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Dear Dr. Beast,
What are the main risks and dangers to leading a group of mixed ability children on an activity like the Tentors?
Respectfully
Dan

Dear Dan,
Leading children (and adults) of mixed abilities is always a challenge, with a variety of risks and dangers. The Ten Tors challenge is new to me, as it is to many of my readers. Information about the Ten tors challenge can be found at http://zsplash.8m.com/TenTors/info.htm. According to that page, The Ten Tors challenge is open to 400 teams of 6 from schools, Youth organisations, such as the Scouts, Guides and Youth Clubs and Service cadets. An organisation may apply to enter up to 3 teams in total on the 35, 45 and 55 mile courses. The task of the route designer is not easy. A total of 19 Tors have to be selected for use as Checkpoints and link up to produce twelve 35 mile routes, ten 45 mile routes and four 55 mile routes. It's no mean task to ensure that all of the routes have the same degree of challenge and that no more than 2 or 3 routes use the same leg at the same time. Each team must have a manager who is responsible for ensuring that their team is adequately equipped and trained. The team manager must attend a special weekend that is usually held in February at the start of the training season. lectures are given to all aspects of Dartmoor and the Ten Tors Challenge and those attending undertake a 10 mile hike on the moor and visit the Dartmoor Rescue Group centre at Okehampton. The main event begins at Okehampton Camp at 7am on the Saturday and to qualify for an award teams must return to Okehampton Camp by 5 pm on the Sunday. Although the main event is not a race some teams are faster than others but all have to make camp for the night. Those teams on the 35 mile courses have to stop at one of the first 8 Tors on their route by 8pm on Saturday. Teams on the 45 and 55 mile courses may camp where they like, other than in No camping areas or closer than 400 yards from a house or pub. By Sunday many of the teams are tired and if a team arrives at one of the later Tors Checkpoints so far behind schedual that it has no chance of finish at Okehampton Camp by 5pm it will be 'Crashed out'. For safety's sake the Checkpoint will not stamp the route card and will tell the team that it can go no futher. the team then enters the 'fall out' system and returns to Okehampton Camp by road. Teams that complete the challenge receive a certificate and each member that finishes will receive a Ten Tors medal: Bronze for the 35 mile courses, Silver for the 45 mile courses and Gold for the 55 mile courses. The more challenging an activity, the greater the impact of physical and mental disparities among participants. On the side of the less able participants, there is a danger of pushing too far and being injured. There is also the possibility of being stigmatized as "soft" or not strong. It is also possible for the more able participants to have problems, including resentment of their less able team members, pushing too hard and trying to do too much. From what I can see, this is a very challenging exercise and those running it have a great burden of responsibilities. I suspect that a lot of preparation and foresight needs to go into developing teams and educating particpants about having realistic expectations for themselves and their team mates. If handled properly, this can be an excellent learning experience. If not handled properly, there can be real problems, both physically and emotionally. We deal with some of these issues at Winter Camp, where we have a variety of activites and the whole gamut of participants, with a pretty wide range in physical and mental abilities. We try to build teams that are reasonably even,and generally work to have at least a few adults in each groups. Obviously, some adults work better with kids than others, so we watch that pretty carefully. We also work very hard to cultivate a spirit in which "winning" is not the goal of the activity per se. It is always fun to win, but if a gme is designed right and played with the proper spirit, the whole issue of "winners and losers" becomes a moot point. I hope that Ten Tors works in a similar fashion. Challenging activites teach participants a lot about themselves and about their fellow participants. There will always be physical and emotional risks, but those can be minimized with proper planning. In some cases where they persist, they can be a part of life and it is just as well is participants learn these lessons early in life while they are still flexible, as opposed to later in life when they are cemented in their ways. The short answer is that there are risks and dangers to this type of challenge, but the value of the experience makes it worth taking most of those risks, particularly if proper traning is in place to mitigate the risks.


Dear Dr. Beast,
What is the average temperature in Maine in the winter? Also where is the best place to retire in Maine, that is reasonable?
Respectfully
Carolyn Narcy

Dear I hope you like blueberries,
As Tolkien (and the back of Milon's jeep) says "Not all who wander are lost". One way you can answer this question is to wander the Internet.
I would suggest that you take a look at www.mainetourism.com/climate.html which will give you some idea of the climate and the different zones in Maine. After the weather question is resolved, the affordability/cost of living question is a slam dunk. Since I do not know where you are located, it is difficult to give you a relative indication of affordability. Your best bet is to go to www.money.com/money/bestplaces/col/compare.html, which provides a calculation on the relative affordability of any two towns in the USA. You can compare Bangor and Portland to your current home, and then to each other. Once you know the numbers, you can go to www.gatewaytomaine.org, which will provide access to all of Maine's Chamber of Commerce web sites. If you end up deciding on the Bangor area, take a look at www.bangorregion.com/relocate.htm, which provides a relocation guide. If you think Portland is a better fit, take a look at www.remaxbythebay-maine.com/sites.html, which offers links to many local sites.
I am afraid that I can not help you with the accent. You will have to learn to say "Yep" all by yourself.


