Hothousing toddlers with complicated story books does not give them an advantage over other children, researchers have found. Reading a picture book with one or two words per page is just as beneficial.
We’ve been preaching this for years: Just read. Magazines. Novels. Picture books. Comic books. The back of baseball cards. Anything. Only requirement: A kid has to be interested in what he is reading.
All BSA employees, including us here at Boys’ Life, received the following letter from Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock today:
As you can imagine, a number of our councils in the Northeast are still struggling mightily to recover from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy. And a Nor’easter is bringing even more weather damage to the region this week with snowfall and other hazardous conditions.
Reports are still coming in concerning any injuries to our people and damage to BSA facilities, and the National Office stands ready to assist in any way we can. We ask you to join us in keeping the councils in this stricken area in your thoughts and prayers. They have a long road ahead of them to restore their homes and property as well as their programs to support our Scouts.
Many of you have asked how you can help. For any neighboring councils that have the people and resources to lend a hand with transportation, supplies, or other immediate needs, we ask that you work through Jim Hans, associate regional director/support for the Northeast Region, to coordinate your relief assistance. For councils in other parts of the country, we believe monetary assistance would be the most valuable resource you could provide at this time.
The worst damage seems to be in several council camps where many trees are down and some have destroyed buildings. Some council offices have had water damage and several staff members have experienced damage to their personal property. Many Scouts and units have probably lost camping gear, uniforms, trailers and other supplies. If you would like to make a donation to aid councils recovering from Hurricane Sandy, please go to theBSA Disaster Relief Fund page for instructions.
Meanwhile, we have already seen tremendous examples of how our commitment to serve others is rising to this occasion. Here are just two examples of many Scout troops that are responding with service. Boy Scout Troop 683 in Pamlico County, North Carolina is establishing drop-off locations for the public to donate non-perishable food, water, and clothing to Sandy victims. And in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Scouts from Troops 109 and 1910 – many who experienced problems of their own from Sandy’s wrath – have assisted the National Guard with people who have lost power and are out of their homes.
I am very proud of how these Scouts and others have volunteered to assist so many people in need. Let’s all muster whatever support we can to assist our people through this difficult time.
As a guy who not only writes for a living but also judges other people’s writing for that same living, I’m a sucker for tip lists from famous writers. They always make it seem so simple.
Which, in fact, writing is. Simple. If only we “writers” would get out of our own way and stop trying so hard.
Here, from one of my new favorite websites (Brainpickings.org) and Tweeters (Maria Popova, the genius brainpicker herself) comes noted author Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing:
2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
7. Laugh at your own jokes.
8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
I went to my daughter’s middle-school open house the other night and learned about something I probably should have already known. (Or, more likely, I had been taught this at some point and promptly forgot it.)
It’s a paper called “Describing 16 Habits of Mind” by Arthur L. Costa, Ed.D., and Bena Kallick, Ph.D., and it’s a highly recommended read. The paper describes how we can best use our brainpower to solve problems, questions, tasks, etc.
The 16 habits of mind are:
• Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
• Managing impulsivity
• Gathering data through all senses
• Listening with understanding and empathy
• Creating, imagining, innovating
• Thinking flexibly
• Responding with wonderment and awe
• Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
• Taking responsible risks
• Striving for accuracy
• Finding humor
• Questioning and posing problems
• Thinking interdependently
• Applying past knowledge to new situations
• Remaining open to continuous learning
Google and ye shall find the complete paper. It’s worth your time.
I served as a Boy Scout until I moved away from the Bronx, NYC and took my last year of high school in Yorktown Heights, NY. A suburb in the county of Westchester one- hour north of the Bronx. For the first time in High School, there were girls. However I just say I was a Boy Scout, until I turned 18.
I made it to LIFE with 32 Merit Badges, two religious medals, Leadership Corps, Patrol Leader, Scribe and finally when as a scout FIRST CLASS, 9 weeks at summer camp, as a counselor in training or CIT. This is how a Bronx scout went to achieve LIFE.
