Boys and Girls, Scouting Together. Or Scouting Each Other?

“The world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players…” – William Shakespeare

“How dreadful…to be caught up in a game and have no idea of the rules.” – Caroline Stevermer

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” – Alphonse Karr

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

Four quotes today! When taken together, all speak to confusion: We are all caught up in a universal play, acting out the game of life, trying to discern just what role or position we want or are expected to play and how to perform correctly. And it seems confusing and unfair when, just as soon as we think we’ve figured it out, we find somehow someone has changed the rules, thrown out what we’d learned, written new lines to the script, and now we don’t know what to think or how we should act. It all seems so confusing.

But, upon closer review, one can see that sometimes the changes are merely cosmetic, the plot remains the same. Case in point:

It was announced last October that girls would now be allowed to become boys. Well, in the sense that they are now allowed to join the Boy Scouts’ programs of Cub Scouts, Webelos, Sea Scouts and Venturing. And for the first time, last Tuesday, it happened when twin 7-year-old sisters joined their 9-year-old brother as members of Cub Pack 42 in Tacoma, Washington. The actual Boy Scouts program is to remain male-only until February 1, 2019, when the girls can then join them. (Any guess on how much those young teen boys are looking forward to that? I guess the time lag is needed to do some serious behaviour education.)

Good golly, it seems the game rules have changed, new roles added to the cast. But is there any change in the plot?

Seems that each Cub pack can decided for themselves whether to admit girls or continue to maintain a boys-only policy or, optionally, to create separate girl dens and boy dens within the pack. I assume that holds true also for the other programs, and will, also, with the actual Boy Scouts troops come next year.

And, I assume, outside pack/troop general meetings, there will still be a separation of boys from girls during den/troop campouts. Unless they intend to create a new Merit Badge to be earned. “Cohabitation”? (Speaking of Merit Badges, will hands-on learning of the anatomical differences between sexes now be a segment of the First Aid badge? That would add a whole new dimension to the “let’s play doctor” thing!)

So, watching this play out, it appears we might call this by one of Shakespeare’s titles, “Much Ado About Nothing”. As the Bard noted, “What’s in a name?” when nothing of substance is changed? For all its contrived seriousness, it is seems a farce. Nothing much will actually change, girls will be scouts (but not Girl Scouts – a completely different organization) and boys will continue to be scouts, just under a larger umbrella, yet, in part, separated from one another, no more joined than they are at school.

Hummm. Here’s a thought. Maybe I shouldn’t have used the school analogy, what with all the new laws promulgating policies that allow boys and girls to share bathroom facilities and gym locker rooms – together – based on self-declared sexual identification? Will those laws come into play with the Scouts as well?

“Jim, your assigned tent mate is Robert (nee Roberta) and Jane, yours will be Lonna (nee Larry). At Taps, y’all go right to sleep, y’hear. And no sharing sleeping bags!”

No confusion about how that would play out.

– Bill

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Steak Out: Cooked To Your Order? Good Luck!

“Just knock off the horns and hair, and toss it on the coals for about thirty seconds on each side. I like mine still kicking and quivering! – Wichita talking about steak.”

― Ray Palla

Ray (or Wichita), you’re an animal. Maybe that works for you, but I don’t want my steak screaming “Moo!” when I cut into it. Most folk like me want it at least medium-rare, not bloody raw and barely warmed over. You sound like a chupacabra, that beast reported to suck the blood from livestock.

But, it appears you are probably quite happy dining out these days, your taste isn’t so far off from the way chefs (?) are cooking steaks today. Just read the following:

https://nypost.com/2018/04/10/restaurants-are-cooking-your-steak-wrong-on-purpose/

An interesting read about why chefs purposefully undercook beef to the rare side, and helpful hints on what language to use with your server to help insure yours is cooked as you want it.

The only (steak?) bone I have to pick with the logic of purposefully undercooking meat rather than risk overcooking is, why are they no longer using meat thermometers if they don’t have the experience or skill to be able to distinguish the degree of cook by time and touch, according to the type and thickness of cut? Sure, inserting a thermometer can cause a slight loss of fluids at the insertion point (but not overall), and it is better than erring on the side of rawness throughout.

