I’m Glad I’m a Veteran

I was fortunate that, during the Viet Nam era, when I got out of Navy boot camp I was sent straight to the Pentagon.  I already had a B.S. degree in Mathematics with training in computer science, and there were few with that skill-set back in 1969.

While in the Pentagon, I worked for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  My most significant programming responsibility was to code a communist land movement model written by a Captain in the Air Force.  The Captain and I worked together well as I had the math skills to read all his work, and could run all the needed scenarios.

I only had to serve two years active duty, coming out of boot camp as E-2 and leaving as E-4.  The Navy requires two additional years of reserve duty, so when I started graduate school I joined a reserve unit.  Quickly, I was promoted to E-5 and found the extra money useful while going to school.  I can’t remember the details any longer, but I was offered a direct commission in the field of security because of my math background, and became an Ensign.   A couple years later, I was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade.  However, shortly after that, because of budget cuts, the government decided to pay officers only half-pay for attending reserve meetings.  In 1977, I finished my Ph.D. and got a good paying job, so I dropped out of the reserves.

Everyone seems to have so much respect for veterans these days, as it should be.  This is so much different than the Viet Nam era.  Of course, today is Memorial Day, a day to memorialize those who lost their lives serving our country.  I was fortunate when I was in the service getting a job where I could contribute to saving the lives of Americans.  How lucky I was compared to so many others who were sent off to Viet Nam and never returned.

Today we honor those fallen who were not so fortunate but I also want to close by thanking two great scout friends who spent their career in the military, Jim Shannon and Pete Armstrong.

Antiquities of Egypt and Jordan

Visiting Egypt and Jordan proved to be the great fulfillment of a high-priority bucket list trip for my wife and me.  With a group of 30 fellow travelers in Egypt and 6 in Jordan, we toured by bus and cruise ship to immerse ourselves into these most ancient of countries.

Many of our friends and family were concerned about safety in that region of the world, but we felt safe during the entire trip.  We had armed guards with us at all times in Egypt (and, at times, a police escort for our bus, complete with sirens!), and both countries took security very seriously.

Our guide for the entire Egypt portion of the trip was an Egyptian with a degree in Egyptian history, which added so much to what we learned as we visited each of the locations and excursions.

Craig at Sakkara

The day after arriving, we visited the “step” pyramid Sakkara which is believed to be the first built in ancient Egypt.  In the afternoon, we visited the Great Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure and the nearby Great Sphinx.  My wife was in Egypt heaven!

Great Sphinx

Gold Mask of King TutThe following day we visited the highlights of the Cairo Egyptian Museum which included the contents of King Tut’s tomb and the golden mask.  We learned that the beauty of King Tut’s tomb would have been minor compared to what would have been found in other tombs if they had not been robbed.  (But he still had a heck of a lot of gold!)  King Tut was only a king for about 9 years; whereas King Ramses II was king for 70+ years and his tomb was huge.  It must have been magnificent with treasure before it was robbed.

Open-air Street Market

In the evening, we visited an open-air street market in one of the oldest parts of Cairo.  Everywhere there were vendors holding souvenirs and saying “one dollar, one dollar”, trying to lure us into their shops; families and young people  enjoying the warm evening air in the plaza; the exotic smells of Egyptian foods, coffees and tobacco of the hookahs…a glimpse into the current culture of the Egyptian people.  Afterwards, we had a traditional Egyptian dinner at an open-air restaurant.

Temple of Karnak
Temple of Luxor

From Cairo we flew to the city of Luxor.  The city of Luxor contains 70% of the world’s ancient remains, many still intact.   In the city, we visited the Temples of Karnak and Luxor.  The Temple City of Karnak is considered to be among the world’s largest ancient temple complexes.  With almost 1,300 years of construction and covering a site of almost a mile by two miles, it includes several of the finest examples of ancient Egyptian design and architecture.  The Temples of Luxor and Karnak are connected by a long boulevard lined by sphinxes which is under renovation.  Awe-inspiring!

