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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
Weather Surprises
Understanding the environment where you are headed, rather than where you are, is a key to planning. Being prepared is looking forward to the possibilities and ensuring you have gear, skills, and confidence to be successful. The more skills and confidence you have, the less gear you need - as long as you don't get over-confident and take risky chances.

When we talk about being prepared, it's sometimes challenging to convince people to prepare for fringe possibilities.

It has never snowed from June 4 to August 31 in Minnesota. But, backpacking last week in Wyoming, we had 28 degrees and some people saw snow. A few of us were not ready for such cold temperatures because it was in the 80s while packing to go. This was a lack of gear due to underestimating the possibilities.

At summer camp last month, we had 2 days of very cold wet weather. After the first day, many scouts were out of dry clothes - not because they did not pack enough but because they did not keep them dry. This was a lack of skills and underestimating how long the weather would last.

You never know what the weather can do but by considering the time of year, location, and elevation, it's possible to prepare for any weather that might come along. Snow in July is certainly a surprise, but not something that should cause concern with a little planning.

Scout On



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Posted: 13:43 08-05-2009 428
Cloud Peak Wilderness Trek
My 30 nights of camping for summer 2009 have finished. Just got back from Wyoming yesterday and you can see our trek route and pictures here. I led a group of 9 from our church, but it included four boy scouts.
I had our SPOT Messenger on for the trip and here's where we went.

Cloud Peak Wilderness Trek



Now that I'm home from the wilds, I'll be posting again.

Scout On
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Posted: 12:42 08-03-2009 427
Star, Life, and Eagle merit badges
Interpretation of rank advancement requirements is often an entertaining endeavor. We interpret every word we read. Right now, you are reading and interpreting these words. I was reminded of something this weekend about the Star, Life, and Eagle merit badge requirements. Our council's interpretation of the requirements is what drives our unit's implementation of those requirements.

Requirement #3 for Star Scout is currently: "Earn six merit badges, including any four from the required list for Eagle. (See the Eagle Rank Requirements, number 3, for this list.) A Scout may choose any of the 15 required merit badges in the 12 categories to fulfill this requirement."

Any fairly knowledgable BSA adult volunteer or scout knows the list of Eagle required merit badges:

We know that an Eagle scout must have one merit badge from each of the 12 categories. But, a Star scout only needs "any four from the required list". That means if a First Class scout completes Swimming, Hiking, Cycling, First Aid, Art, Archery, and Astronomy, he has completed the required merit badges. This is true, even though he only did merit badges from 2 of the 12 categories.

A Life scout needs to complete 5 more merit badges, including any 3 from the Eagle list. So, adding Emergency Preparedness, Lifesaving, Camping, Athletics, and Aviation fulfills the requirement. The scout has done merit badges from only 4 of the 12 categories, but that's ok for Life rank.

When it comes time to reach Eagle, those Hiking, Cycling, and Lifesaving merit badges get counted as "electives" and the other 8 Eagle-required merit badges need to be earned. It all works out in the end.

Interpreting this requirement correctly may help some of your scouts realize they've met the requirements for rank sooner than they expected. If you have a scout plodding along with one more eagle-required merit badge for Star when he's already done Swimming AND Cycling, let him know he may have already fulfilled the requirement.

Scout On
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Posted: 21:33 07-05-2009 426
Sea 2 Sky Success
We're back from an awesome week out west! It was amazing how well everything worked out and we got to do every activity that the scouts had hoped for - even doing the Space Needle which I would have just as soon missed. :-)

18 scouts from the flatlands of Minnesota got to experience:

I'm still dumbfounded how we crammed so much into a week. There certainly were some long days and short nights. But, the two crew leaders did great work and we came in under budget. If you would like more details on our trip, send me an email and I'll get back to you.

Check out our SPOT Trek Route - pictures mapped to our route recorded by our SPOT Messenger. I've heard from quite a few parents that they really enjoyed watching us as we slowly climbed Mount St. Helens and rafted down the Deschutes.

Scout On

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Posted: 16:39 06-26-2009 425
Track Our Trek
I've blogged a few times about the way cool SPOT Messenger that our troop uses when we go camping. It's a one-way communication device to let people know where you are and to call for help in emergencies. The unit costs around $150 and an annual subscription is $100 and up, depending on the services you choose. It also includes emergency rescue insurance (which we've not used yet so I can't tell you how good it is). But, the reassurance it gives parents back home is invaluable!

Well, the SPOT folks have two things going on that might help you decide to get a unit for your troop.

SPOT Adventures - if you go there soon, you'll see "troop479" in the Recent Activity list with the sample trip I entered. You can spy on trips others have posted and see the adventures people have taken their SPOT on. These are trips after the fact with photos, story, and travel path to view. It's a replacement for what I did last year manually for our Philmont trek. When we get back from Sea2Sky, I'll make an adventure and let you know when it's ready.

Free SPOT - until the beginning of August, you can get a rebate to pay for your SPOT Messenger unit when you subscribe for two years of Basic and Tracking service. That's $300 for two years and a free unit - you save the initial $150 or so for the device. When our troop breaks down the cost, it is about $2.50/scout each year, or 25 cents per campout.



If you'd like to follow our Sea2Sky trek in real time, check out Our SPOT Page and see how we're doing. The messages should start showing up on Wednesday evening.

Scout On
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Posted: 14:14 06-16-2009 424
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