Are restaurants not hiring culinary school trained chefs any more, just cooks (to save a buck or two in wages and add a buck or two to the profit column?), who don’t know how to cook differing cuts? (There are steaks, and then there are steaks.) Not to disparage cooks, in general; those who have plied their craft over years can have experience to rival trained chefs. But given the turnover in resturants, most cooks don’t (in my opinion).

The rationale that economics is a factor (in addition to salaries, there’s the price of beef, especially if an overcooked steak must be tossed), wouldn’t be so if whomever is cooking it knows how to properly do so. I would argue that customer dissatisfaction would result in a loss of future custom (and bad reviews and references), whereas satisfaction would result in repeated custom, even at a slightly higher price. So it only makes sense to hire someone who knows how to cook – especially at a steakhouse!

I’m reminded of my father who liked his steak. Wouldn’t eat fish or fowl. Thanksgiving turkey? Christmas goose or Easter ham? No, sir. Always a steak for him, regardless of what everyone else ate. But his steak? Had to be well done. I mean, really well done. Just short of burnt shoe leather. No epicure, he with food in general. Now, occasional beverages? Another story.

It was not uncommon for him to send a beautiful medium rare-plus back for recook at a restaurant. On one unforgettable occasion (at a well-known steakhouse in D.C.) he sent the same steak back three times. The chef – obviously exasperated – finally brought a new steak and charcoal brazier tableside to cook it under dad’s supervision (as I slid my twelve year-old self down in my seat, almost under the table in embarrassment). Neither man was happy, but the customer is always right, and after nearly turning the steak into charcoal dad declared it done. I half expected the chef to say something like, “If you wish to take any leftovers home, may I suggest an urn?”

I really enjoy dining out. To see how much so, read my post, “Making Dining Out Fun” (July 22, 2016). But nothing aggravates me more than not getting my meal the way I ordered it or expected it to be as it was described. Especially the times I want one and don’t get my steak the way I ordered it (like father, like son, I guess). Not that I eat a lot of steak, because I don’t. Maybe have one 2-3 times a year, if that. Much prefer chicken, fish or pork. Not because of some dietary need or because I’m health conscious or animal rights stuff, but it’s just a matter of taste.

And taste is the real issue in recooking meat. It just doesn’t taste as good as a first cook. And if I’m paying good money, I want it done right the first time.

Just another example of decreasing customer service in yet another industry. I’m far from wealthy, but I’m willing to pay a couple extra dollars for what I want if I’m assured of getting exactly what I order.

The first time.

– Bill

An Open Letter to Dear Old Uncle Sam

“Never annoy an inspirational author or you will become the poison in [their] pen and the villain in [everything they write].”

― Shannon L. Alder

My Dear Uncle Sam,

I’d ask how you’re doing these days, but news travels fast, and I learn (by most accounts) that overall you’re health is pretty good. Everything at your top is doing very well (‘though I hear things at the very bottom aren’t doing so well) and that you’ve lost considerable in the middle. That last part worries me, you never were bigly aware there, and we know how important it is for our fiscal (sorry, I meant physical) well-being, so don’t neglect taking care of it – you’ll be all the healthier for it.

But why I’ve decided to write you is the concern I have about something I’ve heard told – your current BF Donald’s (can’t really call him your BFF, you seem constitutionally unable to keep a best friend for more than 4-8 years, let alone forever) concern that some of the family are saying and writing things about him amongst themselves and that he’s become so exorcised over it that he wants to know what and to make a sort of Santa Clause list of the “naughty and nice”. (Or so some of them think). For now, I’m keeping an open mind about it and will assume it’s just benign curiosity.

Or, I guess, so that he can point to those that say good of him and then talk about how well-liked he is to everybody at family reunions? (Sorry, but even you know how sensitive his child-like ego is.)

