art Photography Uncategorized video

The Fountain and Garden Patio Area at the Marin Civic Center

This is video I am putting into the public domain at Wikimedia Commons. It shows the beautiful outdoor seating area in the fountain and garden patio area of the Marin Civic Center. You can buy something inside at the Civic Center Cafe and then go outside to marvel at the exterior of Frank Llyod Wright’s last great commission. He died a year before the complex was completed.

When it reopens to the public, make sure to visit on a weekday. This is a working county facility and as such the bureaucrats and paper pushers lock it up on the weekend when most people have the time to see it. Walking through that building is like walking through the mind of a great designer. You see his vision realized everywhere.

“The fountain-garden patio area exemplifies Wright’s belief that work environments should be places of beauty. The design of the pond conveys the impression of blending into infinity. The pond uses re-circulated water and camouflages the heating and cooling systems. It is also home to a family of ducks that return here each spring.” (external link)
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Photography Uncategorized video

Driving Down Geary Street in San Francisco in 2001

This is a one megabyte video file of Vamprella and I driving down Geary Street in San Francisco in early 2001. We had survived Y2K. Notice how we are driving past Japan Town.

This is the original file, MPEG Layer 2, MPEG-1-Video format. Quicktime says the frame size is 160×112 at 150 Kbps.

Consumer digital video was really poor back then. No comparison to film. But, you had a movie in an instant and you could take the movie over if you wanted. WP has expanded the image size for this post and consequently the video is grainer than the original.

I think this was filmed with my second digital camera, a Sony that used a 3.5 inch floppy. I think the capacity was only one meg, 954KB, actually. It is kind of amazing that the camera could capture color video and sound for nearly a minute and still come in under 1 meg.

Shaky? Grainy? To be fair, recording images at forty miles an hour is a challenge even for cameras today. Blurring is nearly guaranteed.

The problem revolves around how quickly the camera can write data to the recording medium. You might buy a 256GB memory card for your new camcorder, but if it is a slow speed card then the video will probably shake and shudder. I write about that here (internal link).

Does anyone else have their earliest digital video to share? I assume the first dedicated digital video cams were much better.

This video was most probably shot with my second digital camera, described a little more further on. It appears our first digital camera was a Sony MVC-FD73 Mavica. That was a still camera if memory serves and if the labeling on this stock photo is correct. I say _we_ because Vamprella and I split the cost, $500 from each of us.

This is a picture of Vamprella holding the camera while I look on in 1999. This was a image taken by an event organizer in which we just happened to be photographed. It’s the only photo we have of us with the camera.

On my own I later bought this heavy Sony monster. 2001 or perhaps the year before. A Sony Mavica FD-91. The telephoto and zoom were great. You could take a photo of a soccer player standing a hundred yards away, whereas other photographers had to have huge lenses to carry off the same feat. And for web work the resolution was good enough. Again, floppies.I think this must have been the camera I used for the Geary Street video above.
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rocks and lapidary Uncategorized

Night time Fluorescent Mineral Hunting at Darwin, California

Last Friday I went night time fluorescent mineral hunting with Pat Dolan in the hills above the remote hamlet of Darwin, California.

No services, no businesses, no gas station, no cell coverage, nothing, save a Post Office and 42 people, all of whom rely on water delivered by a gravity fed pipe from a spring on the the property of the China Lake Naval Air Station.

Darwin was a major mining district back in the day. The area does have electrical power and hard-wired phone service.

I am only now looking over what I collected.

Click here for my rockhounding website. (external link)
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art Newspaper article Poetry Uncategorized

Architecture and Writing and Compromises

Tom Wolfe once said that we all have to live with an architect’s mistakes. How true. My bad writing won’t assault your senses (and that of the public) every time you drive to work. That’s unlike the concrete tilt ups that litter every office park and too often the close-in urban landscape. Along with buildings that had a decent budget, could do design right, and instead belong in a river like the library below.

Idea Exchange, Old Post Office
RDHA, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Wallpaper* Magazine is out with another great article on design. Library architecture and design: a worldwide guide (external link) shows off some very pretty buildings that complement their subject and others that indulge in a fascination with fashion that can impact any art.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, a building facade called stacked stone has been popular for years. It is literally everywhere and will be around until people move back to stucco or stamped concrete or slate shingles for siding or whatever next becomes popular. And then all of these old buildings will start looking dated, be torn down eventually, and a new cycle begun. In Vegas every new major building, churches included, demand a curved front. No more square buildings, there has to be a front facing hemisphere for anything to get built.

Tecnológico de Monterrey New Main Library
Sasaki, Monterrey, Mexico

As I mentioned, the Wallpaper* article features some terrific looking buildings, many set like this one in Monterrey. I find HDR photography fascinating as it recalls postcard photography, where everything is pictured in, literally, its best light. Professional photographers are so good they can make a pig farm compelling, artfully playing with mud and filth.

Like architecture, writing is a compromise. Budget, orientation, acceptance. My book topic wasn’t my first choice, it was my publisher’s marketable choice. Similarly, few architects can design what they want with the budget they want. Compromises or outright lies follow.

When California wanted a new State Fairgrounds it went big. Literally. Instead of the small, tree and lawn studded old state fair ground, this new place would sprawl over whatever acreage was needed to satisfy the wish list of every exhibitor and concessionaire. Walking anywhere would become a death march in the unshaded August heat.

Relieving that somewhat would be the generous use of brick pavers. Alas, the State Fair project went over budget and acres of concrete were installed instead. And then the money ran out for that and blacktop substituted. To this day, walking the Midway is no different than walking in a 110 degree asphalt parking lot. Last year, the State Fair installed misting stations  as attendance dropped due to the heat.

Adding to this misery was the miserly maintenance budget. Ordinary state employees with little gardening skills proved unable to coax the new, poorly planted trees to good growth. Hundreds of Canary Island Pines were installed for inexplicable reasons, those slow to grow and only thin shade providers. Scores of trees died outright and were never replanted. Forty years on, the grounds resemble a pygmy forest.

This present day happy graphic shows a green and blue oasis that the architects may have originally envisioned. That blue includes a splash fountain that has now been fenced off for play by sweltering children, perhaps to prevent slip and fall lawsuits. Look but don’t touch.

As Eliot said,

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

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Photoshop rocks and lapidary Uncategorized

Pfeiffer Beach Sand, Monterey County, California

I’m trying to learn my microscope. These are single focus shots; as I learn more I will get to know photo stacking which will result in the entire field being in focus. If I do it right. If you enjoy these photos of California sand, there’s pictures of Hawaiian sand at my rockhounding site:

I bought this Pfeiffer beach sand from RC at Geological Specimen Supply:

Here’s what RC says about this sand:

“Sand is derived from whatever material is available. In this case, the probable source of this sand is the Big Sur River. Its watershed contains both garnetiferous schists of the Franciscan Complex and granitic rocks of the Salinian Block, where diorite contains a significant quantity of garnet. Pfeiffer Beach is primarily composed of quartz sand, but in areas the garnet has been concentrated by wave action. This sand is roughly half garnet and half quartz. We could have run it through a concentrator to increase the garnet content, but prefer that students see it as it was found on the beach.”

“A good question for students is, ‘What’s the pink stuff?’ This can lead to a discussion of what makes up sand. It’s unlikely they will have seen sand with garnet in it. It is slightly more dense than the quartz that makes up most of the beach sand in the U.S. The dark grains in this sand are derived from the Franciscan Complex, a chaotic assemblage of rocks that were scraped off the Farallon Plate as it subducted under the North American Plate during the late Mesozoic.”

Note the lone purple grain in the last photo. I’m trying to identify it. These are uncorrected for color, photographed under halogens and a little white LED. The white balance is driving me crazy. The garnet may ranges from ruby red to pink. The clear to white grains are quartz.

What the sand looks like before it is photographed. Just to give you a sense of scale.

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rocks and lapidary

Back to the Nopah Range Wilderness Area

Took a break a few days ago to continue exploring the Nopah Range in Inyo, County, California. I was looking for an old silver and lead prospect. Didn’t find it.

As always, incredible scenery even with the temperature near a hundred degrees. Bring your own shade. Wonderful pieces of quartzite scattered on the ground, some nicely pink. The next time I go I will collect a half bucket or so for tumbling.


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Fallbrook, California

A volunteer named Mary shows off newly installed display cases at the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Museum in Fallbrook, California. The displays are so bright they overwhelmed my camera. Of course, that brightness makes the minerals and their descriptions very easy to see. The museum contains noteworthy displays of San Diego gems and minerals as well as a fine gift shop. More in my book!

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

After The Gold Rush

Since Twain’s death, only Hunter Thompson occasionally matched that great writer’s vigor. But Twain wrote this stuff routinely, spending an entire career blurring and combining pomposity, exaggeration, and the truth. This was Twain observing the wrecked landscape of California after the Gold Rush of 1849, reflecting on the men who did it:

“It was a driving, vigorous, restless population in those days. It was a curious population. It was the only population of the kind that the world has ever seen gathered together, and it is not likely that the world will ever see its like again. For observe, it was an assemblage of two hundred thousand young men—not simpering, dainty, kid-gloved weaklings, but stalwart, muscular, dauntless young braves, brimful of push and energy, and royally endowed with every attribute that goes to make up a peerless and magnificent manhood—the very pick and choice of the world’s glorious ones. No women, no children, no gray and stooping veterans,—none but erect, bright-eyed, quick-moving, strong-handed young giants—the strangest population, the finest population, the most gallant host that ever trooped down the startled solitudes of an unpeopled land. And where are they now? Scattered to the ends of the earth—or prematurely aged and decrepit—or shot or stabbed in street affrays—or dead of disappointed hopes and broken hearts—all gone, or nearly all—victims devoted upon the altar of the golden calf—the noblest holocaust that ever wafted its sacrificial incense heavenward. It is pitiful to think upon.” 

– Mark Twain, Roughing It (1872)

A free read here: (external link)

Magazine article Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

Feeling Humble Today

Got the latest issue of Outdoor California (external link) yesterday and I am feeling both pride and humility. I enjoyed seeing my two articles in the issue, of course, but there is something more than that. I am proud of being in the pages of such a visually stunning and well written magazine. It reminds me very much of Audubon Magazine that I read while I was growing up.

As I write my next article for the title, I am keeping humble thoughts in mind, aware that I am in the company of some truly great writers and photographers. Also, the editor did a tremendous job with my writing; the piece is far better now than when I submitted it.

Featured in the current issue is a major photography contest. Co-winners of Overall First Place in the 2017 Wildlife Photo of The Year Contest are these two photographers. You can see their work at these pages. Shravan won for his bobcat photo and Beth won for her sunflower with bee photo. Congratulations!

Shravan Sundaram

Beth Savidge

Magazine article Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

Another Article Submitted

Just completed another article for Rock&Gem Magazine (internal link). With luck they will accept it, like they have my three other articles. This was a difficult piece because my rough draft ran over 4,500 words and the magazine’s limit was 3,000. Much agonizing over facts and quotations I couldn’t use due to length.

I wrote the article in conjunction with a trip I took along Highway 49. That’s the Golden Chain Highway, which runs north and south through California’s historic and rustic Mother Lode. I stopped along the way to rockhound and take pictures.

Upon return I found out I’ll have to learn more about macro photography. Most of my photos came out fine but I’m having a terrible time with closeups of rocks and gems. People who photograph coins, stamps, and flowers all have the same problem. And it’s an expensive problem as I’m finding out. I’ll report on this more later on.

The picture below is of St James Episcopal Church in Sonora. The city bills itself as the Queen of the Southern Mines.