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Archive for the ‘Kansas’ Category

I don’t think I’d be tapping into ancient history if I asked you to think back to the UPS ad campaign that featured the question, “What can brown do for you?” I feel just a little bad because I have been on both the shipping and receiving end of brown’s services many times, but I’ve never really stopped to consider even thinking about reciprocating. So today, it’s all about what I can do for brown.

You see, recently, we ordered a crib from an online retailer and were told it would be coming via UPS. We liked this prospect because the lab I order my prints from always ships via UPS and they’ve proven themselves very reliable and careful with my precious cargo.

Once the order was processed and updated in the retailer’s database, they sent us an email with tracking information and a link to UPS’s website. The tracking information indicated that our crib would be arriving on the 7th, which was not totally unexpected, but still a bit longer than we would like. However, since we only paid 97 cents for shipping, I guess we got what we paid for.

We clicked through to the UPS site, just to check and see where it was coming from, more out of curiosity than because of some actual need to know, and discovered that it was coming from Hodgkins, IL–basically from Chicago. That’s good news because we know that it’s only about an 8-hour drive (or so) from here to there. Best of all, UPS indicated that it would actually deliver on the 6th. Hey, great surprise! Brown comes through for us again!

As time drew closer to the actual arrival of the crib, on the 5th, I believe, we went back to check on our (big) little package’s progress, and were a bit surprised by what we had seen:

capture-1412_01_45c

(Okay, no laughing about the “delivered” bit…I didn’t capture this until after the fact).

What, you don’t understand? Let me show you.

The package left Hodgkins, IL, and traveled to Kansas City, KS. No problem.

From there, it went to Salina, KS. Feel free to click the images if you need extra help with visualizing this.

kansas-city-to-salina

It left Salina and went to Lenexa, KS.

salina-to-lenexa

From Lenexa, it took a trip to Manhattan. See the problem yet?

lenexa-to-manhattan

From Manhattan, they finally decided they could take it out to us, after making a grand total of THREE trips past our home.

Here’s the way Google breaks it down:

  • Hodgkins, IL, to Wamego, KS: 625 miles, 9 hours and 34 minutes
  • Hodgkins, IL, to Kansas City, KS, to Salina, KS, to Lenexa, KS, to Manhattan, KS, to Wamego, KS: 1011 miles, 15 hours and 48 minutes.

That means UPS went 386 miles out of its way, which should’ve added an extra 6 hours and 14 minutes. That wouldn’t be so bad, except that the way that UPS did it actually added over 77 hours to the trip.

I guess Google doesn’t account for bathroom breaks and fast-food stops.

So, because I don’t want UPS to think that I never did anything for them, here‘s what I can do for brown.

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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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wamego’s grand elf 2007

Apparently, each year around Christmas time, the library hosts a little drawing to find a child (K-5) to be the Grand Elf for the Christmas Lighting Parade. In Wamego, they do up the City Park with a pretty nice display of Christmas lights all over the park. On the night of the lighting ceremony, they do a big parade (well, I suppose big is a relative term). After the parade is over, everyone walks over to the park, which is pitch black (though the local telecommunications company always hands out little flashlights for people to use on their way there). The Grand Elf is then supposed to flip a (fake) switch which turns on all the Christmas lights around the park. It’s a big deal. And this year, Chloe’s name got drawn.She had to be at the high school’s back parking lot early, so we had to pack the kids a dinner that they could eat on the way, as Mom and Dad struggled to get them up the hill in the wagon.

before the parade 3

along for the ride

While waiting for the parade to assemble (and for someone who knew what we were supposed to do with Chloe), Michelle found what she wanted for Christmas:

merry maids

No, not the car…the maid service, of course.

The sleigh finally arrived, pulled by eight six tiny reindeer tractors. Supposedly, she was going to ride with Santa in this sleigh, along with a bunch of presents, but Santa decided he wanted to ride in the pony-drawn sleigh at the end of the parade, instead of at the beginning. And, judging by the size of the sleigh, it’s a good thing he did, too.

When one of the organizers found us, she told us that, if it were her kid in the sleigh, she’d want to ride with, or at least walk along. So Michelle decided to ride with Chloe.

But, once Hyrum saw that the sleigh was being pulled by a bunch of tractors, boy, did that bottom lip come out fast and far. The organizer saw it and immediately called her superior to find out if he could ride too. Fortunately, it was allowed.

getting ready for the parade

getting ready for the parade

Once they got settled, I set off to find a spot to watch the parade from. I found some friends of ours from church across the street (or rather, they found me looking lost and forlorn and pulling an empty wagon), so I hung out with them for most of the parade.

Anyone want to bundle me up and push me around for a while?

anyone want to bundle ME up and push ME around for a while?

i don't think she's smiling

Wasn’t March of the Penguins on this weekend?

wasn't march of the penguins on this weekend?

