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, October 8, 2011


1.   Mayoral candidates and Golden Gate Park
2.   Dine at Millennium and help
3.   Feedback:  faux shark-fin soup
4.   Where to get pipevine for your butterfly
5.   30% off entire nursery stock in California Flora Nursery
6.   Save The Frogs art contest and poetry contest/poetry recital on YouTube
7.   Sunday Streets last for this year on October 23 on Valencia St
8.   That's the Tuolumne in my Tap education program Oct 15 and 16
9.   Keening - what is it?  You'll want to hear it, here
10. The type of people who you want making the laws. Psychopathic, Machiavellian misanthropes? Apparently, yes
11.  Social Security a Ponzi scheme?  No, more like a pyramid
12.  Dangerous to believe in a proposition when there's no ground to suppose it's true


    Sunday, October 9th – 5:00 – 7:00.  Volunteers Meeting.   Enjoy great snacks!  Bring great snacks!
      PAR Debate - Nine Mayoral Candidates now support protecting Golden Gate Park!  Out-of-towners tried to pack the 9/19/11 meeting.
      Contact the Mayoral Candidates and Mayor Lee!  See easy click-through e-mail below.
      Volunteer to flyer!    Help us keep the momentum going!
      Sunshine article in Bay Guardian.  Learn how Rec and Park and private consultants tried to control free speech
      Draft EIR scheduled for release at end of October.
      Funding needed – $$$$$ - for fliers and for legal fees.  Contribute now!

Volunteers Meeting – meet other volunteers, get more background about the projects, plan outreach, learn about the Mayoral candidates, get ready for the Draft EIR, and have fun chatting.
·         Sunday, October 9th.  5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
·         Bring snacks and enjoy great snacks!  (Yes, there will be homemade chocolate chip cookies.)
·         1243 42nd Avenue between Lincoln and Irving. (Removal of shoes requested – wear the socks without holes…)

PAR debate a success on two fronts:
·         Two days before the September 19th PAR debate, the paid consultants (who work for the private foundation that wants to install the artificial turf in Golden Gate Park) sent out an alert to soccer teams and coaches all over the Bay Area to pack the meeting.  This invitation went as far as Novato!    We were shocked that they would try to bring in people from outside of San Francisco to influence a local election.  More information can be read about this effort here:
·         We put out an alert and OVER 20 SAN FRANCISCO VOLUNTEERS CAME OUT, wearing our great button and carrying signs.  Thank you to everyone!  Photos are on our website.
·         Read more about the debate and responses to the artificial turf/bright lights in GGP  (and add your own thoughts) "Highlights from the Richmond District Mayoral Debate":
·         We taped the debate and are in the process of loading it to Youtube.  See our website for the link.
·         We also wrote the attached letter to the soccer players; we think there is a win-win solution.  Please give this letter to your friends who play soccer!

Contact the mayoral candidates and Mayor Lee:
·         The work of our volunteers in the past few months has begun to tip the balance.  We now have support from several mayoral candidates, and we’re hoping to add commitments from several others soon. We need your help to make this happen and to save Golden Gate Park.
·         Mayoral Candidates who are NOT YET on our side can be emailed through this link:
o   CLICK here to ask these candidates to support GGP
·         Those who are with us, are listed here.  They are being pressured by the other side to change their position, and they need to hear from you!  Thank them for their support  and let them know that they have made the right choice:
CLICK here to thank these candidates for their support for protecting Golden Gate Park.

Help us get out the word to people all across San Francisco by volunteering an hour or two of your time.
·         Upcoming events that we'd love to have your help with include:
o   Mayoral forums
o   Sunday Streets – October 23rd – Mission District
o   Weekend fairs and other events – let us know of any you would like to flier at!
o   Come for an hour or as long as you can stay.  Contact us for our locations.
·         To help out at events, please contact us at

Bay Guardian article on Rec and Park efforts to curtail free speech about the soccer fields project:
·         “Sunshine violation goes to Ethics Commission soon: Consequences of inaction.  How the breakdown in sunshine enforcement leads officials to destroy public documents and defy unwelcome inquiries”

Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) new tentative dates:
·         October 19, 2011  – October 26, 2011 – date just changed - Beach Chalet Athletics Field Draft EIR released
·         Start of 45 day comment period
    •    Historic Preservation Commission hearing - 11-16-11
    •    Planning Commission - 12-1-11
    •    Close of public comment on DEIR - 12-5-11  12-12-11

$$$$$   Funding needed!   $$$$$
·         We are raising funding for EIR legal fees and related expenses.  See our website for various ways you can donate to protect Golden Gate Park!

