ramen and pickles

science, technology, and medicine served up with some tasty noodles

Monthly Archives: November 2012

Very interesting info graphic about medical specialities, training, compensation, and satisfaction

Ganko Ramen of Ikebukuro

If you want to taste some of the best ramen around to the stealthy ramen joint with the black tarp and the bone.  It has amazing broth (we tried to shio), perfect noodles, melt in your mouth chase that he freshly cuts right in front of you before putting it in your bowl, and delicious caramelized shallots on top

But you don’t have to take my word for it, you can read about in the NY Times: http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/asia/japan/tokyo/77728/ganko/restaurant-detail.html

Or in one of the wonderful ramen blogs out there:  http://www.ramenadventures.com/2010/02/ganko-in-ikebukuro.html


You’ll be lucky enough to see the pictures of visitors as illustrious as yourself, like Martha Stewart and Kenny G:


And you can even consult the family tree of the ramen makers:


The Ramen Museum and Ramusement Park in Yokohama

It is all you might have dreamed and more.


Only a real trip will let you savor the flavors. But you might want to bring an interpreter or learn Japanese before you visit.


Kyoto Train Station

Had a whole floor of ramen!


I only went to one of the places, but it was actually pretty decent ramen.


Pickles of Kyoto

There are some amazing tsukemono shops in Kyoto and a staggering area of different kinds of pickles. Some put out little bowls of samples.
They all seem to end up wrapping them up in plastic and then lovely paper with a sort of pickle them printed on the paper, suitable for framing.


Nishiki Market Pickles Shops:


Pickle shop in the middle of town, a few streets north of the central Kyoto rail station:


Scenes from the famous Murakami-jij pickle production place & shop, and once we had gotten some of their pickles home.


How to succeed in a PhD program – become an obsessed fan

Don’t wait around trying to find something that you are innately passionate about.  Find something reasonable and then BECOME passionate about it.  Obsess over it.  Become boring to talk to at parties because of your single minded focus.  You’ll be making metaphors and similes about aspects in peoples’ personal lives and aspects of the sociopolitical, framing them based on your area of research, just like those crazy fans who turn everything into a sports metaphor.  These might even be funny and suitable for framing as a meme.  Everyone likes a good joke about how the electron band gap structure of different materials relates to phases of dating difficulties.

The choice of obsession is somewhat arbitrary and linked to availability; that’s why you are more likely to be rabid soccer fan if born in Brazil, a rabid hockey fan if born in Canada, or a basketball fan in the US.  However, becoming the rabid fan is the key step.  The particularly domain/sport is somewhat arbitrary, be it American football (e.g. doing cancer research) or curling (e.g. doing work the genomics of coral reef nitrogen metabolism).

An important point is that when you become a crazy, obsessed fan about something, people actually cut you a lot of slack and let you get away with a decent amount of selfishness around your area of obsession, like a sports fan monopolizing a TV.  Once you have been identified as an obsessed fan, people also tend to support you in your efforts, and this helps amplify your focus. They bring things to your attention or just plain give you things related to your obsession, they allow you to skip other life dutie and obligations because of your obligations to your fandom.  You’re also allowed by others and yourself to take things in your area of fandom way too seriously (dressing up like your favorite Harry Potter character, or thinking that the enzymatic reaction you study is the one the universe was created to just permit to happen); however, you can give yourself the space to know that you are indeed taking yourself and your obsession too seriously, but it’s okay.

By being a obsessed fan, you are living a wonderful aspect of the teenage years, when you had the option to fall easily into a different subcultural group based on your shared obsession with a teen idol singer, being a goth, skateboarding, playing WoW, or whatever.  That gave you the support of your fellow co-fans, and your own community with its own incomprehenible jargon and inside jokes.  It also meant that you could keep in mind that you were just going through a phase, and that you could, eventually exit, that phase as a mostly normally functioning adult, and leave that period behind you, if you so choose.  Either to be a boring person without a crazy obsession (or a research topic), depending on your choice.

As you grow in your obsession mania of fanning.  You become a somewhat of an authority, so people ask your advice; a lot of times you won’t know what they expect you to know, but then you’ll be embarassed and quickly learn it, continuing to increase your obsession and your expertise.  Once you are an acknowledged authority and expert fan, you are also excused all kinds of other failings and lacks of knowledge, slipping through other requirements.  Once you love something so much that you need to learn everything there is to know about it, want to travel around talking to other obsessed fans (you don’t have to stay in an RV as there are few academic tailgate opportunities, you can just stay in the conference hotel) and then start to discover new things about it everyone gets sick of your obsession.  They soon make you a doctor of your area of obsession in the hopes that you’ll go talk about your bizarre academic passion somewhere else or at least shut yourself away to write some books.  That is how you succeed in a PhD program.  Face paint is optional.




Infovis and Statistical Graphics: Different Goals, Different Looks

Very interesting paper by Andrew Gelman and Antony Unwin contrasting the different goals of “information visualization” and statistical graphics.  Lots of good critiques here of what data visualizations are actually supposed to be doing.


Lots of good things here.





As a side note, they bring up some interesting new trends in baby naming that have been observed recently, namely that there has been a collapse of variation in the last letter of boys names.  There has been an increasing diversity of names, but there is a convergence of the sound of names.




Last letter of boys’ names in US in 1900:




Last letter of boys’ names in 2010:




Here are other blogs discussing names:


Achar from Amazon.com

It’s a wonderful world when you can order Indian pickles with a single click.


They are absurdly overpriced, but I guess you are paying for the convenience of not getting out of the house.



Racial and cultural issues in healthcare delivery

There are very serious inequities in our healthcare system, and one of the most disturbing is that there are many pieces of evidence that minorities receive worse care than white people and have commensurately worse clinical outcomes.  That is an important part of the narrative we are taught in medical school to motivate what amounts to sensitivity training.  We are essentially taught that clinicians have latent levels of racism, that those who are inattentive to cultural differences or not sensitive to the different backgrounds of their patients are delivering substantially worse care.  There are important issues, including difficulty in communication with patients from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds and sometimes a lack of trust in Western medicine and the predominantly white culture it represents.   We are exposed to anecdotal horror stories.  However, are physicians really that ethnocentric, racist and insensitive as a group?


The more current research suggests not.  Motivated to look into these serious racial inequalities, Darrell Gaskin, professor of health economics & African American studies at UMD (now at Hopkins), and his colleagues did a very extensive analysis which covered 44% of the US population.    44%!


They did find that there was substantially worse care for minority patients across several different conditions and treatments.  However, when they looked closely, they saw that the differences were all attributable to the fact that the minority patients were much more likely to be receiving care at a worse hospital with less well trained doctors.


“There is empirical evidence demonstrating that compared to white patients, minority patients tend to use specialists with poorer clinical outcomes and primary care physicians with less clinical training and with less access to specialists and hospital-based specialty services.”


Was there anything left to indicate that minority patients were receiving worse care at some hospitals?


“For African American and Hispanic patients, we found significantly higher rates of adverse events in less than 5 percent of hospitals, with the exception of decubitus ulcer for African Americans. More than 13 percent of hospitals had higher decubitus ulcer rates for their African American patients than for their white patients.”


If statistical significance is test at the p=0.05 threshold, that means that about 5% of the time you can expect to find a difference; it is a attributable to random error.  That suggests that even in hospitals where there seems to be some difference, it could be due to random chance.


However, the important part of the story is that at a given hospital, patients seem to be all treated about the same.  You can find minority patients who receive poor quality care, but you can find white patients as well who receive crappy care, in about the same proportion.  Healthcare providers seem to be decent at providing roughly the same quality of care, on average, to all their patients.


How do we fix this problem if there are poorly performing hospitals that are treating minorities in high proportions?


“Several studies have shown that minority patients are concentrated in a relatively fewer hospitals and that these hospitals tend to be lower performing.”


That should be good news.  That means that a lot of the effect is from relatively few hospitals and that attention can be focused there if we want to reduce iniquities in healthcare delivery.  It’s not a bad thing to teach cultural and racial sensitivity to medical students, in fact it’s a great thing.  However, it is not clear to me that is where the change needs to happen.    We should be figuring out ways to incentivize specialists and physicians with experience and advanced training to work in underserved communities  and what are currently poorly functioning hospitals.  It will be interesting to see if expanded healthcare coverage will improve some of these serious issues.






Use Emoji in file and folder names on Mac OS X

This is kind of interesting, you can apparently use the emoji characters in file and folder names in Mac.

“It is possible to use Emoji in file and folder names. When typing a file or folder name, you can choose Edit > Special Characters, click on Emoji, and add the symbols you want to use. They will display in the Finder as part of the item???s name. If you use them at the beginning of a file name, they sort above numbers but below spaces.”


Emoji are basically super-emoticons that were developed by the Japanese to enhance texting on smart phones.    Wikipedia explains in greater detail:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emoji