Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How to Find a Good Sushi Restaurant

I can't take credit for this post. My older brother found this on Sushi Otaku's blog, which is pretty self explanatory: How to Find a Good Sushi Restaurant.

One thing I didn't know from before:

The tamago (egg) nigiri is a bellwether of things to come.
I asked my brother about this, and he agreed. "When Charlie Trotter first started out in Chicago," he explained, "he was interviewing for some position with another chef. The guy said to him, 'Let's see if you can cook. Make me an omelette.' So apparently the egg is really hard to get right." The humble egg, it seems, is a prime indicator of a sushi chef's skill in both Japanese and French cuisine, just like stir-fried beef is for Cantonese cooking, and Kung Pao Chicken for any Chinese restaurant claiming a Szechuan/Hunan heritage.

Ume-maki ... what's the point? Nearly every sushi aficionado always talked about the fish, the fish, and the fish. If you're going to pay $4 for two pieces of nigiri, you'd better believe I'm going for the hamachi tuna. According to one of the comments of this blog, the Japanese plum is taken as a sort of traditional dessert, or wrap-up to a meal. I'll have to try it one of these days, after polishing off a whole fish.

There are some follow-up comments posted by some dude called 'Brian' (no relation to me) in the aforementioned blog that I simply don't agree with, one in particular:

A Japanese itamae is indicative of a good sushi restaurant. I think i'll have to call upon all my first order logic skills to dispatch this one. **ahem** The presence of a Japanese itamae is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for a good sushi restaurant. I've had terrible sushi served to me by itamaes of all races, shapes, and sizes. And I've had great sushi made by non-japanese chefs. Perhaps this is less of an issue with other cuisines, I don't know. To paraphrase Anthony Bourdain, chances are, that awesome 3-star risotto you're eating has been prepared by some anonymous Salvadorean laborer hunkering over a hot stove in a 98-degree kitchen.

At any rate, I'll have more on sushi in the next few days. I'm down in LA again, and that means I'll try to make a stop at my favorite place in Orange County: Sushi Wasabe.

Although, I might have to stop at Uoko sometime, based on this review.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Wherein FBS attempts to avoid Southwest Airlines bum-rush, fails

Finals ended a week ago. I'm flying home to LA at 9AM on June 17th.

I usually fly Southwest Airlines whenever I fly home. If it weren't for a lingering stash of in-flight drink coupons and my feeble attempt to get one last free flight with my Southwest Airlines Credit Card, I'd be flying Jetblue all the time, every time. Southwest Airlines treats you like cattle, gives you peanuts for the inflight meal, and provides no real in-flight entertainment. I can only read so much Skymall and Spirit Magazine before I want to gouge my eyes out and vomit all over my shoes. The biggest issue I have with Southwest, though, is that the first-come-first-serve seating system ends up being a total zoo.

Anyone who has ever flown with Southwest knows that passengers are separated into three boarding groups (A, B, and C), and that there is no assigned seating. The A-group has traditionally been populated by go-getters, people with their shit together, and very lucky bastards. They get first dibs on seats, get to stash their luggage anywhere they want, and pretty much don't have to worry about anything.

The B group is the moderate-stress group. You want to be first in line in the B-group so the net effect is that you still get first dibs on seats. If you're in the middle of the pack or towards the end of B-group, you're searching for a dwindling supply of acceptable open seats. You get a bit more choice too: do you sit next to the hottie on aisle 9A, or next to Mrs. Trunchbull in 14B?

C-group boarders are pretty much hosed. Choices are limited: do you sit next to the hottie on aisle 9A, or next to Mrs. Trunchbull in 14B? Well, sorry buddy, you get neither. You get to enjoy the presence of screaming baby #29 near the front of the plane. Oh, and I'm sorry sir, but there's no more overhead space and we'll have to check in your luggage below. But that's full of martini glasses and fine china. Tough luck, big shot. Beggars can't be choosers.

Here's my little secret though: I usually log in at the stroke of midnight to print out my boarding pass the night before (technically the day of). I've been doing this for years now, and I've always been in boarding group A. Let me tell you, it makes the whole day so much better. You don't need to worry about rushing to the airport early to get to the front of the B-line because you're guaranted to be one of the first 40 or so people to choose seats. You can stash your luggage wherever you like. However, it has recently come to my attention that I'll have to switch my choice of carrier soon.

Get this:

It's 12:01 A.M. I log into my Southwest Airlines online reservation system, fill out a few web forms, and click on "show and print my boarding pass." Half a second later, it shows up on my screen.

I'm in boarding group B.

What the hell just happened here? Do you know what this means?