Dear Dr. Beast,
Which state is better to build a camp Michigan or Wisconsin it has to have big land lots of lakes and large forset enough land for lots of cabins?
Respectfully
MCED RIDERS

Dear MCED Riders,
The answer really depends on the location of the main group of users. Both states have plentiful natural resources and large amounts of land with lakes. My understanding is that Wisconsin has seen a rapid increase in land prices, particularly in the areas north of Chicago. It may be possible to find attractively priced tracts in either state (if you find the right spot), so the availability of land is not really your key decision point. You need to focus on the nature of the use, the users, and the proximity to complementary functions. If this is a commercial study, then market analysis would probably be your best bet, looking at demographic and economic forces prevailing in the two states and making market assesments based on travel distances, road conditions, infrastructural availability and geographic or cultural amenities. If that does not work for you, remember the Yooper's Lyrics "We'll party in Milwaukee cause the beer tastes better there."


Dear Dr. Beast,
I was wondering what one could do to prepare for a career in the Real Estate speculation field? Is this a career that one must plan for years to join or can you simply show up the last day and see what's available?
Respectfully
Unemployed but Optomistic

Dear Unemployed but Optimistic,
Sadly, the answer is that most real estate speculators do little to prepare for their careers. You do not need to plan for years, but you would be a lot better off if you showed up the FIRST day and saw what was available. The stuff that is available the last day is available for a reason.


Dear Dr. Beast,
What can you do for a really sore throat?
Respectfully
Steve Clark

Dear Silent Scout:,
As many long time Winter Campers may recall, the legendary Dan Bollman was once treated for laryngitis by having his mouth taped shut. Rumors that his brothers paid the attending "physician" for this remedy have never been substantiated.
Barring such draconian measures, I would suggest hot tea with honey, gargling with salt water (don't swallow it!), or, if you were female, I'd probably provide you with a soothing protein balm the recipe for which has been handed down in my family for generations. This, you could swallow.


Dear Dr. Beast,
I understand you have exceptional knowledge in the matters of financial investment. I have a few questions which you may be able to aid me in my direction: 1) Can you suggest a Low(/No-)Load Fund Broker on the internet which is somewhat user-friendly. (Some that I have vsited are sighltly more technical than I care to deal with.) 2) Are there any Mutual Funds which you feel may be more appealing than others? why? 3) What mix of domestic/international stocks do you prefer and in what areas? 4) What site do you use to check your daily stock performance?
Respectfully
Thrifty

Dear Thrifty,
I do most of my investing directly, rather than through mutual funds. In essence, I run private mutual funds for institutional investors. 1. For direct investing, I tend to favor the DLJ (Donaldson, Lufkin, and Jenrette) site, which a colleague who trades a great deal swears by. I also understand that Scwab runs a pretty good shop on-line. I understand that on the mutual fund side, Fidelity has a fairly user-friendly site, although I have not used it much. 2. I like the Oak Associates funds out of Akron, Ohio. I know the fund manager (Jim Oelschlager) and his White Oak fund is one of the top 10 in the nation over the long haul. You might also look into some of his other funds, as I understand there is a new fund that you could get in on pretty cheaply. These funds are priamrily technology plays. You may also want ot try a real estate play, either with a solid individual company or with one of the many REIT funds. I can answer more specifically in person or via email. 3. I tend to invest mainly in real estate-related stocks because I understand the economic markets and forces that drive those markets. I do not know what drives international property markets, so I stay away. A recent survey of major institutional investors suggests that they tend to target the following breakdowns: U.S. Stocks 41% foreign Equities 15% Money Market/Cash 1% High Grade Bonds 25% Junk Bonds 1% Venture Capital 4% Real Estate 7% Other 6% Other Investments 6% Obviously, these investors have a very different perspective from you. They are more risk averse, and are dealing with immense capital flows that allow them to diversify more completely. In your case, the size of investments is likely to be lumpy, in that your initial portfolio will not be large enough to permit investments in all sectors. Index funds (funds that match the distribution of the market in a specific sector) may be a way to go. 4. I check my performance at http://fast.quote.com/fq/briefing/quote. If you have an online brokerage account, most will give you some type of portfolio monitoring ability. My best advice to you is to spend a few bucks, see a qualified personal investment advisor, and figure out exactly what you want from investing before you take the plunge. If you are not that patient, take the plunge in big funds that are likely to mirror the market. You will probably see some ups and downs, but over the long haul the equity markets offer the best return. You are young, if you only invest money that you do not need liquidity from (i.e. won't need the cash) then leaving the money in the broad market makes a great deal of sense. Good luck, and be careful.


