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.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


1.   Hopes high for London Family Planning Summit
2.   Water Conservation & Yosemite Restoration Initiative on Nov ballot
3.   The Amazing Leatherback Migration to California July 12
4.   Lake Merced Community Meeting July 18
5.   Native gardening lectures in Fremont & Los Altos July 10 and 11
6.   Feedback
7.   Poet Robert Bly - On the Oregon Coast
8.   Neighborhood thoughts on Mt Sutro Crestmont development
9.   A wry view on how the U.S. can fix its political infighting
10. The British Are Coming to help with our election, courtesy John Cleese
11.  We shape our self to fit this world, and by the world are shaped again
12.  Notes & Queries: Most common birth day/world's most honest politicians

People change and forget to tell each other. -Lillian Hellman

Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can. 

   -Ralph Waldo Emerson

1.  Population Institute

Hopes High for London Family Planning Summit
While the Rio Plus 20 Summit disappointed environmental leaders and reproductive rights advocates, hopes are high for the upcoming International Family Planning Summit being held in London on July 11, World Population Day. Convened by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the London gathering is expected to yield $4 billion in new commitments to international family planning, enough to provide contraceptive services to an additional 120 million women in the developing world by 2020. The London summit will represent a major turning point, reversing a near two-decade decline in international support for family planning and reproductive health. Several nations and dozens of foundations and nonprofit organizations will be attending the London summit.



Monday, July 9, 2012 2:00 PM news conference on Polk Street steps of City Hall features former California Department of Natural Resources Secretary Huey Johnson

Former California Department of Natural Resources Secretary Huey Johnson will join Yosemite Restoration Campaign Director Mike Marshall and supporters on the steps of San Francisco City Hall Monday afternoon to announce they have collected more than enough signatures from San Francisco voters to qualify the Water Conservation and Yosemite Restoration Initiative for the November 2012 San Francisco ballot.                       

If approved by San Francisco voters in November, the Water Conservation and Yosemite Restoration Initiative would require the city to create a plan to move San Francisco from last in the state to first in the nation in water sustainability and begin to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park.  Before any actions could be taken, voters would have to approve the water recycling and restoration plans at a future election.

(JS:  Join us at 1.45 pm at City Hall on Monday the 9th--Polk Street side.)

San Francisco Naturalist Society
Thursday, July 12
The Amazing Leatherback Migration to California

Dr. Chris Pincetich, of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, will tell us about leatherback biology, ecology, and conservation challenges. Come learn about the new 70,000 sq. km protected critical habitat off California and the Leatherback Watch Program.

Randall Museum Theater, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco CA 94114. 7:30-9 pm. For more information, go to or contact Patrick Schlemmer or (415) 225-3830. Free and open to everyone.

2nd Lake Merced Community Meeting
Wednesday, July 18th - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Harding Golf Course, 99 Harding Road, San Francisco


Please join us on July 18th for our second Community Planning Meeting to discuss the activation of the Lake Merced Boathouse. Come and see how we have included your feedback into the proposed physical space of the new boathouse. This is an opportunity to improve the building for all users and offer additional recreation programming like kayaking, day camps, or fishing at the lake.

(A reader sent this):
At the last LM community meeting the only constituency that really showed up was the crew racers.  They have some great ideas for the Boathouse, but to the near exclusion of everyone else.  The Lake Merced Watershed Report calls for a blended use that would include boating, a small restaurant/fishing concession, a public meeting room and a small nature center among other things.  The folks who showed up at the most recent meeting wanted an erg room, lockers, showers, a meeting room for crew teams, secure space and other things that are really for their exclusive use.  I sort of go with the use that benefits a more diverse group of LM users.  It would be good if the natural history community comes out to push for a nature center.  Those who view fishing as an activity consistent with nature could advocate for that too.  If we don't show-up, we'll see the crew kids have a great facility, and the rest of us will have a run-down picnic area.

