Susan’s Salon: 2021 April 18/19

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Please use the comment section to just chat about whatever you want. Susan’s Salon is posted early Monday (Sydney time which is still Sunday in most countries). It’s fine to be sad, worried, vaccinated, unvaccinated-yet, angry or maybe even happy (or all of those things at once).

Please feel free to post what you like (either troubling news or pleasant distractions) in the comments for this open thread. [However, no cranky conflicts between each other in the comments.] Links, videos, cat pictures 🐈 etc are fine! Whatever you like and be nice to one another 😇

77 thoughts on “Susan’s Salon: 2021 April 18/19

  1. Bought Piranesi, didn’t manage to read more than 20 pages before I returned it to the seller. Definitely not my style. With three of the nominated books for Best Novels being sequels that I won’t read, that leaves me with two left. I think I’ll try Black Sun next.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have at the moment only read some of the shorter fiction and started watching stuff, The Broniconvideo was interesting, and I like She-Ra.

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  2. I got my second Moderna shot yesterday, and today my arm really hurts and I’m feeling mildly sick. (Chills and body aches.) Pretty much no different from shot #1 so far.

    I asked the doctor whether it was better to put shot #2 in the same arm as shot #1 or to use the other arm. (There are arguments for both.) He said he gets that question a lot (so I’m not the only one reading /r/Coronavirus on Reddit) 🙂 and that he opted to use the same arm for his own shot, so that’s what he recommends. If it does make any difference, it’s small enough that we don’t really know now, and we may never know, unless somewhere in the world they’re carefully recording which arms people are using and what their outcomes are.

    My Spanish reading project is coming along nicely. I’ve been reading novels in Spanish on and off for years, even though I look up a lot of words in the Kindle dictionary. I’ve been highlighting all the words I look up, with the vague idea of eventually writing an app to harvest that data from the My Clippings file on the Kindle. (For performance reasons, it’s a good idea to delete that file every so often, but I always make a copy before I do.)

    Anyway, about six months ago, I finally wrote a Perl script to do that, letting me see the highest-priority words for me to learn. (Those are words that occur many times across many books.) Every few days, I generate some new words to add to Anki, and then I drill on Anki for about 10 to 15 minutes every day.

    The result has been amazing. I used to be happy if I was only looking up a few words per Kindle page. Now I often go several pages without looking up anything. I watched “Pan’s Labyrinth” in Spanish (with Spanish subtitles), and I understood nearly everything. I only paused the film twice to look something up. That never happened before.

    Now I’m thinking I should share this program on Github. If I ever freeze the design. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I doubt I’ll see a vaccine before the end of the year, as I have particular reasons to avoid the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Will probably be getting a flu jab in the next few weeks, so I can have a sore arm in sympathy.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If you have blood clotting issues and/or are a woman of childbearing age who’s not high-risk for a covid infection, I’d be avoiding the AstraZeneca vaccine, too, until they find out what specifically caused the serious side effects some people experienced.

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      3. It may be worthwhile here to remember that these guys found six people who had problems with clotting — out of six MILLION people vaccinated. It’s a very, VERY small risk.

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      4. We’re doing thirty thousand vaccinations a day at the moment and are still on the over 60s. I’ll be waiting a while.

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    1. Moderna jab #2 for me was on April 13th. The last of the three non-credential members of my household to get Moderna #2, my wife Deirdre, will get it on April 24th. My own side effects were a sore right arm, fatigue & occasional chills for a day, and persistent irrational optimism.

      At a fortnight out from April 24th (i.e., Saturday, May 8th), I intend to host a big party for the fellow-jabbed in my large, lush back yard, as it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to be an impresario, and I intend to recommence in style. Finding suitable recipes right now for a memorable blowout. (That’s West Menlo Park, Calif., if anyone’s local enough to consider dropping by.)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I wish I were a good enough person to keep up with my Spanish. I could read novels and poetry in Spanish quite well when I was a senior in high school, but I have never kept up with it. Good for you!

