Troop Culture

If you’ve read some of my posts you’ve seen references to my son’s troops (plural). Well we’re back to a troop which gives me a chance to comment on troop culture. It’s sort of neat to see the differences between organizations, and I have to add I’m rather glad that both youth are now with the smaller troop. (In order to protect the innocence and as both units are very good I’m leaving unit numbers etc out of this post).

The troop my son left, which served as a refuge during an upheaval at his old troop, has a long and storied history as one of the “movers and shakers” of the district. It is quite large (about 80 boys), which is about three times Baden-Powell’s ideal size and clearly successful. They are very good at following the awards and trappings of scouting.

The troop he (re)joined is smaller, has a bit of a reputation for being rough and ready, and doesn’t always help with district events (though that is changing).  It’s not the most organized unit in the world, and definitely doesn’t have the spic and span uniforms of the bigger troop.

What determined my son’s choice really is where his buddies are (they got in touch via facebook), but another major factor was the troop culture of adventure.

The big troop, for all its resources, treats the youth as though they are physically fragile. If it’s cold – they cancel events (maybe changing the activities is a good idea), if it’s wet they cancel events, and if it is too demanding they put limits on the participants. For example you have to be so big or so old to go backpacking. It is sort of a webelos den++. (mixed metaphor but C++ is an “improved” C language).  In fairness, given the difficulty of herding 80 cats, it’s not surprising that they need to have a well-organized (e.g. mostly adult run) machine.

The smaller troop, is a little reckless, if anything. They “bail out” if conditions are truly bad, but that’s rare. If a troop activity is planned, everyone is welcome. If it is really strenuous, then that is made clear, but if a scout comes he makes it through. I have a picture (and the scoutmaster keeps a copy on his notebook) of a practice trip for Philmont. It was taken about 5 miles from nowhere along the Georgia-South Carolina border. The older scouts are there, with the younger ones next to them, and there is a visiting cub scout in front. (in fairness he is my other son and had already been backpacking with the family so this was not a big deal). They’re smiling, they’re having fun.

I think the event that made this clear, was the relative behavior on two trips this winter. The Venture crew for the big troop canceled a canoe/snorkel trip because it was cold (canceling the snorkeling was very wise – but everything else?). The adults, who are really supposed to be “hands off” with Venturers overruled the youth.   (by the way Venture crews are all older youth, who may or may not be scouts or even boys – the adults really are meant to be resources and not scoutmasters.) The other troop had a regular campout that weekend and despite the extreme cold went on it. Next month the small troop had its big adventure trip planned – the Okeefenoke canoe trip I wrote about in this blog – and it was not exactly clement weather. In fact at least one scout troop bailed out. We just made sure we were prepared and had a blast.

When thinking about scouts – the show or “sizzle” of an outdoor program is important, but the meat of delivering it is critical

Written by Rob in: outdoors,scouting |

Playing with the new Asus EEE pc1000

Always looking at new toys and I like the asus netbooks for their small size and solid state drives.

There are lots of reviews on the web about the software, and i’m not going to add to them.

As configured there is a problem with them for CS people, though. NO COMPILERS! and the usual synaptic mechanism fails. (in fact it fails badly and if you force it to work you’ll roach the operating system and have to reload). This is horrible.

But – and this is a neat feature – Asus makes a software development kit available. It can be downloaded both from Asus and sourceforge I found the sourceforge version to be much faster to download and it is a disk image that can auto install if needed.

Since I don’t have a disk reader for this box (yet) I worked around it with

sudo su

mount -o loop sdk_file_name.iso sdk

and then put a file:/// link in synaptic (pointing to the local mount point)

g++ and gcc and gjc now work fine and I can go ahead and get the rest of the tools as needed.


Written by Rob in: engineering,laboratory practice |

Wilderness First Aid training

I’m just back from getting my wilderness first aid certification so that my son’s crew can go to northern tier. I attended the SOLO course that was given at the allatoona scout base.

It was a blast, and I learned a lot of things – and had a lot of things confirmed. The instructors were skilled and experienced (though I have some reservations about when they went past the rough outlines of physiology).

The one big difference between backcountry firstaid and “on the streets” firstaid is that you have to make some of the decisions that an EMT or paramedic would do because they won’t be there in time.
It was really neat to understand what an epi-pen does, and that you need use benadryl as well because all the epi-pen does is open the airways so you have time to use the anti-histamine. We spent a fair amount of time about spinal injuries and when to apply direct traction for a break (basically if the break is cutting of circulation then you need to straighten it – otherwise don’t mess with it). We also learned how to “clear” a spinal injury which is critical because if someone is just hurt vs. having a really serious injury then we have a lot more choices.

It was also useful to go over what should be in the medical supplies kit, and I’m definitely adding a few things for the Norther Tier kit (samsplints, extra cravats, a lot of rapidly available benadryl, and sterile gauze pads, wound cleaning material, honey) as well as removing a few things (antibiotic creams aren’t that useful)).

So I would recommend a course like this to anyone who is spends a fair amount of time in the wild.

I did have my qualms about some of the physiology etc. It wasn’t clear that they quite understood the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes or how some things work. One place that really did grate had to do with why brain function diminishes in a certain order. Basically higher functions like reasoning decay faster under stress (shock, hypothermia, trauma) than lower functions like breathing. The instructors were (I think) of the fundamentalist streak and had “intellectual difficulties” with evolution. (by the way this doesn’t make them bad people and they spend a fair amount of their life volunteering to help people who really need it in places where western medicine isn’t available). It is really difficult to explain how the brain is organized (or for that matter how any vertebrate anatomy is organized) without understanding the evolution of the organism. The primitive brainstem (remember primitive means everyone has it – derived, advanced or higher means only a few have it) is present in everything that has a head and tail. It supports the basic logic needed to keep a worm-like critter alive. Higher or more advanced features are layered onto it in a sequence that reflects the features were selected for. So the next layer out is the “reptilian brain” which are those features that support the types of behavior that were selected for in critters like fish amphibians and (some) reptiles. The outer layer supports the even more diverse behavior in birds and mammals (including blogging). Since the layers are built one upon another, as they have to because selection modifies the developmental program in the process of introducing new features, they activate in that order. (the brain stem predates the rest of the brain in the embryo, and maturation of the whole brain takes a few years post-utero) They also decay in reverse order, simply because the amount of metabolic support for the whole brain is higher than for the inner parts.

Written by Rob in: outdoors,science,scouting |

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