Ramen Resolution: Maki Ramen

Ramen Resolution: Maki Ramen

What to do with a spare hour in Edinburgh? That was a dilemma I faced today.

It was a toss up between going back to Union of Genius (a shop I visited in 2015 which only sells three soups each day and you can do a soup flight!) or finding a ramen place.

Maki Ramen was just around the corner from where I was, they had a 4.4 rating on Google AND I really liked their logo, so the choice had been made for me.

Hardly surprising that at 4pm I was the only customer, but the walls are decorated with post-it notes from customers and it’s clear to see that there’s a lot of love for this place. Bonus point for the ramen-based joke.

I ordered the vegetable gyoza and the black garlic tonkotsu (the online menu shows lots of different options that weren’t on the IRL one).

The ramen arrived first; burnt garlic oil and garlic chips packed a powerful garlicky punch. The broth was perhaps on the less viscous side, especially considering it was a tonkotsu, but delicious all the same.

The pork was perhaps a little dry, but they had scorched the outside edges to give a sweet, smoky crispness.

The gyoza was disappointing. Firstly, I think I ordered vegetable but pork arrived (but I could have misordered) and the filling was a bit too pureed. That would have been ok ordinarily, but instead of a dipping sauce, the tangy ponzo had been drizzled over the dumplings. This made even the fried crispy part soggy, so it was all just a bit wet.

Maki Ramen was good enough, relatively cheap, and well located. But other than the pork there was nothing extra special about it, so I’m awarding a middle-of-the-road 3/5.

Ramen Resolution: Kanada-Ya Picadilly

Ramen Resolution: Kanada-Ya Picadilly

I’m not sure ramen is the best pre-theatre food – it’s too comforting and often all I want to do afterwards is go home and sit.

However, it had been a while since my last post and there was a restaurant I wanted to check out just around the corner from the Haymarket Theatre, so it seemed like the obvious choice.

Kanada-Ya has got a few branches in London (I’ve previously reviewed the Covent Garden branch) but this time it was the Piccadilly shop that we called in to. They don’t seat incomplete parties and Mel was running late (she has a geography degree but she got lost!) so I was doing my best to defend our place in the queue.

Side note: One thing I liked about restaurants in NYC is the system for putting your name down, we should import that.

The bonus of ramen is that it’s quick and people don’t drag it out, so it wasn’t long before we were seated.

I ordered the salmon onigiri to start, I chose the Chicken Paitan and Mel opted for the basic Tonkotsu ramen. We both naturally added an egg, which should always come as standard (I am prepared to die on this particular hill).

The onigiri looked better than they tasted; a more liberal squirt of mayonnaise and a bit more salmon would have improved it no end. The noodles were great, just the right firmness (hard) and my broth was thicker than some of the chicken broths I’ve previously tried.

I also had a beer, purely because it had the same name as my cat!

We didn’t stay long because we had to collect tickets and go see a show, but I’d definitely go back to Kanada-Ya again.

Also – a shout out for them being the only ramen joint I’ve visited that has a specific kids ramen menu.

Kanada-Ya Piccadilly gets a solid 4/5.

thank u, women in resilience

thank u, women in resilience

Emergencies affect everyone differently. Race, age, ethnicity, affluence and level of education are just some of the factors which determine your vulnerability (and resilience). Gender is also a factor, with women more likely to die than men after a large scale disaster.

But this blog isn’t about that…

This morning I watched this lecture on popular misconceptions about disaster.

Another misconception that Hollywood’s gets wrong is about women’s role to cope during disaster, as shown by this parody clip:

But this blog isn’t about that either.

This is a blog written on International Women’s Day 2019, to say “thank you” to the hundreds of women I have worked alongside. Thanks for the work they do to make people safer and for everything I have learnt from them.

I can’t thank everyone individually, but I’ve picked out those whose tutelage has had the most lasting impact…

Agnes offered me a job on the same day that I met her. Nobody would call her logical, or predictable, but her dedication and passion could not be questioned. She pushed me into doing things that I was uncomfortable doing and had faith in me when I didn’t always have it in myself.

Long after meeting her, I remember still being in awe of Sue‘s experience in emergency management. As well as her ‘battle stories’, she taught me about determination and to read between the lines. She acted as a mentor more than a manager.

