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.

troy_in_cdfa_uniform

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…

truck

…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)…

mcphail

…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.

mediterranean_fruit_fly17

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.

picking_flies

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:

medflys

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.

mad_troy

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…

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].

patreon_protest_pigeon

The Patreon Protesting Pigeon

Some Xmas gifts plus

Just wanted to share a couple fun Christmas presents I got this year and a couple of gifts I got earlier in the year that I have been meaning to post some pictures of but had not yet got round to doing so.

The first is an amusing caricature of yours truly, drawn by Gabriel Corral (who was, until recently, one of my co-workers):

A caricature of me riding a sauropod while waiving a Darwin-fish flag. The caption reads: "Not scientifically accurate".

A caricature of me riding a sauropod while waiving a Darwin-fish pennant. The caption reads: “Not scientifically accurate”.

He drew caricatures of each of us who work, or worked, at AFS Printing as Christmas gifts.

Next is a painting by my sister, Kindra Pizarro, of a skeleton tree:

An original painting by my sister Kindra.

An original painting by my sister Kindra.

Very cool (be sure to check out her Etsy store: Voodoo Kitty Handmade Oddities).

Finally a couple of neat dinosaur statuettes given to me by my friends Don and Gaynell Frack, I think for my last birthday (or maybe even last Christmas, can’t recall):

A Stegosaurus statuette.

A Stegosaurus statuette.

Triceratops

A Triceratops statuette.

Apparently they bought them, for a very reasonable price, at an art sale put on by a Buddhist temple. Both are very cool, though I think I like the Triceratops best. The only problem is my ever finding a place to display them where the cats won’t be able to destroy them (first world problems).

So that’s it for now, thank you so much Gabriel, Kindra, Don and Gaynell for the thought and the gifts!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

And a happy New Year!

 

Memories of Peking Man at the American Museum of Natural History

Jon and I outside The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia of Drexel University, PA (photo by Don Frack).

While looking through some old photographs, for something else I am working on, I came across some snap shots I took back in 1998 when my friend Don Frack and myself flew back to the East coast to attend the DinoFest 98 symposium (a combination dinosaur fossil exhibition and gathering of dinosaur paleontologists) in Philadelphia, PA.

We figured that to make going really worth our while (and our money), we would make a couple of side trips. We planned to arrive a couple days early, rent a car and drive up to New York for a day and go to the American Museum of Natural History (we were joined on this leg of our journey by our friend Jonathan Woolf who we knew from back in the CompuServe forum CvE debates). We would then

A Triceratops skull and myself at The Academy of Natural Sciences, in Philadelphia, PA (photo by Jon Wolff).

A Triceratops skull and myself at The Academy of Natural Sciences, in Philadelphia, PA (photo by Jon Woolf).

return to Philadelphia and attend the three day symposium, after which Don and I would drive down to Washington D.C., go to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and fly home from there.

It was at once a fun, fascinating and frustrating trip, which I won’t get too much into now. Let’s just say the both of us a life-long Californians experienced a combination of a bit of culture and geography shock.

Anyway, since we were going to go to the American Museum, Don thought he might contact a couple of the scientists who worked there to see if we could go behind the scenes and get a closer look at some of the material in their collection. In this case material that is of particular interest to those of us involved in the creation/evolution debate, namely their casts of the original “Peking Man” (a.k.a. Sinanthropus pekinensis but now recognized as Homo erectus) material. The fossils represented a number of individual H. erectus‘, unearthed in China at a site known as Zhoukoudian (or Choukoutien) near Beijing in the late 1920’s and early 30’s.

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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!