Goal Cloud

I read somewhere, I really wish I knew where. About making a visual representation of things you want to accomplish. It makes it more real for you.

So I went out and got some post it notes and a sharpie and started writing. I was sitting in a parking lot at 9am writing down goals big ones, little ones, ones that can be achieved by doing one thing, and ones that will take a long time for me to be convinced that they are done.

I'll keep adding as things come to me. And I'll chronicle some of them here. And some I'll save for myself or to be published elsewhere. But anything to keep myself accountable to being a better and more effective Niel.



I watched a video about blogging recently called Blogging Made Simple by Ruth Soukup while at the gym "Reclaiming the Throne" and what not. And I realized that one of the things that I am not doing is focusing my content. This blog is about parenting, but there is a lot of other stuff that I have been posting. So to maintain focus on the parenting content that you want to read, I have started two sub blogs one for gaming and the other for scouting. There is not any new content on either page yet, the gaming site will launch on Tuesday March 6th while the scouting one goes live this Friday March 2nd. I will continue to post parenting content here.


TableTop Tuesday special edition: Two games I'm looking forward to playing. 

This past week I went to the 115th international Toy Fair and saw lots of cool things and tried out a lot of neat games. But by far the two games I can't wait to play more of are. Cookie Scouts vs Aliens and Get the MacGuffin. 

The first game is a cooperative game where you and your troop of Cookie Scouts need to sell cookies around town, earn merit badges and transport a thermonuclear weapon all before the twin is overrun by aliens. It's light it's fun and I really like playing as a team. The game is from Topside Games and is available now. 

The other game which will be available in April is from the mad genius himself Andy Looney of Looney Labs. this absurd card game is both overly complicated and completely simple all at the same time. For me when I tested the game out, even though I was already eliminated, the highlight was when one of the players sought and got advice on how to win from Andy himself. I can't wait to take a deeper dive. 


Tabletop Tuesday - Utter Nonsense

It was a cold and snowy Saturday night when my regular game night group met up for a night of trying out some new games. One became an instant favorite, the other one not so much. This is the story of the latter.

Utter Nonsense is an ok game... it's just not for me. Or for the other three people sitting around that glass covered table. We played the “Naughty” version. Basically, the players are each dealt seven cards with very topical statements. This is my first problem with this game. A year from now many of those cards will seem so irrelevant or totally nonsensical. I like an evergreen element in a game. I want to be able to pick up a game five years later and play it.

One player acts as the judge. He or she plays a card that describes an accent that all of the players need to read one of their cards in. Then the judge picks one player as the winner. This was problem number two. Having one judge leads to picking a winner based on factors not necessarily based on gameplay. Artificially choosing a winner to keep the game going, or to appease a complaining player or whatever. Perhaps if all the players vote on which one was best the results would be fairer.

I think that perhaps my group is too old for this game and that a younger crowd might like it a little better. Actually, I could see this being pretty entertaining to watch if it were improv comics playing the game. I’ll say this my pirate impression is dead on. But my Donald Trump was a bad impression of bad impressions of Donald Trump. I was a little uncomfortable with some of the subject matter, especially in mixed company. I know that there is an entire generation of card games that pride themselves in outrageous language. But for me, it just didn't work.

The game has easy rules, and you can start playing as soon as you sit down at the table. I could see how people could really like this game. Perhaps in addition to us being too old (late 30s early 40s ... not that old), we were also to sober to really get the most out of the game.

Note: I was given a copy of Utter Nonsense to facilitate this review but all opinions are my own.


Let me AXE you a question

Like many days in my life, I was sitting behind my phone scrolling through Facebook, then I saw something magical. I had followed a video link and went down the rabbit hole. And there it was the most awesome video ever. 

Jason Mamoa (Khal Drogo from 9 episodes of Game of Thrones ...I refuse to call him Aquaman from the garbage fire that was Justice League) was in what looked like a place where you interrogate hostages. He takes a big swing of beer, then picks up an axe and hurls it towards a target on a wooden wall. Bullseye

I knew that I had to do that. 

