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As I write this, I’m back at the Rubicon Brewing Company in Sacramento. This isn’t where I planned to end up today—not here, nor Sacramento at all, but there you go.

I woke up this morning with the idea that I wanted to go somewhere, provided I could do the one time-critical task: make the reservations for tomorrow’s dinner. I haven’t done my random “notes the road” walks in… well, some time, at the very least, which I can blame a little on continued employment, a little more on the much higher gas prices (remember when you were shocked just a few short years ago by it breaking $2 a gallon?), and although I’m loathe to admit it, probably a little on getting older. I can’t do much about the latter, but I’m unemployed and today I filled up—admittedly at a station so far east it only qualifies as the “Bay Area” on a technicality—for $2.70 a gallon.

I’d considered heading to the North Bay, following the trail a friend took up toward Guerneville on a day trip of his own last month, but decided to head instead to the north side of the East Bay, to a quiet river town named Crockett and a seafood restaurant under the Cardenas Bridge called the Nantucket. I ordered conservatively—a clam chowder and salad, just water to drink—then ruined it by talking myself into getting a creme brulee and coffee for dessert. After wandering around the town just a little, I got back in the car and headed east a little, stopped around two p.m. and called Maggiano’s, getting the reservation for 12 confirmed. Then it occurred to me: hey, I don’t actually have to be back at a reasonable hour now.

So I kept heading east, up CA 160 and the river levee system. I stopped again in the odd town of Walnut Grove, a tiny little place (all the towns there are tiny) with two historic districts labelled “Japanese” and “Chinese.” These are towns that Chinese—and later Japanese—workers lived in when they were working on the California railroads, and their story isn’t much prettier than most stories of American history that start that way.

I kept driving up CA 160 to its end, where it becomes Freeport Boulevard and heads on into Sacramento. By this time it was five p.m., so I thought, “What was the name of that brewpub I went to here a few years back?” and with a bit of thought, I remembered.

I was last here in 2006, again by happenstance; oddly enough, it’s almost two years to the day. I had the pomegranate cider I mentioned last time, and it’s good, although I’m not sure it’s actually as good as the apple cider. I’m still enchanted by the area here, though. I described it then as reminding me a little of some of the areas I saw in Portland, Oregon; I think what I was keying into was the neighborhood feel: older, but neither run down nor pretentious, business and residences mixed together on eminently walkable tree-lined streets. There are areas like this in the SF Bay Area, too, although I’ve come to realize that the ones I truly like—Walnut Creek, Rockridge, Piedmont, Alameda, Emeryville, Danville—are all in the East Bay. I still love living near San Francisco, but I’ve steadily become less interested in actually living in San Francisco.

This pleasant brewpub is next to an upscale French café, and catty-corner from a “New American” style place called “Jack’s Urban Eats,” which is in turn next to a hot dog stand. And I recall there’s a BBQ place somewhere very close by. If there’s a coffee shop within walking distance—and according to Urban Spoon, there is—just move me in now.

Well, not literally, of course. I’m not giving serious thought to moving anywhere. I realize I do have to keep it in the back of my mind, though. According to the tech bubble nerds at TechCrunch, nearly 20,000 workers in my field have been laid off since mid-September, and I’ve anecdotally heard of some extant “Web 2.0” companies seeing a tenfold increase in résumés (not that these companies are hiring). These are not happy-making statistics for me. As the oft-quotable Jason Calcanis observed on This Week in Tech this week, the previous dot-com bust involved companies with unsustainable balance sheets, but this time the problem is individuals with unsustainable balance sheets. Most of the tech companies have, financially speaking, been doing the right things.

There’s a certain way in which being unemployed—at least when you have no mortgage and no family!—is freeing, in that I really can move anywhere for any work, but moving somewhere and just hoping that I’m going to actually make it seems, well, dicey. Yes, I’ve actually made it work once, but at least at this point it’s not something I want to bet on happening again.

I suppose the question is what I do want to bet on now.

