Friday, September 9, 2011

The change scouting can make

Here in Texas we have been experiencing one of the worst wildfire events in Texas history. It's amazing what happens in the time need. People feel closer, communities bond together, and everyone seems to come together for the relief of those suffering.

Texas is one of those unique places in the world where we respect privacy but we are there for each other. That quality seems to be passed on from each generation and seems to instill itself in all those that transplant themselves to the state.

Scouting in Texas takes these qualities very seriously. Now, I've seen the latest set of school age children, be engrossed in Xbox, the internet and iPhones. My son included until he got into scouting. Now that he's been involved for three years and a Webelos 2, there have been miraculous changes.

When I first showed him the videos of the wildfires in Bastrop, where we go camping and have spent alot of time at the scout ranches. He had this look of shock. Then his first words out of his mouth were, "Dad, we have to get the den and the other Webelos together and go help those people."

A year ago I wouldn't have expected to hear that from him, but the scout oath and law are really sticking out in his mind and it has made a difference even, at 10.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to Sleep Cool in the Texas Summer

In researching a new fan for a Webelos Extreme Camp in a couple of weeks. I ran across this article on the web site It has quite a few tips on how to keep cool on a summer night. If anyone has woken up with swollen eyes, hands and feet from a hot Texas night,you know that one of the best things you can invest in, is a portable battery powered fan.

So once you have one try some of these suggestions below.

"Fan and Ice
When a hot night keeps you from sleeping or sleeping well, try the fan and ice solution. There are a couple of ways to do this, so let's start with the best way.

Frozen container
Find a plastic container of some kind, such as an empty gallon bottle. Fill it with water about 75% full, put the lid or cap on and then freeze it. Then put the frozen gallon bottle right in front of a directional fan and turn the fan on. (A ceiling fan will not work as well.)

As you may have guessed, the air blowing from the fan will be cooled as it passes by the frozen container. For maximum cooling of your body, place the fan close to where you are sleeping and direct the fan toward you, keeping the frozen container between you and the fan.

If you don't prefer having the air blowing directly on you, then direct the fan elsewhere in the room, but be sure to keep the frozen container in front of it. This will eventually circulate the ice-cooled air to where you are sleeping. How long it will take for the container to thaw depends largely on how hot it is in the room, but it should last long enough to allow you to fall asleep comfortably.

Ice cubes
Another way to use ice-cooled air to help you sleep better is to use (a few dozen) ice cubes. You will need a container, bowl or tray to place the ice and to collect the water as the ice melts. You should probably be able to find such a container in your kitchen.

Put the ice in the container and then place it right in front of the fan and turn the fan on. Just as with the frozen container, for maximum cooling of your body, place the fan close to where you are sleeping and direct the fan toward you, keeping the ice between you and the fan.

If you don't prefer having the air blowing directly on you, then direct the fan elsewhere in the room, but be sure to keep the ice in front of it. This will eventually circulate the ice-cooled air to where you are sleeping. How long it will take for the ice to melt depends largely on how hot it is in the room, but it should last long enough to allow you to fall asleep comfortably.

The ice cube method is not as good as the frozen container method for a few reasons.

First, with the frozen container method, you don't have to worry about collecting the melted ice. Second, the ice cube method will likely add to the humidity in the room because the ice and melted water are exposed to the air. However, the frozen container is sealed with its top or lid, which will not allow for significant evaporation. Third, ice cubes make noise when they melt by tumbling down on one another or onto the tray. This noise may wake you or keep you on edge.

Cold Thoughts
When a hot night is keeping you from getting good sleep, remember this: The mind has tremendous power over the body.

Our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs can affect our physical state, for better or worse. For example, by thinking cool or cold thoughts when you are hot, you can actually make yourself more comfortable. And, by contrast, by focusing on how hot you are when you are hot, you can actually make yourself more uncomfortable.

Skeptical? The next time you are struggling to sleep because of heat, say the following passage a few times to yourself.

I'm so cold. The wind won't stop blowing snow in my face. The freezing temperature leaves my hands, feet, arms, legs and face feeling like thick blocks of ice. I can see my breath so clearly. A burst of frigid wind just blew up under my jacket causing me to gasp in shock. Numbness.