Dear Dr. Beast,
Being a first time home buyer, do you have suggestions or advice you could impart? Since you have some experience in this subject any help would be useful.
Respectfully
Overwhelmed

Dear Overwhelmed,
There are all kinds of books out there that tell you about being a first time home buyer. I have gone through the process recently, and also have a great deal of familiarity with the academic literature on first time home buyers. Here is some advice.

  1. Don't fall in love with any one house. You need to be able to walk away from any deal that will not work for you. Falling in love with a house makes this difficult.
  2. Don't be afraid to negotiate. Remember that the posted price is an "asking" price. With the exception of some very hot markets, houses seldom sell at "asking" price. You will probably never see the seller again, so don't be afraid to play hardball. If the deal won't work for them, they can always walk away.
  3. Do buy the worst looking house in a nice neighborhood. There is no surer road to neighborhood relations (can be important) than buying and cleaning up an eyesore. You would be amazed at the enormous improvement relatively inexpensive fixes like paint and landscaping can make to the exterior.
  4. On the inside, fresh paint makes a big difference, and so can carpeting. The problems that can get expensive include plumbing, structural problems (basement wall cracks) and HVAC. Make sure you know what you are getting into. Either hire a professional inspector, who provides a warranty for a fee, or get a good friend who REALLY knows what they are doing to take a look at the place. My father can do this, and probably would for a friend of the family.
  5. As a general rule, the real estate agent is not on your side. If they are the listing agent, they have a fiduciary responsibility to the seller. If they are a participating agent, they are a sub-contractor of the listing broker and share the fiduciary responsibility ot the broker. As such, they are obligated to share the information you give to them. The general negotiation process is one of reservation prices. The idea is that the seller has a reservation price, which is the lowest price they will accept for the house. The buyer has a reservation price, the highest price he/she will pay for the house. Asd long as there is overlap between the two, the deal is workable. If you give away your reservation price early in the process, your chances of getting the best deal are limited. In some cases, you can hire a buyer's representative or broker, who would have a fiduciary responsibility to you. This is unusual, the norm is that no one in the process is "on your side" except you.
  6. On the financing front, your mortgage capacity is calculated based on your monthly income less any recurring expenses. Recurring expenses include car payments, credit card bills, and other debt. To maximize mortgage capacity (if that is a goal) you should payoff whole cards, rather than paying down each card a little. The idea is to minimize fixed recurring expenditures.
  7. If you get a mortgage in which your equity position (usually downpayment) is less than 20%, you will be required to pay mortgage insurance, which averages .9% X the mortgage amount yearly. In most loans, the purchase price of the house is used to calculate this ration rather than the appraised value of the house (appraised not assessed) at the outset of the loan. The result is that you may put down 10% on a great bargain and have an actual equity position of more than 20%, but still be required to pay the mortgage insurance for at least one year, until the loan is "seasoned", an industry term that reflects the fact that you have made your payments for the year. With most banks, once the loan is "seasoned", you can apply to have the mortgage insurance dropped. If you have an equity position greater than 20% (or loan to value ratio less than 80%) most banks will drop the mortgage insurance. You will generally have to prove the value through an appraiser certified or acceptable to the bank, so check with the individual bank on the process. You should probably get this process started six to eight weeks before the first anniversary of the loan, as processing takes time.
  8. Check out the neighborhood, schools, city services and taxes thoroughly. This is a very long term decision, don't make it lightly and don't be rudhed into making the decision quickly. If the deal is "too good to be true", chances are that there is something wrong that you haven't seen. The seller is required to provide disclosure of any factor materially influencing the value of the property, but that can be sort of fuzzy. The best bet is to visit the neighbors, knock on a few doors, ask people if they know the neighborhood. Visit the house several times (day, night, after a rain or snow) to see how it fares under differing conditions.
  9. Shop around, keep your eyes open for froeclosures and For Sale By Owner opportunities. Get listings from brokers and do the math. Essentially, you need to value the house and all of its features relative to other, comparable houses. In the final analysis, the decision is an emotional decision, no matter how logical the analysis. If your financial analysis and emotions both say buy, then it's probably worth it.
  10. Don't blow the deal over relatively small amounts of money. A few thousand dollars seems like a lot, but in the grand scheme of buying a house, it really does not make a big difference,
  11. Get it in writing. Oral promises to correct problems are hard to enforce. Written clauses are very easy to enforce. Don't be afraid to use problems as a negotiating tool. Either fix it or take ?? off the price is a valid strategy. If you see a problem, get an estimate from the inspector or a licensed professional. You cna often get an estimate fro free from a guy who wants the business Use the estimate to negotiate the purchase, then negotiate the repair separately.
  12. Don't be afraid to ask your friends and family for help. Many of them have been through this. I can answer questions in confidence to help out. If necessary, I can call on friends in the mortgage broker industry to help you with the mortgage. When you get closer to a buy, let me know and I can give you some hints on keeping closing costs down.
  13. Enjoy the whole deal. You don't get to buy a house very often, so don't be afraid to look at a lot of houses, even if you have a favorite. You can get good ideas for your house, and you may also enjoy the fun of looking at different homes. My wife and I looked at 50+ homes and toured 25 in three days. I think we ended up pretty well, but Steve will be able to tell you after next week's visit.


