Thoughts on writing Writing by others

Is This a British Attitude or Something Else?

I was astounded by this writing from Wallpaper* Magazine (external link).  This review talks about equality at the same time they admire a private club with a “suitably rigorous admittance process.” This sounds like the same upper class that Orwell railed against seventy years ago. Are these fops still with us?

Just when you think London has met its quota of private members’ clubs, along comes another. And yet The Conduit is not like any other. Aside from its location on prime real estate and a suitably rigorous admittance process, the club is worlds apart from the rest. Rooted in a year-round cultural curriculum that focuses on core themes such as climate change, economic opportunity, justice and equality, and art and culture, The Conduit is distinct for its commitment to positive social change; an unusual yet refreshing mission in the realm of Mayfair members’ clubs.


Headed to Oatman, Arizona

Just a quick note to say I’m making a one day field trip to Oatman, Arizona, Actually, six miles outside of Oatman. I’ll report soon on what I was looking for.

Update! For a feel good story about part of my trip, go to my rockhound website:

rocks and lapidary Uncategorized

Getting Ready for Quartzsite

Update! I’ve posted some of my Quartzsite experience here. It’s at my book site: 

Quartzsite is a small town in the Arizona desert that each year plays host to rock and gem enthusiasts from all over the world. These rockhounds, prospectors, and lapidary people come to meet hundreds of vendors selling everything rock and jewelry related. Others come, too.

In the desert around Quartzite, thousands of temporary winter visitors, called Snowbirds, make themselves a home for a few weeks or months. These are mainly RV folks, often retired, who roam the States seeking warm climates and interesting events. They certainly find both in Quartzsite.

Besides rocks, dozens of venues host flea market goods, with everything from car parts to comic books to antiques. You’ll never know what you’ll find in Quartzsite. In addition to seasonal selling sites, permanent buildings in town include a unique bookstore, a great local history museum, and a bead shop that has a terrific rock and gem museum.

The most prominent rock event each winter is the QIA PowWow:

QIA stands for the Quartzsite Improvement Association, a non-profit that uses proceeds from the event to benefit various concerns around the city. The PowWow runs from Wednesday, January 16th, to Sunday, January, 20th. Free parking and free admission, with a shuttle service to ferry people back and forth from the parking lot.

The local gem club hosts two field trips each day during the PowWow, off to a different collecting sites each time. I won’t be able to participate in any digs due to my recent surgery, but I will be in town Wednesday and Thursday. I’ll take photographs for my book, interview people, and pass out business cards.

Winter weather can be iffy in the desert. Currently, a slight chance of rain is in the forecast. Heavy rain and wind can play havoc with the vendors, most of whom have outside booths. While that weather can happen, Quartzsite usually offers shirt-sleeve weather by noon.

Bring plenty of water if you go walking around the PowWow. Humidity is low in the desert, even in winter, and people dry out. Comfortable shoes! And something to carry all your goods back to your vehicle. For bigger material, like petrified wood stumps, try the Desert Gardens venue. And pick up the free Quartzsite show guides which are placed all over town.

Important point! There are no Big Bank ATMs in town. Bring lots of cash in small bills. Don’t ever make a vendor break a hundred, or even a twenty for a small item. Small bills!

Rock&Gem has an excellent, current introduction to Quartzsite at their site:

I wrote an article two years ago on Quartzsite for Rock&Gem. Unfortunately, the content is behind a paywall. But I’ll be sharing a few photographs and notes when I get on the road this week. I am still tired from my operation but there is little pain from the wound area. Generally. Unable to run for two more weeks, I am listless and impatient to get back to my routine. Quartzsite will be a welcome distraction. Perhaps I will see you there. I’ll be the one with all the bandages on his face. 🙂


That Was Intense!

“An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations.” From the movie Repo Man.

This morning I had Mohs surgery to remove a basal cell carcinoma from underneath my left eye. I have worn eyeglasses and sunglasses all my life but that was obviously not enough to prevent this skin cancer from happening. I ordinarily cover up when I am outdoors but I have not been covering the front of my face with suntan lotion. I will from now on.

The surgery was less painful than most of my involved dental procedures, but still painful and terrifying enough in its own way. I thank everyone at the Las Vegas Skin and Cancer Clinics (external link) for helping me through it. I especially thank Dr. Susun Michaels for her work. (Note the spelling.) She is a fine and caring doctor.

I was told the cancer has been completely removed but I must continue with follow up visits to the clinic to detect and then treat any more of these so called BCCs that might develop. In a lighthearted vein, does this mean I am a cancer survivor?

This is a follow on. Changing my bandage for the first time was shocking. My small cancer spot was no more than a quarter-inch in diameter. But the resulting cut was over an inch, held together by four or five stitches. The doctor’s office said that in closing a small wound the doctor must often work back from a distance. I’m not worried about scarring, I was just surprised at the apparent damage. There’s no pain after two days, only the pain that comes when I have to pull off the old bandages.


Drone Uncategorized video

Flying A Drone Part III

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch

I’ve written on flying a drone before. (internal link) This is a recap and an update.

I bought a drone about two years ago, with the idea of supplementing my magazine articles with photographs taken by it. Everyone likes aerial photos. Several photographs taken by it were used by Outdoor California (internal link) when they published an article of mine last year. They paid well for those photographs. Despite that success, I haven’t flown my drone for months. I keep it charged, but little else.

My drone is a DJI Phantom Standard. It stores pictures and video on an SD card in the drone itself, the part that flies around. I’d prefer that it stores images on my iPhone but it does not do that. Instead, the iPhone is used as a viewing screen. This means to review photographs in the field, I need to land the drone, take out the SD card, and then load the card into my laptop. This is inconvenient and exposes my computer to dust and dirt. I must also be mindful of keeping the laptop charged while I review and possibly edit. Keeping everything charged is a real consideration.

The items to keep charged are the iPhone, the drone controller, the thing with the paddles that moves the drone up and down, the drone battery, a spare battery, and my laptop. To deal with all this, I bought a lithium-ion smart battery that is about the size of a small car battery. It can supply AC or DC current to recharge any devices I take outside. Although it has been renamed, you can still find it at Walmart under the long name of “Suaoki PowerHouse, Compact 400Wh/120000mAh Portable Outlet.” I even bought a 100 watt solar panel to top it off when I go camping.

But, again, reviewing is difficult, since the drone has to be landed before photographs can be offloaded from the device. Photography, therefore, is inexact with my drone and I hope for the best while it is in the air. It cost too much to now replace it with something new or different, instead, I must do the best I can with what I have. Instead, I take lots and lots of photos while in the air, to have at least a few useable shots when I go to review. Video, by the way, is not 4K but good enough for web work. Still images are at a publishable resolution.

It’s a complicated setup. I have the drone controller, which makes the drone move, the iPhone, which sits on the controller to act as a viewing screen, and then the drone itself. As well as the DJI app for the phone. All of this works through a WiFi network generated by the iPhone and the drone. I’ve found I can do testing of the network indoors by taking off the drone propellers. In this way I don’t have it accidentally flying into the ceiling. Indoor testing shows that the wireless network connections are satisfactory to initiate flying.

I have not yet flown the drone out of what is called its safe zone. That’s a cone shaped area preset by the factory.  If I get away from this setting I fear my expensive investment will disappear. It is important to orient the drone every time it is flown, a pre-flight dance that involves spinning the drone by hand in different circle directions. I do not fly it over water as I am afraid it will fall in and be unrecoverable. Drone photography in commercials oversells the hobby. The only people flying their drone over water or over canyons are those who are sponsored by drone companies, people who will get a new machine at no cost if their old one is lost.

I am only comfortable flying it over ground where I can get it back in case something goes wrong. Winds are tricky. The wind may be much more powerful just a few dozen feet above ground level, possibly preventing the drone from getting back to its starting point. Glare is a big problem on the iPhone. I would prefer a larger screen or a glare guard. While I should learn to use my drone better, my anxiety over flying it and the many steps involved in flying keeps it grounded most of the time.

Drone shot. Camp Cady Wildlife Area, a property managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. This shot would be better if the drone were higher up. Lesson learned.

Stock photo of the drone. Large, heavy battery contained within.











This battery is extremely useful in the field. Charge at home for best results. Can be charged also through a vehicle’s cigarette lighter, although more slowly. Also chargeable by solar panel, again, much more slowly compared to charging with line power.


Reflections on a Black December

With my violent nightmares having subsided, I wanted to write about how concerned I am with the rising suicide rate in America. I don’t see hope for its decline as medicine is practiced today,.

In mid-December my psychiatrist recommended that I get a sleep study. To have that test covered by insurance it was necessary to have it approved by my regular doctor who is essentially a general practitioner. This required an office visit to the GP.

When I arrived a nurse asked me a set of standard questions on a long form. When asked if I was thinking of harming anyone or harming myself, I answered in truth. I said I had given suicide a great deal of thought lately, that I had given away as many personal possessions as possible, and that I had made out my final will. She made some notes on the form.

When the doctor came he didn’t have a question about my suicidal thoughts, instead, he squarely focused on the task at hand, whether my condition required a sleep study. He asked me questions about my sleep, again from a form.

I never got a call back from that office regarding my mental state. No follow on at all. They ignored every warning sign I gave them.

My psychiatrist was more concerned. Besides recommending the sleep study, she asked me to call a few days after our last appointment to tell her how I was doing. Mind you, she didn’t call me, I was to call her. I have experienced more follow on calls and e-mails from my veterinarians concerning my cats than I have from my doctors about whether I might kill myself.

And although I want to be careful not to criticize the Suicide Hotline, I was disappointed in how they handled things. I wanted to talk to a suicide survivor or someone who had battled thoughts of it, but I was told each time that the phone personnel were not allowed to talk about their own personal experiences. I again felt alone in the world, even after they patiently listened to me.

Also, surprisingly, I was not told of any resources to access, either local or online. No telephone numbers, no meeting locations, no numbers of any health care professional. It was all just talk, although, again, I don’t mean to diminish the power of talk or having someone listen. Despite being in a desperate state, there was seemingly nowhere else to go once I hung up the phone.

Back to my psychiatrist and the state of modern medicine. Her secretary said that the doctor would be taking several weeks off during the holidays; I immediately asked for the name and number of the covering physician. She had none. Instead, I was provided with the cell phone number of her husband, who could get in touch with her in case of an emergency. No covering physician?

My Dad would have thought this inconceivable. He and his colleagues always arranged their schedules so that nights, holidays, and weekends were always covered by one of them. They rotated these days between them throughout each month. A backup doctor was always on call when my Dad was in private practice. Today, I suppose, that duty falls to the Emergency Room, where we all eventually wind up, with all of our different conditions.

Speaking of the ER, that is something I almost went to for my nightmares many years ago. I belonged to an HMO at the time called Kaiser, a large health organization. Having had a terrible spate of violent nightmares, I walked into their Psychiatric Department in Sacramento without an appointment. I needed to be seen before I completely broke down. The desk clerk refused to have anyone talk to me. In a shaky and admittedly threatening voice, I told her than unless someone helped me immediately, I was going to walk across the street to their Emergency Room and act out. She called for a nurse.

If America’s suicide rate has any chance at declining, it has to be treated with seriousness by the medical community, not just talked about how bad the problem is. People have to listen, to follow up, to provide resources. Some years ago it was said that the only way to get emergency mental health treatment was to threaten to kill someone or to threaten to kill yourself. Today, threatening yourself may not be enough. Today, in a black state at three in the morning, you may be on your own. At least get to an Emergency Room. And don’t be afraid to act out.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

Call 1-800-273-8255

Magazine article rocks and lapidary Uncategorized

Goldfield Gemfield Gem Claims Update

My second article for Rock & Gem Magazine was on the Gemfield Gem claims (internal link) outside of Goldfield, Nevada. The claims are a major source of fine chalcedony. Sharon Artlip, one of the two claim owners, now has a website for the property: (external link)

A month ago I visited Goldfield. I couldn’t connect with Sharon, who may have been away. Sharon no longer operates Goldfield Art & Business Services out of the store on I-95.

The present owners of the new store at that location, however, will accept your registration and rock fees. Their names are Sherri and Mike. They have a nice store with some maps and some rocks. When I was there they had locally mined pyrite. Stop in and check out a new business:

Wild Inspirations
306 Crook Avenue
P.O. Box 121
Goldfield, NV 89013

775-485-3789 (email link)

Also, when in Goldfield, never miss a chance to check in with Bryan Smalley at Hidden Treasures Trading Company. He may be hard to find away from his store, but ask locals where Bryan is. Try the Dinky Diner. He’s well worth tracking down to visit a one-of-a-kind rock shop:

489 S. Bellevue Avenue
Goldfield, Nevada

775-485-3761. Honestly, I have never been able to contact him on the phone.

non-fiction writing Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

You Can Justify Anything With The Internet

Today I read a well done article at a major business website. The piece was informative but the writer misspelled the name of the country of Colombia. He wrote Columbia instead. That’s a common and simple mistake. It might have even been the fault of an autocorrect spell checker.

As that website has a global reach, I penned the writer a short note, thanking him for his writing and pointing out the understandable error. Instead of ignoring my comment, or thanking me for it, he wrote a defensive e-mail back.

He said the matter wasn’t so simple, that either use may be correct. He then cited two articles at Quora, a question and answer site. Quora? Really? What kind of authority is that? Certainly not primary.

I went to the web site for the Colombian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Not a single use of Colombia with a ‘u’.  The BBC and CNN only use Colombia. Heck, even Wikipedia spells it Colombia. While the names of some countries are unsettled in English, the use of Colombia is not in debate.

This one comes easy for me. My mother was a Latin American studies major at Michigan. For many years she edited the Spanish language edition of an international magazine. I remember her gently correcting people on Colombia. There was never any difference  in Spanish or English writing.

Columbia is only used by the misinformed, harmless people, or obstinate, defensive souls using some strange place on the web to defend their ignorance. I know what the Colombians would call these people: gringos.

Poetry rocks and lapidary Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others

Lost and Found in T.S. Eliot

My book is about rockhounding and prospecting in the Southwestern United States. At its heart is exploring. In peppering my book with quotations, I’ll have some thoughts from people who have wandered the world. But all that exploring may come back to T.S. Eliot.

Great poetry often leaves questions, cryptic remarks meant for each reader to divine their own answers. Commentators suggest Eliot may have been referring to the holy fire on the Day of the Pentecost, when the Lord fulfilled and enabled the early Christian church. Perhaps.

These are just a few lines from “Little Gidding,” the last part of his larger “Four Quartets.”

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Full text here: (external link)