Susan’s Salon: 2021 July 18/19

I promised Lurkertype a picture inspired by a comment in my last post.

Fixed it

Anyway…please use the comment section to just chat about whatever you want. Susan’s Salon is posted early Monday (Australian Eastern Standard Time, which is still Sunday in most other 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 😇

63 thoughts on “Susan’s Salon: 2021 July 18/19

    1. Started The City We Became today. I didn’t like the first book I read for the Best Novel Hugo (Harrow the Ninth). The books are definitly not in the same league.

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    2. I loved that book, too, Laura, and it was on my ballot for Best Novel. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. I think Jimenez’ Astounding nomination is very well deserved.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I watched Childhood’s End (2015) for my Alien Visitors film book and then reread the novel. Cosmic concepts but way too much exposition — it’s most readable when Stormgren, Karellen and Joe are on stage and that’s only part of the book. Also very hand-wavey about the transfer of power — everyone except a few unreasonable resisters just calmly accepts the new reality is that we have a benevolent colonial administration on Earth, nations fade away, crime fades away, etc. I realize the takeover is not the focus of Clarke’s story but it’s still unconvincing.

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    1. I’m at the top of my library’s list for Witness for the Dead now, so I re-read The Goblin Emperor last week. After having read all 21 of Cherryh’s Foreigner novels last year, I can really see how TGE is the spiritual inheritor of them, and I revised my opinion of TGE up a half-star because I enjoyed it more this time (I think it was a bit the victim of hyped expectations for me the first time). And having read so many more books since I first read TGE in 2015 makes me really appreciate the quality of Addison’s prose, which is elegant and chewy without tipping over the boundary into excessively flowery and overblown.

      I just finished a re-read of The Memory of Empire and am now 60% through A Desolation Called Peace. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the first, but I’m still enjoying it.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. In case anybody has been worried, I have not been affected by the devastating floods that hits parts of Germany. Here in North Germany, the greatest flooding risk comes not from rain, since the land is flat, but from the North Sea and the flood protection measures have been strengthened a lot.

    In other news, I’m still writing a short story every day and so far haven’t missed a single day, though a few were flash pieces (and one just rambled on to almost novelette length). I also sold audio rights for a story to a podcast..

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  3. Nothing exciting going on here.

    In watching, I watched a few more episodes of the second season of The Expanse.

    Also watched _How to Train Your Dragon_ (how do you do html codes for stuff like italics on this site? Since we can’t edit posts, I’m afraid to experiment. Angle brackets, square brackets, what?). It was funny and sweet. My only big regret is that they gave the youngsters American accents for some strange reason. And I loved all the bizarre dragon designs — very cute.

    Also watched _Mary Poppins_, the original. Can you tell that I’m slowly catching up on all the kiddie movies that I never saw as a kiddie? I loved Dick Van Dyke, and yes, his accent was terrible.

    In reading, it’s been a UF week here. I listened to books 4, 5, and 6 in the Daniel Faust series by Craig Schaefer — _A Plain Dealing Villain_, _The Killing Floor Blues_, and _The Castle Doctrine_.

    I consistently enjoy this series, as evidenced by the fact that I’m actually willing to buy them in audio — they aren’t available at Scribd or the library. These are on the darker side of UF. The MC is a magician (as in actual magic), thief, and small-time crook in Las Vegas, and neither he nor his buddies are good people. His girlfriend is a demon and the “hound” (essentially enforcer) for one of the princes of Hell. The writing is noirish, the attitudes are cynical, and very bad things happen. Nonetheless it’s not over-the-top violent craziness like the Sandman Slim series, for instance. Instead of concentrating on mystery-centered plots as many UF series do, these books tend more towards heist/caper/conjob plots, but without the lightheartedness of many caper stories. Good writing, engaging characters and good character growth, twisty turny plots. The narrator, Adam Verner, is mostly fine — good delivery, good voices — but he’s bad at accents, and he keeps annoying me by doing a bad Irish accent for an important character who’s supposed to be SCOTTISH. Sigh.

    There’s 9 books in the series so far, and I’ll be listening to the last three before too long.