Epilogue: It’s now half-past seven and I’m at a Starbucks in Natomas, a new exurban commuter town past the north outskirts of Sacramento. I found a local coffee shop in midtown (Rubicon’s locale), but it was closed; I also found an independent coffee shop here in Natomas, but it was also closed. Apparently people in Sacramento do not drink coffee late. I’ve been to Natomas a few times for a friend who used to have a birthday get-together annually out at another friend’s place in this area; if midtown Sacramento reminds me of Portland, this place reminds me of New Tampa: flat terrain covered by strip malls and tract houses, all designed and landscaped in a way which is pleasantly comfortable but consciously characterless. Not a bad place to live, to be sure, but interesting only by virtue of being near the interesting parts of Sacramento. (N.B.: a somewhat irate-sounding person in the comments informed me that Natomas is north of Sacramento's downtown--which I really should know, but I think because it's the first part of Sacramento I saw coming in from the west a few years back it's fixed incorrectly in my mind. Irate Person also notes Natomas is within Sac's city limits, but you know what? It's a commuter town of a very exurban character. Us Floridians recognize that when we see it. If Irate Person returns to this page, it would be much more helpful if s/he would tell me where the good coffee houses are.)

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Work has calmed down, to the degree that the SaaS project I’ve been working on passed its demo milestone and indeed its first demo. This doesn’t mean things stop, not by any stretch, but it does mean that I have a chance to catch my breath.

The first three days of this week were a highwater mark of suck for me, at least for the last 12 months or so. I wouldn’t think I’d miss the lonely melancholia of my last journal entry, but the combination of hair-pulling bugs the first two days with a traffic ticket on Wednesday (for an “unsafe lane change,” a subjective charge I don’t agree with, but never mind) had me nearly in tears by Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday evening was one of the few times I can remember drinking with the hopes of getting sufficiently tipsy to destress, a success achieved with a mai tai, a rye and soda and a Kahlua-spiked coffee. Are two strong drinks and a nightcap all that’s necessary to get me tipsy? That night, apparently, even though I’ve had more alcohol at other points to less effect. I’ll chalk that up to stress as well.

Yesterday, Thursday, was better; work was essentially stone quiet for me, the product demo went off apparently with no significant glitches elsewhere, a restaurant I’d been waiting for months to open (the Oaxacan Kitchen in Palo Alto) was yesterday, and I bought two expensive things: a Canon PowerShot G9 and a bottle of Laphroaig 10 Year “Cask Strength” single malt whisky. I’m somewhat worried that both of these purchases were a response to stress, but I’ve actually been thinking about the G9 for months specifically for the upcoming trip, and “learn about single malt” has been a low-level to do item for years. (Although honestly, the choice to learn about single malt this week? Yeah, stress response.)

Today also promises to be quiet. I’ve decided to try and update my personal website, making it something more of a project showcase than it is, and likely putting more stories online there. This raises some interesting issues to chew on with respect to making “in print” stories available for free online; while my first instinct has always been that you don’t put stuff you still want to be able to sell up on web sites, there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary, from the Baen Free Library to everything Cory Doctorow does to [ profile] haikujaguar’s writing experiments right here on LiveJournal. My growing suspicion is that putting a good chunk of Why Coyotes Howl online, for instance, is going to either have no effect on book sales or slightly increase it, and that having a three-month “exclusive window” for stories that get publication in periodicals is, barring contractual obligations, sufficient. Of course, I still want the print work to sell and my gut feeling is that “but it’s print! dude!” isn’t in and of itself sufficient for most buyers, so I’ll be chewing on that, too.

I’d like to have that website updated before the Eurofurence trip, but I don’t know how likely that is, because it’s occurring to me that said trip is in just over two weeks and it will behoove me to have some idea what the hell I’m going to do for an author reading. If anybody has any “you should read that story” suggestions, I’m open.

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I spent a chunk of the day over at [ profile] tugrik’s, doing 4th of July BBQ things and re-meeting a bunch of folks I see too sporadically—Frang, [ profile] smackjackal, [ profile] tilton, [ profile] higginsdragon, Baron, [ profile] smudge_dragon and more. A good thing, overall. I may have a few conversations to follow up on specifically, even—but what I’d mostly like to do is just keep in actual (gasp) face-to-face contact more than I have been in general. I’ll see how that goes. (If I sound skeptical, it’s of me holding up my end of that, to be clear!)

I got back to Foster City in time to run down to the park where the fireworks were at and attempt to take photos. No idea how they turned out—I have no real clue how to take shots of fireworks, so if they’re not just all blurs and/or complete blackness, I’ll be happy.