Dear Dr. Beast,
I'm sure that someone with your vast intellect must find that there are constant demands on his time from lesser beings. While not on your scale, I find myself in a similar position; how do you handle the stress?
Respectfully
Looking for a gun

Dear Lesser Being:,
I have a lot of demands on my time, but I also have some control over my time. I do not know your situation, but in mine, I am generally the most demanding person. I expect more from myself than others do. I suspect you have a similar problem. I look at it as a problem of establishing prioirities. I tend to favor eating, wearing clothes, and living under shelter, so I tend to prioritize income-earning activities. Therefore, I do my work and then whatever else I can (want) to do with the time left. It probably isn't the best solution from a mental health perspective, but it works for me.


Dear Dr. Beast,
Hey, any secrets for becoming a potential Jeopardy contestant?
Respectfully
Dr. Plumber

Dear Architect, Ph.D.:,
Squander your life reading fantasy books, watching cheesy movies, and going to school way too long. It may not work for everyone, but it worked for me.


Dear Dr. Beast,
Dear Doc: I just bought a 1961 International Scout, and it does not have seatbelts. Am I legally required to install them?
Respectfully
occasional visitor

Dear OV:,
If you are talknig about a Boy Scout from another country, then you probably don't need seatbelts. If you are talking about a car or truck, the answer varies by state. If you are in Michigan, I believe the answer is no. You may want to check that with the State Police or the Department of Motor Vehicles, but I am fairly confident of the answer.


Dear Dr. Beast,
Hey, you advised someone that you thought the best advice was "to be a man". What do you think it takes to make someone a man? (Don't bother with an anatomy lesson; I'm not in the DHQX).
Respectfully
Rite of Passage

Dear Rites of Passage:,
The answer probably should have read be a man/woman, but it's an all male page (for the most part) For me, the key is taking responsibility for your actions decisions and life. If you want to do silly things, fine, go ahead, but you should always be prepared and willing to accept the consequences of your actions. Other people may use different definitions, but that is the answer for me.


Dear Dr. Beast,
Who are your influences in writing your column? Which other advice columnists do you looke to as role models? Do you have any tips for someone trying to break into the business?
Respectfully
Aspiring Advisor

Dear Aspiring Advisor:,
It's strange you should ask about my influences. I am well known for my disdain for reading about OPP (other people's problems) In fact, I used to start each morning by harassing my brother when he read those columns. The long and short of it is that I seldom read any column or listen to advice-giving radio personalities. I occaisionally listen to Jagger (love Phones), who is a true butthead and extremely insensitive. I guess that is the kind of rep I want. As for getting into the business, I recommend you ask someone who actually gets paid, listened to, or read for good advice. You might try the other Doctor Donohue, he makes a fortune prescribing Viagra and Rogaine to insecure weenies. YOu could also read some pop psychology. The gist of it is that whatever goes wrong, it is not the caller's fault, society is to blame. My general advice is something like Don Vito Corleone (always an inspiration) says to Johnny Fontaine about his troubles in getting a role in a movie. "What can I do Godfather",, "You can BE A MAN" Take responsibility for your actions and act like you have got a pair. It's a lot harder than whining and blaming other people, but the right thing is usually harder.



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