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January 31st, 2019

06:24 pm
So I just watched the Netflix documentary on the failed Fyre festival. I wanted to know whether anyone else has and how they interpreted the documentary (or the Hulu one or the Internet Historian one)?

I see lots of online articles mocking the attendees for spending so much money on a fiasco that was obviously a con, but my impression of the documentary was quite different.

I feel a lot of sympathy for the people interviewed who all portrayed themselves as trying desperately to put something on the ground in the face of the delusional and ridiculous demands of their boss (of course they would). I’ve been there. Surely we’ve all been there. In my line of work I’m not trying to organise portaloos in a sandpit on an island, but I can totally appreciate a boss who just la-la-la refuses to listen to reality.
I feel lots of sympathy for the unpaid workers.
I recognise a manic, uncontrollable boss who has totally lost touch with the concept of consequences, and I sympathise with those trying to contain the mess he made. It’s hard to walk away when you know you can ameliorate a situation.
The festival attendees are portrayed in the media as idiots who spent $12,000 for a chance to party with stars. Whereas most of the tickets moved seem to have been in the $1,200 range, which seems not bad value for flights, accommodation, food and entertainment for a week. Not my cup of tea without air conditioning, but not an unreasonable act by spoiled millennials.
I find it hilarious that the massive social media advertising campaign using vastly overpaid ‘influencers’ was undone by a photograph of a cheese sandwich posted by a guy with 400 followers. Shows exactly how little it is worth.
Some of the festival goers did behave very badly and carry on like pork chops. OTOH, things degenerated in the evening when they were essentially abandoned and it is important to note that the evening followed a day when the organisers tried to distract them by giving them unlimited tequila but little food or water. So, not surprisingly, there was a kind of riot.
Further, even people completely unrelated to the festival seem to have treated the festival goers like pariahs. They were locked into a large room at the airport overnight. Locked in!

I am pretty clearly watching the documentary through the lens of my experiences, but I definitely recognise writing emails begging the boss to acknowledge reality which are blithely ignored until things fall apart. Did anyone else interpret the documentary that way?

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January 21st, 2019

06:52 pm - Acton and Beeton
Eliza Action, Modern Cookery in All Its Branches, 1845

Isabella Beeton, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861

Modern autobiographers and food critics fall into one of two camps – followers of Eliza Acton or of Isabella Beeton (the famous Mrs Beeton). The beef goes back to 1861 when Isabella Beeton wrote her mammoth *Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management*, and bulked it out by lifting a very large number of recipes from Eliza Acton’s work. Both were vastly popular in their day, but Beeton’s husband’s relentless promotion meant she came to be seen as the definitive nineteenth century cook and Acton’s contributions were overlooked.

Acton’s Modern Cookery in All Its Branches, 1845

Very little is known about Eliza Acton – there are only four letters to her that have survived so basically what you get in her books is what you know about her. She produced three massive cookbooks and one collection of verse. Her recipes appear to have all been individually tested as she adds an ‘observations’ note at the end of most, which implies personal experimentation, often with reference to adapting recipes to local tastes or to make them cheaper.

As an example:


Add to a pint of apple juice prepared as for jelly, a tablespoonful of strained lemon juice, and from four to six ounces of sugar according to the acidity of the fruit; stir these boiling quickly, and in small portions, to eight well beaten eggs, and thicken the custard in a jug placed in a pan of boiling water, in the usual manner. A larger proportion of lemon juice and high flavouring of the rind can be given when approved. For quince custards, which if well made are excellent, observe the same directions as the apple, but omit the lemon juice. As we have before observed, all custards are made finer when made with the yolks only of the eggs, of which the number must be increased nearly half when this is done.

Prepared apple juice (see page 427), 1 pint; lemon juice, I tablespoonful; sugar, 4 to 6 ozs; eggs, 8. Quince custards, same proportions, but no lemon juice.

Obs – In making lemon creams the apple juice may be substituted very advantageously for water, without varying the receipts in other respects.

We read the ingredients list as a normal part of the recipe, but this was Acton’s brilliant contribution to the genre. Previously there had been no list of ingredients – you had to scan the recipe to check you had everything. And previously the measurements were imprecise – ‘a handful’, ‘as much as makes a good mix’ etc. Acton made it clear and repeatable.