Or, to attack and verbally abuse and debase (I hope you don’t find those words excessive) those that express something less than laudatory remarks? (You have to admit, he does have a temper. Just look at the verbal tantrums he throws almost daily.)

His temperament is going to him in trouble one of these days, just like it did with one of your former BF’s, Dick – you remember, the one everyone called “Tricky” – with his infamous “Enemies List”?

I’m not the only one in the family (even some of the neighbors) who finds Don more than a little annoying. Sorry Unc, I don’t mean to be a poison pen, and I guess I’m being a little of the pot calling the kettle black. I really don’t want to make Don out to be a villain. I know you have been Don’s BF in the past…but…is he really being a BF to you now?

– Your loving Nephew

Keeping School Tragedies in Perspective

(Wife/mother): “Zoe is reading ‘Charlette’s Web’.”
(Husband/father): “ Uh-oh. Think she’ll be traumatized by the ending?”
(Zoe/their daughter): “Today at school we had a shelter-in-place drill, an active-shooter drill and a hazardous materials drill. It was fun!”
(Wife/mother): “I think she’ll be fine.”
(Husband/father): “I’m not.”

– “Baby Blues” (Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, 4/10/2018)

When I read this comic strip I laughed through my tears. Laughing at the irony, crying at the truth.

As parents, and as a society, we worry that in schools our children might be traumatized by what happens to a fictional animal character in a book (or language or sex, or any other issue)… but ignore the possibility that the repeated, constant reinforcement (by the media and/or at school) that a school tragedy might occur could be more traumatic in the long run to our children.

And, scarce resources, like time and money, are now being spent on preparedness drills for multiple possible disasters, even taking teachers out of the classroom to teach them how to stop bleeding and bandage wounds… at the cost of instructional time in the academics.

I could go on and on about all the other things that take time from the classroom, but this is just another added thing, one that is “educational” in its own way, only it has a potentially far reaching psychological impact on the children that may shape their psyches for life, instilling a permanent subconscious fear of things and robbing them of the joy there is in life.

There is seemingly an increasing focus in schools in America, in addition to teaching kids what they need to know to succeed in life…to teaching them to worry about death and destruction.

But, accidents and tragedies happen all the time. That’s life. Sometimes a lightening strike kills somebody. But it doesn’t follow that we all need to stay indoors at home because there’s the threat it might rain. Because the odds of dying by lightening is 0.00002%.

There is a far, far greater likelihood of injury and death to a school-aged child (he or she is much more likely to die in a car accident, a recreational accident like drowning, even cancer or suicide) than in a shooting or some other disaster during school hours.

There have been 300 school shootings (from accidental, to targeted, to mass) since 2013. Not one is acceptable, but that amounts to 0.003% in our 100,000 public schools.

Admittedly, that’s far greater than the .0008% chance of dying in a terrorist attack, but it is far less than the odds of dying in a automobile accident (over an entire lifetime, not just during the twelve years of school) at about 2%.

Which is much less than the percentage of deaths from all accidents combined at only 5%.

We just need to put things in their proper perspective.

The possibility of a disaster hitting any random school is minuscule.

I suppose the old Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” has value but, like in everything, you can’t let the time preparing for what might (and probably won’t) happen interfere with what you should otherwise be doing.

In this life, you can prepare for the worst or just hope for the best. Either way, you’re going to get whatever the Fates send your way.

All you need do is to keep calm and carry on, and go about your life as usual without obssessing about what bad thing may happen.

Odds are, it won’t.

– Bill

Middle Schoolers and Sexual Identification

“I’m a boy!” It sort of crept up on me and tapped me on the shoulder a few times before I started to pay attention. I began to think that the word “girl” didn’t quite fit me. It was like a shoe that was too small — it pinched me.”

― Cat Clarke

We now live in a fluid world, there are few (and it seems even ever lessening) absolutes – or givens – anymore, and everything is in flux, it seems. Politically, socially, religious. Nothing seems exempt these days.

