Monthly Archives: April 2012

Delivering the Promise

At last nights Roundtable I was pleased to see a great turn out in the Boy Scout break out.  Last nights attraction was Camporee and what units can do to get ready for it.  We had about a half hour left so I thought it would be worth our while to talk a little District talk with the leaders that took their time to be at the break out.
Now first of all.. I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it again.. at Roundtable we typically are preaching to the choir, but there were plenty of newer faces in the room, so putting on my District Chairman hat, I stepped up front and spent a few minutes sharing some district news, reported back a little on the District Journey to Excellence Score card, and made myself available for questions.
Summer camp.  This became a big subject last night.  There are way to many units that still have not reported a summer camp sign up for this year.  It is a fact that Scouts that attend summer camp stay in Scouting longer.  We looked at the numbers. Only 1/3 of the scouts signed up for our council camps are from our council.  That means that lots of units from outside of our council are flowing into our camps.  That’s a great thing, except to say, that means that lots of Scouts in our council are not going to summer camp.
Retention.  Summer camp leads us to retention.  IF lots of Scouts are not going to summer camp, then its no wonder why they are not staying in Scouting.  Our numbers show that we are doing well crossing Webelos into Boy Scouts, and we are doing a great job getting boys to join Scouts “off the street”.  But we are not doing the best we can to keep them in Scouting.  It is no surprise that boys leave the program when they are not engaged.  If they are not having fun, or participating fully in Scouting, they will leave.  I mean, why stay?
Program.  Back when I was a new Scoutmaster, a mentor of mine shared with me that regardless of everything else the key to a successful unit is the program.  He said Program, Program, Program!  I have shared this here before to, my “Field of Dream” philosophy.  If you build the program, they will come.. and stay.  Monthly camp outs, Summer camp attendance, advancement focus, service opportunities all add up to great program.  Youth leadership that is driven to lead to the next adventure keeps them excited and wanting more.  A solid program at the unit level is the answer to most if not all of the problems we face in the Scouting movement.
Which brought me to the final point of the evening.  What is the role of the Council and the District?   Resourcing.  It is not the role of the Council or the District to run units.  They are there to assist in the administrative tasks, financial opportunities, and resourcing of program (materials, camps, etc).  I think too many people wait around for the Council or District to do things for them.  The unit is where Scouting happens.  It is where Scouts become men of character, good citizens, and discover fitness.  If you wait around for the council to do that, you will never be a successful unit.  The council and district can not build you a program that is successful.  They can assist with the resources that will help your success… but wait around and you will fail.
A question came up about the DE and his role.  Again, he is a resource manager.  He is there to raise funds, develop relationships in the community to build and grow scouting.  He is there to assist units in training, growing, and ensuring that the promise of Scouting is being delivered in those units.  But wait for him to do the work at the unit.  You will fail.  This is not a bad thing.  This is the way Scouting was designed.  Scouting is owned and operated by the volunteers that care to serve our youth.  Bottom line.  We are Scouting and we Deliver the Promise.  We, the volunteer.  Our District committee is made up of volunteers, our Council committee is made up of volunteers, but more importantly, our units, Packs, Troops, and Crews are made up of thousands of volunteers that every single day do something to deliver the promise of Scouting to the great kids that come seeking fun and adventure.
It was great to be able to talk with some of those volunteers last night.  As I looked at the room and saw the faces of the BSA, people that really care.  I know that all is well.  The numbers are the numbers, and they will come around.  The people care and will do what ever it takes to develop those programs to make Scouting the greatest.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Summer Camp, training, Webelos to Scout Transition | 5 Comments

Esbit Alcohol Stove

OK.. I tried to get this post out yesterday.. not sure if it was the computer or the operator.. but lets try it again…

I have been playing with a new stove the last couple months.  Taken it out on the last three outings and I am in love with it.
The Esbit Alcohol Stove is designed like the Trangia stove out of Sweden.  The Esbit is from Germany and is built to last just like the Esbit chemical fuel tablet stove.  When I was an 11 year old Tenderfoot I got one of the chemical tablet stoves, as most of the guys in my Troop had them.  We lived in Holland at the time and it seemed to be the standard for our Troop.  I still have that stove.
So back in February I wanted to find one to show the Scouts of the Troop.  I found them and bought a new chemical fuel stove, and right next to it on the shelf sat the Esbit Alcohol Stove for $19.99.  I picked it up and thought for 20 bucks it’s worth a shot.
Let me tell you why I like this stove, but first.. let me tell you what I look for in a stove.
First, I like a stove that is easy to use.  To many buttons, knobs, pumps, or steps to operate frustrate me.
Next, I like a stove that is not too heavy.  I am not a gram weenie.. but something that is too heavy is usually bulky also.
Finally, I like a stove that uses different fuels or multi fuel stoves.
And so.. the esbit alcohol stove has caught my eye.  Let me throw some specs out at you.
The stove weighs in at 3.2 ounces or 92 grams for those of you that count them up.  The stove will burn denatured alcohol, solid fuel (chemical fuel) tablets, and white gas.  The Esbit is made of Brass and is 1.8 x 2.9 in or 4.6 x 7.4 cm.
The stove has a screw top with a rubber seal.  This is a great feature that allows you to keep fuel in the stove while its in your pack without leakage.  It has a simmer ring or flame regulator.  I love this feature.  It allows you to either go for a full boil or simmer for delicate cooking and frying.  This simmer ring has a nice fold away handle that works real well when on the stove.  When looking for the full boil, 1 ounce of fuel (Denatured Alcohol) will get water to a rolling boil in 5 minutes.  That was a time that I never thought I could get out of an alcohol stove.  I am not big on faster boiling or cooking.  The way I see it.. I’m camping, relax and enjoy it.  Which brings me to another feature of the stove that I love.  It makes no noise.  It is absolutely quiet.  Real nice to site around and chat with.
Alright… But the BSA has a ban on alcohol stoves.. right?  No.  the BSA has defined the prohibition like this; Prohibited chemical-fueled equipment—Equipment  that is handcrafted, homemade, modified, or installed  beyond the manufacturer’s stated design limitations or use.  Examples include alcohol-burning “can” stoves, smudge  pots, improperly installed heaters, and propane burners  with their regulators removed. ” – Chemical Fuels and Equipment publication.  Homemade stoves are banned.. but stoves like the Trangia or the Esbit are manufactured with the intent of being used as a stove.
The fuel on the other hand is where the question and where you will have to make a judgment call.  Denatured Alcohol is “Not Recommended”, but no where does it state it is prohibited.    So you have to be the judge.  Here is my take.  Let me be clear here.  This is MY take.  I understand that the BSA has to make decisions based on the lowest common denominator.  Denatured alcohol, while it may be toxic if swallowed, is non explosive and extremely stable.   The absolute worst thing that can happen if it spills is evaporation.  No gear is ruined, and it will be dry before you need it.
The danger comes in the color of the flame.  The flame when first lit is almost invisible.  This could lead to burns.  But in my opinion that rule goes for any stove.  Proper training and instruction is important when using this stove.  So what I am saying is that when Scouts in my Troop ask if they can use one of these, the answer will be yes to Scouts that I trust can handle it.  Scouts that have proven that they will operate it with care.  I suppose it is just like giving a Scout his Totin’ Chip.  Once they are trained and demonstrate proper use and care, they are allowed to carry and use a Knife, Saw, and Ax.  We trust them with other stoves, but only after training.  The Esbit Stove is much easier to use than most stove.  It is clean, small, and easy to maintain.  The only moving part is the simmer ring, which is not used when just boiling.
I love this stove and look forward to cooking many great meals on it.  I’ll report more as I use it.  Stay tuned.

 

Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: Backpacking, blog, Cooking, gear, Just fun | 7 Comments

Protecting your online identity?

Awhile back there was some discussion on separating your Scouting life with your “Normal” life.  I argued that given the Scout oath and law there is no real way that (at least I) could separate the two.  As we have negotiated our way through this online maze and many of us have developed an online presence protecting that identity is important.  I am not talking about protecting bank accounts.. I am talking about protecting character.
It dawned on my today as I was checking my twitter account (@smjerry) and noticed some of the people who follow me.  Now I am not going to go into a list of who’s who, I think that would be tacky.. not only that, but you can see it for yourself if you know how to use twitter.  Based on twitter, I figured the same is true for Facebook and the blog.  Now I know that the blog does pretty well.  73,960 views for the 857 posts.  I have said it before that I am not a numbers guy.. but all of that is to say that people are reading what I write, watching the video’s I post on YouTube and checking in via twitter and Facebook.  Sometimes I wonder why, but then I check my twitter account and note that I follow a bunch of folks and care about what they have to say.  I read many blogs and spend a fair amount of time learning from other backpackers on YouTube.
So I feel it is important to watch what I say, post, type, and respond to.  At the end of the day this all becomes a record of my character.  Again, there is no separation between the various parts of my life.
Before I get slammed with emails… let me assure you I am not bucking for Sainthood.  I am just a man, but I am a man that believes in the Oath and Law.  As much as I believe in the Golden Rule and all of the other positive moral codes that have I have been introduced to in my life.  What I know for sure is that people do watch what you do and what you say and on the internet, given an anonymous identity when responding, or at least the fact that face to face contact is limited, people will say and write things that will hurt you if you are not careful.
I received an email recently from a guy that asked why I did not post one of his comments.  Well, the bottom line is this.. what he had to say did not add to the conversation.  Politely saying.. it did not fit on my blog.  I appreciate the guy taking the time to shoot an email my way, but I get to pick and choose how my character is going to be advertised.
You see, I control my character.  I am the only person that can give it away or lose it.  The things that I do, say, type, and post, tell my story and I need to protect my character, especially on the internet.
If anything all of this “exposure” has forced me to be more aware of how the Scout Oath and Law fit in my life.  It is not that I am better than anyone, or looking for special treatment.  I am just aware that my character is not for sale and I surely am not going to risk it on someone who has less control of their values and character.
I would rather have my bank account robbed than my character.  I can always earn, I can not repair damage done on the internet.
Protect your online identity.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, comments, Ideals, Oath and Law, Scoutmaster minute, technology | Leave a comment

We are Scouts

Good Video… thought I’d share!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | Leave a comment

