On a miserable, drizzly afternoon, Phillip and I walked over to the corner store, bought ingredients for dinner, continued walking to Top Pot for lattes to go, and then walked home and played a game of Pandemic.

Pandemic is a cooperative board game. Either everybody wins or everybody looses. The goal is to find cures for four pandemic diseases before time runs out.

Each player is assigned a specific role, with specific abilities. Phillip drew the Scientist, with the ability to share knowledge. I drew the Medic, with the ability to treat diseases.

We’d eradicated two diseases, and had found the cure for a third. I drew the last two player cards, however, and the game would be over at the end of Phillip’s turn. We were going to lose, but we agreed to play it out.

Then, in a research station in Istanbul, Phillip acquired five blue cards. The fourth disease had been cured. We won the game.

We both enjoy cooperative games, and Pandemic is a lot of fun.

A Followup

Despite the impression I may have given in this morning’s review of Kitchen Confidential, I actually did enjoy most of the book. It was just that there were parts I didn’t enjoy. I also felt the book was too long. If the chapters were arranged into smaller books, with more focus, I would have given one or more of those books a glowing review.

I discovered today that several full episodes of No Reservations exist on the internet – either on YouTube or on the Travel Channel web site. I found that these episodes are too distracting to listen to while I work. I need something less visual and/or more dumbed down. I managed to listen to one episode – where Anthony Bourdain and his wife are in Rio de Janeiro – before I realized it just wasn’t working out.

The TV show, like the book, rambles through a lot of topics – travel, food, history, politics, sports, and family – but No Reservations follows a cohesive storyline, and the various topics tend to blend together soothly. That’s what I wanted the book to do.

I loved this show, and I hope I find some opportunity (not at work) to re-watch some of these episodes.


A Book About Food

Kitchen ConfidentialKitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain, was originally published in 2000.

In the preface, Anthony Bourdain makes no apologies for his rough manner, or for his “blustery” words, or for the fact the pages of this book are “laced with testosterone”. That’s the way chefs act, he claims. Chefs are people who work behind closed doors, who became chefs because they don’t know how to behave in public.

For those reasons, he finds the concept of celebrity chefs annoying. Anthony Bourdain is a celebrity chef. “I suck,” he writes.

But, he insists, he loves the restaurant business. He loves the black and white of it. There are things you must do, and things you absolutely must not do.

The 310-page book begins with his introduction to the love of fine food (it was an act of rebellion against his parents during a family vacation in France) and his entrance into the restaurant life (it was a dishwashing job when he needed money that turned into a line cook position).

Anthony Bourdain writes of his experiences as a student at the Culinary Institute of America, where one instructor was so tough that he caused a veteran of the Vietnam War to run away in terror.

The book offers advice for ordering in a restaurant. Never order fish on Monday. Never order mussels unless you know the chef. Never, ever order Hollandaise sauce. Yes, the bread on your table is probably from the bread other tables didn’t eat, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

He argues that a great chef is a craftsman, not an artist.

He offers tips for cooking like a professional chef. (One tip is: Lots of butter.)

He tells stories of the ups and downs of his career – lots and lots and lots of stories about dictatorial head chefs, of cooks (including himself) high on drugs, of failing restaurants run by “knuckleheads”, and, in a chapter named Apocalypse Now, of machine guns assembled for sale in the back a certain waterfront restaurant. One of the reviews on the back cover compares Chef Bourdain’s style to the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson, and I think that’s a perfect comparison. Anthony Bourdain makes a professional kitchen sound like an outlaw motorcycle gang.

He devotes an entire chapter to A Day in the Life of his job as the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles. The food is French, the employees speak English and Spanish, and the pace is hectic.

There’s a chapter on how to curse in Spanish, and how to properly insult your coworkers. (This was, by far, my least favorite chapter. I’m not convinced that creating a hostile work environment is necessary to build strength, no matter how stressful a job may be.)

He tells you that all of this is absolutely true. Then he shows that it’s not.

There is a lot going on in this book – maybe too much. I’m not sure who the intended audience is supposed to be. There is advice for people who eat at restaurants, and for people who want work in a restaurant. There are stories for people who want to start a career, for people presently in the career, and for people who want to remember the good old days. Kitchen Confidential is part memoir, part travelogue, part cookbook, and part exposé.

I loved Anthony Bourdain’s TV show No Reservations, back when I watched TV. So, when I was choosing a book for this Category, I immediately thought of Anthony Bourdain. I really do enjoy his writing. Unfortunately, for me, what worked in a one-hour TV show was too much in a 301-page book.

  • A book about food

One Extra Book

The alarm woke me up Sunday morning. I’d forgotten to turn it off. I was tired and sore from Saturday’s march. I spent Sunday reading, playing Cities:Skylines, playing The Sims 4, walking to Top Pot and back, and not much else.

