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Posts posted by clemlaw

  1. Who says you can't use a face mask ?  I'm very much for learning how to swim, but there is flexibility.  IMHO, I think it's perfectly reasonable to allow a face mask.  IMHO, it's a similar allowance to allowing someone to pass the swimming test in a indoor heated clean pool.  Otherwise, it would be best to test swimming ability in murky green stagnant lake water with small fish nibbling at your leg hair on a cold windy day.  If we allow clean indoor pool water, I see the facemask as a minor accommodation.  


    I was just going by what others said before me.  My point is that, IMHO, holding your nose and holding your breath works better than any mask I've ever used.  And I don't see how anyone could object to doing that (other than that it makes you look silly, which hasn't stopped me.) :-)

    • Upvote 1
  2. Maybe you can't use a face mask, but my method is even more effective.  I close my eyes, hold my breath, plug my nose, and then jump in.  No water gets in my eyes, nose, or mouth, and I just hold my breath until I bob up to the surface and start swimming.  It doesn't look very stylish, but it meets the requirement.  (I'm usually tempted to make some un-scoutlike comment about the water temperature, but I usually manage to avoid that.)


    For a scout who is afraid of jumping in, I would recommend practicing this first while standing in the shallow end, and perhaps making a couple of practice jumps into water not quite over his head.


    Or, if he's willing to do it with a mask, then maybe practice a few times with a mask, and then showing him that pinching your nose with your fingers works even better than the mask.

  3. When my son did Game Design merit badge, we didn't have a copy of the book and wanted to start reading it.  Lo and behold, we found a bootleg PDF of it online, and he did read most of it online.  We did buy a copy, but it was a matter of having time to read it.


    One of the ironic parts of it was that he read from a bootleg copy the importance of intellectual property.  It's possible that I might have "forgotten" to go buy a copy, but reading the section about intellectual property was enough to guilt me into remembering.


    IMHO, the books are too expensive, and they ought to be made available online for free or a much more reasonable price.  For some merit badges, the book is important.  For others, I don't think there's much reason to have a scout read it.  For example, I'm not sure what one would get out of reading the Swimming merit badge book.

  4. On my first camporee, I was also sent looking for a smoke sifter (and, as everyone knows, it's a sifter, and not a shifter).  I made my way to several troops, each one telling me that they didn't have one, but they were pretty sure some other troop had one and pointed me in the right direction.  At the last site I got to, the kindly scoutmaster asked if I was a new scout, asked me how many other troops I had visited, and finally told me, "I think they're pulling your leg."  He gave me a cookie and sent me back to my troop.  I made sure I was still eating the cookie when I got back so that everyone could see I had a cookie and they didn't.


    As I recall, there were approximately 10,000 other scouts at this camporee, all from our district.  Perhaps there weren't quite that many, but that's what it seemed like.  We were divided up into two groups, named "Crow" and "Sioux."  The main activity was shouting "Crow" and "Sioux" at various assemblies, at the top of our lungs.  When we got home, we all had laryngitis.


    The biggest event was the helicopter landing.  Apparently, a helicopter developed some kind of problem and had to land somewhere, and our big field seemed like the best place to do it.  Various rumors were circulating as to the helicopter.  Some said that they were evacuating an injured scout.  Others thought it was part of the planned events.  They never took off with an injured scout, and we were all kept far away from the helicopter, so I doubt if it was an official part of the program.  (And since the main planned activity consisted of shouting at the top of your lungs, I doubt if they went to the additional expense of hiring a helicopter.)  So the engine trouble theory still seems like the most plausible to me, although I don't think I ever got an official confirmation of that.


    In short, it was a pretty exciting weekend for a 5th grader.

  5. Our council's camp has an excellent family camp with RV sites (and cabins):




    It's very isolated from where the scouts are, so there's not really a problem with helicopter parents.  The programming is mostly geared toward younger kids, and is excellent.  It was originally intended for families of scouts at camp, and they have priority.  But it's open to anyone registered in the BSA.


    They do not have any programs geared toward "workcampers."  In fact, it wouldn't work particularly well for a MBC, since it's so far away from where the scouts are staying (about an hour walk, or about 10 minutes by car to the closest subcamp where the scouts are).


    There's a small amount of interaction with troops, since it's sometimes a destination for troops doing hikes or canoe trips.

  6. I would never have memorized the resistor color codes without a mnemonic device, however it's far to bawdy to reproduce here. I like the trevor saying though!! Personally I just typed the Scout Law out and hung it on the wall in my office until I had it down cold.


    I had already learned the version from a merit badge book before being introduced to the more common version.  Better be right or your great big venture goes west.

