Tuesday, September 30, 2008

433rd.com web site upgrade

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Click here for information on the 433rd main website upgrade.

Welcome Chil!

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For the last few years, one of our youth members has been helping our Cub Pack leaders. Graham is continuing as an assistant leader and has taken a Jungle Book name. Welcome Chil (pronounced Cheel).

Chil is a kite -- a family of old world raptors.

In some US editions of the Jungle Book, you'll find Rann the kite instead of Chil.

Both Mang and Chil appear in the opening "Mowgli's Brothers":
Now Chil the Kite brings home the night
That Mang the Bat sets free--
The herds are shut in byre and hut
For loosed till dawn are we.
This is the hour of pride and power,
Talon and tush and claw.
Oh, hear the call!--Good hunting all
That keep the Jungle Law!
Night-Song in the Jungle
Both Mang and Chil assisted in the rescue of Mowgli from the Bandar-log by alerting Bagheera, Baloo, and Kaa to his kidnapping.

The Jungle Book is also available online for free from Project Gutenberg (It's a US edition).

One of my pet peeves with the Disney movie was the way they changed Kaa's character.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Carnival of Space #72 @ Twisted Physics

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Another Carnival of Space is up over at Jennifer Ouellette's Twisted Physics.

Scout Scarves, 100th post

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For my 100th post I wanted to talk about something at the core of Scouting. The humble but ever so useful neckerchief seemed a perfect choice.

(The 433rd's colours are featured in the headline image of this blog. Our web site has more details on Uniforms & Badges under each section. For Cubs see here. )

Scouts are widely recognized by their uniform and the colorful neck wear. Neckerchiefs and Woggles (or slides) identify Scouting groups and roles. Go to any large Scouting event and you'll see a sea of coloured neckerchiefs.

While many people don't give Scout scarves much of a thought, they are very practical and have a large number of uses. How many uses can you think of?

The most obvious use is identification. Each groups colours are more or less unique. I've heard that some Scouting organizations register their colors centrally. I know the 9th Benoni in South Africa (see Linking with the 9th Benoni Cubs) made a minor adjustment to their colours to avoid a conflict with a group in Germany. While I know there are local groups with colours that are similar, I'm not certain if Scouts Canada maintains the same degree of uniqueness. Also, the Boy Scouts of America have some different neckerchief traditions (see here).

Woggles (aside from providing quick release) identify the section or role of the wearer. Each section has a colour: red for Rovers, light blue for Venturers, green for Scouts, yellow for Cubs, and brown on blue for Beavers. Leaders who have completed the Wood Badge Part 1 have a brown woven turks head woggle. And those completing the Wood Badge Part 2 get the special Gilwell neckerchief and wooden beads (See Wikipedia on the Wood Badge).

Another important use is first aid. Scout Neckerchiefs are intended to be used as triangular bandages and slings. This point was reinforced at our last swim up camp when one of our Cubs broke his arm. When we brought him to the hospital in Midland one of the staff there commented that they had never seen such interesting and colourful bandages!

Other obvious uses include blindfolds and armbands (for games), masks, and signals.

Below is a list of over 40 uses taken form the Pinetreeweb Scouting web site. Some of the uses may overlap a bit but the list is still impressive. For the full list and more background information please read Pinetree web's Neckerchief article.

  1. As an International Morse signal flag.
  2. For sending messages by Semaphore code.
  3. In knot-tying practice.
  4. For Troop and Patrol identification.
  5. As a reminder of the Scout Good Turn, (single knot).
  6. As indication that wearer is not a Cadet, but a Scout.
  7. As a substitute for a belt.
  8. As a shoulder mat.
  9. As a smoke mask.
  10. As a blindfold for Scout games.
  11. As a dressing for a burned face and neck.
  12. As a sweat band for confining the hair.
  13. For identifying contesting teams.
  14. As a swatter in playing games.
  15. In the three-legged race, to tie legs together.
  16. In games requiring contestants to be hobbled.
  17. In game called "Badger Pulling," to make binder for heads.
  18. As a night cap or ear protector.
  19. As a muffler for storm or blizzard.
  20. As a cover for a pail of water.
  21. As a loin cloth or bathing trunks.
  22. As a triangular cap bandage.
  23. As a napkin.
  24. As an apron.
  25. As a table cloth.
  26. As a dust cloth or cover.
  27. As a "Hobo" bag.
  28. For a tump line to carry a load.
  29. To lash poles or staves together.
  30. As a smoke signal.
  31. As a red flag on projecting end of load.
  32. As a patch for a canoe, when properly treated.
  33. As caulking for a leaky boat, when properly treated.
  34. For distress signal, lighted for a "flare."
  35. As a pad for the head in carrying heavy loads and wherever needed to prevent chafing.
  36. As a padded glove for the hand, to prevent blisters.
  37. As a blindfold for rescuing a horse from fire.
  38. To pad portions of harness to prevent chafing.
  39. To tie up square packages.
  40. For fastening ends of the blanket roll.
  41. For making life line or guard rope.
  42. For making rope ladder.
  43. For making boat sail.
  44. For making emergency clothing

