Gomtang Instant Noodle Soup -it’s all in the soup

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The food alchemists in Korea have many years and lots of resources to tweak products towards a kind of perfection that the Korean market demands with the byproduct that Asia as a whole likes South Korea as much as it dislikes Japan and distrusts China and especially its food. It creates a perfect storm for instant foods that recreate the sensation and feeling of the real thing. In this case, Gomtang, is a dish that takes days to make, involving the boiling of oxtail and bones for days resulting in a rich and hearty stock that is seasoned only with a dash of salt and chopped green onions. The boiling over days leaves your house smelling like a glue factory and it’s largely outsourced to restaurants that specialize in gomtang or sulungtang (alt word, basically same thing) like Gam Mi Ok in midtown Manhattan, where the soup is kept going round the clock for decades in giant cauldrons, served with simple flour noodles of vermicelli gauge. The Gomtang package noodle pictured above claims to give you the same taste. And it does. I made a batch for lunch for my family using these packs, and I did add sliced round cuts that I dipped in the soup to brown and quickly put aside for adding to the final dish. The soup, which is a bit salty like every package ramen dish, looks and tastes just like a decent gomtang. The beef that I added gives it a few added globules of beef fat which only adds to the authenticity. Add chopped green onions and for a moment, you are sitting on 32nd Street in Manhattan on a cold day savoring your gomtang. 

I do have to add that while it tastes good up front, there are missing flavor notes that give it away as not completely authentic. There is a flavor and soup texture added by the solubilized connective tissues of oxtail that leaves a sticky residue on your palate and makes the beef flavor linger -this is missing. Also, I would avoid drinking up the soup as it is a lot of unnecessary sodium to add to your diet. As a carrier and sauce for the noodles and added beef, it is perfect on a cold fall day, and I recommend it in moderation. 

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Manakiki Golf Course -a Donald Ross public gem

ImageI am ecstatic that I found this course while on a “staycation.” For 40 bucks, you get to play a round on a Donald Ross designed course that has been lovingly cared for by the management and players. The greens are in excellent condition and were being rolled by the grounds staff -something you rarely see in most public courses. The bunkers, which I think are the most visible barometers of a golf course’s health, were raked and full of fluffy sand. 

ImageI have read that Donald Ross preferred grass on the upslopes of the bunkers like the ones in his native Scotland. The greens are small and challenging and the landing areas for the drives, while fair, are bounded by dense maple forests. It is not a course for spraying long shots and recovering with a short iron from the other fairway. The greens are not shielded from the bump and run, but it has been so wet lately in Northeast Ohio that it really isn’t an option. Being the first to tee off at 6:18, I was done in about two hours and home for breakfast -something I used to do in Iowa at my old club, Wakonda. I guess I have a karmic link to golf courses with native American names. (Manakiki means maple forest). 

 

The Metro Municipal -Highland Park GC

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One of the things about the USGA and GHIN is that you have to be part of a club to register your golf scores. I could join the several Northeast Ohio based golf associations, but it would be nice to just join a club. The problem is that a private club is a considerable commitment of time and money.Image So it was with some joy that I found Highland GC, which is a large 36 hole municipal course. The Red Course is two traditional nine holes that go out and back into the clubhouse, while the Blue Course is an 18 hole track that does not come back for a breather between nines. They are about ten minutes from my driveway, and there is hardly ever a line.

That kind of convenience comes with some compromises. There is no pro shop. There is no driving range. And finally, there is no club for affiliation and registering of scores. It is a municipal golf course and there is a golf egalitarianism that is lost in the rarefied districts of private club golf. In the parking lot, there is an eclectic mix of luxury sedans, beaters, and even a loaded pickup truck. At one time in America, all the different classes mixed in the public sphere, at school, work, and play. This has eroded and you can see it in the economic gerrymandering of neighborhoods and suburbs reflected in their anchor malls and grocery stores. The municipal golf course is the last preserve of the public commons. On the first tee this morning, I saw three groups lined up, Asians, African-Americans, and whites.

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Sadly, they were segregated and rather prickly, being all men of a certain age. If you are in the late fifties and are playing golf on a municipal course with swings that could be good for tree chopping, you worked hard all your life, never got handed anything, and have generally skeptical view of the world. On line, the reviews complain of lack of services, poor conditions, and discrimination (both forward and reverse). Yet even with the apparent race relations of a prison yard, and stiff necked, flinty eyed glare of blue collar pride, golf etiquette prevailed and all the groups let me play through with courtesy and even a little banter about the good weather. And that is the lesson for us all. In golf there is hope.

The African American twosome were the first to let me through. Both had the mien of philosopher kings, ancient wise men, spiritual healers. They clearly enjoyed each other’s company and were in no hurray, and shooed me onwards. The Caucasian twosome were clearly betting on everything that could be bet upon during a round of golf, and seemed to be making bets about me as I played through. They were congenial and courteous. The foursome of Koreans were the most fearsome. They didn’t smile at me when I asked to play through, and I held off speaking in Korean because I thought it might trigger some kind of outburst that could only come from 4 Korean dads, but I overheard them their captain say, let him through in Korean. They watched me tee off in silence and I bid them adieu.

