Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thank You, but No.

The Captain will not be accepting your “Ice Bucket Challenge”. Thank you for thinking of me, but no. I will not be dumping a bucket of ice water over my head, and I will not be writing a check to ALSA for $100.

For those of you who have been hiding under a rock of recent, let me explain. The “Ice Bucket Challenge” is an impromptu fundraiser for the ALS Association, intended to raise awareness and money for research in the fight to cure Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It is widely known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”, after the great baseball player who succumbed to the disease in 1941 at age 37.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Gradual loss of all voluntary muscle control follows until the person is completely paralyzed, with death being the ultimate outcome.

It is a terrible disease, and worthy of your support toward finding a cure. But I will not be writing a check today.

I have watched your IBC videos with amusement. Some are quite clever – from Charlie Sheen dumping a bucket containing $10,000 cash over his head (which he claims he donated to ALSA) to Sir Patrick Stewart calmly writing a check (presumably to ALSA) then retrieving a couple cubes from his ice bucket for his Scotch.  

This charitable phenomenon has sparked a creative fire in me, I will admit. I have thought of a half-dozen great IBC videos for the Captain to star in. But I won’t make them because I am not participating.

Because we like lists, here are seven reasons why I am not participating in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

1)    Bandwagons. Those who know me know that I don’t jump on every bandwagon that passes through town. I try to be intentional about what I do. I do my research, and then I try to make an informed decision. What I have found lacking from so many of the IBC videos is an explanation of what ALS is and why ALSA needs my money. Many refer to ALSA as “a worthy cause”, but few show any hint of knowledge about the disease or the organization. It’s as though the dumping of ice water onto someone is the important part of this campaign. It’s not. It’s about fundraising. It’s about awareness.

2)    Water. More than 780 million people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water. More than 3.4 million people died each year due to water, sanitation, and hygiene-related issues. What’s more, a persistent drought in the southwestern portion of the United States is creating significant issues here as well. I know that a five-gallon bucket of ice water is not going to change any of that, but it seems callous to intentionally waste even that much water for the sport of fundraising.
3)    Research. What do we really know about the ALS Association? According to its annual reports, in 2012 only 7.71% of their budget was spent on research; administration and fundraising accounted for another 28.65%. In 2013 it reported 9.3% of its budget went to research. But in the January 2014 report, the research budget jumped suspiciously miraculously to 28%. I’m still looking for an answer to how ALSA can increase its research budget by 3X without significantly affecting its bottom line.

4)    Accountability. The “Ice Bucket Challenge” was not initiated by ALSA. To date, the association has reaped an unexpected windfall of $80 million and counting – which is more than its annual budget. Now the association must decide what to do with these unrestricted funds. Yes, “unrestricted”. ALSA can spend your donation any way it chooses. I have no reason to believe they won’t handle it responsibly. But realizing this is a one-time opportunity, some on the board would like to invest the money to undergird a woefully underfunded endowment to provide for the future. Others, remembering how generous people were to the Red Cross after 9-11 and how the Red Cross received a “black eye” for choosing to hold some of that money for “future needs” instead of applying it all to the 9-11 recovery efforts, feel the need to spend it now. But simply throwing 10X more money at research this year is not good stewardship and is not necessarily going to help arrive at a cure any faster.  

5)    Balance. Why ALS? ALS is identified in 5,600 people per year, usually Caucasian males between the ages of 40 and 70. Half of those will live three or more years after diagnosis; ten percent will live more than ten years after diagnosis. But compare that to Sickle Cell Anemia (just to use one example), another (presently) incurable disease, but one that more commonly affects African-American men. SCA affects about one in every 500 African-American births, or some 70-100,000 persons per year. Due to improved treatment and care, a person born with SCA can expect to live into their mid-40s. Relatively speaking, the need seems to be greater and more urgent for Sickle Cell Anemia research, but I don’t see anyone dumping ice water over their heads for this disease. How many other organizations would also like a donation from you?

6)    Money. I tithe to my church. I financially support a local organization that provides food, shelter, and financial support to needy families in our community. I send donations to a couple charitable organizations in Memphis which I know do good work in areas about which I am passionate. I am constantly being hit up to support the local schools, the local firefighters, the local sheriff’s office, the local Girl Scouts, etc. And because of my job, I regularly find myself filling up a stranger’s gas tank or buying him lunch. In any given household budget, there is only so much money available for charitable work. No amount of public shaming challenging will change that reality.
7)    Cold Water. The Captain will never intentionally dump a bucket of ice water over his head!

"Humbuggery," you say. "It's just a fun way to raise money for a worthy cause."

Perhaps. But think about the points above as you fill up your bucket of ice water. Are you really achieving what you intend to do? Is there another way? Perhaps a better way?

