Author Archives: Scott Bowles

No Time to Wallow in the Mire

As a reporter who began in Arkansas, I was a quick study in natural disasters. Tornadoes, river floods, even Arkansans.

And I thought I knew fire. Once, my photographer buddy Spencer and I worked a massive house fire. As reporters gathered in front of the house, the wind suddenly shifted. Blue sky became black. And when you turned your back, closed your eyes and coughed your lungs out, there was a weird disorientation. The commander in charge yelled at us to freeze until the wind shifted, lest any of us walk blindly into the inferno.

But nothing compared to the fires this week, particularly the Bel Air blaze, about six miles south of me. The smell was as if the city planned a romantic evening in front of the fireplace and forgot to open the chute. I awoke in the middle of the night from the acrid stench, certain a room was ablaze. My living room was speckled with Esme’s small footprints as she walked inside from the ash-covered back patio.

California isn’t going to break off into the sea. It’s going to burn to the ground.

Still, it got me thinking: Is there any place safe from disaster?

The answer, of course, is no. A recent study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that the safest place to live to avoid a natural disaster is actually Montana’s Sweet Grass County, located just 160 miles southeast of the capital Helena (apparently, volcanoes are no longer an issue).

Conversely, the most dangerous county to live in is Ocean County, N.J. Nestled  along the Jersey Shore, Ocean County offers little in terms of a buffer for severe weather and hurricanes, most recently sustaining massive damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, a storm that displaced as many as 26,000 people in Ocean County alone.

But here is their list, based on frequency (not fatalities). The study, for some reason, does not consider dimwits a natural disaster. I guess that’s more a political study. Mother Nature’s favorite wrath by locale:

  • Alabama — Tornadoes
  • Alaska — Wildfires
  • Arizona — Wildfires
  • Arkansas — Tornadoes
  • California — Earthquakes
  • Colorado — Wildfires
  • Connecticut — Snowstorms
  • Delaware — Snowstorms/Hurricanes
  • Florida — Hurricanes
  • Georgia — Tornadoes
  • Hawaii — Hurricanes
  • Idaho — Wildfires / Flooding
  • Illinois — Tornadoes
  • Indiana — Tornadoes
  • Iowa — Tornadoes
  • Kansas — Tornadoes
  • Kentucky — Tornadoes
  • Louisiana — Hurricanes
  • Maine — Summer Storms
  • Maryland — Hurricanes
  • Massachusetts — Blizzards
  • Michigan — Tornadoes
  • Minnesota — Tornadoes
  • Mississippi — Hurricanes
  • Missouri — Tornadoes
  • Montana — Floods
  • Nebraska — Tornadoes
  • Nevada — Earthquakes
  • New Hampshire — Floods
  • New Jersey — Blizzards
  • New Mexico — Wildfires
  • New York — Blizzards
  • North Carolina — Hurricanes
  • North Dakota — Blizzards
  • Ohio — Tornadoes
  • Oklahoma — Tornadoes
  • Oregon — Floods
  • Pennsylvania — Blizzards
  • Rhode Island — Hurricanes
  • South Carolina — Tornadoes
  • South Dakota — Tornadoes
  • Tennessee — Tornadoes
  • Texas — Tornadoes
  • Utah — Earthquakes
  • Vermont — Floods
  • Virginia — Floods
  • Washington State — Wildfires
  • Washington, D.C. — Blizzards
  • West Virginia — Floods
  • Wisconsin — Tornadoes
  • Wyoming — Landslides

 

 

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A Funny Thing Happened…

 

The matriarch of the Bowles family, Thelma, died shortly before Thanksgiving this year. She was 103 years old.

103. The things Thelma saw.

Charlie Chaplin made his first film in 1914. The first stone of the Lincoln Memorial was put into place. Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration commemorating Mother’s Day. Babe Ruth made his major league debut for the Boston Red Sox.

As we do so many of our kin, the Bowles honored Thelma in the little churches where she was raised. The ceremony was followed by the small, somber-but-love-filled reunions that seem to follow all hollowed departures. I used to not understand funerals. Now, it seems, I speak their language as a second tongue.

Which, before this Dinosaur Edition of Factslaps (Trump may soon be receiving a Round Earth or Sound It Out Edition soon), I’d like to make formal my funeral requests. These are my wishes, being of unsound mind and body:

  1. I want to be cremated, and have my ashes donated to science.
  2. I want multiple headstones (who says you can only have one?), dotting the nation’s unsuspecting cemeteries.
  3. I want every tombstone to read “I’m Just Resting My Eyes.”
  4. I want my funeral service to include a break dance contest.

