The 1987 Tornado

On July 31, 1987, Edmonton was struck by a tornado. It killed 27 people and injured hundreds. I am thankful that neither I--nor anyone I knew--was directly affected. Like many Edmontonians, I have vivid memories of that day (whether they are accurate is another matter).

At the time, I was a typical university student, working during the summer. It had been a hot few days, and thundershowers were in the forecast. I noticed the storm clouds brewing that afternoon. It was hard not to notice them.They were an ugly, greenish-gray. More eloquent people than me have described them as looking like the colour of a bruise. That dark, sickening colour was what attracted my attention in the first place, and then I noticed something even stranger. The clouds were...turning.

Maybe clouds rotate sometimes, but if they did, I never noticed. Not only were they turning, but they were turning pretty quickly. It was mesmerizing to watch--but in the back of my mind, I had a prickling sensation of this can't be good. Then the rain started.

Pelting, hammering waves of rain pounded the the house; the rain turned to hail, and I was sure a window would break. We had guests visiting from Germany; they weren't familiar with prairie storms, and sought shelter in the basement. Soon my parents and I joined them, but we could still hear the howling wind, rain, and hail. And then, it stopped.

Emerging blinking out into the day, we saw the yard covered with an icy layer of hail. I went outside and found one as big as a baseball. I put it into the freezer, where it eventually sublimated away to half its size. I should have taken a picture of it.

There were bits of pink insulation strewn around the neighbourhood, hanging from power lines, and there were bits of what looked like construction materials scattered around. We didn't know it then, but we were seeing the detritus of destroyed houses from miles away. There were choirs of sirens wailing in the distance. And I had to go to work at Superstore (customer service agent, first class!). I took my mom's Chevette, which didn't have a tape player, so I had to make do with the radio. That's how I first learned that there had been a tornado.

The roads were relatively devoid of the normal late-Friday-afternoon traffic, and the store wasn't busy at all. I wasn't at work long before there was an unexpected glitch: the power went out. This had never happened before, and no one had prepared us for this. The managers told us to get the customers out--they had to leave their carts and just get out. But then word spread that another funnel cloud had been spotted. (Likely this was misinformation--some news reports said there were two tornados, one on the south side, one on the north side.)

No one wanted to leave the store. The customers were milling around, looking dubiously at the sky. I was awfully nervous standing at the front of the store, where there were a lot of huge windows. And going into the store didn't seem like a good idea, either. I imagined a maelstrom of flying cans, bottles, and, for some reason, nectarines. But there was no second tornado. And the managers eventually let us all go home. So I sat glued to the radio, and then the TV as the news coverage started.

The strongest emotion I felt was shock. A tornado? Edmonton doesn't get tornadoes. No hurricanes, typhoons, tropical storms, or tornadoes. But we found out that tornadoes are actually not uncommon on the prairies after all. So when there are hot summer days, and the forecast says there are severe thunderstorms with a risk of tornadoes developing, many of us are going to be watching the skies for clouds that turn around.

Why aren't you studying?

The Awards: 7

I (humbly) note that I've been placed on the Department of Psychology's Honour Roll with Distinction (HRD) for the three courses I taught in Winter, 2012. Plus, I was also placed on the HRD based on the evaluations of the PSYCO 496/498 Individual Research/Individual Study students I supervised over the past three years. That means I've been awarded HRD a grand total of 101 times. Thanks!

Now, by popular request, here are some of the best comments on my evaluations from Winter, 2012. As always, sarcasm filters are off. Beware!

From PSYCO 365:
Dr Loepelmen (?) was a good prof overall. However, explanation of concepts boils down to stating studies that didn’t work, then those that did. I know it’s important to study all aspects of theories, but spending such an excessive amount of time on weak theories feels like a total waste of time.
(But, see, it’s not all about getting the “right” answer or the “correct” theory, but about the process of science--the weighing and evaluating evidence. This may be a shift from 200-level courses, but that’s what I’m trying to do in my higher-level courses.)

Loepelmann is a sweetheart, but his teaching is kind of strange. He randomly starts a new section, making all the lectures blend together. Personally, this makes it difficult to really learn the topics.
(I do try to make things flow, but that’s often very difficult to do.)

