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.

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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…

Another new toy…eventually

After my friend Don gave me a microscope he had rescued from being throw away I wrote in a post about it and mentioned there about how I would like to also have a dissecting microscope (something more suitable for examining fossils & macroscopic critters etc.). Well upon reading this Gary Hurd, a long time colleague in the Creation/Evolution conflict, contacted me via Facebook and told me that if I really wanted a dissecting scope he had one I could have if I just came and got it.

So I went and got it…

d_micro_smIt is a Bausch & Lomb 0.7x – 3x with, from what Gary tells me, a storied history of archaeology fieldwork. The base was pretty rusted (which I imagine was due to Gary’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean) but some steel-wool and some WD40 took care of most of that (as you can see).

There is however one tiny little problem with the scope (for which Gary apologized profusely) and this is where the “eventually” comes in, it lacks eye-pieces! Unfortunately the eye-pieces apparently got misplaced, so until I have some extra cash (who knows when that will happen) it will remain a very cool looking (and very heavy) paper-weight in the corner of my office.

hurd_britain

Yours truly and Gary

Anyway, regardless of the missing bits, a big thank you to Gary Hurd for the microscope!

Soon I will have the makings of a genuine science laboratory! Bwahahahaha!!!

Also, Gary blogs over at Stones and Bones, give it a gander.

A new toy for Troy

My friend Don has given me a microscope! He salvaged it from his work where they were apparently just going to throw it away. It’s a bit old but still serviceable and a quantum leap above the even older toy one I had.

microscopeSomeday I would like a decent dissecting scope (since my interests run more towards the not quite microscopic but still sometimes small). Maybe something with a digital camera built into it…

Regardless, thank you Don!!! Much appreciated!

Happy Halloween!!!

A Happy Halloween to one and all!

front_window2010

Kathy and I are moved into our new (rented) home but still surrounded by boxes, some of which still contain much of my library. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can get my stuff organized so I can start thinking about blogging again…

Will blog for food

I am currently having some underemployment issues, due to having my hours drastically reduced at my job (as a small printing press operator), this has led, amongst other things, to a dispute with B of A (it seems they frown upon not getting mortgage payments, and foreclose on you when you don’t make them, who knew?). 

So anyway, I want to take the opportunity of my lately increased traffic to bring attention to the side bar where a PayPal donation button can be found or a link  to my online T-shirt store (Evo-T’s).

A mere 10 cents, less that the cost of a cup of coffee (20 years ago), attached to each daily blog view can make a real difference in a bloggers life…

Any help you can give in these difficult times would be much appreciated and go to a great cause, moi and my fight against the forces of endarkment. A direct PayPal donation is much more efficient but if you absolutely must have something more tangible than my continued writing about creationist silliness, then by all means buy a frelling shirt.


Thanks

[On the bright side, not working makes more time for blogging…]

Uh oh, I may not be legal

To be filed under “Better Know Your Blogger”:

The archaeological dig being conducted by my mother at my parents house continues. Unfortunately this time she has unearthed evidence that I may not be a properly licensed Dinosaur Hunter (at least in the state of Utah)!

It seems that while I got the license itself (when I was 10 years old), it was never properly filled out:

The address has been redacted, but missing from the original is the signature of the Deputy Lizard Warden of the time, Al E. Oup. This could be a problem next time I’m in Utah!

Deputy Warden Oup (or Oop as it is more properly spelled) with one of his charges.

I had totally forgotten about this fun bit of tourist ephemera, which as it turns out, they still give out at Dinosaurland in Vernal, UT. In fact you can download a copy of the much fancier current Dinosaur Hunting Lic. from their website. Though I notice that the current Deputy Lizard Warden is now given as being “Al O’saurus” (obviously the Al E. Oup joke is for a past generation). But at least it comes pre-signed to spare future dinosaur hunters the legal difficulties that I am apparently going to have to endure.

Here’s a fun game kids, how many typographical and/or scientific errors can you find in the license?