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Everything posted by mrkstvns

  1. mrkstvns


    Scouts love their Dutch ovens! Over the years, there's not been a single food item that one patrol or another hasn't tried cooking in the classic campfire cookery. Even the simplest fare can become a culinary adventure when you invoke the Dutch oven mantra. Such is the case with popcorn... INGREDIENTS: 1/4 cup canola oil (or other vegetable oil) 3/4 cup popcorn kernels butter salt PROCESS: Heat 12-inch Dutch oven over about 25 coals. Add oil and popcorn, then replace lid. Rotate 1/4 turn every couple minutes as the popcorn cooks to avoid scorching. In a few minutes, you will hear popcorn popping. When popping slows down, remove Dutch oven from coals. Pour popcorn into serving bowl and top with butter and salt to taste. Mmmm! Better than a night at the movies!
  2. mrkstvns

    Merit Badge Workshops and Universities

    I grew up in the era of pit latrines at scout camp. I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find that scout camps actually devolved to flush toilets!
  3. mrkstvns

    Merit Badge Workshops and Universities

    I also like that some merit badges cannot easily be done at summer camp. Sadly, too many of the "counselors" that run the merit badge classes at council summer camps think that "WANTing the Scout to meet requirements" justifies them signing off things that were never done (or even attempted). This happens routinely with all those classroom-type badges that don't really belong in an outdoor program in the first place: why should Art or Communication or Family Life be offered at summer camp? Particularly when the most RELEVANT requirements of those badges can't possibly be done....yet inept council program staff keep searching for ways they can get around requirements or just generally cheapen the badges to the point that they've really become "participation emblems" instead of "merit badges". I'm a strong proponent of having summer camp focus on OUTDOOR merit badges and letting the individual scouts, troops, or district MB College folks worry about the stuff that is BEST done at home, indoors, or in the local community. If you want to build up the summer camp program, add more non-MB OUTDOOR activities, not really bad MB classes that deliver an inferior experience.
  4. I've been a counselor for Communication merit badge for over 5 years and I often get scouts asking me to sign off on requirement 5 because they attended a neighborhood homeowners meeting (HOA). I generally tell them, "No. That's not a public meeting, it is a private organization." Do any of you folks who are Communication MBCs count things like HOA meetings? How about counting it towards Citizenship in the Community? REQUIREMENT AS WRITTEN: 5. Attend a public meeting (city council, school board, debate) approved by your counselor where several points of view are given on a single issue. Practice active listening skills and take careful notes of each point of view. Prepare an objective report that includes all points of view that were expressed, and share this with your counselor.
  5. mrkstvns

    What constitutes a "public meeting"?

    Generally, I also understand a "public meeting" to be related to governmental function (even if it might not be directly spending taxpayer dollars). But I also like DuctTape's definition: "Public means you can attend, private is closed to "the public"."
  6. mrkstvns

    What constitutes a "public meeting"?

    Right. But they do give us guidance. With next year being an election year, you're starting to see debates happening in various places. These can be excellent forums to hear about diverse opinions, but they're not the only places. I would definitely approve of a scout who wanted to attend an event labelled as a "forum", even though it might not follow a traditional debate structure. The "forum" tends to differ from a "debate" in that it focuses on a narrower subset of issues than a general "debate" might. For example, there are "forum" events focused on women's issues, LGBT, climate issues, etc.
  7. mrkstvns

    What constitutes a "public meeting"?

    Just an observation: the list of examples for "public meetings" is different for Citizenship in the Community and for Communication. Citizenship in the Community includes court proceedings whereas Communication does not (though Communication does include debates).
  8. mrkstvns

    Old Guys on Forum?

