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Amateur Hour: Sound Effect, Episode 36

Edward "Major" Bowes
Wikimedia Commons


Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme. This week Sound Effect brings you Amateur Hour.   


You were probably an amateur once. Maybe you were in a band, or tried your hand at magic, or you’re that person that plays the bagpipe outside of Nordstrom. If this sounds familiar, this show is an ode to you.


We begin with the unpredictable life of Edward “Major” Bowes. Bowes made his first fortune by purchasing and developing property damaged in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Then he heard that Tacoma, Wash. was the fastest growing city in the country. He arrived in Tacoma the next day, and swiftly helped create the Olmsted-inspired, pre-planned community of “Regents Park,” now Fircest, in Tacoma. There was lake, a zoo and a kangaroo. Through a series of career twists, Bowes somehow ended up the host of the most popular American radio show of the 30s and 40s. He’s an amateur’s hero.


Not many amateurs build nuclear reactors. Fewer build them, and then invite high schoolers to operate them. Meet Carl Greninger, a Microsoft IT manager who did just that in his free time. He created the Northwest Nuclear Consortium, an “Extreme Science Club” in Federal Way, and he’s encouraging his “Fusioneers” to make science really matter. Find the original story, which aired in February 2013, here. Wondering what a pet nuclear reactor would look like? Wonder no more.

Credit Gabriel Spitzer KPLU
High school senior Raymond Maung poors liquid nitrogen into the reactor.

Courtney Sheehan is the Artistic Director of the Northwest Film Forum and the program manager of the Local Sightings Film Festival, which showcases films by Northwest artists. You can check out the film program and buy your tickets here.


Credit photo provided by Susie Lee
community question asked on Siren

 How would a 5-year-old describe your job? What’s the worst song you ever heard? It turns out your soul mate might be lurking in the answer to these questions, or so says Susie Lee, co-founder and CEO of the acclaimed dating app Siren. But finding her calling as a matchmaker wasn’t simple. Before founding the app, Susie was an almost-doctor, a chemistry teacher and then a ceramics artist.