Phillip got home from NorWesCon somewhere between five and six in the evening. I helped him unpack. Neither one of us felt like cooking food, or walking up to Broadway for dinner, so we ordered a pizza and watched Wish I Was Here – one of our current DVDs from Netflix.

Phillip told me stories of his adventures at NorWesCon. It sounded like fun. He actually had some free time to enjoy the convention this year, he told me. I’m glad.

Phillip brought home some books for me (and us) – freebies from the registration swag bag, and an autographed copy of The Light Side of the Moon, by Elizabeth Guizzetti. Unfortunately, I had to remind him that I already had a copy of The Light Side of the Moon.

Last year, at NorWesCon 39, I met Elizabeth Guizzetti and bought her book, Other Systems. I bought it, and read it, for the 2016 Reading Challenge. I started reading it during the convention, and was enjoying it so much that I bought the sequel, The Light Side of the Moon, at that year’s charity auction. Apparently, Phillip remembered the first part of that story, but not the second part. It’s been quite a weekend.

bookshelfThe copy Phillip bought this year is autographed by the author. The copy I bought last year is not. So, this morning, I brought my copy to work and contributed it to the office lending library. (I could have contributed it to the bookshelf in Phillip’s office, and made a little more money for the food banks. But I didn’t think of that until the book was already on the shelf.)


Anyone who borrows the book from my office will soon realize that it’s a sequel. Maybe they won’t mind. I think the book stands on its own without having read the first one. Maybe if someone borrows it, they’ll enjoy it enough to buy Other Systems, and a local author will benefit. It’s OK that Phillip bought a book I already have. It all works out.

My Extended Family

Mary and Henry Burke were already married when they moved into a house in Willow Creek. Mary was a scientist. Henry was a painter.


Mary and Henry

Mary and Henry have one child: a son named Aquarius Burke.


young Aquarius Burke

Mary and Henry have retired to a home in the Countryside neighborhood of Windenburg. They have both died, and have chosen to spend eternity as ghosts. They spend their retirement pay on camping trips to Granite Falls.

Henry and Mary

When he was old enough to move out, Aquarius answered a “roommate wanted” ad placed by a woman named Francine Cha. He moved into Francine’s cramped, rundown apartment in the Fashion District of San Myshuno. Aquarius and Francine were both loners. Aquarius was socially awkward. They were uncomfortable roommates.

Francine and Aquarius

Francine and Aquarius

Francine Cha has remained close to her longtime friend, Daryl Robards. They both feel as if they’d known each other in a previous life. Francine feels some romantic attraction toward Daryl, but understands that he prefers men. Daryl is now a vampire. He’s almost always asleep when Francine comes to visit.

Daryl and Francine

Daryl and Francine

Somehow, despite the awkwardness, Aquarius Burke and Francine Cha fell in love, married, and raised a family. As their family grew, they moved into larger and larger apartments in San Mayshuno, finally settling into a three-bedroom apartment in the Arts Quarter.

Aquarius Francine and family

Francine and Aquarius have three children. Their eldest, Lily Cha-Burke, married Rita Somberg, from Oasis Springs. They’ve moved in with Francine, in San Myshuno, thinking that Francine is in her last days. They have two children.

Lily and Rita

Lily (on the right) and Rita

Lily and Rita’s older daughter, Rylie Cha-Somberg, recently became a young adult and moved into a cheap San Myshuno apartment across the hall from her parents. Rylie is pursuing a career in law enforcement.


Rylie Cha-Somberg

Lily and Rita’s younger daughter, Reece Cha-Somberg, is still a child. Reece enjoys visiting her ghost great-grandparents in Windenburg. She gets excellent grades in school.


Reece Cha-Somberg

Aquarius and Francine’s second child, Spencer Burke-Cha, married his childhood sweetheart, Cassandra Goth.  They’ve moved into a modest two-bedroom house in Willow Creek. They’ve decided to not have children. They use the space bedroom as a music studio.

Spencer and Cassandra

Spencer and Cassandra

Aquarius and Francine’s third child, Chris Cha-Burke, married Wendy Ashby. They met at GeekCon. Chris and Wendy share the three-bedroom apartment with Lily, Rita, Reece, and Francine.

Chris and Wendy

Chris and Wendy

Wendy and Chris have one child, a daughter named Annie Ashby-Burke. Annie is a toddler. She is fiercely independent.


Annie Ashby-Burke

Francine Cha outlived Aquarius Burke.

Aquarius dies

After Aquarius passed away, Francine married a painter named Sam Moore.

Sam and Francine

Sam and Francine

Francine outlived Sam, too.

Sam Dies

Francine Cha currently has a new boyfriend, a much younger man named Karim Al Habib.

Francine and Karim

Francine and Karim

Francine also has a girlfriend, named Cheyanne Greenwood. Cheyanne wants to move in with Francine, and settle down. Francine doesn’t want to give up her relationship with Karim.