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      1. It helps a lot to do it on a Kindle, where you can just look things up with the press of a finger. I’m still delighted with myself that I finally wrote the program to parse the clipping files. I’d been faithfully highlighting every word I looked up (unless I was just double checking and the word really did mean what I thought it did) for years, but never doing anything with it. I have highlighted over 16,000 words in the past seven years or so in 16 different novels (plus a few miscellaneous sources beyond the Kindle). Of those, I’ve added 1106 to my Anki flashcard deck in the past six months.

        What’s comforting is that those are, arguably, the words I personally most need to learn because they’re the words I keep looking up. Some of them were almost embarrassing, like derretir (to melt). How did I study Spanish for half a century and never learn that? Sometimes others have many different meanings, but in the book’s I’ve read, only one meaning ever gets used.

        To figure that out, I have a different tool that, given a word, tells me all the books I’ve read that used a form of that word. Then I open those books on my laptop in the Kindle app and just search for them. The list of snippets that Kindle gives me is pretty good; I rarely need to actually go to the entries in the book because just the five or six words in the snippet is enough to clue me in–especially if one meaning is a noun and the other is an adjective.

        The last thing I did at Amazon was try to persuade the Kindle team to implement software to make life easier for foreign-language learners. It’s almost the only job that might still tempt me out of retirement, if they were to offer it to me.

        Liked by 3 people

    3. Okay the scripts and what not are really cool, and I tried to learn spanish during the pandemic, but have been basically been merely keeping up since I got back to working. I’d tried to read HP in spanish but keeping looking things up was tricky – I’d love to see if I could get it to work if you’re willing to share?

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      1. @garik16 Absolutely! I’m greghull at uw dot edu. Have you been highlighting words as you go? Or are you starting from zero? You’ll probably need at least 50 words highlighted before it’s of much help to you, but if you’re struggling, you might hit that in the first chapter.

        Are you technical at all? You don’t really need to be–it comes down to just dumping your clippings files in a directory and then running one of two programs. But it might be more fun if you can at least read a Perl program. (Claims that Perl is a write-only language to the contrary notwithstanding.) 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Greg, next time we’re in the same place in the space-time continuum, I’ll introduce you to Mr. LT and you guys can talk Perl while your husband and I roll our eyes lovingly.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. A barn owl is living in my back yard. Every night from about ten to midnight, it screams non-stop. Sounds like a cat torturing an alien.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. We have three common types of owls here — barn, great horned, and screech — but thankfully none of them sound that awful. The most hair-raising sounds we have here are when foxes scream at night — they sound almost exactly like children screaming — but fortunately I have only rarely heard it here!

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  4. The audiobook of The Galaxy, and the Ground Within comes out tomorrow so I know what I’ll be listening to. I’ve got a weakness for the setting of this particularly story, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing how Chambers handles this trope.

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      1. Huh, I had the opposite reaction, where I loved the characters, but felt Chambers finally found a real life issue that her attempt to deal with essentially fell flat without resolution. I have a review on my blog, but don’t want to spoil here.

        And I loved the rest of the series.

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  5. Watched “Three Lives of Thomasina,” which was probably the first film I saw on Wonderful World of Disney. Extremely charming, other than the Evil Roma stereotypes.
    Speaking of cats, we have become familiar with Wisp’s ululation when she wants us to see whatever she has just killed. Sigh. Hopefully she’ll be an inside cat some day, but as a stray she’s not down with 24/7 indoors.

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  6. Lots of things happened last week, most of them good. I’m now a two-time Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer (in theory, I’ve been since late March, but I only could publicly talk about it from Tuesday on), I sold a story to a fiction podcast, I was/am at the Flights of Foundry virtual con on three panels, moderating two, and it’s my birthday, too.

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    1. Happy birthday, and many more, Cora!

      Ich wünsche dir einen herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag und alles Liebe und Gute und ganz viel Gesundheit und Spaß. Lass dich schön feiern.

      (I don’t really speak your fine language, but one tries.)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ein bier und ein knödel bitte! Da liegt das telefon.
      (Using the German I remember, it means happy birthday and congratulations)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I see you concentrated on learning first the very most vital phrases. Wise fellow!

        As Goethe memorably said, “Ich hätte gerne einen anderen, bitte. Ich werde es später bezahlen.”