The full title of her cook book says the instructions were ‘given with the most minute exactness’, and her improvements to the standard way of setting things out certainly made it a lot easier to successfully follow the book’s instructions.

My observations of Acton’s work… She has a sense of humour. She includes recipes for a publisher’s pudding ‘which can scarcely be made too rich’ and an author’s pudding that is essentially some cinnamon in milk heated over a candle.

One thinks about Victorian cooking as consisting of endless meals of over-cooked cabbage, and Acton did record the first brussel sprout recipe. However, she includes a whole section on curries and another on ‘chatneys’. She attributes the ‘great superiority of the oriental curries over those generally prepared in England’ to the freshness of the available ingredients. She gives a variety of recipes and notes that some would be ‘somewhat too acid for English taste in general, and the proportion of onion and garlic by one half too much for any but well seasoned Anglo-Indian palates’. This is a reminder that Victorian London was at the centre of a trading empire, which for Acton domestically meant a brother in the East Indies.

Acton, wrote that ‘until very recent years, [English] cookery has remained far inferior to that of nations much less advanced in civilization’. She means here French and Italian cuisine, but even that is charming to meet in what one thinks of as the insular innards of English cooking.

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861

Beeton took Acton’s success with listing the ingredients and gave it a twist. She put the information at the top of the recipe and also added some details on how much is made and how much it costs.

So her recipes look like:


Ingredients: 1 teacupful of rice; 2 tablespoonful of moist sugar; 1 quart of milk; ½ oz of butter or 2 small tablespoonfuls of chopped suet; ½ teaspoonful of grated nutmeg

Mode: Wash the rice, put it in a pie dish with the sugar, and stir these ingredients well together; then add the butter cut up into very small pieces, or, instead, add the finely minced suet; grate a little nutmeg over the top, and bake in a moderate oven, from 1.5 to 2 hours. As the rice is not previously cooked, care must be taken that the pudding be slowly baked, to give plenty of time for the rice to swell, and for it to be very thoroughly done.

Time 1.5 to 2 hours. Cost 7d. Sufficient for 5-6 children. Seasonable at any time.

In addition to taking Acton’s idea about recipe lay out, Beeton shamelessly copied whole sections of Acton’s recipes. Beeton was operating under time pressure and picked up one third of her soup recipes straight from Acton; one quarter of the fish recipes, usually without mentioning the plagiarism.

She also provided a lot more than recipes. Acton was content to produce a really good cook book. Beeton wrote a guide to household management – covering all areas. The index is astonishing, with references to a random section running…. Tartlets (subdivision Polish), Tarrogan, Taxes, Tea (subdivisons on And coffee, Mrs Nightingale’s opinion on, To make), Teacakes (subdivision To toast), Teal (subdivisions To carve, To roast), Teething, Tenancy.

While Beeton lacked the patience to create her own recipes, she does have a great turn of phrase. Her introduction is notably stirring, with its martial comparison of the housekeeper as warrior defender. Acton used a similar idea: ‘Who, indeed, can guard all the interests of home as [women] can?’ But this generic, diffused guarding is a lot less memorable than Beeton’s warrior defender.

‘As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so it is with the mistress of the house. Her spirit will be seen throughout the whole house; and in just proportion as she performs her duties intelligently and thoroughly, so will her domestics follow in her path.’

I am an Actonite.

Food History Notes

When I read these books I realise how easy modern life is. When I want to make jelly, I get a packet of jelly crystals. When they wanted to make jelly, they started with some calf feet and began by skinning them.

Also, lucky me to live in the age of food testing and standards. Both books are full of advice of how to test for adulteration and how to clean the food after it was received from the grocers. Acton’s description of how to check currants goes into the most gruelling detail, but remember that the currents were packed in hessian sacks that can easily pick up gravel and are stored in batches, complete with stalks and leaves.