    Well, I haven't been on this forum for very long, but I often find the most enlightening discussions are those that were posted 10 years ago (or even longer). I sincerely appreciate that so many people over the years took the time to discuss topics and to share their wisdom. I do wish there were FAR more topics around woodsmanship and outdoor adventure being discussed. Sadly, it seems that the people with the most wisdom about such matters are the ones who mistakenly think they aren't needed. Thanks, JoeBob, and everyone else who has shared their experience and views over the years. I hope you'll stay and continue doing so for many more years to come!
  9. mrkstvns

    Keep the Mosquitos Away When Camping

    Thermacell gets great reviews on the REI site. The only downside I see to the Thermacell is that it requires a steady diet of replacement fuel cells, which can add up if you're planning to use the device on a longer trek (or even a weekend campout). I'm not really offended by the smell of spray-on repellants anyway, and the much lower total cost of Deep Woods Off will probably keep me away from the Thermacell approach. Info explaining how Thermacell works: https://www.thermacell.com/pages/how-it-works Order a Thermacell from REI: https://www.rei.com/product/152928/thermacell-mr300-portable-mosquito-repeller
  10. mrkstvns

    Ten "Essentials" for the urban hike...

    I understand that the organization's motto is "Be Prepared", but I have trouble embracing the concept of carrying around a bunch of stuff from a canonical all-purpose list only to then admit that "Most, if not all, can stay in your day pack." My take on "Be Prepared" is to plan up front, anticipate problems, and only pack those items that will help solve those kinds of problems. Some of y'all convinced me that I should add a poncho to my "urban essentials" list, and that will be there next time, but I'm not sold on most other stuff....just not seeing the value of being prepared for the improbable.
  11. mrkstvns

    What constitutes a "public meeting"?

    Interesting. I've never been asked to sign off on a scout who watched a meeting (or debate) on TV. In our area, the local school board and the city council record meetings and put them on their web sites. I'm not too keen on accepting that though because I think the scout misses out on the opportunity to be there in person and to see that it really can be ordinary citizens who make their way to the podium to express opinions, ideas, complaints, etc. (and the scout could be one of those people if he cared enough about an issue to come speak out about it). I'm not sure that kind of civics lesson is clear from watching TV... BTW: Communication requires the scout to listen to the issues and report on the different points of view expressed during the meeting. Citizenship in the Community is similar, but the scout needs to pick a side and advocate for why it's the "right" decision.
  12. mrkstvns

    NOAC 2020

    Hands up! Who's going to be in Michigan next August for NOAC 2020? Details: https://oa-bsa.org/noac2020
  13. That viewpoint might actually make sense .... *IF* BSA had not ALREADY done background checks on each and every scouter and *IF* you did not already sign an explicit statement allowing them to do so when you submitted your "Adult Application." But they did...and you did... That makes this move redundant, unproductive, and burdensome on volunteers. It's therefore totally fair game for criticism.
  14. mrkstvns

    Ten "Essentials" for the urban hike...

    What I'd like the scouts to do is to think for themselves and question authority. Do the equipment lists we get actually make sense for the conditions we expect? Would we be wiser to jettison things so we can move lighter and faster? Are there other things that aren't on the list that probably should be? I plan to offer up a variety of very different kinds of hikes and let the scouts discuss for themselves what is smart to bring, and what is not. The next hike will be 10 miles in a National Forest --- rolling hills, unimproved trails, possibility of needing to navigate, no known water sources along route, etc. I imagine (expect) that our daypacks will contain some different items than they did for our in-town urban trail...
  15. mrkstvns

    Keep the Mosquitos Away When Camping

    I've heard a lot of buzz lately about the Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus and how cases of it have been spring up along the east coast (particularly northeast/New England area). The virus is spread via mosquitos. Some info on the CDC web site shows that the virus is not common (fortunately), but it is yet another reason to be wary and protect ourselves against mosquitos. Info from CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/easternequineencephalitis/index.html
  16. August also happens to be the easiest month to find availability. Troops tend to snap up the June and July dates quickly, but fewer request August. August is hard for some folks because sports practice is starting up and families are getting ready for back to school.
  17. Crossroads of America Council plans to sell Camp Red Wing, which has been used as a BSA summer camp since 1925... https://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2019/09/20/crossroads-america-votes-divest-three-camps/2384372001/
  18. mrkstvns

    What constitutes a "public meeting"?

