Thursday, April 25, 2013

Finding your way

One of the early rank requirements is to show how to find your way at night without a compass.* On one level, it's as simple as learning how to find the Big Dipper's pointer stars and continue to Polaris. But if you take it up a notch, it becomes a lesson in observing the changing seasons and one's place in the universe. Constellations are always changing position, based on the Earth's position in its orbit around the sun, relative axial tilt and so forth. Different constellations appear in different parts of the sky at different times of year. Mariners used to find their way by observing the stars relative to their latitude and time of year to fix their position and time, and plot a course across the ocean.  Before GPS, Galileo and GLONASS, the stars were our space-based navigation system.

It's fun to explore the night sky and contemplate not just where we are, but who, and even when. Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson observed that "telescopes are time machines." When we look up, we're looking deep into the past, all because light travels at a finite speed, and the distances are so immense. On your next camp out, take some binoculars, a star chart or two, and review the Hubble web site's monthly Night Sky video with your boys. Astronomy, besides just being really cool, is a great way to lead into a deep discussion about Life, the Universe and Everything.** If you're lost, look to the heavens to find your way.

Prepared. | For Life.™

*First Class Requirement 1 
**Apologies to Douglas Adams

Monday, April 22, 2013

General Authority Speaks on Caring for the Earth

Thought I'd post this for Earth Day. The Outdoor Code isn't just something to be recited in a meeting and forgotten in the field. We've been given stewardship over our little "blue marble" and that ought to mean something to us beyond trite political one-liners (red or blue). The link below is to a transcript of a talk that Elder Marcus B. Nash (First Quorum of Seventy) presented at the Wallace Stegner Center's annual symposium.  This year's theme was “Religion, Faith, and the Environment.”  Here's a paraphrased snippet:
It is indisputable that we depend on the earth, and that our quality of life will depend on the quality of the environment. This truth is too often ignored, unappreciated, and seen as too costly. If we understand who we are and the purpose of creation, our conduct will rise to a higher, nobler level.
Elder Nash presents a convincing scripture-based rationale for good ecological practice (and one that probably won't go over too well in predominantly Mormon/Red-state areas).  Read or watch the whole talk entitled, Ecological Protection, Environmental Degradation—Perspectives of Faith.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Letting go of what 'might' be useful

Some months ago, I joined a Yahoo! group dealing with Scouting in the LDS Church. At first it was refreshing to be in contact with so many who were fighting the same struggles I was, and learn from their successes and failures. I got a lot of good information from this resource.

As time went on, though, I began to realize that there were about three or four individuals who dominated the conversation. Most interchanges eventually turned ugly, and the utility of the site was soon overshadowed by what I saw more and more as personal agendas and rancor. My active participation became less and less, as I mostly just watched, chiming in now and again, sometimes not very charitably myself. Every day I’d get an update in my inbox, and I dutifully read everyone’s responses, hoping for some new tidbit of information. Sometimes, a new Scouter would ask an “I’m just starting out” question, and receive any number of answers from the supportive and helpful to the insulting, but even then, the natural tendency was to go off on an unhelpful rant of a tangent. It got to be too much.

I haven’t left the group, but I did elect to stop receiving automatic daily email updates. Giving myself permission to skip it has been liberating.  It’s amazing how much I don’t miss the daily arguments, personality conflicts and frequent name-calling. The useful tips and ideas were too few and far between, especially in comparison with the unhelpful junk. And I think that ignoring it has helped me think more about working with my boys, instead of reading again and again, and focusing my energy on, how 'the Church is ruining Scouting.' I already have enough ideas of my own on that topic. I don’t need more fuel for the fire.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Membership Policy

I have not as yet said anything here about the membership policy review coming up at the BSA annual meeting.  For my part, I feel that the more people Scouting allows itself to serve, the better.  I'm not threatened by the prospect of a more inclusive membership policy. I'm cognizant of all sides of the argument, but I have to believe that the Scout movement transcends these political squabbles.