Put them into a cullender [sic], strew a handful of flour over them and rub them with the hands to separate the lumps, and to detach the stalks; work them round in the cullender, and shake it well, when the small stalks and stones will fall through it. Next pour plenty of cold water over the currants, drain and spread them on a soft cloth, press it over them to absorb the moisture and then lay them on a very clean oven tin or a large dish, and dry them very gradually (or they will become hard), either in a cool oven or before the fire, taking care in the latter case that they are not placed sufficiently near it for the ashes to fall amongst them. When they are perfectly dry, clear them entirely from the remaining stalks, and from every stone that may be amongst them. The best mode of detecting these is to lay the fruit at the far end of a large white dish, or sheet of paper, and to pass it lightly, and in very small portions, with the fingers, towards oneself, examining it closely as this is done.’

I would have run out of energy at this point and eaten the currants without pudding, I think. After individually flouring, washing, drying and inspecting them, of course.

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January 19th, 2019

01:48 pm
Produced 398 kW over the most recent 62 day period which seems way better than any previous solar power achievement. Either due to the repairs or the changing weather.

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January 4th, 2019

04:02 pm - Bloody technology
So the NBN is rolling out in my area. Is it a good idea to try to upgrade? Or will it just all end in tears and enormous cost? (Eg. my parents’ experience where their phone bill increased significantly and Telstra outsourced workers had to spend 8 hours trying to get it to work and yet it still falls over repeatedly.)

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January 3rd, 2019

06:56 pm - 2018 books
2018 books - 123 read, of which 40 were non fiction, mostly about autism and coeliac disease. Boo. 13 were magazines, and 2 were poetry collections.

Ranked by decade:

1800s (century): 4
1900s: 0
1910s: 2
1920s: 0
1930s: 11
1940s: 4
1950s: 6
1960s: 7
1970s: 8
1980s: 11
1990s: 12
2000s: 21
2010s: 37

The 1980s would be a lot of Lois McMaster Bujold and the 1930s would be a lot of Georgette Heyer and Dorothy Sayers.

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05:21 pm - Australian summer
We went for a walk in the nearby bushland and inspected the remains of the recent bushfire. I see that in addition to the helicopter water drops, they ripped up a lot of the paths to make wider fire breaks. It's a bit bleak over there.

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January 2nd, 2019

07:42 pm - daily life (alas)
Up side: Did the right thing by leaving a note on the car I bumped into in the car park.

Down side: $500 excess on insurance. Rotten start to the year.

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07:12 pm - December books
Bob Woodward Fear, Trump in the White House 2018
Mihael Le Lanning Tours of Duty: Vietnam War Stories 2014
Georgette Heyer Frederica1965
Ruth Scurr Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution 2007
Carol Ryril Brink Baby Island 1937
Agatha Christie The Hollow 1946
The Coeliac Society What Now? A Positive Approach to Your Child's Coeliac Disase 2009
Joyce Lankester Brisley Further Doings of Milly Molly Mandy 1932
Ethel Turner The Story of a Baby 1895
Deborah Challinor Grey Ghosts: New Zealand Vietnam Vet talk about their War 1998

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December 28th, 2018

07:53 pm - Yuletide
I managed to miss the sign up for Yuletide but did participate by writing a treat.

Also, this is my favourite. It takes the southern gothic of *A Rose For Emily* and highlights the race, rottenness and despair.


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December 18th, 2018

04:45 pm - The Nutcracker
We went to see *The Nutcracker* which was great. I think it was the most traditional ballet I’ve ever seen, with lots of girls in stiff tutus dancing on their toes. Delightful.

The costuming was great, especially the mice. They were pirate mice with fabulous tails at the rear.

Naturally, being us, we could not go to the ballet like civilized people. Instead, we went in and while we were in the queue for the bathroom the warning bell began. This caused Ruby to wail and literally throw herself on the floor in anxiety that we would miss it. Pearl tried to lift her and somehow Ruby headbutted her, causing Pearl to also collapse onto the ground, shouting.

At this point I abandoned my plan of waiting in the long, long queue for the ladies’ toilets and dashed into the male toilets, shouting ‘sorry’ as I went. I was immediately followed by about a dozen women, because of course there was a long queue for the ladies and no queue at all for the men. I did feel slightly sorry for the two guys using the urinals, since a dozen women burst in with essentially no warning.

Once I was finished in there, I returned to the hallway, where my two little rugrats were still prostrate on the floor, crying. Because this is how we enter the building.

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