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.

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Reflections on a Black December

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

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 in he had not 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 far more follow on calls and e-mails from my veterinarians concerning my cats than I have from my doctors concerning 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

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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.

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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.

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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)

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Happy New Year!

This was a black December for me but I am nearly through with it. Thanks for everyone’s support. My violent nightmares have stopped for now and life is livable again.

The coming year presents itself with a mess of worrisome and painful medical and dental procedures. I don’t know how I will get through them but I am trying not to think about them right now. There is Quartzsite to look forward to in the middle of January, provided I heal well enough to travel. The book continues to be enjoyable to write.

This video has a New Year’s celebration, with a clocktower bursting with fireworks. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a shabby bit of fun alongside the extremely cold Pacific Ocean. Santa Cruz is some sixty miles south of San Francisco.

Sci-Fi Caper is a garage band from Mendota, California. Their first album was recorded, literally, in a garage. Although their lyrics are hard to understand, their music is friendly, hopeful, and sometimes soaring. May midnight ring in a joyous New Year for you.

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“I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon.”

Here is a great article by Austin Murphy, author and longtime Sports Illustrated senior writer. He penned thousands of articles for Sports Illustrated over 33 years, 140 of them cover stories. He interviewed five presidents. He now delivers packages for Amazon. Although Murphy was not a freelance writer, he was a professional writer. And professional writers are becoming extinct without some other means of support.

As I’ve written before (internal link), unless you are on the staff of a surviving hardcopy magazine or you work for a book publisher, article writing is not a paying profession. Regular, dependable income for a freelance writer is impossible today by itself. Those that say otherwise are feeding on the hopes and dreams of the future writer, ultimately contributing to their misery.

Here is a link to the article: (external link)

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