And I am now celebrating with what I’m arbitrarily dubbing the Coyote Cadillac Margarita, inaugurating a new bottle of tequila along the way. The recipe:

  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • ¾ oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. Gran Gala orange liqueur
  • ¼ oz. curacao
  • 1¾ oz. Partida Blanco tequila

Yes, it looks kinda complicated, but I have a 2 oz. measuring cup in ¼-oz. gradiations—add the simple syrup and fill it up to the 1 oz. line with the lime juice, and do the curacao and tequila the same way. (My normal version leaves out the curacao and just has 1½ ounces of tequila. You can of course change the alcohol types, but don’t use cheap-ass triple sec, do use fresh-squeezed lime juice, and remember that any tequila with the word “gold” in its name sucks. You don’t have to get an ultra-premium one, but you want one that says it’s 100% agave, either “blanco” or “reposado.”)

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In no particular order…

  • Work is kicking my ass recently. It’s been an interesting experience, in the oh, yes, I am at a startup, aren’t I? sort of sense. It’s made writing difficult and driven out enthusiasm for personal coding, though, and also rather cut down on my time online.

  • On a not entirely unrelated note, I’m about ready to throw in the towel with the Excursion Society MUCK. I’ve had little time for it over the last year and honestly not all that much enthusiasm, even though I appreciate the diehards who’ve stuck with it; it’s mostly still around just because of them. I may think more on other systems to do in the future, like an MU* set in Ranea. (After I get my other programming projects back on track. After I’m willing to do programming on my own time again.)

  • I keep starting and stopping other blogs around the web, because I’m just like that. It occurred to me that if there’s any topic I really should be writing about somewhere, it’s not politics or programming or even fiction writing, it’s cocktails. If this thought goes anywhere, I’ll let you know.

  • I contemplated the “blog like it’s the end of the world” zombie thing that’s going on today, but ya know, it seemed like it would be too much effort for today. (And besides, I already wrote an apocalyptic plague story recently.)

  • Speaking of cocktails, I’m really tempted to go to Elixir tonight or the weekend, but probably won’t. Probably.

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Yes, I’m still here!

Work is going reasonably well; not much to write about it. Things are likely to get busier as the project I’ve been working on starts getting actively beat on by other people. I’ve decided that the web framework I’m using really isn’t particularly testable in its stable version, and when I try to transfer it to its beta version, it segfaults Apache. Yes. But only when—wait for it—the debug mode is turned on. While I presume this is something peculiar about my code, I can’t imagine just what it is in my code that does this, and it happens on two different installations. Part of me wants to lock myself in a closet for a week, with nothing but the computer and an unlimited supply of nachos and margaritas, and rewrite the entire thing in Django or Rails. But I shall not.

Writing is also going reasonably well; I have about 9700 words written on the new “Gift of Fire.” This is remarkable, given that the old one was about 24,000 words, and I am not 40% through it, but more like 30%. (I think.) I’m writing in fits and starts rather than consistently; I tell myself I should write in the mornings, but my oft-griped-about problem with getting up early has been particularly bad the last month and the time change surely isn’t going to help. I should note that I usually wake up of my own volition by 9 a.m. so we’re not actually talking late, but since I should be leaving for work around 8:30 a.m. or so, to actually get a reasonable amount of work done I’d need to be sitting at the computer, coffee in hand and brain in gear, by 7 a.m. and this should not be as hard as it keeps being.

I have been feeling a little bit of pain in the wrists occasionally again recently, and so I have looked around for a truly ergonomic keyboard. No, no, not one of those dopey curved things. I mean one of these:

Unicomp SpaceSaver

Yes, that’s the modern descendant of the old “Model M” IBM keyboards, the ones with the buckling spring switches and are really remarkably loud. This one is made by Unicomp, and it looks, well, pretty much like it always did—except that now it has the Windows keys and is USB. I also discovered, as a minor but pleasant surprise, that OS X Leopard has improved slightly on the modifier key remapping introduced in the previous version: now not only can I flip the Windows and Alt key mapping (Alt sends the keycode for Option and Windows for Command, but they’re in the reverse positions that they would be on a Mac), but I can do that on a per-device basis, so when I’m using the laptop’s internal keyboard or a Mac external keyboard, the remapping doesn’t happen.

Anyway, at the moment I’m just back from a trip to Forbidden Island and then Buffalo Bill’s Brewpub with [ profile] dracosphynx to meet [ profile] gatcat and a bunch of other people with him whose names I’ve already mostly forgotten because I suck. While I don’t feel tipsy, I feel tired, so maybe going to bed at a rational early time is in order.

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I'm planning to host a tiki party at FC on Saturday night. This isn't going to be "advertised" except on this journal; when I have room information I'll post it here (probably Thursday night), and I'll probably also send out the information on my Twitter stream. RSVPs here (or via tweet) are appreciated, but not required. (If you plan to bring/tell a friend who wouldn't be reading this, let me know.)

