I have a Ph.D in
Artificial Intelligence, and I have been beaten by a bag of sand.
And it wasn't even evil sand.
class just got two new free-standing kicking bags.
Some of taido's techniques, like shajogeri, are
difficult to learn properly without a target to
practice against, so we were glad to get them.
The kicking bags are basically man-height upside-down
cones sitting atop a squat base. They're shipped empty,
but when the base is filled with sand or water, it
gives the bag stability, force feedback, and a
definite wobbles-but-won't-fall-down vibe.
Based on his past experience, Andy, our sensei, didn't want
to use water (it sloshes, it leaks) and since I drive
an SUV and have a Home Depot near work, I picked up
a couple of hundreds of pounds of sand to fill the bags up.
Sandbox sand comes in 50 pound bags, and seems so dry
that it leaks out of even the tiniest holes if you aren't
too careful. But it was easy to carry, and after
Andy and another senior belt helped me lug the sand in,
they left for a belt test --- and left me charge of
the simple task of filling the two kicking bags.
Whether it was the humidity, the light rain as we
lugged the bags in, or water left over from the
washing and filtering process that turns normal
sand into "play sand", the bags of sand were wet.
The dry sand leaking out into the back of my
truck was just a reverse oasis, tiny little patches
of dry at the corners of the bag where air could
get in. The rest? Sodden wet sand so sticky it
wouldn't really pour and had to be scooped out of
the bags by hand. This wouldn't have been so
bad ... if these kicking bags weren't
designed primarily for water.
Instead of a dumping cap, they had a tiny little
neck, little wider than a milk jug's, that, sure,
could take sand ... dry sand. At first we
tried to funnel sand into the necks, which was a
two to three man operation because of the weight
of the bag, the height of the neck, and the wet,
chunky nature of the sand, but this was a failure:
the sand would immediately clog up the funnel and
not pour, and you couldn't even use a pencil to
coax the sand through the funnel without jamming
up a core sample of sand into the funnel's neck.
Since the Ph.D failed, we turned it over to the
rest of the class ... and tried everything.
Twirling the pencil in the funnel. Shaking the funnel. Using
two funnels. Using a piece of paper. Dumping the sand into
a bucket and shoving it in by the handful.
Finally we found one bag of almost completely
dry sand ... and then found that the "dry" sand
was still sticky enough to clog the funnel
just as fast and efficiently as the really wet
... but was too fine to be scooped and shoved
like wet sand without creating a huge mess.
Caloo calay! He chortled in his joy.
Shifts of students traded off practicing and
working sand stuffing duty, and by the end of
class three shifts of students had managed to
get 25 pounds of sand - yes, that's 1/8th of
the job done - into the two bags. Defeated,
we moved the bagsto the side and vowed to return
someday ... with a hacksaw, a big-ass screwable
pipe end cap and PVC glue to stick it on ...
and a funnel the size of a wheelbarrow.
I'm too tired to talk about all the fun stuff
I've seen recently right now ... new planets,
new moons, and new Akira will have to wait.
I'm going to bed now, and if I dream of
shoveling sand, I'm going to wake up and
UPDATE: Sand Loses Round 2
Our sensei Andy heard about the disaster and
immediately came to our assistance. Using a special
san-dan technique involving a pair of chopsticks, he
and his girlfriend managed to fill the two kicking
bags with the remaining one hundred and seventy
five pounds of sand ... in just under thirty minutes.
That sounds like a joke. It wasn't - they really
finished the job.
In thirty minutes.
The details of the technique are left as an exercise
for the reader.