In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Friday, May 25, 2012


1.   Born this day 1803 - Ralph Waldo Emerson
2.   Red Bird Explains Himself - Mary Oliver
3.   Whale watching & Farallones boat trip this Sunday 27
4.   SFPUC ramps up the Hetch Hetchy propaganda
5.   Birding for kids and families this summer
6.   Bay Area Wilderness Training helps get youth outdoors
7.   National Trails Day with Sutro Stewards Saturday June 2
8.   Feedback:  Bird baths/Natural Areas Program
9.   Baby mallards learn how to do at newly revitalized El Polin Springs
10. Save the date: San Francisco Butterfly Count July 14
11.  President Obama: Why admit millions of immigrants when 1 of 3 veterans jobless?
12.  SciAm:  Civilization at point of no return?/water, water, water....
13.  Heated prose from Lagunitas Brewing Company
14.  Notes & Queries

“The heart has its reasons that reason cannot know. While Reason may help us develop strategies for mending the earth and ourselves, it will not open us to the process and possibilities that help us reconnect with the animal inside us... Until we do that the mind will continue to spin its wheels.” -Pascal.

1.  Born 25 May 1803 - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

Emerson was the single most important figure behind American Transcendentalism.  Few movements in American social and intellectual history have been as influential as the cluster of ideas we have come to call Transcendentalism.  From Ralph Waldo Emerson's "self-reliant soul" and Henry David Thoreau's "different drummer" to modern ideas about individualism and democracy, Transcendentalism has had a powerful impact on central aspects of American life. 

The two figures at the heart of the movement were giants of 19th century America…educational activists, such as Bronson Alcott and Elizabeth Peabody; literary figures, including Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson; and social reformers, such as Theodore Parker and Moncure Conway.  Many of these teachers, writers, and thinkers were calling for nothing less than a remaking of society:  the abolition of slavery, equal rights for women, freedom of religious thought and practice, educational reform, and attention to those aspects of experience that were essential to a good life.  It is hard for us now to appreciate how radical and revolutionary Transcendentalism seemed in the decades leading up to the Civil War.  These ideas, however, contributed to reforms and ways of thinking that are still with us today.

…By tracing these wide-ranging currents of thought, we will come to understand ideas that led to other social changes, such as the development of liberal theologies, the rise of the periodical press, and numerous utopian and religious experiments….historical events;  John Brown's raid, the Civil War, the rise of industrial New England, and the decline of the agricultural South…Transcendentalism ..a movement that not only shaped the 19th century but also continues to have a powerful influence on our own era.  From the passive resistance of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, to increased gender equality, from the role of liberal denominations in American religion to emphasis on global understanding and cooperation, Transcendentalism continues to shape a uniquely American way of viewing ourselves and our place in the wider world.

Without them, the United States would not have developed into the nation it has become.  We would not believe in the power of the individual to the extent that we do, nor would we see nature at the center of one view of the American psyche.  Indeed, the decades from the 1830s through the 1860s saw a flowering of ideas that shaped new ways of thinking.  Suffice it to say that the search for a truth that might be true at all times in all places, the belief that evidence for such a spiritual truth might be found in and through the physical world, and the idea that each individual has the capacity to experience this truth in a personal way produced a series of writings and beliefs whose powerful currents can still be felt today.

Adapted from guidebook to Teaching Company course Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalist Movement, by Ashton Nichols of Dickinson College

“The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.”

"’Tis the good reader that makes the good book."
"There is then creative reading as well as creative writing."

Aphorisms to live by:
Hitch your wagon to a star
Trust thyself
A minority of one
The only way to have a friend is to be one
What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.

"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.”

Conservatism makes no poetry, breathes no prayer, has no invention; it is all memory. Reform has no gratitude, no prudence, no husbandry.

Let us treat men and women well; treat them as if they were real. Perhaps they are.

"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."  :-)


Red Bird Explains Himself

“Yes, I was the brilliance floating over the snow
and I was the song in the summer leaves, but this was
only the first trick
I had hold of among my other mythologies,
for I also knew obedience: bring sticks to the nest,
food to the young, kisses to my bride.

But don’t stop there, stay with me: listen.

If I was the song that entered your heart
then I was the music of your heart, that you wanted and needed,
and thus wilderness bloomed that, with all its
followers: gardeners, lovers, people who weep
for the death of rivers.

And this was my true task, to be the
music of the body.  Do you understand? for truly the body needs
a song, a spirit, a soul.  And no less, to make this work,
the soul has need of a body,
and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable
beauty of heaven
where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes,
and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart.”

~ Mary Oliver ~

(Red Bird)


Whale watching & Farallones boat trip
THIS SUNDAY (May 27th)
to benefit the California Invasive Plant Council

Enjoy a boat trip past the Farallones with expert naturalist Carol Keiper and expert whale spotter Andrea Williams! Explore the bay, learn about marine life, see pelagic birds, and chat island ecology with fellow travelers!

The boat leaves San Francisco's Pier 39 at 8 a.m., Sunday, May 27th and returns at 2 p.m.

You can choose one of four great packages:
1. Basic package ($100) includes boat trip, naturalists, hot beverages, and sea shanties.
2. Deluxe package ($125) includes basic package plus shuttle or lunch.
3. All-inclusive package ($150) includes basic package plus shuttle, morning pastry and lunch.
4. Super-supporter package ($200) includes all-inclusive package plus ginger, photo CD, and a special thank you from Cal-IPC!

Register now
Contact Andrea Williams with any questions


4.  SFPUC ramps up the propaganda: 

Now your water supply comes from Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System

Ahem.  Can't you be a little more subtle?

San Francisco NatureEducation leads Birding for Kids and Families tours in SF Botanical Garden this Summer!
First Saturdays, 4 Months ONLY
June 2, July 7, August 4, September 1, 10-11:30am
SF Botanical Garden, Golden Gate Park
Naturalist will lead a 1.5 hour hike through the exciting microhabitats of the SF Botanical Garden and spot a variety of birds!
Meet in front of the bookstore inside the main gate of the SF Botanical Garden, Golden Gate Park (MLK Drive near 9th Ave. at Lincoln)
Please bring binoculars if you have them. Free field journal for students!
Please bring a pencil to record your sightings!
$10 per family, no one turned away for lack of funds!
Contact Anastasia Marin at or 415-387-9160 for more information.

6.  What BAWT does and why:

Bay Area Wilderness Training supports teachers and youth workers with training, gear, funding, and community – helping you get youth outdoors!

These are the support services BAWT has worked to build since 1999. It’s about breaking down barriers for young people to access to the outdoors – and fight against a growing, disturbing disconnect now becoming known as “Nature-Deficit Disorder”.  This term, coined by Richard Louv, describes the growing psychological, physical, and cognitive costs of alienation from nature. BAWT is addressing this concern by getting well over 2,500 youth outdoors every year.


Saturday, June 2nd


National Trails Day offers the opportunity to give back a little to something that you love. Join the Sutro Stewards for a morning of Trail Stewardship and trailside Habitat restoration on Mount Sutro. We'll be working with our partners, the Bay Area Ridge Trail, the North Face, One Brick and SF Urban Riders for this event.

Please signup soon, we'll be feeding you well with a catered lunch, fine beverages (Alaskan Brewing), and commemorative T-Shirts for the first 70 who RSVP (Pre-Register).

Details and RSVP here:
or here on Facebook:

or email me directly:


8.  Feedback

Robert Nelson:
Dear Kay:
Your thoughtful and interesting bird bath letter to Jake Sigg just came through, and everything you stated rang true!  One important parameter of bird baths to keep in mind is cat safety.  Open space around the bird bath will make it harder for slinking felines to lay in wait for unsuspecting avian prey...  I installed and maintained a pedastal mounted round bowl concrete bird bath with a continuous water drip in a backyard where I used to live.  It came from Art Craft statuary company, and they specially cast a pipe up the center of the pedastal for the water drip tube.  It worked well with minimal attention for years.  Every week or so I'd blast it out with the full
force of the water hose nozzle, which kept it clean.  Even though there was a minimum of 15 feet of mowed grass around the bird bath, local cats wouldm occasionally bag a bird, especially Mourning Doves, who don't seem to bemthe most intelligent of bird species...

Kay Loughman:
Hi Bob -
I certainly agree with you about safety from predators, though that is a challenge no matter where you locate a birdbath!   The birdbath I mentioned as being the long-time favorite in our yard is designed to sit on the ground, and would make the birds vulnerable to cats if it were in the center of a lawn.  But, as you may recall, we are on a steep hill - no level ground for anything!  We put that birdbath on our north deck, roughly three stories above the ground.  The bathers there are safe from cats, but somewhat more visible to the Sharp-shinned Hawks who like to birdwatch near our feeders.  Our tippy low pedestal birdbath is in the middle of the south deck - accessible to all sorts of predators. Fortunately we haven't had many avian losses.