Even in the matter of sex. Beginning in our public schools. My post, “The If, When, What and Who of Sex Education in the Schools” (Aug. 16, 2017) spoke to sex-ed and to parental abdication of their responsibility to be totally and honestly and timely forthcoming to their children about sex and thus the reason society has stepped in to fill the educational void. But, could schools go too far?

What if?

What if your middle-schooler, your 12-13 year-old seventh-grader, at the dinner table, in response to your casual question, “How did school go today?” replied, “Nothing much, we had to do a sex survey.” Your probable response, “Excuse me?” “Yeah, they want to know what we are.” “You’re a boy, of course!” “No, they want to know if I “think” l’m a boy…or maybe a girl… and which sex I’m attracted to, or maybe both?” (You pause a moment, gathering your thoughts, perhaps stifling your anger at the school district’s unmitigated gall to ask, or maybe welcoming this as an entry into a deeper dialogue beyond “the birds and the bees” talk a year or three earlier). “And what did you say?” you ask.

Their answer will probably depend on what they think you to want to hear. Kids are notoriously closed mouthed or evasive to parents (I think it’s a part of their job description). And, as teenagers, they figure everything about their sex life is none of your business (anymore than yours is to them).

I’m not going to go into the sexuality of tweens and young teens. That is a long and detailed subject. Do your own research to find out. But, in short, adolescence is a hormonal over-drive age where pre-teens and new teens are generally – at times – confused, sexually, about who and what they are and who they’re attracted to. Sometimes they know, sometimes they don’t, and there is a lot of experimentation that happens to find out. Eventually most work it out, and parental attitudes (religious or otherwise) carry only some weight in the decision process.

Think such a thing – such a survey is farfetched? Well, I happen to have a copy of a proposed one (don’t ask) with the following questions:

• Gender Identity : Female, Woman, Girl / Male, Man, Boy / Other
• Gender Expression: Feminine / Masculine / Other
• Sex Assigned at Birth: Female / Male / Other/Intersex
• Physically Attracted to: Women / Men / Other Gender(s)
• Emotionally Attracted to: Women / Men / Other Gender(s)

I assume it would be an optional participation survey, and anonymous, and its purpose to is to show, that at that age, there are all kinds of sexual permutations. Tweens and young teens are trying for the first time to simply understand why they have, at times, conflicting urges that may be confusing and non-conforming to any sexual label and are trying to work it out.

But we already know that, so why ask?

And, it’s problematic to ask them any questions about sex and identity and attraction – if you do they may resist, obstreperously diffident. And, to ask could put them on the spot, make them feel they must make a decision now, that they may then commit to, even if it is ultimately wrong and causes eventual psychological issues down the road. Maybe better to let them figure it out on their own (as those of thousands of generations past had to do), or even better to let them know that, as a parent or other trusted adult family member or close family adult friend, you’re always available to listen (and offer advice only if asked).

We all want our children to be whomever and whatever they want to be, need be, to be happy and content with who they are.

I’m just not sure how far society needs to get involved in the matter. For many kids, their identity and attraction is in flux at that age and isn’t set until years later. I just have a problem with society asking kids to decide at such an early age – based on what or how they feel that day – to make a decision and declaration that they (may) subconsciously then feel is binding for all time and act on it.

– Bill

When “Reasonable Force” Isn’t Necessarily “Necessary Force”

“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”

― Lewis Carroll (Alice, in Wonderland)

There were 346 mass-shootings in 2017 and already 58 this year (the latest just this Tuesday) in the US. Inasmuch as almost all of the shooters died as the result of suicide or were slain by police at the scene before they could be apprehended, why they did what they did is pure speculation.

In all, 738 people were killed.

It just doesn’t make sense why, we’ll never really know.

I use the above only to make a comparison to another kind of shooting during the same time period, with almost twice the number of dead compared to the mass-shootings. There need be no speculation as to why, each incident is thoroughly investigated, virtually all the shooters still alive.