And now, a word from our sponsors:

  • Dinosaurs lived on Earth for 150 million years. We’ve been around for just 0.1% of that time.
  • Dinosaurs are not, technically, extinct, since birds are considered by science as a type of dinosaur.
  • The longest complete dinosaur is the 27 meters (89 feet) long Diplodocus, which was discovered in Wyoming.
  • The smallest known dinosaur was about four inches (10 cm) tall and weighed less than a chihuahua.
  • Most dinosaurs are known from just a single tooth or bone.
  • The word “Dinosaur”comes from the ancient Greek and means “terrible lizard.”
  • If Earth’s history were condensed into 24 hours, life would’ve appeared at 4am, land plants at 10:24pm, dinosaur extinction at 11:41pm and human history would’ve begun at 11:58:43pm.
  • There’s a limestone cliff with more than 5,000 dinosaur footprints in Bolivia, with many dating back 68 million years.
  • The dinosaur noises in the “Jurassic Park” movie were made from recordings of tortoise sex.
  • 40% of Americans think that humansand dinosaurs lived at the same time.
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Shut the Pod Bay Doors, Hal

 

I’m not so much a gadget freak as a gadget mutant alien virus.

My technology jones runs deep. I have four outdated cellular phones, a half dozen MP3 players and four digital cameras. My middle name could be iSucker.

I even like the ads for electronic stores. When I lived at home, I would seek the Sunday fliers for Best Buy and Circuit City, simply to marvel at Moore’s Law, the theorem that technology doubles every 18 months — so your computer and cell phones should be twice as fast, hold twice as much data, every year and a half — with requisite price hikes.

So Cyber Monday has become my Black Friday, as it has for millions of Americans: Roughly $6.6 billion sales are logged on Cyber Monday, a figure that must give brick and mortar shops a raging erection. Though it’s surprising that the ever-clever internet denizens didn’t come up with something more clever than Cyber Monday. If the creators of e-shopping really wanted to mock traditional stores, which is clearly part of the strategy, they would have called it “African-American Monday.”

Regardless, Amazon has gone nuts over the phenomenon it helped manifest. The site has created a cyber-flier that is replete with gizmos and whatzits. It’s terrific reading.

There’s a laptop about the weight of a candy bar. There’s an Alexa-powered webcam that looks like it came from NASA, with night vision and motion detector alerts sent to your phone.

But my favorite by far was Furbo, a remote dog treat dispenser.

The idea is fascinating. A remote camera keeps an eye on Fido, using your computer and even cellular phone to monitor the pup, scold it to stop incessant yapping, and reward it when it’s good. Tell Spot to sit, and you can remotely eject a dog treat to your canine.

This is the stuff of The Jetsons. As I read, I wondered: Are we really this bored and wealthy?

Turns out the answer is “goddamned straight.” Furbo had 1,049 reviews and a four-out-of-five-star rating. It also had 271 questions from interested buyers: Could you use your own dog treats? How long is the warranty? Does it works for cats? (For what do you even reward a cat? A furball-free day?)

As I scrolled through the questions, I noticed it didn’t address my primary one: What happens when a dog jacks its leg to pee on it? I’m guessing it happens, as there’s an entire YouTube cottage industry of dogs peeing on myriad targets: cats, new shoes, sunbathers, etc. Teddy once peed on chair at the dog park. An occupied chair.

So, on a smartass-ian lark, I asked the simple question 271 others  would not: “Is it urine-proof?”

I expected that the seller would not even post the joke. At best, I would get a similarly snarky response, like “No, but it is fecal-resistant.”

Instead, I immediately received a spate of replies. “No, it’s plastic but still an electrical device;” “Perhaps — I would elevate it to the height of a treat jar,” etc. Apparently, the question raised a real issue — one not mentioned in the entire ad for Furbo.

But there was one reply in particular that caught my eye, from Lisa S. I knew it would have the inevitable, anonymous air of the internet era, which has ushered mankind into the Iron(y) Age. The primary advancement of the period: veiled asshole-nish. The letter began with “I don’t know,” which begs another question: Then why reply in ‘Answers?’ It also was clearly her chance to brag on her pets.

“I don’t know,” she wrote. “Mine sits on the counter and my dogs are housebroken.”

So I sent her the only response I could think:

“Oh, I don’t have a dog.”

Have a holly jolly!

 

 

 

 

 

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