Boulevard of Sphinxes

Valley of the KingsThe next morning, we visited the famous Valley of the Kings, used for ritual burial for much of the Pharaonic times.  The valley is known to contain 63 tombs and has been a focus of archaeological exploration since the end of the 18th century.  It is one of most famous archaeological sites in the world.  In modern times, the valley became famous for the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamen.  My wife went in and saw Tut’s mummy and his very small (comparatively speaking) tomb.  She was underwhelmed after seeing the other tombs; just a few Baboons carved on the walls…Ramses VI tomb – awesome – she said it was huge with painted hieroglyphics and gods everywhere.

Tomb of King Ramses VI

From Luxor, we boarded our ship and traveled up the Nile for 4 days, taking various shore excursions to temple ruins each day as we traveled to Aswan (saw a Belly-dancing and Egyptian music show one evening!).  At Aswan is the Aswan High Dam built across the Nile between 1960 and 1970.  The High Dam has resulted in protection from floods and droughts, an increase in agricultural production and employment, electricity production, and improved navigation that also benefits tourism.  Conversely, the dam flooded a large area, causing the relocation of over 100,000 people.  Many archaeological sites were submerged while others were relocated.

Twenty-two monuments and architectural complexes, including the Abu Simbel temples, which were threatened by flooding from Lake Nasser, were preserved by moving them to the shores of Lake Nasser under the UNESCO Nubia Campaign.

FeluccasWhile in Aswan, we took a ride in a “felucca”, a traditional wooden sailing vessel of the Nile and learned about the Nubian culture of the region.

We debarked from our ship, and flew from Aswan to Abu Simbel, the site of the Great Temple of Ramses II, Egypt’s longest-ruling pharaoh.  The Great Temple, carved out of a mountainside, with its huge statues of Ramses II at the entrance, was magnificent and the evening sound and light show was very well done.  It was worth the extra expense!

Abu Simbel at night
Abu Simbel (original/today)

From Abu Simbel, we boarded another ship and voyaged along Lake Nasser back to Aswan taking in various archaeological sites, most of which had been moved in order not to be covered by the Aswan dam water.  This part of the cruise was more relaxing with time to just enjoy cruising for 3 days.  From Aswan, we flew back to Cairo.  This was the end of the trip for most on our river cruise, but six of us went on to Amman, Jordan.  In the land of the Bedouins, the land of Moses and his followers, we spent four additional days exploring Jordan’s antiquities.

Bedouin family tentIn addition to the tents in which many Bedouins still live in the countryside with their herds of animals, the highlight of Jordan was the ancient city of Petra.  Petra was built by the Nabataeans in the heart of the Shara Mountains.  It prospered in the first centuries BC and AD and was a vital part of a major trading route connecting ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.  The Nabataeans were also famous at the time for their water management techniques in the desert.  The city survived because it was well hidden, with its main access through the multi-colored sides of a slot canyon (a 2 ½ mile walk through the canyon to get to the city).  Its most famous artifact is a temple called “The Treasury”, with beautiful columns carved into the pink rocks. Today, intricate facades sculpted into the sandstone cliffs of the area can still be seen, along with other remarkably preserved structures, tombs, and monuments of the fascinating civilization.


Dead SeaAhh…and then to a gorgeous resort on the Dead Sea to relax, unwind and, for some, float in the sea.  Salt cakes the rocks and shore, as it contains 34% salt (Atlantic ocean is 3.5%), beautiful and clear.  We also visited the Dead Sea Museum.  We definitely could have stayed another day!

Another interesting ruin we visited was the Jerash ruins which are said to be the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy.  Jerash featured extensive Greek and Roman ruins.  The ancient Roman city enjoyed great wealth and importance largely due to the area’s fertile lands and year-round fresh water supply.  An earthquake hit the region in 749 AD destroying huge areas of the city and leaving the ruins buried in soil for hundreds of years.  It was in 1806 that a German explorer discovered them.


This was a trip well worth taking and my wife and I always felt safe.  Our guides knew everything and seemingly knew everyone wherever we traveled.  We gorged on buffets every day, walked many miles, and saw incredible sights. Our fellow travelers were wonderful, gung-ho (even those with disabilities), and we made several new acquaintances.  I encourage anyone interested in antiquities of the Middle East, to take a trip as we did and use Viking River Cruises.  It is a company we certainly recommend.

Two Winning Mission Patches!

