Month: January 2013

Lanterns – Gear Review

Got an email the other day asking about the lantern that I carry in my pack.  Well, I have two.. here is a quick compare and contrast video of the two that I currently use.
The Black Diamond Orbit and the Candle Lantern.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Treat them like you want them to be

Yep… that’s a lengthy title and I really do not want this to become a rant, BUT… it seems that I get in an inordinate amount of emails reminding me that we are working with boys and that these boys are not responsible enough to do this or that.  They are not responsible or skilled enough to participate in this or another thing.  Recently I was reminded that in my video that I talked about how I am carrying my fuel now that the G2SS suggests that fuel be carried in the original container or a container suitable for the use of carrying fuel.  And I agree that is what the G2SS says.  And here is the rub.
When you really look at most of the “Prohibitions” in Scouting they are place, not really for safety or to reinforce Scouting’s values.  They are in place for the lowest common denominator.  They are in place to protect, not the BSA, but ourselves.  And why do we need them?  Well, because people are not smart enough to know that coffee is hot and when it spills on you, you get burned.  Every McDonalds coffee cup tells you so… why?  Because people are not smart enough to figure it out.. the lowest common denominator.
The Boy Scouts of America has a certain level of protection that it must put in place so it does not get sued.. I get that.  But there are common practices in the Backpacking world and elsewhere that look at the BSA and shake their heads in disbelief at the “old School” ways it is stuck in.  That is but one example but to the point I am trying to make…
When are we going to treat our Scouts the way we want them to act in life.  After all, we are here to teach them to make ethical choices throughout their life times right?  We are here to impart some life skills and wisdom on them, right?  We are not here to shelter them from the world.. no… we are here to give them a set of values that will help them navigate the world we live in.
So why do we treat them with kiddy gloves?  Why not give them responsibility and let them learn.  Let them explore and develop good habits.. safe habits.
I can not tell you how many Scoutmasters I know that believe that liquid fuel is prohibited by the BSA.. or they just won’t let their Scouts use it because it is dangerous.  Hog wash!
It is that kind of thinking that prohibits other things in Scouting.  It is that old way of thinking that holds back Scouts from learning and exploring.  It is that kind of thinking that does not allow for change and new ideas, skills, and yep… gear.
I make it a point in our Troop to push the boundaries, to test the waters.  We stay legal rest assured, but I want our Scouts to explore and discover.  To learn and test new things.  First, it keeps them interested.  And second, they have fun.  They love to push themselves and have something cool that is common in the “real world” of backpacking.  They test themselves and how they are skilled.  They are better for it.
So when are you going to treat your Scouts like you want them to be?  Stop dumbing down the program and push the limits… get out on the edge and take a peak over.. the more we do it and the do it right and safe.. maybe Scouting will see what is beyond their limits and grow.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Times Up

calendar_iconOn one hand it breaks my heart when a Scout creeps up to his 18th birthday and has not completed the requirements for Eagle Scout.  It reminds me of my biggest regret in not finishing my Eagle and I can see the disappointment in their eyes that they to will not be counted as Eagle Scouts.  I tell them that all is not lost, think of the life skills you learned, the friends made, and the experiences that you had.  The time spent in Scouting is worth while, even if it does not include the Eagle award.  I have repeated this again and again that the goal is not to make Eagles, it’s to make men that make ethical choices throughout their life times.  Men of character.  Now I know that’s not what the Scout wants to hear when he realizes that he is not going to finish the trail that he started, but that is the reality and after some thoughtful consideration a look in the mirror and a glance over his Scouting record and experience, the Scout will soon come to understand that he got his monies worth and more in Scouting.
On the other hand, I am often disappointed in the Scout that he did not take advantage of the advancement program and complete the requirements in a timely manner.  This leads me to wanting to say “I told you so” to the Scout, even though I won’t.  Encouraging, reminding, a nudge here and a tug there to get the Scout to do the work is about all we can do.  I refuse to just give it to them and I won’t take them by the hand and lead them around like a Den Mother.  They all know what needs to be done and by the time they are in that 16-year-old range, well, they know how to get it done and they certainly know when their birthday is, so I tend to not feel to bad for them.  After all, we are teaching life skills right?
When time is up.. time is up and you have to accept the consequence for your action or lack there of.  Do I want them all to be Eagle Scouts?  Sure, is it something that they all can do?  Sure.  I am going to turn my troop into a Merit badge mill and Eagle factory to make sure that we have more Eagles than any other Troop.  Nope.  The Scouts all know when they turn 18 and they all own a Scout handbook that shows them step by step what needs to be done if they want to be an Eagle Scout.  Beyond that, I will help, I will guide, I will bend over backwards to work with them.  But I won’t do it for them or allow other to.
I see to much of this in Scouting and it simply takes away from the meaning of the Eagle award.  It takes away from accomplishment  and sense of pride that the Scout has when he knows that he worked hard to get what only 4% of the Scouts in America get.
I suppose I can go on and on about this.. but when time is up.. time is up.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Sunday Coffee 1/13