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On the fairway!

The course had its problems -I suspect from lean budgets and a very hot and dry summer. There were dead patches on the greens and fairways, and uneven mowing on both. That said, from the tips, the course was a lot more fun than I could usually expect to get for 35 bucks.

Addendum: found out they mow on Monday. Once mowed, the fairways and greens are very nice. This place is growing on me. Plus, the starter asked me if I was a golf pro or golf writer, which really made my day.

Plague, Inc. A Review

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This is an addictive game that takes macroeconomics, epidemiology, and microbiology, and creates an ultimately bittersweet game out of human extinction. I called my first plague Paltrow, and it defeated humanity by taking advantage of human behavior -why let a “cold” epidemic derail the London games which can spread disease to the four corners? If you make the disease a tropical one, the “developed world” ignores it. Make it go to the first world by conferring cold resistance and interest spikes in a cure. Remember not to make it too deadly at first or it won’t leave the country.

I remember in the 80’s playing blue and red team games for the government interested in seeing how some Ivy Leaguers would play out a Kobayashi Maru type WWWIII scenario. This is a red team scenario and it proves one thing -an extinction level event needs a steady hand to guide it.

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iPad versus netbook -FIGHT!

iPad versus netbook, fight!

I am a mobile professional, I suppose. I walk a lot. As a vascular surgeon, there is a lot of downtime waiting for things to happen. Operations get booked, but the rooms have to be turned over. In these spaces of time, I endeavor to be productive. Time was, in the nineties, I had a marvelous pocketable computer called the Psion Series 5 (link) which allowed for mobility with a complete office suite. The internet was not yet ubiquitous and for what I wanted it to do, document creation, it was perfect. It allowed me to type out patient consultation notes from a corner of an emergency room and wirelessly print them out (via infrared port) to the ubiquitous HP computers around the hospital -I really think that I was the only one that used them. What it attained for me after three years of use (and three Psion’s used up), I had a bank of notes on patients which constituted a pocket EMR, indexed via the database. It let me print out very detailed notes often in 5 point font -I also had a terrible dislike of multiple pages which could easily be lost, much to the chagrin of older attending who became hopping mad at the small type sizes.

Since that time, I have tried to replace the venerable Psion Series 5 with something more modern, but nothing would replace it. It had the ability to turn instantly on and instantly off. Battery life was basically infinite as long as I had a ready supply of double A batteries. Litihium cells would routinely last over 40 hours or about a month. I tried using various Palm and Windows mobile PDA’s with keyboards, but was terribly disappointed. The Palm Treo came close with a workable thumb board, but by this time, I had joined a practice that had a fully evolved EMR which required a full PC.

The attempts at mobility then moved to laptops and sub notebooks, and more recently netbooks. It’s ironic that Psion marketed a small sub notebook called the netbook, possibly the best portable computer of its day, but soon quit the consumer electronic category. The problem with all laptops was that there was no instant on. The wait for bootup was inordinately long, and it precluded the jotting ideas down as they came up. The other thing with regular notebooks was the battery life. Even with 3 to 4 hours, it wasn’t possible to go a whole day without recharging or shutting down and replacing with a spare battery -more stuff to carry.

The netbook brought a lot to like to the table initially. As a minimized laptop running on a low energy chip (Atom), it offered better battery life with lower costs. The 8 inch screens soon grew to 10 inches and now 12 inch netbooks are available. The downside was you got what you paid for. The keyboards were often cramped and the screens were too small to see your work. What was worse, the manufacturers could not effectively shrink the trackpad down to anything workable and various awful to terrible trackpads were released. The video which offered the promise of turning the devices into cheap portable iTunes viewing station, would slow down and skip frequently, and HD video is not possible. The final straw is that they ran Windows XP, which was fine for 2005, but now serves as a constant reminder that you are running something pretty shabby.

As a workstation, I tried using a netbook and found it to be just a smaller, less capable sub notebook, poorly suited for any hard work. Running our EMR off Citrix was a chore for the tiny Atom processor and I pretty much gave up using it to blog because of how small everything was. Funny thing was even with the pocketable Psion, touch typing was a breeze, and not being able to turn the machine on with a touch of a button was a really problem.

Even loading the Mac OS X onto the netbook -called hackintoshing, resulted in an inferior experience. The OS is designed to work in a 15 inch screen -it’s barely usable on a 13 inch screen, and forget it on a 10 inch screen with a balky touchpad. The netbook pictured is a Dell Mini 10v which was discontinued recently and was touted as the most easily hackintoshable netbook.

With arrival of iPad, everything has changed. Now we have a very portable computer with a 10 inch screen with the capability of instant on. Email is not only a breeze, but a joy to look at. My calendar which is coordinated by my scheduler over Microsoft exchange is also a wonder to behold. The device is fast, and the Citrix client for it works well enough (needs some improvements) for what I do.