At this point all one can reasonably expect at the party is: rum. There is a high probability of other mixers, a moderate possibility of snack food, and a fairly good chance that I'll be able to provide something other than directions to the nearest soda machine for those who don't want alcohol. I am hoping to at least be able to make mai tais and possibly pina coladas, traditional daiquiris, and of course your basic rum and cola (and the "dark and stormy," dark rum and ginger ale).

Anyone who wishes to help provide snacks and possibly alcohol should get in touch with me. I expect I'll be tracking down the party stuff in a state of mild panic on Saturday afternoon, because you know, that's just traditional.
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I’m in the Fremont Panera—one of two, but the only one I’ve been to, just off I-880 at Auto Mall Parkway. I think this was the first that opened in the SF Bay Area, just a couple years ago.

This has been another day out, even though I hadn’t intended it to be quite as far-ranging as it has been. I just started driving north toward Pleasanton as I was on the phone earlier this morning, and somewhere along the way decided that I’d end up at the Chicago Metropolitan Deli for a Chicago-style hot dog. Like a lot of regional foods—the Philly cheese steak, New York style pizza, and even a Tampa-style Cuban sandwich—this is something whose difficulty in obtaining out of its native habitat seems far out of proportion to the difficulty in recreating it. For this hot dog, we’re talking a Vienna Beef hot dog (or at least something comparable: a bit fat, robustly seasoned, skin with some snap to it), poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, diced tomatoes, diced onions, sport peppers, lengthwise quarters of a dill pickle, Piccalilli relish and celery salt. You boil the hot dog and steam the bun. None of this sounds like it’s real hard to replicate, does it? Apparently, it is. The Chicago Deli comes pretty close, although today they were using sweet pickle relish. (Piccalilli isn’t as sweet—it has other vegetables in it, I believe—and it’s usually an alarming fluorescent green.) It still had the “holy hell somebody’s built a salad on my hot dog are they on crack” vibe going, though, so it gets a pass.

While I was there, I perused one of the little free “Apartment Guide” type rags they have, and decided—highly irrationally—to check out an apartment in Emeryville. This is irrational because it’s a 42-mile drive from there to work, 50 minutes under ideal driving conditions, which—given that the ideal route goes over the Bay Bridge, notorious for nearly 24/7 congestion—I would not have. Nonetheless, I drove to this apartment, Avenue 64, and determined it was out of my imaginary price range, let alone a price range I’d actually consider. I still had the apartment guide, though, and decided to drive a few more miles further, over to Alameda.

I’ve written about Alameda before; it’s an island just south of Oakland, very close to the mainland, historically known mostly for being a naval air station. I’ve mentioned visiting the home of Hangar One Vodka there (and the Qi tea liqueur that I bought which scares nearly everyone else), and of course, Forbidden Island, an awesome tiki bar.

I’ve realized, though, that it’s one of a few towns in the Bay Area I keep consistently coming back to, and I don’t think it’s just for the tiki bar. The other places I’ve found myself wandering—only on lunch breaks at work, for the most part—are San Carlos and Foster City, both on the Peninsula. Foster City is a man-made island on San Francisco Bay, sort of one big prototype version of a “master planned community”; it’s serene and has some interesting waterfront places, but it’s pretty character-free otherwise. San Carlos has a funky little downtown area, a slightly less pretentious Los Gatos.

I think what’s cool about Alameda to me is that it seems to have both those vibes. It’s got the funky beach-front areas, the 1950s-era waterfront condos and apartments along San Francisco Bay like Foster City, but in Alameda those areas actually have life to them: active parks and jogging trails, kite flying and wind surfing. Foster City wants to be a beach bum, but Alameda really is; it’s the difference between an old school Harley rider and a well-to-do doctor who rides a chopper on the weekend. But Alameda also has several funky business districts scattered around it: good restaurants and bars and shops and grocery stores, most of them home grown.

This presents a so-far theoretical conundrum to me, of course: despite my occasional forays into apartment hunting, I don’t really expect to be moving any time soon. On the other hand, if I were to move some place, Alameda would have a lot going for it: I really like what I’ve seen of the place, it isn’t incredibly inconvenient to the rest of the bay area—it’s much more convenient to the two liveliest metro areas than where I am now—and, at least by area standards, the rents are surprisingly affordable. On the third hand, it’s not much closer to work than Emeryville is; at current gas prices, doubling my commuting distance is… a lot. And frankly, if I did go through all the bother and increased rent of moving, I’d rather be cutting my commute time rather than adding to it. (This does feed back to the dream of telecommuting, too, of course.)

