Right after it rained. Honestly, why the sign? Maybe it's for blind people, as Monica noted about the sign right before the lake in Mobridge.   ;)

Well, after years of upping the ante by getting the family to open first one, then two, then three presents on subsequent Christmas Eves of years past, Monica finally convinced everyone to open all the presents early, and on the 23rd no less. I think everyone was just too worn out from traveling to argue.

I got Ron a shirt signed by these three Raiders...

... and this Raiderette.

Melanie and Ron look at vender booths in San Francisco.

The Transamerica Pyramid from Embarcadero Center.


On the historic F-line street car in San Francisco.

At the marina in Berkeley.

Also at the marina.

After an exciting day of exploring San Francisco and then spending some time at the marina the next morning, I eagerly headed to the motel the family was staying at after running home for a few hours. I was sure they would have the guidebooks I lent them bookmarked to places we hadn't seen the first day, eager to be on the way. Instead, I was met with this.

Headed down Lombard Street.

Kids at the bottom of Lombard Street.

Parents at the bottom of Lombard Street.

Cheating with Photoshop at the bottom of Lombard Street.

There was a bomb threat right around the corner from work. Someone had left a box unattended, and cops were blocking off the street. Since the last bomb threat (on the Bay Bridge) turned out to be a box of Christmas decorations, nobody paid much attention to the cops. The cops were obviously sick of this; they would tell people not to walk on this block because of a bomb threat, the people would keep walking, and the cops would say, "Fine, blow yourself up. I don't care."

Monica and I ate at the Tonga Restaurant in the Fairmont hotel Tuesday night. They have a buffet for $7 a person if you buy one drink, which I thought was a steal considering the price of the regular food there. By the time we arrived, though, the buffet was pretty much picked over and they hadn't refilled it, so the meal cost around $80 for the two of us. At least the beef I had was absolutely amazing. To the right is a pool, where it "rains" around the edges every 15 minutes or so. They also usually have a live band playing on a floating island in the middle of the pool, but there wasn't one this night.

A pineapple filled with a mixed drink. Great idea for parties.

After eating, I figured we should wander around the hotel for a while, especially considering how much money we had spend. It had this really neat open area, like a mini-park, on the eastern side, from which you could get a decent view of some other buildings.

At the New Year's party at Studio Z. It was a masquerade ball, and in a room off to the side there were fortune tellers. Apparently your fortune is mostly how psychic you are and that you should come to the Berkeley pyshics place and learn how to enhance your powers. Yeah, I'm sure that's free, just like Scientology.

On the left, Monica and I (sun and moon), and on the right, about the only other people to actually make a costume rather than simply buying a mask and slapping it on. We spent most of Saturday making our masks, so it was kind of disappointing to see that almost nobody else put any effort at all into theirs. Here are a few more pictures taken by different people.

Why, yes, the best time to try to activate your new credit card is at Wal-Mart when you're trying to check out. Go ahead, call the company and sit on hold for 5 minutes; nobody behind you in line minds. Oh, and of the 30 or so registers, about 6 of them are open. From now on, when bums ask me for money, I'm going to give them directions here and tell them to fill out an application. Honestly, how can so many people be unemployed when there are help wanted signs everywhere?

Yeah, rather than put that used piece of plastic in the garbage can, why don't you put it on the stove burner? That's a wonderful spot for it.

So, one of my roommates puts his trash in a bag out in the hallway. When I asked him why he didn't have it in his room, he replied, "Because it stinks." Sigh.

Kinda hard to see, but there is a guy in the passenger seat and a big dog in the driver's seat. It made everybody who walked by do a double-take.

Remember, make sure you grab 10 magazines at once at the library. Also, be sure to take 30 minutes to read each one and then, when you are done with it, set in back in your pile rather than returing it to the shelf. For bonus points, grab a bunch of magazines, then wander around the library for 20 minutes, making sure the person across from you watches them so nobody can "steal" "your" magazines.