The sky is thick with icy clouds and I feel no warm sunlight. I only feel unending, merciless bitter cold that seems determined to rob me of the little warmth that I have left in my body. I would give anything--anything at all--to be warm for just one minute. I'm so cold.

You get the idea. (Just writing this made me cold.) You can make up your own passage if you wish. The key with using these kinds of thoughts effectively is to make them as specific as possible to paint a vivid picture in your mind. It may take some practice to get good at creating and using these cold thoughts, but the effort will likely result in better sleep on hot nights.

Get Used To It
This is the solution for the tough people out there.

If having to sleep in warm temperatures is more common than not for you, then you may just want to surrender to the heat. Instead of fighting the heat by using the solutions on this page, you can face the heat head on. By fully exposing yourself to the heat over a period of time when you try to sleep, your body will get used to the heat to to some extent.

In other words, your body will toughen against the heat, and you'll find that you can sleep better in it. How long it can take for a person to get used to the heat varies for each person. The young and healthy, of course, will likely adapt more quickly. Regardless of your age and health, however, expect to have at least a few nights of being uncomfortable before you begin to get used to the heat.

And, of course, there is a limit to how much heat you can get used to. Sleeping in temperatures above 75 degrees can be difficult for anyone, no matter how hardened to the heat one may be.

Use Evaporative Cooling
Evaporative cooling is not just a fancy scientific term. It can save you from misery on a hot night, allowing you to sleep better.

What is it? Evaporative cooling is a phenomenon in which evaporation of a liquid, typically into surrounding air, cools an object or a liquid in contact with it. For example, when our bodies sweat and then the sweat evaporates upon contact with air, we feel cooler because the heat needed for this evaporation is taken from our body.

It's important to remember that evaporative cooling cannot occur much, if at all, in high humidity because the air cannot take any more water.

Make sure you have air circulation on a hot night
On a hot night, you will often sweat a lot. To make sure that this sweating results in you being as cool as possible, you should have air circulation in the bedroom, either by using a fan or having a breeze coming in through the window.

Even if the air is warm it's important to do this because the air movement will cause your sweat to efficiently evaporate and cool your body as a result. The worse thing to do when you are hot is just lay there with no air circulation.

When air circulation alone is not enough
Sometimes, however, when it's really hot, sweating and air circulation are not enough to keep you comfortable and relaxed enough to sleep well. In these times, you need to create some additional evaporative cooling. To do this you will need, in addition to a fan or breeze from a window, a water adsorbent cloth (a medium-sized cotton towel is suitable) that is soaked with cool water. You don't want the cloth dripping wet, but you do want it saturated with water. Lie on the bed on your back and place the wet cloth on your chest area. Make sure the fan's air or breeze from the window can reach the cloth.

Because of evaporative cooling, the air blowing on the wet cloth will cool the cloth and your chest since it is in contact with it.

By having the cloth on your chest, you are cooling the blood that your heart is circulating all around your body, resulting in a cooler body, not just a cooler chest.

Hopefully, the evaporative cooling will make you comfortable enough that you fall asleep quickly. If you don't fall asleep quickly, keep in mind that when the water in the cloth has evaporated, you will need to wet it again. (How long it takes for the water in the cloth to evaporate depends on the strength of the air circulation and the humidity level in the room.)

Understanding a little about evaporative cooling and how to achieve it can make a big difference. It may just make the next hot night bearable and allow you to sleep better.

Cold Compress on Chest
When you are lying in bed, place something cold on your chest.

Remember that your heart pumps blood around your body, so by keeping something cold on your chest, you can cool the blood as your heart pumps it out. For this reason, if you are going to place something cold anywhere on your body to help you cool down, it should be on your chest.

What exactly should you place on your chest? You could use a cold, wet cloth. And it will achieve maximum cooling power if air is blowing on the wet cloth because of evaporative cooling. Or you can fill a plastic bottle with water about 75% full and freeze it.

Placing this on your chest will feel quite cold, however. You can reduce the coldness somewhat by placing a cloth between you can the frozen bottle.

Turn Off Heat Sources
If you have incandescent lights, computers or a TV in your bedroom, or anything that gets warm when it is on, turn it off well before you try to go to sleep. This will give the room a chance to cool down as much as possible.

Incandescent lights give off heat as well as light. The higher the light bulb's wattage, the more heat it will give off. If you have just one or two high wattage incandescent lights on in your bedroom, this can increase room temperature as much as 5 degrees, perhaps more depending on the size of your room. If you must have light on in your bedroom when the weather is warm, consider using a compact fluorescent bulb. It gives off little heat.

Also be sure to close window blinds if the windows allows in direct sunlight. The direct sunlight will heat up whatever it comes into contact with, such as carpeting or furniture. These things will then radiate the heat they have absorbed for possibly hours after the sun has set, leaving your bedroom warmer than it needs to be.

Drink Cold Water Throughout Night
Take a few sips of ice-cold water throughout the night. This will cool your core temperature leaving you more comfortable. (Do not, however, drink an ice-cold caffeinated beverage since this may keep you awake.)

Sleep Low
Because cold air is denser than warm air, it sinks to near the floor or ground. Therefore, you may find that sleeping on the floor on a hot night is a few degrees cooler than sleeping in your bed which is higher up. Or for a more dramatic difference, if your bedroom in upstairs consider sleeping downstairs on a hot night."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review "Into The Wild"

Possibly one of the best movies on what not to do. I first heard this story years ago when I was overseas living in Turkey. It seemed impossible that a person in 1992, college educated would put themselves in such situations as to starve to death.

I recently picked up the book by Jon Krakauer. Then compared the movie version. Now there's lots that could be said about both. The one outstanding thing I can say is that this young man with all his personal issues, he was captured by the so called romance of the wild. Scouts get great training on how to survive, when they are out in the world either on a high adventure trip or later in life. They will most likely run into someone like the main character. In those situations their training or their ability to teach will most likely save a life.

Christopher McCandless whose real life, which the book is based on is a shining example of what you should not do in the wild. He believed he was prepared to go into the wild and survive by reading a few books and taking some notes while talking to a hunter. He did have several successful experiences in survival on the edges of civilization, but he was always where someone bestowed kindness on him. Many young people get the idea that they could "just go do it," with no training or first hand experience. Especially in today's video game society where they believe playing "Deer Hunter" is practice enough to live in the woods.

One of the points that McCandless said was one of the great disappointments of his life, was the loss of meat from a big game animal he had killed. This could have fed him for a long time IF he had taken the right steps in preservation and had learned the art of field dressing.  Had he taken one hunting season to go out with his hunter, mentor and had at least one first hand experience in these skills he would have most likely been able to make some of the food last. This may have been enough to get him through till hunting season where he would have been found. Which is what happened to his body two weeks after his last journal entry.

Second, he did not take even a map out. He also didn't do a recon of the area. Now, being ex military and learning a bit of survival in different trainings I had. That is one thing I would have not left undone. At least find out where safety was IF something happened and I could get to it. I once was in a situation where a buddy and I had to hike it out of the bush 20 miles with dysentery. Not my most glorious memory, but we knew where safety was and even though it was going to be a long slow trek. We paced ourselves and got out of there. From reviews of the situation Chris put himself in, he was so close to being able to get to safety, but he didn't even have a map or had performed a local knowledge recon to know how close he actually was to help when he needed it.

I've known a few people like this in my life, and at times I have thought some of the same thoughts. Get away from society. Leave it all behind and just live off the land. But even in my own survival experiences I knew to map it out, pack more than you think you need in dry foods, and if you don't know what a plant actually is don't eat the whole thing until you've tried a small amount with no reaction.  But I had training as a youth by my grandfather who was raised by a mountain man of the Ozarks and in the Army as a Forward Observer for the Artillery and other scouting/survival training.

Three things that caused this young man's death that as Scout Leaders we should train our Scouts in.  First and Foremost, let as many people as possible know where you are going and check-in times. Second, make a plan and deviate as needed but plan something. If food is running low, head back to town while you have some left. Third, map it out. Get TOPO map, Road map or go to the local library and sketch one out, make notes of places to run to in an emergency. Arm yourself with the lay of the land before you hike into the unknown.

My two cents worth, but has gotten me out of bad situations in the past. But this is something I think older scouts should read as a "Don't do this" guide.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nature Hikes Are Thearaputic For ADHD Kids

This an article from The New York Times and referenced in the Scoutmaster Blog by Clarke Green.