    I just started book 1 of another UF series, _The Never Hero_ by T. Ellery Hodges, but I already think I’m going to dnf it. It’s got remarkably tedious writing even in the midst of an action sequence, and it made me laugh within the first few minutes when it actually said that a character was “hurt, but not injured.” Uhhhhh-huh…..

    testing, testing: italics [i]italics[/i]

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      1. Oh, I forgot to mention! I got a huge unintended laugh at one point:

        This movie is set in London, right? But during the “Spoon Full of Sugar” song, Mary sings about a robin — and two robins take part. Only they used fake AMERICAN robins instead of fake ENGLISH robins, which are totally different birds. Which cracked me right up. Oops!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. You think that’s bad — I was playing a casual game last week and one of the objects to find was listed as “Robin”.

        It was a scarlet tanager.

        No robin from any continent is bright red all over, game people.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. @myself —

      PS, I did give up on The Never Hero (take that, you mysterious italics!), and now I’m happily ensconced in The Last Wish, the first Witcher anthology chronologically. The excellent Peter Kenny narrates, hurrah!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. How to Train your Dragon and its sequels are quite clever, and popular around here (They never hit the “Kill me now if we have to see this again” frequency with the kids, but they went over well enough to be an occasional repeat.) The writing remains smart throughout. I think there’s a stealth gay couple by the last one, too, though it would have been nice if they could make it not stealthy.

      There’s a couple of tv series’ related to it, of more varied quality. I’ve only seen part of one before younger kid lost interest, but it was as good as you’d expect from a kid’s show and they get to explore the behaviour of all kinds of extra dragon breeds.

      Mary Poppins is an astonishingly good movie for the most part, showing its age (And its even older setting’s age) in a few places. Despite the accent, Dick Van Dyke manages to give his character a nice bit of polish and depth.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Another busy week at work, but it gave me plenty of time to devour a bunch of books, 3 novels, a novella, and an anthology. All of which I at least liked, and one of which will be a strong player for my awards ballot next year.

    That one is A Chorus Rises by Bethany C Morrow, which is the sequel to last year’s A Song Below Water. Really great YA, dealing with issues of race, privilege, and how people of color, especially black women, are often put against each other by the white majority for their own purposes – in a story that impressively centers itself around the sorta antagonist of the prior book, all without actually trying to soften her as a character. Just truly great stuff – not subtle (neither was the prior book) but incredibly well done and will be on my Lodestar Ballot for next year barring me reading some really incredibly good stuff.

    The others were also fairly good in their own ways – The Wolf and the Woodsman (by Ava Reid) was a solid enough fantasy story, even if its too abrupt ending gets rid of its conflicts way too easily, as it pairs its pagan (and half Jewish by birth) heroine with a Christian-esque partner as they try to save the kingdom from a bigoted bastard prince; the fourth translated volume of Jin Yong’s Legend of the Condor Heroes (A Heart Divided) is more wuxia fun and highly enjoyable, and Alaya Dawn Johnson’s anthology Reconstructed is really strong and often prescient for stories published mainly between 2005 and 2010.

    So yeah, good stuff to read, happy me. And now as I finish fasting for a Jewish “holiday”, I am ready for the workweek. Maybe.

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  5. Just finished Nigh Vo’s The Chosen and the Beautiful, which is Great Gatsby retold from Jordan Baker’s POV, plus wizards and demons. I liked it a lot.

    Hot and miserable here in Arkansas, plus only like 30% of our population has gotten (or will get) the vax, so we’re in the middle of a huge surge, Delta-Variant.

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  6. The weather here has been ‘hide inside with the heater on full blast and hope another tree doesn’t blow down in the garden’ bad over the last few days, and right now I am on the bus to work and can’t see the hills at all (Adelaide is on a coastal plain surrounded by a crescent of hills) for low cloud.

    I get my second vaccination this week, so that’s something. I will actually be fully vaccinated before Mr angharad, who got his first shot a month before me, but got the AZ.

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  7. Well, THAT’s my Sunday made! 😀 I am certain this version would be a better movie. Or at least one I’d watch.

    Same old same old here. Dentistry is DONE! although things are still healing and for some reason an area that wasn’t worked on or even next to one is sore. Bah. Not going back.

    Warm but bearable here, it’s cooling off at night. I’m sure we’ll be surrounded by fire again soon. I smelled a grass fire last night because idiots in the neighborhood are STILL setting off fireworks. I may have to go all Karen on them.