As things played out, I didn’t actually tour any apartments in Alameda today, even though I looked at the outsides of several and found information on them. I did end up at Forbidden Island—naturally—and ordered one of their Zombies, to compare it to my own. Theirs is smoother, which didn’t surprise me, but does make me feel like going back to the drawing board for more recipe tweaking.

For now, though, it’s time to head back home.

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I’m currently on the free wifi of the 21st Amendment Brewpub in San Francisco, where MacBreak Weekly was actually being taped at. No, not at the Apple Store. Ha-ha! It was nonetheless a fine show, although as the mezzanine filled up—and kept filling and kept filling—I started to get somewhat claustrophobic. And, as the show ran on for two hours instead of its normal one (!), I became a bit faint from hunger, which I’m sure didn’t help the claustrophobia. I did get to “re-introduce” myself to Merlin before the show but we didn’t really talk afterward; I’d gone down to the street level again by then to order dinner.

The table next to me turned out to also be MacWorld attendees, one of whom was fairly local (the Berkeley area), so we talked a bit off and on. For the record, while the 21st Amendment does have good beer, they have great food—well, at least a great jerk roast chicken. And a pretty good sundae. Even pretty good coffee.

Speaking of good coffee, I have another coffee machine arriving tomorrow, but that’s a different post. Time to walk back to the BART station and ride back to the car!

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So: it’s my birthday.

Birthdays haven’t been big deals to me in years, although as I approach 40 they’re starting to be sources of trepidation. I have no party planned, other than having vague thoughts of seeing if I can get a few people to go to The Melting Pot soon. (Or perhaps the Zuni Café in San Francisco if I’m feeling particularly ambitious.) Tonight I’m likely to just go off to the biweekly writing group as per usual, even though I’m tempted to go home and make some kind of crazy tiki drink instead. Maybe I’ll try and invent one of my own! I do have my own recipe for a zombie, a least, which is a decidedly non-trivial operation.

I could make a crazy tiki drink and bring it to the writing group, but I’m not sure I have enough to make crazy tiki drinks for everyone.

Anyway, yes. Birthdays. My thirty-ninth year has the potential for involving more change. Soon I’ll be living in a five-person household and having a longer commute than I’ve had in many years (about 35 miles each way), and as I’ve written, this may end up motivating me to get over my grand dislike for moving—even though I should note I like both of the people planning to move in and think it’s cool I’ll see them more, and I’ll be able to do a lot of the commute over fairly pretty roads. I have many things to weigh, ultimately including just where it is I’d want to live if I did move. So far I don’t have an answer.

For a lot of the past few years I’ve felt like I’ve been in retrograde, that I’m going through the motions I should have been going through a decade ago. I still feel like I’m a year from thirty rather than forty. I’d like to think that means I still have a long life ahead, because I’m clearly behind on where I really should be at this point.

Well, not that clearly, since I can’t define should in that context.

Where will I be when 40 actually hits? I don’t know, honestly. This current job is, after all, a contract, even though I have hopes of it running at least as long as the Cisco gig did. My mother would very much like me to move back to Florida close to where she is. Yet other than her presence, and my friends in the Tampa and Orlando areas, I don’t feel very grounded there (beyond the sense of familiarity that comes from three decades in roughly the same place). I rarely write things that sound spiritual, but I believe people have connections to the land, and those connections are stronger or weaker depending on whether they’re in the “right” area for them. So far I’ve felt more connected to the west coast than the east, and—while I should explore both areas more—pulled more toward the northwest than the southwest.

But here’s a present—the zombie recipe.  )
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I’m just finishing a glass of hard cider at the Rubicon Brewing Company here in Sacramento, and taking advantage of their free wifi network. What brings me to Sacramento, you may ask? My car! Ha! Yes, I had a beer before this. Ahem.

Seriously, while I’ve been to the metro area here a few times, I haven’t actually explored much of the place—I’ve been around the western suburbs where Theodous lives, and once I made it to Arden Fair to visit a sushi place (“Taro’s by Mikuni,” the showcase kitchen of a local chain that [ profile] playswithfood recommended), but it occurred to me that I’ve never been downtown.