Francine and Cheyanne

Francine and Cheyanne

Cheyanne is also much younger than Francine. Then again, just about everyone is younger than Francine.

It seems like Francine Cha is going to live forever.

I am rather enjoying this new method of playing The Sims 4, following just one multi-generational family.




No Convention, But Plenty Of Walking

Yesterday, I sent Phillip a text message saying that I was going to the Black Lives Matter march today, instead of NorWesCon. His reply was: “Awesome!”

Right before I left our apartment this afternoon, Phillip sent me another text message: “Photos or it didn’t happen”

I rode Link light rail to Westlake, where the rally started. I had a hot dog from Dog In The Park while I listened to speeches and music. I had fun reading everyone’s signs – there were many voices and groups there. The park was jammed with people, so we were constantly bumping into each other to let people pass. It was, indeed, awesome. Sakura-Con was going on nearby, so every once in a while, people in cosplay would squeeze through the crowd. It was fun and exciting.

Westlake rally


I was expecting rain, so I wore a heavy coat. I was hoping to buy a black beanie at the rally, so I didn’t wear a hat. The sun was shining, there was no rain, and I was much too hot in my coat. They were selling beanies up at the stage, but I never got up there.

When the rally ended, the march began. I hadn’t read, beforehand, what the parade route would be. I was surprised. It was the most interesting route I’d ever been a part of.

From Westlake, we marched south on 5th Avenue. Then we turned west onto Union Street. Then we marched south on 2nd Avenue. Then we turned east onto the rather steep, uphill Marion Street. Then we turned north on 4th Avenue, and marched past Westlake. Then we turned east on Virginia Street.

The marched ended on the steps of the US District Courthouse, where a second rally took place. Then the parade route made sense. If we had marched directly from Westlake to the Courthouse, the march would have been just two blocks long.

Courthouse rally

Courthouse panorama

I stayed for most of the second rally. Then I walked back to Westlake Mall. I hadn’t been there in a long time, and I was surprised to find that the entire food court was gone. I found a Taco del Mar in the mall, however, and I had a taco salad.

Then I rode light rail back to Capitol Hill, and walked home.

I am exhausted, but it’s a good kind of exhausted.

A Wild Hare

Year of the HareJäniksen vuosi, by Arto Paasilinna, was published in Finland in 1975. It was translated into English by Herbert Lomas in 1995 as The Year of the Hare.

A photographer and a journalist are out on assignment. They’d been arguing. They’re both angry. The photographer is driving. The sun is in their eyes.

A young hare is practicing hopping. It leaps in front of a car. The photographer tries to stop in time, but the hare is hit. It staggers off into the woods.

The jouralist, whose name is Kaarlo Vatanen, gets out of the car and walks into the woods. He finds the hare. Its leg is broken. He makes a splint for the leg, holds the scared animal in his arms, sits down on the ground, and ignores the photographer’s calls to return to the car.

The photographer, still angry, drives off and leaves Vatanen in the woods. He checks into the hotel, gets drunk, and waits for Vatanen to catch up. He starts to worry, so he hires a taxi to take him back to the scene of the accident. Vatanen is nowhere to be found.

The photographer calls Vatanen’s wife and their magazine editor, but neither is terribly concerned. Vatanen will show up, eventually.

Vatanen has decided to drop out of society, and live in the Finnish wilderness, with the hare by his side. Suddenly, his wife and his editor are terribly concerned.

The foreword, by Pico Iyer, compares Vatanen to Gauguin and Thoreau.

The Year of the Hare is a comedy.

Vatanen finds a veterinarian who treats the hare’s injuries, and gives Vatanen a special permit to allow him to keep a wild hare, which isn’t strictly allowed. All through his journey, Vatanen meets people like the vet, who care more about doing what’s right than about following the rules.

As Vatanen travels northward through the wilderness, stopping into towns and villages, he encounters many friendly, eccentric people, like the District Superintendent who takes him fishing and shares his conspiracy theory that President Kekkonen has been replaced by a look-alike.  He encounters a clergyman, who, thinking a wild animal is loose in the church, ends up shooting Jesus in the kneecap and himself in the foot, and then performs a wedding before being taken to the hospital. Not everyone he meets is friendly, however. Vatanen has many adventures and misadventures, all with the faithful hare by his side.

Vatanen lives off the money he made from selling his beloved boat. He also works manual labor jobs here and there, fighting fires, repairing lodge houses, or cutting trees. As he moves farther north, toward the Arctic Circle, he moves farther away from his former office job in Helsinki, both physically and mentally.

The Year of the Hare is a fun, anti-establishment romp. I enjoyed it a lot. As I read it, I wondered if there was a message in all this, or is it merely an episodic tale of adventure? Then, in the final pages, it all comes together.

  • A book set in the wilderness