Saturday, September 7, 2019

Book Review: Lily and the Octopus

Recently, I decided to look for a new author. I've had so much fun over the years with Steve Alten's novels, and wanted to see if lightning could strike again.

Browsing through the "new authors" section at Barnes & Noble, I came across the first novel by Steven Rowley, Lily and the Octopus.

So, why did I choose this particular book? Was it previously recommended by a friend? - Nope.
There is a dog on the front (and let's face it - dog books are super 'in' at the moment)? - Nah.

The word OCTOPUS is in the TITLE.

That's it. 

That was my main reason.

I am immediately attracted to anything related to the ocean or aquatic life (fresh or salty gladly accepted). I'm still considering reading Saving Fish from Drowning for this exact same reason.

Don't get me wrong - I like dogs. But mostly, I was looking for a good summer read - and to jump ahead I will share that I found one in this book. It is incredibly well-written.


The octopus in this book is NOT real. It is a metaphor for a tumor plaguing the beloved dachshund of a young man dealing with the horror of losing his best friend (who happens to be the dog).

There is a nice balance of drama and the main character certainly is relatable to anyone who has ever been through a breakup, struggled to mesh with their parents, or loved a pet so dearly they cannot imagine life without said creature of comfort.

Many different critics note the hilarity within the story. The main character - Ted - talks to his dog. They talk about boys, and play board games. But, I don't find those parts of the book comical. I find it completely realistic and admit to crying before the book's end.

Then... it happened.


I was okay with Ted talking to the 'octopus' and Lily. I completely accepted how both the dog and 'octopus' spoke back.

I was not okay with him going octopus hunting in the PELAGIC zone. Yeah, out in the open ocean. The main character has the audacity to claim "I've done my research"! No, sir - you have NOT.

Octopus typically live in areas where they can hide - like reefs. While some are found in the ocean depths, a simple Google search will pop up with coastal and shallow areas.
Here is proof, courtesy of National Geographic Kids:

You, my dear author, were more likely hunting squid.

Which makes sense, as squid have much nastier temperaments than octopuses.

I shall make the assumption a title of Lily and the Squid was less appealing (although I totally would still have purchased a novel with squid in the title) to the masses, and it was suggested you change it.

Just goes to show how those of us who are emphatically passionate about all things ocean have our pet peeves too. Had it not been so well written, I would have tossed the book in the recycling bin for this very reason.

Perhaps the greatest irony is that I certainly found I had octopus on the brain after reading this book, and chose to express that through the various colorings included in this post.

You KNOW you've read something good when it stays on your mind for weeks, returning now and again as new thoughts churn up.

Now, the Washington Post (according to the book jacket) claims "YOU! MUST! READ! THIS! BOOK!" - and while the style of this sentence makes me smile due to the direct reference of a character mentioned in the very title (not the octopus), you don't HAVE to read it.

But I think you'd enjoy it. Just had to warn you about the pelagic error first. I cannot in good conscience recommend a book and let that slide - sorry.

I also expect to see it as a film within the next 5 years. The paperback published in 2017, so I took a quick jaunt over to IMDB and sure enough - "in development" so HA! Read the book first. Then you can be one of those super cool people who has a copy of the book before the movie poster graced the cover. 

Goodbye, Summer.
Hello, Hurricane Season.

Take care!
- Callie

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Eco-posts can be found anywhere!

Over the past year, I've been honing my craft and stretching outside my comfort zone - to an extent.

Writing is a form of art, which is important for a person who cannot seem to draw anything more complex and creative than stick figures or balloon animals.

About two years ago, I left my office at a small nature center and chose to pursue a different passion - and was pleased to find more outlets than I ever imagined!

This time, I'd like to take a moment and give a shout out to the Quill Café Blog. This portion of a website for office supplies and other resources is dedicated to helping people develop professionally. Some of the tutorials are straight forward - like cleaning a paper shredder - while others can open your eyes.
I pitched an idea on what officemates could do when somebody walks in asking for donations. Rejecting a person at an event might be easy, but when you face that person everyday at work it's a different story. The cool people at Quill let me put together a piece on deciding how to give in ways that reflect you as a person.

This led to an opportunity on how to celebrate Earth Day at the office too!

But I think my best article for them so far was about my favorite drink - COFFEE. A good friend (thanks, Sarah!) had created a perfect little guide that inspired me to research what all those little labels on the bags of coffee mean.

I present to you how to choose your coffee responsibly!

Thanks, Quill, for giving me an outlet to share some cool ideas!


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

2 Years and over 2 million Pounds with 4Ocean


About a week ago, I saw a television commercial about 4Ocean for the first time. It blew my mind and here's why:

Non-profits virtually never take the time or funds to create video commercials. Only through the platforms of social media and e-mail have I really seen eco-minded organizations push their message. Incidentally, non-profits are always begging for funding or donations.

Our household regularly supports several worthy organizations including the Wounded Warrior Project, WWF, Sierra Club and our local NPR station (WLRN) to name a few. But because of our love for the great outdoors, national parks and community building entities, we have to pick and choose who we can support each year based on our budget.

So, to come out to 4Ocean's anniversary celebration and see well over 1,000 people participating in a massive cleanup was jaw-dropping. People of all ages scattered the beach in bright blue 4Ocean gear. We walked along the sand and shoreline and did not see a speck of trash from the event itself (another insane accomplishment).

Volunteers, participants and staff all wore smiles too - which is infectious, in a good way.

The sorting station was unique. I've attended several dozen cleanups over the years, but never have I seen the clear sorting of recyclables that takes place during a 4Ocean cleanup.

At the education "village" - which to be fair was only about a half dozen tents in total - a 4Ocean rep talked about how much 4Ocean recycles at their own facility. THIS fact alone sets these cleanups far apart from others I have attended.

I want to take a moment and give a shout out to the organizations who came to share the message and shine light on the big picture for participants or just guests who happen to visit the beach that day.

 I think Jace spent more time with Morgan at the Youth Environmental Alliance tent than anywhere else, save the shoreline.

He sorted through a pile of trash, looking for food fit for a sea turtle. He missed a dried up chunk of a jellyfish. This surprised him, because his marine bio ID abilities are not too shabby if I do say so myself. But this enthusiastic educator took the time to make the encounter as meaningful to him as possible. Very cool.

The next tent that really resonated was FAU's Elasmo Lab. Now, yes - I am an OWL. Yes, I feel the research they do is fascinating and important. But, with a last name like "Sharkey" there is no passing up the chance to check out shark related stuff.

This is a hammerhead skull!

Getting Jace to take the time and focus on shark identification must be credited to Andie (in the photo). While he aced the pop quiz, she kept him interested and the interaction was more than just hey, did you know sharks' lose thousands of teeth?

As an educator myself, I always appreciate when the material presented fits the level of the audience. So, kudos to you, Andie.

And of course, this entire event took place ON THE BEACH, which I didn't expect. I figured the organization would be focused on just getting people there, but realized the intent was so much more. 4Ocean actually forced people to set foot on the beach where it was difficult not to sign up for the clean up itself. You wanted to stand in line and get your gloves and bag. You wanted to search for trash or help sort. You WANTED a shirt or a bracelet - or both.

The business model 4Ocean runs is just that - a BUSINESS model. They are not, nor do they claim to be, a non-profit. The only donation jar at the event I saw was at one of the non-profit partners who brought educational materials to share with participants.

This makes supporting their work easier for many. For example, there was not cost to participate in the cleanup and the company was giving away bracelets when cleanup gear was returned.

Dad taking a moment to teach Jace how to identify weed lines from shore.

We don't need an excuse to explore the beach. We are already a family that doesn't leave trash behind and recycles and attends cleanups. Yet walking along a packed beach filled with people who care is truly inspirational.

One suggestion I can make regarding the 4Ocean product tent - there were no t-shirts in kid sizes. I saw many children there who were way too small for an adult shirt (mine included), and we would have stood in line to make a purchase or two had there been anything for him.

Something unexpected happened shortly before we left the event. The 4Ocean buggy got stuff in soft beach sand. Now, what you may not realize is that both of the organization's founders are in this photo. Both of them helped push the vehicle out after plotting a better path to avoid spraying sand everywhere or putting deep ruts on the beach. It may seem small, but for a fairly young company with fairly young founders, this is the type of thing I love to see.

I have reviewed the 4Ocean bracelets, and to a small extent, the company in the past. My shark bracelet lasted a full six months of torture - from slogging (which is exactly what it sounds like) and snorkeling to roller coaster-filled theme parks without ever taking a break. Since they don't set off metal detectors at check points for concerts, etc., it literally never came off - until the cord gave way while folding laundry and the glass beads hit the floor.

The beads went into the blue recycling bin and I went back to the website to find the January color was my favorite - purple. The Hawaiian monk seals will benefit from this purchase in addition to the pound pulled. I'm good with that.