Friday, May 22, 2015

Countdown to Jurassic World: Jurassic Park

Ah, nostalgia.

I get a healthy dose of it every single time I think about the movies of my childhood. In my memory, my childhood events are tied to the movies (and books, but this post is about movies) that came out around that time. Movies are some of the strongest memories I have:

Ariel swimming on-screen in The Little Mermaid, the first movie I ever saw in the theater, and also the first movie I remember seeing in the theater.

Seeing Titanic in the theater six times in 8th grade. Both because it was the thing to do (us 8th graders put our spent ticket stubs in the clear fronts of our school binders to show how many times we'd been), and because I was into the Titanic disaster before it was cool, so I had to prove myself.

Waiting in line to see the first Lord of the Rings movie, and the first Harry Potter movie. My mom pulled me out of school for both so we could see them the day they came out.

Realizing I was completely in love with adventure somewhere about three seconds into the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

And many, many more. But there's one that stands out, even above all the rest. One movie that genuinely gave me my love of movies.

My dad, when I was 9 years old, took me and my older sister to see Jurassic Park in the theater. I've been a gigantic wuss all my life, so the movie should have scarred me and left me with either years of therapy bills or a strong phobia of dinosaurs. But instead, I have vivid memories of that dark theater, sitting all the way up in the back row (this was before stadium seating, so the view wasn't that great, but my dad wanted to make sure we could leave quickly if we needed to). I remember being scared during the velociraptor and t-rex scenes, but honestly more fascinated than anything else.

Jurassic Park was the first movie to really embrace CGI special effects. Much like Titanic (though more like the disaster, since the movie was still four years away), it was also a great example of the hubris of humanity, and though it went over my head at the time, it had plenty of social and political commentary. Also much like Titanic, it wasn't any one event that led to disaster, but rather a fascinating perfect storm of individual sub-plots that all added up to a spectacular failure.

For all I know, Jurassic Park may have given me my eventual fascination with the Titanic.

On top of that, I'm reasonably certain I can trace my eventual wandering onto the path of zookeeping back to Jurassic Park. Yes, even though it ended poorly for all those zoo workers, I still wanted to do it. Of course I did.

Finally, Jurassic Park seemed like an inevitability in the series of other dino-themed media that, in the 80's and early 90's, also marked my childhood: The Land Before Time, the creatively-named movie Dinosaurs!, and the even less creatively-named TV show Dinosaurs.

In other words, if one movie was an iconic inspiration that shaped me into who I am today, it's Jurassic Park.

Which is why, even though it looks campy, and even though I'm half terrified it will be awful (in a bad way), I am so excited for Jurassic World that I just might pee my pants.

I'll be live-tweeting Jurassic Park tomorrow night, May 23rd, at 7:30 PM PST (approximately, I have a job and a baby and would like to eat at some point). Tune in for snark, nostalgia, and some fun zookeeper takes on the whole thing. You can click over to my twitter feed on the right sidebar there or find me as @LTHost.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Rest of the Game of Thrones Dragon Eggs

So way back in January, I posted this awesome little gift I made Husband for Christmas. I got the idea from and made them using the techniques in this tutorial from Accio Lacquer.

And then February happened, and on Valentine's day, so did this:

This one came with a four-step scavenger hunt written in verse a la GONE GIRL. He hated me. I loved it.

In Game of Thrones, this egg is described as "black, black as midnight sea, yet alive with scarlet ripples and swirls". I accomplished this one by painting silver thumb tacks with a base coat of black acrylic paint (to save nail polish). I then painted over it with varying coats and thicknesses of a deep maroon China Glaze (which has lost its label, sorry), the same Nabi Purple Jumbo Glitter as in the Accio Lacquer tutorial (I found mine on Amazon), and then finished roughly 1/5th of the tacks with a black crackle polish for a cool stone effect.

I love this egg. It took the longest out of all of them, and the pictures don't really do it justice, because when you pick it up and turn it, it just sparkles with a whole rainbow of color. Gorgeous.

In March, Husband received yet another mysterious clue for our dating anniversary that led him to this:

This one is described as "a deep green, with burnished bronze flecks that came and went depending on how Dany turned it."

I love the dimension on this one, too, honestly. Both the black and green eggs came out much better than I expected.

For this one, I used varying shades of green acrylic paint on gold thumbtacks, topped with lots of drug store greens and green glitters. The bronze flake is L.A. Girl Rock Star Crowd Surfing, which is on Amazon here. The only challenge with this egg? The styrofoam egg underneath all those tacks was either damaged or badly formed to begin with. I noticed it, but didn't think it would make this big of an impact until the thing was finished. You can see in the second picture there towards the bottom how weirdly some of the tacks are laying as a result. So, if you choose to make your own, my suggestion is to make sure your egg is perfect when you start.

I used a lot more tacks on the two later eggs, which you can actually see in the picture below. They're more densely scaled than the white one. I think they look better, personally, but it was a buttload more work.

They're really satisfying to hold. It's weird, they feel solid and weighty and cool to the touch but warm slowly in your hands. Hard to believe they're styrofoam and thumbtacks. They feel almost exactly like you'd expect a dragon egg to feel.

Here are all three eggs together:

And, sadly, as I initially suspected, they don't all fit in their places in the box. They do fit, just not neatly cradled like I'd hoped. Oh well. Someday I'll re-visit this:

Tiny Daenerys watches over her eggs:

I didn't make Tiny Daenerys. But I think she makes a great crate guardian.

Monday, May 4, 2015

One Year Later: An Anniversary of Guilt

Edited to add: My now-born son is and was fine, thankfully.

Today is one year since my most recent horse accident, by far the worst of the ones I've had (including the one that left me with a permanent limp), on account of being pregnant at the time.

I've been trying to write this for a while. I thought it would help me to share what happened, but it turns out, all writing it out did was make me realize how much I'm not over it.

I still have a lot of unresolved emotions about the whole thing. I wanted to explain myself and the situation and finally try to work out why I'm still so upset but I think I can't for all the same reasons. No matter how many times I re-write it, I sound defensive, because I still carry incredible amounts of guilt. I will never let myself be okay with it. I think I need to not post those longer versions as much as I needed to write them to begin with.

So if you clicked over here from Twitter or somewhere else, I'm sorry this isn't juicy or long. Maybe someday I'll be brave enough to post a longer version. I just don't think that day is today.

If you're not too upset, feel free to send a hug or a kind word my way. You may not know exactly why, but I could use it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

How Much Money Do Zookeepers Make?

I recently received this question by email (thanks Kali!) and thought I'd add it to the info available on the blog. I actually don't get this question as much as I used to, and obviously my experience won't be everyone's experience, but I'll be as honest as I can without giving too much away.

So. How much money do zookeepers make?

Not much.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Keep reading.

Someone once told me something about dream jobs, like zookeeping, that's really stuck with me. Basically, a significant part of the pay in a dream job isn't money. The non-salary benefits of being a zookeeper are pretty obvious, but they do mean that you'll probably never be wealthy. Sure, you can survive on a zookeeper's wages, but the rest is up to you.

I can't really help you with hard numbers, because pay varies so much from area to area and zoo to zoo. But working full time, in my area of the country, you can expect to make about $30-50K per year as a zookeeper. Less, obviously, working part-time.

If that sounds low, there are other options. You can go into management, or look at the business side of things. You can get into research or lab work or even go into exotic animal veterinary medicine. There's a lot of options out there if $30-50k isn't enough. But, like I said, for those of us in the field, who love it, the extra pay comes from the other perks we get.

Despite being a specialized and difficult job, zookeeper pay is kind of on the low side for a skilled position. Part of the low-ish pay zookeepers get is simple economics. It's a popular job, and with so many willing candidates out there, zoos don't have to pay a lot to attract qualified people.

Just another aspect to keep in mind when you're considering if zookeeping is the right career for you!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New page on the blog: So You Want To Be A Zookeeper

Up in the header, there's a new page for those of you who are interested in pursuing a career in zookeeping. It's my ultimate guide to getting a job as a zookeeper. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2014, or, the year I felt meh

It's time for my annual Year In Review! 2013 was a rough year for me mentally and professionally.

But 2014? 2014 was GREAT for my mental state. I finally achieved a major goal and signed with my dream agent. I was pregnant with and had my first child. I feel like I've finally found my stride in the world and I've made it much, much closer to some milestones that have been eluding me for years.

Physically, though? Wow, 2014. Dial it back a notch.

It started in January with the worst cold Husband or I have ever had, one that left me using an inhaler for a month and made him pass out in our kitchen at 3 AM. We both got ER visits out of that one, and he even got a bonus ambulance ride there.

I'll spare you the in between, but since last January, I'm sitting at a whopping 5 ER visits, 4 injuries, 3 hospital admissions, 2 surgeries, 2 ambulance rides (not counting Husband's), 1 pregnancy (technically a holdover from 2013), and 1 child birthed. And only a tiny fraction of the above can be blamed on said child. (The pregnancy, obviously, is entirely the baby's fault).

It reads like a twisted version of the 12 days of Christmas. "On the fifth ER visit, my true love gave to me, EXPENSIVE MED-I-CAL BILLLLLLLLLLS!"

Right now I'm sitting on the couch sans one bodily organ and one facial cyst, holding my neck precariously and wishing my leg would stop aching. All echoes of things I've been through in the past year. Apparently I pushed it too hard doing a whole lot of nothing a couple nights ago, because when I woke up the next morning I couldn't turn my head.

People lament women who say that having a kid changes you. That you "can't possibly understand" until you've had a child. And until I had mine, I admit, I wasn't fond of hearing it, either. But it's true. Your whole life changes after having a kid. And it's not just because you have a partial genetic replica to care for. This body? The meat suit I'm driving around these days? Is NOT the same body I had a year ago. And I'm not whining about stretch marks or varicose veins (though let me tell you-- those both really suck, too).