Originally the 433rd had a tartan scarf. When I was a Cub, I was part of the (now defunct) 16th Humber West which also had a tartan scarf. Then it was common for Canadian groups to use unique tartans for their scarves. Tartans provide an almost infinite variety for group colours. Tartans are also interesting both to weavers and mathematically[1]. Unfortunately, difficulty in getting certain tartans has caused many groups to move away from them.

I'd like to dedicate this article to Colin (one of our cubs) who knows first hand the value of a neckerchief.
[1] . Professor Ralph Griswold of the University of Arizona investigated "Digital Weaving" in an IEEE paper and a series of articles in the Icon Analyst beginning at issues 53 through 66.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Free Coin Counting Service!

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Lots of people throw their spare change into jars and boxes for a rainy day. The problem has always been that at some point you have to sort it and roll it, before you can take it to the bank.

While there are personal sorting and stacking machines available to do this, the inexpensive ones aren't very good and the good ones aren't very inexpensive.

Another alternative are commercial coin counting machines such as the Coin Star at the local Dominion Metro food store on Lloyd Manor. The problem with these is that they charge a high percentage (over 9%) for the service. I have enough distant Scottish ancestry to make this quite unpalatable.

Recently a new alternative came to light. A free coin counting service! TD Canada Trust has introduced this as a pilot project. Better still, you don't even have to have an account with the bank! I've heard that it's in about 10 Toronto area branches but I'm not sure if there are more outside the GTA. I couldn't find anything on the TD website and the only information I have is a single glossy information sheet of unknown origin. If you're looking for other locations, you'll need to make some phone calls see below.

The counting machine is located inside the branch and it looks like a standalone ATM. It has a touch screen and a small conveyor belt. Simply pour your coins onto the belt and it counts them. It rejects foreign currency as well as coins that are rusted or in bad condition. When you're done you get a receipt from the machine. Make sure you must present the receipt to a branch teller on the same day to get your money.

Fortunately, one of these pilot machines is located nearby at the branch on Royal York Rd at Summitcrest Dr (north of Eglington and La Rose).

I tried it out a couple of weeks ago and found it to be easy to use, fast and accurate. Even if you're only throwing in pennies, nickles, and dimes, a 750 ml sized jar can easily yield $30 or $40.

BTW. If you find other branches piloting these machines, please post the location in a comment on this article!

Update: Thanks to Dan Matan for getting a list of pilot branches. His original article can be found here.
  • 1440 Royal York Road (at La Rose north of Eglington) Etobicoke, ON M9P 3B1
  • 10908 Hurontario Street (at Wanless) Brampton, ON. L7A 3R9
  • 808 York Mills Road (at Leslie) Toronto, ON. M3B 1X8
  • 5000 New Street (at Appleby Line) Burlington, ON. L7L 1V1
  • 5887 Main Street (at West Lawn Cr) Stoufville, ON. L4A 1N2
  • 1684 Danforth Ave (at Woodington) Toronto, ON. M4C 1H6
  • 1119 Fennell Ave E. (at Upper Ottawa) Hamilton, ON. L8T 1S2
  • 1260 Commissioners Rd W (at Boler) London, ON. N6K 1C7
  • 1005 Ottawa Street N (at River Road) Kitchener, ON. N2A 1H2
  • 1365 Fanshawe Pk Rd W (at Hyde Park) London, ON. N6G 0E3

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Planets and Stars - video - Just how big are they?