So, I ended up parking at the Downtown Plaza—which is, as it turns out, an outdoor Westfield Shopping Center (they are inescapable)—and wandered around that area, and a bit more of the city, and part of Old Town Sacramento. “Old Sac” (I swear, that’s what it seems the locals call it) is a district that’s several blocks long along the waterfront. It is preserved as a historic area, so it has a very “Old West” feel, and is full of authentic old west souvenir stands and tee-shirt shops and bars.

Even though I poke fun at it, there’s a lot of stuff here in Sacramento, and it’s a fairly pretty area. Unlike the western subdivisions, there are a lot of trees here, particularly evergreens and firs; the neighborhood I’m in now, creatively dubbed “Midtown,” reminds me—just a little—of some of the areas I saw in Portland, particularly the area where Stumptown Coffee Roasters is.

I had a moderately light dinner of a mixed green salad and hot wings. They were some of the oddest hot wings I’ve had—the sauce had more of an Oriental kick to it, with a definite ginger taste to it and a bit of chunkiness I also associate with Oriental chili sauces. But it was still really good, and some of the hottest I’ve had (at least that’s still edible). With it I had an amber ale—good, if not remarkable—and now I’m finishing a hard apple cider, which is quite good. They have a hard pomegranate cider, too, which I was curious about but decided against.

As it is, though, it’s about quarter to eight and I’ve decided to go hunt for dessert on my way out of town.

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So I’m off in Fort Bragg for an afternoon—

“Wait,” you may say. “Why would you do such a thing?”

Well, I don’t have a really good reason. I set out to go to Ukiah, but somehow ended up here instead. Are we clear? No? Never mind. We can say it just seemed like a good idea at the time, and it still does.

I’ve driven through Fort Bragg a couple of times before but I’ve never actually stopped before. The name makes one think, not unreasonably, of military barracks, but actually it’s a coastal village full of Victorian buildings—many of them real, not reconstructions—and funky little shops. Right now I’m at a coffe shop with free wireless, looking out the street window, and every building I see is Victorian in style, and the stores include a hair studio, two art galleries, a couple funky clothing stores and something called “ER Energy,” which might be a solar energy store or might be a New Age store. I can’t tell from here. The people I see wandering around seem to be a random mix of people who look like loggers (and might be), old hippies who’ve actually gone back to nature instead of just talking about it, and college age eco-tourist types with rainbow hair and black Birkenstocks.

Actually, this seems to be eco-tourist weekend. I stopped in Hopland on the way here, a little town not too far south of Ukiah, and it was full of folks attending “Solfest,” which is theoretically a solar living festival—although it had bluegrass and folk/alt-country concerts and a few avowedly political speakers like Jim Hightower. Me being me, I was there for lunch, and the Bluebird Cafe was serving with no wait.

So what’s there in Fort Bragg besides hippies and cool architecture? Well, there’s fog. And cold weather. In San Jose today I suspect it was around the mid-80s; in Hopland and Ukiah, it was ten degrees warmer, but in Fort Bragg, it’s more than twenty degrees colder. Yes, it’s a mid-August day and it’s barely breaking 60. This is a bit below the average here—although only a bit: the average high in August is only 67. Of course, the average high in winter is 56, so I suppose it’s fair to describe the place as cool but mild. It’s overcast here from the coastal fog, which I suspect is the area’s natural condition. Could I deal with sunless days being the rule rather than the exception? That’s a back-of-the-mind concern for me, since I still have a notion of looking for work in the Seattle or Portland areas down the road. At any rate, a byproduct of this is a new lightweight jacket for me. I’d intended to bring my old windbreaker (a 15-year-old one that [ profile] brahma_minotaur has made a few “My God, do they still make those?” comments about at cons), but managed to leave at home. I suppose this is finally an excuse to retire it; the new windbreaker seems more effective. (Possibly because it’s not fifteen years old.)

Well, that’s not all there is in Fort Bragg. There’s also the North Coast Brewing Company, which happens to have a restaurant and tap room here in addition to their brewery. So I know where I’m likely to end up for dinner tonight.

Of course, I’m still about five hours away from home. I did make a cursory hotel search an hour ago online and everything seems to be booked, so I’ll probably just end up getting in very… very… late. Such is the risk of aimless wandering!

chipotle: (beer)
And you may say, "Why are you are at a brewpub when you are unemployed?" to which I will say, "Beer."

And if you say, "Beer is not an answer," I will say, "Beer is always an answer."

