Archive for August, 2006

Ghirardelli Chocolate, The San Francisco Treat!

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

After the mud run we decided that we ought to take a trip out to San Francisco since I had never been there. Tommy and Elizabeth have become quite adept at touring the major spots in San Francisco since they’ve taken so many of their family and friends out there. The drive is not all that interesting. Much of the drive is waiting for your turn to fork over $3.00 for the privelege of driving over the bay bridge into the city. It seriously took an entire hour just to get to the toll booth. After that things moved rather well.

Confusingly deceptive San Francisco intersectionParking is horrendous and some of the streets are crazy with incomprehensible intersections. Once we parked we tried to figure out how much we would be charged by reading the ticket they gave us. The parking garage had all sorts of confusing pricing plans based on the time of day, the length of your stay, and whether or not you had eaten at any of their partner restaurants. Once we got out of the car, though things started to get interesting.

A man singing and playing the guitar at Pier 49There is no shortage of street performers in San Francisco. Some people were singing or break-dancing, and others were acting like robotic statues all painted up in silver or gold. Many of the performers looked like they were making about $100/hour. Maybe I just saw them at their best time of the day. In any case, it certainly appeared that one could make a living off of performing and relying on donations from passersby and onlookers. I didn’t take their picture because I assumed that they would expect money for capturing their poses.

AlcatrazWe didn’t go out to Alcatraz, but from the area around Pier 39 there is a pretty good view of it. Nearby there are seals that have some protected area where they sunbathe. A few of them were in what appeared to be a rather playful mood. I couldn’t tell if they were wrestling for fun or to actually hog certain areas and claim them as their own territory. The wind was so strong that the pelicans in the area were unable to always fly in the direction they desired. Many of them were not even flapping their wings and were just hovering in the air above our heads waiting for a break in the wind.

Nearer Fisherman’s Wharf there are about five different restaurants with street-vending open on the outside of their restaurants. They all sell about the same food, but they are fiercely competitive with one another often competing on one or two cents difference from their neighbors. Elizabeth was trying to find the cleanest looking setup while the pigeons, no longer afraid of humans, dive-bombed my head. I didn’t actually get hit by any of them, but they were not making me feel comfortable. Once Elizabeth and the rest of us agreed on where we should go to get ourselves some fish and chips we walked around to see their display cases. The cleanest one appeared to be selling minced fish shaped, breaded, and fried. It looked like it came out of a box and it wasn’t what we were after. We walked along and stopped at a moderately less clean-looking stand run by a group of Asians. They had the best looking food, so we decided to order from them instead. While we were waiting for our turn a man asked for a sample of their soup. The cook, who was very busy, took a plastic spoon and, without looking up, dipped it right in the large cooking vessel and handed it to the man who was very surprised and started telling his friends about it immediately.

Lombard Street: The least-straight street in the world.After we ate we got back in the car and headed over to Lombard Street, the windiest section of street in the world. There was a terribly long line of cars waiting on the incline leading up to the summit where the famous snake-like section begins. Tommy looked at the map and saw that there are three directions one could approach that particular intersection from, so he headed the direction that looked the least congested. When we got to the top and prepared to make a left on the street we were disappointed by a sign reading “No Left Turn.” No one was going, and Tommy was already sick of waiting, so he made a left anyway and we wound our way down to the bottom. We, the three passengers, were incredulous.

We visited the free sample-laden Ghirardelli Chocolate Company store. Tommy demonstrated that the people that hand out free samples either don’t care or don’t notice when the same person exits and reenters with an open palm. I think he got a total of four free samples of their dark chocolate filled with caramel while we were there. If it hadn’t been so crowded I would have enjoyed getting an ice cream sundae for dessert after our meal, but the Ghirardelli place was packed, so we headed out to our next stop: The Golden Gate Bridge.