    The smol peach tree is producing smol peaches! A lot of them! They are golf-ball sized to slightly larger sportsball sized. But they’re yellow freestones with super-thin skin, juicy, organic, and so good when one wanders out to the backyard in the sun, picks and eats one. Slorp. Utter bliss. La-la-la about them being ripe in July instead of August like they used to be.

    EGG still noisy and hungry. I thought when the elderly deaf credential passed that it would be quieter around here, but EGG simply increased his yelling. I keep finding little bits of her fur now and then.

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    1. A just-before-turning-bad ripe peach at breakfast was very cheering. The onionskin-paper-thin peel came off in one piece. It would take 2-3 skins to make a thickness of paper you’d get in a Bible.

      I am not bothering to look up recipes as the supply is so small and the quality is so high that they are being eaten either outdoors or standing over the sink. Luckily we have a double kitchen sink so both of us can slorp at once.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m currently reading House With No Doors by Jeff Noon – his mundane crime fiction series (which is still quite weird, just in a not-sci-fi way).

    Currently watching Attack on Titan as well – I’ve binged most of it in the last couple of weeks but I have about half of the latest season still to go. Absolutely hate the main character, who somehow seems to get more useless with each season. Everyone else is great though.

    Currently playing Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It’s not a top tier Zelda game but the remaster has really polished it up. I’m not sure I could’ve stuck with it if I *had* to use motion controls like in the original. Mapping the sword to the right analog stick was a cool idea and makes it playable. I won’t miss that extra control of the sword in future games but I can see how some of the other mechanics introduced here were refined for Breath of the Wild. If motion controls weren’t such a nightmare to work with as well they’d actually be amazing and immersive. As it is when I tried them I just ended up having to reset the motion control gyro every few seconds when trying to do anything with them.

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    1. I am so bad at video games that any control system more complicated than the old joystick and fire button, and the dominant-hand-only Wii control are completely beyond me.

      I kick ass at hidden object games, though, because my fingers can poke.

      As long as they aren’t tryna tell me a scarlet tanager is a robin. That was the last thing I found in that scene because I thought “It’s a birb?” and poked it to see, nothing to lose, right?

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      1. I grew up with the precursors of modern controllers so everything up to and including Joy-Cons feel quite natural for me to use. I draw the line at motion controls though – I’m so coordinated in so much I do (climbing, yoga, martial arts) but trying to use motion controls makes me feel like I’m a clumsy idiot.

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  9. I’ve been reading non-SF works by famous SF authors, not as a deliberate project, but just because that’s what came up as needing reading volunteers for LibriVox public-domain audiobooks. The first of these has now been put online in all its 11-hour glory (I only did 25%) and it’s Psychological Warfare by Paul M.A. Linebarger a.k.a. Cordwainer Smith. Of course since the source of the text is Project Gutenberg, you can also just go read that on Project Gutenberg if you’re interested, but if you want to listen to it for 11 hours instead here you go.

    The second isn’t done yet, but it’s Joan and Peter by H.G. Wells and while Wells is really not bad at writing about teenage drama and educational philosophy and Edwardian conservatives some of the time, it is very long and I don’t think Wells should quit his day job.

    Looking over at the “collections needing volunteers” list, I found something amazing: an anthology series (they’re working on book 5 now) of deliberately boring public-domain material, called The Insomnia Collection. Here’s volume 1 if anyone feels like tuning out.

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      1. There’s some stuff in there that feels shockingly timely, like a succinct description of how people are more likely to pass on an unsubstantiated rumor if it’s bad news, regardless of whether it would represent an avoidable danger if true. And nearly everything Linebarger says about “black” propaganda (i.e. the kind that falsely purports to be coming from someone else) seems pretty relevant to Internet times.

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  10. Another cat dared to enter the territory of Nevyn and Sir Scrittles! It was a cute, well-groomed bengal with a collar who said a little unsure “meow?”. In return, Sir Scrittles destroyed a plate, turned over a block of concrete and run at it at full speed intent on murder, just getting stopped by his leash. Then he sat staring at where it had run of from.

    Meanwhile, Nevyn sneakily got his leash unlosened from its mount, tracked the cat, did some scary jumps a meter up in the air close to it, then chased it away. Once again the land is secure from invaders.

    Myself, I have been reading some more chinese Wuxia, but not good enough to recommend.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. The harbor in Seattle has been filling up with cruise ships as the industry gets ready to resume Alaska cruises today. Usually we only see one or two at a time when they’re docked to load or unload passengers, so seeing half a dozen just sitting in the middle of Elliot Bay is something of a treat.

