Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nipping it in the Bud

Because it's bound to come up, the annual ward/stake father/son campout is NOT a Scout camp, even though Scouts are there. Not unless it's organized under the auspices of BSA rules and covered by BSA insurance, tour plan filed (as needed), and patrols selecting camp sites, meals, cooking their food, or otherwise engaged in Scout stuff.  The fact that a boy slept in a tent doesn't make it a Scouting event. This is one of the corners we shouldn't be cutting, tempting as it may be, and even though parents will demand that it be cut. Think of this as a preemptive strike: the First Class requirement is to attend three Troop/Patrol camps, not just go camping.

It can count towards completing the req if patrols set up their own campsites, plan, cook and clean up their own meals, plan their own camp activities, and BSA rules are followed (YPT, no adults in boys' tents, sweet 16...); in other words, if it is organized by the Scouts, for the Scouts, to accomplish Scouting - AS A SCOUT CAMP.

Added Feb 6 2012: The best explanation for why F/S is not a Scout camp is that camp is the lab where boys employ the skills of independence and leadership (yes, even 11YOS).  When's the last time that happened at a stake or ward F/S camp? "Fathers are invited and encouraged to participate [not required, that would be punitive to boys whose fathers can't or won't attend] in the overnight camping experiences with their sons..." I'd add that fathers' participation should consist of standing back to watch their sons work and perform. They've been practicing for this at all their patrol meetings, they can do it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lightweight Backpacking

I’m thinking of taking the 11YOS on backpacking overnighter. I was looking at a couple of gorgeous alpine lakes, both named White Pine Lake, one up Logan Canyon and the other up Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah, but have decided against them, because of (a) travel time (b) distance (6-9 miles one way, and one is steep, a bit much for first-timers?), and (c) it needs to be close by, so as to have dads’ support (as is traditionally required, but not “by the book”), and close enough to manage emergencies with inexperienced boys. To make it challenging, though, maybe they will be making their own wood gasification stoves. Add in a couple freezer bag meals, and you’re set.

I am intrigued by the lightweight, low impact ideas that I’ve seen online; for my part, I’m planning on pitching a tarp instead of a tent, with a light-weight, well-insulated bag and a somewhat large day pack instead of the frame pack I still have from when I was 12. The goal is to carry less than 30 pounds for an overnighter, or even for a week-long adventure. Planned right, it’s surely doable.

I’m actually really excited about this idea, I’ll pitch it (get it?) to the boys a little later on. We’ll do a lot of planning in the next few months and I’ll make some videos as I go along. This should inspire some fun learning as they learn the skills and complete requirements along the way. Maybe it will be the Coyotes’ August tradition.

What Success May Look Like

Yesterday as Church let out, the Scoutmaster and YMP pulled me aside and asked me to participate in a board of review. (I know, I know, I’ve read the policy, too, but we don’t have a real committee to do these; I’m working on that, too...) The boy was one of my first 11YOS who aged out of my group in January last year. He was shooting for Life!

I asked questions in keeping with the idea that the BOR is an assessment of the health of the troop, and of how well the program is serving the boys. In addition to showing a huge degree of maturity at 13, his answers indicated that the training I have presented to the “committee” is having a positive effect on the boys’ program! Yay! It looks like this may have all been worthwhile!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


No one who commits their son to 12+ hours of football (or wrestling, or swimming, or music lessons...) a week should complain about 8 hours and one weekend of Scouting per month. First-year Scouts should not be given half the time to do all the work. Sorry, just had to get that off my chest. Long story, accompanied by lots of frustration at being cut off at the knees.

Good, Better, Best!!!

Baden-Powell Quotations

I've added a tab up top for a rather lengthy collection of quotations by Robert Baden-Powell (in no particular order).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Auroroa over Norway, Jan 2012
on http://apod.nasa.gov
Any of your boys working on the Astronomy merit badge? Tell him about NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website. It's a collection of terrestrial- and satellite-based images, complete with professional astronomers' explanations of our universe. And the images make for some stunning eye candy (all images © their respective owners as cited on APOD).

