Restaurant Review: Ohgane

Ohgane is a Korean restaurant in Oakland on Broadway and 31st. If you want good Korean food, then this is probably your best bet in the East Bay. It’s not transcendent like some of the other restaurants I’ve reviewed, but it’s quite good.

Decor: 6

It has the appearance of an upscale Korean restaurant, with lacquered wooden chairs and stone tables. It also has grills in the middle of each table with wood chips for charcoal. The disappointing thing is that a lot of it is fake. The wood chips are only semi-authentic because they’re supported by a gas grill directly beneath them. The stone is just a veneer. Also, I took an additional point off because it gets very smoky in there. Just as a warning, you will walk out smelling like smoked beef.

Service: 7

The service was prompt and generous. As a point of trivia, class in Korea is determined by the number of plates that you are served per meal. Lower class restaurants have 3-5 plates, middle of the road have 6-15, and upper class have 15-25 (more and it gets difficult to find table space!). If you’re Kim Jong Il, you have 2000 plate dinners while 3 million people die of starvation outside your palace walls. This place has about 22 plates, firmly upper class. A nice bonus was that each table has an electronic bell on it to call the waitress if you have a problem, most likely that your table and your date are on fire. So the service is quite good. Biggest problem – the waitresses speak English very poorly. You need a Korean speaker to appreciate the full service.

Food: 8

If you like marinated beefs, this is the place for you. The bulgogi and kalbi are marinated and very tender without tasting too saucy, much better than most people can manage at home. They also have sliced radish and leaves of cabbage to maximize your carnivorous enjoyment without getting that sickly sweet and greasy aftertaste in your mouth from eating too much beef. The side dishes, as mentioned above, are plentiful and delicious, with great variety and a wide range. You will find some kind of kimchi to love because there are at least nine different kinds, of varying sweet, sour, and spicy combinations. You don’t get much rice, but frankly you don’t miss it because there are so many tastes to enjoy and so many ways to clean the palate. It won’t take you out of this world but it’s very very good.

Ambience: 6

It’s fun if you’re in a big rowdy Korean group or with a bunch of guys who eat beef by the pound. Girls can enjoy it too because of the wide variety of vegetables, but you go here by a guy’s choice, not a girl’s. Koreans are a loud, funny, communal culture, so this is your place if you plan on yelling that you’re going to fight everyone at the table and then settling your dispute by who can hold their hand over a fire the longest or with a disgusting eating challenge.

Score: 27/40
Price: $30 per person (appetizer, drink, .75 lb of meat per person)
Verdict: Very decent. Slightly overpriced, but worth going if you’re a big eater and have a good group.

Lessons Learned 2009-7-26

Ah, what did I learn this week?

1) The value of consistency

Probably the most overlooked and most difficult skill to attain. Doing something the same every time is incredibly difficult to do, but once you get it, it becomes reliable enough that you can concentrate on other things. If you can’t get it, then trying to concentrate on other things is usually an exercise in futility. And people told me juggling was useless. Feh, I tell you, FEH!

2) Earn the right to be taken seriously

I like teachers who differentiate between teaching the bare minimum for people who want to do just the requisite and conserving their energy for people who want to be taken seriously. There’s no use trying to force-feed skill to someone who doesn’t want the pay the price. I think this is a good attitude to start taking with other people.

3) Cheese is a great snack

Maybe a sign of my conversion to No-Cal-ness. But buying a couple bricks of cheese and some bread ensures you’ll always have a good salty snack. Just slice the cheese into small or thin chunks and eat. It soothes your craving for salt at any time. Um, on the other side, I’m doing quite poorly with sweet snacks because I’m eating handfuls of a large sack of marshmallows.

Goals for the week:
1) I can juggle 25 times. Success!
2) Didn’t run 15 miles or time myself. Failure!
3) Averaged better than 70% on quizzes for the week. Success!
4) I took a rest day. Push!
5) No cold showers. Failure!
Verdict: Push!

