Archive for November, 2007


Monday, November 12th, 2007

Little Brown Mushrooms. Mount St. Helens Volcanic Monument. Washington.

We found an abundant crop of these little brown mushrooms in Washington last week. I have no idea what they are, but I know what they’re not. Don’t worry we didn’t eat them. There are only a few dangerous mushrooms in our area and one of them is small and brown like this. The Deadly Galerina (Galerina autumnalis) is similar to one pictured above, but that doesn’t matter because you are unlikely to be collecting anything even remotely like it. Like most collectors, I usually don’t bother to collect or identify small mushrooms that I don’t plan to eat anyway unless they are exceptionally beautiful.

There are only two species which are likely to be an issue. Pholioto mutabilis is not a popular edible in part because it looks a lot like the Deadly Galerina and other mildly poisonous LMBs. More importantly it lacks a reputation as a choice edible so it will only attract the true hard core enthusiasts who want to try everything. These enthusiast are, by their very nature, knowledgeable enough to do so safely.

The mildly hallucinogenic Psilocybe stuntzii attracts more attention than P. mutabilis for obvious reasons. I don’t have any experience with it, but it is widely reported to have been found side by side with G. autumnalis. That sounds like a high risk high, but they are easily distinguished by the color of the spores. If you choose to collected Psilocybe stuntzii make a spore print of every mushroom and discard any that fail to print (and, of course, those that have cinnamon brown prints).

Some people have asserted that you could mistake a Deadly Galerina for a Candy Cap (Lactarius fragilis). However, the Lactarius genus is one the easiest genuses to identify and L. fragilis does not grow on wood. In reality, you’d have to be particularly dense to make this mistake and I have never heard of a case.

The Italian tradition has it that any mushroom growing on wood is safe and good to eat. This might be true in Italy, but not in North America. G. autumnalis being an obvious counter example.

Amanita phalloides. Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Amanita phalloides. Santa Cruz Mountains, California 2002

Amanita phalloides (Death Cap) causes more poisonings and deaths than any other mushroom found in North America. It is very distinct and incredibly common in California. The deadliness of this mushroom has nothing to do with amateur mushroom hunters confusing it with an edible species. The problem stems from Volvariella volvacea (Paddy-straw mushroom), a similar looking edible commonly collected in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. It seems like every year or two a southeast asian immigrant family poisons themselves when they discover what they think are Paddy-straw mushrooms from home. Unfortunately, it often kills half the family. In 2004, I noticed that state and local parks around the bay area began putting up signs translated in to all the southeast asian languages warning people about the Death Cap.

Interestingly A. phalloides is not native to North America. It was probably brought in with soil attached to the roots of trees imported from Europe (norway spruce and cork).

The admonishment against collecting button stage mushrooms originates with Amanita ocreata (Destroying angel) and it’s close relatives. Prized edibles like Amanita calyptrata (Coccora) and Amanita velosa (Springtime amanita) can be difficult to distinguish form A. ocreata in the button stage. However, better advice would be: Learn to identify the genus Amanita before attempting to collect and eat any mushroom with gills. Then don’t consider eating any Amanita until until you have sufficient experience to identify all the most common Amanitas on sight.

I don’t have a good picture of a destroying angel. However, it is easy to recognize because it is pure white. Do not eat any pure white amanita.

The scary part:

Alpha amanitin line structure

All of the poisonous mushrooms mentioned contain the same poisons known as amatoxins. The mortality rate is about 50% and either way it is extremely unpleasant. Symptoms don’t start until it’s too late for standard poison remedies like induced vomiting or a stomach pump. There is no antidote but massive injections of penicillin might help. The only “cure” is a liver transplant.

Cases usually progress like this: Within a few hours the toxins start causing irreparable liver and kidney damage asymptomatically. Within 10-24 hours you start to get flu like symptoms including violent vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. These are so severe that you might check yourself into a hospital even if you don’t suspect the mushrooms. After a couple days you start to recover. You feel better and the doctor lets you go home from the hospital. Another day later you relapse. Your liver fails and you go into a coma or die. Even if you survive it is unlikely that you will recover full health.

Random Thoughts from the Thirty-Week Pregnant Lady

Friday, November 9th, 2007

30 weeks and FIVE days

I’m thirty weeks now and look pregnant enough to have my first stranger, a cashier in one of the local shops, ask me when I was due. Of course, she had been recently pregnant herself so was unusually perceptive as to what such a large protruding anterior growth might possibly mean, but still, it was a milestone of sorts. My apartment neighbors still have yet to get a good look at me up close and I aim to keep it that way; of course, I run the risk that when I do start appearing with an actual air-breathing baby, they’ll probably think I stole it and call the cops. I’ll have to track down the shopgirl to vouch for me.

The closer I get to the magical date of January 1st (the day insurance starts! What? Does January 1st mean anything else? I can’t remember…), the more anxious I get. By the time the date rolls around I’ll probably undergo such a complete full-body relax and exhale that my lungs will collapse and the baby will slip right down out of me onto the floor. I’ll be in Trader Joes or something and people will seriously freak out.