Well, here is this weeks video.  I tad bit different this week.  Had to record later in the day, so coffee wasn’t going to work.. so I had some calming Celestial Wild Berry Zinger Herbal Tea… boy did it relax.
This week I talk a bit more about shedding the pack weight and give a sneak peek at my newest gear addition.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Dance of the Blue Card

bluecardThe application for Merit Badge AKA the “Blue Card, is a little piece of paper that will get even the most level-headed Scouts doing the dance of the blue card.
Just sit back and watch as a Scout realizes that he’ll be 18 in a few months.  The line dance for a visit with the Troop secretary is reminiscent of scene from Urban Cowboy.
I was recently asked about the process of the Blue Card and how we do it in our Troop.  The reader has asked to remain nameless, but I am glad that this question came up.  I can not tell you how times I have had conversations about such a simple thing, but something that is sometimes more confusing than a rubics cube.
Our reader asks;  “Anyway would you share how your Troop handles Blue Cards, from the time the Scout asks to start a merit badge and is give the Blue Card through completion and where the Blue Card goes and who handles what.”
So here it goes… I’ll let you behind the curtain of how Troop 664 does the Blue card dance.  There are actually two ways that we do this.  I will explain the regular way that we do it and then how we do it for summer camp.
First.  The Scout expresses interest in a merit badge… He picks the merit badge and goes to the Troop Secretary and asks for a blue card.
Then, the Scout fills out the Blue card.  He fills out the whole front of the card leaving only my signature space blank.  He fills out the back of the card with his name and the name of the merit badge he is going to work.  He can leave the name of the counselor blank.
The Scout then brings me the blue card and I sign the front of the blue card.  This allows the Scout to start working on the merit badge.  It also gives me an opportunity to talk with the Scout about the badge and answer any questions that he may have.  If I know who the counselor for that merit badge is, I give the Scout the information, if I don’t I have the Scout return to the Troop secretary and she will look up the counselor and give the Scout the information, phone number etc.
The Scout then works the merit badge.  The counselor fills out the card and confirms that the Scout met all of the requirements.  Once the merit badge is complete, the counselor signs and dates it and gives it back to the Scout.
The Scout will then bring the completed blue card back to me.  I then sign the card and have the Scout give the blue card to the Troop secretary.  She records the completion date and merit badge into the Troop master software and takes the first part of the card and files it with the Troop records.  The Scout gets the remainder of the card.  Most counselors do not retain their copy.
The Applicants record is stapled to the merit badge certificate as is the actual merit badge.  The Scout is presented the merit badge at the next court of honor.
That completes the Dance of the Blue card.
The only difference in this process for summer camp is this.  I will pre sign a bunch of blue cards.  I then hand them out on day 1 of summer camp.  The Scout takes the blue card and fills it out and takes it to the first session of the merit badge class.
At the completion of summer camp, the blue cards are returned from the summer camp staff to the Scoutmasters.  I sign all the completed merit badges and make a note of the partials.
During summer camp, I track the merit badges being worked daily.  I keep a chart in my notebook of who is working what badge at what time.  Then I follow-up daily at the “Scoutmaster cabin”.  The camps in our council all make daily progress reports available.  If by Wednesday, it does not look like progress is being made, I have a little chat with the Scout.  It is the Scouts decision to work the badges and I will not force or push the Scout to complete the badges at camp.  I do “Highly encourage” them to get them finished, but at the end of the week.. it will be up to him.
When we get home, I turn over all of the blue cards to the Troop Secretary and she records and goes through the same process as stated above.
So there it is.. The Dance of the Blue Card… I sure hope that helps.
Leave your questions, comments, and suggestions here on the blog or feel free to drop me an email.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Character again…