  7. In the pack we were in, the Tigers did not compete for the various "best of" categories.  Instead, all of them got a "participation trophy," kind of award.  Normally, I'm not a big fan of participation trophies, but it worked out well, since they were just first graders, probably wouldn't have won a real award, and they got to go home with something.  Occasionally, one of them had a car that actually won the race, so they also got that trophy.  And they all seemed to understand that they could get a trophy the next year by having a really cool car, etc.


    The side effect of this, though, was that their parents were totally disinterested judges, since their own kids were ineligible for those categories.  Since most of them were brand new to the pack, they didn't really know anyone else.  So at some point, they were all brought over, given the list of categories, and decided on the awards.  


    We were a lot less cut-throat about PWD than a lot of other packs I've heard about, but it seemed to work well for us.

  8.  the Committee member in question might be trained to do her or his job properly instead of inventing invalid personal rules on the fly.



    That's basically the way I saw it.  But as I told the scout, the easiest way to solve the problem would be to send me a new card on which I dutifully wrote the numbers 1 through 9.  Chances are, the complainer doesn't even know how many requirements there are.   :)   (If he's really on the ball, then he'll ask whether the scout did 9(a) or 9(b)).


    In fairness to that troop, maybe the card got more scrutiny than normal because it was over a year old.  But the scout seemed to be pretty conscientious when he contacted me, so it wouldn't surprise me if he handed it in in time and they sat on it for a year.


    I don't think it's ever been the case that a scoutmaster was an automatic counselor for everything.  One of the purposes of the program is to get scouts to talk to experts.  It would make sense for the scoutmaster to sign off on camping, etc.  But it doesn't make quite as much sense for atomic energy, dentistry, hog production, etc.

  9. I hate to be the one to put a damper on things, but....


    If I were the scoutmaster, and they couldn't find PFD's, I think I would have told them they can't do it.  Maybe I would relent if some or all of the following were true:  They had something else that floated, the water was known to be less than 3 feet deep, they had rope with them.


    But getting a scared dog into a canoe seems to me to have a risk of someone falling into the water.  If it was warm water, then I might consider it enough of an emergency to ignore the rules.  But it looks like it's far enough from shore that I wouldn't let them risk it in cold water without life jackets, or something else almost as good.


    (I wasn't able to see the video, so maybe it shows something that would make me change my mind.)


    On the other hand, I wouldn't worry about the lack of "oars".  (And I'm guessing that's the reporter's choice of words.)  It sounds like the scouts figured that out.

  10. I don't have a complete blue card in front of me right now, but it was my understanding that the section listing the individual requirements was for the scout's and counselor's use to keep track of which requirements they had finished.  In this case, he did them all in one day.  The front of the card contains my signature that he had completed all requirements.


    In some cases, I remember that I have just written "all" and put the date an initials one time.  Maybe I'll just keep doing that.  This particular card was blank.  And RememberSchiff, yes, I've wondered that, too.  In one case, a scout showed up without a blue card, so I gave him my address and asked him to mail me one.  I saw one of his adult leaders and also mentioned it to him, but I never got a card to sign.  So there's at least one scout out there who did all the work and never got the badge.


    This was a non-required merit badge, and I recently realized that my son, who is Second Class, has almost as many non-required merit badges as he will need for Eagle, and that seems to be true of most scouts.  So unless they decide to collect a bunch of palms, it doesn't really matter.  (I've been careful not to mention this to any scouts, since the merit badge program can expose them to a lot of interesting stuff, so I encourage them to get a bunch of interesting ones, even if they don't really matter as far as advancement.)

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  11. I mentioned in a post above that I had never received a phone call from a scout.  Well, that changed, although it was kind of a strange call.


    It was from a scout who I had counseled at a museum event over a year ago, and already signed off.  He told me that his troop advancement chair didn't accept the blue card because I hadn't filled out the back listing the individual requirements.  So I told the scout that the easiest way to handle it would be to just ask his scoutmaster for a new blue card and send it to me.


    A few days later, he sent me the new blue card, along with the old blue card I had previously signed.  He included a nice note thanking me, and telling me that he enjoyed the event.  He even included a self-addressed stamped envelope, even though I didn't ask for one.  So I signed the new blue card, and dutifully filled in the back of the card, even though it's on the scout's copy, and the front of the card contained my signature that he had done all of the requirements.  I also filled in the back of the old card, so between the two cards, the advancement chair should be happy.  If not, I let the scout know that if the scoutmaster or advancement chair had any questions, that they should contact me, and gave my phone number and e-mail address.


