Tuesday, June 30, 2015


I feel like there have been a disproportionate amount of "real talk" blog posts on here the past year and a half, but, well, it's been a big, scary year and a half.

So here's another one.

I'm emotionally exhausted. Bone deep, dark side of the moon, trudging through my day exhausted. There's a lot going on you don't know about, and there's this Atlas-like weight I'm trying my best to foist off on any and everything else that I can, without much success.

The internet isn't helping.

Social media is both a blessing and a curse for many reasons. I love all the people I've met online who are now very real, and very dear, friends. Social media is where I get most of my news these days, where I connect with writers whose work I love, where I find new books to read. I learn a lot about myself and others there. But the same things that make it so great have also been leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth lately.

Every day, when I go online, I'm bombarded with hundreds of voices. We all yell into our own versions of the void, all clamoring to be relevant, to be heard. Except the more and more I look, the more and more I notice that the people who are being heard are doing so at some cost to others. Usually a criticism, sometimes snark, other times outright insults. They're choosing the negative because it gets them likes and favorites and retweets and reblogs and shares, which means they don't just show up in my feed once but often many, many times over the course of a few days.

Everywhere I look is more of what everyone is doing wrong, saying wrong, being wrong. And it's exhausting. I'm afraid to voice my opinion anymore, because I don't think I can handle any inevitable snarky confrontations without shutting down.

I cling like a baby animal to the positive influences in my feed. The folks who don't trudge into every pitchfork-grabbing opportunity guns (torches?) blazing, the ones who tweet about their day, or talk about their families, or post pictures of their cats. I like pictures of cats.

What I don't like, what I'm so unbelievably tired of, is the empty negativity. There is a lot of pain in this world, but that doesn't mean we have to use every chance we get to belittle others. There are a lot of things that need to change, but we can change them more effectively by teaching and leading than punishing. There are real people at the other ends of the words you say online. We all have a responsibility to one another, to be human, to respect one another, to remember that no one's opinion is absolute or more important than anyone else's. There are a lot of battles worth fighting, but pick them smartly. I wish I could tell you how. I'm still trying to figure it out myself.

What I do want to see, above all else (even pictures of cats), is people shining the light on those who deserve it, instead of chasing after those who may or may not have done something worthy of a witch hunt. Instead of laying into Author X for doing A, B, and C wrong, compliment and share that Author Y did them right. Instead of jumping on a bandwagon to harass someone, go write an email or a review to a writer whose book you liked. Instead of giving a mass murderer the infamy they crave, remember those their violence took from the world.

Of course, this only works if everyone agrees to it, and makes the effort to follow through. And it's unreasonable to expect everyone to focus on the positive all the time, and I know that. I'm not even asking for that. I just want to tip the balance the other way, because this pervasive, dominant negativity is rotting us all from the inside out.

I don't really have a conclusion except to say this blog post has been a really long explanation of why, for the sake of my currently-fragile emotional health, I'm taking the month of July off of Twitter at least, and perhaps everywhere else online too, and maybe for longer than that.

I'll still be around here and there to check in, maybe still occasionally post pictures of MY cats to pay it forward, but I won't be reading my feed much. If you talk to me directly, I'll still reply. When I come back, I hope to see more positivity, and lead by example myself, something I wish I had the emotional fortitude to do now. But, at least for July, I need a break.

Hopefully see you in August. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Zookeeper's Guide to Rebuilding Jurassic World


The disaster at Jurassic World this weekend left much of the zoological community in shock. The park will be closed for some time, according to initial reports of the damages and casualties, but in the likely event there is still demand for a new facility, I've compiled a small list of things the planners can hopefully do to increase survival rates.

Avoid bringing relatives to work

Family causes stress, which causes distraction, which causes inattention to detail, which leads to accidents.

Check GPS tags to verify animal locations BEFORE entering dangerous enclosures 

Thermal cameras and other technology can easily malfunction. Create escalation protocol and be prepared to follow through before sending staff into animal areas.

Don't keep corporate secrets that are vital to husbandry and enclosure maintenance 

A genetically-engineered animal may take on unexpected traits, but a thorough understanding of its genetic makeup will help prepare for most scenarios.

Ensure there is enough shelter for guests in the event of a catastrophic failure 

Know your facility's maximum attendance and be prepared to provide cover for that number of people. Guests should be aware of what constitutes shelter, and seek the first available location that removes them from danger.

Have failsafes for your failsafes 

What would you do if the electro-shock implants were removed from your animals? There should always be a backup plan, and in the case of genetically-engineered mega-predators, the backup plan should be nuclear.

Make sure all staff are properly trained on security protocol and know to double-check all latches and locks

A door or gate doesn't do much good if someone leaves it open.

Use positive reinforcement animal training programs to promote trust and foster positive relationships with staff

You never know when the bond you've forged with your animals will come in handy. It might even save lives.

Never feed collection animals live prey

Feeding live prey encourages hunting instincts to surface and gives animals a target to practice on. Especially when working with long-extinct reptilians, this can make their behavior unpredictable and increase the likelihood that their next target will be human.

Hiring former Marines and other ex-military personnel will give you a staff with built-in gumption and know how in a disaster 

It doesn't hurt if they're charismatic and good looking, either.

Make sure all potentially sleazy personnel have taken Monologuing 101

Any staff members who might actually be working against the restoration of order in a disaster should be dispatched immediately. They can be targeted by their use of monologues, which attracts predators.

And finally:

Never forget the other resources at your disposal

It might sound like fighting fire with fire, but sometimes the best solution for a predator problem is more predators.

I know the likelihood of anyone at Masarani or InGen seeing this advice is slim. But if they do, and it saves even one life, my work here is done.

Go here to support the disaster relief efforts for the Jurassic World survivors.

Jurassic World; or: OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG


Yesterday, Husband and I left Infant with his grandparents and took off to see a movie in the theater for the first time since Guardians of the Galaxy last year. Fitting, since both movies had the same star. You'd think we were huge Chris Pratt fans, which we totally are, but that part was actually just pure coincidence. 

I'm certain I was That Guy(Girl) in the theater to the people around us. I spent the whole two hours gasping and laughing and fist-pumping and clapping. I know I married the right man because he was right there with me the whole time. 

You guys. I literally cannot remember the last time I was that into a movie. (Pirates of the Caribbean, maybe)? Suffice to say, it's been a WHILE. 

Jurassic World did not disappoint. I was so, so scared it would. 4th movies have a history of suffering, badly, and I was inwardly terrified I would walk out of the theater yesterday with a sick feeling in my gut from disappointment. 

Nope. I was grinning, like an idiot, for at least an hour. I haven't done that for a movie in a long time, either. 

All the shout-outs to zoo culture in general and at least one to my zoo in particular were hilarious, endearing, and surprising. 

Chris Pratt trains his velociraptors pretty much exactly the same way I train my horse, cues and all. Amazing. 

The nods to the previous Jurassic Park films were numerous and nostalgia-inducing. The opening for potential future films was subtle but clear. 

And the monsters. 

My beloved velociraptors: everything I wanted and more. A cameo from our good friend the T-Rex from the first movie. The mosasaur was pretty good, too, and quite the awesome nod to my marine park days. The pteranodons might've been the scariest ones in the movie, though. And the new dino, the Indominus Rex? Chilling. 

It was tense. It was funny. It was beautiful. I cried, several times. 

It had a few faults. But I loved it so much I'm overlooking them. 

It's pretty much a guarantee that we'll see it again, and it's also pretty much a guarantee that I will subsequently purchase any and all Jurassic World merchandise as it becomes available. I'm hooked, guys. I have a new favorite movie. Take my tiny contribution to your millions of dollars opening weekend and bleed me dry. 

I am yours, Jurassic World. 

Everything is Jurassic World, and Jurassic World is everything. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Countdown to Jurassic World: JURASSIC WORLD!!!!

It's here! It's here! It's here!

I'm not! I'm not! I'm not!

No, really... I'm already feeling tense and ragey about the possibility of spoilers, so I'm leaving the internet til Saturday, when I have the chance to see the movie.

See, the thing is... Well. You remember the Indiana Jones movie that Doesn't Exist?

(I liked it, when I saw it in theaters).

(I liked it, until I started hearing other people talk about how much they didn't like it).

(I still haven't seen Age of Ultron because people keep saying they thought it was meh, and with Infant in the picture it's REALLY hard to see movies).

It turns out I'm a fairly impressionable person. I want to form my own opinion on Jurassic World, without any influence going in. I've been waiting for this movie for almost fifteen years. I'm prepared for it to suffer, but I really, really hope it's awesome.

And if it's awesome to me, but not everyone else, that's okay. I'll still like it.

If it's not awesome to me, that's okay, too. I just don't want anyone else's voice in my head when I see it.

So that, crazy kids, is why I'm sitting here with my hands over my ears going "LA LA LA LA LA LA NOT LISTENING LA LA LA LA LA LA LA" until Saturday.

(I hope it's awesome. I hope, I hope, I hope).

Friday, June 5, 2015

Countdown to Jurassic World: Jurassic Park III

I'll be honest, I barely remember this movie. I vaguely remember something about someone stealing velociraptor eggs, and a kid in an old ... plane? truck? train? thing. Pterodactyls. That awful Motorola ringtone. A dino I thought was an allosaurus for most of the movie.

I do remember that it didn't quite have the magic of the first two. I tend to forget it exists. JP 1 and 2 have both been huge influences on my life, but JP 3 was, well, forgettable. 

So this weekend should be interesting, because it will be almost like I'm seeing it for the first time!! I get to be wildly meh about it all over again!

The plan right now is to live-tweet JP 3 on Saturday, 6/6. I just don't know what time, as I'm on call for a late shift at work. If I get called in, it will be a weird time, like mid-day. If I don't, it will be another weird time, like mid-afternoon, because I need to write in the evening. 

All I want for Christmas in June is for Jurassic World to be unforgettable. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Countdown to Jurassic World: The Lost ... er, ... World

Last week, I shared why Jurassic Park is so special to me. This week, I'll be live-tweeting the second movie, The Lost World.

I remember going to see The Lost World in the theater, too, though not nearly as vividly as Jurassic Park. What do I remember?

Well, there are a few things, but the first that always comes to mind is the gymnast vs. velociraptor battle scene.

I remember this specifically because I thought it was ridiculous. You know, in a movie about dinosaurs living free on an uninhabited Costa Rican island and then getting shipped to the mainland and running loose in San Diego, THAT part stretched my suspension of disbelief.

The Lost World seems to catch a lot of flak, suffering either from Sequel Syndrome or Assumed Sequel Syndrome, I'm not really sure which. I can't be an impartial judge because I still think The Lost World was AWESOME, and a fantastic follow-up to Jurassic Park. It genuinely excited me because I thought it meant the franchise was viable, that it was bigger than the second-movie slump, and that we could expect Great Things from then on.

And then, well...

That's next week's topic.

I also love The Lost World now as an adult because a lot of what happens in this movie is super relevant to the work I do with wild animals. Like Jurassic Park, it has plenty of casual social commentary. And then, of course, there's the thrill of watching your (then) city get destroyed by a T-Rex on the big screen.

I'll be live-tweeting The Lost World tomorrow, 5/30 at 6:30 PM PST, still using the hashtag #JPLT. Join in, if only because it's really hard to snark alone.

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.

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.