Theoretically, I was going to get more done this weekend than I actually did. This is usual for me. I’m usually ready to get around to my personal projects by the third day of the weekend, which is of course problematic.
Saturday I decided that I’d head off to the East Bay on another day trip, up to Martinez by way of Oakland so I could stop off at a taco truck for lunch. I have to say, it was a pretty damn good burrito. (Undoubtedly more authentic than the ones at Chipotle, although I’m not sure it was necessarily better. Eventually I’ll get around to writing a mini-essay about the trap of authenticity, but as Alton Brown says, that’s another show.) It also makes me want to try to cook carnitas sometime.
Why Martinez? you may ask. Because that’s where the John Muir National Historic Site is, and I wanted to give it a visit.
It’s an interesting place, although not terribly interesting: a turn-of-the-century Victorian house that Muir bought from his in-laws, and that was undoubtedly too fancy for his tastes. When the house was damaged in the 1906 earthquake, he rebuilt a lost fireplace not as the dainty marble coal-burning kind the rest of the house has, but as a big rustic brick affair that could burn logs and make him think of campfires.
I wandered about there for a while, taking some pictures, most of which didn’t come out in ways that were particularly interesting. I need to work not only on composition but on more prosaic things like watching the camera settings.
On the way out, I explored Martinez itself a bit. Some of the East Bay is quite pretty; while Martinez has a claim to fame as the birthplace of the martini, it’s otherwise pretty non-descript. The downtown was typical of many older small towns in somewhat touristy metro areas, a mildly quaint veneer over a several-block stretch whose economic pain can be measured in the quantity of antique stores. (All small towns inexplicably believe that not only are antique stores are a draw, but the more the merrier.) And, while the claim seems to check out, it’s a little bit stretched: the original drink, simply the “Martinez,” is only slightly more martini-like than a Cosmopolitan is.
One thing I did notice, though, is that Martinez has a very pretty Amtrak station. In fact, I passed by one in Oakland that was also pretty. I also noticed that the trains here are differently colored than most Amtraks and prominently display “Amtrak California” on them. I wonder if this branch of the railway is trying to set themselves up so they can saw off the rest of the corporation when it finally finishes collapsing.
Sunday, I’d thought about cooking those carnitas. I did get a few household-type chores done: a load of laundry, running the dishwasher I’d loaded the day before, cleaning up the stove. But dracosphynx was thinking about getting a nice dinner, and being of weak will, I found an interesting-sounding steak house in San Carlos called Izzy’s. I liked it; it’s somewhere between the level of an Outback and a Ruth’s Chris, with a lot of the gentleman’s club swank of the latter at decidedly less painful prices. The food was uniformly good with one caveat—both my prime rib and dracosphynx’s steak were cooked medium instead of the requested medium rare. I’m not sure if the kitchen (or waiter) just biffed the order, or if they’re used to diners not really meaning medium rare when they ask for it. I’m pretty sure I’ve noticed this effect at other steak houses.
So, did I do anything productive? Well, I finished poking through Curt Hibbs’ tutorial on Ruby on Rails, working through it more or less verbatim save for setting my version up on PostgreSQL rather than MySQL. There are still a few nerdy questions I have (how would I change a parameter URI from “/recipe/list?category=Snacks” to something more REST-happy like “/recipe/list/snacks”, for instance), but on the whole I’m pretty impressed.
At some point I may revive an old idea of a restaurant review website that people suggested—years ago!—that I should do, using Rails as the back end. It would cut down on a lot of the pain that’d be required to set something like that up.
Of course, this is assuming I get those other projects back on track…