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Click here to see a very interesting video over at Astropixie showing the relative sizes of the planets and stars. The video starts with Pluto and works through our solar system to the Sun. Next it progresses through a series of well known stars until it reaches the colossal VV Cephi (a candidate for the largest known star) making even the mighty Betelgeuse look tiny.

I found this video reminiscent of the famous IBM Powers of 10 video that used to play at the Ontario Science Centre.

DDO Astronomers renew outreach program - Your Real Sky

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While the David Dunlop Observatory is now closed, two of the astronomers that ran the public outreach program for schools, Scouting, and Guide groups will continue to offer youth focused astronomy programs near the site of the old observatory.

Dr's Tuba Koktay and Ian Shelton have started a new night time Scout and Guide program for the fall of 2008 at Observatory Park and the 16th Avenue Public School in Richmond Hill. Additionally, they have a daytime program for schools.

The program called "Your Real Sky" covers finding your way about the nighttime sky, learning about constellations and the wonders of the nighttime sky, lots of time for questions, and badge requirements.

On clear nights, there will be outdoor observing by eye, binocular, and small telescope. On cloudy nights, they can simulate the nighttime sky in their classroom.

For more information on their program there is a downloadable information sheet with details and contact information available here.

The 433rd was twice able to attend their program at the DDO. We found their presentations both informative and fun. Our recent visit can be found here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More Scouting insight at Scoutmaster

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If you don't know Clarke Green's Scoutmaster blog, I recommend you check it out. Clarke often has insightful posts that are well worth reading. I'd like to bring some articles on leadership from this past summer to your attention:
I've written about Clarke's blog before in Gone Home too soon ....

BTW. Scoutmaster is one of the blogs feartured in my blogroll. (Over on the side bar ... scroll down).

Pyro Scouts and Boy Scout Trail

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Over at BoyScout Trail in I saw a Scoutmaster Musing blog article titled Pyro Scouts that caught my attention. This insightful piece about Scouts who get fascinated by camp fires provides a good suggestion for channelling their curiosity.

I've wanted to talk about Boy Scout Trail for some time. It's one of the sites I follow via Web Feeds. It's a great resource for Scouters - so check it out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mang interviewed in Etobicoke Guardian

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Image courtesy of Ian Kelso
This week the Etobicoke Guardian has an article on page 3 titled "Twinkle, Twinkle, Dying Star ...". It can be found online as Amateur astronomer gets access to space telescope about my winning one of the My Own Space Telescope proposals to use MOST: Canada's First Space Telescope.

See also: Mang gets a space telescope!

Thanks to Tamara Shephard and Ian Kelso of the Guardian.

Double Iridium Flare spotted at the 433rd!

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Last night we had our first meeting of the year with 17 Cubs coming out and a couple that couldn't make it. The majority are returning Cubs from last year, with one transfer and 3 new chums.

One of the orders of business was a badge survey to see where we all were. Several of our Cubs need to get some previously earned badges sewn on. (Hint to Mom's and Dad's - if your Cub does the sewing it counts towards a badge requirement).

Most of the Cubs are within one or two requirements of their Space Exploration badges! If they can design/draw their own space suit or vehicle and bring it in will get many of them there.


The night was clear but with a lot of light around the Church we wouldn't have much of an opportunity to see constellations, but that wasn't what we came to see. At 8:15pm we stepped outside the Church to see an Iridium Flare.

I'd previously looked up the schedule through the Heavens Above link from the extended clear sky chart on What's Up @ Lloyd Manor Park - Sky Forecast. And at 8:19pm we saw a satellite passing below and to the west of the north star flare. (I love the fact that you can set the alarm on your cell phone on the forecast and it's right on). Surprisingly, about 40 seconds later, we saw a second following satellite flare! (Normally, double flares are due to replacements).

For last nights schedule of Iridium #18, see this. I'm not sure how long these double flares run, but if you're an Iridium watcher you may be able to catch it again.


Additionally, our sharp eyed Cubs spotted a "satellite" moving through Cygnus and Lyra toward the north east at 8:24. It turns out to be a Russian Cosmos #1093 rocket booster launched in 1979.