I am not at all saying you should not donate to ALSA – if that is what you want to do.

I am not at all saying you should not dump a bucket of ice water over your head – if that is what you want to do.

I am simply saying I will not.

Thank You, but No.

Monday, August 25, 2014

It's a Mystery!

Today’s blog is a shameless piece of self-congratulatory nonsense. The Captain wouldn’t blame you for clicking away now. Maybe go visit "Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal" – that’s usually a crack-up!

I noticed not too long ago that Blogspot, the host for “Banana Winds”, is keeping count of how many times people click on to my blog. It will give me a daily breakdown and a running total. Never expecting much for my blog, I ignored that information and moved on to posting my latest thoughts.

But recently, I stopped and took notice.

A few months back I wrote a post for my more serious blog, “The Itinerant Minister”, which I shared on Facebook. A friend in Memphis took notice and shared it on a network he is involved with. Then he asked me to track the number of hits I received. I was surprised to see that because of his “share” The IM almost immediately received 173 hits!

It has since settled down again to the normal 3-4 per day. 


But that made the Captain curious. We looked at the numbers for “Banana Winds” and were literally blown away!

BTW, Merriam-Webster recently changed the definition for “literally” so it can also be used “for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true.” So yes, the Captain did use that correctly.

I began watching the numbers since my post on July 29th. At that point, I had received 172,215 hits on previous posts. Today, not quite a month later, the number has jumped to a whopping 174,154 hits!

That’s 1,939 hits in only 27 days!

I don’t know even that many people!

Here are some relevant numbers to help you see why the Captain is so surprised:
            -my current church has 414 members, with 169 average attendance.
            -I only have 238 “Facebook Friends”.
            -Fifteen people have subscribed to “Banana Winds”.
-I don’t advertise and never share “Banana Winds” on Facebook or anywhere else! (Early on, a handful of friends did include a link to me on their blog rolls.)

Contrast the success of "Banana Winds" with my alter-ego, "The Itinerant Minister". My first post there was in May of 2011. I was taking a new church appointment and feared that some of my new church members might not “appreciate” Captain Dave’s commentaries. The IM was designed to be more serious and inspirational. But over the last three years, The IM has been limping along. As they say, the numbers do not lie. The IM has had only 194 hits since the end of July, just 1/10th of what “Banana Winds” receives!

And the odd thing is, I have shared several IM blogs on Facebook and have promoted it through my church newsletter.


 Quite honestly, the Captain is humbled. When I began writing “Banana Winds” in October of 2007 (see my first post here) I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn't even sure what I was going to write. I really thought it was kind of a fad back then; I didn’t expect to still be writing now seven years later. Many of my friends and colleagues have since launched blogs and have since shuttered blogs.

And yet the Captain sails on! 

Now, I know other bloggers (like "Joe.My.God") receive hundreds of thousands of hits each week. But I’m just an humble pirate writing my personal reflections from a small port city in western Kentucky. It surprises me that anyone is reading this stuff!

I was originally writing for myself as a creative outlet. I even closed responses to my posts because I don’t really care what others think about what I write. The challenge will be to continue in that vein now that Pandora's Box has been opened and "Vanity" has been released!

Nonetheless, I continue to write. For me. 

 If you enjoy what you read, God bless you and welcome aboard!

If you don’t like what you read, it doesn’t matter. I’m not writing for you!

So to all who may happen to pass this way – friend or foe – I give you this Pirate’s Blessing:

May your bar wench serve you the nectar of gods,
May you make your way home before dawn.
When you wake may you find your head and skies clear,
And all of the scallywags gone.

May your crew be swift with each tack and jibe,
May your sails be filled with breeze.
May you pillage, plunder, pilfer and loot.
May you sail your boat with ease.

Tonight, we drink. Tomorrow we sail!
-author unknown

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Cool Is That!

Found the following link on Facebook recently, thought I'd share.

The Sea Turtle Conservancy has attached satellite transmitters to the shells of eleven sea turtles and released them back into the ocean. Through this website you can track the journey of each sea turtle. Simply click on the image of the turtle and a map will appear showing where it has been and where it is headed.

For example, "Panama Jack", an adult female leatherback, was released from Punta Rincon Beach in Panama.

She's covered over 900 miles in the 20 days since her release, and seems to be headed for Mexico.

Coco is an adult hawksbill sea turtle. She was released from Jones Bay, Nevis.

Go home, sea turtle! You're drunk!

If you go to the website you will find more information about sea turtles and the conservancy's efforts to save these peaceful creatures, as well as ways you can support this important cause.

In the meantime, enjoy following your favorite sea turtle as it does... whatever it is that sea turtles do!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What the...?

