Are the Boy Scouts Trying to Self-Destruct?

Look, I was a Boy Scout.  Heck, I am an Eagle Scout, and went to the 1975 Boy Scout World Jamboree in Norway.  Boy Scouts were a material part of my youth.  So I’m not a hater.

But (and this is a big ol’ but, oh yeah), in order to stay relevant, organizations have to evolve smartly.  By smartly, I mean in a way that preserves your fundamental goal and purpose, while reflecting the overall direction of society.


Need some examples?  Freddy losing the ascot is smart evolution.  Every major network TV show glorifying tobacco, drugs, sex and general disrespectful behavior is bad evolution.  In other words, there is a sweet spot somewhere between Father Knows Best and 16 and Pregnant.

I’ve expressed previously my concern about the direction the Boy Scouts seem to be taking.  At that point, my mental jury was still out, but I was trying to be supportive.  My son is only 4, so I have some time to decide if and how I will nudge him towards scouting.

But when the Boy Scouts ignore technology, cultural trends, copyright law and common sense at the same time, then I’ve had enough.

In fact, I could sit in a quiet place all day and not come up with anything more ludicrous than the idea that parents shouldn’t listen to legally burned CDs because they look like pirated CDs:

So how can Scouters teach ethical behavior related to music downloading? One way: Set a good example. When you haul around Scouts in your car, for example, only play CDs that you’ve purchased. If you play CDs that you’ve burned—even if they’re legal—your Scouts may not recognize the difference between those and the pirated CDs friends have given them.

Seriously?  Do these guys have any idea how the world works now?  Does the dude who wrote this drive a horse and buggy to work?  Take off the ascot and look around you, dude.

There’s more:

Piracy relates to the concept of honor, but Aretz points out that it also relates to bravery. “Technology makes it easier to be dishonorable in some ways. Therefore, you have to have more courage to act honorably.”

Maybe mathematically, but under the same logic, not only do guns make it easier to kill, but doors make it easier to run away.  I have a feeling all of this data and much of this bad logic was hand-fed to whoever decided to hit the publish button on this unfortunate article by the RIAA and the MPAA.

I don’t pirate music, and I haven’t bought a CD that was available in downloadable format in years and years.  Almost all of my music comes via MP3 download from Amazon.  Even on the rare occasion where MP3 versions of old records I want are not available for purchase, I buy the CD, rip it to my (non-shared) music server and shred the CD.

So. . .

If I ever want to listen to my legally purchased music in my truck, I have to legally burn the purchased MP3s to a perfectly legal and ethical CD-R.

Furthermore, none of my kids or their friends own any CDs, burned or otherwise, as far as I can tell.  They get all of their music via iTunes and tote it around on their iPods and iPhones.

In sum, avoiding CD-Rs because kids are too dumb to know the difference between legally burned media and pirated music was bad advice in the nineties.  It’s ascot-level idiotic in 2010.

Current odds of me nudging my son towards Boy Scouts: down 20% based on this.  Currently standing at 39%.

Do Boy Scouts Matter Anymore?

Today is the 100 year anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.  Wired has a very interesting article asking if the Boy Scouts are still relevant.

That’s a fair question.

I was a Boy Scout.  In fact I am an Eagle Scout, having obtained that rank in November of 1973, at the ripe old age of 13.  Two years later, I went to the Scout World Jamboree in Lillehammer, Norway.  When I got home, I retired from Scouting, at the top of my Scouting game.  Sandy Kofax-style.

I learned a lot from Scouts, and my love of the outdoors was certainly nurtured by the many campouts and other outdoor activities provided by Scouting.  I had some cool Scout Masters, and made some good friends via my troop (long live the Err Bear Patrol!).

image But even then, in the midst of it, I remember feeling just a little like a nerd.  I hate to admit that, given my general tendency to embrace the trappings of my simpler past.  But I’m not going to lie.  My love of the outdoors, my competitive nature that led me to work to become an Eagle and some of the contraband that we smuggled into camp, kept me involved.

But, again, under no one’s definition was I ever a gung-ho Boy Scout.

