New Book Update

Work continues on my new book and I am making good progress on the writing and illustrations. The difficulties of bringing it to print, though, may  delay or completely shut down the project.

My intent was to go through Amazon’s self publishing service, however, they don’t offer a coil or spiral bound option. My book is a field and road trip guide, something to take along in a car or truck. Something that would lay flat and not close itself like a conventional book. does offer that option and I have been considering them. But I’ve been reading a detailed blog post on one man’s experience that seems extremely distressing:

Essentially, he exactingly formatted a .pdf to Lulu’s specifications, only to find their presses could not reproduce his work with that specificity. His first proof copy came out bad, the second, worse. Everything in his first proof was shifted up and to the left, leaving his carefully plotted margins worthless. Again, the second proof was worse. I could not go through this.

His advice is that Lulu might be great for a simple book with wide margins on every page, but for anything beyond that, forget it.

“ is great for simple print jobs with WIDE margins of error, but for high-precision, detail-oriented printing, they just don’t cut it.”

My book would use double columns as with my old magazine. I know the look I want and I am finicky. I have a question into Lulu that has so far gone unanswered. The blog poster, Jeff Starr, also mentions terrible customer support. To be fair to Lulu, he did go through the entire process with them so he knows what he is writing about.

I mentioned my magazine. I had a local printing company run off copies of it and they were very good. I later had a printing company in Point Arena, California, publish a few issues and they were also excellent. But both were extremely expensive; good printing isn’t cheap and they want their money up front.

Today, in 2020, we live in the world of print-on-demand. Somebody orders a copy of a self published book done through Amazon and Amazon fulfills the order by printing it and drop shipping it to the customer. No up front costs as Amazon takes their cut when a book sells. Great. As long as what you have produced comes out the way that you want it.  At a price someone can afford.  I will continue looking around for a coil bound publisher with a good reputation.

Another choice comes to mind which is totally contradictory to my previous publishing experience. This would involve buying an enterprise level copier and then running off the copies myself. People could buy the title using PayPal and I would mail it off myself. This shouldn’t work.

Traditional printing presses win because the cost per page decreases with volume. Ink is fairly cheap, just let the press run.

Ink cartridges, on the other hand, never decrease in price as page count goes up. There is no economy of scale possible with an ink cartridge, your cost per page is always set. But there may be another way to work around this.

Amazon and Barnes and Nobles and most other distributors take at least 40% of a book’s cover price. This is standard and has been for decades in the book trade. Magazines, too.

A twenty dollar book, therefore, would result in $12 net to me. What if I took that missing eight dollars and threw it into buying a copier and cartridges and a maintenance contract? I’d control the entire process and could produce the title exactly the way I wanted. Much to think about, as the mechanics and economics of publishing are now getting in the way.

All of this is avoided when you work under contract with a traditional publisher, not a vanity press.  My experience with traditional publishing though, was a disaster as I have written about before. I tried traditional, with the largest field guide publisher in the United States. 14 months under contract, only to have them change the book title, its orientation, and its release date without ever consulting me. That MS I submitted remains unpublished.

I now have no help with design or production or costs. This is better, though, that dealing  with people I can’t trust. If I self publish, well, at least I can trust myself.
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The Coronavirus, COVID-19, and Some Numbers

March 16, 2020

The death toll stands at 68 in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC.

Frustratingly, on the same day was reporting a total of 88 deaths, without citing a source:

This inexcusably sloppy reporting leads credence to the thought that America’s mainstream media is exaggerating this crisis for ratings, while hiding behind the cover of informing and helping us. It’s the same way with weather disasters, their audience will double or triple in an tragedy.

As noted below, the CDC states that the 2017-2018 flu season claimed over 60,000 lives. This virus is said to be much, much deadlier than seasonal flu. Yet, where was the panic back then for the simple, seasonal flu?

This graphic from the Visual Capitalist offers perspective. _Double click_ for the full image.

March 12, 2020

As of today, 41 people in the United States have died of COVID-19 . That’s according to NBC who do not cite a source.

March 11, 2020

Update: NBC is reporting today that 29 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. That’s seven more since I originally wrote this post. This total still doesn’t seem a reason to panic.