Shootings resulting in the death of a suspect at the hands of the police. In most cases, the police acted in defense of others being attacked, or in self-defense while under fire themselves. Other times, they shot believing the person they confronted had a gun and they shot preventively. Sometimes it was discovered the suspect had no gun. Sometimes the suspect was shot in the back as he attempted to flee capture.

In all, 1,264 people were killed.

It just doesn’t make sense…where the suspect had no gun, or had some other weapon, like a knife but where there was no close, immediate danger to the police or others, or when attempting to flee…why they needed to be shot.

Sometimes, in those incidents, the officer(s) were charged with manslaughter/murder in criminal court by the district attorney. Sometimes they were acquitted for lack of a preponderance of evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that they used unnecessary excessive force under the circumstances. Sometimes the families of the deceased have filed wrongful death suits in civil court. Sometimes the families have been successful.

But now, that just became harder. On Monday, the US Supreme Court, by an 8-1 vote, made it harder to sue police for using unnecessary deadly force against suspects, ruling that officers are immune from lawsuits unless it is “beyond debate” that a shooting was unjustified and clearly unreasonable, giving police the benefit of the doubt when they encounter a potentially dangerous situation.

The court said that it has “never found the use of deadly force in connection with a dangerous [situation] to violate the 4th Amendment”. In the one dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor faulted the majority for “sanctioning a ‘shoot first, think later’ approach to policing”.

An example of “shoot first, think later”, the Stephon Clark shooting almost two weeks ago. It has been reported: The police were looking for a suspect in the neighborhood when they came into the backyard of the home of Clark’s grandmother, where he was living, and saw Clark who (the two officers say) was “facing them, advanc[ing] forward with his arms extended.” They never announced to Clark that they were police, one of them simply yelled, “He’s got a gun!” and they opened fire. Except, the pathologist who performed the autopsy says that account is “inconsistent with the…forensic evidence.”

I assume they assumed Clark was their man. Maybe he was, maybe not. We may never know. Or, it didn’t matter to them at that moment whether he was their man or not, all they thought they saw – in a split second – was a man with a gun. Regardless, he’s dead.

Evidence shows that of the 40 rounds fired at him, 6 of the 8 bullets that struck Clark were in the back. And the gun? No gun, it was his cell phone. Had they stopped to think, maybe the man had stepped out into his yard to see why there was a police helicopter hovering over his or his neighbor’s property, and that he was possibly not the suspect they were looking for? And if what was in his hand was a gun, that he had it for self-defense against whomever the police were looking for, or even to assist the police in capturing a suspect hiding in his backyard?

It just doesn’t make sense…why the police didn’t announce themselves, why Clark wasn’t told what he needed to do, and why he wasn’t given a second or two to process what was happening and comply before they opened fire.

I am in no way a “bleeding heart liberal” here, out to get the cops. My grandfather was a cop. My eldest son is a cop and his life and welfare means everything to me. Read my post “Blue Lives Matter, Too” (Aug. 12, 2016) and you’ll see where I said, “[T]he cop[s] wouldn’t have to use [any force] if the [suspect] would just do as he’s told – freeze, show his hands, get down.” I have great respect for our police. Theirs is a hazardous job. But there is no excuse for knee-jerk reactions where they might take a life. Even if their own life might be in danger – that’s an occupational risk they should have understood when they signed up.

But they first need to identify themselves and tell the suspect what to do before they use force. (And, are 40 rounds reasonably necessary? Maybe so, if they can only hit their target with 8 of them. But what’s the likelihood of their being hit by an assailant shooting first? By comparison to their own apparent marksmanship, not likely.)

In reaction to SCOTUS’s ruling, several lawmakers in California have proposed legislation to become the first state to restrict when a police officer can fire his/her weapon. The bill would change the standard of “reasonable force” to “necessary force”, allowing officers to shoot only if “there were no other reasonable alternatives to the use of deadly force”.

Reasonable alternatives, like talking the suspect down, or failing that, a Taser or mace, or a nightstick. Or, if they must shoot a threatening armed assailant, shoot to wound as opposed to current training standards that teach shoot to body mass – chest/abdomen – and to continue to shoot until the threat is neutralized, i.e., the suspect is on the ground.

