Consent: Not actually that complicated

I rarely reblog. This is worth a read. Share it with your friends, your family. A brilliant analogy of consent.

rockstar dinosaur pirate princess

A short one today as my life is currently very complicated and conspiring against my preference to spend all of my days working out what to blog. But do you know what isn’t complicated?


It’s been much discussed recently; what with college campuses bringing in Affirmative Consent rules, and with the film of the book that managed to make lack of consent look sexy raking it in at the box office. You may not know this, but in the UK we more or less have something similar to ‘affirmative consent’ already. It’s how Ched Evans was convicted while his co-defendant was not – and is along the lines of whether the defendant had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim consented. From the court documents it appears that while the jury felt that it was reasonable to believe that the victim had consented to intercourse with the co-defendant, it…

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The Magic In My Everyday

I haven’t blogged in an age. I blame the snow. We’ve had lots of it. I didn’t blog about the snow because everyone had snow. There was nothing particularly interesting about mine.

And I didn’t blog because I was tired. Remember that snow part? I live in a neighborhood that is lovely all other times of year, but during snow and ice, it’s impassable. In order to get to work, I had to hike to the main road for someone to pick me up. Then at the end of the day, I had to walk home. Carrying all my stuff. So early bedtimes and no blogging. But I don’t mind one tiny bit. I’d walk through snow AND fire to get to my job.

Ever have a job that’s made of magic? I do. Every day the sun rises, I get to do something I love. Each shift brings its own lessons, disappointments, satisfactions. And this year promises to be the best yet.

This is the year of potential. There are more species, families, and orders represented in our wardrobe-sized incubators than I have seen in the four years I’ve been peeking into incubators. Tortoises, turtles, and even lizards. Give me a few months, and I may even get to toss a clutch of snake eggs in there, too. One of my pairs of pythons has knocked some boots recently, so I am hopeful.

Chicken eggs hatch out with unfailing predictability in 21 days. Reptiles are different. So many variables come into play. Species, the presence or absence of a diapause, humidity, and temperature all come into play when hatching reptiles. Typically, an incubation period will be 60 days or longer, sometimes much longer.

Here’s the cool thing.  Every few weeks, we take a peek to see how things are cooking. It’s like witchcraft. A dark room, a decent, focused light source, and poof! We see what’s going on in the egg.

Here are two eggs from Red-footed tortoises, Chelonoidis carbonaria. These images were taken on January 28, about a month after they were laid. Click to enlarge.

I’m excited about these eggs. The animals are new to our collection. They have bred before, and it’s a very common species, but this is the first time I’ve been in charge.

And here is a shot from March 1. Click to enlarge. There’s some detail that’s hard to see at this size.

You're looking at a baby tortoise. An embryo. If I m not mistaken, its head is toward the left. I watched it move. It has months to go before it hatches, and I saw it wiggle. Mind = blown.

You’re looking at a baby tortoise. An embryo. If I m not mistaken, its head is toward the left. I watched it move. It has months to go before it hatches, and I saw it wiggle. Mind = blown.

And here’s your bonus. Oustelet’s chameleon egg. Furcifer ousteleti. In real life, this egg is the size of my index fingernail.

This is pretty cool. The dark dots are called blood spots. Note the veining to the left. Things are happening here!

This is pretty cool. The dark dots are the earliest sign of development. Note the veining to the left. Things are happening here, finally!

This chameleon egg was laid… wait for it… in July. And we didn’t see any development until a month ago. If this egg hatches, it likely won’t happen until… wait for it… July. This particular species takes an age to incubate – an average of 9-12 months. The babies will be smaller than my pinkie, miniscule copies of the adults. Is it July yet?

In another month, I’ll take a few more pictures and see what’s new in egg-land. And though it’s only March, hatching season has already gotten off to a very good start. Watch for info on our first three babies very soon.


What’s the best job you’ve ever had?

The One In Which I Realize We are Doomed as a Society

The Girl-child and I went to the movies last week. We bought our tickets for Pass the Light. Given the movie’s premise, we expected to leave the theater full of hope and with spirits lifted. How wrong we were.

I don’t mind shelling out for a quality picture, and therein lies the rub. Hollywood and I don’t often see eye-to-eye on what constitutes quality. The Imitation Game? High quality. Noah? Not. So. Much. And of course now producers are really into remakes because they’re all out of ideas. If they’re going to make imitations of great movies, I should be able to print my own imitation money to pay for the ticket, right?

If I'm going to make my own money, I'm going to put my own image on it. Still rockin' the track suit.

If I’m going to make my own money, I’m going to put my own image on it. Still rockin’ the track suit.

I know. I’m not turning into my mom. That ship has sailed. I’m turning straight into my grandma. Let me just seal that particular deal by saying “Movies today? They’re all sex, sex, sex, and blowing people up! In MY day, producers knew how to make good movies, movies that make you think!”

After our movie trip, I firmly believe that society as a whole is going to hell in a handbasket. Producers will show anything to make a quick buck. There is no modesty anymore. The most intimate moments are broadcast for everyone to see. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, is left to the imagination. I cannot believe people want to see this stuff! We are quickly becoming desensitized, and the definition of what is appropriate is being rewritten at frightening speed. I left the theater horrified, uncomfortable, disillusioned. Because of the pre-move commercials.

I do not want to live in a world that thinks it is even a little bit okay to advertise something like this *** (click to enlarge):

Here's a hint. If it's sold at Skymall, it probably needs to be kept a secret.

Here’s a hint. If it’s sold at Skymall, it probably needs to be kept a secret.

I know that *ahem* personal products like this exist, just like I know things like tax auditors and  boy bands exist. That doesn’t mean I want them shoved in my face. Some things are best kept to ourselves.

I was okay with the product itself. It was the demonstration that gave me the screaming willies. Beautiful model? Check. Pumice sander? Check. Closeup of the bits of beautiful model’s feel sanded off in a floating cloud of skin particles? CHECK!

MY EYES! MY POOR, POOR EYES! Why did anyone think it was advisable to be so graphic? It didn’t used to be that way. Anybody remember the good old days, back when commercials promoting maxi pads were careful to use only blue liquid in their demos? Can we not leave something to the imagination? I believe I speak for everyone when I say “Get off my lawn, you darned kids!”

I have comprised a list of things that should never be demonstrated. Ever. This list is in no way comprehensive.

  • any product that trims hair from anywhere on the human body
  • pooper scoopers
  • bogie removers
  • nail clippers
  • adult diapers
  • toilet plungers
  • bikini wax systems
  • cat litter
  • Cabbage Patch dolls (Just me, then? Fine. Whatever.)

Where does the over-sharing stop? Some things are just meant to be kept private.

***this was not the exact product. Sadly, there are more than a few out there. I cannot remember the name of the one advertised, which indicates an advertising fail on a whole different level, doesn’t it?

What gives you the heebie-jeebies?

A Cool Thing Happened at Work the Other Day

It’s no secret that I love my job. Becoming a reptile keeper last year was a dream come true. Incredible things happen there every day, and I’m so honored to be a part of it.

We have a new exhibit. It’s a series of exhibits, actually; a building with lots of beautifully designed enclosures that house lizards. Many of the animals are very new to to our public, and most of them are new to me, as well.

One of these new animals is the Chinese Crocodile Lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus).

Shinisaurus crocodilurus. Amazing little lizards!

Shinisaurus crocodilurus. Amazing little lizards!

This species gets its name from its crazy crocodile appearance. All those bumps in its skin are osteoderms (literally, “bone-skin”). Tiny bits of bone offer protection and camouflage. Bumps break up the outline and allow the animal to hide. Its coloration is so cryptic that often, I have trouble seeing them even when I’m looking right AT them! It’s a semi-aquatic species, primarily found in China.

One cool fact? It’s monotypic; the genus consists of a single species. It is also endangered. Experts estimate fewer than a thousand animals left in the wild, with populations so splintered and small that their long term viability is in serious question. Some individual colonies have as few as ten animals.

Reproduction is slow for these guys. After a winter cooling period, the pair mates. The female then carries the offspring for 8-14 months. Let that sink in for a second.  A lizard that weighs less than a pound can be gravid for over a year! Shinisaurus are live-bearers, which is an expensive reproductive strategy. Most of the female’s resources will be allocated to her offspring, so in a bad year, the female may not survive long past the birth of her babies. No wonder they’re having such a hard time adapting to a changing world!

Anyway, a few weeks ago, the Shinisaurus keeper was doing afternoon checks. And he found…

shinisaurus crocodilurus, zoo

Baby Shinisaurus! Squee! It looks a little skinny, but it has had a few good meals since then. (click to enlarge)

This little guy was so well-camouflaged that we almost didn’t see him. She birthed in the water, and the babies found safe places next to the walls with only their little yellow heads visible above the water line. It was pretty exciting. We left her alone as much as we could. Every hour or so, we’d check to see if there were any new surprises. And sometimes there were.

shinisaurus crododilurus neonate, zoo

And here he (she?) is with Mom. That’s a big baby!

Shinisaurus eat insects, worms, snails, and the like. They are consummate little carnivores. The three babies are happily eating crickets and other feeder insects, and they’re growing like crazy.

shinisaurus crocodilurus, zoo, neonate

At about 2 months of age

The babies are being raised off-exhibit to prevent stress to them. They can achieve adult size in about a year. Their rapid development is probably one reason there are still a few of them left in the wild. Mom is also doing well. She’s having a well-earned rest before she is reintroduced to the male.

Does anybody wonder why I love to go to work? Congratulations to my co-worker, Brad! What a great addition to our collection!

Last Will and Testament, You know, Just in Case

By the time you’re reading this, surgery will be over and done with. That’s good.

My brain is getting the best of me. On the outside, I look like this:

I'm cool. Rockin' the track suit.

I’m cool. Rockin’ the track suit.

But on the inside, I think I kind of feel like this:

Not so cool. But still rockin' the track suit.

Not so cool. But still rockin’ the track suit.

How do I know? Maybe because I feel the anxiety sneaking up on me. And sometimes with no warning I screamed out expletives. And squawked like a chicken. Or maybe because it’s almost midnight and I’m working on a blog post with a pile of medical forms sitting next to me that I have yet to fill out.  As the nice lady at the surgical center reminded me today, anything could happen, and I should be prepared.  I realized there are things I need to say in case things go wrong.

To my husband: My years with you have been something else. We  married so young. At 23 I didn’t always make the best decisions, but man, I really nailed that one.  No regrets, babe. I’d say yes again in a skinny minute. As we discussed, my wish is to be cremated and the ashes made into a diamond, which you will then wear someplace very tender so that I can continue to be a constant irritation to you. It will be almost like I’m still with you, except you’ll have to make your own coffee. Don’t eat my MoonPies until you’re sure I’m really dead. Poke me with a stick a few times if you have to.

To my Girl-child: You are growing into a remarkable young woman. May your college years be filled with wonder. You can have my iPod if you promise not to delete Minecraft. You can imagine me hanging in the Nether. And take care when choosing guys and tattoos. They’re a lot the same – choose the wrong one, and they hang around forever and are a real and expensive pain  to get rid of.

To the Padawan: I look with pride at how you are growing up, the choices you’re making for yourself, the responsibility you are taking. You can have my Harry Potter Legos. You just can’t actually open them. You’re welcome.

To Squish: Look at you, big kid! You’re learning to read! You can have ALL my Mercer Mayer books. We like Little Monster the best, don’t we? My wish for you is that you grow up to be like your dad, but with less of a fascination for looking over your left shoulder when you drive.

To the guys in the Herpetology department: thanks for making me one of the guys. It was even better than I could have imagined. If we hatch any Angolan pythons this year, I’m taking all the credit. Don’t screw it up.

So there. Hopefully in a few hours, I’ll be safely tucked back into my own bed with a cat at each corner. Until then, friends, peace.


The Blogger’s Guide to Social Media: Twitter

Of all the social media out there, my heart belongs to Twitter. I like its concise format – no giant walls of text to plow through. Twitter’s reach is better than Facebook’s. Anything you tweet will show up in the timelines of those who want it to. End of story. Here’s how to make Twitter work for you as a blogger.

This post isn’t so much about how to achieve a million followers. That part is easy. Follow 2 million people. Statistically speaking, about half of them will follow you back. There you go. This post is more about how to use Twitter to make connections and promote your blog.

For those who are completely new to Twitter, here’s how it works. Follow people, and then their tweets will show up in your feed. A blue check mark beside someone’s name means they are a verified famous person, though  I can’t guarantee you’ll have heard of them. You can use the Publicize feature on WordPress blogs to automatically send a tweet with a link each time you publish a post.

Don’t know whom to follow? Twitter can help. They offer suggestions based on those you have followed before and on the preferences of those followers. It’s pretty much the same algorithm Facebook uses. Sometimes it’s spot on, sometimes it’s not. I’d like to say the more you use it, the better it gets, but that would be wrong.  “You followed a field biologist? Here’s another one for you. And another! You could follow ALL of them! No? You want field biologist who study frogs, not beetles? TOO BAD! You like rock bands? Here’s a geologist for you.” It’s all kinds of fun. But once you get started, you’ll find some peeps.

When I am on the prowl for people to follow,  I look for:

An active feed. Sometimes people take a break from the internet. That’s no big deal. But if I look at someone’s feed and see that they seem to tweet only once every six months or so, I’m probably not going to give them a follow. On Twitter, I’m looking for the potential for interaction, so unless I know them personally, I’ll probably skip them.

Varied content. I read a formula somewhere that explained the ratio of original tweets to retweeted stuff. I then promptly forgot it because that’s what I do with formulas. But the general idea is this – a Twitter feed  should ideally be a mix of links to your blog posts, conversation with other Tweeters, and retweets (also known as RT) of other people’s stuff. A timeline that contains only tweets linking back to a blog doesn’t tell me much about the account holder. If they’re new to Twitter, I might follow them anyway. Someone who tweets only reviews of their books and the Amazon links to purchase them get skipped. I have definitely bought books (and music) from people I’ve discovered on Twitter, but that’s usually only after I get to know how they present themselves.

Use photos judiciously. Many people do not love pics on Twitter. (click to enlarge)

Use photos judiciously. Many people do not love pics on Twitter. (click to enlarge)

An interesting bio. Be personable. And humble. If you’ve published a book, say so, but don’t belabor it. I prefer it when a writer links me to their website, not to Amazon. If you tell me the title(s) or have images of your titles as part of your header, I can find your work. There’s a place to link your blog, too. Be sure to do so.

Conversation. I mentioned this under varied content, but it’s important enough to warrant a bullet of its own. Conversation tells me a few things. It shows that a tweeter is engaged on the site, and it gives me a clue how they interact with others.

Spelling. I don’t care if a tweeter makes spelling errors. We’ve all done it, and there’s no way to edit without deleting the tweet and starting over. I will not, however, follow someone whose tweets are composed entirely using text-speak. My preference is in no way universal. Lots of people don’t care. But using it too often will pretty clearly define your demographic for you and limit your reach.

A respectable number in the “following” column. Sometimes I come across accounts that have a number of people following, but not so many that are being followed. I like ratios that are fairly even, give or take twenty percent, unless they are a legitimate celebrity. Refusing to follow other people maybe means Twitter isn’t the best fit for them. Tweeps want at least a little interaction.

Twitter is a useful tool and a pretty fun place once you get the hang of it. It’s more like speed-dating than an engagement, so don’t feel too badly if you lose a follower here and there.

I wrote a post about Twitter a while back that contains some of my Twitter pet peeves. You can find it here.

What do you like to see in a Twitter timeline? I’m @becomingcliche over there.

I’ll be offline for a few days. I’m having minor hand surgery on the morrow, so I may not get to comments as quickly as I usually do. I’ll be reading them, but unless I can convince my husband to be my personal scribe, I’ll be quiet for a bit.



The Best Seventy-Five Cents I Spent This Week

I cut off the Boston Globe's blurb. You're welcome.

I cut off the Boston Globe’s blurb. You’re welcome.

I almost didn’t buy it when I found it on the shelf, My arms were already full. I had a new Mercer Mayer book to add to our collection. (If you have never visited Little Critter’s website, you are totally missing out), an gorgeous illustrated guide to the animals of Star Wars, and a couple of video games for the boys. Our used bookstore has it all.

So when I found this book, squashed between half-a-dozen different Marley and Me wannabes, I almost gave it a pass. It was a horse story, which was appealing. But it was also a memoir. I don’t read many memoirs. By their nature, they are far too subjective, usually without the author’s awareness. We all want to believe we’re telling the honest truth, but the best we can ever hope for is the truth as we see it. But I do love a good animal story. Besides, it was seventy-five cents, and I didn’t have another book with in the car. I always have a book with me. I bought Susan Richards’ Chosen By a Horse.

I started reading it in the car. Husband got out at the running store. I stayed in the car to read. I read it during lunch. I read it while Squish and the Padawan tried out their new game. I read some more, finished the book, and then I locked myself in my room so I could have an ugly cry. In the words of a wise man, I was “tore up from the floor up.”

The book is the story of Susan’s experience with a horse rescued from years of neglect and the impact the animal had on her life.The story opens when Susan decides to foster a starving and neglected mare and foal from a herd confiscated from a racing stable and carries the reader through the animal’s road to recovery and eventual integration into Susan’s small herd of horses. And we learn some stuff.

The book isn’t perfect. The author had a really clear agenda. She hit us over the head with it every couple of chapters. This damaged horse taught her to love again. I get it! Stop already!I’m fairly bright. I can make the connection between the horse and the healing all on my own, thanks.

And there were some weird things. One detail that drove me ever-lovin’ nuts was the author’s insistence on referring to the horse by registered name, Lay Me Down, throughout the entire book. She made a big deal about how important names are to horse people. This notion doesn’t quite gel with my own personal horse experience. All the horse people I have ever known have been pretty blithe about names, mostly because horses don’t care what you call them. Every one that came into the barn got a new name upon purchase. The animals never really seemed to notice that yesterday they were Champ, and today they’re called Beau (and it seemed that ALL of them were called Beau).

And who calls an animal by its registered name, anyway? I’ll answer my own question. No one. There was once a show dog named Royal Tudor’s Wild As The Wind. If her owner had to say all that, the dog would never get to thedinner table before the kibble was cold. They called her Indy. There’s registered name, and there’s call name. But this is a minor detraction.

There was also a brief interlude into the metaphysical that almost made me give up. I don’t mind people who believe in a sixth sense, but that’s not the book I was hoping to read. Fortunately, within a few pages we get past the psychic friend and into the real story.

Aside from a couple of polishing issues early on, this book is well-written. So well-written, in fact, that I finished it in an afternoon. So well-written that it is going on my favorites shelf to be read again. And again. And again. Richards has a deft hand with description. I feel like I’m there being pushed around by Georgia the bossy Morgan, spoiling Lay Me Down with pets and peppermints, falling into the comfortable rhythm of caring for animals, each with distinct personalities.

I bought the paperback. Should you choose to read it, I recommend not looking at the front or the back cover, as giant spoilers are contained therein. Infuriating spoilers. Don’t look. Unless you need to. Without the blurb on the front cover, the book would have made an even deeper impact.

So there you have it, a book that was meant to be a throw-away ends up on my favorites shelf forever more. Has anybody else read Chosen By a Horse? I’d love to discuss!

What are you reading now?

How To Write a Blog So That People Will Read, Part 3

Welcome to the third installment in my series on writing a blog, written for writers by an inveterate blog reader. If you missed the first two posts, you can find them here and here. The opinions herein are mine. There are endless guides for bloggers out there. Read a few and decide what works best for you.

Use bullet points. Sometimes. Every how-to will tell you that people LOVE to read blogs with bullet points. And that’s true sometimes. Bold print helps to break up giant walls of text. Be aware, though, that very often, people will ONLY read the bold print. The shorter the explanation of the bullet point is, the more likely people are to read it. Also, not all blog posts lend themselves to a  bullet format. Don’t limit yourself.

Don’t hit “publish immediately.”  This is a tough thing to do, but I recommend it. WordPress allows us to save posts as drafts and revisit them. Do that. Give yourself a little space from the post, anywhere from a few hours to a few days, whatever you need to see your work with fresh eyes. Then re-read. Not only are typos and sentence fragments more likely to jump out at you, having some distance allows you to read for clarity as well. If you aren’t sure you’ve hit the nail you were aiming for, use the feedback feature. WordPress lets us send a feedback link to anyone via email, even if they don’t use WordPress. The post will open for them and will look just like a live post so all formatting, photos, etc, appear in context. Linda A is one of my go-to editors. I trust her red pen. Find yourself a Linda.

Edit.  Put your best foot forward, every single time. The way most blogs are laid out, the most recent post is right there on the homepage for everyone to see. Make sure everything is all cleaned up. Root out any mixed up homophones and sentence fragments where you’ve cut and pasted and rearranged. And please, for the love of muffins, use paragraphs. I know. It’s not school, and we should feel free to format as we wish, but God created paragraphs for a reason.

Find your best time to post. This bit of advice is more from the standpoint of a blogger. You want to schedule your posts at a time where you have the most readers online because individual posts get buried in readers and in email.  Here’s the sad part. Every blogger’s sweet spot will be different. If I posted after 9pm, I heard nothing but crickets, but my friend sj’s rants posted at midnight would immediately receive 100 page views within minutes. Every demographic is different. You will need to experiment. Try a time slot for a week or two, then try a different one, maybe a little earlier or a little later. Check your stats. What time slots do you see those peaks? Here’s what I can tell you as a reader:

I rarely read blogs on weekends, holidays or particularly solemn occasions. I am usually too busy doing other things on weekends and holidays. As a blogger, I found this to be true as well. Hits were low over the weekend. If you’re a seven-day-a-week blogger, your weekend posts may get buried without many people seeing them. When there is an event of great magnitude, I turn off the computer completely. During mourning periods following a school shooting, racial injustice, etc, most of the stuff that is dumped onto the internet becomes senseless noise. I don’t read, and I definitely don’t contribute.

Your readership will have natural peaks and valleys. Write anyway. This tidbit isn’t a tip, just a heads-up. In the summer, for example,  page views may go way down. People are outside, on vacation, away from computers and devices. Write anyway. Write to improve your skills and, more importantly, to stay in the blogging habit. You can always reuse any gems later when people ARE reading.


What other tips do you have?

Next week I’ll start talking about social media for bloggers. Anyone out there use Pinterest or Instagram to promote their blog? Want to guest post, or at least give me some insight? Let me know in the comments, or contact me via email.


Pet Peeves Du Jour, Volume 743

I do not know why I am crabby today. It’s raining? I have a million things to do, but I’m completely uninspired? My Ricky Martin CD has a giant scratch on it? All my readers dumped me because I like “Living La Vida Loca?” Take your pick.

Preschoolers with squeakers in their shoes. When a baby begins to take those first wobbly steps, little squeaker-shoes are kind of cute. When the kid has the speed and coordination to train for the Boston Marathon, it’s time to give us all a break. Mom and Dad, you realize that the other people around you have ears, too, right?

Politicians who write off any concern for the environment as a strictly liberal agenda. The Lord gave man dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:26. Dominion is not equal to BDSM. Just because God put is in charge doesn’t mean we have the right to go all Christian Grey on the planet and screw it over every which way from Sunday, dumping poisons into the sky and water and killing our forests. Besides, I thought the notion of not pooping where we eat was more common sense than political.

Radio stations that play the same ten songs. Over and over and over. Hey, DJs! I have a secret to share! New music is released every Tuesday. And did you also know that each new album consists of more than one song? I know DJs gotta promote what they gotta promote, but those truncated playlists drive me to turn off the radio and put in a CD of my own choosing. That I will listen to over and over and over. So there.

Changes in website interface that interferes with functionality. WordPress, I’m looking at you, here. The old interface was easier for someone with my vision issues to read. The new stats page is an endless scroll in a predominately light-blue. I didn’t use my stats page a great deal before. I certainly use it less now. And let’s not even talk about the “new and improved” editor where some of the old options are either gone or so well-hidden I can’t find them. This peeve isn’t the least bit funny, actually. I spend many hours on WordPress. Functionality lost  = time wasted.

Labeling things as “artisanal.” Stop it right now! If you’ve carved a jewelry box out of a chunk of cherry wood, you’re an artisan. If you made a popsicle, you are not. Same goes for “handcrafted.”

Homophones. Why, Y, wye?!

What’s on your nerves today?


Recently I announced the winners of the Mixed Feelings giveaway. The grand prize winner never claimed her prize, so we went back to Rafflecopter to choose another e-book winner. Congrats to A. Burdick on winning the e-book. Of course, choosing a new grand prize winner meant turning once again to Pixel, who has the work ethic of, well, a cat. 2 bows, and a pound of catnip later, let’s see how she did.