ENTRY 0009, January 15, 2004

Well, It has been a bit of time since my last blog.  Quite a bit has happened.  Let's see...

We had plans to go to Europe starting on December 25th.  My mom was a bit distressed that we would not be getting together for a "family christmas."  So, we headed out to Phoenix, so we could do our "family christmas" a week early.  I made one simple observation.  Once there are kids in the family, christmas becomes oriented toward them.  There were 7 adults (Tony couldn't make it), and 4 little kids.  The kids are the focus.  I guess that's how it should be.  It is just a bit disconcerting to realize it's not really for you anymore.  Kinda like when you realize you are no longer the target demographic for some product or service.  It's a bit depressing.  Not that we do christmas too much anyway.  Sheila and I just get what we want, when we want/can afford it.  Therefore, there is little to get for christmas, because we either already have it, or a currently saving for it.

In any event, the trip was pleasant.   The drive to Phoenix is not difficult.  We did our usual rounds, going to Bookman's  book store.  It is a HUGE store, the size of a large supermarket.  And it is filled with used books.  Every conceivable subject.  Sheila and I can spend hours there, and often do.  Luckily, they have very nice bathrooms.  You will need them, if you are an avid bookhound.  We inevitably purchase way too many books.  Now we have reading material for weeks, maybe months.  (As an aside, I must mention that the same complex houses Atomic Comics, a shop that is huge, for a comic store. If you are at Bookman's, face the store and turn left.  It is down past the 99 cent store.

The other place we MUST go is the Waffle House.  It is a restaurant.  As the name implies, they specialize in waffles.  They have a great menu.  You just have to remember that this place was born in the south and is kind of like a truckstop.  Don't expect fancy.  Expect plentiful, basic,amazingly good food, served by a waitress who will call you "hun".  I once heard that you can judge a restaurant by its housekeeping.  The quality of the food will be inversely proportional to the cleanliness of the establishment.  (Just think McDonald's, with its acres of carefully-polished stainless steel and fiberglass, compared with the local burger joint, hosted by some guy in a grease-stained tanktop and a waitress who obviously just got off her cigarette break.) Which brings me to a subject I would like to discuss:


Waffle House is like many other restaurants.  Many would call it a "dive."  There is very little in the way of ambiance.  It will remind you of the grill you might find at a bowling alley. (Remember those?)  The only major difference is that the Waffle House specializes in breakfast.  They are open 24 hours, and breakfast is served all day.  So is everything else, but getting a burger at Waffle House is like getting fish at a steakhouse.  Why not go for the specialty?  The clientele?  Well, the title above sums it up, especially late at night.  There are lots of others.  Normal, hard working folks, travellers, truckers, and locals who just didn't feel like cooking.  But what really stands out are the two above groups.  If you ever go into a Waffle House, you will see at least one impossibly skinny guy, decked out in skin-tight Levis and a western shirt.  He will also have cowboy boots, a Stetson, and a belt buckle larger than the oval plates that the waitress will serve your food on.  It never fails.  There is always at least one of these guys at the counter or in a booth. 

Sitting somewhere else in the restaurant will be the outpatient.  This person will be a disheveled,
slightly grubby-looking individual.  He (It's usually a guy) will be sitting, nursing a coffee and mumbling to himself.  You will wonder what his story is all about.  He doesn't look homeless, but you can't be sure.  All you know for sure is that he mumbles as he drinks his coffee, and that the waitresses all seem to know him. 

If either of these individuals leaves, another, similar individual will arrive to replace him.  The other kind of individuals you will often see in this kind of establishment is the Overly-pierced-and-tattooed-redneck-guy-in-a-baseball-cap and his girlfriend, the just-a-bit-too-chubby-to-be-wearing-the-bare-midriff-and-low-cut-jeans-that-she-IS-wearing-girl.

Interestingly, these are the same kind of people you see crossing the parking lot of Wal-Mart.  Except the folks at Wal-Mart seem to have six or seven kids with them.

But don't be dismayed.  If you can brave the Cowboys and Outpatients, you will be rewarded with the best breakfast you could hope for.

So, I originally mentioned that we had plans to go to Europe on December 25th.  We went.  We took Sheila's partner from school, Daryl, and her husband, Roger.  Neither had been to Europe before, though their daughter had spent some time in Paris.  This time, instead of getting a hotel room as usual, we rented a flat.  It was great!!!!  We had an actual english apartment, complete with kitchen and all the amenities.  Look for futher details in our travel section.  They should be up in the near future.   Suffice it to say we had a great time and enjoyed acting as tour guides. 

Anyway, what's new?

-Bush is still a lying moron.

-Well, I'm taking way too many classes this quarter.  I'm taking Writing 306 (It is required, and they have set up so many hurdles that it is virtually impossible to challenge the class.  They really want their money.)  I'm also taking Research in Science Education and Inquiry in the Science classroom.  Together, I'm taking 10 units, on top of my teaching duties.  I should have a psychotic episode anytime now...

- The Lockheed land has had a major change. (for those of you unfamiliar with my problem with visiting this land, see blog #0008, where I very briefly chronicle my escapades.) Lockheed/Martin was hoping to get 100 Million dollars for the land (9600+ acres) for development.  There were no takers at that price, so instead, they sold it to the county/state for a nature preserve.  As a result, it should be possible for me to visit the land in the near future.  I'm hoping, anyway.  They still have some issues with site contamination by rocket propellant.  The most recent article in the paper suggests that the contaminated sections may be fenced off, and the remainder opened.  I only hope I can visit it before lots of people show up...  I will be making a page about the land and all I have learned at some point in the future.

- Science fair is upon my 8th graders once again, and many of them seem to be planning to do the typical how-much-water-can-a-paper-towel-absorb experiment, or the look-I-built-a-volcano-that-runs-on-vinegar-and-baking-soda project.  There are a few who look like they are going to go whole-hog and make a great project, but many of them are really not interested.  I can understand.  The only reason that we still hold Science Fair is because the higher-ups want it.  If it were voluntary, we would get far fewer projects, but I think we would get better projects, overall.  Anyway, I will be trying something different next year, to see if I can get the kids more interested.  I will let you know how it goes.

Well, I gotta run.

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