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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


1.   Still Wild at Heart on KQED World - ahem, this morning
2.   Important meeting TONIGHT on Lake Merced MOU between Rec-Park and SFPUC
3.   Free press thoughts/ethanol subsidies
4.  Golden Gate Audubon classes in San Francisco
5.   Obama Administration's backdoor amnesty circumvents Congress
6.   Two on animal behavior: Reptiles more intelligent than thought/being male spider more dangerous than thought
7.   Internet use affects memory?/hackers get hacked
8.   It's the law in....

1.  Sorry, this item is rather late:
San Francisco: Melissa Peabody's Still Wild at Heart will be airing at 9:00am on Tuesday, July 19, 2011, on KQED World.


2.  From Dan Murphy:

A meeting of Rec and Park and PUC staff is scheduled for Tuesday, July 19, from 6:30 until 8:00 at the Harding Park Clubhouse to discuss the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the 2 departments regarding management of Lake Merced.  It is critical that the environmental community attend this meeting if we ever hope for Lake Merced to be managed properly.  The current MOU was drafted in1950 and has guided 60 years of poor stewardship, mismanagement, downright neglect and sometimes conscious destruction of the resources there.  If this is ever going to end, the PUC must take back management of the lake from Rec and Park and start managing Lake Merced the way they manage other lakes and reservoirs within their system.

Lake Merced is one of the biggest open spaces in San Francisco.  During the past 61 years the Recreation and Park Department routinely ignored it and worse.  Here are a few of the problems:

1)   green waste is routinely dumped in it;

2)   pier maintenance is ignored to the point rotted piers are abandoned and allowed to float into the marsh for “natural restoration;

3)   "feral boats" are allowed to float in the lake and eventually sink or rot in the marsh;

4)   there has never been an effort to clean-up normal trash except at a few places like the Boathouse;

5)   Rec and Park management was so bad that the last fishing concessionaire threw up his hands and walked off from the lake that had once been the top urban fishing lake in the US;

6)   the fishing beach at the Boathouse Picnic Area was “Improved” by dumping rip-rap on it and constructing a handicapped access path that ends a couple of feet above the ground;

7)   trees are routinely cut during the nesting season so nesting birds are lost;

8)   Rec and Park has never done anything to curb erosion except use rip-rap or a concrete curtain in the case of the massive blow-out at the 10thfairway;

9)   Rec and Park refused to include Harding Golf Course in the recent planning process that resulted in the “Lake Merced Report”.

Even with that and more, Lake Merced remains an incredible natural resource.  It sports 3 Great Blue Heron and Double-crested Cormorant colonies, a site critical to about 50 species of nesting birds and an additional 15 or so that use it during the breeding period, a site used by thousands of spring and fall migrants, a wintering site for about 70 or 80 species of birds, a place with a small but surviving native flora and fauna.  Perhaps the most positive thing Rec and Park has done during the past 30 years is to use the Natural Areas Program to restore some pretty significant areas.  Unfortunately, almost in counterbalance to their good work is the fact they allow invasive weeds to take over much of the landscape.  (JS:  If Dan means that the Natural Areas Program "allows invasive weeds to take over much of the landscape" he is wrong.  Lack of funding is the cause of invasive weeds taking over.)

One must ask why they even want to continue "managing" the lake?  They lack the fiscal resources and the management leadership to do anything there. And don’t think this is a new problem, it is an institutionalized policy of neglect that has gone on for years.

The new MOU does virtually nothing to change the status quo.  It is important that it gets some public review and that it is changed so the PUC is the manager of Lake Merced and Recreation and some maintenance is taken care of through contracts with Rec and Park, thus taking them off the management hook and providing them with some additional revenue.

I hope to see you at the Harding Golf Course Clubhouse at 6:30 on Tuesday, July 19.

[It's a scenic walk from the #29 Muni (Sunset Blvd and Lake Merced Blvd) or from the #18 (Skyline Blvd. and Harding Road).]