Only much later did I come to really appreciate the experience.

Me (on the left) at the 1975
Scout World Jamboree

Much like I came to appreciate some (though not all) of the at-the-time-hated so-called great literature that was forced upon me at school- because I came to realize that it was good for me.  So when I try to assess Scouting in 2010, I have to do it from both the perspective of the active Scout (is it fun?) and the adult ex-Scout (was it good for you?).

I’d have to say sort of and yes.

Let’s start with the yes.  Scouting was definitely good for me.  I don’t volunteer the fact that I was a Scout, but when people learn I am an Eagle Scout, they are generally impressed.  Many of my outdoorsman skills were learned through Scouts.

Was it fun?  Yeah, mostly.  More importantly, is it fun now?

Like many parts of life, the Scouting experience has been politicized and watered down to the point that, I suspect, the Scouting experience now is very different from the one I had.  For one thing, as I understand it, entire families now go on Scout campouts.  Sorry, but I think that’s odd.  I go camping all the time with my family.  But Boy Scouts should be a different experience.  How can you really learn to get along outdoors if dad and mom are in the tent with you?

Perhaps these rules are mainly for younger Scouts, but still.  I remember when I was initiated into the Order of the Arrow.  They made us work like dogs for 14 hours clearing trees from a future campsite.  Then they gave us a sleeping bag and an egg, and dropped us off in the woods for the night, each of us alone.  That was the high point of my Scouting experience, even if I never did get that egg cooked.

I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it’s like that now.

I’m going to intentionally leave aside the issue of gays as Scout Masters and atheists being oppressed by the Scout Oath, and whatnot.  I see both sides of the former issue (though if pressed I will always end up on the pro-gay-rights side), and I am bored by the latter.

So is it fun?  Is it relevant?

At the end of the day, I have to say yes.  I come down on the pro-Scouting side largely because I think the Scouting experience, however diluted it may be, is better than just about any of the alternative ways for a boy to spend his weekend.

A campout, even one that everyone and his entire family attends where people tip-toe around on eggshells to avoid offending the ready-to-be-offended, has to be better than sitting in front of a computer or TV.  Learning to build a fire (assuming they still allow fires), has to be better than learning how to frag some other kid in some super-violent online, inside Xbox game.

It ain’t perfect.  Maybe it’s a little nerdy at times.  But it’s an existing framework that allows kids to get outside.  Maybe learn a skill or two.

That’s got to be OK.

Sunday Mashup: Camping, Sporting Clays and Shotgun Shells

This weekend we spent a lot of time outside, enjoying the beautiful weather.

Saturday morning Delaney and I drove north for a little over an hour to attend an Indian Princess campout.  Delaney had a blast hanging out with her friends, and I had fun meeting some of the other daddies.

This morning we had breakfast and a closing ceremony, and headed back home.

We got home around 10:30 a.m., so I decided to try to beat the coming rain and shoot some sporting clays.

It was windy and it felt like it was going to start raining any moment- though it didn’t.  Still, I felt a little rushed, and didn’t have my best day.  I shot 61 of 72, for an 84% mark.  That’s a decent percentage, but it was on the easier South Course.


Station 10 killed me, and it’s not particularly hard.

If you’re wondering (and I guess even if you’re not), the iPhone program I use to score sporting clays is ClayTracker (iTunes link).  It’s a $20 program, which blew my mind at first, until I thought about it.  There’s probably a pretty small market for a sporting clays scoring app, so if we want developers to write for a niche market, we have to be willing to pay a little more.  On the whole I am pleased with ClayTracker.  It is well designed and graphically pleasing.  If the developers continue to add features, it will remain one of my favorite apps.

Among the features I’d like to see added are:

1. Skeet scoring, which the developers say is coming.

2. A “Notes” feature where you can quickly add notes about the various stations.  This would be extremely helpful when you’re scouting a new course.

3. More stats, easily accessible.  For example, when I arrive at a station I shoot a lot, I’d like to be able to easily access my recent or lifetime stats for that station.  Historical graphs would also be helpful.  That would let me see my rabbit percentage approaching 30%.  OK, 25%.

