Category Archives: Muddled Musings

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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17 Gobbleygook Factslaps for ’17

1. The first Thanksgiving was actually a three-day celebration.

Today, Thanksgiving is one day — maybe two if you count Black Friday. But apparently the Pilgrims wanted to party even harder. Governor William Bradford organized the feast, inviting the Plymouth colonists’ Native American allies. But it was only until the Wampanoag Indian guests came and joined the Pilgrims that they decided to extend the affair.

2. It’s unclear if colonists and Native Americans ate turkey at their feast.

There is truly no definitive proof that the bird we wait all year to eat was even offered to guests back in 1621. However, they did indulge in other interesting foods like lobster, seal and swan.

3. Today, a special part of Plymouth, Massachusetts, looks just as it did in the 17th century.

Modeled after an English village and a Wampanoag home site, the historic attraction Plimoth Plantation stays true to its roots. You can order tickets as early as June to attend a Thanksgiving dinner complete with numerous authentic courses, tales of colonial life and centuries-old songs.

4. The woman behind “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is also responsible for Thanksgiving’s recognition as a national holiday.

In 1863, writer and editor Sarah Josepha Hale convinced President Abraham Lincoln to officially declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. She wrote countless articles and letters to persuade the president — and the rest is history!

5. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade didn’t feature any balloons.

But when the parade made its big debut in 1924, it did have something that might be even cooler than balloons: animals from the Central Park Zoo.

6. But we have a Good Housekeeping illustrator to thank for the parade’s first balloons.

German American illustrator Tony Starg, who completed illustrations for Good Housekeeping, also had a passion for puppetry, which he used make the amazing floats come to life in 1927.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1929

7. In 1939, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the third Thursday in November — not the fourth.

You might think President Roosevelt could predict the future, as he channeled a “Black Friday” mindset in making this decision. Even though the holiday had been celebrated on the fourth Thursday since its official recognition decades before, Roosevelt bumped it up a week — offering seven more shopping days to the holiday season. Americans, to say the least, didn’t love the change, so it was officially (and legally) switched back in 1942.

8. A Thanksgiving mix-up inspired the first TV dinners.

In 1953, a Swanson employee accidentally ordered a colossal shipment of Thanksgiving turkeys (260 tons, to be exact). To get rid of them all, salesman Gerry Thomas came up with the idea of filling 5,000 aluminum trays with the turkey – along with cornbread dressing, gravy, peas and sweet potatoes. They were sold for 98 cents, and were a hit. Within one year, over ten million were sold.

9. About 46 million turkeys are cooked for Thanksgiving each year.

It’s tradition, after all. And on Christmas, 22 million families host an encore with another turkey.

10. But not everyone eats turkey on Thanksgiving.

According to the National Turkey Federation, only 88% of Americans chow down on turkey. Which begs the question, what interesting dishes are the other 12% cooking up?

11. You might consume up to 229 grams fat during the big meal.

We hate to break it to you, but that’s about 3 to 4 times the amount of fat you should eat in a day.

12. The turkeys pardoned by the President go on to do some pretty cool things.

President George H.W. Bush pardoned the first turkey in 1989, and it’s a tradition that persists today. But what happens to the lucky bird that doesn’t get served with a side of mashed potatoes? In 2005 and 2009, the turkeys were sent to Disneyland and Walt Disney World parks to serve as grand marshal in their annual Thanksgiving parades. And from 2010 to 2013, they vacationed at Washington’s Mount Vernon state. Not bad!

13. Only male turkeys actually gobble.

You may have been taught in pre-school that a turkey goes “gobble, gobble” — but that’s not entirely true. Only male turkeys, fittingly called gobblers, actually make the sound. Female turkeys cackle instead.

14. Most Americans like Thanksgiving leftovers more than the actual meal.

Almost eight in 10 agree that the second helpings of stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie beat out the big dinner itself, according to a 2015 Harris Poll.

15. The Butterball Turkey Talk Line answers almost 100,000 calls each season.

Last year, the company’s popular cooking crisis management team also introduced a 24-hour text message line for the lead-up into the big day.

16. There are four places in the country named Turkey.

The U.S. Census has identified another seven called Cranberry, and a grand total of 33 dubbed Plymouth.

17. Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for plumbers.

Screw shopping. Thanks to all that food we gobble up, Roto-Rooter reports that kitchen drains, garbage disposals and, yes, toilets, require more attention the day after Thanksgiving than any other day of the year.

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