Trustworthy is the first of twelve laws taught to me, and one to this day that defines me. I learned to trust one’s direction upon walking a trail I never walked before. Or to rely on another to carry my weight when I could no longer. This law kept its meaning and memory as I grew from a scout into a professional photographer. As a photographer, I’ve learned to trust my ideas and to trust those I professionally needed to complete these ideas. I found a team I knew I could trust, because I knew how.
That trust grew into loyalty, the second law, to learning what a scout meant. Photography is a career one must find true within themselves and to become loyal to that truth, not only within oneself, but also to those, in front of their camera. Loyalty is a part of creativity, but only when you gain trust.
Helpful became easy as a scout. Helpful found its way with determination to become aware of those in need, this was a given without even knowing the laws. Yet later on in my career, helpful to those who ask, meant taking time away from something else. But whether that help was to help another understand ways to take a better picture, or to be available to someone I’ve never met, I’ve kept true as a scout.
Friendly was not so easy to maintain as one’s hair was mangled with burrs, during a camping trips initiation. Yet scouting meant working together no matter the issue. In the end, burrs or not, friendly existed. Friendly is community. I never knew the true essence of the community merit badges, until later on in life. It came so natural to say hello and to talk to strangers. I’ve made quite a few acquaintances this way and some true friends. But as a photographer, friendly is key. Friendly means to say, “Smile for the camera.”
Courteous is the predecessor to friendly. Courteous as a scout meant to respect those around you and to respect the few who lead you. It taught me to allow others to have a chance to be heard, before making judgment, or protecting another from a situation of un-easiness. It meant to offer social peace, or to allow passage within conversation. As an adult well beyond my scouting years, courteous has shown me that life can be much easier when discussing one’s ideas on how to accomplish a project. Courteous offered a comfort to others creativity and for others to witness with example.
But being Kind taught me as a scout that courteous was just a mannerism; an act of kindness. Kind means to be thoughtful at all times and to prepare for harder times. Kind gave a scout a reason to wear the uniform; it embodied the very law. Photography can be cruel in how it can never show anything but the truth. A picture does not alter itself during the moment of capture. It stays true from the instant you see it, to the moment it becomes a binary code sitting within an SD card. Only if we alter this image later on, can we bend or even break the truth. But kindness can let one enhance truth rather then destroy it. Yes most images today are retouched and even completely altered by someone or some else. But kind as a photographer lies in the time when one can either post or not post an image that may harm another. Or not to record a scene as one is in need, but to put down the camera and offer a hand. There is a fine line to the art of truth, and being true as a scout. Kind as a photographer sometimes means to know when not to shoot.
Obedience was not one of my best traits and I suppose there can be many others like myself when it came to this scout law. Perhaps it was that my scouting years were embedded on concrete in the Bronx. Merit badges that had anything to do with Nature were completely held within a different box, in my head. But to be obedient as a scout kept the troop together. Laughter often shifted from one to another while trying to stand still or keeping quite during taps, but with one look from a scoutmaster, obedience took a very quick hold. I’m not sure how I was taught obedience, since so many adults had a hand in it. However an obedient scout knew when to stop laughing or not to continue the joke. In photography there is obedience within the craft. It comes in the continued quest to make a better picture and to better one’s techniques. Knowledge found its way to me through obedience because I obeyed by own laws to how I wanted to become a professional photographer. Without it, a destination can fade. And even a visual destination fades if one does not skillfully find solutions to a problem of an image to produce; when being hired to do so.
Cheerful as a scout, to me, meant spirit. Keeping up a team’s spirit brought a sense of closeness, a sense of hope to others. It made the troop work well and without delay. It was a willingness to become part of something outside you and to offer brightness when things felt dark. Cheerful found its way into many of my images during the 25 plus years shooting as a professional. Cheerful is photography, because without it, it offers nothing to see later on, and keeps as a negative. Cheerful develops; it shows us more of who we are and brings out our true colors and tones. It gives imagery meaning by becoming enlarged with in us.
