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BSA PodCasts
Yesterday, I was asked by a nice fellow in Irving to let you know about ScoutCast - a series of podcasts for Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Commissioners. The 'Value of Scouting' ones are very inspirational and interesting. The 2,000,000th Eagle from Minnesota and the 2008 Conservation Hero from New York are my favorites.
The 'CubCast' sessions are intended for pack and den leaders with ideas for monthly programs from volunteers around the country. These are only audio so you can listen them while doing other computer work.

Be sure to notice the 'Archives' link on the far right to hear past podcasts.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:36 09-15-2009 440
Free Troop Groceries
Well, here's something that would sure be interesting. What if your troop got $5,200 worth of free groceries next year? Check out New World Pasta's contest.

Of course, you could just keep it yourself, but wouldn't it be cool to see what the scouts would cook when the sky's the limit?

Scout On
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Posted: 20:34 09-12-2009 439
Back to School
So, there's this school called Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, or just Olin College, in Needham, MA. Ever hear of it? Me neither. But, it's a pretty cool place - actually really cool.

It's just 70 acres with 5 buildings (including the two residence halls) and has 334 total students. Hardly a blip on the screen and the fact that it opened in 2002 contributes to its obscurity. But, if you happen to know a high school scout with a passion and aptitude for engineering, you might want to mention it to him.

Olin reminds me of going to camp. It's surrounded by woods, appearing isolated, but actually close to other colleges and the community. The student support is amazing with mentors, clubs, partnerships, orientations, and even an Honor Code which encompasses many points of the Scout Law. Being a small school, it's like a small town - everyone knows you and you don't disappear into the masses. Each student matters.

Admission to Olin is a real challenge. Deadline to apply is Jan. 1 and info is on their admissions page. If you'd like to see what the accepted students are like, check this out.

The leadership and teamwork experience gained from scouting is a real plus for acceptance to this school as well as any others that screen their applicants. I'm glad my son chose this school and I believe if it had not been for his experiences in scouting he would not have made the cut. Of course, his SAT and ACT scores helped, but there's lots of real smart people - not so many with smarts and well-developed interpersonal skills.

Scout On
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Posted: 8:04 09-06-2009 438
The Old Favorites
We're an awful lucky group when it comes to campfires. There's never a lack of enthusiasm for skits on Saturday night. Sometimes the enthusiasm isn't always accompanied by planned skits and a patrol will have a great time hitting and tackling each other in some sort of pantomime with no real storyline which leaves the rest of the troop wondering what the heck is so funny. Stories take more effort to memorize than made-up skits, so they are a bit more rare but still a mainstay of our troop.

Occasionally, scouts will run out of ideas before they're too tired to stay awake and will ask me for a story. And, as creatures of habit, they'll request The Old Favorites - that is any story heard in the past that they remember hearing, but can't recall well enough to tell themselves.

Trying to live the motto - Be Prepared - I have a paper in my wallet with the titles of 2 dozen stories that I've got memorized. Before each campfire, I get a couple of them ready in my mind "just in case". I think it's good to have the scoutmaster ready to fill a lull with a good story.

Here's a few that have become old stand-bys and I enjoy telling. Maybe you can have a couple ready to share on your next campout:
And, one I reserve for trips with just older scouts - Scouts on Indian Grave.

I have noticed this past year that many stories I used to get to tell are now being told by the older scouts. To be honest, I miss delivering the punch lines, but it sure feels good to hear a scout keeping 20 youngsters hanging on every word in the dark, anonymous circle around the glowing coals.

Scout On
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Posted: 21:58 09-04-2009 437
After Scouts
I was gone most of the past week driving 3000 miles from MN to MA and back. We took our oldest son, the Eagle Scout, to college (I'll post more about the amazing school later). And, I got to see how life is a bit different after scouts.

I remember going to college. It wasn't a big deal. I packed stuff in my car, drove to the university, did greek rush, joined a frat, and lived there with a bunch of guys. My folks didn't come with me.
They didn't run to Wal-Mart to get stuff I forgot to bring. They didn't put the sheets on the bed for me. They didn't arrange my clothes and tell me how to use the washing machine. They didn't hang my towel and put my shampoo in the shower.

I didn't do any of those things for my son either - except driving him there and carrying two boxes to his room. I spent all my time keeping my wife from doing those things, walking around the campus, and playing Othello to pass the time. :-) But, those are all examples of what I watched other parents doing for their kids. It was pretty funny, more like first day of kindergarten than college.

Our son checked in, got his room key, brought in his stuff, and set up camp - all before lunch. I didn't think much of it because it's pretty much how every troop campout goes - we arrive, scouts get their gear, and set up camp. But, when compared to the other students arriving, it really shows how self-sufficient scouting can make a person.

He's now 1500 miles away, completely on his own, and I have absolute confidence that he'll be perfectly content and responsible for himself. No small part of that is due to his years in scouting.

After Scouts, life is a bit easier to manage.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:05 09-03-2009 436
Win Stuff
In case you've been too busy scouting this summer to do much else, here's a little reminder that Scouts and Scouters can win some cool prizes.

