All posts by cryptosmith

Writer, educator, and consultant in cyber security; author of three books.

Six Thoughts on Merit Badge Requirements and Learning Challenges

Merit Badges, Douglas Murth/Wikimedia Commons

I was recently asked for guidance from a merit badge counselor  working with a Scout whose learning abilities are severely affected by Down syndrome. The Scout could master the physical aspects of the badge but struggled with the “discuss” and “explain” requirements.

Here are my thoughts. They are not anyone’s gospel. I’d love to hear what guidelines other people use.

Continue reading Six Thoughts on Merit Badge Requirements and Learning Challenges

How Boys with Down Syndrome Become Eagle Scouts

Eagle Scout AwardA rumor says children with Down syndrome can’t earn the Eagle Scout award.

This is nonsense. See stories about Coleman and Brandt, Adam, Zach and Mike, Elliott, another Zach,  Max, Daniel, and a third Zach.

Not every Scout can hike and swim, and not every Scout advances as fast as every other. If a Scout has a bona fide medical condition, like Down Syndrome, the Scout can still take the trail to Eagle.

Some Scouts follow their own, customized trail. Alternate requirements need special approval. Scouts can get time extensions in special circumstances.

Caveat: I’m speaking as someone with a lot of experience with Scouting and special needs, and not in any official capacity within Boy Scouts.

Continue reading How Boys with Down Syndrome Become Eagle Scouts

Rail Travel Fail

Riding a train instead of an airplane always seemsrailroad crossing sign with big X like a great idea. But railroad travel remains a half-century behind all other forms of passenger travel.

I’m going to the Boy Scout Jamboree this summer, and Amtrak stops at the Prince, West Virginia, station. This is within driving distance of Mt. Hope, site of the Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. But I can’t quite make it work.

The rail industry assumes that train riders are either traveling locally or are willing to do a lot of research and planning. Train travel also requires a super-flexible schedule and creative baggage management.

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The Exodus

Dave Barnhart's Blog

Frans Francken I. Hans skola: Den rike mannen och Lazarus. NM 429
I have seen your religion, and I hate it.
I have heard your doctrine, and I loathe it.
Take away your empty praise songs,
your vacuous worshiptainment.
Your mouth is full of religious words,
but your proverbs are salted manure.

“The sick deserve to be sick.
The poor deserve to be poor.
The rich deserve to be rich.
The imprisoned deserve to be imprisoned.”
Because you never saw him sick, or poor, or in prison.

“If he had followed police instructions,
if he had minded the company he keeps,
he would not have been killed,”
You say in the hearing
of a man hanging on a cross
between two thieves.

“People who live good lives
do not have pre-existing conditions,” you say,
carving these words over the hospital door:
“Who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”

“It is the church’s job, not the government’s,”
say…

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Stamps Worth Using

Four postage stamps on envelopes ready to mailI got tired of modern postage stamps. They were so bland and predictable (more flowers! more historical figures! more landscapes!), and the mere act of sticking them on a letter seemed like wasted effort.

But see what we have here! A Scout with a pony tail! The Starship Enterprise! Reprints of heavily engraved 19th century classics! I love this stuff. Even the 24c Inverted Jenny, though it’s a $2 face value.

What are stamps for?

Vintage stamps pay for Priority Mail
Years ago, before Forever stamps and ClickNShip prepaid mailing labels, I bought a bunch of stamps for potential Express Mail. I also bought a batch of 1c, 5c, and 10c stamps. Those were to let me use the 33c stamps and such when the letter rate changed to 34c. Forever stamps made that irrelevant.

I finally unloaded the above stamps by paying for a Priority Mail package. I love the ‘upside down airplane’ stamp, a reprint based on the celebrated 24c Inverted Jenny airmail stamp (a.k.a. C3a among hardcore US philatelists). The blue profile of Ben Franklin dates from the late 1800s in style, but was recently reprinted by the USPS.

Continue reading What are stamps for?

Delta Airlines’ April Meltdown

North Central - Republic Airlines goose logoThis is a brief report on our experience with Delta’s epic meltdown over Palm Sunday weekend (April 7-10).
 
We were rebooked 4 times and rescheduled at least a half dozen times between midnight Friday and our ultimate arrival at about 3am Monday morning. Our original flight was supposed to arrive Saturday afternoon.
 
The final bit was that our bags were on the wrong flight and I had to pick them up after the morning flight came in. I asked the baggage lady if it was the worst she’d seen. She said, “No, it was worse when Northwest and Republic merged. Before computers.”

[Update: Delta sent us each 20,000 miles as an apology.]