Remembering Sheila Ettinger (1938-2018): an appreciation

“Cupertino is the world headquarters of Apple Computer. For a few years, Sheila Ettinger, who we are all here to honor today, lived directly across the street from the main headquarters of Apple, which, as you know, designed the iPhone. If she had wanted to do so, and if she could have gotten past security, Sheila could have stepped out of her apartment and arrived at Steve Jobs’s office in about ten minutes. But Sheila Ettinger was no fan of the iPhone. She could not have cared less about gadgets. In spite of the fact that she lived so close to Apple, she had this little flip-phone. And, to be honest, I could never figure out how to use her flip phone because it was a little bit awkward to use. In the hospital, when people would call her up, and that old phone would ring, she would tell me,…

A fond appreciation of Sheila

I just wanted to send my love and prayers out to Sheila Ettinger, who is the biggest (or perhaps the only)  fan of this website. She checks it religiously every morning, and looks at the Twitter feed at the bottom of the page. Sheila has given so much in her life, so it pains me to report that she has been facing some very serious health troubles lately. I want to take the time to thank Sheila for her love and support, her hilarity and brilliance, her storytelling prowess and her friendship. Who will leave comments on my website except for spammers, trolls, and bots??? Sheila, my family and I wish there were millions more like you. It is very sad for all of us that you are a one-off.

I am dressing up as a pantomime giraffe for Halloween

Yes, current events are enough to drive you crazy this year, so I always welcome a nice distraction, especially a DIY crafts project that takes a maddening amount of effort and time. With this principle in mind, I have decided to dress up as a giraffe this year — a decision that required a lot of legwork on my part. Not to mention neck work.  This costume took me about a week to put together. I made it out of duct tape and emptied out boxes of Refreshe club soda, daubed carefully with yellow, black and brown acrylic paint. The costume also makes use of an old bike helmet and some cardboard poster rolls. With the costume on, I stand nine and a half feet tall, so when I am out trick or treating with my kid today, I am going to have a heck of a time just moving down the…

Making national parks more expensive will only make them whiter: editorial in today’s Washington Post

Hi everyone. Happy Halloween and thank you for checking in. I have written an op-ed that is now live in the Washington Post regarding proposed entrance fee hikes at 17 selected parks and how this could shake out in terms of (whiter, wealthier) demographics. I have other pieces, in various places, that are coming out soon so I will make sure to keep you posted. This is a very serious issue; national parks belong to us all, not a select few.  

Update for October (eclipse, bots, brews & ice cream, etc.)

hi everyone — thanks again for checking this. I apologize if it takes a little while to post some of your comments and get back to you. Lately, ‘bots’ have discovered this website, and I am getting lots of truly annoying ‘comments’ that are actually links for dubious products or are from companies that want me to monetize the posts on my site. I don’t want to use this site to shill for silly products. Down with bots! If any of you readers have some advice about bot repellents, I am all ears. The upshot is that some of your kind words and comments are getting buried in a morass of bot messages. Sorry about that. I hope you are all holding up OK — I realize it has been quite a rough month. I am glad that I got a bit of camping in this summer. My family and…

My historical camping piece in today’s Washington Post

I have a piece up today in the Washington Post about the art of political camping and the use of the outdoors as “stagecraft.” As one of my friends pointed out to me, those pictures of a bare-chested Putin fishing and doing other “manly” things in the outdoors is a 21st century answer to this. Here is the link to this new piece, entitled “When Camping Was Serious Politics.” It  focuses mostly on Theodore Roosevelt and Warren Harding. I will have a longer update for you soon, I hope. I have been working on a whole bunch of shorter pieces, and have been rolling them out little by little, including, most recently, a detailed interview with George Saunders about Lincoln In The Bardo, as well as my cautionary report in Outside magazine on the high snowfall and snowmelt-related dangers on the Pacific Crest Trail. I have a bunch of other…

Gearing up

Hello, everybody. In light of today’s nationwide paperback release of my book, Under The Stars, I wanted to share some advice about gearing up for your campouts.  I’m willing to forgo pride when it comes to borrowing gear from other people and give up hot brands and styles in favor of utility. Mixing it up is the best way to get into camping without impoverishing yourself. If you’re persistent and have a decent Salvation Army or Good Will in your town, you can find about half of what you need right there. I always give myself leeway to “splurge” if need be. In my experience, there are certain areas where you must not skimp, and where it makes great sense to buy the very best that money can buy: those items are your tent, your boots, your raincoat, and your high-quality synthetic down sleeping bag Here are some of my…

How to make chicken with mole sauce, Fidel style.

   Friends, I am reposting this chicken mole recipe from several years ago — well, recipe is not quite the right word. “Procedure” is more like it because this is fairly in-exact. But here are the ingredients you need. This is inspired by a good friend, Fidel, who has lived out here in Santa Cruz for many years. If nothing else, reposting and slightly clarifying this procedure will help me make this dish for my family. Enjoy. And feel free to send in your own recommendations for tweaks and additions if you wish. INGREDIENTS seven or eight garlic gloves two pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cubed three pounds chicken (drumstick/breast combination works really well, though i often go with just drumsticks) two or three packets of soft corn tortillas one puck of Abuelita Mexican-style chocolate 10 or so whole cloves. (as in, the spice called cloves. Not be confused with garlic…

The great Horace Kephart, “Dean of American Camping,” died on this day in 1931

  The “Dean of American Camping,” Horace Kephart,” died in a car wreck on this day in 1931. Though he was brought up in rural Iowa, he found his life’s calling in the wilds of North Carolina. After leaving behind a promising career as a librarian, he moved out to the woods and completed his masterwork, Camping And Woodcraft, which is still in print today (and very popular. To this day, Kephart’s recipe for cooker building continues to save me from humiliation and abject hunger in campgrounds from coast to coast.) My favorite edition of the book is available through the Great Smoky Mountains Association, with a useful and thought-provoking introduction that serves as a mini-biography of Kephart, with special emphasis on his life, his philosophy and impact. More than just a masterful camper, Kephart was a wonderful prose stylist; his book is written in an informal, knowing, chatty tone…