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Citizen Good Turn
Maybe you've heard of the tight Coleman-Franken senate race in Minnesota and the recount being conducted now. About 2/3 of the 2.9million ballots have been recounted but it will still take weeks for the 2,000+ challenged ballots to be examined. It's a long process involving thousands of volunteers and city, county, state employees. And, I can tell you from experience, it is tedious.

For my Good Turn, I volunteered to help with the recount process. I spent 5 hours one day last week in City Hall helping to inspect ballots for precincts in my county. It was an interesting, but tedious, process in which every ballot is important and manually counted. Every ballot is handled at least 3 times, often more.

One employee was a 'sorter' and sat with a pile of ballots in frount of her, a Franken rep on one side and a Coleman rep on the other. The sorter placed each ballot on either the Coleman pile in front of the Franken rep or on the Franken pile in front of the Coleman rep. The representatives job was to quickly inspect the ballot to ensure it was FOR that candidate and accept it into the pile.

The representative could challenge a ballot at that point. Each side has challenged about 1,000 ballots so far but we had just a few in our counting.

Once all the ballots were sorted into Coleman, Franken, or Other then they were counted. A counter, with both a Franken and Coleman rep watching, counted each ballot from the Coleman pile into groups of 25. Each group was set aside and tallied. Then, the process was repeated with the Franken pile and the Other pile.

When the counting was complete for a precinct, the three totals equaled the original total for the precinct or else they had to be recounted until the error was found. This happened twice in the precincts I helped count. Fortunately, a group of 26 was found quickly so it did not take long.

For my part, I felt I was useful. I found a ballot placed in the wrong party's pile and I stopped two miscounts and asked for the group of 25 to be recounted, saving the mistake from happening. All that in 'just' 5 hours. Like I said, it's a tedious process.

Rather than being just one of the millions casting votes that don't seem to matter, I have a better attitude about the importance of each vote. I also am surprised at the poor functioning of the ballot systems we have in place in this country. I certainly hope that in the next 3 years improvements are made that ensure proper counting of ballots.

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Posted: 11:43 11-23-2008 377
Online Permissions - Help!
Our troop has had a challenge of getting permission forms turned in on time. It seems we always have a scout family or two oblivious that they missed the deadline for an event registration and this makes it tough to make reservations and arrange drivers.

If you know what I'm talking about, then I'd like your help. I've been working on an online tool to make campout signups easier (I hope) and I need a couple of people to try it out. Our troop is just starting to use it and I need 2 or 3 more troops to kick the tires starting next month.

If you have at least 20 scouts in your troop and could try it for your next 3 campouts or events, please Contact Me. I'll send you instructions to proceed. I'd like you to enter your troop info right after Thanksgiving and let me know if it makes life easier or not.

In exchange for your efforts, you'll receive free access to the tool as long as it exists and I'll send you a flint & steel set and some fire starters for your scouts.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:43 11-18-2008 376
Fillable Local Tour Permit
You can type and save information in the Online Local Tour Permit as part of your Campout Planning process. This saves a bunch of time since a lot of the data is the same from one trip to the next.

Folks should be running out of excuses to not complete a tour permit for absolutely every scouting event.

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Posted: 12:51 11-13-2008 375
Cheap Gear
Last year, I wrote about our Alps Mountaineering tents we purchased online from and how we've been awful pleased with them.

Well, I got a letter from them about a sale they're having. Seems they got a whole bunch of tents back from a retailer (brand new) and they were waaaay cheap. I ordered enough for the incoming scouts we expect for the next three years. They were about 40% of the usual reduced ScoutDirect price.

Our quartermaster will be figuring out if any patrols need tents now, labeling them, and distributing them. New scout patrols start out with 4-man tents and then move on to mostly 2-mans as they get older and start high adventure backpacking. There is an incentive for scouts to keep their first tent in great shape so they can 'graduate' from it to one that's more cool.

Unfortunately, the ScoutDirect sale tents practically evaporated as soon as word got out - sorry. But, it looks like there's some nice sleeping bags and backpacks for scouts needing a Christmas present.

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Posted: 17:30 11-11-2008 374
Cool Patches
How do you like the cool patch for this year's Scoutorama? Every Webelos scout that participates gets one as a souvenir. Everyone really liked how they turned out this year.

I just wanted to mention that we had a great experience working with Stadri Emblems to create these patches. We bought 100 so we have enough for a couple more years and they cost $1.66/each which included shipping.

Smaller orders, like a dozen, are awful expensive but for a larger troop or district event, they're fine. Check out Stadri Emblems.

They've just come out with a bunch of BSA 100th Anniversary patches in case your troop is planning a special troop patch.

Now, some scouts are interested in designing their own troop high adventure patch with segments for different trips. The small orders of 10-20 segments I'm afraid might be awful expensive, but we'll find out. Please holler if you have some experience with that.

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Posted: 22:52 11-08-2008 373
Call Mom
You've seen decals on the backs of semis and delivery trucks like:
How's My Driving?
Call 1-800-123-1234

Well, at the high school this morning I saw one that was new for me all the way across the back window of an SUV. I thought it was pretty cute, but with a very important message, both to the driver and people following him/her:
How's My Driving?
Call MOM @ 943-342-4765

I really liked that one!