    Now, the only reason that I'm not 100% sure that the advancement chair is excessively nitpicking is the fact that I signed the card over a year ago.  Maybe they examined it more carefully because the scout took so long to hand it in.  But other than the delay, the scout did everything he was supposed to do.  He gave me a blue card signed by his scoutmaster, he did all of the requirements, and he had me sign the card.


    Also, as far as I can tell, I did everything right.  The back of the blue card is the scout's copy, so theoretically, he doesn't even need to hand that in.  The front of the card says that he successfully completed all of the requirements.  But I guess in the future, to keep the writer's cramp to a minimum, I'll have the scouts write down the numbers 1-9 on the back and write the date 9 times so I can put 9 sets of initials.  But it would be a lot easier if the advancement chair wasn't so nitpicky. :)  If the advancement chair had any questions, he could have called me himself, since my number was right on the card.  And believe it or not, I actually had the counselor copy of the original blue card.


    By the way, yes, this was a merit badge "class," but it was one of the relatively rare merit badges that can be meaningfully completed in one day at a "class".  But no, I don't normally like the idea of "classes" either, so please don't nitpick me about that.   :)

  12. If you look in the phone book (or electronic equivalent) for Boy Scouts of America, it should have the number of the local council.  Or, you can just Google "Boy Scouts of America" and your city and state, and you'll probably get the name and contact information of the council who covers the area.  If you call them with the pack number, they should be able to tell you the name of the Committee Chair (the person who is supposed to be in charge of the pack) and/or the Cubmaster (the person who is supposed to be in charge of the activities for the scouts).


    If you don't hear back from them, call the council again and ask to speak to the "District Executive" for that pack.  Each council is divided up into smaller areas called districts.  If you don't know the name of the district, they can look it up from the pack number.  The District Executive is the staff person who is in charge of all of the units in that area.  They should be able to resolve the situation.


    Is your son in 4th grade or 5th grade?  If he's in 4th grade, this is year 1 of the 2 year Webelos program.  If so, the best option might be to find a good pack for the next year.  The Webelos program usually ends about March or April of 5th grade.  If he's in 5th grade, depending on exactly how old he is (and I'm always confused by the age requirements, but it's basically 5th grade), then he's eligible to join Boy Scouts right away.  So if he's in 5th grade, he might be eligible to start Boy Scouts right away, and bypass the whole mess.  If you decide to go that route, visit a few different troops, and feel free to ask here for advice.  


    If the Boy Scout troop--as opposed to a Cub Scout Pack--looks a little bit chaotic, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Boy Scout troops are supposed to be boy led, and sometimes that looks a little chaotic.  But the adult leaders should be on the ball enough to make sure paperwork is sent in relatively fast, items that are paid for get delivered, and phone calls are eventually returned.  It sounds like those things haven't happened here.  Everyone is a volunteer, so you have to expect the occasional problem, but what you described is far beyond that.

  13. Perhaps my council is thinking of improving things.  As I mentioned above, one of the district leaders (I think he's District Chair) is in our troop, and I know that he has a copy of The List if anyone needs to see it.


    Coincidentally, I just received an e-mail from Scoutbook stating that I am being given an account because I'm a MBC.  Currently, there doesn't seem to be anything on that site that's of much use to me, but it does have my merit badges correctly listed.  So I'll go on the assumption that they're trying to figure out some way to look up counselors.  


    Here's the e-mail I received:


    Your council has recently updated its list of approved merit badge counselors
    and shared that information with unit leaders on Scoutbook.
    According to this information you are approved for the following merit badges
    and have selected to work with Scouts in the following districts: ______
    Merit Badges: ___, ___, ____, and ____
    Our records indicate you did not have a Scoutbook account so your council has
    created one for you. Please visit Scoutbook.com and login with the following
    email and password:
    Email: ________
    Temp Password: ________
    If this information is incorrect, please contact your council service center.
    So I'll take this as good news, and hope that this initiative isn't abandoned.
  14. I am not running for President of the United States, and I would decline the nomination if offered.


    I would only consider the position if the Boy Scouts of America agreed to provide me with a uniform reflecting my position as Honorary President.  (However, I would insist that they make a position patch that reads "President of the United States."  Technically, my position in the BSA would be honorary president, but I'm afraid the press would have a field day if I was wearing a uniform that said "Honorary President.")  A special neckerchief would be nice, but that's not absolutely necessary.


    Those are my demands.  If the BSA refuses, then I will refuse to serve.


    I'll forego a pension, as long as they're OK with me selling the "President of the United States" patches on eBay.

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  15. When my son started Cub Scouts, I went to a "University of Scouting" event.  One of the classes was Merit Badge Counselor training.  I signed up for it.  The first thing they did was to have everyone introduce themselves, and everyone went around and gave their name and what troop they were with.  They also talked about merit badge experiences in their troop.


