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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Cubs - The Start of a Great Adventure

Are you at a loss about something for your son to do; outside of school?

Is he driving you mad, just sitting in front of the computer all evening, and not doing anything creative?  Does he take part in sports?  Does he have interests?

Are you looking for something to do, that takes your mind away from work?  Maybe you have skills of your own you'd like to share.

Next year, Cubs celebrate their Centenary. 100 years of Cubs, around the world.  From the age of 8, through to 10 and a half, boys (and girls) enjoy a really eclectic mix of education, action and adventure.

My personal story began back in 2008, when my oldest son, Ethan, started.

Scouting, in general, has seen a steady resurgence, and when my oldest son turned 8, he joined our local Cub pack.  As a parent who never went to Cubs or Scouts, I really didn't know what to expect.  At all.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to see the programme, and the activities the boys got up to.

I first helped out when we went on our annual camp.  The "main event" in the Scouting year, I was amazed; totally blown away by the organisation and preparation that goes into making a Scout/Cub camp successful.  You could liken it to a a small army - everything is brought to the site, and when we leave, it's as though we were never there!

It was very hard work, but extremely rewarding.  The boys had a fantastic time; and not an electronic device to be seen.  I was hooked.  I soon became a more regular helper at the weekly meetings, and at the following camp, I was invested as a leader.

Almost three years ago, I took over as Akela.  The leader of the pack.

Why is Akela the name for the Cub Leader?

If you didn't know, Lord Baden-Powell, the creator of the Scouts, was friendly with Rudyard Kipling, and so asked if he could use the characters from The Jungle Book as names for the Cub leaders.

I get such a buzz from seeing the boys grow and develop; and, as they get older, move on to Scouts.

Running a Cub pack is no mean feat.  I have the most amazing team in Shere Khan, Baloo and Bagheera; as well as three Explorer girls, who turn up each and every week to help run the meetings.  The parents get involved too.

There are plenty of badges to earn; from  Personal Safety to DIY, Cooking to Pioneering and Digital Citizen to Hiking and the great outdoors.  There's something for everyone, and it's an education too.

I've not even started to scratch the surface about what Cubs and Scouts is about.  There is so much; run by an organisation that I'm proud to be a part of.

If you are looking for something exciting and rewarding, where you get out just as much as you put in; where your son or daughter will learn new skills, increase their confidence and make new friends, then contact your local Scout group to see if you can help.

You won't regret it.

Take a look at the Scouts website for more information

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pocket - How I Save The Internet

How do you consume your news?  Do you buy a traditional newspaper?  Do you just read the free newspaper on your daily commute?
Or, do you use your phone, tablet or PC to read the news?

I rarely read a newspaper; but I do read the news on my phone; each morning, as I wend my way to work, I flick through feedly and find articles of interest in my curated news feeds.  I also use Flipboard for more in-depth articles of interest.  When I find something I want to save for later, I add to Pocket.  This is how I "save the internet".

It's not just feedly.  It's possible to save articles from almost anywhere; especially by using the "share" feature, I select Pocket, and away it goes.

The next time I fire up the Pocket app on my mobile, or the site; all my saved articles are ready to ready to read.

Once I've added tags, I can then select tags to read, see where the videos are, or pictures.  Articles I want to keep handy I mark as favourites, others, when read can either be deleted for good, or simply archived.

Saving the internet has never been so easy.

Do you use Pocket?  Is there some other way in which you save articles for reading later?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Tech - Episode 6 - Fitbit Fit

I will start this post by telling you that I am not, repeat not, a fitness fanatic.

It's been years since I went to the gym, or took part in any organised fitness activity.  I don't run.  I haven't been swimming for ages.  In fact, the only exercise I do is walking.

For a while I've been contemplating losing weight, and thought I'd get myself a pedometer - measure how far I walk, in an effort to concentrate my mind.

You can track various attributes such as steps, stairs,
calories burned and more...
Then I heard about Fitbit.  I did some research.  Thought about it.  Continued my walking and thought some more.  There is a range to choose from, from the small Fitbit Zip, to the top of the range Surge.

Now, that's a little over the top, but the Zip wasn't enough (even though it's exactly what I was looking for in a pedometer).

I opted for the Fitbit One.  It's a small device that can easily fit into a pocket, or clipped onto a waistband using the supplied clip.  It tracks a number of things:

  • Steps (that's the obvious one)
  • Floors climbed
  • Distance walked
  • Calories burned
  • Sleep
There's even a little plant that grows or shrinks based on how active you are!

Used in conjunction with the app (available on iOS or Android) and the web interface, the entire Fitbit philosophy is about getting fit, losing weight and keeping fit.

The website dashboard is where you go to log your food and drink.  There is a database of almost every food type, as well as ranges that can be purchased from supermarkets.  You can also scan the barcode on the packaging and most of the time it finds it.  This is a little hit and miss, there have been a few occasions where my food isn't recognised.  It's not a major issue, but it would be nice if the database was kept up to date.

Fitbit Dashboard
The Fitbit dashboard shows how you're doing
against the targets you've set

At night, slip the Fitbit One into a sleeve and wear it on your wrist. Set it going as you fall asleep and it tracks how soundly (or not) you sleep.

It's an activity monitor in reverse, recording times when you wake or are restless; and giving you an efficiency rating of your sleep.

Should you go running, cycling, roller-skating, play tennis; or any other physical activity, then you can set the timer off again, and it will record it as active time.

As I mentioned right at the start, I am not a fitness fanatic; however, using my Fitbit One is driving me to better my tracking scores each day.  Increasing the number of steps I do, watching what I eat and seeing it all reported on the website.  For the very serious, for a premium, you can get a whole host of reports - the first week is free, to try them out; and they are very detailed.

If you so desire, there's also a whole community to join in with, and compete against!  This isn't something I do, but I can see the benefits.  The website also hosts a great forum, for asking all sorts of questions.

Overall, my Fitbit One has seamlessly become part of my dress code, and I am often joked at for scanning barcodes and capturing my eating habits!

The last laugh will be on me, as I reach my goal.

Do you use a fitness tracker?  How has it helped you?


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