Sunday, November 26, 2017

Eagle Rank Guidance for Leaders of Older LDS Scouts

With the transition away from Varsity Scouts and Venturing at the start of 2018, it's worth noting that in that announcement, there was also an instruction that, "Young men over the age of 14 who desire to continue to work toward the rank of Eagle Scout or Queen Scout should be encouraged and supported in their efforts..." Below are my thoughts on how Young Men Advisers of Teacher/Priest-age Scouts can offer that encouragement and support, taking the Eagle Scout rank requirements as a baseline, and leveraging the PPI to help in that endeavor. It assumes that the young man in question completed Life Scout when he was a Deacon.  If he hasn't, the requirements are roughly similar, and so the same concepts apply.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

So, I'm sitting on the bus going home from work last night, when my text message notification dings.

Dutifully, I read the Patrol-meeting related message, but it wasn't from the Scoutmaster.  It was a mass-text from a mom, intended for the Scoutmaster but asking anyone and everyone: Do the Scouts need their Scout Books at Scout Meeting tonight? To which the only reasonable answer is "Be Prepared." But I stayed my thumbs, as that isn't a good enough answer for attack helicopter moms. Nor is suggesting that the Scout be responsible for his own Scouting.

It then took a turn for the worse when she asked about which merit badges were on the schedule for the next several months, "so he doesn't do double work," and stated that the JR High PE coach conveniently "passes" all the boys on the Personal Fitness MB. Since my older son had taken his class (PE, not MB), I knew it for what it was, and replied, "Oh yes, the famed Mass-Pass Method of Scouting." (similar to the "ninth method of Scouting.")

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Family Scouting

By now, a little less than 24 hours after the announcement, everyone has heard that BSA is expanding to include girls in Cub Scouts and in a Boy Scout-equivalent program. Called Family Scouting, I think this is a good move, both for youth and for the sustainability of BSA - if it is to survive, it has to adapt to the world we actually live in, and not the one we pine for. That said, I think one of the best reasons for the expansion is that the world needs more of this:

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Answers to questions - the new Teacher/Priest program

From my inbox. The second link addresses the questions of leadership positions for older YM pursuing Eagle, continued High Adventure activities, liability and injury insurance and more.  Again, new program, same as the old program, without any of its resources. Waiting for a revised 'Green Book' reflecting these changes.
The new teacher and priest activities, announced by the First Presidency on May 1‌1, 2017, provide an opportunity to help young men become more deeply converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are gratified by the wonderful response to this change, and we encourage you to continue to read and implement the activity principles and guidelines.

To answer your questions, we have prepared a document titled "Implementing the New Teacher and Priest Activities." This document responds to questions raised as we have talked with many adult leaders since the announcement was made.

We also invite you to understand and apply the following three principles:
We are confident that the young men you serve will be blessed as you counsel together and follow the principles and guidelines outlined at

Thank you for your faithful service,

The General Young Men Presidency

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Totality | August 21, 2017

A composite image I made of the August 2017 total eclipse of the sun showing:
partial phases of the eclipsed sun, the "Diamond Ring" effect, and totality.
Mercury is present as a bonus.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Friday, June 23, 2017

Snake Safety

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Now that summer is here, and reptiles are out and about, here are some snake bite procedures in a quick and easy format - from the South Dakota Reptile Garden web site:

"In the United States there are approximately 5,000 - 7,000 venomous snakebites every year. However, generally only 10 - 15 are fatal. In Australia, the country with the highest percentage of deadly snakes, just 3 to 4 people are killed by venomous snakes yearly. What to do if bitten:
  • DO Remain calm - death from most snake bites is not instantaneous.
  • DO IMMEDIATELY GO TO THE HOSPITAL! At the hospital, they will administer antivenom, if needed. Antivenom is the only effective treatment available for treating snakebites in the U.S.
  • DO Avoid anything that thins your blood or accelerates your heart rate: alcohol, cigarettes, aspirin, etc.
What NOT to do if bitten:

Do not attempt the following, they can cause harm and waste your valuable time getting snake bite treatment from a qualified medical professional:
  • DO NOT Use a tourniquet. A tourniquet is extremely painful and will cut blood flow to the wounded limb. This may cause the limb to die and require amputation.
  • DO NOT Cut X’s over the fang marks and suck out the venom. Snake venom spreads quickly and efficiently through the lymphatic system. It is almost impossible cut deep enough, quickly enough, or to suck hard enough to pull an adequate amount of venom out to make a difference.
  • DO NOT Apply ice to slow the spread of venom.
  • DO NOT “Electrocute” the bitten area to neutralize the venom.
These are all instances of improper snake bite treatment, will cause severe pain, permanent tissue damage, and possible amputation."
* * * * * * * * *


Great Basin Rattlesnake
The American Association of Poison Control Centers would like to offer its new poster on snake bite safety to Scouts and Scouters free of charge. A proof of the poster can be found here . The poster features information about what to do, and what not to do, in the event of a snake bite as well as information on how to identify venomous snakes. It also features a map of the United States that shows where venomous snakes live and information about the poison help line.

Poster Proof
The poster is 18 inches by 24 inches in size. If you would like to order posters, please email with the number of posters you would like and your mailing information.

In the spirit of KNOW risk vs. NO risk, we can all take a tip from the Boy Scout Handbook: “Being able to identify venomous snakes is a good first step toward staying safe where they live. If you leave snakes alone, they are likely to avoid you, too. Use a hiking stick to poke among stones and brush ahead of you when you walk through areas where snakes are common. Be careful where you put your hands as you collect firewood or climb over rocks and logs.”

Prepared. | For Life.™

Friday, June 16, 2017

7 Essential Knots You Need To Know

Sometimes YouTube is the clearest instructor.

This video shows the following:
  • Square Knot - Scout #4a, T #3a
  • Clove Hitch - 1C #3b
  • Sheet Bend - 2C #2f
  • Bowline - 2C #2g
  • Figure 8 loop
  • Two Half-Hitches - Scout #4a, T #3b
  • Taut-Line Hitch - Scout #4a, T #3c
The only required knot or hitch not covered in this clip is the simple timber hitch (1C #3b), so here's a simple illustration:

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Show improvement

Tenderfoot requirement No. 6c states: Show improvement (of any degree) in each activity listed in Tenderfoot requirement 6a after practicing for 30 days. These activities are
  • push-ups, 
  • sit-ups, 
  • sit-and-reach (they eliminated pull-ups in 2016, YAAAYYY!), and 
  • 1-mile walk run (up from 1/4 mile).  
So, what constitutes "improvement?"  The handbook says to record the number of repetitions done correctly, or the overall run time.  However, taking the "of any degree" clause at face value, improvement can mean more than more reps.

For example, you have a new Scout who struggles with push-ups, and on his initial try he performs 24 "shoulder-shrug" push-ups.  You've seen these before - he sticks his posterior into the air and just kind of drops his upper body an inch or two while shrugging his shoulder blades together and dramatically bobs his head up and down.  So, you give instruction (this is the second time - you gave instruction before starting the stopwatch, too) on how to do a proper push-up - back straight, arms underneath, use chest muscles (really, it's an inverted bench press, isn't it?) and lower yourself to just above the ground.  Improvement could mean that after 30 days he only does 12 push-ups, but his form is impeccable.

Same with sit-ups.  Improvement could mean more repetitions, improved form, or even the same number of repetitions, but he's not as winded this time.

Running isn't just about speed, it's about endurance.  If your hypothetical Scout took 11:32 minutes and walked most of the way, crawling across the line, improvement might mean that 30 days later, he still takes 11:32, but he didn't walk, didn't complain, and didn't hold his aching side - his fitness and ability has improved.

Lateral thinking can help you come up with many ways to measure improvement and success.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Friday, June 9, 2017

Outside-the-Bag Thinking

The Black or the White Pebble?