Tommy enjoying taking pictures at the Golden Gate BridgeIt was overcast and the top of the Golden Gate Bridge was obscured by the low clouds. It was still an amazing sight. At a prime photo spot a large group of people of Indian descent was trying to get their picture taken together. Tommy negotiated a camera swap and he and Krissy took pictures with their cameras, then we switched. Tommy gave his camera to a man who appeared to be the Father or leader of the group. I gave my camera to a 16 year-old girl from the group. The Father went first. He took about 20 seconds to take the first shot. Then he spent another 20 seconds trying to figure out how to get the zoom to work on Tommy’s camera. Tommy helped him get it figured out. Then it took him another 30 seconds to finally take his second picture. When the girl with my camera’s turn came up she took the picture in about 2 seconds. The pictures on Tommy’s camera cut off Elizabeth’s chin. He had sacrificed us to frame the background perfectly. The picture taken with my camera came out almost perfect. We wanted a picture of our group, not the bridge. I guess he didn’t understand that the bridge was only there to incidentally show where we were at the time.

No Missiles Allowed.  It's only a misdemeanor though.We had a lot of time on our metered parking space so Tommy convinced us to walk across the bridge. I’m glad he did! It was amazing to feel the strong winds out there. Many people from all over the world were taking pictures as they walked across this California landmark. Tommy demonstrated that it took almost 30 seconds for spit to reach the water below. The wind was so strong that after you spit over the side and after it had fallen below the level of the bridge the wind would carry the spit far out away from you and you could watch it fall all the way to the water’s surface. Right after we both did this a few times I noticed a sign that said it was a misdemeanor to drop anything from the bridge. I assumed that included spit. Strangely, the sign specifically included missiles. I would have thought that dropping missiles from the Golden Gate Bridge would have carried felony charges, but what do I know. It was now getting late in the day, but there was one more spot we wanted to see.

The steps to Coit Tower must have been funded through donations.There is very little parking at the base of Coit Tower, so we parked a little way down the hill and walked up some stairs, the construction of which appeared to have been funded by donations. Tommy and Elizabeth had never been up to the top of Coit Tower. It’s not free, but Krissy and I wanted to go, so we took the four of us up to the elevator to the top. Although there are some amazing views up there, I was more fascinated by the international coinage that had been dropped through the edges of the windows and that had landed on the sills of each port hole. I also found a soccer field at one of the ports which seemed oddly out of place and somewhat suspicious. By the time we had seen all there was to see and had taken nearly a hundred pictures of Alcatraz trying to time it when the light from the lighthouse was facing us, it was starting to get dark.

I’m so glad that Tommy was driving because I was pretty tired. We had just driven for nine hours the previous day and were looking at a total of six for today. I don’t know why it is that sitting in a car makes you get tired when all you really have to do it not move much for hours on end, but it sure takes the energy out of me.

It was great to finally visit San Francisco even if it was for only a whirlwind tour all over the city. That’s one more place I can check off my list of places to visit!

Tommy, Elizabeth, Krissy, and Shawn at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Running Mad at the Mud Run

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

Tommy and Elizabeth wilfully ran two laps around a mile-long obstacle course that included a mud pit through which the runners had to crawl on hands and knees. Krissy and I went along to watch and I waited along the sidelines to take pictures. I got quite a few good shots and they seemed to have had a lot of fun. They are trying to convince us that we should form a team and participate together next year. I’m leaning toward maybe having Krissy do it, but someone has to take the pictures. Right?

The Mud Run Before and After

The Road To Folsom Prison

Friday, August 25th, 2006

We traveled the eight-hour trek to Folsom, CA to visit with Tommy and Elizabeth. They live relatively close to Folsom Prison. We were exhausted when we arrived. We had planned on leaving at 2am, but we didn’t get to bed until after midnight. The alarm went off, and we just kept on sleeping. We ended up getting on the freeway at around 5:30am. We arrived in Folsom at around 2:30pm. We hit some unforeseen traffic around Sacramento.

When Tommy got home we decided to take a 5-minute walk to an area where you can see part of the prison.

Later we went to the Sacramento Temple Open House and afterwards went out to eat at In-N-Out Burger.

Folsom Prison Courtyard

Democrats, Republicans, and… Pirates?

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Pirate Party LogoThat’s right. Pirates. The Pirate Party is beginning to form in the United States. Piratpartiet originated in Sweden. They are a political party that is pro-privacy, anti-copyright, and anti-patent. Some major issues are net neutrality, the limiting of copyright lengths, and advocacy of personal privacy laws that allow the use of technologies such as cryptography.

Copyright laws are not serving the public nor are they serving the greater good. Copyright currently serves large corporations while limiting the creative expression of artists around the world. Copyright terms are constantly being lengthened to the point that nothing that you enjoyed as a child will ever go into the public domain until you are no longer alive to enjoy it. Mickey Mouse must never become public domain, so the terms keep getting longer and longer until they are longer than the lifespan of any human.

Some of the other issues that they Pirate Party stands for are brought to light in a song by “Weird Al” Yankovic entitled Don’t Download This Song. (You can download it at Downloading copyrighted material should not be grounds to make one a criminal. The Pirate Party is there to fight for issues that matter to the rising generation of Internet savvy people that want to experience media on their terms.

You can’t join yet, but they will be allowing people to join in a few weeks. For more information visit The Pirate Party Website. You can sign up to post to the forums and receive announcements about when and how to join and upcoming events.

Arrgh Matey!

Swarming Anti-Mormon Bees

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Keep Out! Swarming Bees SignI parked in the Institute parking lot this morning like I always do. On my way back to the parking lot at around 4:40pm I was greeted with caution tape completely barring access to the section of the road that the gate leading to the Institute is on. On top of that the gate was closed and locked with even more caution tape on it. There were lookouts all around the perimeter ensuring that no one would enter the swarming bees zone. It was hard to take the signs seriously as they were made using Comic Sans MS. It looked all whimsical when it was supposed to be stern. I don’t have any direct evidence that there were any bees, but they sure did make me mad. I had to walk an extra half-mile to get around the bee warning area. It was huge. I can understand that they want people to be safe, but I think that the measures they took were a little extreme. I think some large signs warning of danger would have been enough. If I want to take the chance of running into some bees then that should be my prerogative.

I was planning on going to Costco to get some of their really inexpensive pairs of jeans, so I was on my way to the car about thirty minutes earlier than I needed to be to go pick up Krissy, so at least I had that going for me. I wasn’t all that upset, really. If I had gone out there with just enough time to pick her up, though, and had run into the cordoned-off road and gate with no time to spare I would have been positively angry. As it was, I was afforded a nice walk, even though the sun was a bit warmer than I would have liked.

When I got to my car there was a prospective Institute student who was wondering when the Institute would be open so he could sign up. We had a nice chat and I was off to get Krissy. I was way early picking her up, but I didn’t have enough time to go and do anything else, either.

Oh well, here’s a nice picture to reward you for reading so much.

Entrance to the San Marcos Institute of Religion

Textbooks: The Mercedes of Books

Monday, August 21st, 2006

A new school year means another round of insanely overpriced textbook purchasing. I’m not buying textbooks; I’m purchasing them. This is in the same sense that one does not merely buy a Mercedes; one purchases a Mercedes. Textbooks are like the Mercedes of books. They cost more than most books even though they don’t really do anything more than other books do. They are in such high demand that people are willing to buy certified pre-owned textbooks and textbook dealerships are willing to take old textbooks as trade-ins against the price of new textbook purchases.

Used book sales generally don’t bring the publisher any profit, thus they discourage these sales with the following tactic. Textbook writers and publishers frequently jumble up material from previous editions, slap on a new forward and book cover and call it a new edition. Professors then frequently require the newest edition of the textbook and the market value of the older editions drops to less than ten percent of the original purchase price. Students then recoup little to none of the cost of books that they no longer want or need. New students must purchase brand new books at higher prices than used books. Why would professors do this though? Many professors are textbook writers or plan to be in the future. Some are given incentives by textbook publishers with the understanding that they will help out the publisher whenever a new edition is published.

More Professors are beginning to feel compassion for their students and are allowing them to use older editions of the required text. I have done this for a few classes with great success and huge financial savings. This proves the point that new editions are not usually required even when professors artificially make them so.

I have a class that requires a textbook costing ninety dollars used at the campus bookstore (textbook dealership). Used books are always a gamble, so I like to limit my risk by shopping around to get the best deal. The class requires the textbook beginning on Wednesday. The bookstore accepts returns for a couple weeks. I found the book for sale at for forty dollars. On top of all of this the first chapter is available for free to download from the publisher. It’s a bit of a juggling act, but when money matters sometimes it pays to use your brain. Besides, aren’t critical thinking and problem solving among the skills college students are expected to develop.

If this whole textbook ordeal is just another test, I’d like to think that I am passing.

Going Home Even Though You Can’t

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

My grandparents were down for the weekend and we decided to attend the ward in which I grew up. It was a lot of fun seeing acquaintances I hadn’t seen in a few years. Grandmother and Grandfather seemed to have an especially enjoyable experience catching up with longtime friends. Here we are in front of the building together.

Grandfather, Grandmother, and Me in front of the Stake Center.

Custom T-Shirts Arrive In Record Time

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

Use Linux T-Shirt in Real LifeI ordered some t-shirts with my own designs on them on August 15th from and they arrived today. They said it was supposed to take up to ten days, so I was surprised to see them here so soon. I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I opened the package. The part where the design is feels like a very fine velvet, but you can’t tell that from looking at it. It looks like paint, but that might be because that’s what you would expect on a t-shirt. I can honestly say that I am completely satisfied. We’ll see what it looks like after a few trips through the spin cycle. guarantees that the design will last longer than the shirt it’s affixed to, though. I can hardly wait to get started on my next design. It’s gonna be great!

Taxation on the Rocks

Friday, August 18th, 2006

This weekend we are making homemade ice cream. We need lots of ice for the task, so I stopped by the local supermarket on my way home from running some errands. All I was buying was a twenty-pound bag of ice. It was surprisingly busy for a late Friday morning so I get in the express lane. I wanted to get out as quickly as possible so I took out four one-dollar bills and held them in one hand while I grasped the top of the bag of ice with the other. The ice cost $3.99 according to the price tag. There was an older gentleman ahead of me paying with a credit card. His vision was obviously not as good as it once was and after swiping his credit card asked if it had worked. The young man behind the cash register casually responded with another question: “What does the screen say?” He was obviously patronizing the older man. This did not make me too excited to deal with this person. After he was done harassing the customer ahead of me it was my turn.

I hefted the bag up off the ground expecting him to have a secondary gun-style scanner he could whip out and scan the bar code with, but he instead took the bag and swiped it over the in-counter scanner. I handed him my four dollars and was ready to be on my way.

“Four thirty is your total.”

“Four thirty!? How could the total be $4.30 when the sign said $3.99”, I thought. So I questioned it out loud. “There’s tax on ice?”

“Yep.” Well, that’s just great. I can buy any food product in the store tax-free, but ice is taxed. Even junk food isn’t taxed. I never payed very close attention to this before, and I suppose it’s been this way every other time I’ve bought ice. I just didn’t expect it. So be warned. Taxes may crop up in places where you’re not paying attention. That’s how they get you, you know.

Swimming in the Carpool Lane

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

I never seem to see police officers patrolling the carpool lane. I see people with only one person in the car all the time though. Today we thought the person in front of us was alone so I started taking pictures. I think she saw me and got scared and so a little kid in the back raised his hand up so I could see him. A short time later after traffic had slowed to a crawl and there was no longer any advantage to being in the carpool lane a cop on a motorcycle came moseying on by in the shoulder checking all the cars for carpool compliance.

Carpool lane patrolled