Ground drones that disrupt wildland firefighting

For the second time this week, hobbyists’ drones have caused wildland firefighters to shut down water- and retardant-dropping aircraft in the San Bernardino

Firefighting plane drops retardant.

Firefighting plane drops retardant.


In both cases, the fires grew while the hobbyists had their fun. Not only do drone hobbyists need to grow some brain cells, but they also need to be prosecuted for interference in public safety.

The first incident occurred Wednesday evening at the Lake fire, which has burned more than 30,000 acres near Big Bear Lake. The drone, said to have a 4- to 6-foot wingspan, forced a DC-10 tanker to be diverted to another fire in order to drop its load and two smaller aircraft to drop in another location in order to be light enough to land at the strip where the firefighting planes are stationed.

The second happened about the same time Thursday at the Sterling fire in the foothills above San Bernardino. Firefighting aircraft were grounded after two drones appeared on the scene. Sheriff’s deputies caught one drone’s “pilot,” but the other drone and its operator disappeared.

None of these were little drones from Toys R Us. They were large, More

Throwback Thursday: In the clouds

Remember lazy summer days when you’d toss a blanket on the grass, flop down on your back and look into the sky to see what shapes you could see there? For this Throwback Thursday, we slip back to that time (using a few modern clouds).

It isn’t all a trip to Cloudland. There are all kinds of useful reasons, too, to look up. Farmers use clouds to foretell weather, with different clouds indicating different things (puffy white ones in a blue sky are good). Pilots using visual flight rules need to know about the location, type and density of clouds. Members of the Cloud Appreciation Society need as many clouds as possible to appreciate. For us today, clouds are all play and no work.

Fish chase!

Fish chase!

Cloud blimp in search of cloud baseball stadium

Cloud blimp in search of cloud baseball stadium

Bird carrying a tiny basket

Bird carrying a tiny basket

Monster face lookin' at you!

Monster face lookin’ at you!

Wait! That's no cloud! It's the Lake fire burning near Big Bear.

Wait! That’s no cloud! It’s the Lake fire burning near Big Bear.

Wednesday Whine: Customer service!

I’m trying to learn to demand customer service. Not big service – just the common everyday service that seems almost to have been wiped off the face of the Earth.

Aw, shucks! Thanks fer what you did! (copyright Ron Harvey)

Aw, shucks! Thanks fer what you did! (copyright Ron Harvey)

I truly believe that businesses attentive to cheerful customer service — including freelance businesses – can rule the world because they are so rare.

Take today. When I paid at the McDonald’s drive-through lane, the cashier attempted to hand me back bills, coins and receipt in one bunch. To take them requires reaching up and awkwardly twisting the wrist, then carefully guiding the wad downward so the coins don’t slide off. With orthopedic hardware in my wrist, I can’t do it anymore , so I asked the cashier to hand me the paper, then the coins.

She dropped coins. They clattered to the pavement. She turned away to the next customer talking through her headset. She seemed to expect me to be OK with driving off without the change she dropped, but I am a skinflint. Fifty cents buys a postage stamp with one cent left over for a gumball. I’m not abandoning that on the ground.

I could not get the car door open more than six inches without hitting the wall of the restaurant. As the cashier continued not to pay attention to me, I stuck the handle of a windshield squeegee out the door and led the coins More

What does your editor do all day?

Nearly everyone thinks he or she is the busiest person on the planet. Sometimes it’s true. Most times it’s not. Writers in particular think their editors do nothing.

Here's your editor! (

Here’s your editor! (

They get angry over waiting for responses to queries and waiting for editing to get done. How hard could it be to sit at a desk, answer an email and go to lunch for the other 7½ hours of the workday, right?

Writers who’ve been editors know the real score. So it is a particular pleasure to see an “editor wanted” ad that touches three-quarters of the iceberg in describing what editors do.

The ad seeks a features editor for Pacific Standard, a national-focus print magazine and website in Santa Barbara, Calif. It describes the type of person most suitable for the job. If you’re a writer who thinks of editors as lazy, you’ll be shocked; if you are or have been an editor, you’ll be pleased to see a rare articulation of what editors really do.

A handful of highlights:

  • Recruit writers and maintain a stable of them to turn to
  • Build fully developed narrative journalism out of nuggets of ideas
  • Aim for influencing national conversation and/or public policy
  • Coach writers who lose the angle, the thread of the narrative, the road through research
  • Generate ideas and turn them into stories quickly
  • Juggle three issues of the magazine simultaneously while also feeding the website
  • Manage a small budget (usually means writing some stories, too)
  • Drive to serve the good of the public, not himself or herself

Books about freelancing seldom discuss editing except in terms of organizing material and shepherding grammar. Because editors work behind the scenes, it’s difficult to get a picture of what they do. They don’t lead lives of quiet desperation – far from it, they lead lives of multifaceted vibrancy. There’s something new to do every hour, and it doesn’t involve ordering a composed salad with a Bellini. There’s no time for that.

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June 2023