Susan’s Salon: 9/10 January 2022

Susan’s Salon: 9/10 January 2022

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

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! 😇


36 responses to “Susan’s Salon: 9/10 January 2022”

  1. At breakfast one morning, we were chatting about rogue planets, and I remembered an old Poul Anderson novel, Satan’s World, that I read and loved as a teenager. I decided to download a copy of it and see if it might appeal to our little guy.

    I vaguely remembered that the protagonist, David Falkayn, was always looking for women, but, reading the book today, I’m astonished at how obsessed he is with it. Enough that even the other characters in the book comment on it. He evaluates every women he meets as a possible mating partner. As a gay teen, this just bored me, but as a man, I find myself wondering: is this how straight guys actually feel? Is this authentic?

    Something that bothers me more is how many characters smoke. In the 25th Century, I seriously doubt that anyone will smoke tobacco. It continually reminds me that Anderson himself was a chain smoker who died of cancer.

    Big points, though, for predicting that searching large bodies of data for information would be much more challenging than merely searching for data.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was routine in that era of SF to assume smoking would be a thing long into the future. I’ve often thought it’s telling how culture has changed that while Bond can get away with womanizing, Timothy Dalton was the only Bond since Connery to smoke cigarettes.
      Of course I see lots of contemporary stories that look at the past and don’t have smoking (in the case of TV and movies, I suspect we have fewer actors who smoke or can even fake it well).
      When I was younger and single I would think like that about a lot of women I met, though rarely acting on it. But from what I remember of the one Falkayne book I read, he’s an outlier.

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      • It’s also a health issue to force actors to smoke on screen. I read somewhere that Benedict Cumberbatch suffered serious issues due to an allergy, when he had to pretend to smoke hand-rolled cigarettes in that Jane Campion western whose title escapes me.

        Plus, tobacco is addictive and actors don’t necessarily want to get addicted for the sake of the more realistic Bond movie, Mad Men or whatever.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “Plus, tobacco is addictive and actors don’t necessarily want to get addicted for the sake of the more realistic Bond movie, Mad Men or whatever”

          It would be both unusual and unreasonable for any modern filmmaker to tell actors to smoke real tobacco cigarettes. Unless the actor is already a smoker and actually wants to smoke, the standard practice is to fake it with a non-nicotine smoke-producing substance. Of course it’s possible to be allergic to that too.

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          • That’s good to hear. Because there was at least one case of an actor – I think Peter Davidson – who had to smoke for his role in All Creatures Great and Small and couldn’t quite afterwards. However, that was forty years ago, so it’s good to hear that things have improved.

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            • My best friend took up smoking so she could do it believably for the stage play Mary, Mary. Then she’d stop once we closed. Didn’t work out that way (she did quit eventually, thank goodness).

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      • Heh. I was recently watching “Agent Carter” and thinking to myself “were the Forties and Fifties really so shiny and colourful?”

        And of course, the answer is yes, they were, but everything was coated in a grey-yellow film of fag ash, so it didn’t show.

        Really, to be true to life, all those bright airy rooms should have been full of smoke, and every hyper-kinetic fight sequence should have had a pause where the combatants stopped for a coughing fit and perhaps a brief lie down.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Part of the reason why images showing the 1930s, 40s, 50s in bright colours always surpise us is because we mainly know that period in black and white from old movies, news reels, photos, etc… And things from that time which survived into our time are often faded and – yes – discoloured from cigarette smoke.

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    • I read a lot of Anderson, when I was at the same age as your little guy. But even though he enjoyed his books at the time (the earlier ones more than the later ones from the 1970s/80s and beyond), Anderson was never very good about women and the sexism and sex focus in the David Falkayn and Dominic Flandry stories can be really grating.

      I read my first Vorkosigan novel directly after a Dominic Flandry book and Bujold told a similar story to Anderson – spy hijinks in space – but did it so much better that I dropped Anderson, read everything I could find by Bujold and never looked back.