Over the last two years, I’ve relied on Lucy more than she realises. She sees things through a different lens, one which I feel gives greater consideration to outcome over process. She is a demonstration that sensitive, technical and complex subjects can be approached in a compassionate, human way, but still with a sense of humour.

Fiona has a pragmatic, considered and calm approach to the most challenging circumstances, and has taught me the importance of taking even the briefest moment to reflect, consider alternatives and contingencies before a decision is made. In her words “you often have more time than you realise”.

And finally, J, whose request for us to “be real” and avoid obfuscation really resonates with me. It’s something I’m trying to bring through this blog, and how I communicate at work. And something I’m still working on!

Helen, Alison, Aggie, Kate, Lynn, Gail, Robyn, Barb, Megan, Susan…There are tons of brilliant women out there in resilience (and every field) who as well as being excellent at what they do, bring valuable and important perspectives.

Thank u.

Revisiting Red Teaming

Revisiting Red Teaming

Red Teaming: The independent application of a range of structured, creative and critical thinking techniques to assist the end user to make a better-informed decision or create a more robust product.

That’s a kinda academic way to say “having (and welcoming) someone whose job it is to critique you”. 

I originally wrote about this in February 2017, and a lot has changed for me professionally since then. Based on recent experience, I wondered whether I would approach this differently now, has my thinking had evolved? 

recent Twitter exchange gave me a renewed interest in this idea and so picking up on the key aspects of that discussion, I’ve revisited my previous post. 

Is a Red Team a name for something that already exists? 

Yes and no.

Decisions in emergencies (in a UK context at least) are made by consensus. So there is already a structure whereby people with different experience and responsibilities reach decisions jointly. A variety of aspects and implications will have already been considered and extremes moderated or discounted.

However, ‘decisions by committee’ typically take longer to reach and run the risk of ‘group think’ where the desire for harmony in the group results in dysfunctional decisions.

A Red Team is about doing what you normally do, what you have been trained to do; but then taking an equally qualified objective team and seeing if they have any other perspectives you haven’t considered either about the decision you have reached or the way in which you reached it.

UPDATE: A colleague also pointed out that the type of feedback that I would anticipate coming from a Red Team is can also be (although in many cases isn’t) provided in the form of post-exercise reports. However, these are painfully slow to be produced, missing the oportunity to make dynamic change.

What are the barriers to Red Teaming?

There are many, but I think they can be broadly categorised into two groups; culture and resources.

We all like to think that we have the answers, and so accepting that in ambiguous, high risk and complex situations we might always have thought of everything shows self-awareness. Adopting a Red Team approach would signify to me high levels of strategic leadership maturity.

On the resources side, sorry, I think sometimes you have to take a hit. However, this should be balanced against the cost of sub-optimal decisions being made. Arguably that’s much harder to quantify, but having a stab at working out the return on investment would be a better approach than looking at expenditure.

Clearly embedding Red Teams would take time, money and will, but should that be a barrier to doing things better?

A (red) rose by any other name…

I don’t get hung up on what this structure would be called.

I became aware of the concept through a TV drama Newsroom, where it was called a Red Team, and that term has stuck with me as shorthand.

I have mixed feelings about the militarization of civil emergency management. However, there is no escaping that Red Teams have a military connection, where they are used to good effect. Typically, where the military goes, the civil emergency response follows.

The 2010 Ministry of Defence guidance on Red Teaming states it is a “practical response to overcoming the complex problems introduced by our human frailties, helping us to recognise them and correct our thinking and analysis before faulty judgements are cemented in the minds of key decision makers.” I think that’s equally as applicable in a civil context.

Perhaps recognising a militarisation tendency, NATO has opted to call their structure ‘Alternative Analysis’. You could also think about De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats and call it White Hatting, that has a peculiar ring, but might look entertaining in a control room!

What am I doing to implement Red Teaming?

I’m not convinced I’m adding much actual substance to the conversation, other than being an advocate of ‘let’s try it’.

In a lower-key way, I made a recent decision to bring someone in specifically to check my working out on a particularly complex project at work. It was really helpful to have someone force me to reflect on my proposals, and can really see how this could be scaled up. 