Dr. Loepelmann sometimes says things in a way that make it seem like he’s trying to make himself look better in light of other profs ex. “no other prof tell you when the evaluation day is” or “no other 300-level course has Advanced in the title.” He is an excellent prof and I love taking his classes but sometimes phrases like that put people off.
(The way I remember it was, I asked if any other profs put the course evaluation on their syllabus. At the undergraduate level, there are also: PSYCO 414: Advanced Methods: Monte Carlo Techniques, and PSYCO 423: Advanced Topics in Developmental Psychology. My point was that there are very few courses with "advanced" in the name.)

Although exams were tough, I felt adequately warned.
Exams were tough, but fair since it is a 300-level course.
(I did warn you. True dat.)

Professor Lopelmann made this course worth going to every day. I really appreciate the humour perfectly slotted into an enthusiastic lecture every day. I wish I could always be so excited to go to every class.
(It’s fun for me to go to class every day, too.)

Being so stressed about your written exams turns this course into absolute hell.
I feel the fact that the tests are all written is unfair to those students that get stressed by written exams.
(Sorry about that, but I do want to challenge students, and written exams are appropriate for a 300-level course.)

Fuck you for constantly making fun of my accent. I’m from rural Alberta. This is how I talk. Go to hell you prick.
(You’re from rural Alberta--hey, me too: Lacombe, Alberta!--but you have a Southern U.S. accent? Because that’s what I’m going for. You must really have a hate on for Larry the Cable Guy, whose accent is an imitation. By the way, I actually wasn’t making fun of you, personally.)

Loepelmann as a prof is annoying in general -- his anecdotes aren’t funny (although he seems to think they are).
(I get that a lot.)

I thought the quizzes were a great way to make sure I kept up with the material…It’s really easy to fall behind in post-secondary courses and this helped me stay on top of everything.
(I’m glad that helped.)

It’s very sad that you perception courses are ending as I have really enjoyed taking them.
I am very disappointed that this class is being cancelled. I believe the study of perception is very valid and should be offered in this format.
(If I’m not allowed to teach advanced perception as a special topics (PSYCO 403) course--then I’ll be really disappointed. But if I can, having a smaller class will allow me to do things like have students write papers, for example.)

I would have enjoyed having an essay assignment to pursue the current research about a specific topic in greater depth.
(That’s what I’m talking about!)

One of my favourite profs at UofA =) The course material can be dry at times but Loepelmann makes learning it enjoyable…he’s the only prof in my 3 years that I can honestly say that about.

From PSYCO 104:
He talks to us as if we were babies with a sarcastic tone in order to be funny. He has a great collection of jokes; however, it the Tone of voice he has when explaining concepts which pisses me off.
(Aww, widdle bitty sad because big bad instwuctor has a tone of voice? That’s an example of sarcastic baby talk. Seriously, what tone of voice?)

Making students read the textbook is very time consuming.
(Yeah, and making you take all of these courses for your degree is, too. Sheesh!)

Instead of making us read the whole text, could you make life easier and tell us specifically what we need to read?
(Oh all right: Every second word.)

Exams should be more on lecture content, and less on textbook. If we don’t cover the content in class, it shouldn’t be on the exam.
(Oh all right. Lectures will now go from 3 hours/week to 30 hours/week so I can cover everything in the textbook. You’re welcome.)

You know when you make jokes and maybe one person laughed? It was probably always me.
(Thanks, mom.)

Information was so simplified, that at times it was incorrect, and I felt unsure if I could trust the validity of a lot of the information.
(I do my best to strive for accuracy. If there’s something incorrect, please let me know and I’ll do my best to correct it, and let everyone know.)

I am disappointed with how the instructor chose to portray Freud. He made a valuable contribution to psychology, and his underlying thesis that ‘Dreams have meaning’ is a concept that is not disproven. The teaching clearly biased this material by inappropriately portraying Freud as the ‘butt of a joke’. Showing pictures of action-figure Freud + making fun of dream symbols was unnecessary. And I felt personally insulted when the instructor insinuated Freud was a homosexual, as if that was the cause of his ‘ridiculous’ claims.
(You are correct: Freud’s thesis has not been disproven--but that’s because it’s not falsifiable. That makes it more of a...philosophy than a scientific theory. Those dream symbols we went through in class? Those are from Freud’s writing. I didn’t make those up. And I did NOT mean to imply anything about Freud’s sexuality. Yes, Freud was fond of smoking cigars, but “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”)

• I object to the fact Arts students need to take Science courses. The style of teaching, learning and assesment is not compatible with the Liberal arts education I am trying to get.
• If the faculty, the province and the university provided proper funding, this class could be smaller then the massive size it currently is.
• M.C. testing is NOT a good method of evaluating a wide range of students, it rewards those who can ‘Bark on demand.’
(1. Wikipedia seems to think that liberal arts includes social sciences, psychology, and science. I guess the UofA does, too. 2. I agree. 3. See #2.)