"A small study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at how the environment influenced a child’s concentration skills. The researchers evaluated 17 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, who all took part in three 20-minute walks in a park, a residential neighborhood and a downtown area.

After each walk, the children were given a standard test… The study found that children were able to focus better after the “green” walks compared to walks in other settings.

Although the study is small, the data support several earlier studies suggesting that natural settings influence psychological health. In 2004, a survey of parents of 450 children found that “green” outdoor activities reduced A.D.H.D. symptoms more than activities in other settings.

Despite the small size, the study is important because it involves an objective test of attention and doesn’t rely on children’s or parents’ impressions. During the walks, all of the children were unmedicated — participants who normally took medications to control their A.D.H.D. symptoms stayed off the drugs on the days of the walks.

The researchers found that a “dose of nature” worked as well or better than a dose of medication on the child’s ability to concentrate."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rouge Units and the Charter Organization

At times there are units that can go ROUGE. Meaning that they believe that they are an independent entity. Meaning that they do not have a relationship with the Charter Organization or Communications with the District/Council except for attending training that can be signed up for online.
BSA works because of the Charter Organizations. Without them the Units cannot exist. This is because of both organization reasons and legal reasons. The unit is an extension of the Charter organization that follows the guidelines of the BSA. So a "franchise" of the BSA but wholly owned by the Charter organization. If a unit decides to move its designation then they mus have permission of the Charter Organization to take its equipment, resources and any money with it. For instance any money in a Troop account or any Cub Mobile a pack has is the Charter Organizations. 
Consequently, if the unit does not have a relationship with the Charter Organization and does not keep them informed on the health and proceedings of the Unit, they can terminate the charter. For instance if a unit has new leadership and the leaders have keys to the Charter Organizations facilities but have not signed them out. This can lead to problems with the Charter Org. If contact from the Charter Org is not returned, the Charter Org can not operate without knowledge of the units activities, they may change access method to the facilities and terminate the charter.
A best practice is to have regular meeting with the Charter Org Rep, and include them in planning activities if they want to be involved. At a minimum the unit should do a semi-annual review of unit activities.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Product Review - JetBoil Stove

Jet Boil Cooking System

This is a great little cooking system. I was able to pick this up on sale from REI for $69. They have a whole line of accessories, such as a frying pan and 1 liter companion cup. Now the system comes with a 750ml cup, fuel tan holder, burner and pot holding accesory. The ZIP which is the one i picked up does not have the an automatic lighter but the open heat sink open system allows for easy ignition with a lighter. A full cup will be warm enough in about 1.5 minutes to use for rehydrating soup, dehydrated meal, coffee or tea. The lid has both a pour side and a strainer. The insulated cup hold the heat really well. I had a cup of hot coffee for about 45 minutes. The really great thing is that all the parts including jetboil fuel tank fit within the inside of the cup. This allows for the entire cooking system to take up very little room in a backpack. total weight is around 1.5 lbs. the only draw back is that it only boils a small amount of water at a time. It can be used for one person or many cups have to be done one at a time for larger groups. Recommend getting the companion cup minimally for cooking meals and hot water for cleaning and hot drinks. It can also hold two fuel canisters.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Can a Scout earn the Arrow of Light in his first year of Webelos?

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is that the guidelines for earning the Arrow of Light do not specify that the scout more than the following time requirements.

"Be active in your Webelos den for at least six months since completing the fourth grade (or for at least six months since becoming 10 years old), and earn the Webelos badge."

If these requirements are met then the award can be given. Following the guidelines of the BSA, a unit cannot add too or take away from the award. The cub master can not add the requirement of only being in the second year of Webelos to grant the award.

As a suggestion contact your district's chapter of the Order of the Arrow and ask if they have a ceremony team. If so they usually can do a really great ceremony called the Four Winds. I had my OA team do this for my pack and it was fantastic. The good thing about this is that it revitalizes interest in moving up to Boy Scouts and gives the boys a boost to work on it. My personal opinion is to get a group of Webelos together to earn the rank so that they can have the ceremony together and once a year. That way it makes it a special and looked forward to by the scouts.