Saturday, January 1, 2005

A Compendium of Lesser Known Natural Disasters

Dear Friends,

  SENSITIVE TOPIC ALERT. I am going to be talking about tsunamis now. If you aren't ready or not bright enough to discuss tsunamis, read no further, because tsunamis are the subject of this essay. I'm going to start by asking myself, "What, exactly, is a tsunami?" I think we all know enough about common natural disasters to have a healthy fear of earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes and tornados, but tsunamis were never really on the radar until very recently. Thanks to the international media, we are all learning about things like how to tsunami-proof your workplace and why a tsunami is worse for people who live in ravines than people who live on hummocks.

  However, tsunamis are just one of a considerable list of lesser-known natural disasters which should incapacitate us with fear. Go to your file cabinet right now and grab your most recent homeowner's policy, because you're going to want to know the extent of your coverage for each of these Acts of God.

MUDSLIDE: This one is pretty self-explanatory. When you put mud on an inclined plane, such as a mountainside or the roof of a church, it slides down, blanketing everything in its path in warm, relaxing mud. If you see a mudslide headed your way, be sure to wrap your hair in a towel and put cucumber slices over your eyes.

CYCLONE: Thinner than a tornado, but more conical than a twister. As you know, the National Weather Service names hurricanes after people, such as "Hurricane Andrew." Cyclones, on the other hand, are named after concepts. In 2004 there were cyclones named Justice, Ambiguity, and Virginity.

HOT GEYSER: The scariest thing about hot geysers is that you never know where or when they're going to erupt. Sometimes you hear a gurgling noise right before it goes, but by then it's PRETTY MUCH TOO LATE FOR YOU. If Jerry Bruckheimer really started thinking about hot geysers, I think he'd realize how much dramatic potential they have.

WHIRLPOOL: Every year the lives of thousands of poor, inner city kids are claimed by whirlpools, but you almost never hear about it. You can bet that the first time some middle class white girl falls in a whirlpool they'll be forming a new cabinet position to figure out how to stop them. I, for one, want to go on record having said, "George W. Bush, whirlpools have always been here, whether you like it or not."

TYPHOON: A typhoon is sort of the gobstopper of tropical weather patterns. Basically you start with a common eddy. This is surrounded by a cloudburst, which itself is surrounded by a zephyr.  A small typhoon can be easily confused with a nor'wester, but the larger ones often have the ferocity of a line squall with all the stubbornness of a raging Chinook or a low pressure system.

STAMPEDE: While not technically a natural disaster, a stampede can be just as dangerous. Most laypeople think the best way to avoid a stampede is to stay away from large herds of animals. NOT TRUE.  Travelers have been trampled to death by as few as three buffalo if they are pissed/startled enough.

FLASH FLOOD: The main difference between a standard flood and a flash flood is that the latter tends to occur just when you start to relax and think you are no longer in danger. I know people who tied an inflatable dinghy to their chimney, which is wise. They did not, however, inflate it ahead of time, which is unwise. If you think you're going to have time to blow up a whole dingy during a flash flood, you're not just stupid, but stupid and drowned soon.

FJORDS: I think James Michener died in one of these, but that might have been a dust bowl.

MONSOON: When these are far away, they make a pleasing baritone sound like the instrument for which they are named. However, don't get too close because they can cause both wind and gusts.

TARPITS: These have wiped out entire races of civilized prehumans. The more people and livestock a tarpit consumes, the larger it becomes. There is one in Los Angeles that they weren't able to stop for hundreds of years until someone thought of hosing it down for a long time.

  I don't have space to write more, but I also did research on cave-ins, meteorites, sunspots, glaciers, locusts, eclipses, and sleet. Feel free to ask me about any of these topics if we run into each other.
  The Hard Taco song this month is called "Accidents Happen," and it's another chapter of the Hard Tack Medicine Show. If you haven't been keeping up, here is the back story. Osric the Fop has vowed to kill Good King Stereotypies (rhymes with "carry lot o' peas") because of something unsavory the king did a long time ago. However, Osric is distracted from his task by the King's unprincipled wife, the Exotic Queen Stasia. He is so distracted, in fact, that she becomes pregnant. Osric soon realizes that this predicament could actually be an opportunity to recruit the Queen to help him with his mission.

  If you are too worried about typhoons and magma to download the new song, I don't blame you. When you're ready, it will be there for you.

With warmest regards,