It might be “reasonable” to shoot someone. But is it “necessary”?

Use only “necessary force”?

Now, that just makes sense for a change.

– Bill

Free-Ranging Children

“I think that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong, allow them to experience life on their own terms, allow them to take the subway… let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves.”
― C. JoyBell C.

As a young 5-10 year-old suburban-child in the ‘50s, my mother always complained I “was underfoot and in the way” and had no problem ordering me out of the house on non-school days, telling me to go outside and play. Which was no hardship to me. Behind our house was a woods thick of trees and ferns (so dense that entering in was like walking into the cornfield in the movie Field of Dreams) where I and the other boys on our side of the street built underground tunnels (using our daddies shovels and “liberated” plywood from wherever we could find some as the “roof” of the tunnels, covered over with the excavated dirt) and forts and treehouses (again, daddy’s tools and “found” lumber). And behind the houses across the street from ours was another, even larger woods where the boys on that side did the same), where we’d play for hours completely hidden from grown-up eyes.

In hindsight, it’s a wonder none of the tunnels ever collapsed on us while within, smothering us to death, or we never fell out over the side of a treehouse (which were only side-less platforms 10-15 feet off the ground) where we’d have probably broken our necks. We might have been reckless, but we weren’t stupid, all our constructions were overkilled with supports.

Then, from about age 10-on, I was allowed to ride my Raleigh 3-speed bicycle beyond the limit of our street. And did I ever. Saturday mornings saw me out and about after breakfast at 8 am, biking miles from home, coming back around noon for lunch. Or maybe not, staying out till dinnertime. Mind you, this was before pagers (let alone mobile phones) so there was no way of contacting me to find where I was.

In hindsight, it’s a wonder that nothing bad ever happened. Never hit by a car in traffic, never accosted by a dirty old man in a raincoat, never grabbed and kidnapped by some pervert. Again, I wasn’t stupid, I always was aware of my surroundings.

Nor was I ever grilled by my mother about where I’d been all those hours. She’d raised me right and she trusted me to do the right thing and to be safe. I rarely let her down.

There were other things we did as kids that had elements of risk to life and limb, but in those days we were “free-range” children, unrestricted and unsupervised, pretty much left to our own devices to play in and explore the world outside our front and back yards.

And I’m the better for it. From an early age and the freedom I was allowed I learned how to take care of myself, learn by trial and error, experienced the joy of exploration and discovery. It was a source of personal growth and maturity I would otherwise may never had, and it made me the man I am.

But something happened around the ‘80s. Suddenly there was “Stranger Danger”, the fear that your child would surely be kidnapped, molested or raped if unsupervised (hyper-hysteria, all unrealistic fears based on sensationalized news reports of isolated real incidents). Then around the ‘90s it was decided that any activity like the playing we were allowed could be considered a form of child neglect – even child endangerment – and parents could be fined, arrested, or have their children taken from them. Some local jurisdictions even deemed certain things such as swings, slides, see-saws, “monkey bars”, jungle gyms, the merry-go-round –like spinning platform (whatever its name), even sandboxes and more, as being “unsafe” and removed them from public playgrounds. Even the earth beneath was deemed too hard to be safe, and was covered by wood chips or rubber pellets. The rise of the “Nanny State”.

And a new phrase entered the lexicon – Helicopter Parenting: overprotective child raising that discourages a child’s independence and attempts to eliminate any possible physical danger or discomfort. Which does the child no good. Read for yourself the negative effects on the child in an article in Psychology Today:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201701/the-effects-helicopter-parenting

So I was happy to read that the state of Utah (California, are you listening?) has decided to try something of a middle-ground approach between free-range and helicopter parenting:

https:www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/utah-free-range-parenting-law_us_5ab8b3dce4b0decad04b91c7

Basically, age-appropriate and maturity-level freedom for children to play unsupervised, even to walk to school alone.

Sensible.

– Bill