Interesting to read about ArtCraft Statuary - their designs are a bit ornate for my taste; but would fit right in for may people's yards.

Margo Bors:
Hi Jake,
Here's a picture of the simple, inexpensive bird bath in my back yard.  It's just a big heavy  plant saucer set on a chunk of lumber - both found objects.  I put a shim under one corner of the saucer so it tilts & is very shallow on one side.  I added water, black tube on the right, so every few days it automatically gets fresh water.  If it starts to look messy, I spray it with the Jet setting on my hose for a few seconds.  Birds seem to love it. I have had all sorts of visitors.

Felicia Zeiger (member of PROSAC):
In fact, JS, there has been NO information about NAP disseminated to the tax paying public who are deceived in
the bond description by a misnomer "trails" - in the 2008 Bond for 5 million and hidden again in the proposed
2012 bond as "trail restoration" - 4 million. If NAP is so valuable for our SF landscape - why is NAP so fearful of
informing the public of it's 700+ page plan? No effort has been made in some 15 years to do so. Why is it's source of funding hidden behind misnomers in the park bonds? Is it because if the bond voting public knew what NAP is actually planning for our city parks - a majority would reject NAP forthwith! You bet! Reverse evolution for SF back some 150 years ago and pay for it while RPD can't afford to keep rec centers open, some newly built, let alone hire
rec directors. And bathrooms - well, forgetaboutit. But treeless parks - sand dunes with bits of dune scrub - native plants that mostly die for lack of maintenance or simply no longer are acclimatized to the current environs - birds and wildlife deprived of habitat and food ... all okay with you. Chainsaws and herbicides used at Glen Park illegally during the nesting season because a grant would otherwise run out - money over ethics, no surprise. Detractor's have a hidden agenda you say. Really? Blame the detractors for what NAP is foremost guilty of itself - a hidden agenda and deceptiveness. Remind you of the political shenanigans of the current political day perhaps?

NAP is a very well run program you say, really? Like it's "well-motivated" enthusiasts illegally girdling healthy trees to destroy them. How about cutting down about 25 trees at the western end of Pine Lake Park so a few dozen native's needing full-sun (in the fog belt yet) could be planted. No thought to the fact that those downed trees had provided a necessary windbreak for thousands of the remaining park trees from the prevailing western winds for close to a hundred years. More tree failures onto public paths have occurred since that stupidity was carried out resulting in the ongoing endangerment of life and limb to park users. In fact, one death by failed tree limb did happen in 2008. Of course all those planted natives perished within months while the windbreak is forever gone.
And with it's familiar deceptive practices, NAP denied cutting down those trees. Well of course NAP didn't do the cutting itself. NAP doesn't have the appropriate equipment but they could hire professionals from funds NAP received using the misnomer "trails" in the 2008 park bond. Cutting down the windbreak trees was an unscientific and totally mindless act done by what you call a very well run program. Don't think so! I could go on and on but why bother. I won't convince you nor you, me. The question is do you have the integrity to publish this feedback?
Original message:

JS:  There has been much misinformation about the City's Natural Areas Program disseminated.  Some of it is based on misunderstanding or misinformation.  The latter is deliberately propagated by certain people or groups with hidden agendas, and they have been trying to destroy the Program for >ten years now.

I have been critical of the workings of some City agencies or programs, including those of RecPark, with which I'm familiar due to my 32 years employment by the Dept, plus 23 years of volunteering for it.  I know the good and the bad in this Dept, and I can tell you that the Natural Areas Program is a very well run program and staffed with motivated people intensely involved with their work.  How many programs or agencies can you say that about?  Recognize good govt when you see it, and support it.  You know what happens when you don't.
Destroying the program is not an option for the City in any case.  It has 32 natural areas to manage (one in Sharp Park), and land must be managed, especially when it is as used, misused, and abused as our natural areas are.  There are user conflicts, invasion by unpleasant weedy growth, and severe erosion--just to name three items for starters.  In future issues of this newsletter I will from time to time identify other issues and problems which everyone should be concerned about, including the Program detractors, and I will tell the reason why they should support it.  The Program Management Plan is expected to come back to the RecPark Commission this autumn for further hearings. 