I immediately searched for axe throwing places. Nothing close enough to make an hours worth of throwing worth the drive. I lamented. And then did what any sane person would do. I bought some throwing axes on Amazon. They were clearly too small for me(and what I would learn later, way too light). But I set up a target in the backyard, I threw a little. The kids threw a little. It was alright. 

Then a few days before thanksgiving this year, I saw a Facebook ad about a axe throwing place that was opening in Brooklyn. What! So I contacted them and I was invited over to the soft opening. 

After a lot of scheduling problems for interested “axers” I arrived at the Gowanus location of KickAxe on a snowy Saturday morning with three friends. We signed in and waited for our lanes to be ready. The waiting area was sort of a gentrified hunting lodge. But in a good way. Someone invested a lot of money to make this place look perfect I said to my friends. There was even a giant blue ox right outside. 

When it was our turn we went to one of the 10 or so axe lanes. The lanes which are two targets that are fenced in with thick artificial grass on the floor. And a large stump to hold the axes. We were given an “Axpert” to guide us. Though he was not allowed to throw, he gave us tips on how to stand and hold an axe. 

It's harder than Jason Mamoa makes it look. We were using estwing hand axes. It was very hard for me to throw them lightly enough. I had to switch to a one-handed throwing style. We started sticking some but it was infrequent and a little frustrating. A little bit into our session I asked if we could switch to the bigger axes that were in other lanes. And boy did it make a difference. The heavier head of the axe stuck in the wood like crazy. I'm glad to say my team (the troop 327 alumni association axe throwing team) won both games we played (30 and Moose). 

While they claim children as young as 7 can throw, I think it might be frustrating for them. My seven year old has a good arm, but I don't think he could throw an axe (even the lighter one) high and far enough, with the needed force to hit the target. A lot different than the “range” I made inbetween the swing set and the trampoline. 

It was so much fun. I can't wait to go back again and unleash my inner Khal.

Note: I went to the KickAxe soft opening and our group threw for free but there was no expectation of any reciprocation. All opinions remain my own. 


Leaving a legacy 

I was sitting in a dimly lit bar in Lower manhattan alongside several scout leaders. All of us had spent the day at our council’s Training Extravaganza, usually called TreX, and we were reflecting on a fun day of learning and teaching. It was on that stool with a cold beer in hand that I verbalized something I was thinking all day long. 

About eight years ago I took a Scoutmaster training course, even though at that point I had been a volunteer leader for about 17 years and my days as Scoutmaster were long over. But it was invigorating and recharged my battery. I soon joined our district’s training team. And it was great, our team was filled with people from that initial course and run by the guy who ran the course, a former biker/tattoo artist/lead singer nicknamed Hawk. He was, and is, a larger than life character and he got us to teach courses on cold Saturday mornings, on consecutive Wednesday evenings. But he never asked any of us to do things he wouldn’t. 

Was our training team part, biker gang, part cult and part a well organized group of knowledgeable volunteers. Yes. We used to joke that the only way you got out of the training team was in a box. But during the next few years I helped train hundreds of leaders, both in our district and council wide at events like TreX.

I was encouraged to take Woodbadge, which is an advanced leadership/management course. It was amazing and I wanted more. I ended up staffing the course two times. I hope to do it again. 

As I walked into the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where TreX was taking place on that cold frozen Saturday morning. I kept running into people who I had trained over the years. Most were taking classes but a few were instructing courses. I was teaching a course called Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops. The room had about 17 young men and another seven adults, looking to take that knowledge back and run the course for their troops. I have taught this course for at least six years in a row, last year I taught it in front of nearly 50 people (this year there were two sessions of the course and our combined total was about 60 people). It's a pretty popular course, they were asking me if I was willing to do it again nearly six months ago. 

I imagined the cascade of influence that I have had over those people and then the influence they have all had on the young people who they are leading. And I thought back to my own scout leaders and trainers. And wow, its pretty overwhelming. 