No, I mean the clumsiness that caused me to fall and sprain my ankle. The resulting constant ache and unreliability of the knee I landed on when I fell. The constant ache of the other knee I landed on trying to protect my stomach when my horse had a bad moment while I was pregnant. The dull throb in my rib cage from back pain, growing-baby pains, and post-organ-removal surgery pains. The foggy memory that means I use a thesaurus a lot more than I used to. The differently-shaped, less intense, but more persistent anxiety that comes with motherhood.

My arms hurt from the 20 or so IVs I've had in the last year--no exaggeration. At least 1/4 of those blew the veins.

I've gained a lot of weight. I'm not super okay with that.

It hurts to look at myself in the mirror. My clothes fit differently or not at all. The skin on my stomach is a roadmap of downtown Manhattan in purple and pink stretch marks, stabbed through here and there with surgical scars.

I'm still learning a lot of the new tricks my body does after the year it's been through. And it's stressful. Aging is supposed to happen gradually, but I feel like a switch flipped and all of a sudden I'm ten years older. I know the human body has incredible healing abilities, but I'm scared that a lot of these things that I hate, that make me achy and uncomfortable, are the new normal. The new me. I will never quite know the old me again.

But along with the difficult has also come clarity. I'm still in awe that I created a tiny human. That I signed with not just any agent, but THE agent. And from a writing contest, no less. That I did edits and re-writes with a newborn. That I survived all these things that terrified me a year ago. That under it all, I'm still me.

So, all told, 2014 was definitely the year I felt "meh". But that doesn't mean it was a bad year. It was just... challenging in a different way.

Fingers crossed for a healthy and prosperous 2015 and beyond.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Very Crafty Christmas: Miscellania and Paper Wreaths

There were two other things I made for Christmas this year, but since I forgot to get finished pictures, I probably won't bother posting them. After all, who wants to see everything but the final product?

Instead, here's a little mish-mash of some of the smaller projects I made, and at the end are this year's paper wreaths.

I made these dishwasher magnets at Husband's request using magnet strips and washi tape sheets. I used an acrylic paint pen to write on them. I had some leftover magnet strips after "Dirty" and "Clean" were done, so I just made a couple matching bar magnets for the fridge. Can't have too many magnets, eh?

As calligraphy practice, I made some gift tags using kraft paper tags and gold ink. Just in case you can't read them, they say: "merry christmas", "Santa! I know him!", "Peace, Joy, Love", "Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal", and "Mele Kulikimaka", because that song was stuck in my head for WEEKS this year.

I look at these and see a lot of practice I still need to do, but it's not like people pay that much attention to gift tags anyway. Although I was pleasantly surprised to see a few people keep them after they got their presents and threw away the rest of the wrapping. :)

I've decided my favorite thing currently is to write funny or slightly terrible things in really pretty letters all over everything I can get my hands on.

I also really, really love brown paper packages tied with jute string and these tags. I just die.


This isn't really a gift, per se, but I adore this practice piece I made using the Flourish style worksheet from The Postman's Knock, who is basically my new favorite. Seriously, if you're a fan of pretty letters, both alphabet and postal, go check her out. She's amazing. Anyway, I had fun playing around with this style.

As a new mom, I caved to a Pinterest trend and collaborated with Infant to make these cute little ornaments. I used the same paper clay I made Baby Groot with, which actually gave me a lot of problems as it didn't dry flat for most of the ornaments. You can see a bit of wrinkling on the right edge of this one, and it was by far the flattest.

I can't personally recommend this project. I made nine of these suckers and let me tell you: wrestling a paint-covered foot away from a grabby, curious baby while trying to simultaneously keep him from touching you, himself, the furniture, the walls, and anything else in range, is barely fun once. It's definitely not fun nine times. 

Finally, I made more paper wreaths. I. Love. Paper. Wreaths.

This year, I got a little crazy and added feathers to a couple of the ones I made using paper doilies. I also made several recycling pages from old ARCs, which is my favorite way to reuse those suckers.

Large, with feathers. This is by far my favorite. It didn't sell at the only craft fair I did this year, so I'm totally keeping it. 

Small, with feathers. Zoomed in, so it looks bigger, but it's about 9" across.

Small, from book pages.

Large, from book pages.

This was my very first attempt at a colored wreath. It's still recycled book page flowers, but I hand-painted each individual flower layer with either a silver or blue acrylic paint wash before assembling the flowers and then the wreath. Then I added various pieces of silver and blue wreath picks and a larger focal point cluster at the bottom left.

I don't know if I'll ever make one like this again. Probably not unless I can sell it for a hundred bajillion dollars, or I really, really like the person I make it for (which, luckily, I do, for the person I made it for this year). It was truly a labor of love. 

Well, there you have it. That concludes 2014's Very Crafty Christmas. Here's to a crafty 2015!