On May 21, 2012, at 9:06 AM, Lee Rudin wrote:
Hi Jake, Thanks for your opinion on the NAP. Since Ginsburg took over, I quit donating, convinced he was going to turn these areas in concessions, ball fields, etc.

People may not know that the SF trust, now named something else, doesn't help the NAP, or much if that. People CAN support the NAP exclusively. See correspondence:

Q: Can donations to SF Parks Trust be directed only to the natural areas program? I stopped contributing because NAP gets such short shrift.  I know the big demand is for soccer fields and family oriented actives, but this year with money being tight, I am selfishly choosing what is important to me.
Thank you, Lee Rudin
Lee:  I understand your feeling.  However, in hopes of dissuading you from throwing out the baby with the bathwater, I would like you to consider a few things:

1.  Gavin Newsom wanted parks and recreation to bring in revenue to pay for their operations, and whoever he appointed as general manager must do that.  I am appalled by this privitizing of parks, but when objectors are asked what programs or services should be cut in order to spend on RecPark, it's a hard question to answer, and I am not up to the task.  These are very dark times and I am short of answers for most of the dilemmas we face.  So, regardless of what Phil Ginsburg's personal views of this subject, he was put there to do that, and he is doing it. 

I will make one extenuating remark:  If you are able to set privatization aside for a moment, his managerial skills and his general attitude strike me as excellent.  He is not afraid to tackle contentious issues, and he is forthright and courageous.  We have had some poor or inept general managers in my 53 three years of interacting with the department.  In terms of skill, I would rate him alongside the excellent Elizabeth Goldstein (who was also under pressure to bring in revenue) as the department's two best managers.  I consider us lucky to have him in these troubled times.

2.  I don't have a lot of direct experience with the SF Parks Alliance, successor to SF Parks Trust and Neighborhood Parks Council.  However, NPC was unsupportive of the Natural Areas Program, presumably jealous of its stellar ability to attract volunteers.  I am impressed with the leadership of the SF Parks Alliance, and it seems supportive of NAP.  NAP, btw, has been gaining support from the community, and that support is continuing to grow.

The immediate concern regarding the Natural Areas Program is to guide its draft Management Plan through the Commission and eventual adoption by the City.  There are a lot of folks who have been trying to destroy the Program ever since 2002, so far without success.  However, their machinations complicate matters and cause innumerable, seemingly endless, hearings and drafts.  It is time to adopt the plan and concentrate on the manifold problems afflicting our wildlands, which, until the Program began staffing in 1997 (and never fully staffed), had never been managed, even to the extent of picking up trash.  While it is severely underfunded, money is not the most immediate pressing issue.  I wish I could give you advice on how to help RecPark; for the time being, continuing your defense of the Natural Areas Program is the best, and we have an administration that supports it.  For all the problematic issues is have with it--eg, Beach Chalet soccer fields, which gives me heartburn--the department still deserves strong support.  Often when people think "it can't get worse", it gets worse.  I hope the day doesn't come when we look back wistfully on today.


9.  New Life at El Polín Spring
A young mallard family - 13 duckings in all - made a visit to El Polín Spring last week. Check out an amazing video on Facebook showing the kids growing and learning in the ponds. It's a great time to visit the newly revitalized El Polin. A month-long celebration featuring walks, tours, and a volunteer day runs throughout June. View the El Polin event schedule >>


10.  "It's time for folks to mark their calendars for the 18th Annual San Francisco Butterfly Count -- Saturday, July 14th --9am -5pm. An intense, one-day inventory of all the butterfly species / individuals flying in our county.  We will begin at the Randall Museum (199 Museum Way) before heading out with assigned groups. Each group will have a copy of Nature in the City's Butterflies of San Francisco  Field Guide ( author your truly) to make it easier on the novice. BRING YOUR LUNCH. It's really a magnificent day, folks to help with field work. A $3.00 participation fee is collected by all that goes to butterfly conservation. We broke our record last year with 26 species and over 967 individuals and recorded the All Time National High of Papilio zelicaon -- 110 Anise Swallowtails seen here in one day! (Over 300 counts throughout the nation, our count is starting to get noticed!)
Any questions? Liam O'Brien -- . The count is sponsored by The North American Butterfly Association."


Unemployment For Young African American Vets Topped 40% in 2011    

Santa Barbara, CA – May 22, 2012 – Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) has launched a national TV campaign calling attention to the fact that despite high veteran unemployment, President Obama and Congress continue to admit almost a million new legal immigrant workers a year to take American jobs.  The ad is running throughout the Memorial holiday period as Americans reflect on the sacrifices our men and women in uniform made for the country.
“Our young Americans fought to enforce U.S. policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It’s time President Obama fought for them by reducing mass immigration and saving jobs for these young veterans,” commented Marilyn DeYoung, Chairman of the Board of Californians for Population Stabilization.
More veterans settle in California than any other state in the country.  And over the next five years, the number of veterans returning home looking for work is projected to increase exponentially, with more than one million veterans flooding the workplace.  At the same time, states like California continue to experience a flood of another sort.  Our government continues to admit about one million legal immigrant workers a year to take jobs.  And they’re taking American jobs in places like California, already devastated by the Great Recession and continuing to experience some of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
The impact is being felt by all Americans.  However, recently returning veterans 18-24 are being disproportionately affected.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2011, young male veterans had an unemployment rate of 29.1%, nearly double the rate of their non-veteran counterparts.  Young African American male veterans had an even higher rate of unemployment, topping 40%.  
“Our young men and women in uniform put their lives on the line for all of us so that we may remain free.  The least we can do is make sure they’re at the front of the job line when they return home,” commented DeYoung.
For more, visit

NEWS: Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return?
Although there is an urban legend that the world will end this year based on a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar, some researchers think a 40-year-old computer program that predicts a collapse of socioeconomic order and massive drop in human population in this century may be on target

NEWS: Human Use of Water Found to Contribute to Sea-Level Rise
Extraction of groundwater for irrigation and home and industrial use turns out to be an important missing piece of the puzzle in estimates for past and current sea-level changes and for projections of future rises

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MAGAZINE: Which Nations Consume the Most Water?
Much of the life-sustaining resource is traded across national borders

WEB EXCLUSIVES: How Much Water Do Nations Consume?
Population drives demand, but so do water-intensive foods such as meat


13.  More heated prose from the Lagunitas Brewery

Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot
I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere, wherever you can look.  wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there.  Wherever there's a cop beaten' up a guy, I'll be there.  I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad.  I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready.  An' when the people are eaten' the stuff they raise, and livin' in the houses they build.  I'll be there, too.  Great principles don't get lost once they cone to light.  They're right here.  You just have to see them again.  You think we're licked.  They all think we're licked.  Well, we're not licked.  And we're  going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause, even if this room gets filled with lies like these; and all their armies come marching into this place.  Somebody will listen.  I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.  Someday we'll understand that.  Now, now - Here's looking at you, kid.  Call us!


14.  Notes & Queries Guardian Weekly

Swiss guards during a swearing-in ceremony at the Vatican. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

Why does a pope require bodyguards?

He may be seen as infallible in his judgment by many believers, but he clearly does not trust the "Popemobile" to save him from harm.
Margaret Wilkes, Perth, Western Australia

• To put a human face on the Vatican, as the Yeomen of the Guard do at the Tower of London.
Philip Stigger, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

• When the pope's special needs were assessed, it was found that his income was above the level at which free protection by the heavenly hosts is provided.
Bernard Burgess, Tenterden, UK

• To prevent him from being spirited away.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany

• God only knows.
Rhona Davies, White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

• Because the devil's powers are only earthly.
Laurence Belgrave, Rome, Italy

• A bulletproof vestry should be sufficient.
Roger Morrell, Perth, Western Australia

It's hardly aspirational

Why doesn't anyone publish a Poor List?

• Because nobody could ever keep track of all of them, as a different 20,000 of them – the world's poorest people, that is – die every day from starvation-related diseases.
Dick Hedges, Nairobi, Kenya

• It would be poor form and certainly in poor taste.
David Isaacs, Sydney, Australia

• They do: it's called the Rich List.
Barrie Sargeant, Otaki Beach, New Zealand

• Because no one would pay for it.
Ned Noel, Wamboin, NSW, Australia

• A Poor List? That's a bit rich.
Jennifer Rathbone, Toronto, Canada

Wonder in small things

If intelligent life from a more rational planet observed earth, what would it find most surprising?

On Earth, intelligence does not seem to lead to common sense.
Douglas Henderson, Sandy, Utah, US

• The fact that worms continue to live when cut in two. I still can't get over it myself.
Matthew Wood, Belfast, UK

Any answers?
How do surfers measure the heights of waves?

David Tucker, Halle, Germany

Why do we say we are green with envy? Why not yellow, pink or purple?
John M Last, Ottawa, Canada

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