Locally Native Plants for Bay Area Gardens
A talk by Arvind Kumar
Tuesday, July 10 7:00 PM
Fremont Main Library, 2400 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont
(510) 745-1401

As a world hotspot of biodiversity, California has nearly as many species of native plants as the rest of the country and Canada combined! Many of these plants are suitable for home gardens, and have been grown in Europe for over a century. Come to this talk to learn about plants native to the Bay Area that are easy to grow as well as beautiful.  Give your garden a sense of place and a sense of California by using local native plants. Plant lists will be available.

Arvind Kumar has been gardening with native plants for over 10 years and is the president of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

Creating Year-Round Interest:
Form, Foliage, Berries and Bark
A lecture by Radhika Thekkath
Wednesday, July 11 7:00 PM
Los Altos Library, 13 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos,
(650) 948-7683.

This lecture is the seventh in our 12-part Designing Your Native Plant Garden series. You’ve selected trees, shrubs, and perennials; now you’ll want to tweak your design to ensure that something is happening throughout the year — not just in the spring! Learn how to select and group plants with varying bloom times so your garden is never without color. See how to choose different plant forms and include beautiful bark, berry, and seed producing species for maximum interest all year long. 

Radhika Thekkath has been a passionate gardener since childhood and is a native plant designer and a strong advocate for using native plants in the home garden. She is the Recording Secretary of the California Native Plant Society (Santa Clara Valley Chapter) and on the steering committee for the Gardening with Natives special interest group.


6.  Feedback

On Jul 6, 2012, at 7:37 AM, Thomas Y. Wang wrote:
Hi Jake
thomas here, used to work for Lisa Wayne back in the day.  Am venturing into the world with a blog, would you take a look at it  in your happy leisureness and comment or help disseminate the link?  It is,   Thank you much grandmaster of nature 's comings and goings.  All the best,

On Jul 6, 2012, at 9:24 AM, Kay Loughman wrote:
Hi Jake,
I forwarded your paragraph on cougars to Helen McGinnis who is active with the Cougar Rewilding Foundation.  She thanked me and added, "Here's a link to our response:"

Sadly, it appears the picture is not nearly so rosy as the Guardian Weekly article, taken from an Associated Press release reporting on a paper by Michelle LaRue and others published in the Journal of Wildlife Management,*//* would suggest.
Thank you, Kay, for help setting the record straight. 

I distrust journalism, for a variety of reasons.  There's always need for grist for the mill, need for happy stories, and writers need subjects, &c.  If cougars disappeared from the Midwest, what is different now to bring them back?  I couldn't think of anything; most of the trends are bad.

I am skeptical of nearly everything I read, even from serious publications.

Mary Lou Van Deventer:
Hello Jake -
For folks who think the supreme consciousness who created the incomprehensible universe is merely a metaphor, there will be a nice surprise at the end of life.  God is - "I Am" is the very name - and is awake, personal, awesome in the original sense, and loves each and every one of his/her children.  Even prodigals will be welcomed home, and home is what it will feel like when our spirits rise away and our bodies return to the soil.  The ones who came before us can see us when they care to look, although we can't see them, and they aren't held down by gravity, which we agreed to be captured by temporarily so we could stay and learn on this gorgeous planet. 

Now you've declared your apparent shallow understanding of the contribution of religion to a person's orientation to the universe and the planet, and declared yourself inappropriately I would say.  There was no need to get into a religious discussion here. 

Since you have done so, however, my understanding is that being Deep Green creates a very spiritual persective through which to perceive the natural world.  When used well, this perspective predicts accurate answers to puzzles about environmental structure and interactions.  In the 1970s when I worked at Friends of the Earth, a few of our opponents accused us of being metaphysical.  We shrugged and said, well, sure.   haven't noticed any humans who even have the ability successfully to do without a conceptualization of the universe that includes an overarching and unifying presence, ranging from Brahman to Jehovah.  There's no need to create a desert of the soul when the waters flow through us all. 

