Saturday, May 30, 2009

I am not ignoring you

Seriously. I know that I have about a dozen Cactuseates blog emails that I need to answer. It's just that I have limited communications capability at the moment. For context, see previous entries about 1. obese cat, 2. tennis elbow caused by obese cat sitting on my arm after almost choking me, 3. WiFi reception complications and, finally, 4: cell phone that has been rendered almost un-usable because of horrendous light shooting out of it. Will be back in touch as soon as these issues are resolved.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Obese cat: challenges continue

I know this has nothing to do with hiking or my book (or anything that relates to your life in any way) but I'm growing frustrated with my enormously obese cat. For one thing, he is becoming disoriented and gets lost in my apartment -- and it only has three rooms. For another, he only eats certain kinds of cat food that disagree with him -- violently. And finally, he needs to be reminded to drink water because he forgets that he's thirsty. Time to try a new diet. And get a cat-training manual. (In the original version of this post, I said, "Time to get a dog,'' but I was only joking.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blinding light persists, cell phone on the blink

I brought my cellphone to Verizon Wireless but they couldn't figure out how to turn off the horrible blinding white light.

I am going to hit it with a hammer and see if that helps.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My latest mystery: Why is there a horrible white light shooting out of my cell phone???

As you all know, I'm having problems with my WiFi, but now I have no means of communicating with the outside world at all. The problem is my cell phone. Yesterday I went to Miranda Weiss's great reaading in the Marina. I was having a great time, but when I glanced at my cell phone, I noticed a blinding, obnoxious white light shooting out of the top of the phone!! It is (literally) blinding, and it runs down the battery so quickly that I can't possibly juice it up. I can't figure out how to fix the problem. On the good side, some of my friends think the blinding light looks "very cool,'' and now they want blinding lights on their cell phone too. Also, my cell phone makes a pretty good flashlight. The question is, how is anyone going to contact me now? (You might try sending me a smoke signal, or throwing some pebbles at my window.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Second mystery solved ("Why don't woodpeckers give themselves serious concussions?")

Last week, I posed the question:

Why don't woodpeckers get concussions, or, at the very least, terrible headaches from bashing their faces against trees all day?I did a little research, and I found the answer:

For one thing, they tend to choose sponge-y, soft wood for drilling purposes.

For another, they slam straight into a tree in a way that maximizes impact to the wood while protecting them against head trauma (much the same way that a hammer slams a nail.)

And, finally, they have unusually strong neck muscles, which absorb most of the shock.

I'm glad no one answered this question because I ran out of prizes two weeks ago (and, as you know, the prize that I sent out has fallen apart.)

My magical mystery tour...

I will soon head off on my latest adventure into the great outdoors. Since I got lost and turned around last time, I've decided to bring one (and possibly two!) people to assist me in my latest quest. I don't want to reveal too many details because I'm writing a travel article about this and don't want to get scooped -- but my journey will involve a lot of American history, one long and dark tunnel, a crashing waterfall, and at least 100 miles (!!!) of traveling. I'll reveal more details later on.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cat-induced blog hiatus

Sorry for my infrequent postings as of late. I have had some difficulty with WiFi access. Also, my humongous cat sat on my arm a while back, giving me tennis elbow, and making it somewhat difficult to type.

Miranda Weiss in Portland and SF

Don't miss nature writer Miranda Weiss as she swings into your town for some upcoming readings and author events. She is touring to promote her brand new book, Tide Feather Snow.

Reading, Q&A, Signing | Portland, OR
• Thursday, May 21 7:30 PM,
Powell’s Bookstore, 3723 SE Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland, OR

Signing | San Francisco, CA
• Tuesday, May 26 12:00 noon
Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, #42, San Francisco, CA
— Book Passage

Reading, Q&A, Signing | San Francisco, CA
• Tuesday, May 26 7:30 PM
Books, Inc. in the Marina, 2251 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, CA | Google Map–

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Woodpeckers, and the wilds of Silicon Valley

here is my latest nature scribble:

Rancho San Antonio (near Cupertino, CA) is filled with coyotes, deer and (pictured above) woodpecker. Aside from the shmancy cars in the parking lot, you would have no way of knowing this was Silicon Valley. I go on long marathon-training trail runs out here, and I often hear the hollow sound of woodpeckers knocking themselves against trees. And it makes me wonder: how come woodpeckers don't give themselves concussions? There is a scientific explanation for this. Stay tuned to this blog and find out.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Problem with disintegrating Cactuseaters contest prize

