January 17

Happy New Year!

Welcome back to Embry-Riddle for the Spring 2007 Semester. We are finally back after an extended Winter Break. What an amazing break it was. However, I do have some sad news. For those of you who don’t know, the Daytona Beach campus was struck by a tornado on Christmas Morning. The path of the tornado cut straight through the center of campus causing extensive damage to many structures including Spruance Hall, ICI center, an entire fleet of aircraft and one totaled maintenance hangar. It was unfortunate occurrence that damaged many buildings, but also so very fortunate that classes were not in session. The results of a tornado striking while students and faculty on campus would be devastating. There is something to be said, however, about the coordination and excellence in the faculty of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Shortly after the damage was done, the university administration started work to recover the losses the campus sustained. It is my understanding that emergency plans were in place for such an occasion including insurance, relocation possibilities, and recovery procedures. Companies were contacted, contractors were called in, and the staff was alerted. After pushing back the start of the semester one week to allow for extra time to prepare for the arrival of students, the campus was cleaned up, buildings and offices were restored or relocated, and staff prepared for the loss of a few days of instruction. It is also my understanding that 55 of the 57 aircraft lost to the weather were quickly replaced before the semester began to allow for flight training to continue. The amount of work that was accomplished in the short amount of allotted time is just amazing and is definitely applauded.

So, as unfortunate as it was to see the campus sustain a heavy loss, it did mean one very important thing to the students: One extra week of vacation. We ended up getting a little more time at home with friends and family before returning back to school. That was especially nice because it was time I got to spend relaxing and recovering from all the fun I had before trying to focus on my classes. If you read my earlier journals, you might remember that one of my hall mates, Boris from Bulgaria, returned to California with me. So, while he was staying with my family, I did my best to show him as much of Cali as I possibly could. There were some interesting adventures to be shared, but I will try and point out some of the major events.

First of all, we had to see the one of the keystones of Southern California and more specifically Hollywood. So, the first thing we did was visit the Hollywood sign. Actually, that’s a lie. The first thing we did was fall asleep for almost 18 hours straight. One of the things you might find in college life is that your body miraculously pushes through many long nights and days with very little sleep. However, that sleep depravation usually catches up with you at about the moment your butt touches that comfortable bed or sofa at home. Your mind finally relaxes, unless you had borderline grades, and your body just lets go. Probably some of the best sleep you will ever get. Then we woke up and ate a wonderful home-cooked meal (thank you mommy), and just hung out the rest of the evening. Then, the next day we went to see the Hollywood sign. A staple in the outside world’s view of Hollywood and the movie business. I give a word of caution to all those who intend to see the Hollywood sign at least once in their lives. You know how in the movies, sometimes they show the sign at night and it is all lit up. Yea, not true. If you try and see it at night, you are going to be looking at a very dark hillside. Go during the day. Trust me. By the way, we considered trying to transport the W of the sign to Riddle to place on top of Wood Hall, but we thought better to just leave it where it was. But, if you were thinking of getting out to the West Coast to see it, you better do it soon because you never know when it might just spring up in Florida.

We visited a lot of the other icons of LA and Hollywood as well. We stopped by the Mann’s Chinese Theater and the courtyard where the celebrities put their hands in the cement. Another note, the size of that place is very deceiving. On television, it appears that the courtyard is huge but I can cross from the sidewalk to the entrance in about 15 to 20 normal steps. We saw the Walk of Fame, the Kodak Theater the Two giant elephant statues in the Hollywood and Highland Plaza. Rodeo Drive (where that jerk Ron Jeremy cut me off in traffic), the Sunset Strip, and many celebrity homes.

We also tried to visit as many of the beach cities as possible. This way my friend could say he had seen both the Pacific and Atlantic in one month. We visited many of the locations frequently used for filming including Paramount studios, Disney Studios, Universal Studios, and many of the locations where that show The OC is filmed. We also took the time to go to Universal Studios Theme Park, which was awesome because I haven’t been there in a long time. The rides were awesome and the tour is really sweet because you get to see a lot of the buildings used in movies.

Then there was Christmas. What to say about Christmas . . . ? Such an interesting holiday with my family. First of all, we celebrate Christmas differently on different sides of the family. On my Dad’s side, we celebrate on Christmas Eve. We get together in the evening, stuff our faces with food, socialize and then open some presents. It is definitely an interesting encounter. I am not trying to put my family down at all. I actually quite enjoy the time specifically because of my Grandfather. One, because I don’t see him that often. Two, because conversations with him are awesome. When you talk with my Grandpa, you know it is going to be fun. Sometimes you get a war story or a story about my father when he was young. Other times he wants to know all about your life. The typical questions: How are you doing? How is school? Are you working? When are you going to get married and give me some grandchildren? That’s the best one I think. But seriously, my grandfather is awesome. My family would not be here if it weren’t for him. Then on my mother’s side, it was a small Christmas this year. We celebrate on Christmas day. This year however, my aunt and her family were in Denmark with her husband’s family. So, it was just my family, my uncle and my grandmother. That is also an interesting evening. The schedule is typically the same. Eating, socializing and a few gifts, but that is not the most fun. The most fun comes during two parts of the evening. Jeopardy and conversations between my Mom and Grandmother. First of all, Jeopardy is just awesome so don’t even try and put it down. If you don’t like it, it’s because you can’t keep up with us smart people, ha-ha. The other fun is listening to my Mother and Grandmother converse and seeing how much of the conversation you can understand because they go back and forth between Spanish and English. Now, my siblings and I aren’t dumb, but we never took to learning other languages very well. So, it’s always fun to listen in on the conversations and see which of us could survive best in Mexico were we to be abandoned there. The holidays are totally awesome with my family and like I said, interesting.

After the holidays, we took to a much more leisurely lifestyle. We went to a Kings hockey game that was awesome. Sports don’t get much better than fighting, coming back from behind and evening the game, and then winning in a shootout. Hockey rules. A couple of days later we headed to the mountains for some snowboarding. It was Boris’ first time and he actually did really well. That’s another reason California rules. It’s one of the only places I know of that you can go snowboarding for the first half of the day and two hours later go surfing for the second half of the day. Nothing beats that deal.

Ummm . . . . . New Year . . . . . it was cool . . . . . I had a lot of fun with all my friends . . . . . let’s just leave it at that.

A couple of hockey games and movies later and it was time to leave. We packed up all of our stuff and then some. Loaded the cars and headed for the airport. It really was an awesome break. I loved spending time with my family and hanging out at home with friends again. At the same time, I missed my friends and this university. I was definitely ready to come home. Yea, Riddle is my home. I spend two thirds of the year here so it counts as home. One day of recovery time and it was back to classes. I had two today and it was awesome to get back. Then I realized all the work ahead of me and it wasn’t so awesome anymore. I have tons of friends and support though so it should be just fine.

We have a lot to look forward to this semester. Speed Week, another scheduled shuttle launch, Spring Break and good times with friends. It is definitely going to be interesting to experience the spring semester on the East Coast and I hope you come back to experience it with me.

Oh yea, a note I forgot up top. When you have to change your flight in an emergency like a tornado. They will try and charge obscene amounts of money to change the day. Fight them until the death about it. They may charge you just because ticket prices have gone up, but don’t give in to the $50 change date fee. Beg, worship, kiss ass, cry or do whatever it takes. Trust me, they give up eventually. Not because they feel you deserve the waiver for the fee. They just want you to shut up, but it works.

I hope everyone had a great holiday and I look forward to sharing a successful semester with you. Until next time, don’t take any wooden nickels and never pay too much for gas.



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