Other useful sites include HubbleSite with a monthly "Tonight's Sky" feature, Stardate and the Planetary Photojournal, among others. (These are all safe sites, so you can recommend without reservation.) Next time you go camping, make sure you have Google Sky or Star Walk loaded on your (fully-charged) smart phone. Explore the universe, then contemplate your place in it, right from your campfire.

Additional #1: Here's the science behind this image.

Additional #2: "God has given us a world to live in that is full of beauties and wonders and He has given us not only eyes to see them but minds to understand them, if we only have the sense to look at them in that light." - BP

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

-William Ernest Henley, 1849-1902

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Core Values

Core Values are those principles and concepts which we make a part of ourselves, that drive us to action, and that serve as guideposts for our conduct.  The core values of the US Air Force that were hammered into me through four years of ROTC and eight years of active duty are: Integrity First; Service before Self; Excellence in all We Do.  Seems to me that Core Values are exactly what Scouting's Aims and Ideals are.  Aim High, indeed.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Of Teeth and Traditions

So last night I pulled my oldest daughter's tooth out.  It was one of those reluctant teeth, one of those stubborn hangers-on that just wouldn't let go. For several nights I tried to yank it out, only to have it slip through my fingers.  She cried every time. Even when she'd muster the courage to ask me to try again, after one slip, she'd break down in tears, making further attempts impossible.

Last night, it was so loose and wobbly that my wife and I decided it was time to just get the bugger out of there, tears and all.  She wanted nothing to do with it, but being parents, we know better.  No wasting time with trying to get a fingerhold this time. Oh no, this time it was the dental-floss-tied-to-the-doorknob method.  She was still hysterical, kept trying to sabotage every attempt (plus the floss kept slipping, rendering each attempt an abysmal failure) until finally, my wife had her lie down on a couple of chairs, we got the knot around the tooth, distracted her with conversation, and then I unceremoniously shut the door. No 1-2-3 countdown, no warning, I just closed the door and the offending diente went flying across the room.

She bawled even harder.

Until I showed her the tiny - nay, minute - offender and the sobs quickly turned to chuckles, and she couldn't have been happier. Tooth Fairy! Quarter! (Call me cheap, but I don't believe that baby teeth are worth more than that. Maybe 50 cents for dentist-extraction agony.) Once the real problem was removed and she could finally relax and she realized that she didn't have to deal with it any longer, she was all (holey) smiles, even with bloody Kleenex filing her mouth.

I think that with re-educating ward Scouters (of whom many don't know that's what they are), it's a lot like pulling baby teeth. The anticipation is worse than the solution. The incorrect traditions, indifference and stubborn resistance to change are the baby teeth. The inertial attachment to those ideas is the fearful anticipation that makes those changes so hard to even contemplate, much less act on. "We can't! We won't! You can't make us! We don't want to! It will hurt!" But pull that tooth out and it allows something bigger and better to take its place. You won't even miss it once it's gone. In fact, you may even luxuriate in its absence while the replacement takes shape. The real trick is knowing that it's ready to come out, in spite of protestations to the contrary.

The other lesson is that it really helps when someone has your back. Two people on the same page, with the same vision, works so much better than one going it alone.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quotes - Screaming and Burgers

"Are you going to come quietly, or do I have to use earplugs?"
- Spike Milligan

"Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburgers."
- Abbie Hoffman

Thursday, January 12, 2012

MBC Training

One of my WB tickets is to register/train those on my ward's merit badge counselor list.  After checking it against Council records, of about 35 counselors, fully 0 are registered (including me).  I sent a mass email to all of them to remind them that they're on the list, and for which badge(s), and included copies of the registration forms.  I also indicated that I'd be presenting training next month or in March.  I've since built a training presentation, based on a BSA document, the former Merit Badge Counselor Instructor's guide (replaced by MBC Orientation, #18-125). The presentation can be accessed by clicking the image below and from the Ward Scouter Training tab at the top of the page.