And from Jerry Cadagan:

Many of us are very disappointed because we believe we were intentionally led to believe throughout the watershed planning process that PUC was really going to really take charge and devote some resources to bring the infrastructure back into the 21st Century.  You know, "little stuff" like bringing back a modest fishing concession such as that that operated until 1999.

The fact is R&P has done nothing at the lake in the last 10 or so years and we can't be expected to believe that that will change over the next 10 years.

What is needed is some old fashioned accountability squarely on the shoulders of ONE agancy.


3.  Miscellany
As HL Mencken would have said, free opinion directs the boot of truth at the crotch of power, and the more it hurts the better. Half a century after his death, news is the endangered species. Opinion – raw, cruel, unguarded, outrageous, euphonious, cacophonous opinion – is what is riding high.  (From Simon Jenkins column in Guardian Weekly 2/11

"...Mr Murdoch occupies a distinct place in British politics.  In America, he is straightforwardly a voice on the right thanks to assets such as Fox News:  it is hard to imagine Republicans and Democrats agreeing on much about him.  In Britain, Mr Murdoch is, in effect, an avatar of power in its purest form:  his papers stridently support parties that are winning, backing both Labour and the Conservatives in their day.  It is plausible that British parties could see a common interest in curbing his power.  Lexington in The Economist

LTE, The Economist
Crop disaster
SIR - You pointed out the inefficiencies of ethanol subsidies in America.  But as well as being a waste of taxpayers' money that fails to save much in the way of carbon emissions, support for ethanol is pushing more people into hunger.  Partly as a result of biofuel use, the price of corn and other grains has doubled over the past year, making it harder for poor people to buy the food they need.  Clearly this is one subsidy that has long outlived its usefulness.
Meredith Alexander
ActionAidUK, London

"Morality represents the way that people would like the world to work--whereas economics represents how it actually does work."  
    Steven Levitt

"The only permitted answer to the effects of greed is more greed."
   George Monbiot in Guardian Weekly 22-28 July 05


4.  Golden Gate Audubon Society Classes in San Francisco
The following classes meet at the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park, located south of Islais Creek along the southern waterfront at the east end of Cargo Way off Third Street. Parking is in the lot at the east end of Cargo Way. Public transportation options include the T-Third line and MUNI bus routes. Each class is limited to 20 participants.

To register go to, or call 510.843.2222

Inclement weather postpones field trips. For the Sunday field trips, carpooling will be encouraged and coordinated at the Saturday presentations.

Wild Birds of San Francisco: An Introduction

Eddie Bartley, eddie(at),

Saturday, August 20, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., local walks and presentation; Sunday, August 21,  9 a.m. – noon, field trip

Join a fun and enthusiastic group in an introduction to many of the amazing birds that inhabit San Francisco and discover the local habitats where they can be found. Presentations include colorful bird imagery, info on optics, ID techniques, physiology, guides, and a little taxonomy. We’ll have an opportunity to see resident and summer breeding birds raising new families and meet birds returning from their northerly breeding range. Fee: $40.

Peeps to Phalaropes: The Shorebirds of California

Eddie Bartley, eddie(at),

Saturday, August 27, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., local walks and presentation; Sunday,  August 28, 2 – 5 p.m., field trip

By late August, hundreds of thousands of “wind birds” have winged their way from their northern breeding grounds to San Francisco Bay, one of the largest peep food suppliers in North America. In this new class, we will focus on the identification, amazing evolutionary adaptations, and life histories of the 30-plus shorebird species that reside here, pass through in migration, or overwinter in California. On Sunday’s field trip, we’ll have more opportunities to view and focus on this order while not ignoring the myriad of other birds along the shoreline. Saturday’s class is cosponsored by Literacy for Environmental Justice. Fee: $50.

Register here or call 510-843-2222

Obama Administration’s Backdoor Amnesty Circumvents Congress

In one corner stands House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith who favors enforcing all of America’s laws including those that regulate immigration. Across the ring is President Barack Obama who picks and chooses which laws should be enforced and appears to believe that enforcing immigration law is inconvenient.