    When they got to me, I told them I wasn't with any troop, and that I planned to sign up as a counselor for the whole district or council.  For most of the people in the room, that was the first they had ever heard of such a thing.  They didn't think it was a bad idea--they had just never considered the possibility.  


    After I took the class, I found the application buried on the council's website, and sent it in.  I never did hear back one way or another.  I had volunteered for about 10 different merit badges, but I stated that I didn't want to do all of them, and asked them to assign me to one or two of my preferred ones, and if they needed me for the others, that they could use me for them as well.


    I never was told which merit badges I was approved for, but a few months later, I got an e-mail from a local scouter who runs merit badge programs asking whether I could counsel one of them at one of his programs.  That was the first I knew that I was approved.  So I knew I was approved for that one (one of my optional listings), but had no idea which other ones I was approved for.  Eventually, at Roundtable, they made an announcement that they needed to update The List, and we should confirm that we still wanted to be on it.  I wasn't allowed to see The List, but they did finally tell me which merit badges I was approved for.


    Today, one of the district's leaders is in our troop, and he has access to The List, and I've been able to confirm that my information is correct.  But The List is still regarded as a mostly secret document.  As far as I know, scoutmasters have no access to it.  So if Johnny Scout wants to do X merit badge, I don't really know what they're supposed to do.  I guess they need to call someone at the district who has access to The List.


    Unfortunately, that issue never comes up, because I don't think Johnny Scout has ever been told that he can do any merit badge that he wants, just by making a phone call.  I guess it's best that he doesn't know, since The List is such a closely guarded secret.


    Anyway, now that I'm an approved counselor, I sit by the phone waiting for scouts to call.  So far, that has never happened.  I asked other adults in my troop who are counselors, and most of them have never gotten a call either.  The one exception is a leader who counsels Environmental Science.  He apparently gets occasional calls from scouts in other troops who got a "partial" at summer camp and need to complete it.


    So I would say that a 20 page out of date typewritten list would actually be an improvement in my district.  (Or maybe in my council--I'm still unclear on whether The List is a secret district document or a secret council document.)


    So far, the only merit badges I've done have been where I put myself forward as a volunteer.  Those have been at district merit badge events and a local scouting museum.  Fortunately, two of the merit badges I counsel happen to be among the rare ones that work fairly well as a "class," where all or most of the requirements can be completed in one day (those are Radio and Signs Signals & Codes).  Other merit badges I counsel don't really work very well as part of a "class," and I've declined requests to "teach" those classes.


    I'm doing my best to get the word out that scouts can do any merit badge, and many of them work best when the scout makes contact with a counselor from outside their own troop.  But I have to concede that it's not really done that way any more.


    I suspect that there are a lot of people in the community who would love to be merit badge counselors and be able to share expertise from their job or hobby.  Before my son started Cub Scouts, I would have gladly volunteered if someone had asked me, but they never did.  Many of those people are former scouts, but there are probably a lot of people not connected with scouting who would be willing to help.  But nobody asks them, and if they are asked, their name is placed on a secret list that nobody's ever going to look at.

  16. I was confused as well and since hunting is not part of the Boy Scout program I was really confused.    Some councils do have organized hunting and sell trespass licenses on their properties.   


    I thought it was something like flagpole sitting.  Scouts sit in the tree stand for X hours in exchange for pledges.  I thought maybe the Scout Executive was demanding to sit there instead of the scouts.  :-)

  17. We brought our camper one time to a Cub Scout "family camp" weekend.  Almost everyone else (the ones who stayed overnight) were staying in the cabin.  I don't mind sleeping in my own tent, but I really don't enjoy sleeping on an old mattress in a cabin (especially if it's advertised as "camping").  So we set up the camper in the parking lot, which seemed like the best option.


    Before the purists jump in, I'll point out that like Stosh, the main function of our camper is as a portable hotel room to save money on hotels and food.  As they say, a Scout is Cheap--er, I mean Thrifty. 

  18. Actually, I learned a couple of them that were not bolded in scouting.


    I'm sure I would have picked it up somewhere else, but when I was a young scout, another scout (my patrol leader) for some reason gave a demonstration on how to replace an electrical plug at a troop meeting.  I think it was some requirement for a merit badge.  


    I don't think I learned how to bake bread in scouts, but I did learn how to cook.  Actually, what I really learned is that cooking is possible, and the main thing you need to do is find the instructions and follow them.  So at some point as an adult, I decided to make bread, so I found the directions and followed them.


    And for phone numbers, I still remember my scoutmaster's and patrol leader's phone numbers!

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