      Come to think of it, the Vorkosigan novels, particularly the ones about Miles, might be something for your little guy. Though they get dark, so it’s probably better to wait till he’s a little older.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Had a good productive work week. Finished the ebook version of my book Undead Sexist Cliches (about stupid sexist arguments that need to die) which will go on sale later this month; indexing the paperback is going faster than expected (unlike my movie books this doesn’t have huge blocks of names in film credits) so that will probably be out too. Glad to have it done with.
    With viewing for my Aliens Are Here movie reference book done I resumed working through Hitchcock with Rear Window, a personal favorite. I joked to my wife that “the idea a beautiful, professional younger woman like Grace Kelly would fall for an older, broken-down journalist is ridiculous — OMG, that’s us!”).
    Read Alison Bechdel’s “The Secret of Superhuman Strength” which is a remarkably entertaining read given the topic is her life long obsession with working out and physical fitness.
    Made chocolate chip muffins from a book I checked out of the library, “Rise and Run” (I don’t run at all, but I thought some of their exercise advice might be useful). Very good — the authors are big on muffins as convenient running snacks.

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  3. It’s Monday here in New Zealand & my first day back at work. Got to get the mental gears running again.

    In other news, I have become addicted to Wordle.
    https://powerlanguage.co.uk/wordle/

    It’s a guessing game, a cross between Mastermind & Hangman & unlike most online games, you only get one per day. I’m enjoying it & find it a goo way to get my brain working in the mornings.

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  4. I just discovered Wordle too! (Or rather, my kid recommended it to me.)

    It’s winter at last in Arkansas. Covid is surging, and classes (f2f) start tomorrow. I amuse myself by watching Beforeigners, a Norwegian series about time travelers (sort of) as immigrants.

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  5. I’m going to read through the first batch of Star Trek novels (Star Trek Adventures 1970-1981) as a project. I initially thought I’d read all the Star Trek novels but there are just too many. Anything to boost my Goodreads reads for the year. I’m trying to stay away from Wordle, but I’ll probably succumb sooner rather than later.

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  6. Not much to report here except that I’m almost caught up with the backlog of everything that did not get done due to the double whammy of Worldcon and the holidays.

    Covid cases are still rising and protests against the covid measures are increasing as well and are now happening in almost every city in the country. And it’s not just the far right who are protesting, but more and more regular citizens who are fed up with the endless measures and broken promises by politicians. This is not good.

    My Mom is getting her covid booster shot next week, which is a relief, because she’s high risk.

    Next week, I have a gig interpreting at a wedding. I always like these gigs, because weddings are nice and everybody is happy, whereas court cases are often actively unpleasant.

    In good news, I may have found a market for a retro adventure story that I abandoned a few years ago after the magazine it was intended for went belly-up.

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  7. Read The Haunted Man and The Ghost’s Bargain – the last of Dickens’ non-Carol Xmas books and the one I liked the most. Still as sugary as the last of the Xmas fudge I also ate but the device of the Phantom who removes all memory of ‘sorrow, wrong and trouble’ is an effective one. Not so keen on the overall Christian message that sorrow, wrong and trouble are necessary for there to be forgiveness but the point about the significance of even bad memories was well taken.

    And in a touch of synchronicity also (re)read for our SF reading group tomorrow Dick’s ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’ and Asimov’s ‘Dreaming Is A Private Thing’. Cracking Golden Age stuff but the causal sexism grates now of course (‘bosomy’ secretaries & bare-breasted receptionists!)

    Watched: The Lost Daughter directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal & starring Olivia Coleman – brilliant acting & a great movie overall even if the central character is not terribly endearing (& I preferred the ending in Ferrante’s book).

    Finally, I started reading The Box of Delights by John Masefield – I watched the BBC adaptation with Patrick Troughton back in 1984 & bought a second-hand copy for Xmas but have only now found time to read it. Very 1930s but I love the Garnerish atmosphere (portentous happenings in a specific locality).

    Quite a relaxing Sunday overall!

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  8. Back to work for me too today. My office is back to ‘work from home if possible’ but I have a new staff member starting today and need to be physically present for various induction processes. We have tradies in the house for the rest of the week trying to fix a leak in our bathroom, so we’ll see how that plays out.

    We’ve been home for a few days, but we left two out of three kids with my parents for an extended holiday. They are supposed to come home on Friday but the airline has already rescheduled their flights three times, so we shall see.

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  9. I’ve been working hard on my pizza game, trying to learn how to make the perfect dough for an ordinary oven, then experimenting with different cheeses, flours and so on. I had no idea how much science was involved and how careful you had to be about measurements, amount of yeast and salt, fermentation times and so on. And the difference in making a dough for an ordinary oven or a woodfired one.

