Tag Archives: scouting

The National Jamboree is NOT Your Personal Political Rally

I’m an Eagle Scout, and I find myself once again infuriated with the Boy Scouts of America.

There is a long history of Presidents speaking at the National Jamboree, going back to Franklin D. Roosevelt. They came to inspire leaders of the future. They didn’t come to self-promote, or take cheap shots at political rivals, or encourage the Scouts to boo a former President and First Lady. And they certainly didn’t brag about how they were going to take away many of those kids’ access to healthcare. (Better brush up on that First Aid merit badge!)

Trustworthy? Loyal? Helpful? Friendly? Courteous? Kind? Obedient? Cheerful? Thrifty? Brave? Clean? Reverent? (Well, 1 out of 12…)

If you’re going to speak at an organization that’s supposedly about building character, you ought to show some.

I shouldn’t be surprised that Trump made it all about himself and treated it like a campaign rally. That’s what he does. I’m angry, but I shouldn’t be surprised.

I’m disappointed by the BSA, and I’m especially disappointed by those scouts in the audience who jeered and cheered along with the partisan BS. They should be better than this. The whole point of the organization, in theory, is to be better than this.

But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the BSA, either. While it depends on the individual troop, at the county and national levels the organization has been fighting for the “right” to discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual orientation for years. They finally realized maybe it wasn’t a good idea to kick out gay scouts, but they’re still digging in their heels on religion.

So much for helping other people at all times.

Links: Identity, Kindle, Language, and the Moon

  • Geek Merit BadgesFanboy Scouts has launched a series of Merit Badges for Geeks including achievements for Speedster, Mt. Doom, Tie Fighter Pilot, Away Team, and more.
  • Privacy in terms of contextual identity. How you present yourself to your friends is not how you present yourself to your colleagues, and what you’re willing to share in each context is going to be different.
  • XKCD is probably right about the future of “old-timey” speech. “Forsooth, do you grok my jive, me hearties?” We have a hard enough time getting the mid-twentieth century right, and that’s with people around who lived it!
  • Darryl Cunningham debunks the Moon Hoax in comic-strip form.
  • The new Kindle looks nice. They’re starting to get to the price/feature/polish point where I’d be tempted. (Well, except for that pesky DRM…) Also, Amazon launched Kindle for Android recently, but I haven’t tried it out. While it will run on Android 1.6, it’s a bit big for my G1 unless I clear out some other apps.
    Kindle Wireless 3G+WiFi.

“Oh, There’s a Snake Under My Cot”

When I was around 15, I had a close encounter with a rattlesnake. In my tent. No one was bitten, but getting that snake out was an interesting experience. It happened during a week-long summer camp at Lost Valley Scout Reservation in the mountains northeast of San Diego. It was at least my fourth summer camp with my Boy Scout troop, placing it around 1991 or 1992, and at least my second at Lost Valley.

There are two kinds of campsites at Lost Valley (or at least there were in the early 1990s): One type had simple wooden cabins, which held two bunk beds apiece*. This was the other type, with canvas tents. The canvas made up the roof and walls, and was tied to a metal frame with a plywood floor. (Note: this arrangement is not sealed.) Two cots lay on the floor. Scouts would typically lay out their sleeping bags on top of the cots, and stow their gear underneath.

The site was in a wooded area of the camp — mostly evergreen trees — below a hill, in the Camp Irvine section. Looking in from the road, there was a large rock formation to the right, which I remember a lot of us scouts would climb onto. (It’s the 13th point of the Scout Law: A Scout Climbs Rocks) To the left, the land stayed flat at least as far as the next section of road. Straight back was a fairly steep hill which led up to more campsites and eventually the dining hall, if you were willing to go off-trail and cut through another site. Judging by the map, it looks like it was probably Indian Wells campsite. Edit: My dad points out that the stones had been grinding sites for the local Native American tribes, which may have been the source of the name.

My tent was toward the back. One night** as I was getting ready for bed, I set my canteen down before closing it and accidentally knocked it over. I quickly set it upright, then got down with a flashlight to look at the puddle of water spreading back under my cot, and see if I needed to move anything out of the way.

Looking back at me was a rattlesnake. It had apparently set up its own camp under my bed. I said, surprisingly calmly, “Oh, there’s a snake under my cot.”

“That’s nice,” my roommate, Geoff, who was already half-asleep, mumbled. Followed a few seconds later by, “WHAT!?!?”

I think he went to get an adult while I kept my distance and watched the snake. Or possibly the other way around. Or maybe we both went for help. I definitely recall one of those audio relays of boys saying, “There’s a snake in Kelson’s tent!” Someone went to contact camp staff, and the snake crew showed up. (Chances are pretty good that Phil Brigandi*** was among them.)