        Liked by 2 people

    3. Happy birthday, Cora!

      I was dragging bookcases around the living room today, in preparation for a new 5-shelf case arriving tomorrow. This will make bookcase #13. Already trying to decide which books to bring out to it and how to arrange them. (I like to shelve things by category–non-fiction, SFF, comics, writing, etc) and size (hardback, trade paperback, mass market paperback–and damn I miss the general demise of the mass market paperback.)

      Liked by 3 people

  7. There is no such thing as an isolated shooting anymore. I refuse to believe they’re not feeding off each other.

    I think Sheri Tepper may have been onto something with the concept of shape-pride.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Things continue exactly the same here. We sit on the couch, watch TV, surf the net, and attend to the credential. He continues to be annoyed there aren’t leftovers from the elderly-now-late one. I’m not sure he remembers her, but he does remember there used to be more food available.

    I get vaccine #2 this week and went out and stocked up on frozen food in case this dose knocks me flat as much as the first did. But that means 2 weeks after that we can try some cautious venturing out! See people who aren’t in our bubble! (Perhaps we will make it to Rick’s, but no promises. We might start smaller. Not sure if I am psychologically ready for lots of people. We will bring our proof-of-jab cards.)

    Cam, I’m kind of disappointed that this week has robot, alien, but not wizard in honor of F&WS ending before the next Salon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, books!

      I have a month of free KU, so I am powering through some bubblegum series which I like for mindless reading but would never pay for. I finally DNF’d one series since it’s clear that the writer is just cutting and pasting ideas and entire paragraphs from earlier books. Also pottering through a few e-magazines. So not much srs bzness going on here. I will do some free Hugo reading when that’s over.

      El Gato Gordo wants moar fud (I think I’ll call him EGG from now on here. He does like bacon).

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @Lurkertype, the “lots of people” possibility is mitigated a good bit by what I mean when I say “my large, lush back yard”. My modest little 1956 house lies on a lot considered enormous by local standards: 1/3 acre, with the result that it includes the large back yard, plus an even larger side yard, plus my front yard, all of which have shaded nooks and crannies (with seating) where folks can be happily alone. The back yard itself is segmented into several separate bits, including a corner where I have a large hammock under the 130 ft. tall coast redwood tree Mom planted the day I was born. (I don’t mean Mom was digging tree-planting holes immediately postpartum: Remember, mine was an adoptive family.)

      You’re more than welcome to drop by and scope the place out, to see what I mean. Just Web-search my name, and you’ll find ostentatiously helpful navigation details: Long ago (with Deirdre’s permission), I decided to mess with any Internet creep who makes a pastime of “doxxing” people they dislike: My Web site intentionally has (figurative) “You want to find me? Here, let me help you a lot” details, my personal favourite bit being the “ICBM address”, which is the precise latitude, longitude, and altitude to within a decimetre of my favourite chair in the living room. I have it on good authority that I’ve intimidated some would-be doxxes: They think, if all that’s handed out on a platter, what’s the catch and how badly would it hurt?

      Anyway, Casa Moen is the despair of local realtors, because it’s worth $BIGNUM in unrealised gain, and is exactly where the vulture capitalists and lawyers want to live, but I politely ignore pleas that I sell. For the record, Mom and Dad’s acquisition cost in 1956 was a $20k GI Bill loan plus $2500 cash on the barrelhead, and my tax basis (and thus annual property tax) is accordingly ridiculously low.

      Feel welcome to come visit and wander my lot. (I’ll serve socially distanced tea or coffee, etc.) The spring vegetable garden is behind schedule because I had recent abdominal surgery and am under doctor’s orders not to not lift more than 10 pounds until late May, but I’m at least slowly making war on weeds and will, I hope, have some semblance of a proper spring garden by May 8th.

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      1. Oooh, I cannot imagine how much your lot is worth. Ours is a bit under 1/4 acre, in a much-less pricey area (where the techbros fear to tread), but we had to buy it ourselves. Before at least two real estate booms, however, so the taxes are reasonable and so are the payments.

        Not a patch on my friend who inherited a house and yard about the same size which her parents bought in 1950 though.