    I’m at last satisfied with the dough and having figured out the two-step way to bake the pizza, so now onwards towards the tomato sauce and experimenting a bit with the toppings.

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    • Pizza is closer to “baking” than “cooking”. And “baking” is exceedingly sensitive to initial conditions. WhenI cook, I mostly wing it, but when I bake (not actually that frequent), I follow the recipe slavishly.

      I mean, anyone who’s actually seen me cook knows that my normal method for adding things to pots and pans is “well, the dish told me this was necessary” and cooking times are “until done”. Works fine for whipping up a three-course dinnner. Not good enough to make a decent loaf of bread.

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      • We were not well-off growing up, and my Mom was a genius at making flavorful, healthy casseroles from whatever was on sale at the grocery store and residing in the pantry, so that’s how I cook. Recipes are “guidelines”; I substitute things and throw in whatever I think will taste good. Nothing ever comes out exactly the same twice, which doesn’t bother me, it’s always good.

        But yes, baking is a different animal. It’s always best to follow the recipe — and it helps if you know the recipe has worked well for you or someone else. I knew a couple of women who worked for Meredith Publishing, and they told me that a lot of the BH&G cookbooks were full of recipes that assistant editors just made up off the top of their heads which were not test-kitchened at all. And I have a culinarily-inclined friend who told me that all of the recipes put out by one of the famously-flamboyant chefs, who had a TV show a couple of decades ago, were absolute shit.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I have certain foods I will absolutely switch out to “fix” the recipe to my taste (corn and eggplant are big no-nos for me).
          Baking bread is an odd fish. I’ll start out following the recipe but I’ve done it long enough I can gauge by feel if it needs more water or more flour or I can stop kneading early. Letting it rise at the right temperature is probably the biggest thing.

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        • Problem with this “following the recipe” is that you can’t do it fully with pizzas. You use it as a baseline, then you will have to adjust according to type of flour and your oven. Some kind of flours will be able to absorb more water than others and if your oven can’t reach high temperatures, then you might need to add a bit of oil or sugar to get nicer crispiness and colour. But if you add oil, it will become more sticky and…

          Anyhow, it took me a long time to find a recipe that worked with a nice long fermentation time for taste. And it got a lot easier when I started to shape the dough directly on a silicon based baking paper. That allowed me to work with a bit stickier dough which in its turn let me have longer baking time, with pre-baking with only tomatosauce on.

          Still would like some kind of calculator to understand how temperature and amount of yeast and salt will affect the fermentation time. I’ve bought a book now to see if I can get any good answers.

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          • Yep, temperature, flour, local water conditions and oven all count as “initial conditions”. I also took notes on recipes, to ensure that lessons learned did not go completely amiss.

            Actually, another thing that matters is elevation. Small elevation changes won’t necessarily require adjustments, but once you start talking 700+ metres of elevation change, you will need to adjust your bread/cake recipes.

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  10. More sitting on the couch, broken up only by standing in the looooong line outdoors to get a Covid test, as I detailed in last week’s Salon. It came back negative and my upper nose/lower sinus has finally forgiven me for the serious poking. I really did have mild Omicron-y symptoms (as the nurse and doctor I spoke to on the phone also thought), but either a) it was just a cold or b) it was such a long time between when I started feeling meh and when I got tested that I didn’t have enough left to register? Because, damn, I’m sure that swab went in far enough. Whatever, I’m not contagious so yay. The few people I was around at Xmas haven’t had symptoms either. I guess I’ve forgotten what colds feel like. The sore throat was the worst. I applied chicken soup and hot toddies. Also cookies, just on principle.

    EGG is back to roundish treats that don’t smell like low tide as of a couple days ago, and has gotten his catch percentage back up to the 80s. It would be higher if he didn’t try to swat them and just caught them in his mouth, but as I have mentioned before, he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I am envious of MRK’s cat who is learning to “talk” via button pushes. Mine would miss the buttons.

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    • Regular colds and omicron have similar symptoms, so it’s easy to confuse them.

      Furthermore, almost two years of isolation have weakened immune systems so that every cold bug that goes around triggers them. Though since you’re vaccinated, you should at least be protected from severe cases of covid and flu.

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      • I have not missed a flu shot since my last case in the 80s. I never want to get that sick again — and of course I was much healthier overall when I was 35 years younger!

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