I liked his jokes + when he brought his daughters to class. I’ll babysit =)
(I only brought them because school/daycare won’t take them if they’re vomiting. Er, still want to babysit?)

From PSYCO 267:
So cute and short! With his little drinking cup! Guess you’re going to get the teaching award for the 9371th time?
(My...little...drinking cup? I’ll have you know it’s a full-sized mug. You can buy it at the Bookstore. And I’ve only won the Honour Roll (with Distinction) 101 times.)

The NOTE’S NEVER Matched the textbook!
(Never? At all? Maybe you’re just focusing on the differences. Or you bought the wrong textbook.)

Excellent instructor. I did not use the textbook the entire course.
(Um, OK. Are you bragging?)

The book was basically all I needed to read.
(Um, OK. Are you bragging?)

Terrific, knowledgeable professor, but his lecture notes were lacking “substance.” His notes were often just a glimpse and taste of what would be on the exam.
Karsten went too in depth during class on topics, when on the exams the questions were rather general.
(*Sigh* So this is the kind of problem I face: my notes are insubstantial to some people, but too substantial to others.)

I found I could not leave to go to the washroom during class because I would miss a word in my notes.
(If you gotta go, you gotta go. If you do miss a fill-in word, I encourage you to come up at the end of class and I will help you out. Or you can try asking someone else in class.)

Loepelmann makes a very difficult course interesting to learn. The only reason I took this course is because I knew he was teaching it. His enthusiasm encouraged me to work harder and I did way better than I expected to. Best prof I have had a the U of A in my 3 years here.
(Thanks for the kind words.)

The Virtual Labs rarely worked, had great difficulties with them as they did not print. I could only get the labs to work in Google Chrome.
(I, too, am not impressed with them, and I’ve talked to the published about that. I am evaluating other options. Thanks for the info about Chrome.)

My one complaint is the labs. It took me failing 3-4 different labs to understand how to answer questions. Neither our prof or TA would help answer questions which was very frustrating from a students’ perspective.
(My TA this term was a very strict marker; I tried to encourage her to be more lenient on labs later in the term. I’m sorry that my feedback on questions was limited. I do that on purpose, because I frequently email along the lines of “Here’s my answer. Is it right?” I can’t answer emails like that; it’s not fair to the rest of the class if I pre-mark your answers. So that’s why I and the TA are ambiguous. But it seems like you were able to adjust and improve your marks over the duration of the term, and that’s great to see.)

The prof knows his stuff, but makes very annoying clicking sounds when he talks, and lecture in a very strange way.
(I don’t *tic* know what *tic* clicking sounds you’re *tic* talking about. I apologized a bunch of times for the stupid microphone in that classroom, which kept making annoying clicking sounds. Sorry if you missed that.)

Mic would break up a lot in class - so it was a little hard at times to hear him thoroughly.
One setback would be the microphone cutting in and out throughout the class. Hopefully that can be resolved for future classes.
(Sorry about that. See, it was the mic and not me.)

Awesome prof!
(That doesn’t help me at all! But thanks!)

I am going to write a collection of words that pop into my head. Maybe this will reveal something about my inner psyche.
peanuts  searing  Nike  snow  cayenne pepper
uncanny  trivial  Steve Jobs  sprinkles  annoying
happy  magikarp  hawaii  wishes  shut up
toaster  futile  halo  dolphin  por favor
beard  Don Cheadle
(I was eating peanuts while searing my Nike shoes with snow and cayenne pepper.
It was uncanny how trivial Steve Jobs-shaped sprinkles can be--and annoying.
My happy Magikarp comes from Hawaii (it wishes!). Shut up!
My toaster made a futile attempt to play Halo, but my dolphin did say por favor.
Who has a beard--Don Cheadle?)

Why aren't you studying?

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