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  9. Man, this week flew by!

    Nothing terribly exciting here. Planted some more stuff, bought more dirt and containers. One of my favorite credentials, Cattus Roundus, has been very ill, but has really turned around in the last few days, so I am cheered. She pigged the hell out yesterday, which is much more her usual style than lately. Better living through chemistry!

    In reading:

    Beautiful, by Juliet Marillier — This is very YA in that it is a simple story simply told, and in that the MC is full of wide-eyed naivete. But it’s got Marillier’s trademark beautiful prose, and it’s very sweet. It also has the YA trope of a love triangle, but for a non-YA twist, the girl gets BOTH the guys — it turns out that polyandry is quite common amongst queens in this culture. That gave me a good chuckle. JJ would probably hate this book, because the first third of the story is a retelling of a Nordic fairytale about a cursed prince and the evil troll queen who tries to force him to marry her daughter — but it’s told from the viewpoint of the daughter. The second and third parts are what happen to the daughter after the fairytale ends. All in all an easy story to read and enjoy, all about growing up and learning to believe in yourself.

    The Name of All Things, by Jenn Lyons — I started rereading this before the Hugo list came out, to refresh my memory before going on to The Memory of Souls. It’s a long book (almost 26 hours in audio), so it’s taken up most of my week. If you haven’t read any of these yet, these have complications upon machinations upon betrayals upon multiple identities upon twists and turns — sooooooo much twisting and turning, yikes. Very very dense. I think Lyons mostly sells it well, and she uses some interesting framing techniques in each book. Unfortunately this installment of the series (book 2) has some awkward sexual politics that ended up really offending me for complicated reasons (I’ll explain further in a GR review eventually, if anyone’s interested — the author is trying to be progressive, but I think she ends up actually making a regressive argument by accident), but I still enjoyed re-visiting the story. This one, book 2, has good narrators, but unfortunately books 1 and 3 both use a narrator whom I strongly dislike (Vikas Adam). Poor me. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, I forgot — I did actually shop INSIDE my usual local feed store this week, instead of getting curbside service as I have since last year. I felt like an intrepid explorer, with a face mask instead of a pith helmet. It turns out that the store expanded back in NOVEMBER (it took over an empty store next door) and I didn’t even know it til now!

      While there I was sucked in by the fancy new brooders full of chicks, and ended up bringing four more home. Which is another reason to never venture inside feed stores in the spring. 😉

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Book 4 goes back to Senera as the narrator, so I suspect the audio narrator will switch back? Really enjoyed it. (For me, my biggest problem with the series is book 1, which is just eh because Kihrin is the least interesting of the main quartet, but I’m all in on the series now)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Book 4 will have one of the good narrators, Lauren Fortgang, but also Vikas Adam again, Sigh.

        (Some people like Adam a lot. Personally, I really don’t like his style of delivery. YMMV.)

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    3. I also forgot to mention that I’ve watched all of Season 1 and part of Season 2 of The Boys over the last couple of weeks. I had originally dnfed this series halfway through the first episode of Season 1 when one of the characters dropped his pants and I got disgusted, but I’m glad I decided to give it another try. I’ve really been enjoying it. I should be finishing Season 2 this week.

      I can’t wait to see episodes with Jensen Ackles playing Soldier Boy in Season 3. I couldn’t care less what Jared Padalecki does with the rest of his career — he couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag — but Jensen is a seriously good actor, and I want to see him in something different from Supernatural.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Busy week with the new job and everything else! First off, twas my birthday s well on Friday, so had a nice bbq with family outside yesterday. Oh and read a bunch of books (and 2 novellas i won’t mention here) to which I had a lot of strong reactions to while on my new commute, so that was nice.

