Living and Writing in the Natural World

The Joys of Summer

June 26, 2013

The poet Wang Wei's summer float trip in China
Last weekend saw both the Summer Solstice and a full moon. I try to appreciate all the seasons (winter is the hardest), but I gotta admit that summer is my favorite by a country mile. Consider my activities this past weekend: bicycling in the heat wearing swimsuit and Tevas, a swim in Chico Creek mid-route, then the glorious feel of warm air on wet skin as I whirl down the lane afterwards; hearing my kids talk of midnight (well, later than midnight, actually) swims; sitting in the backyard watching the full moon rise through banks of clouds, (more…)

Really Big Cats and Evening Strolls

June 19, 2013

I was in Montreat, North Carolina last week, for a 46th-year-reunion of college roommates. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains at 2600 feet, with Mount Mitchell towering at 6,684 feet to the north, Montreat abounds with summer conferences and, hence, youth enjoying the balmy evenings along with us not-so-young folks. My roommate Ashton cautioned us to be aware of black bears on our evening walks. I knew that black bears (Ursus americanus) can put a dent in your night’s slumbers if you’re camping, but they aren’t a credible threat to your life. For that, you’d have to go back a century in the Blue Ridge mountains, to the days when cougars still prowled the ridges. (more…)

Pick Your Poison

June 10, 2013

the mu Conotoxin
If you’re a writer of murder mysteries, you’ve got to love poisons. And if, in your day job, you’re a biologist, then you’re doubly blessed, because nothing tells us more about life than the many bizarre ways creatures have devised to end it. In my (current) two mysteries and a thriller, my villains employ maculotoxin from the blue-ringed octopus, the plant alkaloid aconitine (from monkshood), conotoxin (from cone shells), and tetrodotoxin (from puffer fish). (more…)

Squid Ink Pasta Adventures

June 5, 2013

bigfin reef squid (Sepioteuthis)
My son Louie recently described to me a dish at a “very Italian” San Francisco restaurant in which the pasta is dyed black and tastes briny, by application of the contents of the ink sac of a squid. It reminded me of a startling incident when I suddenly had the ink sac of a squid all over my face.

It was at the end of a nice snorkel off Honolulu'sSans Souci beach, (more…)
Sierra Buttes of the metamorphic, Mesozoic Sierra Nevada range

Infamous trail marker, New Mexico

"Bon voyage" to the backpacking daughter

emerald waters of Colorado River's Black Canyon

Immature White Ibis, coming into adult color

"Fierce and cruel alligators appear to us, but beautiful in the eyes of God. They, also, are his children." --John Muir

Hometown of 4077th MASH Company Clerk

The view from a sea cave

Man and Best Friend, Bennie

2,425 feet of "songs that bear pureheaven in every note"

Sun rising behind over-optimistic paddler, San Pablo Bay

Tomales Bay: North America plate on the right, Pacific plate on the left--and San Andreas Fault immediately below!

Corner room of Mt. Vernon Inn's restaurant. The Colonial Hoecake is not to be missed.

Georgia O'Keeffe's "Chama River" near Ghost Ranch entrance

Ortega showroom, Chimayo

A typical collection of urchins from Puako in the old days, before their return to the tidepool

Harbor seal on a redwood log, Big River

Darwin Falls, up Darwin Wash in Death Valley's Argus Range

Steinbeck and Ricketts pal Frank Wright (right) at Cannery Row

"What? You never seen an otter use a rock?"

Saint John, from

One of Monet's famous water lilies

The newest Sherlock

Eagerly awaited harbingers of spring

Zhou Minzhen, Barnett, Ye Duzhuang at Peking Man Cave

Julia Morgan's "Hearthstone" at Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Do you think the females will like my chain, guys?

40 feet of falling water at Glen Aulin

AJ, Kyle in monsoon at Emei Mt

Young John Muir

Whitney looms behind Ash, Maya

The young Charles Darwin

lunar new year festivities

Courtenay-Latimer's 1938 sketch

Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer

A son and Half dome in snow

Celebrating the harvest, S.F. style

40.5 lbs of trouble

A helpful label

Father, Son under Hamilton Dome

Camping among the sequoias

Fathers and sons at Bearpaw Meadow


Nothing here yet.

Selected Works

His journals reveal a hidden Muir, whose radical worldview challenges
Taoism reveals simple habits for health and balance in our modern lives
Classics Revisited
Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins stumble upon ancient Chinese treasure
Sherlock Holmes discovers his brother has been murdered by a Nazi spy on the eve of D-Day
Historical Fiction
Murder and passion during the 1948 Communist siege of Peking
Nuclear war looms as China demands the return of Taiwan
A Virginian finds romance in Korea as Chinese and Japanese armies battle, 1895

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