For me, it makes my heart glad to try to follow in the difficult, easy path of Jesus of Nazareth.  This complex yet simple path can't be accurately characterized with facile dismissals as some references in your thread have tried to do.  Some people of course like to reduce their existential terror by supposing that adherents to some restrictive dogma are all there is to a religion because they are loud.  That's a mistake.  Beyond the existential terror lies deep belonging. 

Since we are all one while simultaneously individualized, we can relax into the contradictions and transcend them.  No need to exclude anyone.  No need to make believers feel unwelcomed.

On the Oregon Coast

For William Stafford

The waves come - the large fourth wave
Looming up, thinking, crashing down - all
Roll in so prominently that I become small
And write this in a cramped script, hard to read.

Well, all this fury, prominent or not
Is also hard to read, and the ducks don't help,
Settling down in furry water, shaking
Themselves, and then forgetting it within a minute.

Remembering the fury, it is up to us, even
Though we feel small compared to the loose
Ocean, to keep sailing and not land,
And figure out what to say to our children.

~ Robert Bly ~

(Meditations on the Insatiable Soul)


8.  (This regards the proposed Crestmont development on Mt Sutro):

On Jun 23, 2012, at 10:55 AM, kay cavagnaro wrote:
My dear friend Jake,

I have been reading and studying the DEIR of the proposed project with much interest.  I want to thank you from my heart that you went out of your way to get a copy of it for me!  I have been listening to the SFPlanning Commission and could not believe what I'm hearing ~ to actually read the report brings much to my thought process and I hope that whom ever reads it will know what a short-shighted project it is! 

Your constant guidance with things that matter to the neighborhood, The City and The World make me so proud to have you as my friend.

Thank you very much!

I have another friend that lives at 8 Locksley (one of the big apartment buildings off of 7th) and actually looks out on to the proposed site from the 10th floor.  The first time I stood on her deck as she told me about the project, it made me shudder with disbelief!  I've walked up in the area and find I can not wrap my mind around 34 dwellings being built there!  She has asked me to ask you :  what  additional steps can the neighborhood (and surrounding neighborhoods) take to show support of keeping the space undeveloped?  Do you have any ideas I can pass on?

Again Jake, you keep our world sane!

The first time I stood on her deck as she told me about the project, it made me shudder with disbelief! 

I'm finding that the unbelievable is happening every day somewhere not far from us.  The world has always been a strange place, but the bizarre is becoming the norm.

I've walked up in the area and find I can not wrap my mind around 34 dwellings being built there!  She has asked me to ask you :  what  additional steps can the neighborhood (and surrounding neighborhoods) take to show support of keeping the space undeveloped?  Do you have any ideas I can pass on?  Kay Cavagnaro

Everything is politics, and politics relies on numbers:  Numbers of people expressing themselves to the government.  That means the Planning Commission, with copies to the mayor and your Supervisor--and don't forget newspapers.  There's no magic bullet, just a lot of hard work.

As I have no geotechnical training, I am careful about pushing that button too much.  However, you don't need geotechnical training to know that our chert is poor rock from the standpoint of structural integrity--it has none.  Nor do you need to be an expert to observe with your own eyes the landslides that frequently occur in this chert belt that runs from Bayview Hill through Bernal Heights, Mt Davidson, Glen Canyon, Twin Peaks, Golden Gate Park, and exits west of the GG Bridge--to resurface in the Marin Headlands.  Such slides are evident on Medical Center Way just above Parnassus, on Mt Sutro adjacent to the steep stairway leading from Warren Av to Crestmont, and many other places.  (One on Foerster a few decades ago was really a biggie, and I think may have taken out some houses.  I can't remember the details.) 

Another slump happened on LeConte, on Bayview Hill, when a developer dug into the toe of the slope.  That was in 1989, and I happened to be there doing a plant inventory and chanced across the developer (Occhipinti).  I asked him if he expected the hill to stay up there.  He didn't receive it well.  Two years later (1991) the famous March Miracle happened when, after a long winter drought, it rained every single day in March.  The hill couldn't support all the weight of the soil and water when its support was removed.  Now who would have thought of that?

