Archive for June, 2008

…now that you can put your own picture on an m&m.


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Just over a week ago, on Wednesday, June 11th, around 11:00 pm, an estimated EF-3 or 4 tornado hit Manhattan, KS. It first hit the residential areas of Miller Ranch and the Amherst neighborhood, damaging or destroying around 45 homes. The images that we’ve seen in the news coverage are pretty intense. Many of the homes were leveled to the ground. The tornado then hit a small business area, damaging many businesses. Little Apple Toyota was particularly hard hit, and the True Value Hardware store, which I think was only about a year old, was completely destroyed. The tornado may have lifted for a bit, then came back down as the storm neared Kansas State University, where I teach. It damaged a number of buildings, including the one housing K-State’s nuclear reactor (What?! We have a nuclear reactor on campus?) and one of the buildings I teach in, along with a fraternity house just off campus. A temporary building, the Wind Erosion Lab, was a total loss, an irony that has been lost on no one (UPDATE: a commenter below has some corrective information below about the Wind Erosion Lab that you would probably find useful).

Last week, we went out to Salina, passing Chapman, KS along the way. Chapman was fairly severely hit by the same tornado; some estimates I’ve read put the damage in the town at 80% damaged or destroyed. One person was even killed there, along with one other person who was killed to the northeast of us in another small town, Soldier, KS. Other than that, from what I understand, the number of other injuries was rather low.

As we got back to Manhattan to pick up my car, we decided to drive by and see as much of the damaged areas as we could. I didn’t have my camera with me, but Michelle had hers, and took a few pictures as we drove around. It was an incredible, humbling sight.

This is Little Apple Toyota. Despite appearances, it was actually a thriving dealership before the storm. No, there are not any windows left in the building.

This is all that’s left of the True Value Hardware store. You can kind of tell from the trees which way the tornado went after destroying the building. Just follow the leafless trees.

We went on campus after that and took a look at a couple of the damaged buildings, whatever we could see from the car.

Yesterday, we were finally able to go back to our class that was in a damaged building. Some of the building is still blocked off, so my students have to walk all the way around it to find the one door that allows them access to our classroom. As I walked up to the building, uncertain of what it would look like inside (just the same, as it turned out, except for the three guys sweeping up a lot of dust in the entryway), my attention was drawn to the exterior of the building. There was an incredible amount of junk absolutely glued to the windows outside: insulation, leaves, bits of paper, a pamphlet of some kind…it was amazing. All of that done with just wind and water.

It was a wild time, to say the least. Everyone around here is still talking about it. Like a massive group therapy session.

I wonder who picks up the bill for that one?

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Boy, it feels like it’s been forever since I posted here, and, checking the dates, it actually has been forever. I’ve been trying to figure out what I could use to break the blog silence, and nothing seemed fitting, so I figured I’d just announce some fun family news.

A month and a half ago, Michelle went to a Tae Kwon Do tournament in Bellevue, NE.

That’s not the news.

She has been going to Tae Kwon Do for about 8 months now, and has progressed all the way to a green belt. Now, before you ask, I have no idea what a green belt means, but Michelle said that it’s half-way to a black belt. It’s the first advanced belt. It’s a big accomplishment, but really, she’s just beginning to get to the tough stuff.

So, since she’s moving her way up the ranks, she decided it was about time to put her chops to test to see how she stacked up against other green belts her age. This Nebraska tournament wasn’t a massive regional tournament, just a smaller one for anyone willing to make the drive, so she thought it was a good way to see what this whole tournament thing was like.

It was held at a high school gym there in Bellevue, and we got there about a half-hour before the opening of the tournament, which meant that we arrived just in time to see the black belt competitions wrapping up. The black belts would helping to run the tournament for the lower belts, so they had to get their competitions out of the way before the majority of the competitors arrived.

If anyone ever questioned what a black belt could actually do, let me just make it clear here that I, for one, would never want to go up against one. We watched one of the students from the studio that Michelle goes to, David Mann, sparring against some other black belts and wow, he’s fierce. Michelle said he’s ranked somewhere in the top 10 in the world, and it was just amazing to watch him move and strike.

Well, after the opening ceremony, we had to wait hours and hours for her age and belt to be called. As it turned out, there weren’t enough green belts there in her age group for them to make a group out of. There really weren’t enough women with advanced belts of any level, actually, so they had to combine her with all of the other advanced belts, right up to those that were black belt recommended (meaning that they had all but earned their black belt, really). She was way out of her league, and she was scared.

There are three rounds in a tournament: forms, weapons, and sparring. Michelle hasn’t done enough training in weapons, so she was just competing in forms and sparring. She went out and did a great job on her forms, looking real clean and crisp in her moves. After the 10 women had each done their forms, the judges checked the scores and discovered a four-way tie for third, and Michelle was actually one of them. They each had to do their form again, and then they all stood in front of the judges. The judges stood, counted to three (or whatever the equivalent number is in Korean), and simultaneously pointed to who they felt deserved the third place award. Two of the judges pointed to the same person, but one of them pointed to Michelle! She didn’t win third, but in her mind, one third place vote means that she won fourth. 🙂

After watching a couple of women do their weapons routines, it was time for sparring. They all got their gear on, and I could see Michelle bouncing a little on her toes, warming up and trying to keep her nerves down. She first got paired up with a black-belt-recommended student and I was a little scared for her. Her one fear going to the tournament was that she would be swept out in the first round, and it sure didn’t look good for her. However, once the judges started the match, Michelle really managed to hold her own. The other girl got a point on Michelle, but Michelle managed to get two or three points on her* before time ran out. I could see that she was almost giddy (though trying to contain it), though it was hard to see with all her gear on. The other girl tried to save face by claiming a recent leg injury, but I don’t think it really mattered why she won; a W is a W, right?

In her next round, she got paired up with a spunky and very fast blue belt that basically beat her up and down the mat, so any feelings of euphoria were quickly doused.

However, once all the sparring was done, the judges put the numbers together and started handing out awards. Michelle was initially a little bummed because they don’t give participation awards to adults, just to the kids, so if she didn’t place at 3rd or above in any of the three categories, she wouldn’t get anything for coming to the tournament. Much to her surprise, they called her name and awarded her a third-place medal for sparring! She tied with another woman that she had met in the staging area, so she was really happy. Bouncing, actually. So happy, that she actually let me take a picture of her wearing her medal.

That’s the news.

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve updated this. Hopefully our lives will be more blogworthy in the near future. If not, you’ll probably just start getting the play-by-play rundown of my toenail care routine, or something at a similar level of excitement.

Congratulations, Michelle!

*You need 5 points to win a sparring match. You get one point for punching or kicking the chest pad, two points for kicking the head pad, and three points for jump-kicking the head pad.

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