Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Spoon and Carrot

NOTE: I don't know what this is. But it might be related to this and this and could definitely be related to this. You never know.

Widdershins of the Mountains of Stone, yonder of the river Lage, and a half hour north of the village of Splut lies my misery.

It sprawls on the leeward edge of twenty acre of meadow, rock, swamp and forest. Twenty rooms it has, each less grand than the last and only six of them with running water because the thatch there is a bit thin and the rain gets through.

The Spoon and Carrot, my inn.

Well, I say ‘my inn,’ but it belongs to my father. He says I’ll inherit it one day, but Mam says I’ve enough misery in my life he’s not to say such things when I’m within earshot.
Misery includes my older brother Hamlet, whose straw stack hair resembles the thick thatch on the roof of the inn.

You might wonder why Hamlet won’t inherit the inn, being the oldest, and a boy. Life works in mysterious ways, my father says, and when he says that Mam says good thing, leastwise he never would’ve found anyone willing to marry him. Then he says oh ho woman, there’s mystery too in a man who can put up with a born spinster like thee, and that’s when they usually tell me to go slop the pigs.

And I go, not because I don’t enjoy hearing them fight – anyone with a room next to theirs would be a fool not to spend nights with their ear clamped to the wall listening to them fight and talk and carouse and then do what sounds like making the bed all night (that’s usually when I get bored and go to bed myself). I go because the pigs need feedin’ and Hamlet’s probably out there counting the chickens and he gets upset if he can’t get to thirty.

But back to Hamlet, speaking of the pigs.

Mam says he’s simple. Father says he’s daft. All I know is his days are all off if he can’t go into the swamp each morning and count the snails before he starts his chores. 

Twenty-eight he counts each day, and I have a hard life replacing those the birds et or the ones who get sick of being counted and slide away. But a Hamlet who has counted only twenty-seven ere the morn comes is a Hamlet who steps on the chickens or upsets the pail under the cow’s udder and the world’s not right in that endless head of his until the twenty-eighth is counted.

That’s why father says the inn is mine, if I want it.

And I want it.

First thing I’ll do is change the daft name. Whoever heard of the Spoon and Carrot, with the idiot sign carved in oak of the loony man holding a carrot behind him and a spoon afore him, as if that’s a sign of good food and hospitality. And the men laugh because they say the carrot looks like those the Widow Sharp grows in her garden, the one she shows to the young ladies before they go to their wedding-beds. I don’t see what’s so funny about it, but the men – specially the old ones – laugh so hard they end up coughing up their beer.

I won’t have them about when I own the inn, drinkin’ beer and pissin’ it out and doing nothing all day but that. That they occasionally remember to scrape a coin across the bar is a miracle, Mam says, but Father, well, Father doesn’t mind because he says they lend color, and color is what the regular guests of the Spoon and Carrot seek.

Now here I have to be careful. I have to count to twenty-eight myself and make sure Mam isn’t listening.

Because the Spoon and Carrot’s regulars ain’t exactly regular.

Ponyboy, Whoever You Are, I Hate You

Crisis Part One: On Monday, the 12-year-old remembers/discovers (we’re never quite sure with him) that he’s got a massive packet of papers to complete (for today(!)) on his English class’ recent reading of S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders.”

Crisis Part Two: We’re pretty sure we own the book. Good thing, since the teacher won’t let school copies of the book go home in order to complete this assignment. Except it’s not on the shelf. A quick scouring of the shelves in the study and the shelves in the kids’ rooms (we could insulate our house with the paperback books we own) reveals nothing S.E. Hinton-related. No problem, it’s a perennial favorite at our local thrift stores. So off we go . . .

Crisis Part Three: It’s not at the Idaho Youth Ranch Thrift Store. And the other local thrifts are closed. As is the local used book store (out of business, due to exceptionally high prices). They do have a copy at Barnes and Noble (inexplicably filed in “New Teen Fiction”). Good news, though: I find a copy of Theodore White’s “The Making of the President 1960, adding yet another to my collection of Richard Milhous Nixon-connected books, which causes much eye-rolling on the part of my wife. I pass up a hardbound biography of Gerald Ford, however.

Crisis Part Four: The copy Barnes and Noble has is a 50th Anniversary edition. Of course. Which probably explains why it’s in “New Teen Fiction,” I suppose.  That also explains why it costs $10; one dollar more than we can buy the ebook. Because the publishers know this is a perennial favorite among high school English teachers and why not profit from that?

Crisis Averted: We make an appeal to the Internet and of course find so many study guides and helps and hints on the book that (as far as I know) the homework packet is completed and we have enough time to do dishes and send everyone to bed. Good thing I didn’t need/want an evening.

Confession: I’m pretty sure I’ve never read the book. Nor have I seen the movie. I know vaguely it’s about gangs, I think, and includes someone named Ponyboy. Lest ye think me uncultured in the way of must-reads in high school, I am versed in the works of Robert Cormier. Though I’m not sure that’s something to brag about.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Will the Boot Get the, uh, Boot?

See this boot? I’ve had these boots for a long time. Just over ten years, to be exact.

It seems weird for a technical writer to have leather steel-toed boots, but they’re part of the required safety gear where I work. This weekend, I’m going to buy a new pair, because these Timberland boots have had it. The soles are split, the lining is worn out and they let in a lot of water if I happen to amble into a puddle.