    But uh books! All eARCs of upcoming books this week. First off, I read KS Villoso’s “The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng”, the third in her “Chronicles of the Bitch Queen” filipino-inspired epic fantasy trilogy (which began with The Wolf of Oren-Yaro). A fascinating series with a protagonist struggling with expectations on her for being a woman, for being the daughter of a respected leader, and for the plans her father left behind of how others should use her, plans that assumed she’d have no choices within them for herself, but which might ultimately be necessary to save the kingdom from a magical threat….no matter how unhappy they make her. Lotta interesting themes besides that, which I won’t spoil, and this is a strong conclusion to a series that kind of meandered a bit setting everything up in book 2…..except that act 3 features the antagonist embarking in rape (not described thankfully), torture, animal cruelty and more, and it’s pretty blatantly unnecessary (We get it after 3 books already that he’s a madman representing the power of an imperialist power begged for help that can basically not be controlled, we don’t need this!). Sigh. This comes out in two weeks by the way and I suspect will be one of those polarizing series, but if you liked book 1 (and I did a lot), I suspect you’ll like this if you can get through the triggering moments.

    Second up, I read in one day Cazadora by Romina Garber, the sequel to last year’s Lobizona. I loved Lobizona so much – a YA fantasy book featuring as its protagonist an Argentian girl illegally in Miami with her mother supposedly on the run from her father’s murderous family….and who turns out to be part of a world of werewolves (Lobizones) and brujas. Not subtle at all, but tremendously well done with its characters and story that delves heavily into queer allegory and not just being illegal due to immigration status but also of being well, queer, in a dominant cis-hetero society. Cazadora comes out in August and follows the above up just as tremendously, and I highly recommend both books even to those who don’t normally read YA.

    Finally, today I finished a legal thriller with potential fantastical elements, The Quiet Boy by Ben Winters. Just……god so bad – not great story, not great characters, and a plot featuring both civil and criminal law that gets things so so wrong, and as an attorney it drove me mad. Ugh. Comes out in May.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I developed a ‘listen to something interesting while sewing or spinning’ habit during the pandemic, and I decided to kick it up a notch this week and audit an online postgraduate seminar series at Stanford. Interesting so far, but I don’t know how well I will be able to keep up, especially when we get into May. Craft fairs are returning here, and my craft fair friend and I have several weekend excursions planned.

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  12. My wife and I will get shot #1 on Wednesday.

    Finished reading The City We Became, the first book I’ve finished reading in probably at least 6 months. Really liked the story and the imagery, and although the why-NYC-is-so-special element is kind of over the top and obvious, I have to admit that as a former New Yorker I appreciate it. The style was kind of bugging me at first— I felt like it was kind of hasty and compressed and trying super hard to be casual— but then I started listening to the audiobook, because I was curious to hear how Robin Miles would do it, and when Miles slowed it down and applied some basic expressive phrasing, something clicked and I realized it’s just the kind of thing that works better for me out loud than on the page. (The Fifth Season was kind of the opposite for me: Miles read that one too, and she’s really good, but whenever she was doing dialogue I felt like the tone was somehow too lively and naturalistic for the style of that book, if that makes sense.)

    Also read/heard/acted several Noël Coward plays, as part of an online reading group with some former college theater classmates. I was totally unfamiliar with Coward until recently, and while some of these are as fluffy as their reputation, I’m really enjoying the writing and found Private Lives to be unexpectedly moving.

    Otherwise our attention spans here have been very tiny and we’ve spent a lot of time watching James Bond movies because there is always one more. If anyone would like to read some cranky reviews of James Bond movies, here’s my list so far.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Started reading Hummingbird Salamander when I need a break from the theory reading and damn Jeff Vandermeer for being such a lyrical prose stylist – how dare that man be so talented. 😉

    (This post brought to you by staying up past your bedtime reading and feeling very tired in the morning.)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I always forget to add my own update to these!
    1. Trains are getting busier. Still not at pre-COVID levels on the morning commute but heading that way. Had somebody sit next to me yesterday.
    2. Mornings are colder to but I have a mask! Masks are great in this cold dry weather – like socks for your face.
    3. People can fly back and forth between Middle Earth and Oz again.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m slowly developing a reading habit again. I started The Poppy War over the weekend and I’m very glad it’s being talked about or I probably wouldn’t have bothered with it.

    Beyond that: been a very messy, emotional week for me. Had some stuff happen that brought back very bittersweet memories of Korea and I’m still processing a lot of that. I have some amazing friends in my life though.

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