My entire career was both answering environmental questions using statistics or data mining large databases to understand and ultimately improve situations.  In other words, I did a great deal of math!  I enjoyed the work very much because I was very proficient in my field.

However, since I have been retired, I have left the field of mathematics and focused on a hobby of designing patches.  The rewards of helping others have been outstanding.  One teacher, Tanya Anderson, has brought me two projects that have excited me more than others.  This is the email I received from Tanya four years ago:

I don’t know if you remember me, you designed soapbox derby patches for my son’s Cub Scout Pack last year.  I have a new project I am working on and I am wondering if you will be able to help.

St. Joan of Arc School I am a teacher at a Catholic school in Lisle.  I along with 3 of my colleagues have been chosen as one of 7 educator teams from across the country to participate in a special program at NASA this summer where we get to design an experiment and then fly our experiment on NASA’s zero gravity airplane.  Part of our program is getting all of the students in our school involved in different aspects of our experiment and flight preparation.  As one of our activities we wanted to do a mission patch design contest with our students, since all NASA missions have their own patches.  We were hoping then to have the winning student design actually made into patches that we could wear on our flight and also pass out to some of our students. 

 I immediately thought of you since you did such an awesome job on our scout patches.  I was hoping I could scan in the winning student design and you would be able to create something close to it.”  An article in the Chicago Tribune describes more about the project, http://tinyurl.com/MicroGXcycle2

My response to Tanya’s request was, “Wow, I would love to help.  Certainly, you and your colleagues deserve a big congratulations!”  From the four winning designs submitted by the students, I created the final patch below.

Winning Designs
Micro GX
Mission Patch

At the beginning of this year, Tanya once again was teaming up with NASA for a school-wide project, along with a creating a “Mission Patch.”  The name of the project is NASA Microgravity University for Educators or NASA MgUE for short.  The NASA website is: https://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov/theProgram/micro-g-ue/.

Again, Tanya had the students submit designs for the patch and I took the winning components and created a patch for this year’s project.

Winning Designs
Mission Patches

Being able to help two such worthwhile projects brings me a great deal of satisfaction.  What these teachers are doing for our young ones will only make them better adults and possibly better scientists.

Craig Murray, Ph.D. Research Scientist

A Worthy Certificate

Helping others through my hobbies is one of the things in life I really enjoy.  Of course, taking care of my young grandson beats that.

Boy Scout CertificateSeveral years ago, I came across several old scout certificates.  One in particular, a British Boy Scouts certificate, had a great deal of character but it was very tattered.  I spent a number of hours cleaning it up which included straightening up the right border and changing out the British flag for a U.S. flag.  Now it was ready for many uses.  (My friend, John Davis, informed me that the patrol flags are peewit and wolf on the left, and stag and cormorant on the right.)

The first use I thought of was for Wood Badge as the certificate had a picture of Baden Powell at the bottom. My focus was for staffers so I made one with three beads and one with four beads and later added one with two beads for anyone attending Wood Badge.

Wood Badge - 3 Beads    Wood Badge - 4 Beads

The next use was for the boy earning Eagle Scout.  The medal I displayed was a 1930 Robbins Type 2A medal which is among the nicest made because of the detail (https://www.sageventure.com/scoutingcentury/eagle/robbins2.html).

Eagle ScoutScoutmaster

I made some other uses but the next popular use was for a Scoutmaster certificate with a 1920’s Scoutmaster Badge.  In the early years, colors defined badges and silver and green was the color of the Scoutmaster.  In addition, a Scoutmaster was supposed to represent the knowledge and skills of a First Class Scout so that is the emblem he wore.  You can see the early badges on this web page – https://www.sageventure.com/history/SM/SMbadges.html.

I’ve had many thank yous for making these certificates available on https://www.sageventure.com/store/certificates.html#early but the pleasure has been mine.  The cost of the certificates goes to paying for the card stock paper, ink and my website; not for making me a business.  Making something nice for others brings me the pleasure I enjoy.



Foster Father Takes Only Terminally Ill Children

Tears flowed from my eyes as I read about a man that is now taking care of a bedridden 6-year-old foster girl with a rare brain defect who is blind and deaf; has daily seizures; and her arms and legs are paralyzed.  This devout Libyan-born Muslim has been taken care of her for all of her life.  But the story does not begin there.  He has been doing this type of care for more than two decades.  He has buried about 10 children.  Some died in his arms.