HOFWe talk a lot about Character and making men of Character in Scouting.  We spend a great deal of time reinforcing the ideals found in the Scout Oath and Law and expect our Scouts to live those values which will lead him to a life in which he will be counted as one that has Character.
I have talked about Character a lot here in this blog and believe that if we do nothing else with these young men, we owe them the very best training in being a man of Character.
I have said it before and I will echo it till the end of time… I really don’t care if a Scout earns his Eagle as long as he develops Character.  His Character will get him much farther in life than a red, white, and blue ribbon with an Eagle suspended from it.  Having said that though, you all know that I want them all to earn their Eagle, but the Eagle award does not make the man, Character does.
I was listening to some sports talk radio today and they were discussing the “steroid Ballot” for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  Now, I am not going to bother getting into the details of the discussion and I also will not share my opinion on the ballot.. well actually I am in a round about way.
The reason that this caught my attention was that to the folks hosting the discussion made it an issue of Character.  And yes sir.. that’s what it is all about.  There was an argument that the guys that are on the ballot that used “Performance enhancing Drugs” were Hall of Famer’s before they used the steroids.. well if they were Hall of Famer’s then.. why did they need to cheat?
Mark McGuire who is the only player that actually admitted to the use of steroids said that it was important for him to “come clean” because at some point he had to look his children in the eye and explain all of this.. and that is what got my attention.
In previous posts I have explained the rule of “Saying it aloud“.  It works every time.  I really liked the idea of McGuire holding himself accountable to his kids.  That is a great rule for character.  We are all accountable to some one and we should act accordingly.
Along with the values of the Oath and Law, knowing that at some point we will have to answer for our actions should force us to act with character.  I was listening to Dennis Prager the other day, he said something that reinforced this idea.  He said he did not care how you feel.. he cares more about how you act.  This too plays a big part in curbing selfish behavior and a lack of character.  We live in an era where people feel entitled and that as long as they feel it is ok, then it is.  On the contrary, we are still accountable for our actions and at the end of the day you will have an effect on someone else.  Knowing that at some point I will have to answer for my actions and that the last people on earth that I ever want to disappoint are my children, I act in accordance with my values.  Does it always make those around me feel great.. No, but at the end of the day they can see that I acted with character.
I have made it a point to always demonstrate good character to my kids.  It has not always been the cool thing and at times it has left them feeling like I am mean-spirited or a jerk, but then they realize that I care and want only the best for them and all of us.
We often use the standard of the Oath and Law in our discussion of wrong and right.  We know that at some point we will all have to answer for a decision we make.  If more people used that standard, the world would simply be a better place.  There would not be spouses cheating on each other, there would be less crime, there would be far less Congressmen… oh I just could not resist, but seriously our leaders would be driven to make better decisions… after all they are accountable to US.. right.
So Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and Sammy Sosa all juiced and had amazing stats in baseball… they are all on the ballot for entry in the Hall of Fame.  We don’t get a vote, but can they say they got in as a player that did not cheat?  Just because they all did it, does that make it right?  Not if you are judging based on character.  If they get in they are in and will have to continue answering the questions about steroid use.  If they don’t get in, they will still have to answer for why they did not get in.. the steroid use.  If they were actually Hall of Famer’s before they used.. they should have use McGuire’s standard of how he would answer to those that are most important.. his kids.  Personally I don’t care one way or the other if they are Hall of Famer’s.  To me, they cheated and therefore lose the privilege of being in the Hall of Fame, but then my only vote is how I look at them in regard to their character.  I judge.
As for me, I will use the values I have and the remember that one day I may have to look in my children’s eyes and answer for my actions.  That should be enough to make anyone remember that Character matters more than Eagle Medals or statues in the Hall of Fame.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Pot Cozy

For those of you looking at a quick and easy way to make your pot cozy.. well here’s a nice video by a guy that I subscribe to on Youtube and follow in the Hammock Forums.  His name is Sean Emery, but he is known as Shug.  He is super entertaining and knows a bit about the wonderful world of Backpacking.  I dropped him a note to ask permission to use his video.. he said yes, so…. Enjoy.  I am sure you will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!