Tenderfoot and Porn

So if you are reading this.. you are either on the blog or got it via email and you are looking at this post electronically.. it was brought to you from the wonderful world of the internet.  The world-wide web.  I think we can all agree, especially those of us that grew up in an age when the words internet and blog did not exist and the web was something that a spider made, that the internet is a wonderful thing.  Those of us that use the internet as a tool for communicating, learning, sharing, and staying in touch find a lot of value in this great invention.  But like everything, people.. yes people have a tendency to mess things up.
The internet is a great thing, people who manipulate it and find ways to make it harmful, is another story.  It is shame that in this world of great technology we have to be watchful of what is on the net.
I suppose it is much like the stories we hear from our parents about how they never locked their doors in their neighborhood or that they could leave the keys in their cars.  Then times changed and on went the locks and security of belongings took center stage.
I read a study today about pornography on the internet.  It made me sad to hear that the average age of boys that find pornography either by mistake or using a deliberate search for it is 11 years old.  11 years old!!!!  This hit home as we are in the process of working with our new Scouts on their trail to first class.  Internet safety is now just as important as Safe Swim Defense or Youth Protection.  Our youngest Scouts are 11 years old and fall right into the age of the boys in this study.  We talk about bully’s with them, we talk about “Stranger Danger” and the 3 R’s of Youth Protection, but how much do we talk about the “bad parts” of the internet.
We use the internet for everything.  Our Troop has a website, we do a lot of communicating via email and the Facebook site of the Troop and the internet offers great scouting resources.  All of which we want our Scouts to have full access to.  But what about when wondering, inquisitive eyes start searching?  How do we tackle that subject?
Now, there are “Net Nannies” out there and restrictions that you can place on the computer users, but more and more pornography and other questionable sites just seem to pop up.  The sick and twisted individuals that prey on internet users are trying to, as much as we are trying to spread the good word about Scouting, spread their destructive and harmful garbage.  We need to be up front with our Scouts and know that this smut is just a click or two away from this blog and other great sites.  We need to educate them on why these sites are bad.  We need to bring it all back to the Scout Oath and Law.
Is the site I am looking at in keeping with the values and moral code set forth in the Oath and Law?  Would it be something that I would sit with my Mom and Dad and look at?  Education and expectation is critical when introducing this subject to your Scouts.
The internet is a great thing.  I love it and would find it hard to live without now.  There are thousands and thousands of great sites out there.. and then there is lots of garbage too.
Protect your Scouts, Educate your Scouts, and be aware that Tommy Tenderfoot is the average age of a boy in America searching for porn.  Be prepared!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Ideals, Oath and Law, Scout Law, technology, Values | Leave a comment

Gear tip of the week

Many Scouts, especially the younger ones have trouble getting everything into their backpacks.  Now this problem is caused by a couple of factors.  First, they try to carry too much.  Remember that your target weight is 25% of your body weight.  Sometimes that number is impossible to hit, so lighter gear and watching every pound is critical.  When Scouts try to pack too much, it is tough getting it all in.  Couple that with the fact that most new Scouts are small and therefore have smaller backpacks.  This becomes an issue when trying to fill it also.  We always recommend to the parents to buy bigger.  There are some great packs out there that grow with the Scout.  Adjustable frames and straps that can move up and down with the Scout as he grows into the pack.  Nothing smaller that 3000 cubic inches is what I tell the parents of new Scouts entering our troop.
Second, and this is the easiest to fix.  The Scout needs to pack his own pack.  Well meaning parents that are trying to help often pack a Scouts pack nice and tight in the living room at home.  The conditions are perfect and they know where everything needs to go.  Then the Scout gets out in the woods and mom and dad are not there to pack it up for him.  To fix this problem, shake them down.  Before we leave on each camp out, we have a shake down.  Everything is taken out of the pack, checked, and repacked.  The Scout packs his own gear.  Sometimes this is hard, but that’s what Troop guides are for.
Finally, pack organization.  Just throwing gear into the pack will always result in a tough to pack backpack.  Ditty bags, ziplock bags, and stuff sacks keep gear organized and easy to pack.  But lets talk about that space issue again.  Younger Scouts have a hard time getting it all in mostly because they run out of room in their smaller packs.  The solution.  Compression bags.
Compression bags reduce the size of the gear by 1/3.  Sleeping bags, clothing, even the tent can be packed in a compression bag and reduced in size.  The more you have in compression sacks, the smaller the load.  This simple tip will help ease the packing for younger Scouts.
I have recently purchased a new backpack for my self.  It is smaller than I have carried in the past.  Always trying to reduce the load and the weight (without being a gram weenie).  I had to take a critical look at what I was carrying and how much room I had.  It is a good rule, and one that we constantly preach to our new and old Scouts alike… Everything goes IN THE PACK.  This keeps the load tight and easier to carry.  The answer for me was compression bags.  Just as stated before, they cut the load by 1/3 in volume and made my pack much easier to pack and unpack.
Compression bags are waterproof and easy to use.  They reduce volume in the pack and make your pack organized and easy to load.  It is fair to say that the compression bags are a bit more spendy than your average stuff sack, but the pay off is in the ease of use and the better organized your pack will be.
That’s your gear tip of the week!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, gear | 2 Comments

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