So, I can hear you wondering , will Mister Fweem’s Blog get a reboot in design, since that boot I’ve had up there for who knows how long is going in the trash as soon as it’s replaced?


I hadn’t thought of it until just now. I have other priorities this weekend. But a cleaner look to the blog might be in order. I haven’t done a refresh in years, and maybe getting a pair of new boots means it’s time for this boot to go. I’m sure you’ll be up nights wondering if and when the redesign will happen.

I won’t be. I need my beauty sleep.

STEM in Scouting Lets Pete do the Thing

Why do we do STEM in Scouting?

Because of Scouts like Pete*.

Pete is a curious Scout. Always wanting to *do* things. Sometimes, as his Scoutmaster, it’s frustrating how much he wants to do. But lately, I’ve decided: Sometimes you have to let Pete do the thing.

Last weekend, on a campout, he wanted to boil an egg by putting it in a Styrofoam cup full of water in the fire. Now, it would have been easier just to scramble that egg. But I let Pete do the thing. He had a ball. He did indeed learn you can boil an egg in that manner, even if some of your water boils off and the part of your cup not protected by the water inside it burns and melts and curls up all over the place.

This is not the limit of Pete’s wanting to do the thing. Last fall, he wanted to build his own zipline. Fortunately, he didn’t ask his Scoutmaster to do this, but he did ask his parents. They, too, let Pete do the thing. He built a zipline in his backyard, stretching from a tree to their trampoline – so he’d have somewhere soft to land, he said. To show he’d thought it through, he also strapped a pillow to his hips, in case he didn’t make it to the landing spot. Pete’s zipline didn’t zip – he never gained enough momentum to complete the trip form tree to trampoline – but Pete got to do the thing.

This is why we do STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – in Scouting.
STEM in Scouting is represented by the NOVA program, in addition to the little bits of science, technology, engineering and math Scouts learn and accomplish as they work on their rank advancements. Through NOVA’s seven modules, Scouts learn why race cars have spoilers on them. They make and launch stomp rockets. They observe wildlife, talk to scientists, map asteroids, learn how technology is used in construction, and design their own secret code.

I can hear it already:

“But Mister Smarty Pants, I’m already struggling to get my Scouts through the requirements for rank advancements. I don’t have time to do the NOVA program on top of all of that!”

I hear you.

But remember, sometimes it’s important to let Pete do the thing.

The BSA brought STEM into Scouting “[T]o excite and expand a sense of wonder in our Scouts.”

The BSA goes on to say: “By working with an adult counselor or mentor, the various modules allow [Scouts] to explore the basic principles of STEM and discover how fun and fascinating STEM can be. “

Should we be more excited about science and technology? I kinda think so.

The Pew Research Center polled Americans in 2013 and discovered that only 20 percent of those polled could identify nitrogen as the dominant gas in Earth’s atmosphere. And while 77 percent of those polled knew that a major problem with the overuse of antibiotics is the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, I’m a little worried about that 23 % that didn’t know.

We ought to encourage increased literacy in science, in engineering, in math and technology, to help our Scouts better understand the world they live in.

Here’s why you shouldn’t let time dismiss the NOVA program:

  1. You don’t have to do it. Find a parent, an assistant den leader, someone in your chartered organization who has a passion for science. If you’re LDS, talk to your bishop about getting that person on board to help with the NOVA program.
  2. You’re already doing it. Some of the requirements for the NOVA program dovetail with rank advancements. Do you have a Webelos Scout who’s completed the Camper and Earth Rocks adventures, or a Wolf Scout who is done with Digging in the Past and Germs Alive? That Scout has completed one of the requirements for the “Science Everywhere” NOVA module.
  3. Your Scouts are already doing it. Check with your Scouts and their parents. There’s a good chance they’re already read a science-related book or watched an hour of science-related television, and can make a list of two questions or ideas from what he read or watched and talk about those questions or ideas with his NOVA counselor (which, I’ll remind you, doesn’t have to be you). There’s another “Science Everywhere” requirement done.
  4. Not every Scout will want to do it. I’ve been Scoutmaster for 3 ½ years, and in that time I’ve had one Scout work his way through the NOVA program. I challenged him to do it when he earned his Eagle Scout award when he turned 13. And I’m working with my two Scout-aged sons – slowly – through the program. They might finish. They might not. I’m doing it at their pace.

If I know one thing about boys, it’s that you never know what’s going to pique their interest. So in interest in piquing their interest, don’t stand in the way if your Pete just wants to do the thing. Unless he wants to build a zipline. That’s when you send him home.

*Not his real name. But Pete is a real Scout.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pathway Grows Up

Pathways is getting bigger.

Likely much bigger.

The LDS Church announced today the creation of BYU Pathway Worldwide, the next generation of BYU-Idaho’s Pathways program, meant to bring higher education to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to members of the church who would like to attend a church school but can’t due to reasons of cost or geography.

I have taught in the Pathways program off and on over the past several years (and have been asked to teach in the program next semester). Looks like I’m coming back in at an exciting time.

The program currently serves 37,000 students and is set to “increase greatly” according to Dieter F. Uchtdorf, representing the Church’s First Presidency at an announcement of the program’s expansion today.

Students in Pathways currently pay $69 per credit hour – with even lower costs in areas where economics call for it.

I truly do enjoy working with Pathways students. They’re highly motivated and anxiously engaged in their education, sometimes more so than traditional university students.

BYU Pathway Worldwide will leave the Rexburg campus and move to Salt Lake City