How the U.S. can fix its political infighting

UK Parliament / Creative Commons
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron making a speech in Parliament. Every Wednesday, the prime minister takes questions from his fellow party members as well as the Opposition.

Interview with Stephen Dubner
Marketplace for Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Time now for a little Freaknomics radio. It's that moment every couple of weeks where we talk with Stephen Dubner, the co-author of the books and blog of the same name -- it is the hidden side of everything.
Dubner, I am told you have been traveling, you've been getting out.

Stephen Dubner: It's true. I've been to England to visit the queen. She wouldn't actually see me. But while I was there, I had an idea. So even though -- with 4th of July coming up -- it got me to thinking that even though we broke up with the Brits a long time ago, there's one tradition they still have that I really think is worth borrowing.

Ryssdal: So long as it's not like bangers and mash, dude, it can be whatever you want.

Dubner: No, this is not cuisine we're borrowing. This is actually parliamentary procedure. What I'm suggesting: Prime Minister's Questions. This is the session in Parliament. Every Wednesday at noon, the prime minister must go before the House of Commons -- pretty much the equivalent of our House of Representatives -- and he's got to take a half hour's worth of questions from the Opposition members, as well as his own party. And it's broadcast for the entire country to see.

Ryssdal: And over here too. I think it's on C-Span, right? If you want to see it. It's quite the event; it's confrontational, you could say.

Dubner: Indeed. It's a bit like schoolboys going at each other in debate club a bit. A few weeks ago I was there, I heard Prime Minister David Cameron give the following answer to a question about Britain's faltering economy:

David Cameron: What we need to do, both in Britain and in Europe, is to combine the fiscal deficit reduction which has given us the low interest rates with an active monetary policy, and with innovative ways of using our hard-won credibility, which we wouldn't have if we listened to the muttering idiots sitting opposite me.

Crowd noise

Ryssdal: I love that. I love all the yelling while he's talking. So as much as that is, Dubner, how does that advance American democracy, my friend?

Dubner: Well here's the thing. Right now, one of the big problems in Washington is that the two parties just shout past each other instead of talk to each other -- which, according to some old-timers in Washington, began when the two parties stopped sharing cocktail hour at the end of the day. You know, it's a lot easier to demonize someone from another political party, let's say, when you don't interact so much face-to-face. At Prime Minister's Questions, what you've got are these sworn political enemies who actually do insult each other face-to-face, but because they're there in the room, they kind of share a laugh about it, about the best lines of the day. And they're actually discussing the innerworkings of government in the full light of day.

I am hardly the only person to suggest that we borrow this idea; John McCain endorsed it back when he was running for president in 2008. We recently asked McCain about it -- he still likes the idea.

John McCain: They'd talk about the issues of the day that the president, I think, should be up to speed on. It'd be great to add to the education and illumination of the voters.

Ryssdal: So one, we all know what happened to McCain, right? But number two, what does the constitution have to say about this?

Dubner: I asked a scholar named Bernadette Meyler, she studies American and British legal history at Cornell. The short answer is that the constitution would allow it certainly. It would, however, require a bit of collaboration.

Bernadette Meyler: I think that for this practice to work in the U.S., it would have to be by the mutual consent of Congress and the president.

Dubner: Now Kai, let me make one counter-argument against this idea: opportunity cost -- that is the time spent doing one thing, you can't spend doing another.

Ryssdal: Getting all economic on me here. All right, go ahead.

Dubner: Just a wee bit. So I talked to some of the folks at No. 10 Downing Street who prep David Cameron every week for Question Time. They tell me that it's a pretty massive time suck -- since you have to be prepared to answer any kind of question about any kind of issue -- and it's also a source of anxiety for the prime minister. Tony Blair, in his memoirs, called Prime Minister's Questions, and I quote, Kai: "the most nerve-racking, discombobulating, nail-biting, bowel-moving, terror-inspiring, courage-draining experience in my prime ministerial life."

