More about fungi than I ever wanted to know

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Several months ago, I happened to look out my bedroom window during a rainstorm to see a tree bubbling. Really bubbling. I spent a few minutes wondering what in the world it could be, but I didn’t pursue it and eventually forgot about it – until I realized the tree had died.

Really, these trees should have been cut down a while ago. They’re right next to our house, and an electric wire goes through their branches. I’m surprised SWEPCO hasn’t either cut them down or at least trimmed them during their annual pre-ice storm mass prunings. I certainly wouldn’t complain if they did.

img_0618Turns out that bubbling was a bacterial disease called slime flux. When it rains, the bacteria release carbon dioxide, creating those bubbles. Evidently, it stinks, too. I’m glad I didn’t go outside to discover that. Yuck! It dried into this white business. I figured it killed the tree, but the Internets say that the disease itself usually doesn’t kill them. It probably had to do with the removal of chain link fence the tree had grown around when we had our relatively new privacy fence installed.

Anyway, I was outside with Penny this afternoon, minding my own business, when I saw this, which seems infinitely more gross than the white gunk:

GAH! That is so not okay with me. It even moves like Jello.

GROSSSSS! I had no idea what it was (except that it was probably a fungus), so I called Palmer, and I guess my Jello description helped him find it on Wikipedia. It’s called jelly fungus, it appears when it rains, which it did alllll last night, and it evidently tastes good? I’ll give that one a big, immediate NOPE. It also probably won’t kill the tree, which makes me feel little better about it.

I’m trying really hard to appreciate rather than run away from nature, but stuff like this makes it hard. I’m still recovering from the ridiculous number of surprise spider webs I walked through on my hike with Penny the other day.

How had I never been to Walter B. Jacobs Nature Park?

It’s a beautiful day. A clear blue sky and a break from the South’s rainy season. Penny and I had to take advantage of it.

Penny and I go hiking about once a week, but we’re what I call Level One Hikers. The Red River National Wildlife Refuge‘s yellow trail was the longest and nature-iest trail we’d been down, and that one’s completely flat and the grass is mowed regularly.

That’s not the case with the Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park in Blanchard, Louisiana. The trails aren’t mowed because they’re in the woods and not lined with river-plain grass. I think there’s more virginia creeper than anything else. I’m sure there’s a lot of poison ivy, too, though I was trying my best not to see it. Really, I was focusing on trying to spot snakes and keeping an eye on the orb weaver population. Which is massive.

The Caddo Trail, at 1.8 miles, is a great place to desensitize yourself to walking through spiderwebs. They’re everywhere. I had to apologize to a couple of orb weavers for destroying the webs they had constructed directly across the trail. Which also meant that Penny and I were the only people/dogs to hike it today (and probably for the last few days, as it poured rain yesterday morning).

I should probably also mention the mud. Because mud. The trail was full of it. Sure, I’d seen the warnings on TripAdvisor about hiking after a rain, but I was like, it didn’t rain today, so it must be fine. (Actually, I considered driving to Driskill Mountain near Arcadia because I figured, hey, it’s the highest point in Louisiana and must be dry, but it’s sooooo far away.) Yeeeeeah, there was mud everywhere. I’m glad I waterproofed my hiking shoes before I went.

Oh. And, unless it’s bone dry, I strongly suggest wearing actual trail shoes or boots. If I’d been wearing sneakers, I’d have been on my butt a few times.

Also: hot + wet = ALL THE MOSQUITOES. Every single one of them ever. Palmer and I went to a petrified forest in Mississippi last year, and I thought they had a lot of mosquitoes, but damn. I’ll figure out the extent of the damage tomorrow when I’m itching terribly. Which means you should take advantage of the huge box of Deep Woods OFF they have permanently attached to the front of the building. Spray the DEET all over yourself or you’ll regret it. My lousy little DEET-free Cutter didn’t…ahem…cut it.