I just got my Scouting magazine and there's a Where Am I? contest. But, it looks like their website is not up to date with the contest yet. I've got the answer all ready to enter because I've been there! So, I guess you all can just skip that one. :-)

There is a photo contest you can enter while waiting for the new contest to get posted. See Celebrate the Adventure photo contest and get your pictures submitted before October 1.

There are six contests for scouts going on at Boys' Life and some end in the next week. See Boys' Life contest page to enter. Find Pedro, send in photos, make a video, take a quiz, or write a report - lots of ways to win.

Scout On


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Posted: 8:25 08-25-2009 435
End of Summer
Summer officially ends tomorrow. I pick up oldest son from his 3rd summer on staff at Many Point Scout Camp. He was a First Class Adventure Director this year and had a terrific time. That's a lot of responsibility and some managing of peers. I think he learned a lot about mob mentality and how a couple good or bad influencers pull along the majority of followers.

I'll be bringing him and 2 other staff back to their families so I'm hoping for at least a few stories on the 4 hour ride home. If they all just zonk out, I'll be left to my Mountain Dew and highway noise.

At least the weathr for the past day and tomorrow is nice and dry so I won't load up wet, soggy, scouts - just smelly, dirty ones with many nights of camping under their belt.
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Posted: 22:05 08-16-2009 434
Glissading the Volcano
There was an episode of 'Happy Days' where Fonzie jumped over a shark. Now, 'Jumping the Shark' means a show does absurd or over-the-top episodes to boost ratings. I guess we jumped the shark this summer on our Sea2Sky trip when we 'Glissaded the Volcano'.

Climbing about 3500 feet through rock, snow, and ash over 4 hours to the top of an active volcano and watching the steam come out of a crater 500 feet below your feet was pretty absurd. But, taking just 1 hour to get back down was awesome!

Glissading is sledding down a steep hill - with no sled. It's way cool and can be done on snow, sand, ash, grass, on your butt or on your feet. We just sat down, while wearing our rain pants, and arrived 500 feet down the mountain about 30 seconds later.

We would glissade down, walk across the fall line, glissade again, over and over. We made about 6 runs total. In the middle picture, you can see people walking across the top.

Of course, like everything we do, there is a sense of danger and a bit of risk - raising the first while minimizing the second is key. We practiced how to use gloved hands to steer, use elbows, hands, packs, and legs to brake, and especially how to hoot and howl all the way down!

When you get a chance to try glissading, here's a few tips:

You can see our whole Sea2Sky trip at this page.

Scout On
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Posted: 8:32 08-14-2009 433
Scout Handbook Thoughts
Picked up the 12th edition this week. Here's some observations having skimmed through it.

Negatives:
The book is 1/2 inch shorter than the previous. This just means I've got a floppy black book cover on it now.
The back cover used to have three words - Character, Citizenship, Fitness - and I'd often use that when talking with scouts.

The mottled backgrounds on many pages makes it more difficult to read the text. I don't care for all the little graphic bits like paperclips holding on notes and spiral notepads and ripped paper. Just too cluttered and distracting for me.

Don't know why there's a photo of a snowboarder on page 422 since it has nothing to do with the High Adventure bases.

On page 414, the labels of gas stove and cartridge stove are mixed up.

On page 396 and 398, the use of Diagonal Lashing is a big change from the previous edition and the picture of diagonal lashing does not match the words. It now says a Diagonal Lashing should be used "to bind poles at an angle other than a right angle" but the picture shows a right angle. Previous, the Diagonal Lashing was to be used to bind poles that don't touch, such as the crosspieces on the sides of a watchtower. Other online resources agree with the previous description.

On pafe 383, 'running end' is used in the terminology but then never used again in all the knot tieing instructions.

On page 370, maybe it's time to drop the Watch Method for finding directions - what scout has a watch with hands?

On page 369, the point of finding North is lost in all the names and dotted lines. Castor, Pollux, and Capella are cool, but not helpful here.

The reminder to go to www.bsahandbook.org shows up on practically every other page. Alright, I get it - there's a supporting website.
On checking out the website, lots of glitz and flash and links to supporting information.

Positivies:
Chapter 6 Nature is a great addition.

Chapter 7 Leave No Trace is just the seven principles, not much more. But, LNT is presented throughout the handbook in a good, integrated manner which will hopefully drive the points home.

Chapter 5 Aquatics has good info and images of important swimming strokes. I do wonder how it worked out for the guy diving on page 178. :-)

Chapter 4 First Aid has been expanded from 40 to 50 pages and has better images to boot.

Not having a chapter for each rank is a big change, but with the page references on each rank requirement in the back, the organization into Scoutcraft, Woodcraft, Campcraft works just fine.

I like the Camping and Service Logs on pages 444-447 but I don't understand why there are two of them. They should make it easier for scouts to remember what they've done.