One person said that the panic is being driven by how rapidly it can kill someone. That’s certainly well put. I think, though, that we should be bothered by this only if the numbers of death indicate something to worry about to begin with.

This is an interesting post today in The Week, written by Tim O’Donnell:

“Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers during a House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday that COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — is probably about 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.

President Trump has often compared COVID-19 to the flu, which affects tens of thousands of Americans each year, in an effort to calm people down, but Fauci clearly wasn’t trying to downplay the seriousness of the virus’ spread. Fauci is a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force.

At the same time, he did clarify that 10 times figure actually brings the new coronavirus’ fatality rate lower than official estimates, which hover around 3 percent. The flu has a mortality rate of about 0.1 percent, so, when considering the likelihood that there are many asymptomatic or very mild cases that have gone undiagnosed, Fauci places the new coronavirus’ lethality rate at somewhere around 1 percent. While that’s a good deal lower than the current data suggests, it still would lead to significant numbers of fatalities, and makes the flu comparisons seem pretty questionable.”

As you’ll read below, the now downplayed seasonal flu is quite the killer.

How Many People Have Died of COVID-19 in the United States?

March 9, 2020

The Coronavirus (CoV) or COVID-19 in the States, has come to America and people are panic buying and staying home. The stock market is collapsing. People are flying less and even the casinos here in Las Vegas are worried about fewer tourists.

In 2018, there were 36,560 deaths by vehicle accidents in the United States. In America so far, the New York Times says 22 people have died from COVID-19.

The CDC estimates that 34,200 people died in the 2018-2019 flu season. The 2017-2018 flu season was hard, perhaps claiming 61,099. It may be that COVID-19 has been here for a while, passing as an unidentified flu strain.

March 16, 2020 Update: My long planned trip is now off. Although my chances of dying were far greater from driving down the road than a virus, the list of cancelled events and sites I planned to go to was increasing day by day.


Why all the panic? There is a thing called mass hysteria, an epidemic of the mind. The press may be contributing to it with their need for ratings and a 24 hour news cycle to feed. I wonder.
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Metsker’s Maps

I’ve been bothered for years that I don’t have the time or patience to develop a course or a series of videos explaining the Public Land Survey System or PLSS.  It is a living antique used everyday.

This country was never laid out by latitude and longitude, something that would make it easy today to tell where a claim or an old townsite is. Instead, we file a claim in 2020 using elements like meridians, townships, ranges, sections, and so on.

Variously called land descriptions, legal descriptions, and a host of others, the PLSS is a survey system used to locate or delineate a piece of real property. Everything about the PLSS is obscure or arcane.

While you are reading up on the subject, my best suggestion is to get a few used Metsker’s Maps. They show all of the PLSS elements at work, often on heavy paper with distinct blue lines. Find them on eBay.

These maps were made for outdoorsmen who camped, hiked, and prospected old school. A compass, a backup compass, and good maps. Topos were and are essential as well, but you also have to know where you are in survey sense, not just a terrain sense.

I do have a lot of materials developed on the PLSS but it is such a burden of time that I simply can’t get to it right now.

The Rockhound Roundup is Coming to Deming, New Mexico

The Deming Gem and Mineral Society is once again sponsoring the Rockhound Roundup in Deming, New Mexico from Thursday March 12th, 2020 to Sunday March 15th, 2020. It is the 55th year of the Roundup.

Rock, gems, and minerals will be sold by vendors from all over the Southwest. In addition, the club is putting on field trips and a metal detecting competition.

The event is at the S.W. New Mexico Fairgrounds at 4100 Raymond Reed Boulevard in Deming, New Mexico.

Here’s a link for more information:

Look for Richard Mueller at space #64. He operates Miners Gallery out of Alpine, California and will have a variety of excellent materials.

There’s a camping and RV park outside of town that thoroughly encourages rockhounding on nearby ground. Listed below.

Here’s what I have so far on the Deming area from my upcoming book. I’ll double check everything before it is published, however, consider what follows as a work in progress.

Deming Gem and Mineral Society
4200 Raymond Reed Blvd.
Deming, NM 88030

32°15.256′ N 107°42.925′ W

Well worth joining if visiting this great collecting area.

Rockhound State Park
9880 Stirrup Road SE
Deming, NM 88030

32°12.458′ N 107°37.531′ W

“This is the only place in New Mexico and one of only two places in the U.S. where you can take something from a state park,” says Manager Robert Apodaca to the Albuquerque Journal. “The most prevalent thing that’s readily available for surface collecting is jasper.” Visitors to the park also find geodes and thunder eggs, perlite and quartz, Apodaca says.

Ask on arrival whether anything beyond surface collecting is permitted. The park has steep, cactus-studded hills. Watch where kids play. A great place to camp for a few days of hiking and rockhounding. Bring boots and a hemostat or needle nose pliers to pull out thorns. The visitor center has a good rock collection showing what might be found for those putting in the time.

Stop at the rock shop described below for possible park collecting advice. Please buy something from the owner if he helps you with directions.

Here are park maps:

A highly authoritative page on the geology of Rockhound State Park from New Mexico Tech, along with an explanation of all things geodes and thundereggs:

The Basin Range Volcanics Geolapidary Museum
6235 Stirrup Road SE
Deming, NM 88030

32°11.678′ N 107°38.768′ W

Just before the entrance to Rockhound State Park is this gem of a rock shop. Christopher is the proprietor here and an expert all things thundereggs and geodes. Although he doesn’t sell geodes from Rockhound State Park, he did contribute samples for the Visitor Center’s rock display. And he may have hints as to where to look in the Park. Take in a park map to make any directions easier to follow.

Trina’s Rock Shop
1812 Columbus Rd.
Deming, NM 88030

32°15.048′ N 107°45.112′ W

Recommended by Christopher of the Basin Range Volcanics Geolapidary Museum.
Black Hat Trading
2785 US-180
Deming, NM 88030

32°17.705′ N 107°46.008′

Recommended by Christopher of the Basin Range Volcanics Geolapidary Museum.

Hidden Valley Ranch RV Resort
12100 Hidden Valley Rd NW
Deming, NM 88030

32°25.850′ N 107°45.658’W

Seemingly recommended by every rockhound in New Mexico and beyond. Bring your RV, tent, or rent a cabin. 25 miles from Rockhound State Park. Lots of rocks in the area of this working cattle ranch. Rockhounding a recommended activity by the Ranch, in fact, there is an annual rock show hosted here each March.

Deming Luna Mimbres Museum / Deming Museum
301 S Silver Ave.
Deming, NM 88030

32°16.003′ N 107°45.396′ W

History museum with large sections devoted to local geology. Recommended to me by an avid geode fan. An archived article from their website certainly confirms this. The text follows.

“The Deming Luna Mimbres Museum proudly displays a world-class exhibit of Thundereggs, Geodes, and Nodules donated by Robert (Paul) Colburn of the Basin Range Volcanics Geolapidary Museum. Rockhounds from all over enjoy this collection. Mr. Colburn has dedicated his life to the study of these geologic formations and is responsible for scientific redefinition of previously held ‘truths’.

Thunderegg is a Native American name for what Geologists call lithophysae or spherulites. Geode simply means an earth shaped hollow rock, or more specifically, a hollow Nodule with a crystal lined cavity.

Nodules when opened may be simple or complex. While there is usually a “family resemblance” in Nodules and Geodes from a specific area, the best way to reveal the inner mystery is by opening the rock. You may become a Rockhound “wannabe” after seeing this incredible collection. You may have the sudden urge to become a detective unearthing (pun intended) the secrets of rock formation over centuries.

The specimens on display are the best from over 100 locations and were selected from tens of thousands of cuts made over 46 years of collecting. Each flawless specimen was chosen to typify the area where it was mined.

This collection provides a rare opportunity to view one-of-a-kind gifts of nature created over thousands of years. If your family or group includes a rock collector (rockhound), a future geology professor, or anyone who is marvels at the wonders that have been created in the millions of years of earth’s formation, this is a sure hit for your visit.

Source of Information and photography: The Formation of Thunder Eggs (Lithophysae) by Paul Colburn.”
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The New Book is Coming Along

I am hoping to get my travel and collecting book available on by the first week of June. There are three fee digs I want to visit that are not open until Memorial Day, forcing my publication back date until at least then.

In one month I make a seven to ten day trip back to Northern California to check on some of my old prospecting haunts and to look at some new spots to  visit or collect.

In the meantime, I am collecting new information, double checking what I already have, and reviewing photographs I have taken over the last two years in traveling throughout the Southwest.

The challenge with any book is to make it affordable and to work within the limits a publisher’s press presents. Color photos aren’t an option, only a few people could afford the title. That leaves black and white. Still not an easy choice.

I’m preparing for standard paper, Amazon doesn’t offer a clay coated choice which would present monochrome photographs well. Instead, I am transforming color photos into a black and white sketch style.

This will, I hope, get the spirt of places and people across in a way unique to my book. The photograph below comes courtesy of my good friend Rolf Luetcke of Sunshine Gallery and Gifts in St. David, Arizona. Rolf was a fifteen year resident of Bisbee and is a terrific mineral dealer.

He doesn’t have a website but you can find him here when you get to southern Arizona:

Sunshine Gallery and Gifts
1313 North Highway 80
St. David, Arizona, 85630

31°55.770′ N 110°16.865′ W

I have written about him at this website many times. The page linked below has good information on him and an interactive Google Map to find his store:

The before and after photos. First, color to black and white or monochrome.

I then corrected the distorted perspective as best I could and ran a Photoshop action to transform the image to sketch. I adjusted the sketch image and then added the caption. Not perfect but that is not the goal. (Don’t worry, there won’t be watermarks in the book.)

The glitches, oddities, and the lack of uniformity to my book’s layout may make it seem more authentic than what a professional design team could come up with. I am a miner and a rockhound first, not a graphic or design artist. The book will reflect that, even as I try to make it as presentable as possible.

Original photo

Converted to black and white

Fixed up distortion as best I could, then cropped the image

Rotated the image a little more, then applied the sketch action and added the caption. Notice how the lettering above the door pops?
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Treasure Hunting

These photos are from six years ago. This is my old mining partner Dan, for whom I did a great deal of help with his dredging. In these photos he is searching a swimming hole on the north fork of the American River near Auburn, California. Looking for rings and bracelets and other jewelry that might have slipped off of people over the decades.

This activity might seem straightforward but it was a hike of over a mile and a  half to get to this spot. There’s a lot of gear to haul whenever you are diving or dredging anywhere remote. This time we were lucky to have a third person to carry things. If this were fast water we might have needed to take Dan’s weight belt and weights. He sometimes needed 40 pounds of lead weights to keep him from being washed downstream in some rapid water.

The last time we dredged together on the Yuba we had to hike everything in over two miles of nasty, loose cobbles. You haven’t lived until you have hiked with a 5.5 HP Honda engine on your back, one of two needed, along with everything else to sustain a person for weeks. I lost track of how many trips we needed to get everything in place the last time. 10 in total? Or was it 14?

Dan is a certified, professional diver. He is a California state licensed flooring contractor but he also has made a living retrieving golf balls from ponds at golf courses to being a dredger in Alaska.

Dan was also a smoker. He once came up from a long time underwater to sit on a rock to warm up. He pulled out a small watertight case . A watertight cigarette case. He lit up a cigarette. I asked him about how such a healthy activity as scuba went along with a habit like smoking. He smiled and said that the great thing about scuba was that when he started to get out of breath underwater he could always turn up his oxygen. I said something about this being wrong on so many levels.

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A Quick Search for Camptonite

Why don’t more rockhounds collect rocks? I don’t know. As to me, I like rocks, the odder the better. Today I’ll spend a little time looking for camptonite south of Las Vegas. I have some specific coordinates so I shouldn’t be wandering too much. This particular spot is not within the LMNRA. The rock will be there or it won’t.

Camptonite might win a prize for strangeness, with classifying it as an “Exotic crystalline igneous rock.” It looks better than the rocks I have which are peppered with black tourmaline.

Here’s a picture of my reference sample, a display quality piece I got last year from RC at Geological Specimen Supply. It’s out of stock right now but you should check his website frequently to keep building your reference collection. Yes, of rocks.

“The lessons of geology are clear and it is foolish not to take advantage of them: to be successful in hunting for minerals and gemstones, the collector and prospector must know not only the minerals themselves, but the rocks in which they are most likely to be found. He must also learn what minerals make up the various kinds of rocks and the rock formations which appear favorable for mineral deposits.”

John Sinkankas John. Prospecting for Gemstones and Minerals (Van Nostrand: New York. 1970)
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From The Striped Hills

Acting on a non-ferrous signal from a rock in a wash near Lathrop Wells, Nevada, I moved upstream to see if I could find the source of whatever metal was causing my detector to ring out.

There were no records of any commercial mines in the Striped Hills near Lathrop Wells, however, there were passing mentions of old copper prospects in the area. These are limestone hills and I didn’t think of them as producing any metallic ore from uplifted seabeds. Where would copper come from by way of calcium carbonate shells and the skeletons of ancient sea creatures?

There are some volcanics in the area, however, as I noticed when I first got out of my truck. Quartz pieces were scattered here and there. Igneous rocks were obviously in the area. As RC with Geological Specimen Supply explained to me, “Limestone against granitics often gives rise to a contact deposit. If the granitic is quartz monzonite, the mineralization is often copper.”

These exploratory diggings proved very difficult to find as the road to them had long been cut to pieces by countless desert storms over the decades. An ATV might make it in, but first you have to know where you are going. To find out, I set out hiking on foot with my tools, just as I have done with most of my gold prospecting.

I had GPS coordinates for some of these ancient claims but a GPS fix on an old mine is likely a conversion from the Public Land Survey System which does not use latitude and longitude. That means you will probably wind up in the middle of a claim area, which could be twenty acres in size, not at any particular excavation or tunnel entrance.

The result was that I spent three half-days hiking up and down over many steep hills and on treacherously slippery, broken rock. This was mostly highly fractured quartzsite, a metamorphic altered from slate and before that shale. All first arising from ancient seabeds now raised up. Tough. Seen tougher.

I eventually found some pretty rocks as the last picture shows, however, all of them are essentially coatings like chrysocolla. The greener material leans toward malachite and chrysocolla, the bluer toward azurite. Nothing I found rang out like what I found in the desert wash that drains this area. By way of comparison, the copper mineral group member bornite definitely rings my detector as well as, of course, native copper.

I noticed a tremendous amount of black sand on the hills I hiked. All of it proved sterile when I processed two buckets of sand and gravel. To be fair, I didn’t have any fire assayed so I don’t know for sure. Processing microscopic gold, however, is for large scale operators. I will be back, though, if not for the minerals, then for the peace and quiet.

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Baby Girl Mining Keeps Going!

The folks at Baby Girl Mining continue working their ground in their latest video. They are finding more gold and more evidence of an ancient streamed as they encounter rolled rocks. This is real small scale miner stuff, not some wildly dramatic gold series you might find on cable TV or the exaggerated nonsense you get from many YouTubers. Good luck to them!
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Beyond Books

It was recently recommended on an FB page that I read some field guides on rock and mineral ID. This was in response to some specific observations I made with material I had collected and with reference specimens I had bought. The suggester offered no further advice or any response to my observations which he didn’t read through. At least five people gave him a thumbs up. That’s extremely discouraging when all I was trying to do was help.

Well, I have a few books. Quite a lot, actually. But you have to go beyond books to learn more. You can’t teach a geology course without lab work or field trips. Books are fine but rocks and minerals and prospecting are also hands on.

To make specific, this poster stated that, among other things, that some sedimentary rocks do not fizz under acid. But he didn’t tell me which ones. Nothing of his personal experience with this, just an admonition to read some books. None of the books I have read list the sedimentary rocks that do not respond. I was trying to learn, not sure what he was trying to do. I was sharing my experiences and observations, he was sharing nothing but negativity.

This is a look at part of my reference collection of over two hundred rock types and various minerals. They are mostly hand or teaching specimen size. All labeled in detail. At any time I can pull something out to test or experiment it using my hardness picks, my acid, my metal detectors, my UV lamps, my black and white streak plates, my super magnet, my microscope, or my geiger counters. No, I don’t have something for specific gravity. I’m working on that. If I can’t identify something complex, which is too often the case, I send it on for lab results. I’m not a know-it-all, I am trying to be a know-it-all.

As a footnote, I’ve quit that group. This is the second major rock related group I have quit in the last year. If you think I can help you, give me an e-mail. I may not have the right answer but I will try to help. Without insulting you.
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