Surviving vs. Thriving

I’m ashamed to look and see how long it has been since I last wrote a post on here. I do have quite a few posts to write about so I will probably spread them out over the week. For my first post…

Recently, my dad’s friend from Chicago (let’s call him Reader) came to visit with his daughter who is two years younger than me. He is a very intellectual guy who has loved to learn since he was a child back in India. He’d pick up any and every book just to expand his knowledge – and boy, did he really expand my mind when he came and stayed for a few days.

One night we were all chilling by the kitchen counter and he gave me a speech about how I should choose to go into my future and nothing has ever struck me as much as what he said that night.

As many people say or have heard from others, you should follow your interests and do what you enjoy. That was the message Reader gave me essentially but worded this way:

You need to find something you’re obsessed with. Something that interests you so much, and something you are so passionate about, that you will wake up in the mornings and chances are that THAT is what you will think about. It should be that way. Anyone can do any job in the future, humans are capable of adapting to their environments.

But if you choose something you obsess over, you will excel no matter where you go. You will be promoted sooner than later, you will get a higher salary raise if that’s what you care about, and people from other fields will come to consult you because you are one of the best in your field. But most importantly, you will have fun.

You can be really talented in one field, but if you don’t obsess over it or have fun with it, then in the end you will be surviving, like everyone else, when really you should be thriving and making a difference in the world – regardless of the field you are passionate about.

“Don’t just survive. That’s what we immigrant parents all over the world have done and are doing right now for you kids. All these immigrant parents have left the comfort of their home countries and are merely surviving right now. Don’t be like us, that’s not why we brought you here. Be better than us, make a difference.”

His speech hit me hard. I’ve always heard people say follow your interests, but it what how Reader put it that made me rethink my entire future. I had plans to go through the English field and become an editor of some sorts, because I enjoy going through the editing process and also that is one of my skills. But.. I don’t obsess over it. I don’t wake up in the mornings wondering what literature I’m going to read next (as much as I’m trying to read more nowadays) nor do I pick up and read any of the books on writing/grammar that I have received as gifts from family.

The one thing I obsess over is paleontology. I love it with all my heart and have since I was a little kid. Paleontology is the subject where I willingly go and WANT to buy books on and read on the train. Every time I go to a bookstore, I always search for a paleontology section. Currently I am reading a book on the Tyrannosaur family that I found at a thrift book store and I am learning so much.

Reader’s speech didn’t just affect me though, it seems like my mom was also enlightened by it. To my surprise, my mom, who had once strongly suggested neurology as a career path, is now encouraging me to follow paleontology. First, I should finish my English degree and get a masters, but afterward – go get that paleontology degree and maybe become a professor.

To be honest, I have yet to look at schools that have good paleontology courses and am still feeling slightly lost despite knowing what I want to do. But I have a good feeling about it.

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The Future Sixth Mass Extinction

So I’m slightly mildly more than a little concerned for our planet Earth. I mean, I always have been in the past but that worry has increased quite a bit last night.

I read an article reporting thousands of dead squids washing up on the shores of the Santa Maria island in Costa Rica. So that’s already devastating and shocking enough. Have you guys seen the pictures? You’d think ‘thousands’ is exaggerating but, man, they were not kidding. You can hardly tell the individual squids apart because they’re all squished together.

It’s more alarming though because a few weeks ago, there was another article stating that hundreds of dead sea lions had also washed up in northern Chile. Now it’s already a huge problem – two different species all dying and washing up somewhere. Obviously, there’s something in the waters.

In many of the articles, both situations seem to share the speculation of rising sea temperatures being the reason for these mass deaths. In addition, some articles regarding the dead squids have reported that it may also be due to low oxygen levels in the sea (there were other man-related reasons given, but I’m focusing on these two natural ones).

For me, this sounds familiar. As a paleontologist enthusiast, I’ve spent some time learning about the land before time (joke). To some people, this may not be news, but here goes anyway.

So we’ve learned about the great dinosaur extinction that pretty much wiped out every life organism except for the hardy mammals and others. But in addition to that, there has been four other mass extinctions prior to that one. Three of them occurred before the Triassic era (when dinosaurs first came), and one of them occurred during the dinosaur age (between the Triassic and Jurassic era). And obviously, the fifth one being the death of all dinosaurs (sadly).

Now, I don’t know much about the two extinctions regarding dinosaurs, but I do know that the three mass extinctions before the Triassic era had to do with the sea and oxygen levels. One of them, the Permian (right before the Triassic era) mass extinction was one of THE largest mass extinctions. It’s even been nicknamed “The Great Dying” because an overwhelming 96% of life died out in that extinction. All of the life we have today comes from the remaining 4% of life that survived.

The reasons for those three mass extinctions had numerous different reasons, such as volcanic activity, melting of ice glaciers, etc. But all of them also involved a drop in oxygen levels or a change in sea temperature. These extinctions didn’t happen suddenly at once like the asteroid demolishing the dinosaur race, they happened slowly over time. But they happened fast enough that animals couldn’t adapt over generations and caused them to die out.

It’s essentially what’s happening now. Climate change today is quickly (in universe time, it’s pretty quick) changing the earth and repeating the same common theme that all the mass extinctions had. I’m not saying we are in the middle of another mass extinction… but it sure as heck seems like we’re about to be in one. Not to mention, paleontologists who have studied the mass extinctions more in depth have stated that the earth will inevitably experience a 6th mass extinction at some point. And based on how the world is changing over the years, I’m not that surprised. Of course, not a super fast extinction, but a slow subtle one.

Okay, it sounds like I’m one of those people running around claiming “IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD,” but I’m not getting to that point haha I’m merely sharing my thoughts on this. I don’t have anyone close to me I can talk about seriously regarding this matter so might as well talk to myself about it on the blog! Also, have you seen the photo of the starving polar bear in the Arctic due to the rapidly melting ice? It’s really saddening.

Any who, thought of the day!

Jurassic World!!!!!!!!!

So… I watched Jurassic World last night. And wow. So much to say. Okay where to begin…

Beau and I decided to have a spontaneous hang out, and then on my way home we decided to have another spontaneous plan – AKA watch Jurassic World. I informed my parents and then Beau and I went on our way to eat dinner somewhere before heading out to the theater. Now the only issue was that as the movie had JUST come out the day before, there were so many people who already booked tickets in advanced. All throughout in the car ride to a diner, waiting for food, and then eating food – Beau and I were on our own phones just searching for open times and theaters. We probably looked like those modern teen couples just immersed in our own phones and not enjoying each other’s company. Little did strangers know, we were frantically searching for free seats with good show times.

We went through three or four different theaters before we found a theater with available seats/showtimes, one where you didn’t have to reserve seats (as long as you had a ticket you could choose where you wanted to sit). Then we were happy and we just munched through dinner happily before rushing off to the theater.

Upon arriving at the theater, we were about 45-50 minutes early, and it was still packed! After Beau and I got in to where the theater was, the people watching the previous show time was just getting out. Then we had to wait another 10 minutes for the movie crew to clean up the theater and prepare it for us. Beau and I were waiting in line and, man, never in my life have I seen so many Indians at a movie theater haha.

The most Indians I have or will ever see is at a theater showing a Bollywood movie (and I haven’t been to a bollywood movie (theater) in ages). I realized shortly that the reason must be because the bollywood actor, Irfan Khan, was in Jurassic World. And I must say, that was a smart move of the movie director to do, casting a bollywood actor. I am not kidding when the theater was 1/3 Indians. Profit! Haha.

Moving on, another interesting part was that that was the first time in SO many years that I had been to a movie where the theater was packed. Normally, whenever I go there’s little to just a moderate amount of people. It’s been a long ass while since I’ve been to a movie where people were still streaming in as the trailers were playing and were desperately looking for seats to sit in. Then again, I usually see movies after they’ve been out for a while, not like JW where I saw it on the second day of premiere. But…. on the other hand, Beau did see Interstellar when it first came out and it wasn’t as jam packed as Jurassic World.

Now the movie itself, oh man, I was super excited as the lights dimmed for the show. I was feeling edgy (in a good way) and fidgety and just all sorts of excited. When the main theme song started blasting a little into the movie and showed the park majestically, I actually shed a tear. I am not, sort of, ashamed to admit I did that. Thank god for the IMAX 3D glasses. It would have been slightly embarrassing for me if people saw that tear roll down my cheek. I couldn’t help it! My childhood right there in front of me after 20 years (not that I was well alive and conscious when the first movie came out but you know what I mean).

I was a bit ‘meh’ throughout majority of the film – I think my standards were just set too high. I’m still not quite sure why I was a bit ‘meh,’ but I’m still mulling it over. Plus, I’ll be seeing it again tomorrow with Beau again but also with my friend and her boyfriend (yay, double date!) so hopefully I’ll understand why. Halfway through, I was thinking to myself “shit, Beau’s probably bored” or something along the lines of him not being impressed with it. Beau is a huge movie lover in general (he used to major in film) and is fascinated by really good movies, so I had a sinking feeling he may not like Jurassic World. Especially because he’s not a JP or dinosaur fan like me.

But surprisingly, he actually really liked the movie. He said it was well done and the climax was amazing. I admit, the climax did make the cut for me as well. If the climax wasn’t the way it is right now, I probably would have thought the movie sucked or something. But it was the climax that had me thinking it was a super good movie in its own way.

Looking back, I think I was highly disappointed in the CGI. I know the old movies used part animatronics and part CGI, which made it more realistic, but come on. It’s been 20 years, you’d think that in this day and age, technology would be better.

Beau made a point that perhaps back then, CGI and everything was a long process in which it turned out well in the end. But today, because of the advanced technology we have, we can make CGI in a snap and it’s easy peasy, but because of that, it just doesn’t turn out AS well. I agree with that point.

All in all, I did love it and it’s a great popcorn movie! Certainly incredibly different from the old movies, but still good and original in its own, modern way. In the old movies, the dinosaurs were purely animals driven by instinct and it was a predator-prey sort of plot for two of the old movies (the second one was more on parental care and instinct).

Jurassic World, however, was different in that you can see the dinosaurs have more of a conscious, intelligent mind. Like, they’re thinking for themselves and they have reasons to do something and not do something. That aside, there’s just more of an emotional connection between dinosaurs and between dinosaurs and humans. I’m assuming this is a reason why there are people who didn’t particularly like the movie, and I certainly do think it has a very different feel from the old movies because of this. But I still enjoyed it. The director did a better job than I expected!

Now… I promised my friend that the four of us would watch it together… But I wasn’t able to help myself so I ended up watching it with Beau early last night. Of course, I didn’t tell her and don’t plan to haha…. Yeah.. bad of me lol but I wasn’t able to help it. So Beau and I have a plan to just have the same responses tomorrow as we did last night. Whatever we said or felt last night, we’re gonna repeat it tomorrow haha.

Jurassic World Observations

Wow, three daily posts in a row! I am on a roll coming back from my no-post hiatus.

Anyway, today I wanted to go back to the dinosaur topic and discuss the new Jurassic World trailer.

So I was a bit iffy when the first official trailer came out, as it didn’t seem… quite as ‘wow’ as I was hoping it would (considering it’s one of my favorite series). I’m still very much excited for the movie, as it is my childhood and, obviously, dinosaur related. But I have a hunch it’s not going to be the best movie out of the four in the series (although a lot of people talk shit about the second movie, even though I thought it was relatively cool).

Then the second official trailer came out and I began to like this movie more, and I think that’s because the trailer revealed a little more of the complexity (in a good way) of the plot. Not only that, it featured more dinosaurs.

But something about the trailer was nagging me, but I couldn’t place a finger on what it was. I watched it several times during my morning commute to school, and I realized that the new dinosaur that was genetically created reminded me of another pre-existing dinosaur. I, again, couldn’t place a finger on it though.

Then it hit me, it looked like the bipedal theropod carnivore Carnotaurus. Below is a picture of it.

carnotaurus

I am not too sure how this picture turned out like in the post after publishing, but anyway, there you go. The new dinosaur in the movie (I still do not know the name of her yet) looks very similar to Carnotaurus. She had the same two crested horns above the eyes and same body frame – from what I saw in the trailer at least. The only differences is that those tiny arms were made longer and there were longer spikes on her back/back of the neck.

I wonder if they made it similar on purpose… they must have, especially seeing how they most likely have a paleontologist they consult during the movie. And it’s not like this movie is based on a book that they can rely on either.

Seeing how there are SO many different looking dinosaurs thus discovered, I suppose it would be hard to come up with a new dinosaur that is distinct and still looks like a dinosaur and not some fantasy dragon. So they probably just thought Carnotaurus was a fitting carnivore and decided to use it as a base influence. Pretty cool!

Personally, it’s a nice choice, as I cannot think of any other more menacing looking dinosaur physically speaking. Most carnivores used size as a threatening display, rather than physical appearances like how rhinos have horns. As far as I know, the most interesting/menacing thing large carnosaurs (carnosaurs is a group of large carnivores like Carnotaurus, and no Tyrannosaurus actually belonged to a different group for different reasons) had was the horns above their eyes. That or the dromeosaurs’ (group of the raptors) sickle shaped claw, but they’re small so… yeah.

Ohhh, maybe they tried to come up with a menacing carnivore without going too over the top and they decided on adding horns above the eyes and it just so happens to look like a Carnotaurus. Interesting thought, I hope one day I can ask someone who worked on the set about it. Do you guys have any idea? Not that most of you would be interested in this haha.

Inaccuracies of Jurassic Park

I’m currently writing a research paper on paleontology and society’s views on dinosaurs. I can’t help but mention Jurassic Park and its inaccuracies, so before I get carried away and add every single detail in my research paper, I’m going to “let off the steam” here. If you’re interested… read on, reader!

So, for starters I’ll do the most obvious errors a dinosaur enthusiast would probably raise an eyebrow or two to. The Velociraptors. My god, the oh so clever raptors. If you were to meet a Velociraptor in real life by some unlikely course of event, you don’t have to be extremely terrified because they’re not AS fearsome as the Velociraptors in the movies. In reality, the Velociraptors were about three feet tall and covered in feathers. It wouldn’t be able to full on tackle an adult human without some help from its ‘pack.’ The Velociraptors in the movies actually closely resemble another raptor family member called Deinonychus (though it too was most likely covered in feathers). And although the dromaeosaur family (the real, formal name of the raptor family) was the smartest family of dinosaurs in history, they were still probably no smarter than your average bird, set aside smart enough to turn a door handle.

Next, the big guns: Tyrannosaurus and Spinosaurus. Indeed, Spinosaurus is the biggest theropod (bipedal carnivore) ever found whereas Tyrannosaurus is not even third largest. But as much as Spinosaurus had size, power and arms to its advantage… it probably wasn’t as deadly and totally badass as the third movie portrays. In the movie, the showdown between the Tyrannosaurus and Spinosaurus ended with the latter snapping the other’s neck ruthlessly. In actuality though, it’s highly unlikely a Spinosaurus would have been able to kill a Tyrannosaurus. Spinosaurus had a long, narrow jaw that was meant more for spearing fish and catching small dinosaurs… while the T-Rex had jaws that were built to crush bones. It had the strongest bite force of all dinosaurs, so the Spinosaurus would have been as good as dead as soon as the T-Rex grabbed a hold of its neck in its jaws. As much as this is one of my favorite Jurassic Park scenes of all time, the fight is pretty unrealistic to me when I think about it seriously. It’s like watching a Cheetah easily bring down a full grown, healthy male Lion.

In addition, I don’t see why the two predators would immediately fight. No matter how fearsome they were, carnivores wouldn’t risk their own health and lives when they could simply size each other up and scare the other away. Of course, there’s no definite proof for this nature, but it’s similar to today’s predators as well as common sense. And it’s unlikely a T-Rex would abandon a large, freshly killed prey to chase five measly humans. Like, come on.

Remember in the first movie, there was a small dinosaur that killed one of the characters in the car? Its name is Dilophosaurus and boy, the author of JP and movie creator really fucked this dinosaur up. Unlike what happened in the movie, there is absolutely no fossil evidence that Dilophosaurus had large frills nor evidence that it spat poison. To be fair/open minded, maybe the Dilophosaurus in the movie was a juvenile, but for information sake: Dilophosaurus was actually 20 feet long from head to tail and usually as tall as an average adult.

In the beginning of the first movie, the first dinosaur we encounter is a Brachiasaurus, and it does this magnificent move where it gets up on its hind legs to reach some green leaves on a tall tree and then lands on the ground with a thunderous sound. Yeah, in reality it would have seriously wounded itself from doing that. Them being able to do that is like a cow able to run down a hill naturally without hurting itself. It’s just physically, anatomically not possible. Their bone structures were way too stiff and sturdy to be able to do nimble moves. Imagine an elephant and do a comparative analysis; they’re similar in terms of size ratio and muscle movements.

As a final note: the title of the movie itself. Sure, some dinosaurs were from the Jurassic period, but majority of the movie dinosaurs (especially the top dogs Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, Spinosaurus, etc.) were from the late Cretaceous era. So really it should be called Cretaceous Park. Doesn’t really have a ring to it though…

Well, that’s all I’ll put in this post. Regardless, the Jurassic Park movies truly were/are fantastic movies with realistic dinosaurs and the details were done marvelously. Props to Spielburg my favorite, favorite, favorite! It’s a classic movie for my dad and me, and we watch one of them whenever we have a lot of free time.