(And, hey, it's a brewpub with free wifi. You can't beat that with a stick.)
chipotle: (beer)
Actually, notes from the table: specifically a table at the Rogue Ales Public House in San Francisco, at a window table. Looking out the window is a surprisingly pleasant street scene. (I tried to take a picture with the cell phone, but the camera is just so unrepentantly awful.) The pub has three or four dozen microbrews and imported beers on draft, including a lot of ones from the Rogue Ales brewery that you can't easily get anywhere else.

So why am I here, you may ask? Given that I have relatively little money and shouldn't be gallavanting off to the Big City? Good question. My BART ticket is already paid for, though (you prepurchase transit tickets and they function like debit cards), and I felt like hiking somewhere a little more urban today. So I got off at the Embarcadero station, headed up to the corner of Montgomery, Washington and Columbus--right by the base of the Transamerica Pyramid--and walked up Columbus into Little Italy. Every other shop along Columbus is a neighborhood cafe (usually Italian, given said neighborhood) or a coffee shop. The pub here is actually right across from a little park. And, while it doesn't have free wifi, I've discovered there are 16 wifi networks that the MacBook is picking up--statistically speaking, I figured one would be open, and indeed it was.

I've finished lunch here (which may be dinner, too)--a kobe beef burger (!). It was good, as expected, although it makes me want to get a patty from their supplier (Snake River beef, I think) and cook it at home on the cast iron pan. I'm about to have a taster, at least, of a chipotle ale. C'mon, I had to, right? But on the way back to the BART station--which is a bit of a hike, I have to say--I'll be stopping at the relatively famous Caffe Trieste.

My impression that I could indeed be happy living in San Francisco proper--or another sufficiently metropolitan downtown--is of course just being reinforced by all this. As much as I like going into proper wilderness to recenter myself, I'm pretty sure I could get used to an urban lifestyle the rest of the time.

I'm not being a complete layabout, though--I'm making, uh, notes. Notes on an idea for a mildly interesting web application I'm disturbed there might be a market for. I'll worry about it if I ever get past notes, of course. Notes are the easy part.

(N.B.: The Chipotle Ale taster has arrived and it's... better than I honestly expected, although I probably shouldn't have doubted: these guys really are pretty good damn brewers, good enough to take what seems like a novelty item and make it work. Their smoke ale is better, though.)
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Inspired by the “high-end” tequila bars, I’ve tweaked my margarita recipe to have a different balance. This is more work, but I think it makes a pretty damn good drink.


2oz. tequila
1oz. Patron Citronge (orange liqueur)
1oz. fresh lime juice
½oz. lemon syrup

Shake with plenty of ice. Serve over crushed ice, no salt.

The big difference between this and the previous recipe is the fresh lime juice. I’m convinced, finally—as much as I love key lime juice, you can only get it as concentrate, and it’s better to have fresh “normal” limes. (You want it as pulp-free as possible, though.)

Why Patron Citronge? My original thought was, “Hey, it’s from a tequila company, so it’s probably going to work with margaritas.” (Use the Citronge and a splash of orange curacao for a Cadillac-style margarita.)

The lemon-flavored simple syrup is (as far as I’ve been able to tell so far) a unique part of this recipe. I’m using one from Sonoma Syrup, but I suspect the much cheaper Torani or Monin syrup would work just fine. I’ve also tried it with a full ounce, but that seems to make the flavor a little “thick” without making it appreciably sweeter.

One thing about this recipe: it doesn’t hide the flavor of the tequila at all, which means the tequila better not suck. Personally, I’d recommend 100% agave reposado. I’ve tried Cabo Wabo Reposado, El Jimador Blanco and Jose Cuervo Reposado Tradicional; out of those, the Cabo Wabo is the best, but also the most expensive. (Surprisingly, at least to me, the El Jimador is better than the Cuervo, even though that’s not the cheap Cuervo.)

Update One other thing about this recipe: the drink is rather strong. Whee! Work is gonna suck tomorrow morning.

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Yes, it’s cocktail time again!

The martini has changed a lot from its inception; today a “classic” martini usually refers to vodka with a few drops of vermouth in it. The original martini, though, used gin, not vodka, and considerably more vermouth—usually a ratio of 5 or 6 parts gin to one part vermouth. Also, while now dry refers to the quantity of vermouth, it used to refer to the type of vermouth used—dry white or sweet red.