Commemorative plaque
Last weekend my wife gave me a road trip for my birthday.  I drove solo to Utah's west desert and one of the places I stopped was the Topaz relocation center.  This was one of FDR's Japanese-American internment camps.  It's amazing the things we will do to assuage our fears: over 120,000 American citizens were summarily rounded up and displaced to ten different middle-of-nowheres around the country.  No charges, no trials.  Their offense was their Japanese ancestry in the wake of the attack on  Pearl Harbor. They were punished simply for being who they were.

Topaz was a single section* of land - one square mile - that housed over 8,000 people, and was one of the larger of the camps.  The internees lived in uninsulated barracks for four cold, Utah winters and hot, dry summers. Ironically one of the only ways out was to join the same army that sent them there in the first place.

Site map - one square mile
It's hard to think about that injustice and at the same time accept that an organization as great as the Boy Scouts of America would voluntarily exclude an entire group of people for differences that frankly I don't feel matter in the context of Scouting.  There are those on both sides who will disagree with my position. That's fine, for those arguments have much merit.  There are others who want to infuse this argument with more politics than common sense or compassion, where the former is not warranted.  That's not fine.  However, I feel that if we let our judgement be clouded by unfounded (and in many cases, unjustifiable) fears, we will have missed the awful lessons of Topaz, not to mention an opportunity to have a positive effect on many people.

Ironically appropriate make-shift sign next to the memorial

The desert reclaims the Topaz War Relocation Center, Utah, site

On a little lighter note, this was my campsite: Notch Peak, in the House Range.
There's something about being the only person in a hundred square miles
that's just exhilarating.

Prepared. | For Life.™

*Section 20, Township 16-South, Range 8-West, Millard County, UT

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Do you think anyone will notice if I don't wear my uniform tonight? No one else wears one...

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Scoutmaster Qualifications

Most of my blog posts occur to me in the shower. This is one of those.

So, your ward is in need of a new Scoutmaster.* Whom to choose? May I offer the following as qualifying characteristics and attributes for your candidates:

  • A Scoutmaster is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent. 
  • A Scoutmaster does his duty to God and his Country and lives by the above list; he is always ready and willing to help others; he exemplifies physical fitness and a mental alertness, and keeps his covenants; in short, he personifies what we want our sons to be, both inside and out.
  • His Testimony of the Savior and His gospel is firm; he has (or will give) the time to dedicate to the nurturing of boys; he’s willing to learn his responsibilities and get the training necessary to learn those things he doesn’t already know (and already knows that he knows very little); he’s willing to go for the long haul and obtain the tenure necessary to have a lasting effect 
  • A Scoutmaster loves the boys and young men, and delights in watching them interact, explore and learn, all while facilitating and encouraging that learning from the sidelines
  • Already being an outdoorsman is a bonus, but those skills can be learned by anyone who meets the above. This is NOT the primary qualification, but it is a skill to be (quickly) acquired
  • Helpful: owning a truck and/or trailer and Dutch oven.

*Or Varsity Coach, Venture Adviser, 11YO ASM, even Cubmaster or Webelos Den Leader 
It now occurs to me that this is a good counterpoint to my essay, "What to find out before accepting a Scouting calling."

Prepared. | For Life.™

Saturday, April 6, 2013

General Conference

I felt totally validated and vindicated by Elder Callister's remarks tonight. Something about raising our expectations or some such... Actually, that was one of the best General Priesthood sessions that I can remember.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Rise above yourself

Found this on Facebook:

Something to consider when we're fighting for our Scouts.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Monday, April 1, 2013

Context Matters

"In some cases it may be best for each Patrol to specialise in a particular form of accident, but generally if the Patrols practise all in turn they arrive at complete efficiency for the whole Troop."

- Lord Robert Baden-Powell taken completely out of context, in Aids to Scoutmastership, page 94 (Dodo Press re-publication).

Prepared. | For Life.™