Then the parade started. I had to run to the other side of the street to make sure I got Hyrum in the picture, but then Chloe didn’t look at me. And that’s okay…she had work to do, waving to all her adoring fans and all. Michelle told me that she saw a lot of her friends from school and they were all super excited to see her.

if it takes that many tractors to pull a single sleigh

the grand elf and her entourage

After the parade, Chloe was supposed to go to a spot near the bridge where it “was obvious” (we were told) where she would be flipping the switch. Apparently, somewhere along the lines of command, the word “obvious” was not connected to “put the switch out and make it” because we looked everywhere (as best as we could in the complete darkness) and there was no switch near the bridge. I found the real switch, but no fake one. I asked the band that was there (the teenage boy I spoke to had no idea what I was talking about). I asked the police officers (they looked hard, but no luck). The parade organizers didn’t even know where it was.

anyone seen a switch lying around?

Finally, they decided that, since no one could find the switch, they’d just have Chloe count down from 10 to 1. She wasn’t all that excited about doing that. But, when the man called her over to the police car’s PA mic, she was a trooper and gave the countdown anyways, straight from 10 to 1, not skipping a beat. She was even all smiles afterwards when the lights came on right on cue.

counting down

After the lights came on, the band played some Christmas songs and everyone went over to the Wamego Museum for cider and cookies. We couldn’t find the lady that let Chloe wear her Santa hat, so another lady said we could just keep it for a souvenir. Though Mom and Dad were a bit skeptical, Chloe was already jumping for joy.

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provident living

Taken at the beginning of this past spring, as we were getting ready to plant our very first vegetable garden. We were trying to adopt some of the counsel that we’ve received at church regarding provident living–how to live a rich life without being rich, essentially. Planting a vegetable garden is one of the suggestions made that can help increase the nutritional level of your meals while saving money on fresh produce.

We had a great run at it for our first time. Our Bishop, a long-time gardener, commented on how amazing our garden looked. Sadly, we were unable to completely alter our mindset to include our garden harvest when planning meals, so the vegetables largely either went uneaten and spoiled or were donated to those that were more than happy to consume then (and tell us how good they tasted). The few we did eat were amazing.

Mostly, we learned a few things about how not to grow a vegetable garden that we’ll implement next year. Some of the things we learned:

  • Don’t grow corn. At least, not in our garden–it doesn’t get enough sun where it’s located.
  • There’s a difference between bush (green) beans and pole beans. When you’re planting them among your rows of corn, like the Native Americans did, it makes a difference which one you have.
  • When your friend with a green thumb and three more years of Kansas gardening experience tells you that tomatoes will grow really well, so well that they’ll take over your garden, believe him.
  • Two tomato plants alone can take over almost half of your garden.
  • Remember exactly where you planted your peppers because, since they’re next to your tomatoes, you won’t be able to see them in about a month.
  • Plant more potatoes. Lots more. Especially the Yukon Gold variety because the taste is extraordinary (so we’ve been told).
  • Water. Regularly. Especially during the August heat waves because the otherwise thriving pumpkin vines will shrivel and die in a matter of days without enough water.

The most important thing we’ve learned: You’ve got a lot more to learn.

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the p.e. coach and his boy

Taken at a backyard barbecue we had this past spring.

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my kids meet the silver man

Our kids had never seen a street performer before, so, back in June, when we were walking around The Plaza (in Kansas City), looking for the P.F. Chang’s, and saw this guy, they were instantly mesmerized. We were heading the other direction, though, so, despite all their protests, they didn’t get a chance to really figure him out.

Later, though, after dinner (and a promise to try and find him later), we came back, and sure enough, he was still there, with a crowd of about 20 people sitting, standing, pausing, watching.

What does he do? What’s his gig?

Nothing.

That’s right: He does nothing. He dresses in silver/gray clothing, paints all exposed skin silver, grabs a silver cane and sits on a silver box with a silver cup out for tips.

And then he does nothing.

He doesn’t move. He hardly blinks. Never reacts or changes his expression at all.

Except when you put money in his jar.

With the money deposited, he’ll change his position. Not drastically, but slightly. And then he’ll hold his new position until somebody else tosses in some cash.

We deposited a dollar so that my kids could take a picture with him. He did his little movement (it was quite little–perhaps he moves more for more money?) as my kids took up their positions. Our daughter, who was the most excited to go see him, wouldn’t get that close to him. Our son, who could care less, basically went up and stood between the guy’s legs, almost climbing into his lap (did he think he was a statue?). He wedged himself in there so tightly that the man had to lift his cane off the ground and shift it over to the side.

That’s probably why the silver guy’s wearing that slightly amused expression on his face.

As we were leaving, we heard someone quietly comment to someone next to them, “That’s the most I’ve seen him move all day.”

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The school that I work at has intramural miniature golf.

Seriously.

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