I’m interested in views of colleagues on how this could be applicable and how some of the barriers could be addressed.

Ramen Resolution – Ruckus Ramen

Ramen Resolution – Ruckus Ramen

Finding a ramen place on holiday isn’t difficult, especially in North America. But choosing a ramen place on holiday is a whole ‘nother matter.

I depend heavily on “Top 20 ramen joints in [city]” articles to narrow down the options for me. That’s how I discovered Ruckus Ramen in Boston, which appeared in this Thillist list.

I had arrived just as they were opening, so I was awkwardly the only patron for a little while.

I also missed the instruction to order at the cash register (check me out using Americanisms) so there was a bit of a standoff whilst both sides waited for the other to make a move. Eventually, I placed my order for tempura pickled Padron peppers and the Tori Paitan ramen, mainly beause it was heralded as a ‘crowdpleaser’ in that list I found.

The Padron peppers were delicious, salty, sour, crispy…everything I like!

However, I was disappointed when it came to the noodles. Not because there was anything wrong, but I definitely ordered badly.

I was seduced by what Ruckus call ‘swag’ but everywhere else calls extras. I’d pimped my ramen, with something called an umami bomb, and friends, it bombed.

The crispy chicken skin was not, and it just made the broth gloopy with collagen. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish it because it was just too thick.

That aside, heritage cauliflower was an interesting topping and something that I would try again.

Looking back there are other things on the menu which I should have ordered instead (step forward black garlic mazeman) so, the moral of this story is definitely to take time to read the menu in detail!

It seems unfair to rate Ruckus badly due to inept ordering, but if you’re going to force me I’d give it 2/5.

Ramen Resolution – back to Nanban

Ramen Resolution – back to Nanban

It’s a rare occasion that I’m early for, well, anything. But a diary misunderstanding today meant that I ended up two hours early for a thing.

After eating, drinking, browsing, reading and general perusing…I even had time to update on some recent ramen adventures! Joy of joys!

My last visit to Nanban was on 31 December 2017. I remember then being intrigued by the idea of curried goat ramen.

After 364 days, I surrendered to the nagging voice in my head and headed back to the Brixton restaurant. I was not disappointed.

I had a cocktail (because; festive), placed my order (because; hungry) and settled back in to my book (because; other resolutions).

Crispy gyoza is a cool idea, but they tasted a bit greasy. The noodles were delicious though. Spicy, slightly sour broth, and meaty hunks of goat dotted through the bowl. It’s not the best egg that I’ve ever had, but hard to really find fault!

I think I’d still prefer soft and juicy pork belly as the meat, but I’m always up for trying new things, and would definitely return to Nanban again to assess the seafood ramen, which isn’t an option you see in a lot of places.

It’s slightly on the expensive side compared to other options in London, but you get what you pay for and so as a ‘last meal of 2018’ I felt it was justified.

I think I’ve given up on my rating system (although it would probably be a solid 4). In hindsight,the system wasn’t well enough developed at the outset, and I’m not sure after so many posts that I can introduce something new. What to do dear reader?!

If in doubt, eat more ramen! Peace.

Ramen Resolution – Ramen-ya

Ramen Resolution – Ramen-ya

Guys!! I thought I did a noodle hat-trick in New York City, but then I was going through my photos and realised I actually squeezed in 4 bowls of deliciousness.

I’m fairly sure me forgetting Ramen-ya tells you quite a lot already, without me actually telling you anything yet.

It wasn’t bad ramen. It wasn’t great ramen. So I guess that makes it ra-meh-n?

It was a busy night in Greenwich Village, and Ramen-ya was busy too. But again, as a single diner, I was slotted in at the counter straightaway. However, someone had had the genius plan to not have the kitchen visible behind the counter, so you just looked upon an empty void used for storage of boxes.

I chose the miso Tonkotsu. It was everything you would typically expect, pork, mushrooms, egg. All very tasty, but to be honest after Mr Taka, the next noodles were always going to have to step up their game to be in the same league.

Would I go back? Sure, but only if other options weren’t available.

Ramen-ya, you were perfectly ok, but nothing really set you apart. I’m therefore giving you a firm 3/5.