    Our little foster kid and I bicycled out to the end of the pier to take a close look at the only ship that was actually docked at the time. His eyes got so wide when he realized the thing was the size of a city block and towered 16 stories over us, with a complicated water slide that sticks over the side. He asked a million questions and when we got back, he watched a bunch of YouTube videos on cruising.

    Now it’s all he can talk about. He talked at length about exploring the ship, finding other boys to explore with, swimming in the pool, and even just taking it easy and reading(!) on the balcony back at the room. He was very disappointed when we told him that a) owing to pent-up demand, the prices are three times normal, so we won’t be doing that this summer, most likely and b) the season will only be six weeks, and it’s all booked already. Then he wondered if we could get on the wait list for one of the boats leaving this week. Or just show up this morning (when the first one leaves) and see if anyone cancelled at the last minute.

    When he looked up with a bright-eyed, hopeful smile and said, “Please?” part of me really wanted to do it. Practicality be damned.

    “Maybe we’ll do one during your spring break” was not well-received. 😦

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    1. I get that feeling of excitement at seeing a cruise ship. I’ve never been on a cruise as such only the ferries across the seas around Britain to Ireland or France or Scandinavia. Still, the idea of these big buildings that move is exciting.

      But also, they are fermentation tanks for communicable diseases 🙂

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      1. For a long time I really wanted to go on a cruise. It always seemed like the height of decadence when I was a child. This last year has put me right off.

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      2. I was trying to talk my Mom into taking cruises a few years ago, because she’s getting older and frailer and yet never actually travelled in her retirement as she claims she’d planned to. (Some of that was the fault of having grandkids but far from all of it.) Some elderly people apparently basically retire onto cruise ships; they literally have all the facilities they would have in a retirement home, plus they get to step off and tour, and most depressingly, the price point is apparently such that the cruise can be the cheaper option.

        A great part of me is *really* glad she never went through with the option.

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        1. I remember on one ship I worked on which did 3 and 4 day cruises, we had a retired man who was on every weekend for the 3 day (board Fri, disembark Mon).

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      3. I used to work for a cruise line in entertainment many moons ago. But those ships were tiny compared to today. They’d fit inside them several times over. It was a very fun job though. Later I worked in the cruise department of a travel agency. Got to go on cruises at a discount. Went on one free “shake down” travel agent only cruise before the official maiden voyage for paying customers. Thankfully we didn’t experience any problems with the ship or crew. Also got to tour many ships on their port day. Especially fun to see the super high-end cabin categories.

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    2. My Dad is a naval architect and he designed cruise ships, among other things, So I’ve not only been aboard cruise ships, I’ve also seen all the parts that the passengers never get to see, e.g. the engine room, bridge, laundry, kitchen, crew quarters, inside lifeboats, etc… I played the grand piano in a completely empty cruise ship bar, learned how an inflatable life raft works, when I was younger than your kid, etc… And yes, cruise ships can be very cool. The modern ones are also a lot more kid-friendly, whereas the ones my Dad built were aimed at wealthy elderly people.

      If your kid is interested in ships, you could see if there’s a maritime museum near you. A lot of maritime museums have full size ships on display that you can visit. I don’t know of any cruise ships or passenger liners on display except for the Queen Mary, which is a hotel these days, so I’m not sure how much of her is open to visitors. But maybe the kid also likes other ships.

      Sometimes, you can also take a tour of e.g. research vessels or historical sailing ships, when they’re in harbour. I think even cruise ships can be toured or at least could be. Not sure if they’re still doing this because of covid and security concerns.

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      1. Seattle ought to have some old ships docked that are open for tours, like San Francisco does. Not as cool to an 11 year old as a cruise ship, but still a nice afternoon outing. Maybe he’d like one of the dinner cruises around the bay? Again, a much smaller ship, but he’d get to run around on deck and see the city from the water, plus eat what’s usually decent food.

        A friend and I went on a tour of the replica “Golden Hind” when it docked here. We went in our Ren Faire pirate costumes, of course, and one of the crew was so tickled by that he gave me a piece of one of the lines that had been cut out and replaced. So every Faire after that, I wore that rope tied to my belt. (which was the style at the time?). I would NOT have wanted to sail around the world in that.