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Posted: 13:30 11-07-2008 372
Blue Tuesday
I was curious about where the connection between Democrat=Blue and Republican=Red started. It seems like it's always been that way, but it's actually only from this century.
NBC was the first station to use red and blue to show states won, but in 1976 they used Blue for Republican. Other stations caught on and used red and blue in subsequent elections, but there was no standard.
In the 2000 elections, red states and blue states were finally consistently used to mean Republican and Democrat.

Now, what about that Donkey and Elephant thing? :-)

Congratulations to President-elect Obama.

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Posted: 23:58 11-04-2008 371
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Posted: 10:20 11-03-2008 370
The troop held its 4th annual Scoutorama on Saturday for the local Webelos to spend some time outside doing Boy Scout activities. The weather was just perfect and the day went great.

The scoutorama is 3 hours of scout skill activities, lunch, and scout games. We've created a fun way for the Webelos to spend a little time with every patrol in the troop and try new things. Most kinks have been worked out and the scouts are now running pretty much the entire day. We had adults handle lunch, but I expect a patrol will volunteer to do that next year. (This is the only event where adults cook a meal for the scouts)

If you'd like to read how we do it, check out Scoutorama Activity for a PDF or Word doc.

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Posted: 16:55 11-02-2008 369
NHP Award
National Honor Patrol awardThe National Honor Patrol Award is a great way to recognize patrols that are working together to a common goal and supporting their patrol leader.
In our troop, we've had one patrol earn this award last year and three newly-elected patrol leaders have told me a goal in their 6-month term is to earn the award. That is so cool!
To me, this award recognizes the core fundamentals of scouting and I'm sure glad Bill Harcourt drove it into being in 1986 as the "Baden-Powell Patrol award". The requirements to have patrol spirit, regular gatherings, outdoor activities, good turns, advancement, and uniforms are all key to a successful scout group. By setting a goal of attaining this simple star patch, a patrol pulls together and learns the basis of scouting.
I like that a patrol can earn it many times so each patrol leader can use it as a measuring stick of his abilities to lead. Nine star patches can fit around the patrol emblem and wouldn't that be something to see? :-)

Since each troop determines when a patrol meets the requirements, there may be temptation to award it for 'close enough' efforts. Sticking to the requirements maintains the prestige of the award. From other scoutmasters I've talked with, very few have patrols wearing the star.

Why not give scouts in your troop a 3-month challenge of working toward this achievement?

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Posted: 14:11 10-26-2008 368
Knots or Not
The troop instructors taught the lower ranks how to tie the Bowline knot while another instructor taught the higher ranks how to tie it one-handed at the troop meeting. Everyone there said they could tie the knot.

So for a competition, the scouts did Bowline Trust Lean, but connected to a small circle of rope in the center. Since they had just been practicing the bowline, it should be pretty easy.

Well, theoretically, anyway.
Lots of knots were tied, and a few were bowlines. Lots of pulling on ropes and bouncing off each other, and a bit of concentration.
Lots of playing and complaining, and some helping others.

It was certainly a useful exercise in that it showed clearly that the skills were not actually learned. Even more, it showed that some patrols could really benefit from more teamwork experience. Now, the SPL and ASPL are brainstorming with the scoutmaster some ways to encourage higher skill levels in fun, active ways.

Do you think the scouts you know have mastered the scouting skills up to first class? Try that Bowline Trust Lean as a quick activity and find out.

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Posted: 15:14 10-16-2008 367
Scoutmaster Training
Our district held its fall Camporee this past weekend and efficiently combined the outdoor skills portion of Scoutmaster Specific Training into the agenda. The idea being that adult leaders will be there with their troops anyway and the day of training would require minimal time away from family or troop.

The Camporee environment helps cover some of the training, such as flag ceremonies and campsite selections. Plus, the training participants get some immediate hands-on experience with the training content.

It sure seems to work out well, so I'd suggest you mention it to your district training chair. I believe it increased the attendance at both the training and the Camporee.

I got to present the First Aid and Leave No Trace sections, so I had just a totally fun afternoon! I tried some new LNT activities that I came up with and they worked well. A walk through a field all in a line and then spread out had the best impact - the trail was still there the next day as a reminder for the participants. It's just awful hard to cram 120 minutes of stuff into 45 minutes so I skimmed over the Respect for Wildlife and Considerate of Others principles.

We did get to bandage legs, heads, and arms so that was fun. I even had a fishhook stuck in some flesh-colored caulk which was a great demonstration. I'll be asking our troop instructors to use that one now.

One of the most fun questions is asking how to remove a tick. There's always at least a handful of ways and people swear by every one.

If you've been an adult volunteer for awhile, you might know all the skills to First Class very well. But, remember that many adults are brand new to the game and they need your guidance in learning the skills so they can help the next wave of scouts. The Scoutmaster Training session is a nice intro, but offering the adults in your troop ongoing skills training is a good idea.

I've recently realized that I've not done as much as I should to prepare the adults in our troop to examine the scouts. We mostly have scouts teach scouts, but adults help too and sign off advancement requirements. To address this, I'm going to have 15-minute skill sessions available before troop meetings to see if anyone comes. And, at campouts, I will have specific time set aside for adults to practice skills.

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Posted: 14:11 10-15-2008 366
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