So you had a terrible time, you say, right? No! We had a most excellent time! This is the naturiest nature I’ve been in since the last time I was in the Black Hills National Forest, which was waaaay too long ago. Walter B. Jacobs is Hiking Level Two, and that’s a great thing for Shreveport/Bossier. We need nature! And sometimes we’re better off if it’s not the regularly-mowed-trail sort. It was only 1.8 miles, but I feel like we accomplished something, if only not being bitten to death by snakes.

And we saw a huge turtle with a spiky tail! It plopped into a stream before I could get a picture of it, but still!

I can’t wait to go again, and I’m sure Penny can’t either. We’re lucky to have a great park like this so close to town, and we should support it. Walter B. Jacobs has programs all the time for people of all ages, and we should all be participating. Have a look at their Facebook page and try to make out there. It’s a half-hour drive that’s totally worth it.

Here’s the park’s trail guide, of which I haven’t seen a good copy online (I guess “good” is relative, as this copy was obviously crumpled in my hands while we hiked):

And here’s a link to the pdf, which you might also find useful.

Let’s try this again…

Yeah, yeah, it’s been a while. We’ve had a couple of false starts, but we’re going to get back on track…right?

The truth is that I haven’t been reading much lately. Hardly anything, really. In my defense, I’ve been busy. Besides work, I’ve started a second round of grad school (this one is Thesis Monster-free!), and I have a puppy that I mentioned in the last couple of posts. That doesn’t allow much time for reading unless you count the journal articles I’m assigned for class, and no one wants to hear about those.

So what am I going to do with this book blog, you ask? For now, at least, I’m going to broaden the scope. I’ve been doing some photoblogging elsewhere (here and here if you’re interested), but I decided that my own damn site, which I still pay for, should be home to the primary posts. So here we go. I’ve made a pretty drastic change to the theme that’ll better reflect what is happening here.

There will still be books. I just read Into the Wild, which had been on my Do Not Read List for a long time, and I really enjoyed it. Now I’m trying to get through A Walk in the Woods before a new DeLillo novel comes out on May 3. We’ll see how that goes. I’m also still kind of in the process of reading Redwall, which is super fun. There’s also a game called Stardew Valley, but we won’t talk about that here (except to say that if you like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon and have a PC, jump on it).

Does all this mean I’m back for good? I hope so. It won’t all be about books, and it hopefully won’t be about the dog, either, though you can tell from the featured image that she’s super-cute. She also goes with me everywhere the rules allow her to go.

One of which was the Linden Wildflower Trails Festival this past weekend, which involved neither wildflowers nor trails but did involve free puppies. I’ve posted some photos from that event:

My 35th birthday is coming up, and my lovely husband is getting me a sparkly new camera, so hopefully I’ll be able to spend lots of time taking pictures and posting them here. Most will be of hiking and (hopefully, before it gets too warm) camping. Otherwise, who knows. The school semester is about to end, so I should have a good month of free-ish time on my hands.

2016 Book #1: The 5th Wave

5thwave.jpgThis is what happens when I see a pretty disaster pr0n movie trailer and think I’ll like the book because of it. Okay, it’s not terrible: it’s run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic YA. You know what to expect. In my defense, I didn’t know it was YA until I picked it up at the library and saw the YA taped to the spine. I cringed a little, then checked it out anyway.

I’m not saying that I don’t like any YA (how many times have I said this after I read one I didn’t like?) – I just usually don’t seek them out because they’re even more of a mixed bag than the adult books I read, and my reading time and attention span are pretty limited at the moment.

So. The 5th Wave. A giant mothership full of aliens has just shown up in the air above Earth. They sit around for a while, then use an EMP to knock out electronics. There goes communication, electricity, etc. The humans take a while to catch on, but they figure out pretty quickly that the aliens’ intentions can’t be good. Things get worse and worse (I won’t ruin the surprise of the waves for you), and sixteen-year-old Cassie finds herself on her own with a mission to rescue her kid brother. There’s lots of disaster and lots of alien mischief and lots of everything else you’d expect. And don’t forget an awkward teenage love triangle.

Which is the part of this novel that really annoyed me. Soooo you’re probably going to die pretty soon, but you have to stop everything to have the awkward teenage moment. Because if something like this was really happening, battle-hardened teenagers would automatically resort to their instincts, like dogs stopping everything to circle around a few times before they poop. Ugh.

Annoyances aside, The 5th Wave was packed full of the disaster I expected – and even more death and horror. Things could have been worse. Oh, and if you’re looking for some kind of closure, note that this is the first book in a trilogy: there is no closure. That said, I don’t think I’m interested enough to read the best of them, and I just heard that the second isn’t even as good as the first. We’ll see. It might happen.

Oh, and here’s the trailer that got me into this trouble:

Happy 2016! On to greener pastures.

Featured image credit: Sea Turtle

2015: The Year in Books

2015 has been an interesting year. I’ve been really busy, mostly because of dogs. That and an extended foray into Minecraft from which I only recently returned. Books were on the back burner this year. I only blogged about fifteen of them, but I read forty-two, according to Goodreads. That’s a little shy of my annual fifty-book goal, but it’s not too shabby, either. I got busy and had Other Things to Do. 2016 will probably be the same.

That said, here’s my usual list of all the books I read, not just the ones I blogged about. Bold means I really liked it, italics means I hated it, and plain text means it was reasonably good.

That’s a good bit of bold! I did pretty well this year despite my lack of reading enthusiasm. But which is my favorite? That one’s a little difficult. This year has been long and stressful, and I hardly remember anything about most of these books. I think I’ll offer a pairing this year of my favorite and one of my my least favorites, as they’re by the same author (and even in the same series!). So? Drumroll, please…

rabbitrun

Yep, that’s Rabbit, Run by John Updike. I’d put off reading it for years because I thought it was about basketball, and I was so surprised by how much I liked it!

Which leads me to the first of my least favorite books of 2015:

reduxI hated Rabbit Redux, the next book in the Rabbit Angstrom series, at least as much as I loved Rabbit, Run. It catches up with Harry a few years later, when he gets himself and his kid mixed up with druggy sexcapades, and it’s so extreme that it’s almost unreadable. It’s like DeLillo’s search for new extremes (usually involving the desert), but with moving people into his house with his kid and letting every single thing fall apart. It was painful, and it makes me not want to read any of the rest of the series for fear that Updike will continue to look for new extremes.

And here’s the second. I can’t leave this one out because this might be my least favorite of all time, and I’ve read a lot of books:

neverending

You know that movie we all love? Whatever you do, don’t read the book. It’s terrible and will ruin your childhood and possibly your entire life. For a point-by-point breakdown, read my review.

Well, there you have it! Hopefully I’ll be better about reading and reviewing books in 2016, but we’ll see how that goes, as Puppy.

2015 Book #15/42: Slade House

sladehousecoverI can’t end this year without talking about Slade House, David Mitchell‘s latest novel. It’s been out for a few months, but I just managed to get my hands on it and devour it.

But first (and briefly), I’ll explain the numbering in the title. Slade House is the 15th book I’ve reviewed on this blog this year but the 42nd book I’ve read (according to Goodreads). No, I’m not going to hit my goal of 50 this year, but I’ll talk about that later.

So. Slade House. It’s my fourth Mitchell novel. First came Cloud Atlas, then The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, then The Bone Clocks, all of which I’ve talked about here. Mitchell intrigues me, and Slade House has only added to my interest. At this rate, I’ll be a fanatic before long.

It’s a genre-bender: a supernatural mystery of sorts. Every nine years, something happens at Slade House, and each of these occurrences has its own story with its own first-person narrator. The first is a boy, brought there by his mother, who expects to meet musical society-types there, sort of reliving her past. The boy meets a new friend in the garden, and they play a game that ends in everything going strange – and eventually wrong. Nine years later, a policeman finds the house, and something similar happens. Every nine years, the same thing.

Of course, things eventually become more complicated, and we get closer and closer to figure out what’s really going on. So it’s basically a ghost story about a mysterious house, but since it’s David Mitchell, it’s not quite that simple, and it’s tied to some of his other books, especially The Bone Clocks. (The connections are bonus-level: you really don’t have to have read The Bone Clocks to know what’s going on.) It’s a super-fun quick read.

Mitchell has several other books that I haven’t read yet, but I liked Slade House enough that I’m going to move them up in my TBR Pile. I’ll do my best not to reread Cloud Atlas or The Bone Clocks anytime soon, but no promises. Since I’m reading relatively little right now, I’d like to stick to books I haven’t read.

Which all means that you should run to your local library or bookstore and get your hands on a copy of Slade House. You won’t regret it. I generally hate mysteries, but I guess the ghost story part was enough to hold my interest. And if you’ve read Bone Clocks, you definitely need to read it. Drop what you’re doing and go.

Featured image credit: Elliott Brown

I’m baaaaaack!

See, I told you I’d eventually come to my senses.

After taking off a little more than 6 months, I’m bringing the blog back. Why, you ask? Because it’s (about to be) a new year – and all I have to do is work, raise a puppy, and start library school! Wait.

The actual answer: It’s been long enough that I miss it. Writing about books also encourages me to read more of them, and I haven’t done enough reading lately. Not that that’s especially easy for me right now. And, really, we’ll see what happens after school starts. I’m hoping I still have time for puppy AND books, but if that turns out just to be puppy, there will at least be a lot of cute pictures. That’s something, right?

I’m not even going to try talking about all of the books I read but didn’t write about, but you can check out my ratings on Goodreads if you want an idea. And expect my usual list of likes and didn’t-likes to appear around the 1st of January. Also, expect a change of theme. Soon. I’ll be switching from Divi by Elegant Themes to Extra, a brand new one that I’ve been looking forward to for well over a year. We’re back in business! Wish me luck.

Finally, I’m not going to explain the dog story here, but here’s a video of Penny play-fighting with Shakespeare:

I’m putting this blog on hiatus.

Yep. After several years of posts and five of almost weekly posts, I’m stopping for a while. It’s not fun anymore. I’m tired of having to come up with something to say about every book I read to make sure I hit the fifty reviews per year. What I enjoyed doing at first feels like a job. I guess it doesn’t help that most of the people who read this blog are either students wanting to cheat on a paper or friends who talk to me about the posts rather than commenting. That, and I have very little interest in other people’s book blogs, so I don’t participate. Hence, no participation on my blog.

Really, I’m just bored. At some point, I’ll probably come to my senses and start writing here again.

SO if you want to know what I’m reading, the sidebar will update or you can click over to Goodreads. I might post a short review if there’s something I want to say. There’s also my sparsely updated main Tumblr account and the more often updated Minecraft page, as I’ve turned into an incorrigible addict. Of course, there’s InstagramTwitter, and Facebook. I’m still pretty much everywhere.

See y’all on the flip side.

2015 Book #14: It

itcoverI finally read It. It’s been on my tbr shelf (and my tl;dr pile) for at least a decade, maybe even longer than The Stand was. (I’m having a hard time keeping away from the obvious puns. Gah.)

If you read my review of The Stand, you know that I couldn’t get beyond the made-for-tv movie I’d seen so many times. It ruined the book for me. I was really worried that that would happen with It, but I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t. I think that happened for a couple of reasons: 1. I don’t think I’ve seen the movie as many times as I’d seen The Stand. I’m pretty sure that I’d usually fall asleep by the time the second half starts, so there were parts of the book that I’d assumed I’d forgotten about in the movie that, as it turned out, weren’t even in the movie at all. 2. The movie is soooooo different than the book. What’s funny is that while it’s soooooo different, it’s essentially almost exactly the same. I’ll get to that.

You’re probably familiar with at least the gist of the plot, even if you haven’t seen or read it (I say that, but I didn’t know what Salem’s Lot was about…): A bunch of kids in Derry, Maine, are killed, including ten-year-old Bill Denborough’s brother. Bill and six of his friends track down the monster, who usually appears as the adorable (heh) Pennywise the Dancing Clown. They go into the sewers to fight it, and they think they killed it, but they aren’t sure, so they promise to come back if it reappears. Which it does, about 27 years later, when they’re all adults. Scary things happen.

So. In a lot of ways, It was exactly what I expected after seeing the movie so many times. In other ways, it was not at all like it. I won’t spoil the fun (heh again), but there’s a scene in the book when they’re kids, just after they’ve defeated It, that is…surprising – and, I think, shocking and unnecessary. (WTF, Stephen King? You know exactly what I’m talking about.) Otherwise, a lot of the differences between the book and the movie were probably made for budgetary reasons, especially when it was made around 1990, before the heyday of CGI. Which makes me excited about the new one in the works: It is the perfect movie for a CGI makeover. I’m generally not one to get excited about movie remakes, but this is an exception. There’s a whole world in the book that couldn’t translate well to film without CGI. The only problem, of course, is that Tim Curry will always be Pennywise in my head, and I can’t imagine anyone else playing him. For the rest? They can do better. The book isn’t half as corny as the made-for-TV movie. (I guess I should put a spoiler alert on this video, in case you don’t know what It is.)

This isn’t really a review, is it. (Are my reviews ever reviews?) If you’re a fan of Mr. Stephenking and you haven’t read It, you should. Yeah, it’s long. Now that I’ve read several, I think I can claim that it’s one of his best, though none so far can touch the Dark Tower series.

Oh! I forgot about the Dark Tower references! If you read my reviews regularly, you probably also know that I’ve become a Dark Tower (and Stephen King) junkie, and I get tremendously excited when I see a Dark Tower reference in a Stephen King novel. And there are lots. The turtle, one of the beams, makes an appearance, and It itself is some sort of relation to another important character in the series. There are also the little mentions peppered around just like in the rest of his novels. So much fun!

Is It a good place to start with our friend Mr. Stephenking, you ask? Yes, indeed. Possibly the best, though The Shining might be a little more accessible just because it’s shorter. And most people seem to like Salem’s Lot, though I didn’t. As much as I love the Dark Tower series, I wouldn’t start there. But God forbid, don’t start with The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon. I’m still annoyed at that one.

2015 Book #13: The Good Earth

goodearthI guess it’s for the best that I’ve put off reviewing a couple of books lately, as I’m tired of audiobooks and it’s taking me forever to read It. I read (listened to) The Good Earth almost a month ago, and my procrastination has nothing to do with how much I liked it. It’s really fantastic.

The downside is that I’ve waited so long to write about it that I don’t have much to say. So it goes.

The Good Earth is the first in a trilogy about life in agrarian China. Wang Lung, a young man, lives with his father and farms his land. He marries a slave from a nearby wealthy family, and his exposure to their lifestyle makes him crave it for himself. As the wealthy family loses money, they begin to sell off their land, and Wang Lung is able to by parts of it piece by piece after good harvests. One year, after he has children, a terrible drought forces Wang Lung and his family to move to a southern city and experience near homelessness there until the poor people living around him break into a lord’s house, and he and his wife steal some of that lord’s money and are able to return to their land. They have several years of good harvests and continue to buy the previously wealthy family’s land, and Wang Lung becomes ever closer to his dreams of his own wealth and estate.

(Summaries around the internet give the story a different slant. Interesting.)

I really enjoyed The Good Earth. It had been on my radar for several years, but I hadn’t read it because someone whose opinion I respected years ago told me that it would bore me. That might have been the case when I was in college, but now it certainly isn’t. Without too much of a spoiler, I will say, though, that I’m very hesitant to read the rest of the trilogy because I have a feeling they’ll be depressing. Not that The Good Earth isn’t, in a way, even though Wang Lung and his family prosper.

What all of this means is that if you’ve been considering reading The Good Earth, do it. It’s worth it. It probably isn’t for action fans, but if you like historical novels (which I generally don’t), you’ll like this one. I’m not sure of a good gauge for the type of person who might or might not like it, though, which seems a bit strange. So. Classics and history but not YA? That sounds about right.

Photo credit: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library