Quote of the Day 2009-7-25

I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.

-Capt. Edward Smith, Captain of the Titanic

Anatomy of an Obama Speech

President Obama held a press conference last night to shore up support for his health care reform bill. I thought he did a great job politically of managing the questions and getting people enthusiastic about the issue. However, I did notice a couple things, like the fact that his answers to hard questions ramble on until he forgets what was asked in the first place and that he knows absolutely nothing about economics. Also, his speeches are very formulaic. They’re effective and make people think he’s a genius, but there is a formula to it. So I unveil to you, the anatomy of an Obama speech:

1) “I’m your knight in shining armor. I saved America with hope”

Now, six months ago, I took office amid the worst recession in half-a-century. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month, and our financial system was on the verge of collapse.

As a result of the actions we took in those first weeks, we’ve been able to pull our economy back from the brink. We took steps to stabilize our financial institutions and our housing market. And we passed a Recovery Act that has already saved jobs and created new ones, delivered billions in tax relief to families and small businesses, and extended unemployment insurance and health insurance to those who’ve been laid off.

Of course, we still have a long way to go. And the Recovery Act will continue to save and create more jobs over the next two years, just like it was designed to do.

2) Hate the rich, they made America fat and lazy

I realize this is little comfort to those Americans who are currently out of work. And I’ll be honest with you: New hiring is always one of the last things to bounce back after a recession.

And the fact is, even before this crisis hit, we had an economy that was creating a good deal of wealth for those folks at the very top, but not a lot of good-paying jobs for the rest of America.

It’s an economy that simply wasn’t ready to compete in the 21st century, one where we’ve been slow to invest in clean-energy technologies that have created new jobs and industries in other countries, where we’ve watched our graduation rates lag behind too much of the world, and where we spend much more on health care than any other nation, but aren’t any healthier for it.

3) The common man has suffered, or If you don’t like Obama, you want everyone to die writhing in agony

That’s why I’ve said that, even as we rescue this economy from a full-blown crisis, we must rebuild it stronger than before. And health insurance reform is central to that effort.

This is not just about the 47 million Americans who don’t have any health insurance at all. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It’s about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it’s about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

So let me be clear: If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket. If we don’t act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day.

These are the consequences of inaction; these are the stakes of the debate that we’re having right now.

4) Promises – Elaborate promises that are the adult version of coke in every drinking fountain

If you have health insurance, the reform we’re proposing will provide you with more security and more stability. It will keep government out of health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your insurance if you’re happy with it.

It will prevent insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get too sick. It will give you the security of knowing that, if you lose your job, if you move, or if change your job, you’ll still be able to have coverage.

It will limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay for your medical costs out of your own pocket. And it will cover preventive care like check-ups and mammograms that save lives and money.

Now, if you don’t have health insurance or you’re a small business looking to cover your employees, you’ll be able to choose a quality, affordable health plan through a health insurance exchange, a marketplace that promotes choice and competition.

And, finally, no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.

5) Token gesture. His plan will cost trillions of dollars, but look, he saved a couple pennies!

Already we’ve estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform can be paid for by reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs. This includes over $100 billion of unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare, subsidies that do nothing to improve care for our seniors. And I’m pleased that Congress has already embraced these proposals.

6) Slap Republicans. Imply they’re the cause of the problem.

I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics, to turn every issue into a running tally of who’s up and who’s down. I’ve heard that one Republican strategist told his party that, even they may want to compromise, it’s better politics to “go for the kill,” another Republican senator that defeating health reform is about “breaking” me.

So let me be clear: This isn’t about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day and the stories I hear at town hall meetings.

7) Tears. Tell sad anecdotes

This is about the woman in Colorado who paid $700 a month to her insurance company only to find out that they wouldn’t pay a dime for her cancer treatment, who had to use up her retirement funds to save her own life.

This is about the middle-class college graduate from Maryland whose health insurance expired when he changed jobs and woke up from the emergency surgery that he required with $10,000 worth of debt.

As an aside, what percent of his anecdotes do you think are fake? He doesn’t say names or use any way to verify their identity, so it wouldn’t be hard to fabricate. I have a friend in New Jersey who’s a doctor, and he thinks medicine should focus solely on underlying problems and not just treating the symptoms. His own practice has been extremely successful doing just that. Yeah, his name is Dr. Gregory House. See how easy that is? I could even plausibly say I wasn’t lying.

But check out any of his speeches and you’ll see all of these elements in there.

Lessons Learned 2009-7-19

It’s that special time of week where I review what I’ve learned:

1) Skill is often luck masquerading as learning

My experience at juggling has taught me that I didn’t really know how to juggle, at least not in the “toss consistently and know where your hands are” kind of way. The reason that the basics are so important is that so few people have a really good grasp of it that it’s worth hammering in.

2) Don’t keep guests more than a month

I’m going to say that guests wear out their welcome between week three and four, because they start to cramp your lifestyle and force you to build around them. Aki’s sister has two weeks left here, and I’m starting to think of her as the illegal immigrant to my nativist. I’ll miss her more than I think because she does chores that I hate (i.e. dishes), but it is troublesome to be polite when all I want to do is wallow in my unemployed misery, scratching myself while I sprawl out in my underwear watching TV.

3) Big differences can come from little mistakes

I didn’t bring it up, but I played a tennis match against a stranger today. He was pretty decent, quicker than me and left-handed with the lashing strokes of a person who’s never taken formal lessons. The match was actually pretty close for a while, until 2-2, 15-30 (his serve), when he made three bad errors in a row and gave me the game and a lead I’d never relinquish. His game collapsed after that and I ran away with it to an easy win. The thing is that I didn’t even need strategy, those few mistakes made the entire difference.

One other notable is that I had match point at 5-2, love-40 (his serve). He double-faulted on a bad let cord, but I let him have another serve because I don’t want to win like that. I ended up making a couple bad errors myself and he surged with confidence, forcing a long series of deuces. I managed to hold on and win, but another error on my part could have turned the set upside down for me.

4) Why everyone injures their groin trying halo kicks

Working with Eric on halo has made me realize why everyone injures their groin trying. If you don’t know taekwondo, a halo is when you do a jump turning roundhouse kick and land on the kicking leg (meaning you have to turn your hip all the way over in the air). The problem is that a lot of people anticipate the kick from the jump and end up trying to swing their leg around, which uses only the groin muscle. The proper way is to turn all the way around before jumping, so that the leg goes straight and then turns with the hip. Doing it this way put no pressure on the groin because the leg is always in line with the hip.

Goals for the week:
1) Draft is done and sent. Getting a proof and printing if we like it.
2) Testing schedule is tentatively set.
3) Juggle practice is progressing nicely
4) Ran TWELVE miles, hyah
Verdict: Pretty decent. Finding a nice stride.

Lessons Learned 2009-7-12

A brief review of what I learned this week:

1) Simple bruschetta recipe

The simplest bruschetta you can make only requires sliced baguette baked at 350-400 degrees for ten minutes, then topped with olive oil, a little salt, a spoonful of diced tomato, and a small piece of basil. Diced tomato should be bought in a store, since the taste and cost is comparable but the effort is considerably less. It is a delicious and healthy snack (just don’t go crazy with the oil or the portions). My other favorite topping is sliced avocado with diced onions and black pepper, although the avocado and strong beautiful taste means this is significantly less healthy.

2) The most difficult shots have the most room for error

A small detail I noticed while playing pool is that the farther the ball has to travel to get into a pocket, the drastically less likely it is that the shot will go in. As a metaphor for life, the more things that can go wrong with something, the more likely it is that something will. Also, watch for those unintended consequences. Being a good pool player means being conservative, only trying high probability shots.

3) I have a book called Nonviolent Communication. I didn’t read it.

I forgot to write out goals for the week, so there’s no review for that. Oops.