For a track of this rocket booster, see this.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What's Up @ Lloyd Manor Park - Sky Forecast

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Bookmark this article if you want to know what's up at Lloyd Manor Park.

Check out the following:

  • Clear Sky Chart for your astronomy and observing weather forecast and a link to the Camp website - for more see Weather forecasts for Stargazers
  • Heavens Above for observing forecasts and charts covering the International Space Station, Satellites, Planets, Comets, and Iridium flares as seen from the park
  • Google Maps for a look at the park

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's up @ Blue Springs Scout Reserve - Sky Forecast

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Bookmark this article if you're planning a trip to the Blue Springs Scout Reserve!

Check out the following:

  • Clear Sky Chart for your astronomy and observing weather forecast and a link to the Camp website - for more see Weather forecasts for Stargazers
  • Heavens Above for observing forecasts and charts covering the International Space Station, Satellites, Planets, Comets, and Iridium flares as seen from the site
  • Google Maps for a look at the camp. The pin in the map is near the "Station House" and the clearing is tight. Better clearings are available on the entry road to station and the very large fields south and west across the 6th line about 1/2km away.
I'll add other camps and locations in the near future.

Carnival of Space #70 is up at Orbital Hub

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A new Carnival is up with a new guest host. Check out Carnival of Space #70 at Orbital Hub and congratulate DJ on a good article.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Background Checks and Scouting

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Like many organizations Scouting requires leaders and volunteers to go through regular background checks. This is part of Scouting's due diligence to protect our members.

From time to time I hear questions from parents and prospective volunteers about Scouting background checks, such as how well they work or what to expect from the process.

For the most part these processes operate behind the scenes and are invisible. However, when the processes don't work as expected they can create a lot of disruption or worse. Another problem is that they don't always work as people expect. This leads to perceived to failures.

Background checking is a tool with limitations. How well we understand these limitations will give us a realistic perspective and can help head off problems.

In general, there are a number of types of background checks and many of them are performed regularly:
  • Governments use background checks for security clearances. These range from simple to very complex and the checks at higher levels can be very intense and intrusive.
  • Businesses use a variety of background checks: employment history, credit, criminal, some even use checks for money laundering and financing terrorists. Criminal checks catch things like convictions. One disadvantage is that they are unlikely to turn up anything on someone who has never been caught.
  • Organizations that work with youth or the elderly need something more. It's called a Vulnerable Sector Background Check. All Scouting personnel get one every few years. These checks go beyond the criminal background checks. Exactly how far, I don't know, but I am told that it includes things other than convictions. They specifically look for pardoned sex offenders, charges without convictions, and they may include information on mental health that may be in police records. With these you have a better chance of catching someone earlier even if they don't have a prior conviction.
While there are a number of companies that provide these background checking services, both Criminal and Vulnerable Sector checks can also be arranged easily through most police departments.

One thing to understand with any kind of test of this kind is that there are three possible outcomes:
  • Accurate results.
  • False negatives.
  • False positives.
A false negative is when some gets a pass but shouldn't. Periodically checking raises the chances of correcting these. False negatives are both worrisome and hard to detect. In fact they get detected when someone gets caught and then it's discovered they were not picked up and should be. These aren't common or the media would be full of such stories. And it is important to remember this only has a chance of working if the person has had some previous problems.

A false positive is when someone gets flagged and shouldn't. These are more common. In fact you are reasonably likely to see one if you wait long enough. If it's you or even someone you know, it will be stressful. Careful handling, discretion, and sensitivity by everyone involved is required. The person flagged will have to step aside for a time until a followup check is made. That usually involves more information, a trip to a police station and possibly fingerprints. Once everything is checked out these are usually cleared up. And always, the information should be handled as extremely sensitive and rigorously protected.

I have seen a number people caught by false positives. In general, they have been caused by lack of accurate information, coincidence, or identity theft. And all worked out correctly.

There is a darker side to background checks which raises some privacy and human rights concerns. It's not always clear what other information can turn up and how that could affect both individuals and groups. When minor or unrelated history is turned up, taking a zero-tolerance policy may do more harm than good. Not only will an individual be affected, but an organization may loose a valuable person.

To sum up, Scouting background checks are going to make our youth members safer. Understanding the process and its limitations will help everyone involved to get these working as smoothly as possible and deal with the inevitable hiccups.