    Our City Council meetings are a pain for most scouts because they are held during the day when kids should be in school. School board meetings are easy though. Texas has these "ISDs" --- independent school districts ---- and there are a LOT of them. Most ISDs hold board meetings in the evening, and if your local school board meets on an inconvenient night of the week, you can always drive a few miles to the next ISD. I think we must have at least 12 ISDs in and around the city of Houston... A patrol (or troop) could even do an activity one evening to go to a public meeting as a group. Might make it more fun for everyone...
  19. mrkstvns

    1st court of honor

    That sounds like a fine basic plan, but when do you start letting ordinary rank-and-file scouts do the planning and running of the ceremony? In our troop, we almost ALWAYS have several scouts working on Communication merit badge and they need to emcee a CoH for Communication MB requirement 8 (either that or plan and lead a campfire, which some scouts like to do). I can only see having the SPL announcing names & awards if nobody in the troop needs an emcee role for Communication MB.
  20. "There's more than one way to skin a cat," is an old saying that most people who don't live on the bayous might think refers to some sick kind of feline cruelty. Those of us who do love being out on the bayous for some good canoeing, fishing and all-around outdoor fun will tell you that old saying has nothing to do with furry little pets and everything to do with good, southern eating! On our troop's last fishing adventure in the wetlands of southeast Texas we caught a few good-size catfish --- mostly channel cats. We had a lot of fun out on the water, but when we hauled our catch back to camp for cleaning and cooking, I got an eye-opening experience: there really IS more than one way to skin a cat! Up until this trip I had always done it one way, and only one way. After all, it's the way my grandpa did it, so I just KNEW it was THE right way! A couple other scout dads did it other ways, and by George! Those guys got their cats in the pan even quicker than me! Hmm. Not only is there more than one way to skin a cat, but it's even possible to teach an old dog (like me) a new trick! So here's 3 ways our ASMs "skin the cat"... My way: The way I've been doing it for years... 1. Clamp or nail the cat's head to a plank at the cleaning station (could be to a picnic table or even a tree). 2. Take a filet knife and cut a slit through the skin, top to bottom, just behind the cat's head. 3. Make a place to grip the skin by slicing with the knife far enough to get a good grip. 4. Use some pliers to grip the cat's skin. 5. Pull down from the head towards the tail. 6. Slice off the head and gut the fish. 7. Cook however you like your fish... The Filet-Way: Another ASM is a good ole boy from Louisiana. This is the way he's been doing it for years... 1. Take a filet knife and cut behind the head, at an angle from the dorsal fin to the pelvic fin. Cut into the flesh, but not through the spine. 2. Cut along the spine from the cut line you made towards the tail. 3. Pull the filets back and cut the meat off the skin. 4. Cut away the small piece of rib cage. 5. Cook however you like your fish... The "Vietnamese" Way: One ASM is from Viet Nam....he said this is the way it's been done in the old country for years... 1. Gut the cat. 2. Cut shallow lines through the skin in a criss-cross pattern. 3. Slap that fish on the grill and cook it your way. 4. The skin will fall off the fish as you eat.
  21. mrkstvns

    Merit Badge Workshops and Universities

    I complain a lot about bad practices at MBUs, so when I find one that's doing RIGHT by the scouts, it's only fair to send some kudos their way. There's 27 districts in the Sam Houston Area Council and several have their own MBUs. Some are poorly planned and operated, some are very well planned and operated. One of the BEST is done by Orion District. What I like about their MBU is that they ASK merit badge counselors how much time they need for their badge, and that's how much time they are alotted. Some classes might be 2 hours, some 3, some 4, some 5 or more....it depends on the content and the counselor (as it should). I imagine it can be a bit tricky for some scouts to schedule their time, but at least the time they spend will be time well spent... Here's what that district's schedule looks like... http://orion.shac.org/Data/Sites/24/media/merit-badge-university/mbu-2019.pdf Any thoughts on that approach???
  22. mrkstvns

    New Venturing Crew Here!