Thrifty seems obvious but as a scout it meant knowing how little to take with you. Surviving with only a few items and perhaps little food, thrifty was a special tool you could not see, like a pocketknife, but you knew it was there. It was like you could easily find an answer without thinking too hard because as a scout you had choices. This ideal did not change much as I found myself building all kinds of lighting accessories or finding ways to accomplish an idea with simplicity, during a shoot. It also became a way to keep things easy. Not all the time did thrifty work, there are times when being thrifty had to be kept as a special skill or tool. But thrifty also means to let others work by your side, allowing them to share their ideas and for me to incorporate them into mine.
Being brave perhaps meant to take a dare. But as scouts or rather as a scout, brave was holding out for the first time alone in the woods, without a tent and only with one pocketknife. Wilderness Survival was to be brave, yet it was not written within the requirements of the merit badge or the scout manual. I slept alone under a misshapen shelter in the rain, thinking how the noise outside my sleeping bag had a thing for me. I’m sure the critter I imagined was more afraid of me then I of it, but nonetheless, it taught me being brave meant to understand fright. And understanding the idea of what “not knowing” was, brave gave a push to the honor of sewing that badge onto my sash. But being brave as a photographer may mean to find yourself in the middle of harm while you’re holding a camera in your hands, or like I once photographed a park from atop a building with only an assistant keeping leverage with my legs while I bent over the side to take the shot. Somehow brave become braver when a lens was in front of me. Yet stupid is not brave. Stupid is stupid and this does not prepare well. As a professional one must know how to prepare and what to expect. Brave is going into the heart of a problem with preparedness. It also means this stays with you at all times. Being prepared to act or to take action at a given moment is also being brave. As a photographer, brave can also mean how you change from photographing landscapes to photographing people. This very step alters how you approach your new ideas and taking the steps to learn something new. A photographer must allow this openness of “not knowing”, when starting something different and knowing how to be brave within it, is in the scout in me.
Being a scout meant days without showers. Being dirty was worn like a badge at times. It painted the picture of accomplishment the first time one started a fire without matches. But being clean was more then just a bar of soap in an outdoor shower with only cold water. Clean was honest, even true. It meant that being a scout one had to know the freedom from lies or dishonesty. Clean gave a scout a conscience to be good and to have time to respect the place one camped or slept or ate. Clean is a scout law that goes deep into ones character and shows others how you shine. Clean as a photographer means to respect the tools of your profession. Seems rightfully so, since you want things to last… remember thrifty is always there with you. But clean as a photographer also shows others how safe it is to be photographed by you. It shows honesty and integrity to ones spirit and leads others with it. Think of how you may feel in front of a camera. It changes how you take pictures because it brings out what you hide or may want to hide. Photographs are true and if you’re in one, being honest in what you are and how you appear, will show. So to be this “behind the camera” must hold true as well as a professional photographer. Others will see you in as much detail, as you will of them, so being clean in heart and mind allows for openness to creation. They will want to be photographed by you.
Finally to be reverent, the last scout law, the one that felt aloft in the treetops during the long summer nights staring up at the stars while at camp. Reverence was something beyond a human being, like a place you were exalted by others. It felt far away for me as a scout at times, but came to mean more as I advanced to a higher-ranking scout. It also showed me how to treat the land and to let it be, to nurture it and to protect. This law was the way one looks back at the hard work, the teamwork, the projects and emergencies along the way; reverence showed me that I was not bigger then myself. Reverence as a photographer, keeps me in check with my ego. Ego can play tricks on you, if you think that you are more important. Keeping reverent allows you to respect and praise other’s works. Photographers show truths to others. We keep a kind of code within ourselves knowing we have the ability to alter how one feels about themselves. We are witnesses to life and we should keep a particular reverence to our craft and our visions. We may see things we hoped not to see, or be there to capture life itself in all its glory. There are many reverent points to express within our images, but to keep reverent to myself is why I made photography a life’s path, and within the steps of achieving the rank of a LIFE scout.