In recent weeks, Capitol Hill insiders have discovered that the Obama administration is working furiously behind the scenes to create what’s called a “backdoor amnesty.” Obama and Congress members who support amnesty know that they don’t have a chance to pass legislation that would eventually lead to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens. Instead, they have taken a stealth path that allows them to circumvent Congress which the Founding Fathers had made the sole authority for setting immigration policy.

The administration has taken bold steps down this duplicitous path. First, they caved to pressure from their liberal base when the promise to maintain the Secure Communities program that allows police to identify criminal aliens in custody was broken. As it now stands, this change of heart gives a free pass to millions of illegal aliens to remain at large, thus potentially threatening the safety of innocent citizens in local neighborhoods.

Second, at Obama’s direction John Morton, the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued two memos to agency officials that explained how to exercise “prosecutorial discretion”—or, in other words, determining which illegal immigrant stays and which goes. Among the variables are whether the alien under consideration has committed a “serious” crime. Another consideration ICE agents have been urged to evaluate is whether the illegal immigrant is a college student. This is a particularly abusive practice since the DREAM Act has been defeated at least ten times in the last decade, most recently in December 2010 during the Congressional lame duck session.

No limits have been set on the numbers of illegal aliens who could be granted administrative amnesty, or so called “deferred action”. But once they receive this blessing, they will be legally authorized to work. More workers—especially ones who should be deported—in an economy with a 9.2 percent unemployment rate is another crippling blow to struggling Americans.

The vast influence that deferred action supporters have on Obama is no accident; he’s their biggest enabler. Although Obama pledged during his campaign that he would oversee a “transparent” administration, his actions belie his words.

Two of Obama’s first appointments were Cecilia Muñoz, former vice president of the National Council for La Raza, and Hilda Solis, a former California U.S. Representative with an unbroken voting record of supporting amnesty. Muñoz is now the White House Hispanic community liaison and Solis, Labor Secretary. Obama granted Muñoz an “ethics waiver” since hiring lobbyists violated his own ban on the practice. 
According to a study by the non-partisan, Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Watch, government (taxpayer) funding to La Raza more than doubled from $4.1 million to $11 million in the two years since Muñoz joined the White House. Solis funneled about $5 million through her Labor Department. Muñoz also directed $18 million to Chicanos por la Causa, an equally radical La Raza affiliate.

For Obama, illegal alien pandering is a risky gamble. Americans are firm in their resolve that the big issues in addition to immigration law enforcement are the weak economy and the jobs’ crisis. A backdoor amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants who should be deported won’t curry voters’ favor.

Californians for Population Stabilization


6.  Two from The Economist print edition Jul 14th 2011
Animal behaviour (I)
Cold-blooded cunning
Reptiles are more intelligent than previously thought
IT IS no compliment to call someone lizard-brained. The reptilian mind is usually equated in the human one with traits like aggression, dominance and sexual appetite. That analysis was given currency in the 1960s when Paul MacLean theorised that the human brain has three levels, the most basic—both functionally and literally (because it is at the bottom of the organ)—being the “reptilian” part, composed of structures called basal ganglia.

MacLean’s analysis is not much believed now by neuroscientists, but it has stuck in the popular imagination. And it has also, subliminally, affected research. For, until recently, no one had actually thought to ask by experimentation just how intelligent reptiles really are.

That omission has just been corrected by Manuel Leal and Brian Powell of Duke University, in North Carolina—and the result is intriguing. In a paper published in Biology Letters Dr Leal and Dr Powell suggest that lizards are at least as intelligent as tits, a group of birds that has been well examined in this respect.

In their study, the two researchers put a species called Anolis evermanni through a triathlon of cognitive tests of the sort used on tits (and other birds and mammals that ethologists wish to investigate). First, the reptiles had to learn how to extract a tasty grub from a container. Then, they were taught to associate the grub with a particular colour. Finally, they were taught to dissociate it from that colour and learn that a different colour was the giveaway.

The lizards were able to manage all three tasks with ease—matching the performance of tits in similar tests. Indeed, in getting at the grubs several of them worked out a form of behaviour never seen in nature, employing their snouts as levers to lift an obstacle (ie, the lid of the container).

