Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

This book was okay. Perhaps if I had taken up The Aeneid in school, I would have appreciated Lavinia more, as the idea of giving Lavinia her own voice was interesting.

In any case, the book stood on its own; prior knowledge of Aeneas or The Aeneid was not required to follow the story. The book was Lavinia’s account of the past, so there was an air of fatalism (because we are told from the start that Aeneas will not live long) throughout the book. The main character Lavinia was likeable, but the tone of voice was… not my jam.

This is not the kind of book I generally read, but I gave it a shot since I wanted to broaden my reading horizons. Anyway, the book was short (less than 300 pages), and the plot was interesting, so I didn’t feel like I wasted time on this. I could see why people would love this book (it was well-written and, based on the afterword—yes, I read that, too—well-researched), but it wasn’t for me.

Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch

Because Internet delved into how (American) English evolved with the internet. The book had a good concept and a good start. I was amused to learn what kind of internet person (there are different waves and subgroups) I was. McCulloch also tackled internet slang (up until the book was published in 2019), which was quite entertaining: although I’ve personally noticed the evolution of LOL throughout my time on the internet, it felt official having read a linguist’s discussion of the same observations. The book also talked about memes, which brought back memories of old favorites: bad luck Brian and overly attached girlfriend.

While I really wanted to love this book, I found myself dozing off as I read. The concepts were very interesting to me, but I felt like I was reading something too… academic. (Flashback to the times in college when I would suddenly wake up and realize that I had fallen asleep while reading class materials…) Nevertheless I finished reading Because Internet because I was genuinely curious about the topic. Perhaps I simply didn’t fit into Because Internet’s true target audience, but should I find a similar book, I would probably pick it up and try again.

The book had a lot of potential to be amazing, but it fell short in its execution. I’ll probably read her shorter works when I’m in the mood. (Here’s a list of her published works!)

My Carnivorous Plants and Me

I acquired my first carnivorous plant in December 2020—a neighbor had propagated his byblis guehoi and sold it to me for cheap. A few weeks later, I bought a nepenthes miranda from a carnivorous plant shop since I wanted to try my hand at pitcher plants. I had great success with those two plants: my nepenthes miranda never stopped growing pitchers, and, at its peak, my byblis guehoi bloomed flowers and grew so long that I had to trim and propagate it.

Alas, I found out that even carnivorous plants could fall prey to mealy bugs, so my once-glorious byblis guehoi took its rest. I tried my hand at a venus fly trap, too—I acquired a DM B52 in February 2021, but it did not survive, and I didn’t want to replace it (carnivorous plants are pricey!) anymore.

Sarracenia Chelsonii (L), Nepenthes Bloody Mary (C), and Nepenthes Miranda (R)

In May 2021, I (finally) acquired the two carnivorous plants I’ve stuck with: a sarracenia chelsonii and a nepenthes bloody mary. I’d wanted a sarracenia for a few months already, so when I found one within my budget, I went for it. I bought the nepenthes bloody mary to replace my nepenthes miranda, which I never quite fell in love with.

Whereas house plants could survive a week or two without water, carnivorous plants required frequent watering. I wanted to find a way make carnivorous plant care low maintenance, so I looked into terrariums. I had two options: a closed terrarium or an open terrarium. If I had a closed terrarium, I would only rarely need to water my plants, but my plants wouldn’t be able to feast on bugs unless I somehow managed to bring bugs into the closed ecosystem. …No thanks—an open terrarium it is. With an open terrarium, my plants would not only catch prey on their own but would also have the opportunity to grow bigger. I’d still have to water the plants, but at least it wouldn’t be daily.

Terrarium Set Up

Before buying a tank, I decided to ask my neighbors about carnivorous plant terrariums. I mentioned that I had a nepenthes and a sarracenia and that I wanted to put them together. Good thing I asked because someone pointed out that the watering requirements for the two were very different. Unless I set up a large tank with leveling, I couldn’t combine my plants in one terrarium. I didn’t have space nor materials for a large tank, so I planned to use separate betta fish tanks that I found in the house instead.

To start, I made a base layer of pumice per terrarium. This would serve as a buffer in case I ever add too much water into the tank. As for the rest of the potting medium, I used a mix of sphagnum moss and perlite—carnivorous plants thrive in low nutrient medium, so soil should not be used. (Cocopeat and perlite can be used for carnivorous plants as well—my nepenthes miranda and byblis guehoi used this mix. However, I’ve never tested this on sarracenias, so I opted for the tried and tested sphagnum moss.)

Finally, I decorated the terrariums with extra aquascaping rocks I found in the house.

Day 1: Nepenthes Bloody Mary (L) and Sarracenia Chelsonii (R)

Truth be told, the terrariums looked messy. I didn’t think to start with the visible sides first then work my way to the center, but I decided to leave them as is. What mattered was I used the right potting mix. In any case, my plan was to let the plants grow wild, so I guess the messy aesthetic will work in the long run.

I initially set up two terrariums: one for my nepenthes bloody mary and another for my sarracenia chelsonii. Two weeks later, a friend sent me a byblis guehoi propagation, so I set up a third terrarium for that.

Progress Report

Day 12: Nepenthes Bloody Mary and Sarracenia Chelsonii. Day 1: Byblis Guehoi.

It’s been three months since I set up my terrariums, and my original two terrariums have done well. Unfortunately, the byblis guehoi didn’t survive (due to repotting stress and lack of sunlight—the weather was cloudy on the days that followed the repotting). I decided not to replace it and focused on maintaining the nepenthes bloody mary and sarracenia chelsonii instead.

A month after I set up the terrariums, I moved them to a new spot that got direct sun in the mornings. Although I initially made the terrariums to avoid frequent watering, I found myself watering them every 3-4 days (as opposed to every 7 days) since I moved them to the sunnier spot. At least it wasn’t daily watering. The move was worthwhile anyway because the plants were more exposed to the elements in the new spot and had more access to sunlight and insects.

Day 93: Nepenthes Bloody Mary
Day 93: Sarracenia Chelsonii

By the end of three months, both nepenthes bloody mary and sarracenia chelsonii were sporting all new pitchers (the old ones dried up). The nepenthes bloody mary went through a dramatic rebirth (like a phoenix rising from the ashes!) after a dormant period of two months. It shed its old pitchers—which worried me at first—but now it’s growing more pitchers than it had before. On the other hand, the sarracenia chelsonii never went dormant. It slowly lost its older pitchers, but it always had a new pitcher growing. Right now, the sarracenia chelsonii is still a small plant, but the pitchers it sports are healthier than when I first got the plant, so I am not worried about it at all. I’m sure both plants will outgrow their terrariums in no time. (The nepenthes bloody mary is already hanging outside!)

Day 93: Nepenthes Bloody Mary (L) and Sarracenia Chelsonii (R)