Keep in mind that it was dark. It was several hours into night, and the only light came from flashlights and propane lanterns.

Edit: My dad, who was there as a troop leader, adds a little more info:

They used the opportunity to make a point that little rattlesnakes are more dangerous than adults, because they’re less skilled at releasing their venom in small doses. (Otherwise, the snake has no venom for a second strike, in case it needs to fight another enemy.) So little rattlesnakes inject you with everything they’ve got.

Our biggest concern of course was that we didn’t want the rattlesnake to get away while we went and got the snake control guys. (Otherwise, you’ve got the trouble of wondering where it’s GONE!) Of course, nobody was going to try to catch it or anything, so the basic idea was to leave it alone but keep the lights on so we could keep an eye on it. We all counted ourselves lucky when we got back and found that the snake was still where we’d found it!

They don’t kill rattlesnakes when they find them, just relocate them. (Rattlesnakes play a part in the local ecosystem, after all.) Their equipment consisted mainly of a stick with, IIRC, a loop of rope on one end, and a large wooden box. Normal practice involved trying to pick up the snake with the stick, depositing it in the box, closing it in the box, then taking it out somewhere farther away from any people.

There was a problem, though: The snake was too small to pick up. It just kept sliding through the loop. Finally someone (possibly my dad, now that I think about it) picked it up with a shovel and put it in the box. They closed it up, may have loaded it on a truck, and that was the last I ever saw of the snake.

*It was in one of those cabins that I once rolled off the top bunk in my sleep and woke up on the way down, before I hit the floor. I don’t remember it hurting at all. I just climbed out of my sleeping bag, climbed back up, and went back to sleep.

**I think it was the same night that I took my camera and a tripod out to one of the large meadows and experimented with taking pictures of the night sky. I got some fairly decent (for a first-timer) shots of Sagittarius, Scorpio, and the Milky Way, which I’ll have to see if I can find sometime.

***I was prompted to write this when I read Orange County Historian Phil Brigandi‘s account of the first time he ever saw a rattlesnake bite in his many years at Lost Valley Scout Reservation.

Kids’ language and the media

KCRW ran a story on the indecency wars this morning, and quoted someone who was concerned that kids are picking up bad language from broadcast media.

Yeah, right. Broadcast media is so locked down they can’t find that kind of language there.

When I was in middle school, I spent a week working at a cub scout day camp. I think I was around 12 or 13 at the time. The adults warned us that we had to watch our language around the cubs (who were probably around 8 or 9), because they didn’t want the kids picking up any bad words from us. They needn’t have bothered. The kids were far more foul-mouthed around us than we were amongst ourselves, and actually managed to shock us. This was in the late 1980s.

Kids don’t need TV or movies to learn bad words. They learn them from their friends at school, or they learn them from parents, or from neighbor kids.

There was a B.C. comic strip a few years ago that I thought illustrated this point well: Two kids (well, ants) walk into the room, one crying, “Mom, he said the Z-word!” The parents send the kid to his room, then have this brief conversation: “Where’d the little %@#&! learn the Z-word?” “Beats the #@*$ out of me.”

BSA: No Atheists Allowed

What does someone’s religious belief have to do with “teaching boys moral and ethical values through an outdoor program that challenges them and teaches them respect for nature, one another, and themselves?”

Everything, according to the Boy Scouts of America, who have just kicked out an Eagle Scout with 37 merit badges for being an atheist. [edit: originally linked to a Yahoo News story]

Let me point out that it takes a lot of time, work and dedication to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in scouting. It takes several years to work through the ranks, you have to earn a number of merit badges, each representing that you have learned or demonstrated some skill (anything from wilderness survival to accounting), most hold some leadership position, and you have to finish up by organizing and running a community service project, then go through a review board. It’s tough to become an Eagle Scout, and you really have to prove yourself to get there.

So not only did this scout prove himself through years of dedication to the program, extra effort to earn more merit badges than are required, a major service project and an interview with a review board, but he refused to lie when threatened with expulsion. He sounds to me like the kind of person they should be thrilled to have on board.

So I say to Darrell Lambert: they can kick you out of scouting, they may be able to kick you out of NESA, they may even be able to take back your badge (though I’d like to see them try to justify that), but they can’t take away the fact that you were – are an Eagle Scout. You proved that beyond a doubt when you refused to compromise your principles and say you’d changed your mind.

To the BSA: you make me sick. I am still proud to be an Eagle Scout myself, but today I am ashamed to have been a part of your organization.