that they had been banned from the convention center grounds by SAP security or transportation personnel. Unlike the diesel and gasoline powered buses and taxis circling, idling and polluting the area, bicycles with a few words on them were considered too threatening to approach the vulnerable and gullible ASUG and Sapphire attendees. I blogged about this ban on the SAP Community Network web site that week:

  • On the way into registration I stopped and spoke to the human-powered bicycle taxi squad pedaling up and down International Drive. Good environmentally friendly transport. I promised to give them a plug, so visit www.RediPediCabServices.com or call them at 321-251-4608. I will probably walk over to the convention center, but it's great to have alternate transport.
  • Too bad they were told they couldn't be near the diesel powered buses. Wonder why?
I had one of the drivers take a shot of me and another driver.


Video clip 1:

Video clip 2:

(both from my prior camera, which had no microphone)

Afterward, I brought up the bicycle taxi transportation option during conversations about conference planning. During the winter, I found that RediPediCab Company had a page on FaceBook. I communicated with the owner, Catherine Ojeda [Figueroa], learning about their attempts to find a sponsor for the 2009 ASUG and Sapphire conferences.

The group went to Washington in January 2009 for Obama's Inauguration:
(a few details below).

As the ASUG 2009 conference data approached, I had more email from Ms. Ojeda asking about possible sponsorship. Despite my forwarding the request to SAP contacts, no one stepped forward until the week prior to the conference, when I learned:

  • ... pedicabs have been banned from the Orange County Convention Center during SAP. I guess they are not thinking green.
  • Pretty disappointing. I am trying to find out why.
Then, they were given permission, until the SAP authorities found out RediPediCab was being sponsored by IBM, so the ban was back on.

(2) The Present

"The Present" in the sense that this blog is mainly about my experiences at the ASUG 2009 Annual Conference, held between May 11th and 14th, though I'm writing about it after the fact.

On conference day one, I flew into Orlando, going straight to the convention center with my bags; my flight was early in the morning so I figured I'd check in later in the day. On my way to the hotel I spotted several bicycle taxis, including the owner driving an ASUG board member. At the corner of International Drive and the first hotel, I had one driver (Chris) take my picture being driven by another (Billy). I'm hamming it up here, as you might notice Billy isn't pushing hard, nor are the spokes on the wheel at all blurry.


Later, on the evening of day #2, I spotted Catherine wheeling by with 2 passengers and took this shot:


The image shows a couple safety features, such as the reflecting tape on the seat, and a reflector on the bike down tube. No helmet? I'd want one if I were riding around some of the bad auto drivers I saw while walking around the area.

Wednesday night, Don Henley was in concert for Sapphire/ASUG, though he was brainwashed into saying "Sapphire" instead of "ASUG", like a lot of attendees who seemed to have no idea that the majority of the event was planned and executed by volunteers who happen to be SAP customers, not by paid SAP hacks. Henley sang "Life In The Fast Lane" but I think I prefer life in the slow lane.

Thursday, the conference ended around 1PM. I knew Jon Reed was going to hang around after the end, I wanted to see my former colleague Leon Johnson, and I wanted to catch up with the RediPediCab Company folks. A small burst of rain cut short a fascinating conversation Jon and I had at the Denny's restaurant, so I moved up International Drive to meet the bicycle drivers. In a long rambling conversation, punctuated by gusty winds, doses of rain, and a few surreal moments, I bonded with the RediPediCab team.

You can have one level of conversation with a "service person" such as a cab driver or repairman - "how's the weather, how's the traffic, what do you think of [pick: sports team, news item, random fact]"; spend a little extra time and effort and you get to another level. The bicycle taxi company owner told me how their advertising campaigns were working (or not) - they have ads in the local restaurants, they place ads in Craigslist, and they accept advertising as sponsors. The latter sets them apart from the other bicycle taxis I saw, who seemed less corporate, and more random. I learned a little of the ropes of recruiting, training and keeping drivers, and the tricks to working in traffic (have places to store your bikes, places to get food, places to use the facilities, places to pick up fares).

I learned about the image RediPedi projects, with drivers required to have valid U.S. drivers licenses, and undergo a training program. The training is income, or more of an offset to the lost income when veteran drivers show rookies the right "pedicab operations, customer service, and hospitality skills." My experience is that the drivers are extremely articulate, often highly educated, and are great fun to hang out with. I probably would not say that about the auto taxi and limo drivers I have met. The company has been around for several years, and seems destined to survive.

We talked about how Twitter (@pedicab) and FaceBook could work for a small business like this. It was a fascinating contrast from the huge Customer Relationship Management systems possible from an enterprise software vendor such as SAP to the one-on-one customer contacts managed by an essentially sole enterprise vendor. Catherine started with Craigslist, and has expanded to other social media. The best advice I could give on using twitter is to "be interesting"; no one wants to read boring press releases or monotonous "we're great" boasts.

The employer/employee dynamic was also evident in the stress of a highly physical, public-facing trade. Maintaining a positive public relations face, avoiding injuries, and surviving the weather in a hurricane-zone state were job factors I had not considered until the drivers shared what their daily tasks involve. I would imagine gas-powered taxi drivers resent the competition, and that high-end hotel doormen don't consider this alternate transportation channel in the same league as cars, limos and trucks.


I won't repeat some of the sad stories I heard about ignorant passengers and pedestrians, not to mention competitors, but suffice it to say that the PediCab drivers earn every cent of their voluntary fares. The funny side of this was Chris' boast that he liked riding the biggest passengers, both for the personal challenge of moving large masses, and the bet-winning aspect of "no you can't/yes I can".

The most inspiring story was from the Inauguration in D.C., where a long downhill and uphill threatened to slow the bike taxi to a stop, forcing passengers to walk the remaining distance. Bystanders, chanting "yes we can," pushed the pedicab, drivers and riders, up the rest of the way. Spirit finds us at times.

Drivers take a food and liquid break during a brief Orlando shower. I enjoyed the communal Chicken Nachos, as well as sharing the ice cream served in honor of Billy's birthday, which coincides with Jon Reed, and with Anne Katherine Petteroe, 2 of my SAP Mentor friends.


[videos begin]

Chris catching up with Billy

Jon Reed

Birdman - an International Drive attraction:

[videos end]

(3) The Future

Next year, the ASUG 2010 conference (co-located with SAP's Sapphire) returns to the Orlando area, once again at the Orange County Convention Center. I would hope that the "Sustainability" folks at SAP and at ASUG get their act together a lot better than this year, and invite the pedicabs not just onto the grounds, but into the convention center building. After all, they allow the staff to use Segues, why not PediCabs?

I expect to see news from the bicycle taxi drivers, as well as photos and videos. My plan to drive the bicycle myself didn't pan out on this trip. Maybe next time I'll go a few days early or stay a few days later and pick up a few extra dollars. You never know when you might need a second career!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quality, 9000 style

[I would have posted this to https://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/weblogs but my account has been locked all morning. Yuk.]

PreConDay, or as I like to call it, Quality 9000

Travel day meant getting up around 4AM for a 7AM flight, which thankfully wasn't 100% filled. Because of a slight logistics error, I don't have the Leave No Trace water bottles I had intended to give out in my Wednesday Environment/Sustainability session, except one from my dues renewal. As a result, I was able to go fairly light, no checked bag.

Shuttle bus to airport, direct flight to Orlando, shuttle bus from airport to the Orange County Convention center. It was a circuitous route from the airport, as the 12 passenger van was full, and it probably just seemed we had 12 destinations. I started seeing familiar faces right away - Rob, Karin and Jim Malfetti had registered earlier and were sitting in the hallway.

After going through the check-in/registration process (even pre-registered meant 3 or 4 stops). This year's conference bag doubles as a shopping bag, which I'll throw in the back of my car to save $0.05 as well as a plastic bag on each grocery run.

Karin spotted Butch McNally heading up to the 2nd floor, where the pre-conference sessions were taking place. I stopped in to the Business Process Expert session, seeing Jon Reed, Marilyn Pratt, my colleague Manju Venkateseshan, as well as others I know less well. Then popped in to the Microsoft / SAP interoperability, where the room was packed. Besides the coordinator Butch McNally and speaker Jeff Duly, I met Ginger Gatling from SAP, and a couple others who will remain nameless (but the venting was contagious).

When I had reached my limit carrying the "light pack" around, I headed to my hotel to check in. That's where the title of the blog comes in; as I was walking up International Drive, I found the RediPediCab company riders on the sidewalk, slapping five with the owner Catherine Ojeda (who was ferrying an ASUG board member). Another driver told me the hotel I was headed for was the "Quality 9000" as there is also a "Quality 7200". He probably didn't get the ISO9000 reference. Several people complained about the hotel, but I seem to have a different standard of comfort.

The evening keynote was also an opportunity to half-listen (reading tweets from the folks on the other side of the big curtain), meeting and introducing people like Georg Fischer, Roland Wartenberg, Ken Campbell and the inimitable Sue Keohan.

Mark Finnern near the didgeridoo. The player himself.

Finally the day's required activities were complete, and we could do serious networking. Once again, my RediPediCab friends caught up with me and we chatted how IBM sponsored them, what grief they were getting from SAP security types, and general economic chatter. BITI ended the evening in several places, such as the Peabody, and the "Tommy Bahama's" restaurant. Small video uploaded.

BITI table

Monday, May 11, 2009

SAP Mentor creation

Mentor hat and button.

@blag and @jspath55 design!

Riding into town in style.

I am in Orlando, and it wasn't long before I saw Catherine Ojeda driving a pedi cab by, with Chris Crone, ASUG board member in tow.

No time for long posts now - speaker meeting in 25 minutes at #ASUG09 !

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

E Patrol - Out Standing In The Field

Echoing Eggoes Patrol completed the Boy Scouters Fundamentals course at Flint Ridge site this past weekend. What started as a diverse group completed the weekend as a fully functional team. We took several stations, including:

  • Leave No Trace
  • Knots
  • Lashing
  • Fire
  • Tomahawk
The youth staff voted for our Patrol, and gave each of us a small 'woggle' knot to wear.

It threatened to rain, and did, most of the weekend, though not enough to dampen our enthusiasm.

Friday night crackerbarrel was pretzels, dip, cheese and crackers, while we discussed the duty roster, song/skit/cheer/story inventory, and speculated on the stations to be faced on Saturday.

The first night's sleep was interrupted by rain, or more accurately, there was a lot of rain with partly sleeping.

During Saturday breakfast of eggs in a bag, we had 2 esteemed guests, Harry 2 the training Senior Patrol Leader, and Mark, his right hand bugler and cheermaster. Greg the ultimate backpacker stopped by to pronounce our cooking plans outstanding.

The morning stations were:

1. 2 man saw
2. leave no trace
3. fire
4. whipping/fusing rope
5. knots
6. lashing

Lunch was a phenomenal display by Harry (1) Raker's Bakers of campfire cooking, including a roast turkey under a large aluminum container, and bread baked in a cardboard box.

Afternoon stations

7. tomahawk throw
8. tree leaf identification
9. first aid 1
10. first aid 2
11. first aid 3
12. compass work

Dinner was cooking by Dutch oven, with a rush order as the time between the last station and the next appointment was tight. Even so, the stuffed pork chops were well done and the rolled apple cinnamon dessert was outstanding. We thought the only missing ingredient was a dab of ice cream or whipped cream, unnecessary but a nice idea.

At campfire, we had the crowd on their feet with a mangled version of Old McRaker - sizzle/sizzle, bubble/bubble and perk/perk, and groaning at the "Regifting" skit. A "Pack-it-in/pack-it-out" Leave No Trace cheer completed our contribution. Later a few of us saw a huge Wood Badge beading ceremony, followed by more rain overnight prior to packout.

Sunday morning the gear heads got to see some of Greg and Pat's backpacking ideas, eat some dried applesauce and jerky, followed by graduation. As noted above, E Patrol took several stations, leveraging our diverse skills and talents.

Prep work: Class 1 / Class 2

Mark, Bill, Walt, Jim, Myles, Tom

And a long video: