I totally forgot to mention my recent run-in with a traveling swarm of bees...but I now have.
The Reading Shelf
I've been inspired by Ms Clack (sorry, you'll always be Ms Clack to me), my eighth (and tenth, I think) grade English teacher to share a photo of what I have on my "reading shelf."
If I had shared the last photo of my reading list (from April), you would see that all the books that were there then are still there now. It's sad, I know. I am on page 609 of the book I've been reading forever, Legends II a collection of novellas/short stories from some of my favorite authors (and a few others I would never have read, otherwise, and will likely never read again).
While the books that were there before haven't gone anywhere, a few books have been added.
So here's what's on my shelf:
Knights Templar - A non-fiction look at the legendary Knights Templar, with lots of pictures.
His Dark Materials trilogy - I've been stoked to read this one since I saw The Golden Compass
Mouse Guard Fall 1152 - This is actually a hardcover collection of the six Mouse Guard Fall 1152 comics. I read the Mouse Guard Winter 1152 comics before I found out about these, but I haven't gotten around to these yet.
Peter Pan - When I saw this was on the BBC's list of 100 Books every child should read and then saw it on sale at Barnes and Noble, I picked it up so the "kids" could read it.
The Woman Who Wouldn't - As good as Gene Wilder's first novel (My French Whore) was, you'd think I would have read this one by now...but I haven't. Too many books, too little time.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - I know, I know. I actually picked this up before I saw the movie, but my intentions were good. The Star Wars novelizations were actually better than the movies (Episodes I, II and III) so I thought the same might be true of this one. I'll let you know once I've read it.
On the Road - This is supposed to be one of those classic "must read" type books, so when I saw it on sale at Borders, I picked it up.
Legacy of the Drow - I was drawn into reading one of RA Salvatore's Drizzt Do'Urden novels by the awesome cover art a couple of years ago. I've only read a few of the Drizzt novels (three, I think), but I bought this collection of his earlier adventures (the events occur earlier than those in the novels I've read) because I've really enjoyed the chracter and the writing (though it does border on "silly fantasy" from time to time).
The Bloody Crown of Conan - The Dark Horse Conan comic books inspired me to look further into Robert E Howard's Conan character, so I picked up a collection of his stories about a year ago,. This is the second collection (with only three of his longer stories) and has been waiting patiently on the shelf for several months as I work my way to it.
Shadow Puppets - It's been years since I've read any of Orson Scott Card's Ender novels, but I saw this hardcover on sale for a few bucks, so I picked it up. before I read it, I'll have to dig all the preceding paperback novels out of the boxes they've been stored away in out in the garage to re-read. I think I may be missing a book or two in the series - I guess I'll find out when I start it over.
The Path Between the Seas - I've never been much of a fan of non-fiction, but I do enjoy reading historical fiction (the more real history, the more engrossing the story). When I read David McCullough's 1776 I realized even non-fiction can be engrossing, if it's written the right way. I've only made it though 1776 and John Adams so far, but I plan to get to this one eventually.
The Johnstown Flood - Another David McCullough non-fiction slice o' history.
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana - I've only read a couple of Umberto Eco novels (Focault's Pendulum and Baudolino), but they fall under the "historical fiction that feels real" category of books. As with Camus's writing, you never know if the novel your reading is what the author wrote or the translator's interpretation of the original Italian (or French, in Camus's case) text.
The Children of Hurin - I was stoked when I saw that a long, lost Tolkien story was being published. And I had high hopes that this would be more readable than The Silmarillion or either of the Book of Lost Tales that were puclished by JRR Tolien's son. I haven't really had a chance to get into it yet, so I'll find out eventually (I'v enever made it all the way through The Silmarillion...that is one dry piece writing. It reads more like a text book than a novel.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist - I wanted to read The Kite Runner, but never found the motivation to pick it up. And now I can only find it in paperback. So I grabbed this one when I saw it on sale at Barnes and Noble (it sounds similar to the premise of The Kite Runner).
The Absolute Sandman Vol 1 - I really like Neil Gaiman's stuff, but I didn't discover him through the medium that made him famous: comic books. Sandman in particular. So when I later found out that these were the original Neil stories, I picked this up. It's only the first of four leather hard cover collections of his comics, though (and I've only read about half of this one). These suckers are pricey, so I don't know how soon I'll be getting the next one (though I've learned sincebuying this one that they are significanlty cheaper on Amazon).
Stardust - I actually read a non-illustarted version of this, another Neil Gaiman novel, a couple of years ago, but I think I've read that this story actually began life as an illustrated story (in comic book format, I think). I'm not sure if this is a collection of those comics or just an illustrated version of the story, but the illustrations are beautiful.
Conan - There's a stack of Conan the Barbarian, Savage Sword of Conan and a possibly a couple of other titles on the left side of the novels on my reading shelf that have been there for a couple of years. I picked them up for about a dollar each after a ComicCon and have read some of them, but I haven't made it though the whole stack yet. The artwork on the covers and a lot of the interior art is surprisingly impressive (I was never a big fan of Marvel's treatment of Conan in its comics, but these Conan magazines are actually really well done).
At the rate I've been reading lately, I'll be luck to finish half of them before I die.
But wait, there's more...
I have a big stack of comic books that won't fit on the reading shelf (that seems to be growing streadily as I find less and less time for reading).
I'd go through the titles, but that's probably even less interesting than the novels I've listed. Let's just say that there's a bunch of Star Wars titles, a few Witchblade, probably a few issues of Buffy, some Red Sonja, maybe a few Grimm Fairy Tales and maybe a Zorro or Lone Ranger. Right on top is the latest (and last) issue of Evil Dead (illustrated by the amazing John Bolton and with writing that stays true to the Bruce Campbell character).
Comiccon is in about six weeks, so my stack of unread comic books will probably be a lot bigger soon.
Fish Tank Jungle
The fish tank is quickly becoming a live-plant jungle and the fish are loving it (not another fish has died yet).
I think that I mentioned the three "betta bulbs" that were planted in the tank a couple of months ago. The three bulbs have not only all sprouted, but have flourished. And this is after receivng a dire prediction that at least one - and maybe all three - probably wouldn't grow at all from the employee of the pet shop where we purchased them.
Interestingly, the three bulbs are not all the same type of plant. Two of them seem to be, but the third is a flowering plant that grows vine-like stems up to the surface of the water (and its leaves also float on the surface). And even more interestingly, the flowering plant seems to be spreading its love in the tank (there are at least four new plants sprouting up in the gravel).
We also added a couple of banana plants, but they don't seem to be doing much, other than taking up space and adding some natural color.
The betta and the five tetras (3 neon, 2 glo-light) are constantly swimming through the forest of leaves/vines in the tank. As the greenery spreads, I think the fish will become even happier with their little artifical home. The two chinese algae eaters and the three amano shrimp don't seem to have much interest in the plants, other than as potential surfaces for algae to accumulate on (the algae problem has not recurred in any form since bringing these guys into the tank).
Unfortunately, the two mystery snails we added to the tank do have more than a passing interest in the plants - they consider them food! They've even been muching on some of the new sprouts popping up in the gravel. Despite their ravenous nature, I think the snails are probably the most interesting critters to watch in the tank and they've even added at least one baby snail to the tank since they've been here. The two snails are constantly stuck together. Can snails be nymphomaiacs?
To give the plants a chance to get a little larger and stronger before they become snail food, I've decided to move the snails and any offspring I find to the smaller bowl for a week or two (depending on how happy they seem in the new bowl). The bowl they will be in is unheated, unlit and not a great home for fish, but I hope it will suffice for the snails. I even moved the banana plants over to give them a little greenery.
I suspect one of the shrimp might be carrying around a belly full of eggs, but nothing has happened yet, so it might be my imagination. If it does lay the eggs, they'll probably just become fishfood for the beta and tetras anyway. They'll eat brine shrimp when I give it to them, so I assume they'll eat baby Amano shrimp too. The two non-pregnant shrimp were chasing each other around the tank yesterday. They can be pretty entertaining when they're active, too.
Invasion of the Bees
Late-spring/early-summer often brings swarms of bees flying through the area (I'm guessing they're looking for a new place to call home, but I'm no entomologist). A few weeks ago, I drove though a bee swarm at the end of the my driveway as I was coming home from work and felt a moment of panic when I realized my window was down about a half-inch (the roller-upper thing doesn't work, so unless I manually push it up from both sides of the glass, it stays down). I'm not allergic to bees, but I am a big pansy and I tend to freak out when they get too near me.
First a flashback to give you some perspective of my irrational fear of bees...
Many years ago, I was driving through the North Dakota countryside (I'm pretty sure it was North Dakota) in my no-frills Daihatsu Charade - which featured, among it lack of frills, no air conditioner - with the windows rolled down. My friend, Billy Martin, was a passenger in the car. As I was driving, a bee flew inside the car, buzzed around the back windows as it tried to escape and then flew toward my neck and disappeared. Not that it matters, but I was wearing a blue button-down dress shirt that day.
When I lost track of the bee (that had probably just flown back out the window), I was absolutely sure that the bee had disappeared inside my shirt. I swerved to the side of the road, stopped the car, opened my door and jumped out of the car in a panic. I ripped my shirt off (possibly losing a few buttons in the process, I don't remember) and began flailing it around as I did the "I'm a big sissy girl" dance by the side of the road. Billy just sat in the car and laughed at me.
Now you know how I feel about bees.
Returning to the less-distant-past, as I was driving through that swarm (and we're talking hundreds, if not thousands, of bees) I was initially a little worried that one might have managed to get in my car though the slightly-ajar window. I made a quick check and was satisifed that the car was still bee-free. But I wasn't out of the woods yet - I did have to get out of my car and into the garage through what I pictured in my mind's eye as a fog of bees swarming around me. I steeled myself and ran inside. Somehow (probably my super-human speed), I managed to get inside without being furiously attacked.
I warned the wife and kids about the bees and of course they had to rush out to see the swarm for themselves. Except...there was no swarm. There weren't even any bees to be seen, which made me look like an even bigger girl.
And now, my more-recent run-in with bees...
I was taking the yard-waste cans out to the curb Tuesday morning of last week as I do every week (every two weeks, actually). I generally remove the lids before taking them out to the curb because they're easier to carry that way, so I thre the first lid off, moved the can to the sidewalk and then pulled the lid away from the second can. As I tossed the lid to the ground, something buzzed by my face and my first thought was that it was just a fly. And then I heard the buzzing and saw the mass of bees on the side of the garbage can.
To my credit, I didn't scream or even flail my arms like a little girl, but I did run as fast as I could away from those bees. And slowly returned to the scene of the crime, edging as far from the only-slightly-agitated bees as I could to sneak back into the garage. I didn't think to take any photos that morning, but I did warn the wife and kids about the bees (and when they checked out the validity of my report, the bees were actually still there this time).
By the time I returned home from work, I discovered that the bees had moved on. But I didn't realize they had only moved a few feet until my wife pointed out the seething mass of bees on the inside of the garbage can lid sitting on the ground. This time I took a few photos (and even a video with just one moment of panic as a bee came too close).
They had moved on again (out of the yard) within a couple of days, but they left a surprise on the inside of the lid: a partial honeycomb. I'm not sure why they went through all the effort, but as I said...I'm no entomologist.