    Good question. It's often tough to come up with the kind of activities that truly represent an "adventure" for the youth. If you can't do that, the kids won't want whatever it is you're offering. I think BSA's "Powder Horn" training is a good way to find out what some of those "adventures" might look like in your area. Hopefully your local Powder Horn is a good one. Some are not that good and will not give you enough of what you need to keep the youth interested. The challenge for Powder Horn organizers is to keep the boring, lame nonsense out of the program. This is important. When I see a Powder Horn program that includes "Scouting Heritage" or "STEM activities", I'm switched off of their program like a porch light at bed time! ONLY give me stuff like sea kayaking, mountaineering, air boats, reef diving, etc.
  23. mrkstvns

    Camps Where SCOUTS Cook Meals

    Many thanks to all the scouters who posted suggestions for camps to add to the list and for those who posted comments about how camps implement their "Patrol Cooking". I searched out the web sites for all camps offering some level of "patrol cooking" and foiund quite a lot of variability, from camps doing an outstanding job and fully embracing the patrol method, to camps that do little more than provide some instant oatmeal and tell scouts to heat their own water. I read your comemnts....I read the web pages....I looked on other scouting forums....I downloaded the Leader Guides for all of these camps. Camps that do offer patrol cooking didn't make "the best" cut for various reasons. Some had patrol cooking in only a couple sites and only by special request. Some on some days of the week, but not others. Some required troops to bring their own food (which is just plain lame). Some offered patrol cooking for a meal or two per day, but otherwise pushed scouts to their mess hall. Some did not offer real cooking at all, just mixes or cold sandwiches (which is also totally lame). All this info led me to a picture of which BSA camps are truly THE BEST for troops who want Patrol Cooking... SIX BEST BSA SUMMER CAMPS FOR TROOPS EMBRACING PATROL METHOD: Troops that fully embrace the Patrol Method and want a high-quality summer camp experience should seek out these 7 camps... Camp Dietler (CO) Camp Freeland Leslie (WI) Camp Bell (NH) Camp Liberty (PA) Camp Sabbatis (NY) Camp Baldwin (OR) Voyageur at Many Point Scout Camp (MN) BSA SCOUT CAMPS OFFERING SOME LEVEL OF "PATROL COOKING" Troops that want some level of "cooking" during their summer camp experience should look into these camps (quality may vary): Camp Liberty, Heritage Scout Reservation (PA) https://www.lhcscouting.org/choose-your-adventure/boy-scout-camping/camp-liberty Rickenbacker Side, Bear Creek Scout Reservation (TX) https://www.alamoareabsa.org/camping/scouts-bsa-summer-camp/ Camp Dietler, Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch (CO) http://www.denverboyscouts.org/camp/boy-scout-adventures/peaceful-valley-scout-ranch/camp-dietler/11110 Camp Waubeeka, Curtis Read Scout Reservation (NY) http://www.wpcbsa.org/Read Camp Freeland Leslie (WI) http://www.freelandleslie.com/ Soaring Eagle Boy Scout Camp, Ben Delatour Scout Ranch (CO) https://longspeakbsa.org/programs/camps-camping/ben-delatour-scout-ranch/bdsr-camps/ Camp Marriott or Camp Bowman, Goshen Scout Reservation (VA) https://www.gotogoshen.org/ Camp Bell (NH) https://nhscouting.org/camps/camp-bell/ Ed Bryant Scout Reservation (WI) https://www.glaciersedge.org/1468 Sabbatis Adventure Camp (NY) https://www.campsabattis.org/ Cole Canoe Base (MI) https://colecanoebase.com/home.php Voyageur at Many Point Scout Camp (MN) http://manypoint.org/about-us/voyageur/ Camp Baldwin (OR) https://scoutcampsnw.org/camps/camp-baldwin/
  24. mrkstvns

    Information Booth

    Sounds to me like you're on the right track... Activities would, of course, be the best draw for kids, but if space limits what you can do, perhaps a good video loop showing kids really doing fun things might be the ticket. A pack info sheet is a good idea, but I think having it be short and compact is good with lots of pictures and few words, but with pointers to a pack web site where more complete info can be found. A URL for sure, a QR code might be nice for the folks who know how to use 'em on their smart phones. Make sure some kind of pointer to your pack (like URL) is on all the hand-outs. Enthusiastic scouts at the booth can work wonders. When my son was in cubs, the parent night was probably THE most important outreach effort. The pack was chartered by the PTO and while we had a couple kids who were home-schooled or in private schools, the vast bulk of the pack were students in the chartering school. Good luck!
  25. A Boy Scout in Corvalis Oregon knew what to do when he saw the collapsed man... https://www.kptv.com/news/boy-scout-uses-cpr-training-to-help-save-a-life/article_51eb31e2-db42-11e9-803d-6fa28bfc5f63.html