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.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.        
    Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. -Alexander Solzhenitsyn

A man may say 'From now on I'm going to speak the truth.'  But the truth hears him and runs away and hides before he's even done speaking.
    Saul Bellow, Herzog

1.   Early Detection Networks: Protecting California from Invasive Plants July 20
2.  You can help redesign the Francisco Reservoir site - TONIGHT
3.   Mt Sutro Stewards July 21
4.   Camp out in Golden Gate Park Aug 3-5
5.   Feedback: Hetchy/mistletoe/stuck in the mud in Florida swamp
6.   Grow plants for the Green Hairstreak Butterfly - Backyard Native Nursery Network
7.   17th & Folsom proposed park moving forward - July 26
8.   Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies aiming for head-on collision
9.   Telescope - the pipe that pierces the dam that holds back the universe
10. Ted Kipping potluck Tuesday 24
11.  SciAm potpourri - 10 million kg of sharks fins last year in Hong Kong
12.  The Free Farm at Gough & Eddy
13.  Native plants in glass metal & light July 14 - Aug 12
14.  Fire in California.  Interesting stats and thoughts
15.  LTEs on bankers, financial systems

1.  Early Detection Networks: Protecting California from Harmful Invasive Plants
Speaker: Daniel Gluesenkamp, Executive Director, Calflora; Steering Committee Member, Bay Area Early Detection Network; newly appointed Executive Director, California Native Plant Society

Friday, July 20, 7:30 PM
Los Altos Library Program Room, 13 South San Antonio Road, Los Altos

Since 2006, the Bay Area Early Detection Network (BAEDN) has coordinated and organized early detection and rapid response (EDRR) to plant invasions across the nine counties bordering San Francisco Bay. BAEDN partners have developed an operating framework, obtained
grant support, and pulled together critical EDRR infrastructure. BAEDN staff predict which species will be most harmful, coordinate detection of infestations, and prioritize the most harmful outbreaks for eradication.  BAEDN then works with agencies and citizens to proactively deal with the highest priority outbreaks before they grow into large and costly threats. This “stitch-in-time” approach minimizes the environmental and economic damage caused by these invaders, educates citizens, and dramatically reduces the need for planning and resources required to control large, established invasive plant populations.

This talk will cover efforts underway to build EDRR networks throughout the state using the BAEDN template.  It will focus on the infrastructure and systems now available to build multi-county regional early detection networks, including an integrated mapping platform using mobile phone mapping systems and cloud-based occurrence mapping tools. The talk will present plans for outreach to Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) and other key partners — the expertise and wisdom of RCDs is essential to success of building CaliforniaEDN, a coordinated network of networks protecting the entire state from harmful new invasions.

A plant ecologist by training, Dr Daniel Gluesenkamp is the Executive Director of Calflora Database. He is a founder and past President of the California Invasive Plant Council. He is the founder of BAEDN and he directed the Habitat Program at Audubon Canyon Ranch from 2001 to 2011.   Late breaking news: he will become the Executive Director  of the California Native Plant Society from August 2012.

Directions: From Foothill Expy., travel ½ mile on San Antonio Rd. towards the Bay, cross Hillview and turn right into the driveway; the library is on the left. From El Camino Real, travel towards the hills on San Antonio Rd., cross Edith and turn left into the unmarked driveway just
before Hillview. The sign on San Antonio Rd. reads “Civic Center, Library and History Museum.” Enter through the lobby of the main entrance.

CNPS general meetings are free and open to the public. For more information, send an email to, or leave a message on our Chapter phone at (408) 260-3450 and your call will be returned.


2.  Designing with Drinks - Reservoir Reboot: Thursday, July 19th
1111 8th Street at CCA : 6pm to 9:30pm

Collective Creative Capital Contest for SF and SF Beautiful have paired up with California College for the Arts to bring you a special edition of Designing with Drinks - all about our City Reservoirs! Come celebrate, design, and get creative with us with free beer and wine. 

The Francisco Reservoir has sat vacant and unused since the late 1950s.
These immense open spaces offer huge potential for re-use in our dense urban environment. What's currently on top of them? What could be on top of them? What's to become of the abandoned Francisco Reservoir in Russian Hill that has been designated open space?

Join us to learn more about your water system, and help us with a new perspective and fresh look at the public lands associated with water storage.

Don't forget to RSVP on Facebook.

Designing with Drinks is the monthly series event of a series of monthly parties, focused on shaping the future of our City through great design and fierce ideas.

41st Annual Beautification Awards: Friday, July 27th
1800 Mission Street, The Armory Community Center: 7pm to 10pm

We're celebrating San Francisco's most stunning civic improvement projects and we want you to join us - FOR FREE!

RSVP today for our new Beautification Awards, as we turn the historic Armory in the Mission into an indoor park with art, local food and drinks, featuring musical performances and an Awards ceremony highlighting the accomplishments of San Francisco's most beautiful and relevant projects in 2012. RSVP is required for entry.

Invite your friends, coworkers, neighbors, and community to join our free festivities, and consider sponsoring the experiences we're bringing inside the Armory.

We will be revealing this year's Beautification Awards at the event, so we hope to see you at the Armory on the 27th!


3.  UCSF Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve
July 21, 2012 from 8:45am to 12:30pm

Join us for a morning of Stewardship on Mount Sutro. We'll have crews focused on trail, habitat and nursery work during this event. Activities will take place along the Historic Trail, Rotary Meadow and at the Sutro Nursery.

Prior experience is not required. Wear boots, long sleeve shirts, and long pants to protect against poison oak.  Dress in layers so you can be warm in the morning, and can peel off outer layers as conditions change.

Bring water, sunscreen and a morning snack.  The Sutro Stewards will provide gloves, tools, training, and lunch after the workday. Meet at 8:45 am for registration and crew assignments. We work until 12:30 pm followed by lunch.

(Parnassus Closed to vehicles this Saturday for paving. Access via Clarendon to Johnstone to Medical Center Way)

See more details and RSVP on Sutro Stewards:


Oak Woodlands in Golden Gate Park
FRI - SUNDAY , AUGUST 3-4-5, 2012
Participate for one or more days / nites !

Featuring optional overnight camping in the Fuchsia Dell , meals for all, door prizes and professional guidance in the building of 3 sections of the new Oak Woodlands Nature Trail thru east end Golden Gate Park and our Cityʼs only indigenous and historic Oak Woodlands !
Join your community in this exciting event in collaboration with V-O-Cal ( Volunteers of Outdoor California ), SF Recreation and Parksʼ Natural Areas Program , Park Partner ʻ Friends of the Oak Woodlands Golden Gate Park ʻ and SF Horseshoe Pitching Club.
This is the Cityʼs trail building and environmental habitat restoration project of the year.
For Information and Registration :


5.  Feedback

On Jul 14, 2012, at 5:14 PM, M.Bruce Grosjean wrote:
Greetings Jake - I think my questions are simple enough. Which valley, Hetch Hetchy or Yosemite, has the most pristine environmental conditions today? Which valley has the best air quality, and most of all - which valley would the areas wildlife prefer?

Hetch Hetchy Valley is unnaturally full of water. Yosemite Valley is unnaturally full of air polluting gridlocked traffic, jammed up on miles and miles of paved roads, winding around hundreds of buildings, serviced by many, many miles of sewer lines and buried utilities, producing tons of human generated waste and trash as well as a constant din of nature masking noise.

It was a catastrophic blunder to fill Hetch Hetchy Valley with water, but what has happened to Yosemite Valley is equally disgraceful, and ironically all in the name of preservation.

In a 7/14/2012 Chronicle Letter, Paul McHugh quoted wilderness photographer and arch-conservationist Galen Rowell as saying: “Hetch Hetchy is a place that's already been saved. Leave it alone.”

Personally, I see no need to spend more of our precious few conservation dollars developing more roadside photo stops, even though I love to take those amazing pictures.
I haven't had the time to compose a response to your email.  I have set it aside momentarily, with hopes that I can get back to it.

For the time being, I can say that your adduced reasons are thin on substance.  In brief:  If you've been paying attention you would notice that the National Park Service's thinking and philosophy has been changing in last two or three decades and is continuing to evolve.  It is no longer in thrall to the blinkered view that preserving pieces of our natural heritage should be confined to extravagantly spectacular sights like the Grand Canyon or interesting phenomena like Yellowstone.  Its idea of valuable and interesting phenomena worth preservation has greatly broadened, and it is now a much better steward (ignoring current budget strictures) of its lands than previously.  It realizes that developments such as Yosemite Valley is inconsistent with the Park Service mandate.  Further, it is easy to do but difficult to undo; entrenched interests are preventing the changes NPS would like to make in Yosemite Valley, although changes in a positive direction will happen as society's values shift.  Almost a century of experience later, it wouldn't make that mistake in Hetchy.

As to Galen Rowell:  We all make flip statements in fits of anger and frustration, and this quote has all the earmarks of exasperation--not likely his considered view.  And, as for "no need to spend more of our precious few conservation dollars", that can hardly be an argument for failing to redeem an egregious, monstrous mistake.  John Muir said it best, and bears repeating:

Hetch Hetchy is a grand landscape garden, one of nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples. As in Yosemite, the sublime rocks of its walls seem to glow with life . . . while birds, bees, and butterflies help the river and waterfalls to stir all the air into music. . . . These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar. . . . Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.
                                         John Muir

Well, I spent more time composing this than I thought, and I'll have to let it go at that.  There's always more to say, but not the time to say it.

Peter Rauch:
Here's one of many web posts of that incident, with a video of the runner.
It's an AP-copyrighted news article from 2006.
At 15:40 12/07/17, you wrote:
15.  Out to lunch

Jogger stuck in mud for four days
A missing jogger was rescued from a Florida swamp after spending four days stuck in the muck with only the waist-deep water to drink. Eddie Meadows, 62, left for a run in his lunch hour but did not return to his office.

(I lost the attribution for this item from my archives.  JS)

On Jul 18, 2012, at 10:24 AM, Bert Johnson wrote:
Hi Jake,
I loved the recent discussion on mistletoe.  As I recall, I think that morning doves and perhaps band-tailed pigeons love to eat the berries.  Perhaps a bird expert will respond and confirm this, as well as include any other kinds of birds which eat the berries as well.  The berries are extremely ornamental, looking like white pearls in pendant clusters in winter, growing on cottonwoods, willows, oaks, walnuts and other hardwoods. I am becoming increasingly annoyed by the growing number of tree pruners who completely "sanitize" urban trees by removing all their dead wood,etc. and often thin them so excessively that birds are afforded little privacy (roosting) and nesting sites.  These incessant pruners also likely remove the mistletoes in the process.  In my observation, birds prefer denser tree canopies, not thinner...especially birds such as night herons.  Your newsletter is a treasure chest of knowledge and inspiration.  I learn more from it than I do any other scientific newsletter, so congratulations Jake!  The world is lucky to have you.
Hello, Bert:  I don't know what birds eat the mistletoe berries, but I know that's the way it gets around.  Perhaps cedar waxwing is one?  Seems I saw a painting of one with a mistletoe seed stuck on outside of its bill.

I was told that birds try to wipe the sticky seeds off their bills and the seed sticks to the limb, thus in effect 'planting' it.  Nice strategy of the mistletoe, otherwise the seed would get excreted onto the ground, which is inhospitable to mistletoe.

Pruning:  That is one of the several ways the gods have of tormenting me.  I love trees, and their architecture is one of the contemplative pleasures of life.  Except in San Francisco.  Here a well-pruned tree is almost an oxymoron.  I walk a lot and, being of a compulsive nature, I am mentally pruning all the trees I see, often spending time looking up into them to decide which limbs need removal of modification.  Why do I--who has more on his platter than I can cope with--spend so much time on a totally feckless impulse that will lead nowhere?  Compulsives are helpless victims.  The tree is calling for help and this is the closest I can come to its aid.

So San Francisco could use some of those "sanitizing" tree pruners you have over there, because we have no mistletoe in the city.  More doings of those gods, who mischievously mismatch problems and solutions.

Thanks for the fan mail.  Every time I get downhearted and depressed at the state of the world and our seeming inability to help ourselves--and wonder why in hell I put this newsletter together, with its accompanying eyestrain and back strain--in floats a piece of fan mail that cheers me up and keeps me going.  It's almost as though readers can sense when I need a fix; they always come through.

Backyard Native Nursery Network (BYNN)
Growing SF native plants for the Green Hairstreak Corridor

The Green Hairstreak Corridor has its own supply of native San Francisco plants thanks to volunteers who dedicate their time and space to propagate and nurture plants in their backyard.  If you are interested in helping our restoration project by becoming a member of the Backyard Native Nursery Network, please contact Deidre Martin at

 The 17th & Folsom proposed park is moving forward!
Join a Community Meeting on July 26th
The City is continuing work on developing the plans for the new park planned at the corner of 17th and Folsom streets. The concept design developed with the community has been approved by the Recreation and Parks Commission and staff is now working to develop the design's details.

We will be hosting an community meeting to update project stakeholders on the status of the project.  At this meeting, staff will present the final concept plan and collect feedback on the details of the design.

Stop by to get an update on the process and help us further the design.

THURSDAY, JULY 26, 2012, 6:30 - 8:00 PM
Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco
450 Guerrero Street

For more info, contact:
Mary Hobson
San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
(415) 581-2575


8.  Milky Way will be hit head-on - Andromeda galaxy will smash directly into ours

Four billion years from now, a collision between the Milky Way (left) and Andromeda (right) galaxies will have ripped out streams of stars, warped the galactic shapes and turned Earth’s night sky into a dramatic swirl of starlight.  NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel/STScI, A. Mellinger
The monstrous Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way are destined to hit head-on, not in a glancing blow, new observations from the Hubble Space Telescope show.

By precisely locating the same stars in Andromeda in 2002 and then again in 2010, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore have calculated how the galaxy has moved against the background of deep space — confirming that the galaxy’s sideways motion is but a fraction of the speed at which it’s hurtling toward the Milky Way.

Andromeda is 2.5 million light-years away and closing in on the Milky Way at 250,000 miles per hour. The cosmic collision will transform the heavens into a hallucinogenic swirl 4 billion years from now. Calculations suggest that the sun will be tossed out during this galactic mash-up, to drift erratically in the eventual single, large galaxy that will coalesce from the two.

Science News





This is the pipe that pierces the dam
that holds back the universe,

that takes off some of the pressure,
keeping the weight of the unknown

from breaking through
and washing us all down the valley.

Because of this small tube,
through which a cold light rushes

from the bottom of time,
the depth of the stars stays always constant

and we are able to sleep, at least for now,
beneath the straining wall of darkness.

