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ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge: An Imperfect Place

The devil hides down amongst the cubes*.

You’d have to have not paid your Internet bill over the last couple of months to miss out on knowing about the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge thing.

It started with some professional athletes, not — as myth would have it — an ALS patient. The challenge was to either be filmed dumping a bucket of ice over your head or give money to a charity of your choice. It morphed from there.

And promptly went viral.

Which led to thousands of people filming themselves while having a bucket of ice dumped on their heads while challenging others to do the same. In fact, my dad and I even watched one of those happen poolside at Chabil Mar, a resort in the Central American country of Belize. It was a few weeks ago, before this really hit big so we had no idea what it was about.

Those last four words there. . . That’s what this is about.

So far this post, I’ve written a lot of words about the Ice-Bucket Challenge and mentioned ALS only twice. And never said what ALS really is.

Better known as Lou Gherig’s Disease, named for the New York Yankees baseball player who contracted the disease and thereby showed the bits of the country that liked baseball and were paying attention that the disease existed, ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive, degenerative disease that gradually destroy neurons (nerve cells) in the brain and spinal column. Over time, the disease annihilates voluntary control over the body’s muscles, robbing the person with the disease of the ability to move, to speak, to breathe. For some patients, the end point of the disease is total paralysis of the body. And the worst part is that their mind still is active and aware and trapped in a decayed body incapable of responding to anything.

ALS is, to put it mildly, a horrifying disease. Donating money to help fund research into a cure or a way to slow the progression of the disease is definitely a worthy cause. (Those who want to donate without resorting to dumping ice water on their heads can do so at the ALSA gift page.)

So, given all that, I should be all for the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge, right, dudes?. After all, as of Friday, the challenges have resulted in the ALS Association receiving more than $41 million in donations.

My issue is with all the challengers who do nothing but dump ice on their own heads, laugh, record it and then post it to some social media site, daring others to follow suit. They don’t know what ALS is. They don’t donate to any sort of charitable institution, including the ALS Association, and only do it because everyone else is doing it. 

After all, the challenge is donate to the ALSA OR dump a bucket of ice on their heads.

I talked about this on Facebook and was called out by several of my friends there (actual friends who I actually know) for dumping (no pun intended) on the whole idea. They focused on the positives, on the donations that were raised, which are substantial.

I thought about it and talked it over with Zippy the Travelin’ Boy, who has some similar issues with the challenge. While Zippy the Travelin’ Boy still takes issue with it (mostly, I think, because it’s popular and he likes to be a contrarian) and, to be honest, so do I, it all led to the realization that I was focusing too much on the negative.

I’ll pause now for your shocked intake of breath.

This was brought home to me — literally — when Hyper Lad walked up to me with a hang-dog look, holding a bucket of ice and a video camera.

Before I would participate, he and I had a long talk about what amyotrophic lateral sclerosis actually does and agreed that he would donate money to the ALS Association.

Only then could I laugh at him when his oldest brother, Sarcasmo, poured cube-filled, ice-cold water over the young dude’s head.

Yes, in a perfect world, Hyper Lad’s fellow shiverers would be donating to worthy charitable causes on a regular basis and also donating their time, sweat and effort. They’d already know what ALS really is, why we should support research toward a cure, and be doing the ice thing only to help raise awareness and get more people to donate money to worthy charities.

But, as the estimable John Bender once said: “Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”

And it’s true.

Screws do fall out all the time.

I guess I’ll just have to live with the idea that people are dumping ice on their heads just because everybody else is doing it. And also some of them might actually understand that this is being used to help raise money to combat an appalling disease.

It’s not perfect, but that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

As if the world were waiting for my approval anyway.

*Yes, this was an imperfect metaphor. I was trying to evoke the whole thing about the devil being in the detail and then conflating that with the ice-bucket challenge. Don’t judge me. I was . . . stretching.


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Arm Yourselves With Home-Made Mini Crossbows

So this is what it feels like to rule the world through massively overwhelming force.

Or just the battlefield that is my home.

Yes, dudes, when you can weaponize hair clips, you know you’re on This screen grab is from the video posted by TheKingOfRandom.com and showing you how to create a mini crossbow from hair clips, popsicle sticks, hot glue and twine.the top of the family heap. Luckily for you out there in reader land, I’m feeling in a benevolent mood and I’m going to show you how I learned a method of creating a mini crossbow that can fire wooden matches, either lit or unlit, a distance of several yards.

This, dudes, is how you protect your cube.

Or just annoy the little dudes until they get angry enough to actually build one of their own and start firing back.

Whichever.

A big tip of the hat to my writing pal, The Dragon, for sending me the link that showed me how to create the massive crossbow gap that currently exists in the not-so-friendly-anymore confines of Casa de Dude.

Here’s the clip.

Pretty neat, no?

Pretty neat, yes indeedey oh!

If you’re like me and do better with written instructions, you can go here to download a .pdf listing all the gear you’ll need and the steps necessary to weaponize hair-care products.

I’d love to see whatever you dudes come up with after watching the video and checking out the instructions. Mine didn’t look quite as good as the ones here, but not bad and, even better, it worked.

Thanks to the mini crossbow, I now possess an almost insurmountable advantage in desktop weaponry. I shall rule with my iron fist, velvet glove optional.

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Man, A Tee Sure Would Be Nice Or See Cows

There’s something to be said for ugly.

Mostly that something sounds like, “Eeeeewwwwwww!”

manatees_mother_calf_brandon_coleHowever, there also is something that goes along the lines of so ugly it’s cute. For exhibit 1 in this category, may I present the West Indian Manatee, a resident of many places, including Florida.

Yes, these are the manatees. They are slow moving, ugly and yet graceful in a ponderous roly-poly sense.

Because of their lassitude when it comes to motion (they sometimes will float in the same place for hours, barely moving) and their camouflage that allows them to fade into the water, many manatees are covered in scars all up and down their backs.

These scars come from boat propellers. Captains who aren’t looking out for manatees or who speed through manatee slow zones can zoom right over one of the peaceful sea cows, doing little damage to the boat, but severely hurting the peaceful creature.

Because they are a threatened species, manatee sightings are a rare and precious thing along the Intercoastal Waterway south of St. Augustine, FL, where my family vacations.

Bela Mar manateeWhich makes our latest two sightings all the more exciting.

I saw and photographed a manatee and her calf floating peacefully amongst the shore reeds at a local marina. Then, the next day, my dad caught a snap of this sea cow.

Apparently it has taken up residence beneath a boat dock near where my dad lives and has been seen swimming around in the river shallows several days running.

What a wonderful animal to have nearby.

One of the most-retold stories concerning the Intercoastal Waterway in our family is the time I and my brother-in-law The Teaching Dutchman took my young dudes, Sarcasmo and Zippy the Travelin’ Boy, fishing on the river in a small john boat.

We didn’t catch anything other than a small oyster (long story full of ineptitude), but we did have an amazing manatee sighting. As we were sitting in the boat, a large manatee surfaced less than ten feet away from us. We stopped all activity and watched as the manatee floated there and watched us.

The four of us must have been especially boring because it soon blinked and then drifted below the surface. Only to continue swimming closer, going directly under the boat, its backside bumping into the bottom of the hull, and then surfacing on the other side of the boat. It turned around for one last look and I swear it was smirking at us before it dropped below the surface again and swam away.

Getting an up-close look at the manatee, I came to a rather quick conclusion. If these things really were the basis for mermaid sighting, then either the old-time sailors were appallingly nearsighted or pleasantly size-diverse in their physical appreciation spectrum.

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