So as I sat at that bar, next to someone I taught how to build giant fires. And across from newish scout leaders who were in the most recent Woodbadge course I staffed. We all talked about why we do this. One guy mentioned watching his son standing up to a bully. Another mentioned that there was no one else to do it. And when I was asked, why i did it all the training and etc. I thought about watching my son lead his den of his friends. And how much pride I had it in that. But it came out as “I don’t know it's just what I do.” Then I talked about all of the people over the years that I had trained and that is part of it, I am building a legacy that goes way beyond me and that I never will be (nor really desire to be) acknowledged. Apparently building better leaders is just part of who I am.

Note: Everyone who influenced me along the way John, Lee, Barbara, Tom, Miguel, another John, Joey, yet another John, Scott, Fred, Kris, Donna, Dawn, Gary and Tim (and countless others) you are all part of that legacy because without your part in this all I wouldn't be the leader I am today. 


Tabletop Tuesday - COBRA PAW

If there is one thing you need to know about my kids is my son loves cats and my daughter is so competitive she will cut you. So it was a natural fit when I brought home the game Cobra Paw.

Cobra Paw which if you just looked at the packaging you would assume it is some ninja cat themed mahjong game. In actuality, it is a speed and skill based matching game. A set of domino-like markers are spread out in the middle of the table, then dice are rolled. The dice have the same symbols that are on the dominoes when you see the same pattern come up you reach out with your paw and drag the corresponding tile into your pile. This goes on until all of the tiles have been claimed. But before this happens the games gets sneaky and cutthroat, players can steal tiles from each other's piles. All legal. Yes, there will be fights. Still all legal.

The game is very easy to pick up and like with a lot of matching games, older kids will overmatch their younger siblings. Which may frustrate them. Another nice feature is you can play the game one-on-one (very useful when you have a younger sibling pouting in the other room about the game being unfair).

Cobra Paw looks great and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

NOTE - I bought my copy of Cobra Paw and was not influenced by anyone for this review.

A guide to scouting. 

Starting this month BSA councils across the nation will be rolling out the Family Scouting to Cub Scout packs. Basically girls will be allowed in the Cub Scouts. So there will be a lot of content produced by the media about it. And while most people who read those articles and watch those reports won't notice, there are many of us who immediately dismiss the work when there are inaccuracies in basic facts Here is a brief nomenclature guide.

Cub Scouts - A program for children from kindergarten to fifth grade.

Boy Scouts - A program for boys ages 11-17.

Venturing - A coed program for young adults ages 14 (13 if completed 8th grade) through 20.

BSA (Boy Scouts of America) - The national governing body that oversees the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and several smaller co-ed programs for older children.

Chartered Organization - A local institution that sponsors scouting in their community. They “own” the Pack or Troop.

Girl Scouts - A non related organization that serves girls from Kindergarten to the end of high school. Often abbreviated as GSUSA.

Pack - The top tier of a localized Cub Scout group.

Den - The smaller groups of age/grade separated groups of Cub Scouts in a Pack.

Troop  - The top tier of a localized Boy Scout group.

Cubmaster - An adult (over 21) who is the overall leader of a Cub Scout pack.

Den Leader - An adult (Over 21) who is in charge of a Cub Scout Den. Formerly Den Mother but now both men and women serve in this capacity.

Scoutmaster - The adult leader of a Boy Scout Troop, must be over 21.

Assistant Scoutmaster - Additional Boy Scout adult leaders, they must be at least 18 years old.

Senior Patrol Leader - The top youth (ages 17 and under) leader of a Boy Scout troop. Boy Scout troops are run by their youth leaders.

Eagle - The highest rank a Boy Scout may earn. A scout must earn 21 merit badges, and lead a service project before his 18th birthday.

Boy Scout motto - Be Prepared

Cub Scout motto - Do your best

Scout Law - A twelve point pledge that all phases of scouting use. A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

Scout Oath - All phases of scouting say the same oath or promise. On my honor, I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

As of January 1st 2018, Cub Scout packs will have three membership options.
Option 1 - Boy only Packs
Option 2 - Co-ed Packs with single gendered Dens
Option 3 - Girl only Packs.

Boy Scout Troops are not accepting girls at this time, but will be announcing their plan by 2019.