Flexibility is the Key to ScoutPower

That's a corruption of a great Air Force saying, "flexibility is the key to air power."  At patrol meeting last night, I had some ideas that I passed along to the boys to see what they would choose.  This was all based on taking full advantage of limited patrol time.  Normally, I have each month planned with a specific "Birthday-to-First-Class-in-one-year" theme that I have the boys fill the details in for. This month was swimming, next is fitness, and so on.  I realized that by splitting swimming and fitness into both months, it freed up our Saturdays to do fun stuff instead of swimming and fitness tests, so I gave them the option (boys will choose hiking every time).  Now they just have to make the plan (not much of one, the trail is about 10 miles away and is only 3.5 miles round-trip). It's a low-cost, high-benefit way of giving them control. I figure that as "11-year-old Scouts" they need more structure and guidance, but at the same time a sense of ownership, in their program than older boys.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Quote - activities

“If all we were concerned with is successful activities, we wouldn’t need the Scouts to be involved in making them happen. Since our goals are not activity-focused, we can afford to step back and let mistakes happen, as long as they’re not health and safety issues, and we coach and counsel those involved so they learn what went wrong and how to avoid them in the future.”
– Jack, as quoted on Scoutmaster CG Podcast #98

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Roundtable lists

My District Roundtable facilitator has been maintaining this useful list of stuff (there's no other way to describe it) that has been discussed in the last year and a half of Roundtables. This started out as just lists of ideas thrown around the room and has become a good resource for general and location-specific information.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Committee

Seventh of twelve Ward Scouter training modules.

The Troop Committee has several purposes. One is to ensure that your boys’ program is well- and properly implemented – they’re the business end, supporting the Scoutmaster in delivering a quality troop program. They handle troop administration, freeing up the Scoutmaster and assistants to work with boys instead of getting buried under minutiae. Administrative and Adult Leaders exist to support youth leadership and to provide a great scouting experience for the Scouts.

Most importantly, they ensure the program meets the Aims of Scouting: (1) growth in moral strength and character, (2) participating citizenship and (3) personal fitness, and uses the 8 methods. The best way they can do this is through the Board of review. Three to six committee members sit on the board, which is really an opportunity for the committee to assess how well the program is meeting the boys’ needs. This is an important responsibility and is one area where help is always needed and appreciated (since neither a scoutmaster nor a boy’s parents can be a part of his BOR). Finally, the Committee members are responsible for knowing and following BSA policies and procedures, and ensuring they are followed in the Troop. (Adapted from MeritBadge.org)

That was Unexpected

We had our first good snow storm of the season over the last weekend.  Last night I experienced something I never expected because of it.  I let the dog out for the last time for the evening, and it was dead quiet. There were no cars to be heard, no teenagers wandering about, nothing.  In the middle of suburbia.  Clouds were just hazy enough to give a nice glow to the waxing gibbous moon, but obscured the stars. In short, it was a moment of absolute peace. The only sound was the ringing of my tinnitus, and the snow seemed even to muffle that.  

Find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Starting over

One of the really nice things about the "11-year-old" patrol is that my calendar is already made up.  Since I'm trying to provide for the boys the opportunity they need to pass off all their First Class reqs, it actually makes planning relatively easy.  Each month, I have a theme based on a skill set, which is derived from the  T/2/1 requirements.  January is swimming, February is fitness, and so on.  I feel like the patrol is in a great position, too, because with two boys already at 1C, they are the instructors.  Teaching is really the best way of learning, in my opinion.  So, they'll be teaching our newest Coyote the swimming and lifesaving techniques (provided he's already a swimmer, anyway. If not, he's got time to learn).

I keep my annual plan on this spreadsheet, but I'm not locked into it - "flexibility is the key to air power" and Scouting leadership.  And, apart from a few fixed items, like going to the pool, and doing pull-ups, the boys are planning out their meetings, hikes, camps and other activities (at least the where and other details. After all, I have a schedule to maintain :p).