Okay, mateys, this one's going to be short. There is only so much that can be said about this.

As I was scanning my FB newsfeed this afternoon, I came across an unsolicited teaser for a news article about coffee. It read: "Taking coffee through the colon may sound like fun, but..."

What the... ? Who says that sounds like fun???

Of course, I had to click the link to see what this was about.

According to ABC News, a couple in St. Petersburg, FL, doesn't "drink" coffee -- "because they believe it is bad for their health". But they "chug" 100 cups per month - each! - via enema!

For the record, the Captain does not drink coffee either. Nor does he do this! 


But now, oddly enough, this couple says they are addicted! 

Friends, I sh** you not! This is from an actual, legitimate news source!

The following is from the news report:

"'...it took on a life of its own. I twice tried to stop and felt worse, so I do this every day and as much as I can. But it’s very time-consuming.'

"'I love the way it makes me feel,' said Trina [not her real name]. 'It gives me a sense of euphoria.' The couple admits they perform their caffeinated enema at least four times a day.

"Fortunately the couple works at home, avoiding any awkward moments around the office coffeemaker. Still, the scenario is not as strange as it may seem..."
No! It IS as strange as it may seem! 

Good Lord! Help us!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Carpe Diem"

Robin Williams in "Dead Poet Society"

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done; The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won; The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills; For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding; For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still; My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will; The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done; From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
 -Walt Whitman

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It's Just Not Right!

There was this little ditty on “Sesame Street” many years ago…


… that went like this:

“One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong;
Can you tell which thing 
is not like the others
By the time I finish this song?”

Different objects were displayed and children learned to identify which one was out of place or different from the others.

It’s educational!

So here’s a little test the Captain has designed for you, one that was never used on “Sesame Street”. In the photo below are two bottles of beer. They look similar. But look again. How many differences can you find?

Go ahead. I’ll wait…

Here’s the story.

Yesterday evening, the Captain and First Mate joined with friends for a beautiful evening on the lake. As usual, we pack a cooler with food and beverages and watch the sun sink down over the horizon.

On this particular voyage I opted for beer. Now, like my friend – “the most interesting man in the world” – I don’t always drink beer. The Captain prefers wine or “boat drinks”.

But I started drinking “Red Stripe” several years ago. Jimmy Buffett mentioned it in one of his books. Turned out to be tolerable as far as beer goes.

And it’s Jamaican, mon.

I had some Red Stripe in the fridge, but it had been there for almost a year. So I swung by my favorite ale house and picked up a new six pack. I didn’t think anything about it until last night.

As we were drifting along in a bay of the lake, feeling nothing but the peaceful rocking of the boat, I noticed my beer bottle felt different.

That may sound odd to you, but the Captain often notices the little things.

In this case, there was something wrong with the label. Instead of it being painted onto the bottle as it had always been, it was now just an adhesive sticker.

A tear formed in my eye. Another art form lost.

And as I looked at that sad piece of paper glued to my brew, I noticed something else – words in fine print along the edge of the label:

“Brewed and bottled by Red Stripe Beer Company Latrobe, PA”


I couldn’t believe my eyes! Surely I hadn’t been drinking Pennsylvania beer all this time! I couldn’t wait to get home and find one of the old bottles.

I felt so betrayed!

Upon reaching the home port, I pulled out one of the older bottles and stood it side by side with the new one. Much to my relief, the old bottle indicated that it had, in fact, been brewed and bottled in Jamaica.


But as I studied the labels closer, I noticed a couple more differences.
            -the word “imported” is missing from the new label
            -the word “style” has been added between the words “Jamaican” and “Lager”

“Jamaican Style Lager”?

How did I miss this?

So I turned to the internet.

Red Stripe was first brewed in 1938. It is made by Desnoes & Geddes in Jamaica. In 1993, Guinness Brewing Worldwide (now Diageo) purchased controlling interest in D&G.

(Shiver!) That never goes well…

Red Stripe was first imported to America in 1985, to give travelers that taste of Jamaica they had found on their vacation. But the company put it in a different style bottle and sales were flat.

D&G retooled their marketing department, put the beer in its distinctive brown bottle and tried again in 1989. Unfortunately – but not surprisingly – someone stashed some cannabis in the shipment and it was stopped at the port of Miami.

Nonetheless – or maybe because of that – the beer has become popular in the U.S.

So popular, in fact, that Diageo has decided to brew it in Pennsylvania to better serve the U.S. market.

Funny, they still charge “import” prices!

I still feel betrayed.

Yes, the beer still tastes pretty much the same. And that should be what matters.

But it’s no longer “Jamaican, mon”.

And I just don’t think I can bring myself to say, “It’s Pennsylvanian, mon.”