In particular, when I am out and about between operations, I have to find an open computer and get onto my EMR. Now, I can access it right where I stand. When I’m at home fielding a phone call from another physician or a patient, I no longer wait for boot up times, but go straight to the Citrix app.

The keyboard on the tablet is fine for quick emails and texts, but not suitable for longer missives. This blog entry was composed on the Pages app using the keyboard dock, but I also have a wireless bluetooth keyboard that I can use for it when I’m not at home. The netbook and its spare battery lays under my bed, waiting for a reason to be turned on -mostly it’s to go to Flash heavy websites which the iPad won’t run.

The other killer app is Papers -this allows me to organize my journal articles by Pubmed entry metatags with direct access to the PDF’s. All the papers I need to read are handy, and again, its a pleasure to read PDF’s on the iPad. My main Mac (a 2007 MacBook Pro) runs Papers and will wirelessly sync all the journals so my iPads will stay current. Yes, I bought two iPads because I liked the first one so much. Having two is the only way to multitask currently.

Why would you want two -well if you’re doing work with one, you can have the other one stream a live Yankees game over the MLB app, or a Netflix DVD, or a movie you bought or rented on iTunes. You might want to listen to all the NPR pieces you missed that day over the NPR app. Or have access to every episode of LOST via the ABC app.

The final killer app for the iPad is the Kindle app, which will kill the Kindle slowly. Amazon is wise in taking a wide broadcast approach to distribution. The Kindle, which is wonderfully light and has an always on 3G connection (which you can use to do light browsing), is available as an app on iPad and all your Kindle books show up wonderfully. The book light is no longer necessary. The only place the Kindle has an advantage is in direct sunlight -the iPad would not display well pool side.

I’m eagerly awaiting the camera dongle to transfer pictures from my cameras. All the photo processing software on my iphone works great on iPad, and new iPad versions roll out daily. That is the other part -the App store updates nearly hourly with some new technological wonder. The games are immersive and just funner than playing on iPhone or the Nintendo DS. Gratification is instantaneous.

The iPad is not the first tablet, just as the iPhone was not the first smartphone. But like iPhone, it redefines the category and raises the bar to a very high level. Love Apple or hate it, this kind of innovation spurred the creation of Android and even Microsoft is abandoning Windows Mobile, that instrument of suffering. Using the iPad is transformative. It makes the internet more accessible. It makes work joyful. It allows me to express myself even more fully, and that is what technology is meant to do.

Ramen for People with Easily Upset Stomachs

Hoo Roo Rook is an onomatopeia for the sound you make slurping ramen

My in-laws sent me the latest instant ramen to hit L.A. It is called Hoo Roo Rook which is a new trend in instant ramens -the premium, health conscious, instant ramen. The noodle, unlike the original instant ramen, is not fried but rather just dried. It is a capellini grade noodle that unravels almost instantly in boiling water -always boil the noodles separately from the soup and rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process. Unfortunately, thin noodles are hard to gauge and this noodle basically is ready to rinse very soon after unravelling, otherwise, you will go past al dente and enter over cooked territory.

The soup is also a new trend among instant Ramens -it is meant to be less salty and more subtle. I think it is also meant to help out with older Koreans who don’t want to wake up with acid reflux from the chili pepper red soups found in more popular instant ramen brands. It’s okay, but really kind of boring. It specifically says no MSG, but you can’t escape the umami 5th taste in the fish stock that is hinted in the soup -it is balanced and subtle, but again -you won’t be seeking this out to cure a hangover.

You have to remember to make the soup a little more concentrated if you are separating the soup from the noodle during production because the noodles add water to the mix, diluting the soup, and cooling it as well.

The noodles were overdone in this first batch, but if pulled out withing a few moments after unraveling, they would be in fact perfectly al dente and give wonderful chewy mouth feel. The noodles are of highest quality, and that is what I think the point of this ramen is about. That and the fact that the soup won’t give you acid reflux.

Impression: Instant ramen for old people and those with digestive problems. Also, good for feeding toddlers and children.

Call of Duty: World at War for Nintendo DS

I generally don’t play first person shooter games because they take up too much time and are generally too violent. Call of Duty has always appealed to me because it adds a dimension of history -I am a big history buff, and World War II is the predominant theme of the twentieth century. All things lead to and from it. The game works well on the Nintendo DS which is a surprise for me because it’s such a small device. It does create cramps because you aim with the stylus and move with the D-pad and shoot with the left or right finger buttons. I don’t know how you would play it if you were a lefty. The game sounds best through good headphones. The men and graphics look blocky -this is the fault of the port. I think that the true resolution is seen when you look through the sniper scope -with the men at double size, they lose the blockiness. It feels a bit like Doom circa 1991 when you run around in the blocky graphics. It has WiFi -internet play, although I haven’t tried it. I don’t know if I can keep up with guys shooting from the latest i7 rigs over fiberoptic, but it is cool that I can do this through a portable machine. Here is a little video.