~ Ted Kooser ~

(Delights & Shadows)


Ted Kipping pot luck/slide shows
4th Tuesday of the month at 7 pm (slide show at 8 pm) at the San Francisco County Fair Bldg, 9th Av & Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park
Served by Muni bus lines #6, 43, 44, 66, 71, and the N-Judah Metro

*Please bring a dish and beverage to serve 8 people

July 24:  Allan Ridley and Helen McKenna
        Columbian Adventure in the Andes


11.  SciAm

EXTINCTION COUNTDOWN: Hong Kong Imported 10 Million Kilograms of Shark Fins Last Year

NEWS: Most of Amazon Rainforest's Species Extinctions Are Yet to Come
Current species losses are just the tip of the iceberg as the effects of habitat loss take time to manifest

CLIMATEWIRE: Ethanol Fails to Lower Gas Prices, Study Finds
Blending ethanol brewed from corn into gasoline stocks is not bringing down fuel prices, an M.I.T. study finds


12.  The Free Farm - Gough & Eddy

Amber pointed out these puddles as source of water for butterflies that look for water in hidden places where their young can be safe.

Please Touch Community Garden is a habitat especially suited for Lighthouse for Blind and Visually Impaired as plants are selected for touch and smell (see  Our stop made me think about how butterflies and moths are like day and night. Butterflies are active in the day, attracted to bright colors like red, yellow, orange, pink and purple. Moths take flight at night, relying more on odors and sounds, rather than vision to get around.

Super-Chic Art Opening at Inclusions, Saturday
by Todd_Lappin

Miss Lisa from the Inclusions Gallery on Cortland brings word of a glamorous art opening on Saturday evening:
Bay Area artist Sawyer Rose uses glass, metal and LED lights to create glowing, textured lightboxes. Painting with a soldering iron like a brush, she allows hot solder to set organically over thick architectural glass. Behind the glass, layered ink paintings are lit by tiny lights that shine like fireflies or stars. Rose’s current project is a series of lightboxes entitled “NATIVE: California Plants in Glass, Metal & Light.” The show also features a website with details about the California native species in the series. Rose will be donating 5% of proceeds to the California Native Plant Society from pieces depicting endangered species.
Sawyer Rose
NATIVE: California Plants in Glass Metal & Light
July 14 – August 12, 2012
Opening reception: Saturday, July 14 / 5:00-7:00 pm
Artist talk: Thursday July 19 / 7:00 pm

“The annual federal firefighting budget is threatening to top $2 billion by 2009.  Each year this figure grows, as does the number of homes built in the wildland-urban interface.”  Forest magazine, Spring 2008
Pyne, Stephen J.: World Fire:  The Culture of Fire on Earth
Fire in California
Each year, and for long periods of every year, fire can propagate somewhere everywhere.  Humans ensured that ignition remained more or less constant.  California nourished an intricate melange of native tribes, none of which, interestingly enough, practiced agriculture.  Instead, with fire for plow, rake, and ax, they harvested the native flora and hunted the resident fauna.  Fire use was most intense and the fires smallest near settlements, particularly abundant in grasslands, oak savannas, or ecotones of grass and chaparral, precisely those sites most amenable to anthropogenic burning.  Some sites burned annually; others, as needed.  Probably the most frequented mountains had their slopes dappled with chaparral and grass, the signature of an anthropogenic economy.

Colonizing Spaniards arrived in the eighteenth century, and found the native fire regime not to their liking...

[After the American acquisition and the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, programs] to control fire and grazing promptly appeared...To the attrition of fire that accompanied the disintegration of aboriginal and Hispanic society, the new colonists promoted active fire suppression...

Active suppression changed all this [the old pattern of smaller fires], much as levees and channelizing could eliminate nuisance floods but lead to more frequent large floods.  Fire control could, by deferment, contain the wildfire menace for several decades...

Not everyone accepted fire control as necessary or practical.  No less a figure than William Mulholland, architect of the Los Angeles water system, refused to send men to battle fires that raged in the mountains in 1908 and again in 1919.  Big fires, he insisted, were "beyond the power of man to stop".  Those big fires were dangerous, and putting them out was, over the long term, no less dangerous.  It was better, Mulholland insisted, to "have a fire every year" that burned off a small plot than to wait several years "and have a big one denuding the whole watershed at once"...The greatest check on unrestricted fire exclusion, however, was simply the lack of tools, men, and money.  That began to change during the New Deal, and the sense of limits--limits of any kind--appeared to vanish completely with World War II.