The third trimester seems to be when all the unpleasant symptoms of pregnancy rear their ugly heads and I am right on schedule. (1) Monday morning of my 28th week, my back was suddenly all achy. I grumped around for a few days before walking to Fred Meyer to buy a hot pad and let me tell you, I LOVE that thing. Hot pads are the cat’s ass. My back, now two weeks later, actually feels better. Man, I’m turning it on right now! (2) Recent hyperproduction of relaxin in my body means my very skeleton is now held together by sheer will, or possibly peer pressure. I’m all … floppy. Sleeping on one side for more than five minutes results in a sensation that my hips have dislocated. Double ick. So I roll over (and make Joshua roll over too because his body forms a convenient scaffolding system for my body’s limb support) and give it another go for five minutes. Repeat. And again. Nobody sleeps. We nap a lot lately. (3) Stretching hurts! One of my abdominal scars has so much nerve damage I can’t feel anything anywhere in the vicinity but the other scar remains fully functional, nerve-wise, and hurts like a sonofabitch as the belly looms ever northward. I’m sure my round ligaments will start in next. (4) Restless leg syndrome! GAH! (5) Charley horses!! AAACK!

One fascinating development of pregnancy is blood. There is a lot more blood in my body than there used to be. The books all say so, something like 25-40% more. And I can feel it. I can feel my pulse in my fingertips and palms whenever I put my hands down by my sides or lay them on anything at all (kaBOOM kaBOOM kaBOOM). I feel my temples pulsing against my eyeballs. No wonder mosquitoes are especially attracted to pregnant women, we’re bursting with bloody goodness and there is SO MUCH SURFACE AREA to choose from.

New Skin

Friday, November 9th, 2007

I’ve been hounding Cheyenne for months to mock up a new skin for the blog. Maybe I was too critical of an early draft, but after a few half hearted attempts I haven’t been able to get her to budge. Reaching a point of desperation, I had to take matters into my own hands. You see the result now.

We want to preserve the TimeMachine sailing stories on a stand alone site so that people can find the cruising stuff without having to wade through the pregnant/baby stuff. We decided that it might be hard to move our audience so we’ll just move the archive instead. It will be at and we will continue blogging on the old address (ie All of the posts will continue to be available here as well and comments made on either site will magically appear on both. Two installations of WordPress accessing the same database introduces certain software problems that I’m hacking at now. The only real challenge is preventing users of the archive site from accidentally popping into current posts.

I plan a few final posts about sailing the TimeMachine, but after that it won’t be updated anymore.


Also, if you notice any weirdness, please explain in a comment giving your OS and browser. I’ve only tested on IE6, IE7 and Firefox under XP and Vista. Thanks!

Ape Cave (pregnant spelunking)

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

“The longest continuous lava tube in the continental United States.”

You may remember Cheyenne’s response when CJ invited us caving last summer; “no belly crawls.” Of course, in true CJ fashion, we ended up facing a tube crawl belly flop into a mud puddle before our eyes had even adjusted to dark. So when Hans suggested we visit Ape Cave up in Washington you can imagine her skepticism. Hans assured us that he had been there before. “It’ll even be okay for my diminutive dog.”

Stairs leading down into Ape Cave Lave Tube from below

The cave entrance is in the middle and you have two choices. South leads 3/4 of a mile through a relatively flat floored open tube for non-belly-crawling, standing head room, pregnant lady-friendly spelunking. North leads one and a half miles on a grueling, stooped over, climb the underground lava flow, “challenging” hike. The main disadvantage to the southern route is that it is a dead end. Making it an equal mile and a half round trip, whereas the northern route leads to a far exit in the woods and a return surface trail.

Ape Cave Lava Tube

The narrowest part of the southern tube.

Mount St. Helens South Face

The south face of Mount St. Helens from a meadow near the cave.

Hans and his Hungarian Weasel Hound

No dogs allowed, so the Hungarian Weasel Hound spent the afternoon trapped in the car.

St. Johns Bridge

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Portland, Oregon

We received a few complaints about missing updates. I looked into it and found that the email notification system broke a while back; probably when I upgraded WordPress. It should be working again now and you’ll have bit of sunshine in your Monday morning spam. All of you on the subscrition list that only read when you get something in your inbox should go back and see everything you missed. You can always see all the posts in reverse chronological order at the root page ( It only shows 5 posts at a time, but you can keep going back by hitting the little previous button in the lower left corner.

Speaking of spam, I finally followed through on some advice Brad gave me some months ago. Have gmail pop all your mail from your spamy accounts and forward it back to you somewhere else. Actually, gmail now supports pop and imap so you can even skip the forwarding part. The spam is just gone. I love it. Google is evil! Google is great!

I’m hoping you mouse over the image.

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell