Micro-Managed by a Herd of 9-Year-Olds. New and Improved Bacon Flavor!

Tonight was our Cub Scout Pack’s annual Pinewood Derby.  For those who are not familiar with the event, each scout is given a small block of pine wood, 4 nails, and 4 plastic wheels.  The scout is then given a few weeks to fashion a car weighing no more than 5 ounces from the materials and are assisted by their parents in varying degrees.  This year we tried a few new things.  An aluminum track from Kalamazoo College, and a cobbled-together timing system by one of it’s professors (who happens to be a leader in the pack), and a SQL-backed Excel spreadsheet that I put together about 90 minutes before the first heat made life a little interesting.

However, immediately, the timing system failed on one of the lanes.  About 60% through the event the timing system failed on the other lane.  The whole Excel-to-SQL process was something I learned in the 90 minutes I was putting together the solution so it was at best, iffy.  Once we had no way to time the races things became interesting.  I had to modify the entire solution, while 50 scouts, their parents, and their siblings all slowly lost patience.  As any parent knows, 7-11 year old boys don’t have much of that to begin with.  At one point I had, upon a physical count of my own doing, no less than 13 young boys staring over my shoulder asking me “how much longer is this going to take?”  It was like having 13 middle managers asking the exact same question over your shoulder when you’re in the process of restoring a database.  I turned to the father next to me and said the only thing that would have made it better would be if they all licked their fingers and started touching my laptop screen.

One discovery I made was that apparently annoying behavior is hereditary.  On more than one account I had a boy come to me repeatedly asking what place he was in.  This is the actual transcript of the first situation:

Boy: “What place did I finish in?”

Me: “I’m actually in the middle of timing the next race and can’t look that up for you right now.”

Boy: “OK”

Boy (15 seconds later): “How about now?”

Me: “We already announced the winners for your den.”

Boy: “Yeah, I know I didn’t win, I want to know how well I did though.”

Me: “Please come back and see me at the end of the night and I’ll look it up for you.”

Not more than 2 minutes pass and the boy’s mother comes over…

Mom: “Can you tell me how <redacted> did?”

Me: <laptop::forehead::laptop::forehead>/ “He finished in last place.  Apparently his woodworking skills are right up there with his people skills.  All learned from you I imagine.  Now please go home, take some packing peanuts and duct tape and close off that birth canal so that such an abuse of nature never enters this world again.  Better luck next year.”  /<laptop::forehead::laptop::forehead>


Finally, before I go I need to answer the outstanding questions from the parents and children I encountered tonight:

  • No, I will not be emailing out this spreadsheet to you tonight. 
    • A) I do not have your email address. 
    • B) I will not take your email address and email it to you. 
    • 3) I would love to email it to you but you need to be running 64-bit, Linux-compatible Microsoft Excel SP7 2008 in order to read it.  Don’t know what that is?  Sorry I can’t take the time to explain it to you right now. 
  • That’s milliseconds.  You divide it by 1000 to get seconds.  No, we are not recording it in minutes if the cars take about 3 seconds to make it down the track.
  • Because that is the font I like.
  • No I can not come to your house and configure your “Internet” to work.
  • Have you tried rebooting your computer?
  • I’d call tech support if I were you.
  • It’s called SQL Server. 
  • No, it’s not anything like Access.


To top it all off, my bacon car was beat handily by the 6-year-old sister of a scout.  Makes a hell of a paperweight now though.


Editor’s note, some did not see the photo on Twitter of the Bacon Car.  Here it is in all of it’s glory.  Better picture to come.