Anonymous, who won the 'identify the mystery creature' contest last week, is running into a few problems with the artwork prize that I sent her. For one thing, she can't find a frame that fits it because the dimensions are so peculiar. For another, it is, apparently, starting to disintegrate. Sorry about that, Anonymous. I'll think of a solution soon. (to be more specific, I sent her a small picture of an animal -- and it seems that the creature's tail has fallen off.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Radio broadcast: Good (and disgusting) foods for the great outdoors

Here is some "good food'' advice that just might help you if you are planning to walk an epic trail but don't want to eat gross, undigestible food every night. Believe me, it's important to plan ahead when it comes to survival food. Otherwise you'll end up choking on non-summer sausage and freeze-dried "astronaut ice cream." (bleccch!!)

Meanwhile, I am happy to report that the anonymous Silicon Valley resident who identified the "hairy mystery creature'' (a fox) has already received a wilderness-related collectible artifact (sent special delivery) directly from Cactuseaters.

Anonymous wins big; Silicon Valley resident identifies hairy mystery creature of the Pacific Northwest

No, it isn't Bigfoot, it is not a wolverine, a rabbit or even a cat (although these were all good guesses.) It is in fact a fox that was introduced to San Juan Island.
The person who solved the puzzle is "Anonymous,'' who, as it turns out, lives in the heart of the Silicon Valley, but was somehow able to solve the mystery (how on earth did you figure it out??) Anyhow, Anonymous has contacted me and will get a Cactus Eaters-related one-of-a-kind handmade prize (providing that she agrees not to sell the prize on eBay later on.) Above are two full pictures of the spooky, and now fully identified, critter (one is the actual photograph, and the other is an artistic recreation.)

The Cactus Eaters -- one year anniversary

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone in the Cactus community for making the book a success. I also appreciate the fact that people are engaging with the book so passionately. Appropriately enough, I was out in the Kentucky backwoods -- running out of water, walking around in circles, avoiding bears, eating cold pumpkin curry MREs right out of the packet, and far out of range from cell phones and other bleeping electronic devices -- when the book first hit stores. Twelve months later, it's still going strong. Stay tuned for more adventures.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mystery animal identified!

Thank you, anonymous, for figuring it out. I will run the picture (and a full explanation) tomorrow at some point ...

Monday, May 11, 2009

A literary happening in a San Francisco barbershop...

Don't miss this literary gathering/reading at Joe’s Barbershop
2150 Market St (between Church and Sanchez)on Saturday, June 6th, at 8 pm. The writer Michael McAllister is putting together this one-of-a-kind series.

Get all the details right here.

Furry mysterious creature: a couple of big clues (updated, with alternate photo)

OK -- here are a few big clues to the identity of my Mystery Creature (pictured below in a previous entry.)

* I encountered this creature on an island in the Pacific Northwest
* It is a predator
* The creature is not native to the island; in other words, it is an "exotic" invasive species.

By the way, I got into a staring contest with this creature -- and won.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Mysterious hairy creature

While hiking in a forest in the Pacific Northwest, I stumbled upon this hairy creature with weird glowing eyes. I was able to snap a quick photo before it vanished into the backwoods. See if you can identify it based on this blurry, heavily cropped photograph. (I will supply the answer at some point within the next couple of weeks, along with a larger, but equally blurry, photograph.)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Eastern Sierra at dusk (rough draft.)

This is my latest. It's a sunset in the Eastern Sierra. Right now it looks a bit like Mordor from Lord of the Rings, but hey, it's only a rough draft.

Friday, May 01, 2009

"Lowboy'' reading in Haight Ashbury bookstore (and long-overdue neighborhood clean-up news.)

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, John Wray will be reading from his acclaimed new book, Lowboy, at 7:30 p.m. at the Booksmith on 1664 Haight Street, San Francisco, this evening. (Friday, May 1.)

In other news, I hear that there is going to be a community cleanup and picnic on Saturday, May 9,from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet at the northeast corner of Haight and Cole streets at 10. Residents, merchants, homeless youth organizations and their clients will band together to clean up the smelly litter and make the neighborhood sparkling clean, at least for a while. I am not involved with this event (and, unfortunately, won't be able to attend because I'll be down in San Jose) but if you are interested, the RSVP email is They will supply the gloves, supplies, etc.