        My grandfather retired as a Navy captain, skippering a ship in WWII. He remembered his younger years, when all the lower ranks slept in hammocks they strung and unstrung every day. He never suffered from claustrophobia, obviously!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Hm, well, I have certainly ended up being given a tour through the engine room, the bridge and other “off-limits” area of one of the Sweden-Finland ferries. This, however, was in the late 80s or early 90s, when security was less tense.

        But, it was definitely interesting, walking around in the engine room, as the engines were running. It is LOUD in there.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. @Lurkertype:
        Wonderful, thanks, now I’ve got the old ad jingle going through my head. “Let’s go to… Se-A-a-ttle… with Princess Marguerite!” (Though on the Seattle side it would have been “Let’s go to… Vic-TOR-i-a…” instead, to exactly the same jingle otherwise.) Granted, the Maggie hasn’t run in over 20 years now, though I did ride on the Marguerite II back in 1989, not long before the vessel was retired for the second time.

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  12. (Just to jump in on the Navy stuff — My father and grandfather were also both Navy. Granddad was old for drafting in WWII, but he served as quartermaster, I think, on a cruiser in the Pacific. Dad’s service was even genre-adjacent — he served as ship’s doctor on one of the ships that would go out searching for astronauts when they splashed down upon returning from space!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My great uncle ran away to see at the age of 14 and wound up in the US. He later became a US citizen and served in the Pacific in WWII. I don’t know which ship he was on and he died a long time ago, though I did meet him once (and he and his wife always sent my frilly dress and stuffed toys for Christmas), but maybe he knew your grandpas.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I read The City of Brass recently as part of Cassy’s SFF Reading Group. I really loved the book at the start and was quite enthused about it, but thought it ended up being a plotting mess by the end and was really disappointed. I completely stopped caring about the characters and what was happening to them, so I won’t be finishing the series. I’m sad that it didn’t turn into something I really enjoyed, after such a promising start.

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      1. Noding in both of your directions. It started strong, but was meh in the end. (I am still more likly to read book 2 here than in another trilogy)
        What I hated was to inefective protogonist (What was her goal in the situation) and a villain who no one seemed to want to do something against (the king). Realistic perhaps but not good to read. I will probably reread a bit of two other series because it has been some time that I read those books but I am disapointed in that one.

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    1. I felt much the same way about The City of Brass when I read it a couple years ago (when S.A. Chakraborty was an Astounding finalist). I hadn’t planned to continue, but I may give it a try now that it’s a series finalist.

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  14. I’ve just read the first 30 pages of Sylvain Neuvel’s The History of What Comes Next – the synopsis of which sounds exactly like “my thing”, and… it’s bad. Really bad. The narrative style is very short, simplistic, stilted sentences, as if a not-very-bright 6-year-old is writing them. It’s so incredibly annoying that I honestly don’t think I can force myself to read any further. I skipped way ahead in the book to see if the style changes and improves, but no. What a disappointment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooo, that’s too bad. I wasn’t all that thrilled by the blurb on this one, but I really loved Neuvel’s recent short — whose name I’ve forgotten at the moment.

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      1. This sample is pretty much representative of the entire novel, as far as I can tell:

        He doesn’t speak a lick of English, but all I hear is Cary Grant. He’s all smiles and graces. I don’t think he ever turns the charm off. This is a man who likes to be liked. I wouldn’t be surprised if he slept with half the secretarial staff here. His office is meant to impress. Mahogany desk, fancy carpet, wall-to-wall bookshelves. The room belongs at Oxford, not in a concrete building littered with metal scraps. I suppose most of this would feel normal if it weren’t for the war outside, but right now it reeks of denial. This is wall-to-wall pretend, like a movie set. He’s made himself the star of his little world. All I need now is to convince him I deserve a role in it. Only I don’t know how. I sure don’t feel like Katharine Hepburn.

        I feel like a child. I certainly look like one. I cut my hair. I don’t know why I did it. I was leaving for Germany the next day. There were a million things to do but I went out and got my hair cut. There is this fancy salon not far from our house. I walk by it almost every day. I see rich people coming out of there and they look so … happy, confident. I wanted that. I never wanted it before but I did then. Going on a secret mission for the government. It was scary, but exciting. I wanted to feel … special. Ha!

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