Having established that lizards are at least as clever as birds at such simple tasks, Dr Leal hopes to go on and explore the evolutionary forces behind lizard intelligence. He does, however, have a problem—and it is one that might help to explain why, besides phylogenetic prejudice, the lizard mind has not been properly investigated before. Tits, being warm-blooded, have to eat a lot and thus have a strong incentive to collaborate with researchers in such experiments. The average lizard, by contrast, is happy to consume a single grub a day. It may therefore be some time before the next paper appears on the subject.


Animal behaviour (II)
Sexual appetite
Being a male spider is even more dangerous than previously thought

The tender trap

FOR male spiders, the equivalent of a post-coital cigarette is not a sensible option. Making straight for the door is much wiser, since he who hangs around risks being eaten by his consort. In this context, the females of Leucauge argyra, a Central American species, are particularly fiendish. They seem to have subverted a male trick that is intended to ensure paternity rights, and turned it into a trap.

Many animals—not just spiders—make plugs of mucus to seal the female’s orifice after mating. Normally such plugs are secreted by the male, to stymie subsequent suitors. In spiders, though, the female sometimes assists the process.

At first sight, that is odd. It is always in a male’s interest to try to stop a female mating again. Contrariwise, that female might come across a better male and thus wish to be rid of the first lot of sperm. (Female spiders can do this because they store sperm for a period of days or weeks before they use it to fertilise their eggs.) After studying this phenomenon for several years, Anita Aisenberg of the Clemente Estable Institute of Biological Research in Uruguay has concluded that females are able to assess a male’s quality during mating and that they assist plug formation only when a mate passes muster and they thus wish to give his sperm priority. Which makes sense. In a paper just published in Naturwissenschaften, though, Dr Aisenberg and her colleague Gilbert Barrantes at the University of Costa Rica report that female Leucauge argyra go further: they create plugs all by themselves.

And that really is odd. Because plugging is in a male’s interest, he should never leave it just to the female. Except that in this case the plug turns out to be very much not in a male’s interest. In fact, it can kill him.

Spider sex is unusual in that males transfer their sperm to the female on small limbs called pedipalps. They use these to pick their sperm up from their genitals and insert it into the female’s sexual orifice, rather than copulating directly. Dr Aisenberg and Dr Barrantes observed the process 17 times in pairs of Leucauge argyra. On the 14 occasions a sexual plug was made, the female produced it without assistance from the male. On ten of these occasions the male’s pedipalps then seemed to get stuck while he was transferring the sperm (which is rarely the case in other species of spider), and he had great difficulty freeing himself. In two of those ten instances, he was eaten as a result.

The two researchers conclude, therefore, that what was once a mechanism which allowed females to discriminate between males has evolved into a way of trapping them so that they can be consumed at leisure. Whether only high-quality males, whose sperm the female also wishes to keep, are affected is not yet clear—though eating such males may bring the bonus of denying their sperm to rivals. Whatever the details, for male Leucauge argyra this behaviour gives a new meaning to the term “unsafe sex”.


7.  Internet Use Affects Memory, Study Finds

Memory?  Maybe you remember things that didn't actually happen. 

The hackers get hacked

“I am an old man and have known many troubles, but most of them never happened.” 
 Mark Twain


8.  Heard on Says You

It's the law in Vermont:

It is necessary for a woman to get permission from her husband to wear false teeth.

It is illegal to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole.

(Some town in New York--I didn't catch the name)  You may not look at a woman “in a certain way”.  Penalty:  You must wear horse blinders while walking the streets.

New York City:  It is OK to go topless in public as long as you’re not selling anything.  (Ah, sophisticated New York.)

Carmel, NY:  It is illegal to go out in public with coat and pants that do not match.  (I never wanted to go there anyway.  In Carmel, California, it's totally OK.)

Among the other indispensable things you learn on Says You:

When you Google, what is the first thing that comes up when you type the letter:


No cheating

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