4. The ability to snap a photo of a station for future reference.

5. An online service, where your stats would be automatically uploaded and available for review or sharing.  You could even create and link tutorials on YouTube or some other video repository.  It would be cool to be able to access a rabbit tutorial while whiffing at a rabbit station (though miraculously I hit 2 out of 3 rabbit shots today, including the first half of a double).

image Afterwards, Delaney and I went to Academy Sports to buy some gun-cleaning patches and a little Hoppe’s No. 9.  While there, I made an important discovery.  As all shooters know, finding cheap shotgun shells is a never-ending quest.  Generally, I alternate between Carter Country and Academy, based on who has what on sale.  Recently, I have been frustrated at the local Academy to find that the shells I want are not on sale, when other similar shells are.  For example, the last two times I have been there I found a big stack of 20 gauge cases on sale, intermingled among the identical cases of 12 gauge shells which were not on sale.  Today, after telling Delaney we weren’t going to buy any shells because they were too expensive, we wandered over to the camping aisle.  There, far away from the hunting and shooting gear, were cases of Remington 12 gauge shells for $59.  That’s not the best price you can find, but it’s close enough.  So if you’re going to Academy in search of shells, look around.  They may have cheap shells in an unusual location.  And based on my experience, they may not tell you they’re over there.

So I stocked up on shotgun shells, came home and cleaned my guns, and put them away in the (locked) gun cabinet.

With any luck, Cassidy and I can prevail upon the rest of the family to finish off a great weekend with a sushi dinner.

Photos: Tents in Town

Raina was the chair of a fundraising event this weekend to raise money for our local parks.  At “Tents in Town” families bought campsites at one of our local parks and camped out.  There was food, music, friends and tents.  It was cold- perfect camping weather.  Everyone had a great time, and I took some pictures.

Cassidy and Evie chatting at the campsite

Evie, Cassidy, Rachael and Delaney

Cassidy on top of the fort at the nearby playground

Newsome Kids in Print

Bellaire Eaxminer 0309a

Cassidy, Delaney and Luke are on the front page of the printed and online editions of the Bellaire Examiner, our local newspaper.  Raina is the chair of a fund raising event for the local parks.  Here’s the full story.

Cassidy and Delaney are old pros at the paper thing.  They’ve been in papers and magazines numerous times.  In fact, Cassidy’s first media experience was when she was one.  On the cover of Money Magazine, thanks to one of her daddy’s bad investments.


Blogging Frio

Helicopter Ride
Cassidy and Larsen flying around Frio

We’re back on the Frio River, for our annual summer camping, tubing and fishing trip. 6 families, 11 very happy kids.

We tubed for about 4 hours yesterday. We’ll go back to the river today for some more tubing. Tomorrow we’ll go on a trail ride in the morning and find somewhere to fish in the afternoon.

Cassidy, Delaney and some of their friends got to ride around in the helicopter on Sunday afternoon.

Light blogging this week, as Verizon cannot hear me now from here- though people on Cingular have stong service.

Camp Newsome

What a fun and busy weekend.

On Friday night, Cassidy’s entire Brownie Troop camped out in our yard. We had 15 Brownies, 6 Girl Scout helpers and 6 moms. The girls played games, sang songs, had a scavenger hunt and had a grand time.

Delaney and I went to the Astros exhibition game on Friday night with the Veldman boys (the girls were at the campout). Delaney loves the Astros, and it was a great chance for us to spend some Delaney/Daddy time.

On Saturday, Cassidy had a sleepover with a friend in Sugar Land, and today we had a cookout and soccer game with the Clarks. The girls (Cassidy, Delaney, Evie, Raina and Yvette) beat the boys (me, Greg and Aidan) 10-5. Afterwards the kids swam and had some blueberry pie for dessert.

Luke is too little to play soccer, but he did get in the pool for the first time today.

Big fun meant little blogging.

Work resumes tomorrow. Regular blogging resumes tomorrow night.