That means in the space of one minute, forty people -- possibly more -- managed to log into Southwest Airlines' website, check in, and print out their boarding passes before I did. How many people know about this trick? And how long before I log in the same time, do everything right, and still get slotted into boarding group C?

So, it seems that if I want to keep ahead of the curve, I should start flying Jetblue from now on. I will be landing at a closer airport (Long Beach), get a bag of actual snack food (chips and pretzels), watch TV, enjoy fresh airplane scent (aka newer planes), AND have guaranteed assigned seating. I can even change my seating choices at the airport.

But tell me this: what the hell am I going to do with $24 worth of Southwest drink coupons?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

In which Marc Jacobs incites drunken political rantings

((Note: Names changed in this story.))

The very first day it opened, the Marc Jacobs store on the corner of Fillmore and Sacramento featured twenty-five mannequins in their storefront window, all dressed in t-shirts and red, white, and blue briefs. They stood behind an enormous American flag with the letters on their shirts spelling out “MARC JACOBS SAN FRANCISCO”.

And then, a tiny little sign down at their feet: “Although we don’t like our president, we still love our country!”

It was something you could only pull off in a place like San Francisco, or Berkeley. For weeks, the storefront – once an upscale designer furniture store – was covered in black plywood sheets, frustrating curious passers-by. What was going on in there? Who’s moving into that space? And why is everything blocked off? And when the covers came off, there it was: outlandishly bad taste that suddenly became hip and stylish. You couldn’t do that with Dockers.

Weeks passed. And then a few nights ago, I was walking back from the fundraising celebration bash with a couple fellow students,we passed by the store again. This time, the flag was taken down. And the mannequins stood behind letters six feet tall that said “WORST PRESIDENT EVER”.

I got a good laugh out of it, but Mark didn’t think so. “That’s treason!,” he said. “This is really pissing me off. I gotta go bomb this place or something.”

Treason? Are you kidding me? Hasn’t he ever heard of Benedict Arnold, Hans Max Haupt, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg? How about the CIA officers who were double agents, selling secrets and exposing their colleagues to the KGB? That pissed me off, and I had to say something.

“Are you kidding me? That’s patriotic dissent. Are you saying that if you disagree with the president or just give your opinion you’re a traitor? Dude, if no one ever spoke out against anyone in power, you wouldn’t even have this country – hell, you wouldn’t even have democracy. That's what the founding fathers did.”

It didn't take much to hear the contempt in his voice. “Yeah, well, once you start collecting a paycheck, you’ll be a Republican.”

I had heard this line before -- the last resort of an ideologue full of himself, attempting to write me off as too young and idealistic. I thought to myself, What the fuck. He's my age, maybe a year younger. Who the fuck is this guy? It pissed me off before, and it pissed me off again. I wasn't going to take this lying down, especially from a drunk, self-centered asshole like himself.

“Fuck you!" I said. "I’ve collected paychecks before, man. And I’m STILL a Democrat.”

“Well, once you start collecting a DENTIST-sized paycheck, you’ll be a Republican.”

I started to get REALLY pissed off, but the calmer half of me told me not to pursue it further. So, I laughed it off. It was probably the best thing to do; I think if we had continued along that path, it would've lead to a pretty nasty fistfight.

Still, that brief, alcohol-fueled conversation helped me realize that most people really don’t want democracy. They want dominion. They want strength and power. They want egalitarianism so long as it levels the playing field so that they can boost themselves to new heights. You have to seriously question the purported democratic ideals of someone who wants to shut up everyone who disagrees with him, without discussing the issues like rational, mature adults.

Seriously, did this guy ever think about what or where his tax money goes to? Or how the government is run? Did someone sleep through fifth-grade civics class?

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I love it when I hear about something in class months before that same topic hits the mainstream public consciousness. What can I say? I'm a big nerd. Otherwise, I wouldn't be in dental school to begin with.

In this week's edition of Oral Fixations, I bring to you the New York Times' coverage of the link between Bisphosphonates (e.g., Fosamax) and Mandibular Osteonecrosis.

The most frustrating thing about this article is that it leaves the most pressing questions unresolved. Midway into the article, you find this paragraph:

Doctors say worried patients hearing about the ailment are starting to besiege them. The patients want to know whether they should stop taking the drugs. They want to know whether they should shun invasive dental procedures, like tooth extractions and implants, which appear to set off the condition. They want to know whether osteonecrosis of the jaw can be treated and, if so, how likely it is that a person will recover.

They never answer this question. But in their defense, there really isn't a definitive answer right now. The link between osteonecrosis and biphosphonates has only been under scrutiny for a few years. So for now, we're being taught in school to cover our asses and be thorough in our health history interviews. The last thing we want is to pull a tooth and watch their entire jaw melt away.