Ryssdal: So that's what you want to do to us, right?

Dubner: The other idea I have is a little bit easier, probably more fun: re-institute mandatory bi-partisan cocktail hour, every night of the week.


10.  Alternatively.....

The British Are Coming to help with election USA
Message from John Cleese

To the citizens of the United States of America:

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy). Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:  You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary.

1. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour', 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize' will be replaced by the suffix '-ise'. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary').

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell- checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize.

4. July 4th. will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns,lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if y o u wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

8. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline)-roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

9. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries  are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

10. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting Nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer.  They are also part of the British Commonwealth- see what it did for them.  American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.

11. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

12. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest ev er y twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Don't try Rugby; the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, like they regularly thrash us.

13. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

14. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

15. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all money's dues (backdated to 1776).

16. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes, plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.

God Save the Queen!

(Oh, I'm so looking forward to High Tea promptly at 4 pm every day.  And how about elevenses?  JS)




We shape our self 
to fit this world

and by the world 
are shaped again.

The visible 
and the invisible

working together 
in common cause,

to produce 
the miraculous.

I am thinking of the way 
the intangible air

passed at speed 
round a shaped wing

holds our weight.

So may we, in this life 

to those elements 
we have yet to see

or imagine, 
and look for the true

shape of our own self 
by forming it well

to the great 
intangibles about us.

~ David Whyte ~

(House of Belonging)


12.  Notes and Queries, Guardian Weekly

Q.  Which day of the year is the one upon which most people have their birthdays?

A.  While it is tempting to say "the date on which they were born", I would hazard that it will be some time between the last week of August and the first week of September.  Among my friends and family there is a strong correlation between the estimated conception date and significant family occasions - the father's or mother's birthday, their wedding anniversary, New Year, Christmas etc.  These are dates when busy, tired parents make "special time" for each other.

Given the commonality of Christmas and new year, we can expect a higher frequency of August-September births. The exception in this theory is first-born children, where there is no such correlation, presumably because no excuse was needed for their parents to be sexually active at the drop of a hat.

I was conceived in February 1963, a time which has no significant family dates. And as I am not a first-born child this would appear to be an exception. However, it was a very severe winter and transport was nigh on impossible. Consequently, my train-driver father spent a lot of time at home - presumably with little to occupy his time!
Andy Hunter, Hull, UK

A.  I don't know that, but I know February 29 has the least.
Adrian Cooper, Sydney, Australia

A.  In most years it is February 28, as on that day birthdays of those who were born on February 29 are also celebrated.
Szymon Krzyszczuk, Wroclaw, Poland

A.  It depends on the year, because those who happened to have been born on the intercalary day of February 29 would be celebrating their birthdays on March 1 three out of every four years. Therefore, March 1 would tend to be the day upon which most people have their birthdays. This is unless one accepts the comic premise in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance, that one is only as old as the number of actual birthdays one celebrates.
Paul Roth, Dunedin, New Zealand

A.  Labour Day.
Jane Perry, Wellington, New Zealand

Nothing in the fridge

Has anyone ever put together a ranking of the world's most honest politicians? Who headed the pack?

I have read that Guy Fawkes was the last honest person to enter the House of Commons. He was hung, drawn and quartered as an example to other honest people to stay away from politics. It has worked.
Rob Stevens, Glenthompson, Victoria, Australia

• Bob Brown, Australia: Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma; Nelson Mandela, South Africa; and Mahatma Gandhi, India – these must all rank.
Gaynor McGrath, Armidale, NSW, Australia

• Machiavelli.
Edward Black, Church Point, NSW, Australia

Any answers?

What was Noah thinking when he took a pair of woodworms on to the Ark?

Bjoern Eser, Pencombe, UK

Is there a common thread in our existence?

E Slack, L'Isle Jourdain, France

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