I suppose achieving my goals, producing large budget shoots, knowing others trust me with their visual promotions etc, will not ever let me have the honor of becoming an Eagle scout, but I hope that within my service to the photographic community with my online educational site about photography I created with my partner; I have taken the steps to what it means to live as one. But regardless of any honor or rank I have achieved as a Boy Scout, to live the laws as one, certainly did make a difference in my life and my achievements.
Picking a destination for a super outing is fun. It can also be overwhelming, with hundreds — if not thousands — of opportunities to choose from in nearby national parks, state parks, local parks and the like.
If only there were a simple app that could help you narrow down the choices.
Enter Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder™, your virtual guidebook to the outdoors. Just tell the free mobile app what you want to do or where you want to go (or both), and you’ll get a personalized list of recommendations.
Features include the ability to check in, add your own comments and pictures, post to Facebook and Twitter and share your experiences at any park you visit.
And here’s a secret tip for Boys’ Life readers: For each download, Ford will make a donation to one of four nonprofit organizations, including the BSA. Download the app and vote today!
All of us at Boys’ Life — really, all of us of a certain age — were saddened to hear of the passing of Donald J. Sobol, the literary genius behind the Encyclopedia Brown stories. Mr. Sobol contributed several fine E.B. stories to Boys’ Life in the 1980’s.
I edit a magazine for youth. I have the attention span of a 12-year-old. The Higgs Bosum has completely befuddled me. Until now … thanks, Daily Beast, for one of the best common-man explanations I have read.
BL’s Gear Guy tackles a question on the minds of many guys this time of year: How to get those knives sharp…
Hey Gear Guy, which devices (other than a traditional whetstone) can I use to sharpen my knife? How well do they work?– Dull Tyler, Libertyville, Ill.
A. There are many types of sharpeners. To help you wade through it all, I contacted a friend at Gerber Legendary Blades. They make some of the best knives and know more than a little about sharpening blades. Here are the tree main types of sharpeners:
Diamond-coated rod sharpeners (work with fine or serrated blades). This one is most similar to a whetstone.
Pros: lower cost.
Cons: takes more time, tough to maintain the correct angle while sharpening.
Ceramic pocket sharpeners (work only with fine-edge blades).
Pros: lightweight, easy to carry, low cost, quick and easy to use
Cons: will create just an average edge and cannot sharpen serrated blades
Diamond fingers sharpeners (work with fine or serrated blades).
Pros: quick, easy to use, can sharpen a variety of angles and create sharper edge
Another plus for Scouts and Scouters: Carnegie Mellon has created Robot Virtual Worlds programming specifically for the new Robotics merit badge. Scouts and leaders use ROBOTC Robot Virtual World software to learn how to program both LEGO and VEX robots. That is highly cool.
“It’s not the award, it’s not the patch, it’s not the badge. It’s action. And when you find Scouts who do something, it doesn’t much matter what their medal says or doesn’t say; it’s their mettle, not their medals.”—
Mike Rowe, star of TV’s Dirty Jobs and a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, referring to Boys’ Life's famous “True Stories of Scouts in Action” feature.
It’s a proven fact: Today’s readers are tomorrow’s leaders. That doesn’t refer only to readers of Boys’ Life (though BL certainly is a big part of raising tomorrow’s leaders). It pertains to everyone.
If you’re a student, being off school for the summer shouldn’t mean you should a break from reading. Use this handy — and LONG — flowchart from the folks at Teach.com to find the perfect beach book.
If you’re a parent, share this with your kids. Encourage them to read. Read with them. Maybe create a family book club in which you all read the same book and discuss it. You might be surprised how much fun that can be … and how much you can learn from your kids.