What I have been up to lately

I have been a bit neglectful of my blog of late and I feel I owe my readers (who are not Facebook friends, and thus know already), an explanation. In part  it has been due to my usual procrastination but it has also been due to a change in career. For over twenty five years I have been in the small press printing industry (“quick printing” of letterheads, business cards etc.), however this business has taken a turn towards extinction so I have been looking for some sort of escape hatch into something else. Something preferably somewhat more in line with my interests in natural history.cdfa_logo_v_300

As a result of my search I recently lucked into a job with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as an “Agricultural Aide”, or more descriptively an insect trapper.


Yours truly in my CDFA uniform.

Basically I catch flies for a living now.

The initial job is temporary (with a one year duration) but I hope to maneuver myself into a permanent position, with a bit higher pay and additional benefits.

Time will tell whether I will be successful in this endeavor. In the meantime this new job has at least broken the shackles that bound me to a printing press and given me something different to add to my resume if a future employment search becomes necessary.

Before, in my last printing job, I was mostly working part time. Now with the state I work four ten hour days (Mon.-Thurs.) and I feel every minute of it. Basically I have been coming home, eating dinner and falling asleep. This leaves less time and energy for blogging. Though hopefully I will start to adapt and get some of the projects I have been working on finished and published. In the meantime here is a quick pictorial view of my day to day life in the CDFA.

I drive a large truck with a State seal on the door around a particular part of Southern California…


…servicing two different types of fly traps typically hung in various types of fruit trees. The McPhail (the interesting old fashioned glass type, baited with yeast pellets)…


…and plastic, two part, Multilure traps (baited with a pheromone soaked sponge, the green thing inside).

mltOnce a week I visit every trap (30 or so a day), replace the bait when needed (every week for the McPhails and every six weeks for the MLTs) and gather up any Mediterranean Fruit Flies (Ceratitis capitata) that I might find in the traps.


Image source, The University of Florida website.

Sometimes there are only a few and sometimes there are literally hundreds in a trap. Further, they are often not alone in the traps. There are frequently a variety of other species of flies as well as lace wings, bees, wasps and moths. More so in the McPhail traps (which are less species specific) but even in the MLTs.


Most, if not all, of these Med Flies are sterile files released by the CDFA as a biological control. However some might be wild flies and that is what I am really looking for, though I don’t make that determination. I simply gather the captured flies up and place them in vials of alcohol:


They are then turned over to someone else who goes through them looking for wild specimens (sterile flies are marked with ultraviolet dye prior to release); the presence of which might indicate a new infestation that would require further action on the part of the CDFA.

So that is basically what I have been up to as of late and which has been partly responsible for my lack of blogging. Fear not however, I have not given up the struggle against ignorance and unreason. I may just be a bit slower than usual at it.


Yours truly on the hunt.

I knew I had become part of a meme but holy crap…

A new Facebook friend asked me if it was me in the meme picturing a bearded guy looking over his shoulder with a pigeon and chessboard in front of him. I told him that I am indeed that guy.

It can get messy

It can get messy

He then asked if it felt weird when I started seeing such things on the internet and in the process of composing my response to his question I did a Google image search based on my original picture and discovered that my likeness had been added to a meme generator. Now, I knew that my picture was “out there” and even blogged about the fact my mug had been stuck into a “demotivation” style meme but it is still a rather odd thing to find a picture of yourself repeated over and over dozens of times with all sorts of different words plastered over top of them.

Most are variations of the original quote, though they often substitute “creationists” with “liberals”, “Republicans”, or whatever political point of view the various meme authors find objectionable. Some replace “creationists” with Christians in general and at least one changes it to Muslims. Others exchange “creationists” for the names of specific people—no doubt the result of dimly remembered arguments taking place forgotten discussion boards—and some take shots at the fans of disfavored sports teams:

Some stray from the original form but seem to be improvising based on the general theme:

A few were taking shots at President Obama’s handling of the war in Iraq:

At least one seemed to take issue with the premise:

Still others are indecipherable by me:

So, yes, as I told my FB friend, it is kind of weird. Especially when I see it used in ways I am either ambivalent about or in ways I would probably rather it not be used. For example, some used homophobic slurs, or rude terms for the mentally disabled and a few even attacked political or philosophical views that I have sympathies with.

Still, I am “Zen” about it. The internet is the modern day Wild West, and once you put a picture of yourself out there you have lost control. It is just something you have to get used to if you want to play in the game.

Though, with all these bits of me (get it?) floating around the net, there aught to be a way for me to get my beak wet (get it?) on the deal…

Fibonacci Pigeons!

Since I must post any pigeon related humor I run across—especially if there is a science angle to it—I present the following, Fibonacci Pigeons:10306175_684865348292743_3363294143001162433_n

Some new Pigeonchess artwork

A modified version of my creationist pigeon mascot, the “Patreon Protesting Pigeon“. A little reverse psychology to woo patrons [Psst, don’t tell the other readers, it’ll give the trick away].


The Patreon Protesting Pigeon

I am now on Patreon

I have opened a Patreon account and humbly beseech my readers to seriously consider becoming a patron of my work here at Playing Chess with Pigeons. Please, please, think about supporting me in my effort to produce substantive critiques of creationist propaganda.

I am not paid by any scientific institution or educational organization to write articles for this blog; something that often involves many hours, even days, of research and occasionally requiring me to travel to various university libraries or museums. Rather I have gladly done this for years without any remuneration beyond the knowledge I have gained in the process and the satisfaction I get from defending the truth and science education from ignorant and dishonest attack. 

However, I could use your help now more than ever since I have recently been laid off work and my wife and I were already struggling just to make ends meet. Even a small amount from a number of my readers could add up to making a very big difference in our lives.

It would also be a plus for my readers since it gives me added incentive to take the time to research and write more frequently (you only pay if I produce) without feeling like I am not contributing to our livelihood. Also, specifically for those who choose to become patrons, there are some added incentives and rewards (for example see the Patron Supporters page at the top of the blog).

And rest assured that only substantive articles, like my “Gill slit” article or my travelogue critique of Dinny the Dinosaur, will be submitted for patronage (not the quickie throw away stuff).

Please help me in the fight against the forces of ignorance that plague the world.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for reading and for your consideration!

I’m now on LinkedIn

Here is a link to my profile. Since my current employment is on shaky ground (I am looking at a possible lay-off in the near future due to slow business), I am currently trolling for connections and endorsements, especially from, but not limited to, sciencey types. So if you’re on LinkedIn and have found my dissections of creationist propaganda informative and or entertaining, please consider giving me a few mouse clicks for support. Thanks!

P.S. if LinkedIn suggests “skills” that are not already listed in my profile, please do not endorse them. It keeps giving people the idea that I have skills that I don’t actually have (honesty is a harsh mistress) and thanks again.

New page for creationist questions!

I have just added a whole new page to the blog just for creationists to ask questions. Just click on the tab above to take a look. Please DO NOT post your questions in the comments thread of THIS post, rather enter them into the comments of the creationist questions page. Thank you.sm_question-mark