I can understand why the switch from gin to vodka happened over the years—gin is a pretty astringent spirit, and as it become fashionable to add ever-decreasing amounts of vermouth to one’s martini (Winston Churchill once apparently said that just looking at a bottle of vermouth was sufficient), the gin flavor would become overpowering. The problem, of course, is that vodka’s flavor ranges from “subtle” to “absent,” depending on what brand you have. My solution? Use both gin and vodka.

So, here are two martinis I made on successive nights, which try to recapture a bit of the original martini spirit while still being modernized. Note that the quality of the alcohol is particularly important in a martini, because there’s nothing for it to hide behind. For what it’s worth, I used:

  • Rain vodka
  • Bombay (or Bombay Sapphire) gin
  • Cinzano vermouth

Incidentally, I use a Mason jar as a cocktail shaker, and it works beautifully. Both of these recipes—particularly the second one—work best with vodka that you’ve stored in the freezer. (It won’t freeze.)

Golden Martini

¼ oz. red sweet vermouth
¼ oz. dry vermouth
1½ oz. vodka
1½ oz. gin

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway up with ice. Add all the alcohol, stir, and strain into a martini glass. The drink will be a very pale golden color. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. (Really.) This is what’s called a “perfect” martini, in that it’s equal parts sweet and dry vermouth; I matched that with equal parts vodka and gin, although I think it would probably work well with other proportions.

Dirty Martini

¼ oz. dry vermouth
¾ oz. gin
2 oz. vodka

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway up with cracked/crushed ice. Add all the alcohol. Take a blue-cheese stuffed olive (you can find these in better grocery stores or liquor stores, or make them yourself if you’re more motivated than I), skewer it on a toothpick, and place it in a martini glass. Add a few drops of the juice from the olive jar. Shake the cocktail shaker very vigorously, then strain into the glass—the martini will be clear, but should look a little “thick” because of the ice.


Of these two recipes, my favorite is the dirty martini, which honestly surprised me: despite knowing the olive is a time-honored martini garnish, the idea of using it in a drink always intrinsically struck me as absurd. But, the saltiness of the olive juice adds a nice counterpart to the sweetness of the gin-vermouth combination (and Rain vodka is naturally a bit sweet, I think), making it very drinkable indeed.

I draw the line at “cocktail onions,” though.

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I’ve been making margaritas before using a mix from the El Paso Chile Company, because I haven’t actually liked the “from scratch” ones I’ve tried. But, being out of mix, I decided to keep trying, and on my third attempt, I came up with this:

oz. tequila
1 oz. orange liqueur
1 oz. key lime juice
½ oz. lemon juice
1 tbsp. simple syrup

Combine all the ingredients with plenty of ice in a shaker, and shake vigorously. Strain over cracked ice into a margarita or highball glass.

“Simple Syrup” is just two parts sugar to one part water—bring the water to a boil while stirring the sugar in and then let it cool. I’ve been using Orange Curacao as the liqueur, although the classic one to use to use is Cointreau. I also used two tequilas in the margarita tonight: one ounce of “gold tequila” and a half-ounce of a good Reposado. Specifically, I used Cabo Wabo, which is the brand from—don’t laugh—Sammy Hagar’s club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Yes, Sammy really does know his tequila. (The downside being that because it’s not cheap stuff, it’s, y’know, not cheap.)

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For no obvious reason, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect Mai Tai. I don’t know that I’m here yet, but I’ve come awfully close.

  • 2 oz. aged Jamaican rum (like Appleton’s)
  • ½ oz. DeKuyper’s orange curacao
  • ½ oz. Torani orgeat syrup
  • ½ oz. lime juice (or juice of one lime)
  • ½ oz. orange juice

Mix in a cocktail shaker over ice, shake vigorously, and strain into a highball glass over crushed ice. For a bit of flourish, garnish with a pineapple chunk and a maraschino cherry on a toothpick.

This is almost the original recipe, except that the original one has “rock candy” syrup instead of orange juice. If my version isn’t sweet enough for you, shake it up with a teaspoon or so of superfine sugar—for me, the orange juice is sweet enough, particularly if it’s fresh. I think this is a little smoother and more complex than the original, without getting excessively froo-froo.

As a bit of trivia, the original doesn’t have any juice in it other than lime, and the original garnish is a mint sprig. We think of Hawaiian islands when we think of the Mai Tai, but it actually comes to us from the tropical paradise of, uh, Oakland and the original Trader Vic’s.

(Update, circa May/June, for the record: I’ve been making these with ¼ oz. simple syrup instead of orange juice, too, and they turn out just fine. Vic knew what he was doing.)


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February 2018

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