The big question I have ongoing is: How good is the binding glue? Past handbooks have notoriously fallen apart during use. I hope extra water-resistant glue is used on this batch.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:19 08-12-2009 432
Solar Oven Project
solar oven When I was about 10 or 12, I built a solar food dehydrator - a white box with plastic lid and ventilation holes in the ends. The sun heated it up and the hot, moist air escaped. It worked great for slices of apple, pear, and banana that I strung on fishing line inside it. Not so good when I tried to make raisins. The grapes were too big instead of being thin slices.

At summer camp a couple years ago, some scouts used a solar oven on the beach to bake brownies in about 2 hours. It was a box painted all black to absorb the heat and had a plastic lid to let the sunshine in. It worked great and I've wanted to build one ever since.

I've had a sheet of old plexiglass in the garage for at least 4 years now.

We got some new furniture about 7 months ago and a bunch of styrofoam was used in the packing - sheets of styrofoam, not those silly little peanuts. The perfect material for insulating! That's when I decided to make a solar oven some day.

This week I finally got time to start cleaning out the garage. Not being one of my favorite jobs, I got a bit sidetracked when I saw the plexiglass and styrfoam. Even more sidetracked when I found a great cardboard box used to hold reams of paper. That was the end of the garage cleaning and start of the solar oven building.

I got a half-used can of black spray paint from the basement, a roll of packing tape, and my pocketknife.

I cut out the front of the box so sunlight could get in on the south side.
I cut the 1 inch thick styrofoam to fit inside the box on the bottom and sides. Then, just to be sure it would be ok, I sprayed some paint on a scrap piece of styrofoam - it dissolved it.

So, I cut cardboard to line the inside of the styrofoam and taped it in place. Now I have an insulated box without a front or top.

I spraypainted the entire box black, inside and out, except the outside back and bottom. The hope is that this will get more hot be soaking in the sun rays.

I cut the plexiglass to fit the top and front, sanding the edges. I taped the two pieces together at the top-front edge and slid the front piece into place. I taped around it to hold it there and I now have a clear lid that is hinged and lifts off.

Being eager to test it out, my son mixed up some chocolate chip cookie dough and we put some in a pie tin and placed it in the oven. About 90 minutes later, on a hot sunny day, it was cooked. But, when tried, it tasted like someone had sprayed paint into your mouth. :-( So, now the oven sits drying for a week and I'll give it a go again.

You can find solar oven plans all over the Internet and most of them are aluminum foil lined. I'll try the black interior for awhile and then try it with aluminum to see the difference. I'm making aluminum foil covered reflectors for the top and side to gather more sunlight into the box. And, I'm scrounging for a cooking thermometer to measure just how hot it really gets in there.

OK, so at least one person has read to here and is asking "What's this have to do with scouting anyway?" Well, it's an interesting alternative cooking method for the Cooking merit badge. And, I'm hoping the PLC will have a patrol solar cooking competition at a campout after they see this oven. Each patrol will get materials to build a small oven and see who can make Ramen noodles over 200 degrees first - or something like that. Maybe a campout where ONLY solar cooking is allowed? The teamwork, discovery, and challenge is all good.

Besides, maybe a scout will expand it into an Eagle project - making simple solar ovens for people in areas with little fuel but lots of hot sun.

Scout On
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Posted: 9:07 08-08-2009 431
Merit Badge Time Savers
At ScoutStuff.org you can purchase 100 merit badge blue cards for $7.00 - then you get to fill them out by hand. These work great for a scout or three requesting to start merit badges, but when summer camp comes around and 100 or more merit badge requests come up it gets painful.
                                
At Troopmaster.org they have two blue cards per sheet on 8.5x11 blue card stock. An easy report in Troopmaster lets you print all the blue cards you want with all the information neat and legible. They cost about 15 cents per card but the savings in time and cramped hand muscles is worth it!

Using TroopKit.com for our troop events and scout-managed operations, scouts request to start a merit badge through email. When I receive their email, I print up blue cards and give them out at the next troop meeting.

As an additional time saver and arthritis preventer, I've got a signature stamp that I bought at vistaprint.com for $12. Instead of scribbling my scoutmaster signature over and over, it's just stamp, stamp, stamp and I'm done.

When working with a troop of scouts, I think it's important to make background tasks as streamlined as possible so more time can be spent interacting with the scouts. Blue cards and other paperwork are examples of areas that eat up time and take away from the fun part of scouting. I'm sure you know of others.

Scout On
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Posted: 19:05 08-07-2009 430
Sixteen Hours to Jamboree
Looks like the new National Scouting Center and Jamboree site will be in Fayetteville County, WV. Great news for us in Minnesota - it's just 16 hours away instead of 19 to Ft. AP Hill. :-)

The new site is located on the west side of the New River and bordered by the communities of McCreery to the south, Thurmond to the north, and Mount Hope to the west. It's only 11,000 acres (compared to Philmont's 137,000) but has lots of terrain and location, location, location.

Once the final decisions and paperwork are done, it will be a mad dash to build and prepare in time to open up in 3 years.

Scout On

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Posted: 7:33 08-06-2009 429
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