Setting the Record Straight

Hey everyone

I don’t know if I’m returning. This was something that happened early in 2014. It has been eating away at me for a very long time. Things didn’t go as i thought recently. This was supposed to be posted as a final post by someone else. But with things as they are, i figured I’ll post it. Still may be the last.

A great while back I wrote a blog post about the problem commercialists pose to paleontology. I used some of my experience being stabbed in the back by one earlier this year as an example. Then someone came clucking at me, leaving behind this vacuous and inane comment. Based on how it is written, it is either the guy who betrayed me or someone who knows him. So i decided i would  give my side of the story (since his is  biased and one sided, if this dumbass’ blithering is anything to go by). If he (Aaron Miller of the “ancient earth trading company”) ever has the nerve to show his face around you, please give him a right hook for me, and let him know that my torment rests partially on his empty head. So here we go.

 

I am confused…are you against private collectors? One moment you bash amateur fossil collectors, saying they are “more of a nuisance.” Which seems odd. You seem like the type of person who would have some privately owned fossils, whether bought or found on your own.

Learn how to read. I didn’t bash amateur collectors. I bashed private and commercial ones. Yes, I privately own some fossils. Some I have found. Others I have bought. I am not proud of the later, but passion and desperation are a potent combination. And unlike private and commercial collectors, I was working towards something greater: to one day be able to share those fossils with the world. So guess what? Many of those fossils would have been on public display if that sniveling weasel hadn’t shut down the museum we were working on. And even more would have been seen during outreach. My collection would have been in the public domain if I wasn’t betrayed.

So even though he shot down the museum project, he still calls it a museum:

“Presented here in an unprepared tusk from a Desmostylus (a semi-marine mammal, which resembled a hippopotamus, with four stout legs and four small tusks). There’s a 99.999% chance this will end up in our museum for everyone to enjoy (unless one of you twists my arm pretty well).”

First: it is not a museum. Any yahoo can stick a few specimens in a display case and call it a museum. A museum is a library of nature. It preserves our ancient, natural, and social heritage. It preserves them so that everyone, present and future, can learn from them, admire them, and discover the mysteries and wonders of our world. They create special conditions and craft special supports so that this heritage will last. Museums conduct research using the collections they have built. Museum are dedicated not just to research but also education. The design exhibit halls and conduct many programs to help people understand the world they live in. This asshat and the hole in the wall he runs is the exact opposite. No research is done. There is nothing to learn because education isn’t even an afterthought. The specimens are not cared for properly. There is no mission statement, no curation plan, there are no educational standards. It was never about science or preservation. It is just about showing off your “prize” specimens.

But the number 1 reason it’s not a museum… no museum would ever consider selling a specimen. They understand it’s true value and want to share that value with everyone. If you’re willing to sell a specimen if someone offers you enough money… then you are lower than snake shit. Yes a couple museums did try selling some of their specimens. Those actions were by higher ups who do not understand how museums work nor understand the value of scientific collections (not the science or education staff). And those attempts at selling irreplaceable specimens were universally condemned by the museum and scientific communities. Since you unblinkingly put profit before anything else, your sideshow never was and never will be a museum.

Also…your “museum” is it associated in anyway with a nearby university or the city in which it will be based?

What’s that got to do with it? Also, I take it from the quotes that your condescending me (sorry, was that too big a word for you?). No it wouldn’t. It was in private hands. Such a project had to start somewhere. We were going to start outreach to try and partner up with universities, clubs, and others. But again, that never happened because he shuttered the project because he wasn’t making more money.

Also, your argument that commercialism needs to be stopped, in regards to fossils: how do we go about doing that? You offer no real solutions.

This is a complex issue. One that I have spent multiple posts talking about because it is complex. I have to do everything right this minute? Besides, I did suggest one. I said I’d be willing to give Thomas Carr’s eminent domain idea a shot. Again learn to read. What is more, you don’t seem to be offering any solutions either.

You just sit at your keyboard, and bitch about how all these other people have money, none that you can have a piece of.

You just sit at your keyboard bitching at me because I called out some jackass on his bullshit. I am envious of people with money (see my “Money: The Necessary Evil” post on that). But I don’t want ANY of the commercialist’s money. That money was made by whoring our ancient heritage in the name of greed. I don’t care that I can’t have a piece of it because I DON’T WANT IT!

Also, you seem to bad mouth this “commercialist who was different” when he seemed perfectly willing to help you.

Yes he was. That might have been more endearing if he didn’t so callously betray me in the name of profit.

So what if he didn’t want to get his hands dirty…how can you fill out paper work with dirty hands?

What the hell do you mean by “dirty”? He was the dirty one. He was selling fossils for money. He was busy looting another country (Morocco), robbing them of their heritage, so he could make a buck. He failed to properly get into paleontology, so he took the easy way out (big surprise there) and instead sells fossils. His idea of a museum is a glorified trophy room. I wanted to bring fossils into the public trust for the benefit of all. I wanted to create a place where people could learn about and engage in their ancient heritage. I wanted to protect these rare and irreplaceable resources for future generations. If that is your idea of “getting your hands dirty”, then you are a very ignorant and backwards person.

Like it or not, you have to have business savvy in ventures that require money. Especially if you are not affiliated with a public university or government on any level.

Yes, business savvy certainly helps. But when that “business savvy” puts personal gain ahead of the mission and welfare of the specimens; then that person shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a museum, let alone given a position in one.

He may not agree with you on what is valuable and what is not…that doesn’t mean it is a lost cause. Sit down, talk it out…

Talk it out? Let me tell you something: I tried that. I have depression. Having my dream torn away from me by some shit eating worm (who I thought was my friend) landed me in the mental hospital (because I tried to kill myself). I asked my parents to ask him to come in because I wanted to talk it out with him. The first words out of his mouth when he arrived? “What am I doing here?” Apparently this was such an inconvenience for him. I begged and pleaded with him to give me more time, that I now had the means to finish it. He wouldn’t budge. Then he looked at me with those empty emotionless eyes of his and said “There’s nothing you can say that will change my mind.”

I did some work for him, posting items on ebay while he was off at Tuscon. I figured I had earned $120. Granted, I didn’t do exactly what he wanted or enough of it. Maybe he should have given me more than a singular rushed tutorial (I wanted to do a dry run but he blew that off). And I talked to his business partner/wife who I thought was corresponding with him. I may have done a subpar job, but there was no profit in it for me. I needed that money just to cover the cost of gas (his shop was a full hour away from me. That kind of commute really runs up the gas bill). What happened? He stiffed me. Not only did he stiff me, he actually gave me a bill. Not only did he charge me rent (“5 months @ $60 a month discounted to $50 a month (“discounted”, I guess because he was such a nice guy) totaling $100), but he actually charged me $40 for the hospital visit! Hospitalized on suicide watch and wanting to talk to him face to face cost money? What, was he charging me for the fucking privilege of his company? Now I don’t know if he was serious or just thought he was being clever. All it did was show how his obsession with money made him unfeeling, petty, and dishonorable.

When he first told me he was killing the museum, I begged and pleaded with him. He told me: “You want to lead people out to find stuff? I don’t want to have to deal with any of that. If they find it they find it, it’s theirs”. Not “I don’t want to have to deal with that, so you’ll have to”. But “I don’t want to have to deal with that, so you won’t be either”. Way to think outside the box.

So we have someone who is close minded, stiffs a friend for work he did, can only think in terms of money, and only thinks about himself. Does that sound like someone who can be talked to and reasoned with?

… maybe you can help him see the value of a single horse tooth, or maybe he can help you realize that a single horse tooth may not make much of a difference overall.

I tried. I constantly tried explaining to him that you can’t have expectations in paleontology. I constantly told him that in paleontology, you never know what you are going to find and that you have to take what you can get. But no matter what I said, it never entered his thick skull. He could only ever view fossils in how much they would benefit him. As we already established, he his closed minded, so how do you expect me to teach him the value of fossils, which any real paleo enthusiast would already know?

Every fossil matters. Why? Because fossils are a finite resource. Fossil deposits aren’t constantly making new ones. What was preserved in the past is all that there is. Paleontology is a science. Science runs on data. Every fossil is a data point. The more we have, the more ideas we can test about evolution, growth patterns, ecology, and taxonomy. And new techniques are constantly being developed that allow us to utilize more fossils then ever before. A single horse tooth doesn’t make much of a difference overall? How do you know? That horse tooth could make all the difference! For example, my friend Eric Scott discussed at a couple of conferences his work on 3 horse teeth. These teeth were discovered over 100 years ago in southern California. These teeth were used to create the well known Western Horse, Equus occidentalis. He tracked down the general area where they were found and discovered they weren’t all they seemed to be. He proposed that Equus occidentalis may not be a valid name. Those little teeth that the jackass in question would let people keep or hock for a few bucks wound up having serious implications for ice age horses. But hey, that’s probably not much of a difference overall.

Or how about this. In a cave in Russia, scientists found a 60,000 year old bone fragment. Just a chip off the end of a finger bone. Commercialists like the jackass in question would probably have just thrown it way because it wasn’t some big showy specimen they could charge thousands of dollars for. But the scientists knew that every fossil is important. So what was that tiny bone good for? Well it was well preserved enough to harbor genetic material. So they ran a dna test on it. That tiny shard of bone, that commercialists would call worthless and a waste of time, led to the discovery of a new species of human: The Denisovans. But hey, that’s probably not much of a difference overall.

When he betrayed me, I was supposed to return to him a bone he found at Shell Creek. I kept it, not just because he screwed me, but because I recognized the importance of the bone. Just prior I had taken it down south to try and get it identified. Most people said it looked like the distal phalange (end of a toe bone) of a camel. See, finding terrestrial animals in a marine setting is not unheard of, but they aren’t very common either. So far the only other vertebrates from this formation in the area (aside from shark teeth) are a horse tooth and a partial rhino femur. Now we can add a camel to the mix. That little bone expanded the fauna. But he didn’t care. He “just thought it was an interesting bone”. He just wanted it because it was “his”. This bone is another piece to an ancient puzzle and yet he can only view it through the lens of possession.

That is what separates me from him and all craven money grubbing fossil whores like him. I see every fossil as the only record of a once living animal. That record has survived millions of years of geological processes and the elements to arrive in the modern world. It is precious because it made that incredible journey and can tell us so much about a world long gone. Commercialists only see a pretty rock that they can use to enrich themselves. They don’t care what that fossil is or what it can teach us. They only care about how much they can make off of it. Anything they deem too cheap or “not worth it” gets thrown by the wayside. Fossils are the heritage of us all. It belongs to us all. People like me and scientists and even amateur collectors want to make sure we can all enjoy and learn from them. The unthinking bastards you are fumbling to defend only serve those with the money to afford their heinous prices. The worth of a fossil lies not in dollars, but in knowledge and wonder.

Why didn’t you just work something out with this person? he does the paper work and pencil pushing, you do the leg work.

We had agreed to share the workload. When it’s just two guys, you both have to contribute. I gave him things to do that would have sped it along if only he got off his lazy ass. Actually, he did nothing but presumed to order me around, often wasting time by fighting me on exhibit fabrication instead of just letting me do it. I made a donation box, complete with a cast of a saber cat skull. I used plexiglass and ply wood I found in my garage. It wasn’t the prettiest, most perfect example, but it was functional and was one more thing done. Except it wasn’t good enough for him. He actually took a paint can and broke the top off. What the fuck? When your museum is starting off as a few cases in the back of some chintzy shop, you have to make due with what you got. I wanted to rent an ark welder (with my own money, mind you) so I could make stands for the ophiolite display. Instead of letting me do it and getting that much closer to opening, he just kept arguing with me. “The problem with stands is they have to be stable”. Hey idiot, I made some pretty stable stands out of cheep bailing wire. I could have made simple but very stable stands out of steel rods welded together. It’s like it wasn’t our project. It was his project and I was just some tool to order around. He obviously has terrible “business savvy” if he won’t let the worker actually do any work! He kept it from opening with his stubborn ignorance and misguided sense of perfection. Please tell me again how this was my fault?

Overall, I think this guy may be better off without you. And it is your loss for not taking the initiative you need to get this “museum off the ground.

No, I am better off without him. When we started, we had agreed on what we would do. I did my part to the best of my ability. He did nothing. I had given him exhibit descriptions to proofread (the ones I wrote, he was supposed to write one). He never touched them. I had given him a list of things to do (he said he knew people who could do this or that). It never happened. The stuff just sat around his precious shop (and then he charged me rent for it!). I was pretty much doing all the work and he did nothing. And when things went south, he dumped all the blame on me. I’m willing to take my fair share of the blame (maybe I should have asked why nothing was getting done), but I will not take it all when the other guy couldn’t be bothered to uphold his end. Why would this person be considered an asset?

In the end, I was betrayed by a greedy, thoughtless, non-aspiring, callous, lazy oaf. He acted like my friend and then stabbed me in the back when the novelty wore off. He took my dream of a Central Coast museum and wiped his ass with it. He and people like him make a mockery of science and rob people of their heritage. If that was him who left the comment, then what a flaccid attempt that was to try and look like a saint (unwilling to take responsibility, telling a very biased account). And if it was someone who knows him: why are you trying so hard to defend this guy? He obviously lied to you about how things went down. But what does it matter now? Considering how you fell on your sword to defend him (or managed to delude yourself, if you are him), I probably didn’t change your mind.  Words can’t describe just hoe despicable you really are. But he’s the one with the “museum”, so you probably think you won. You didn’t. He is scrabbling for “sell-able”, trying to scrape together enough “inventory” to make his pathetic living. Meanwhile, i have friends in museums who let do real paleontology. I actually get to go into the field and find things he can only dream of. That’s because we know their value and endeavor to preserve them in a real museum (not some guy’s pitiful facsimile of one). I actually get to work with a museum on an unprepared specimen I found in their collections. It looks like it may be important, in which case I would get to help write a scientific paper about it. He tries to slog through life on the bare minimum, selling fossils because he failed to see them as anything other than a means to an end. I think the winner here is obvious.

One thought on “Setting the Record Straight

  1. Please continue blogging. I’ve enjoyed reading your perspective. Looking forward to the next installment. Screw that A..hole!

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