Total Eclipse 2017

Source: Total Eclipse 2017

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Total Eclipse 2017

Well after all the hype….was it it worth it? For me and my family a big OMG yes! I had been planning this trip to Madras, Oregon for 2 years, and even made a site visit one year before the eclipse. With a 99% chance for clear skies, this was the place to be, along with NASA, astronomers, and people from around the world. With estimates of 100,000 people converging on this town of 7,000 some advance planning was needed to make it a smooth trip. It was an 18-hour drive from Phoenix, and on arrival our 2 RV’s were already set up and ready at the Solarfest Fairgrounds, in central Madras. The next day family from Klamath Falls, Oregon, Chicago and Moscow, Montana arrived, and later friends from California and Nevada–a full house! (RVs)



Jefferson County Fairground, Madras, Oregon

For those that arrived early, there were plenty of vendors, main stage entertainment, Native American dancing, and sideshow acts, and a beer tent to keep you entertained and busy. A world map was posted, and you could pin your hometown….soon it was filled with pins from all countries over the world.


Everyone was in a good mood, and there for the same reason. Professional and amateur astronomers were eager to share their knowledge, and let you view the sunspots that had appeared on the sun that week, Their telescopes with solar filters were tracking the sun in the day, or showing you the rings of Saturn at night.

The moment before totality is hard to describe, and many people cant find words…just tears flow. It can be an emotional experience, that is not usually captured in the photos, but something that needs to be experienced. The temperature drops 20 degrees, twilight appears around the horizon, and suddenly the sun is gone,  only a black disk appears in its place. In a brief moment it is all over, the sun reappears, light returns. We return to are lives, but are forever changed by the experience.

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final composite

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Hong Kong has shopping and sights to fit everyone’s budget.


We recently spent a week in Hong Kong. With a population of over 7 million, Hong Kong is densely populated, but you can still find great areas on the islands for beaches, tropical hikes.


Shopping is the big tourist treat here. We visited the Jade Market, Temple Street Night Market, the Gold fish Market, the Ladies Market, and Stanley Market. Bargaining is the norm here, and some good deals can be had, but you do get what you pay for…. For a real Rolex, visit one of the 29 official Rolex stores in the area!…Just an example of the number of high-end shopping malls and stores. Even Victoria Peak has a mall on top now. After visiting the viewing tower, you can walk a few feet and head to a mall.


Jade Market



Broccoli and Bras

Getting around town is a breeze, if you buy an Octopus Card. It’s good on all buses, trains, ferries and even some shopping at 7 -11, etc.  Just swipe and go! Saves having to buy individual tickets each time.

Highlights were a visit to Ocean Park, which is similar to Sea World, except they have panda bears! Neat to see them along with some other animals and sea life in the aquariums, along with the dolphin show and tram ride.


Visiting the Tian Tan Buddha is a treat. It’s the largest bronze Buddha in the world, at 112 feet high and weighing 280 tons. The Po Lin Monastery at the base serves up a great vegetarian lunch. It’s an easy trip from Hong Kong, taking the train to the Tung Chung end of the line stop on Lantau Island. From there board the bus to the Buddha.

Another fun day trip is the hydrofoil ferry 40 miles west to Macau, China. Under Portuguese control from the 1500’s until 1999, it is now known for its casinos and luxury hotels. Walking the old city with beautiful cobblestone streets in black and white stripes and seeing the ruins including Monte Fort and Ruins of St. Paul is a great way to stay out of the casinos for a while. The same casinos in Las Vegas are here such as the Venetian, the Wynn, MGM, along with others. We used the casino free shuttles to and from the ferry docks as our transport to town. Rather than spend our time gambling, after seeing the old town we headed to a park and nature walk along the ocean.


268 steps up to the Bronze Buddha


Hong Kong harbor at night


Panda at Ocean Park



red panda


View from Victoria Peak


Font Monte in Macau


Yick Fat building Hong Kong



Macau fisherman and casinos


Peninsula Hotel, Kowloon


Tiled old town Macau


Cobblestone street, Macau


St Paul ruins, Macau



Man Mo Temple


Jelly fish at Ocean Park

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Desert Fish


The Desert Hole Pupfish is a rare breed, actually on the endangered species list. It has been described as the world’s rarest fish, with a population of fewer than 200 since 2005.Genetic analysis indicates that the species evolved at the same time the cavern opened up to the surface, about 60,000 years ago. We visited the warm waters where it lives, just east of Death Valley National Park. The warm spring water is 93 degrees, and this fish lives in water up to 110 degrees! It is amazing to be traveling in the desert, and find a marsh with warm water, and then to visit the famous Desert Hole. The Devils Hole pupfish have been isolated 10,000 to 20,000 years, longer than any other in the Death Valley system.img_8170 Devils Hole itself is a water-filled cavern cut into the side of a hill. The cavern is over 500 feet  deep and the bottom has never been mapped. It is completely fenced in, and you view it from a walkway observation. To see pupfish up close, there is nice boardwalk in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge that lets you get up close to the warm waters. The water is crystal clear, the the little male pupfish turn blue during mating time. Usually they are a silvery color and full-size is 2.5 inches, and their average lifespan is about 9 months.  Here is a short video I filmed with a gopro underwater.


Devil’s Hole is completely fenced in.



Walkway to the hole.


Devil’s Hole. Dust collection study in progress.



The windy whitecaps on this desert pond.


Beautiful clear warm water


Water in the desert


Beautiful blue waters.



There is a very nice visitor center, with the boardwalk leading out to the warm spring.




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Blythe Intaglios


I have already tracked down the Intaglios near Bouse, Arizona and got some aerial photos with my drone. See pictures in prior post. So after reading about the desert markings near Blythe, I was itching to fly my drone over them for some photos. Here is some info about them from the internet:

These intaglios are about 15 miles north of Blythe, California, just off highway 95. There is a sign there, and not far down a dirt road the fenced-in etchings can easily be seen. They aren’t very impressive from the ground level… the drone comes in handy here. The largest human figure is 171 feet long.


not that impressive from  ground level

They were discovered in 1931.  In 1952, the National Geographic Society and Smithsonian Institution sent a team of archaeologists to explore the intaglios, and an article appeared in the September issue of National Geographic with aerial photos.  It would take another five years for the geoglyphs to be restored and fences erected in order to protect them from vandalism and damage.  It should be noted that there is visible tire damage on some of the geoglyphs due to the area being used for desert training during WWII by General George S. Patton.  Now they are  protected by fences and open to the public at all times as State Historic Monument No 101.

Since geoglyphs are difficult to date, it is impossible to know the age of when they were made, but they are estimated to be between 450 to 2,000 years old. In support of the latter, some of the giant figures are archaeologically associated with 2,000-year-old cliff dwellings.  However, newer research by the University of California, Berkeley has dated them to around 900 AD.


You can see my car parked at the end of the path on the main road.


The need for the fence is evident from from above.




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Learning from a Master


I recently returned from a homeopathy seminar with Farokh Master, MD in Bir, India – located near Dharamshala in the foothills of the Himalayas. It was a fairly intensive program of daily morning live cases at a clinic, followed by afternoon lectures with a total of 52 hours contact time.

The small one-room homeopathy clinic run by Spero Latchis Dhom had to be adapted to accommodate the 20 homeopaths attending from all over the world (USA, New Zealand, Austrailia, Egypt, Turkey, Austria, India…). So, the household above the clinic allowed us to use their space for the case-taking, tea breaks, and lunch. Patients would come with their medical records, sit by Dr. Master, and then he would interview the patient as we all sat taking notes, and worked on repetorizing the case. Sometimes a case would be done in 15 min, sometimes 30 min, with discussion after (and often during the case) as to remedies, posology, repetorizing, etc.


Make-shift clinic…at least covered from sun and rain.


Dr. Master and Dr. Barbara discuss while patient and her parents sit by.


The clinic is open and the students are ready.

After a taxi ride or a short hike down the mountain to the “resort” the afternoons were filled with lectures and discussions with Dr. Master in the dining area, using power point presentations. He encouraged questions, and fielded topics and discussions from all areas of homeopathy, gave detailed descriptions of some common remedies, and  gave some suggestions in our difficult cases. He practices classical homeopathy using mostly 150 of the most common remedies and is well-read in all of the classical homeopathy texts by other masters  in the field. He also has excellent knowledge of Freudian and Jung psychology, and often applies it to the evaluation of mental/emotional symptoms in the patients, even if only has underlying basis for understanding.

The patients were varied: Ptosis of the left eye, depression, fever for 2 months without diagnosis, knee pain, psoriasis, chronic cough, etc.  The three students that he mentors were with him from 6:30 a.m. to 10 pm at night every day…discussing cases, and getting some individual attention and teaching even beyond the long daily schedule. Overall it was a great experience, and inspired continuing study in the art and science of homeopathy.


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McLeod Ganj


View from my room- the monastery is lit up on the mountainside.

In the foothills of the Himalayas the town Dharamshala is the current home to the Dali Lama since being exiled from Tibet in 1959.  The suburb of Mcleod Ganj is where the monastery known as Namgyal is located and currently houses about 200 Tibetan monks. I stayed in a hotel that was a 5 minute walk away. This area is one of the most visited places in the area and tourists from all over the world can be seen here, wandering the streets for Tibetan items, taking yoga classes, or class in Tibetan culture. The monastery itself is not that ornate, compared to some others in the area. Just the same, the feeling of spirituality is in the air as one makes the walk to spin the prayer wheels along with monks and visitors from all over. Devoted Buddhists prostrate themselves amid butter lamps and chanting monks.




Spinning the prayer wheels at Namgyal.


Full body prostration prayer at Namgyal. 


Monk giving respect at Namgyal Monastery.

About 2 hours away in Chauntra I visited a monastery known Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö College of Dialectics. A few of us with a private guide (who is monk of high ranking) had a tour of the main temple. As dusk fell monks outside were in “debate”. As part of their teaching, they take turns questioning each other about Buddhist teachings (sometimes one-on-one, other times in groups). This goes on for 3 hours every evening, as they yell questions to a seated student, engaging him to answer as they slap their hands and point at him.




Inside the beautiful monastery at Chauntra.




Trekking is very popular here, and I hiked the most popular route to the destination of Triund. After a crazy taxi ride on a rocky dirt road switch-backing for 45 minutes I was soon hiking with my guide ($8 for 5 hours) by 8 a.m. By 10 a.m.  and 3 miles later we were arriving at the destination with a gain of 3,000 ft.  (he said I broke the tourist record! –most people take 4 hours). Along the way there are a couple snack shops with tea, and even at the top there is a small store with hot chai. Some people camp out here and the views are spectacular- with snow-capped peaks in the distance, cool clean air, and weather that can change in minutes.  The hike back down took 1 hr 45 min and the rocky trail can be hard on the knees. The rhododendrons trees were in full bloom, and locals were picking the flowers to make herbal drinks. It was a great to reach the bottom without a fall, and then it was time for a massage.


Rhododendrons…the state tree.


Summit at Truind Hill.



The army after a hike to Triund Hill.


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Puerto Vallarta – not so small little town.


Our Lady of Guadalupe – downtown Vallarta

I have visited Puerto Vallarta several times. It’s always great and here are some things we did this time. You can always do the usual tourist things, and there is no shortage of websites and companies to lure you to join them.

Money: good exchange rate now, currently 18 pesos/$1. You can use ATM’s anywhere to change your money. Credit cards widely accepted at major tours and restaurants.



Family taco stand caters to vegetarians.


Fresh and safe to eat: 5 de Diciembre and Paraguay streets

Food: being vegetarian is no problem. Besides the vegetarian options at most restaurants, there are some fantastic vegetarian buffets. Planeta Vegetariano, which near the main church downtown has some of the best food ever. Great interesting salads, and soup, rice, black beans daily with a change of main course every day. Cost is 105 pesos, ($5.75 today) for all you can eat buffet, drinks, and desert. Similar fare is at Mary Restuarant Vegetariano. Also down the street from Mary’s, about a block from the beach (5 de Diciembre and Paraguay) is a family  taco stand on the street that serves up vegetarian options, the only one in town like this.


Good Veggie fare in Sayulita.


Above is one of the many unique places in Sayulita: Here you can sit with your feet in a fish tank and let the fish nibble your dead skin away-for a dollar a minute.


Lots’s of shops on the street to the beach in Sayulita.



Sayulita: about 25 North of Vallarta is a famous little surf town. We took a taxi there in 30 minutes for $500 pesos, but you can catch a bus near the VIP restaurant, near the Walmart for 30 pesos for an 1 1/2 hr trip. Good place to take surf lessons, lots of unique shops, touristy, but fun. Good vegetarian-option restaurant called Naty’s for tacos, quesadillas, etc. order and eat on the street. the streets leading to the beach is closed to vehicles.



a little boulder hopping along the river


Brisk waterfalls


inviting pools

El Eden: lot of tours will take you here, south of town. Known for ziplines, and the place where they filmed scenes from the Predator movie.  We went with friends, skipped all that and went for a hike up the river. There is a resturant straddling the river, but beyond that is an easy trail along the river. Lots of greenery, jungle and swimming pools and waterfalls with crisp cool water.


rented a boat out of the Marina, heading south to Los Arcos.


Arrived at Los Arcos, ready for some snorkeling.


Snorkeling sights at Los Arcos


Bring your Gopro for easy shots.

Snorkeling: lots of boats taking people daily in small or larger groups. We were strolling around the marina, and met an older guy that offered their boat for fishing, snorkeling, or whatever. Since it was a Sunday and they hadn’t been booked out yet, and no other customers to share with, I just booked it for the two of us for 4 hours . $200 after some bargaining. They had snacks and drinks, and we brought some of our own. Snorkel gear supplied. They plugged in our Ipod into their sound system for us and off  we went to Los Arcos, in the southern part of the bay, where other boats had gathered.  Along the way we were close to the coastline, and the captain (or “gordito” as I called him), pointed out the sights, the famous places, homes, hotels, restaurants, etc.   Later the crew loved it when I told them to put on some mariachi tunes. On arrival at the islands, they chummed the water by breaking up a loaf of bread…lots of fish. After an hour of snorkeling we headed back to the marina, and had a brief sighting of a whale along our path and some dolphins.



The Subtle Rock Eater, by Jonas Gutierrez. One of many unique sculptures on the Malecon.


Malecon: The boardwalk (no boards). Everyone goes here, even the locals stroll in the evening. Free entertainment with performers in the small amphitheater in the afternoons/evenings, lots of venders for souvenirs, and foods. Stop mid-way and venture up to the church for a look in side, about 2 blocks away. Our Lady of Guadelupe is one of the most recognizable buildings in town, with it’s crown on top, and chiming church bells.




Vallarta at night. Plenty of music clubs crank it up on the Malecon.

Sunsets: are free, and the sun always sets over the ocean here. At 9 pm every night the Pirates of the Bay tour boat  swings in front of the Malecon area and fires off a few fireworks. If you are on the boat it’s $85/4 hr tour, if you are watching from shore….the fireworks are free.




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There’s Nothing in Arizona


That’s right, Nothing, AZ. And there isn’t anything there. There is also Hope, Valentine, and Bouse. All spots on the state map. In 3 days we drove from Phoenix, and checked out some of these unique places : Nothing, Wikieup, Hackberry, Valentine, Kingman, Chloride, Oatman, Hualapai County Park, London Bridge, Desert Bar, Intaglio Fisherman, Bouse, Hope. Here is a map showing locations. Here a few pictures of the trip:

The Murals of Chloride, AZ. About 3 miles out-of-town on a rough road are some random murals painted by Roy Purcell in 1996, repainted in 2006.


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The London Bridge, Lake Havasu, AZ:

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The Desert Bar, East of Parker, AZ. Truly a desert bar, solar panels, live band and only open noon to 6 pm on the weekends. closed completely during summer months.Even has it’s on solid steel “chapel” :


Oasis in a rugged landscape.

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The burros of Oatman, AZ. They are technically wild, but used to people feeding them:

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Nothing – (I think the 4 people have moved out):

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Bagdad, AZ. No wars here, but there is a great diner:


Great diner in town.


Wikieup has some funky metal art:

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Bouse, AZ, a few miles outside of town, if you know where to look:


Drone shot of the image from above…barely able to make out the fish and water.


Hope, blink and you’ll miss it. Famous for the misspelled sign, still funny:

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Nutrition and Medical School



I just read an interesting editorial in “The Green Journal”The American Journal of Medicine (a prestigious medical journal) suggesting that perhaps we should quit emphasizing organic chemistry for pre-med students, and require a course on nutrition(!) I know I had very little if any training in nutrition in medical school. I’ve learned a lot just from the 2 conferences this year I have attended. Best food to eat, bottom-line? watch this 3 minute video: “Optimal Diet: Just give it to me straight, Doc”

The Lancet medical journal has also come out with a recent article stating that meat can increase the risk of colon cancer by 16%. Wow, that has rocked the meat industry. They are already trying to put the spin on it, making fun with the statements like- breathing air can cause cancer.

The research is coming in very heavy, in favor of a whole-plant based diet as the overall best diet for humans….something that so far is not even taught to medical students. IMG_1909

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