Many, many years ago in a small Italian town, a merchant had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to the moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant’s beautiful daughter so he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgive the merchant’s debt if he could marry the daughter. Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified by the proposal. The moneylender told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag. The girl would then have to pick one of the pebbles. If she picked the black pebble, she would become the moneylender’s wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him, and her father’s debt would still be forgiven. But if she refused to pick, her father would be thrown into jail.

They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the merchant’s garden. While they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked her to choose.


What would you have done if you in her place?  If you had to advise her, what would you have told her to do? Careful analysis would produce three possibilities:
  1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble from the bag. 
  2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat. 
  3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment. 

The quick-thinking girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out one pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled it onto the path where it immediately became lost among all the others.

“Oh, how clumsy of me!” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag, you will see which pebble I picked.”

Since the pebble remaining in the bag was black, all would assume that she had picked the white one, for the moneylender dared not admit his dishonesty.  And the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an advantageous one.

MORAL: Most complex problems have a solution - sometimes we just have to think about them differently.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Parable of the Wood Shop

A certain man gave his servant a fully equipped workshop to teach his apprentices. There was a table saw, jointer, brushless drill and impact driver, nailer, router with a full complement of bits, laser-guided miter saw, and more. Whenever a newer, better tool was introduced to the market, the master would add it to the shop.

The servant knew that these tools could be very effective to make what the master needed, but was intimidated by the owners manuals, and so he made everything with his rusty old hammer, dull hand saw and slotted screwdriver.

Eventually the servant retired and his apprentice, knowing only what he'd been shown, used the old dilapidated tools, while the workshop sat empty and unproductive. The state-of-the-art tools went unused, except for the occasional new apprentice who, wondering at the capabilities of the shop, read the manuals and produced beautiful furniture, but was looked down upon by his colleagues for "trying too hard."

This cycle continued for several years, until the master, saddened that his resources went largely unused, finally repossessed the workshop and sold all the tools on craigslist.

And so the servant's successors wondered and marveled at their competitors' superior products (when they finally went outside to look), while grumpily repairing the old hammer again.

* * * * *
I didn't think I'd revisit the topic of the loss of Varsity Scouting and Venturing in the LDS Church, but this little story just wrote itself.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Friday, May 12, 2017

Church to drop Varsity, Venturing

Yesterday, the LDS Church announced that effective January 1, 2018, it would no longer participate in Varsity Scouting and Venturing. I've had a day to think about it, and I think it's a sad acknowledgement that no amount of prompting, goading or prodding will ever change the status quo. I'm not going to go into any detail, or offer any explanations for it *cough cough training cough cough*; that can be found in these pages and in other places. I will, however, rewrite the headline so as to explain exactly what has happened and why:

Authorities Amputate Aaron's Atrophied Activity Arm;
Aaron Oblivious

Seriously, 95% of boys will not notice that anything has happened. Which is why this has happened.  This is sad.  I wish them luck in the new program that looks a lot like the old program, but without any of the resources they used to have.

One final comment, and then I am done with this soapbox: One of the points brought out in the press release is the disparity in budget and resources between YM and YW programs - something I have mentioned once or twice here. Parity will now be achieved, not by providing more resources to those who have been consistently short-changed, but by taking the resources of those who had, but failed to use, them. Sounds like the parable of the talents has taken effect. (And yes, I recognize that the budget for merit badges alone is immense, and that's not going away. Yet.)

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Be careful out there

Recent research shows that about 84% of wildfires in the US are human-caused. All the rain and snow this winter translates to lots of fuel growth this spring, and huge burn potential throughout the year.

A DC7 drops a load of retardant in Millard County, UT, 1994
© Eric Larson

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

On being prepared

Lord Baden-Powell once responded to an inquiry of what one should be prepared for with, "Why, for any old thing!" It seems this man took that counsel to heart.

Prepared. | For Life.™