The Fifth Season

The old complaint about California not having seasons is, of course, wrong.  The dry season is California's winter, its plant dormancy period.  For some reason, though, our culture doesn't really want to acknowledge the dry season.  Millions of people swear by cold winters, and like nothing better than to put on down parkas and romp in the snow.  Very few revel in cavorting through the chaparral and dry grass on a blazing California August day.  The very idea seems perverse, although dry-grass cavorting is actually the more "natural" of the two pursuits according to generally held theories of human origins.  A biped ape of the African savannah would certainly be happier in a California August than in an Ohio January.  Perhaps modern humans are repelled by the dry hills because it reminds some forgotten corner of their brains of a time when there were leopards and baboons in the tall grass.

Californians tend to treat their dry summers as though they were embarrassing lapses of taste.  They cover them up, sweep them under the rug.  Cities are full of evergreen plantings and painstakingly watered lawns.  For every garden of native grasses, chaparral plants, and oaks, there are thousands of artificial edens of hibiscus, banana trees, and tree ferns.  Freeway borders are carefully, almost obsessively, planted with evergreens--eucalyptus, oleander, redwood, pine--anything to avoid showing the traveller a bare branch or a patch of dead grass.  Somehow the barrenness of a snowscape is considered pretty, that of a bare landscape ugly.

I think we lose something important by covering up the dry season--the element of change.  Change is the one universal attribute of life, and it is often very frightening; but attempts to avoid it usually turn out worse than letting it happen.  The green and white California cities look a little like cemeteries during the dry season.  There is a similar preoccupation with an eternal springtime.  Like most easterners (I grew up in Connecticut), I was favorably impressed with eternal springtime when I first came to California in 1968, but I've since come to view it with suspicion.  There's something embalmed about it.  The wrinkled body of the old, unwatered California may be a little scary, but it is the true source of renewal here.

There are difficulties about coming to terms with the dry season and giving it an honored place beside the four traditional Anglo seasons.  For all its harshness, the California dry season is actually quite fragile.  It very quickly shows the marks of mistreatment or neglect.  A golden meadow of dry grass and tarweeds turns into a dusty trash heap when subjected to any degree of trampling or littering.  The native perennial grasses are beautiful plants perfectly adapted to living through dry summers, but they've been largely wiped out by livestock grazing and competition from introduced annual grasses.  The native oak trees seem to be headed in the same direction, since the heavy grazing that goes on in most areas makes it difficult for them to reproduce.

David Rains Wallace, The Untamed Garden


15.  LTEs. The Economist

SIR – J.P. Morgan junior’s quote in 1933 that bankers at that time made mistakes of “errors of judgment and not of principle” is not supported by even a perfunctory review of bankers’ behaviour before the Depression. The hearings at the Pecora commission in 1932 exposed a litany of banker transgressions, of judgment and of principle.

The bankers of Morgan’s era were not better behaved. A better claim for today’s bankers is that if history does not repeat, it surely does rhyme.

Paul Schwarzbach
San Francisco

(The writer should have credited Mark Twain with that last sentence.  JS)
You join the cheerleaders exhorting a dead horse to get up, take a load and resume its journey.   Why not recognize that that horse is dead and needs replacement?  Granted, capitalism is the only system that works; however, the breed we have is ripping off the past and future, is destroying natural processes and organisms, is not sustainable, and can no longer provide all the goodies that have made it so popular. 

It might help you to extend your remarkable record of 170 years reporting and commentary.  Why not recognize that the economic/financial system obtaining over that period is no longer viable and has profound dysfunctions that no one is addressing?  Continuing to beat a dead horse is unbecoming to The Economist, whose trademark to me is fresh and original thinking.  This horse is not going to get up and walk again no matter how much you cheer it on.

Jake Sigg
San Francisco

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