A little bit about the new guy

It’s an honor and a treat to have had PZ ask me to join him here at Pharyngula. Though there have been months lately where I haven’t been a particularly exuberant participant in the lively and collegial discussions here, my relationship with Pharyngula goes back a ways — back to ought-four, in fact, back when the blog was hosted on the Cray 2 in PZ’s undersea lair, and commenters underwent a series of strong electric shocks in an early form of CAPTCHA technology. It was just me and Hank Fox commenting back then, I think, and Old Man Buell the painter, and a giant ground sloth name of Shep. Good times.

Despite that long tenure, though, I haven’t been really active here all that much. I read regularly, but aside from that lurking, and the requisite supporting you all in email, I’m really kind of a newbie here. So a few things about me to get out of the way so you know who you’re talking to:

1) I’m a white cis straight male in my 50s. I live in Joshua Tree, California, an unincorporated community inhabited by about 10,000 hippies, artists, methheads and wingnuts, which is near the similarly-named National Park. I fit right in here. I spent most of my life living in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I worked as an environmental activist, writer and editor. I was born in Upstate  New York but haven’t been back for more than a decade. I live with my fianceé Annette in a house with roadrunners, Gambel’s quail, and Joshua trees in the backyard. That last part may well help me finish the book on Joshua trees I’ve been working on since before Ron Paul was born.

2) I’m the guy who had his Jeep stolen and totaled this year who Hank Fox kindly did some good deeds toward, and you may well have donated to replace the Jeep — a lot of folks did, enough that I haven’t caught up with thank you notes. Eep. I haven’t replaced the Jeep yet — honestly, I’ll probably be getting a more economical 2-wheel pickup or something, used, from the grapevine in town here — but the kindness shown by Hank, FTBlogs, and associated kind people put me way closer to getting it. I’ll post a picture when that happens, and thank you again.

3) I’m an atheist. I came by it the easy way: I went to Catholic school. Being an atheist hasn’t occupied much space in my head since I figured out I was an atheist approximately 40 years ago. I’m luckier than a lot of people in that I haven’t suffered for my lack of belief, and I’m grateful for that.

4) I’ve been an environmental activist, with a focus mostly on wild landscapes and biodiversity, since around 1992. I was a professional gardener before that. This past year I’ve been working with my friend Jim André of the Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center to launch a group called Desert Biodiversity, which works to let people know about the rather astonishing biological diversity in North America’s deserts. I won’t polemicize about that here much unless something pisses me off, but I will share cool sciency things about the desert when I find them, and I will also post ChasCPeterson’s bio in our Board of Advisors page. Oops. Sorry Chas.

5) My dead dog is the most famous dead dog on the internets.

6) These days I make much of my living writing for Los Angeles’ public television station’s website, where I write news about renewable energy in California, as well as weekly pieces on desert natural history and California news commentary like this. I also have a sadly languishing blog here. I’m on Facebook here, and Twitter here.

Enough about me, though. Here’s a recent visitor to my backyard:

Geococcyx californianus

Meep meep.



  1. ChasCPeterson says

    One year back when I was doing time in Stillwater, OK, we were participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count and we got a roadrunner in our yard. Only one we saw in 5 years there.
    They’re cool. Most feathered-dinosaur-like.

  2. ChasCPeterson says

    [PZ: does there have to be a little icon of a white guy in a white shirt and tie next to the post-author’s name? Never noticed it before.]

  3. WhiteHatLurker says

    “white cis straight male”

    Good to hear you support Canadian university sport. Strange place to put that qualifier though.

  4. mythbri says

    Oh! You’re from Coyote Crossing. Been there a few times – I really enjoyed the post you wrote after your Jeep was stolen. I’m sorry about what ultimately happened to it.

    I get roadrunners at work – they like to stop and check out their reflections in the windows to the lobby.

  5. unclefrogy says

    OK I was out of the room when the announcement was made. So what is your position exactly?
    Are going to be writing post here on PZ’s blog or on freethoughtblogs generally.
    Are you going to be taking over when PZ is otherwise busy like with teaching or traveling or incapacitated? Are you going to just post on a regular basis. Will you have a schedule?

    just some more info would be nice other wise it is just the normal things that happen out of the blue and are kind of unpredictable.

    only if you feel like explaining anything it is up to you.
    uncle frogy

    ok I scrolled down and saw the previous post

  6. tarian says


    I have driven past/through there way too many times. One of my best friends lives in the (extended) area. Camping trips, three gallons of water stacked on the pack with filters in hope of finding a gravel basin, I LOVE that part of the world. Spent a lot more time in the El Mirage vicinity, though. Fishhook cactus!

  7. says

    Thanks, folks!

    Chas, this roadrunner is hilariously afraid of the Gambel’s quail, which it outweighs by a factor of five or so. Roadrunners eat the baby quail as you likely know, and the male quail charge in blind rage at roadrunners as a result.

  8. says

    Chris Clarke wrote:

    I live in Joshua Tree, California, an unincorporated community inhabited by about 10,000 hippies, artists, methheads and wingnuts…

    …and rock climbers, but I suppose most of us fit under one of the aforementioned categories.

  9. says

    rorschach, PZ explains much here. He doesn’t mention the thing about me washing his car or the new pub we’re opening called The Squid And The Coyote, but that post will give you the gist of it.

  10. howardpeirce says


    Aww, shit. I was digging deep into the history of the internet to find your Maoist PDF file (and response to Michael BayRooBay), “What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts? — The Graphic Novel,” but it appears to have disappeared from the Internets.

    Is there any chance you can repost this for the noobs?

    Oh, and welcome to FtB. I just registered at PZ’s place under my real fucking name to help welcome you aboard. I may not have a job on Monday.

  11. maudell says

    That’s great. I became a regular lurker of your blog since you wrote a parody of (I think his name is) Jessie Bering’s post on hebephilia (I laughed it for 3 days. It was really portraying what’s wrong with many “pull a justification off their asses” evolutionary psychologists.)
    Unfortunately, google reader doesn’t seem to understand your blog exist. I will happily read you on pharyngula.

  12. howardpeirce says

    Chris, it’s okay. I like my job well enough, but my mother is dying, and they only allow three days paid bereavement for an employee’s parent. So don’t feel too bad if I lose my job. It’s probably my mom’s fault. If only she were more compliant.

    Thank you for re-uploading the MLA graphic novel.

  13. baryogenesis says

    Welcome. As someone who jumped the border in the late 60’s, I still haven’t groked poutine or curling. But m
    y daughter has.

  14. TheFormerAstronomer says

    Chris Clarke? Blogging here?

    *does happy dance* (colleagues look on in bemusement)

  15. Louis says

    I for one welcome our new Yuccan Overlord.

    All the best to you Chris…good luck over here! ;-)


  16. sphex says

    Wow. I am so excited that you’re here, Chris!! Welcome!!
    I’ve been following you since walks with Zeke. My heart still mourns him, his relationship with you, and his collar. I hope you’ll be comfy here.

  17. 'Tis Himself says

    What’s confusing about poutine? It’s delicious and bad for you, the ultimate Canadian food.

  18. says

    I hate scribd. They charge people to print other people’s PDFs. I can view PDFs in my browser, I don’t need a plugin or to pay them for permission to print the PDF they’ve already let me download.

    Anyhow! No idea why the dual-blogger, but I have enjoyed your comments before.

  19. says

    Crissa, I’d never heard that scribd charged to download PDFs (which obviously one can print as one likes once they reside on one’s hard drive). I just tested it by hitting the download button on Chris’ PDF, and scribd didn’t charge me anything to do so.

    They did ask me to log in to Facebook, with a thing about accessing my stuff any time they like, but since I’m about to go and delete that access-permission in a second, but I’m not much bothered.

  20. Art Vandelay says

    I’m luckier than a lot of people in that I haven’t suffered for my lack of belief, and I’m grateful for that.

    Why do you hate the baby Jesus, heathen?

  21. ImaginesABeach says

    Does this reduce my daily blog check by one, or should I still check Coyote Crossing daily?

  22. cicely (Something Dark and Mordantly Humorous) says

    Looking forward to reading your posts.
    *passing flamethrower*
    This is for the Peas that Ye Olde Blacksmith has infested you with.

  23. says

    @Imagines, you’re checking Coyote Crossing every day? I am so sorry. These days I think checking once a month would suffice.

    I’ll probably have stuff over there that doesn’t quite fit here — self involved overly literary Coyote-worshipping things, you know the type — but I admit that the 4 posts a day on average at KCET over the last couple of months has cut into my old blog’s posting frequency a bit.

    @Art: he killed my father.

    @Ye Old: shit. I thought I was up to date on the shibboleths.

  24. says

    @tigtog and @crissa: I believe the deal with Scribd is that they allow the owners of documents to charge for people to download them, and act as a middleperson for the transaction. I’ve used them for a while on behalf of a few of my web design clients and never enabled that feature, and I’ve never had a complaint referred to me that people had to pay to download things.

    But I might be missing something, so please do let me know if they charge you for downloading something of mine, because if they do they owe me some goddamn money.

  25. chigau (違わない) says

    Do you know about quantumn tomatoes?
    you need something other than a squid in the lower right-hand corner.

  26. says

    @chigau: are those what I’ve been throwing at Chopra?

    I don’t mind the squid, but I expect there will be a list of small CSS tweaks like that which our Fearless Leader will want to implement at some point as part of having two bloggers here. I’ll pass it along.

  27. mojave66 says

    I’m a 50 YO white genderqueer lesbian in the Bay Area who grew up in Barstow, not far from where you are now. My parents are still there, so I visit often. We have a lot in common! I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

  28. jakesquid says

    It’s good to see you here, Chris. I look forward to more frequent posts than I’ve seen from you lately.

  29. says

    I’ve been charged for PDFs I was certain the person putting them up didn’t have authorship rights to, and I’ve been told it’s their default. I find their business model to be very, very skeezy. And they have the worst PDF viewer on smartphones, which is really saying something, and don’t let you download to smartphones without it (I guess you’ll bypass their crap security?) I dunno. I just really don’t like them once I got dinged an dug into it.

    Don’t want to detract. I hope you’ll be able to fill the gap I was worried about this school season; there are enough A+ blogs that I mostly follow this one instead of reading many (I know I should, but… I could spend all day reading.)

  30. flevitan says

    Gosh, I still have your own blog bookmarked as “Creek Running North”. Were those the days, my friend?

  31. octopod says

    You’re weird desert people now! Man, I love weird desert people.

    Joking aside: I look forward to hearing from you. Your old blog was awesome.

  32. ChasCPeterson says

    genderqueer lesbian

    honest question for edification: What does that mean? How is a genderqueer lesbian different from a different kind of lesbian?

  33. mojave66 says

    Means I don’t really identify as male or female. It’s a long story, but I spent a few months of soul-searching as to whether I was transgender or not. I realized that although I didn’t feel a bit female, I also didn’t feel a bit male. And since I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life identifying as lesbian, I’ve kept the label.