A bright lightIf you want to read about the most touching story about a person that gives and asks for nothing in return, you have to read this article that was in the L.A. Times, ‘I know they are going to die.’  This foster father takes in only terminally ill children.

Travel Ban

Today I wanted to share with you a success story about someone that got through the travel ban that was put in place without any consideration to the effect upon good people.  I could not find one.  All I could find were sad stories about students and others that had been living in the U.S. for many years but had gone home to visit a family member only to learn they could not return.

The best news I found was that a federal judge ordered a halt to deportations of travelers with valid visas to enter the U.S. saying that sending them back to the affected countries could cause them “irreparable harm.”  Other good news was that droves of immigration attorneys stepped up to offer free services to those detained.  Now this is the America that I am proud of.

This ban is also upsetting many significant CEOs.  CNN Money has an article that highlights Goldman Sachs response and notes the response of other CEOs.

I read an interesting article in the Huffington Post entitled “The Inevitability Of Impeachment.”  This is just after one week so I take it with a Grain of Salt, but since it includes concerns from both parties, it is worth reading.

P.S.  This map might make you think twice about the validity of the immigration ban.

Ecuador Visit

BSA Old Men - Jorge, John, Craig & Pete
BSA Old Men – Jorge, John, Craig & Pete

LydaAnother great international scouting experience at JamCam Ecuador in Guayaquil over the New Years!  A really interesting aspect of their program is that it was totally volunteer-run; I was very impressed.  One lady that we have to thank for this is Lyda Pavón, International Commissioner for the Scouts of Ecuador.

JamCam stands for Jamboree and Camporee.  Usually, Scouts from 11 to 15 years of age had a special program during the Pan-American Scout Jamborees, but after the 2010 Interamerican Scout Conference, the Interamerican Scout Committee decided to create the “JamCam”.  Scouts were placed in the Camporee and Venturers in the Jamboree, both with similar programs and held in the same venue.

The JamCam provided opportunities for all participants to visit the main tourist places near Guayaquil.  Also, a traditional characteristic of Scouts is a day of community service.  At the JamCam each scout could choose between:  sharing with children with disabilities, helping in planting trees, collaborating in the creation of signs for parks, painting of murals, and so on.  This is one of the reasons that I enjoy scouting so much.

Colombian ScoutersI was able to help as a security guard for JamCam with my friend John Davis.  We were the old men on duty every morning.  I shared my tent with two very nice scouters from Columbia:  Camilo and Néstor.  Everyone I met at JamCam were either friendly, helpful or both.

Galapagos Islands tour group
Galapagos Tour Group: Craig, Pete, Jorge, Pedro, Lidia, Patricia, Vitor & Chang

VitorAfter JamCam, my friend Pete Armstrong, a wonderful group of Brazilians, and I visited the Galapagos Islands.  One of the young Brazilians, Vitor, had been a very helpful translator for me one day during JamCam.  Pete and I had a great time due in large part to the friendly group of Brazilians.  Plus, they spoke English which was very helpful for me.

The traveling abroad and the scout leaders I meet make these experiences so enjoyable.  You can always count on meeting quality people in scouting as they are the ones that often think of others first.  All my other international adventures are shared on this web page:  www.venturingmag.org/International.shtml.


familyWith the Christmas season approaching and being a grandparent, I started thinking more about family and how wonderful all my family members are.  I am lucky to have brothers and sisters, children, grandkids, spouses and extended family members that I treasure.

grandkidsAnd what generated this thinking, was when my wife and I sat outside with our young grandson and interacted with him as he played with his digger tractor and dump truck in the dirt.  Just watching him brought joy to me.  It made me think of the pictures you see of grandparents with their grandkids which always seem so warm and wonderful.

There has also been sadness this year as my mom passed and my nephew suffers from cancer, but I am glad for the support that is there for them and the support for those that are most involved with the caretaking.

Family structure is so different now than in the days of our parents. I found a nice article titled “Types of Family Structures” (family.lovetoknow.com/about-family-values/types-family-structures) that points out that there is no right or wrong type as long as the family is filled with love and support.

In my reading on families, I also learned of the value of sitting down for a family meal, something that I was fortunate to do with my children.  The article has statistics that show the benefits of family times like these: https://steemit.com/steem/@michaellamden68/family-times.

Family Poem

“Just as the earth goes through seasons, so does a family in the course of time endure seasons.  Falling in love, marriage and the birth of children are times of renewal like Spring.  Long pleasant periods of calm are like the feeling of an endless Summer.  As we and our children grow older, our leaves start to change.  We start to experience Autumn.  This may seem like dying but it is only signs of a new phase of life.  Crises and hardship are times for the family to stay close together, help each other out and endure the frigid winds of change.  This period is akin to Winter.  Life is full of seasons and changes which are best experienced with the support of friends and family.”

Source:  www.familyfriendpoems.com/poems/family/

“60 Minute” Postscript

This evening (12/11/16), 60 Minutes had a wonderful story entitled “Man Returns to Childhood Home Against the Odds.”   The link to the story is www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-lion-movie-saroo-brierley-bill-whitaker/.  Over 20 years after an Indian boy was separated from his mother, he finds her again.  What a wonderful story.

Photoshopped Christmas Card

I photoshop quite often but this one is a real tree topper – Mom Makes Cute Photoshopped Christmas Card While Her Husband is Deployed in Iraq.

Here’s to Your Health! The Benefits of Hiking

chinohillsFor so many years I led Boy Scouts on hikes and had wonderful experiences.  As the years went on and I got older, I did less but this year I returned to my old Boy Scout Troop after 16 years and offered to help with their hikes.  Did this bring back wonderful memories!  Not only did this bring back memories but nice views, fresh air and the sounds and smells of nature.  I encourage all of you – young and old – to follow my lead.

Hiking is a powerful cardio workout that can:

  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Boost bone density, since walking is a weight-bearing exercise
  • Build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in your hips and lower legs
  • Strengthen your core
  • Improve balance
  • Help control your weight
  • Boost your mood

Here are some tips:

If you have not done hiking, start slowly.  A short, local hike is best for beginners.  Gradually work up to trails with hills or uneven terrain.

Use poles.  Digging into the ground and propelling yourself forward pushes your upper body muscles to work harder and gives you a stronger cardio workout.

Bring a buddy.  It’s best not to hike alone at first, especially on unfamiliar or remote trails.  A partner or group can help you navigate and assist if you get hurt.

Know before you go.  Familiarize yourself with the trail map. Check the weather, and dress and pack accordingly.

For a comprehensive list, check out this article Hiking Tips that I wrote after reading about a hiker that got lost.  I believe that all hikers would benefit from these tips.

Also, for you scouters, here’s a helpful one pager on Those First Hikes.  It is focused on planning hikes to keep the boys coming back.

Iceland Visit

Iceland Scout CenterIn many ways I am lucky because I am a Baden-Powell Fellow.  As a fellow, I get to meet fantastic people, I’m exposed to wonderful scouting programs and I have a chance to visit some fascinating countries.  This past October, the World Scout Association organized an Honors Program Field Visit to Iceland – the goal being to provide members insight and in-depth experience in how World Scouting benefits from Baden-Powell donations.  You can check out that visit here: www.worldscoutfoundation.org/news/hp-field-visit-iceland.

When you read the article, you will see that the Iceland’s scouting program is a model for scout organizations around the world.  It promotes the environment, helps alleviate unemployment and services seniors.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if all scouting programs thought along these lines?

Any scout leader who has the opportunity to see Iceland’s scouting program up close should definitely take a look, and 2017 brings us the perfect opportunity.

changeStarting July 25, Iceland will be hosting the 2017 World Scouting Moot.  A “moot” is an Old English word for meeting or assembly.  The World Scouting “Moot” is the equivalent of a jamboree for 18-25 year old scouts.  If you are interested in taking your scout group or just learning more about Iceland’s Moot, check out this site:  worldscoutmoot.is/en/.

I’ve also written a web page with multiple links including a BSA registration link which you can find all on this web page:  www.sageventure.com/international/moot.html.