CALL THEM:  Uncommitted Mayoral Candidates’ phone numbers -

Alioto-Pier, Michela
Chiu, David
Dufty, Bevan
Herrera, Dennis
Lee, Ed
Ting, Phil

Dine for Nature at Millennium

 the nation's premier, locally-sourced, organic vegetarian restaurant

Three nights - Thursday Oct. 20th, Friday Oct. 21st, and Saturday October 22nd

Support Nature & Sustainable Food Education

A benefit dinner for SaveNature.Org's educational programs

Edible EdVentures and Insect Discovery Lab

Renowned chef Eric Tucker will create a special Dine for Nature prix fixe menu for October 20, 21, and 22. The special menu is $58/person, with optional $25 wine pairing.To reserve your spot on any of the three evenings, call Millennium at 415-345-3900 x 10 and mention SaveNature.     Seating’s from 5:30-9:30pm

Dine for Nature also offers a silent auction in Millennium’s banquet room. Bid on a safari in South Africa, Calistoga Cellars wine, Thai massage, original art, and much more. Linda Riebel (author of The Green Foodprint) and the Edible EdVentures staff will be there to mingle. Our famous Insect Discovery Lab will be in the auction room with a special display on pollinators which are so vital to our food system.


There’s a sign hanging in my local deli that offers customers some tips on what to expect in terms of quality and service. It reads:

Your order:

Can be fast and good, but it won’t be cheap.
Can be fast and cheap, but it won’t be good.
Can be good and cheap, but it won’t be fast.
Pick two—because you aren’t going to get it good, cheap, and fast.


3.  Feedback

Denise Louie:
Hi Jake,
Recently, I visited a number of restaurants in Chinatown where we might choose shark fin soup for banquet dinners.  Not one was interested in serving imitation shark fin.  Since I'm Chinese and have enjoyed eating yam-based-shark-fin soup, I thought other folks would be interested, too, especially since the imitation version is inexpensive, healthful and virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.  We want to do the right thing for shark populations and ocean ecosystems, and we have a great way to remember a delicacy that we have prized so highly.  Since restaurants seem to want to serve expensive ingredients for show, they are apparently uninterested in inexpensive imitation anything.  On the other hand, I hope customers will ask their Chinese restaurants to serve the yam-version of imitation shark fin.


4.  Where to get pipevine for (we hope) your butterfly

I thought you all might appreciate this article on the California pipevine and the pipevine swallowtailfrom the EB Regional Parks Botanic Garden October, 2011 newsletter just re-posted on Jake Sigg's Nature News email.

Kristen Hopper
Oaktown Native Plant Nursery
(510) 387-9744

PS In case you just have to have a pipevine - we've got plenty at the nursery!

30% off during October, 707-528-8815


SAVE THE FROGS! Member & Exploratorium educator Francesca D'Alessio will interview me on San Francisco's KPOO 89.5 FM radio, live from 7pm to 7:30pm US Pacific Time. I will also be playing the blues on bamboo flute. Listen live on 89.5FM, or streaming from anywhere in the world at

Kerry Kriger, Save The Frogs

"I am an educator and like for my students grades K-12 to compete locally, regionally and nationally. I find that these contests help to reward student efforts and are cross curriculum issues. Our second grade class enjoyed doing these posters very much and await word of how they competed."
-- Carole; Greenfield School, Wilson, NC

by Tim Vosper, 34, United Kingdom

I can see him outside through my window
The smoothest guy on the scene
He's a cool stellar fellah
A garden pond dweller
Who's gangly and groovy!
But poor froggy's in terrible trouble
Hear his amphibian cries
We won't stand for that!
Save his habitat
Try to see things through his bulbous eyes
Never inhibit the ribbit
Revoking the croaking is wrong
Take a lung full of air
Fix a fly with your glare
And join the triumphant frog throng!

My Frog Poetry Recital on YouTube


7.  Sunday Streets 4th Season is winding down, with one final event of 2011, taking place on October 23 along the popular Mission Route (Valencia from Duboce to 24th Street, 24th Street from Valencia to Hampshire).

As we begin planning 2012 Season, we'd like to have your thoughts and input as we move forward. Please take a moment to fill out this brief, 10-question survey.


8.  Tuolumne River Trust
As part of our That's the Tuolumne in my Tap environmental education program, we have partnered with a few San Francisco schools to help install and maintain low-water gardens. Join us next weekend to help make a difference in these schools and communities!

Saturday, October 15, 9 am - 3:30 pm
Sunset Elementary School (1920 41st Ave., San Francisco)
We have a wide variety of garden tasks to accomplish at Sunset Elementary, such as planting, pruning, weeding, helping with rainwater catchment system and dry creekbed restoration. We'll have a potluck lunch around noon.

Sunday, October 16, 10 am - 1 pm
Synergy School (1387 Valencia St., San Francisco)          
This time, we'll be constructing planter boxes and planting native, butterfly-attracting, drought-tolerant plants. The workday will be from 10-1 on Sunday, October 16. Lunch will be included. 

For both workdays, feel free to come by for just part of the day (or the whole thing!)

Please email to RSVP or for more information.


JS:  You'll want to listen to the five-minute video

9.  keening

noun: A wailing lament for the dead.

From Irish caoineadh (lament). Earliest documented use: 1876.

"Of all the closures of independent stores that have left hundreds of British high streets a book-free wilderness, none has given rise to more celebrity keening than the imminent demise of The Travel Bookshop."
Boyd Tonkin; Crimes Behind Closed Doors; The Independent (London, UK); Sep 9, 2011.


Moral philosophy

Goodness has nothing to do with it

Utilitarians are not nice people

Sep 24th 2011 | from The Economist print edition

A good man?

IN THE grand scheme of things Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill are normally thought of as good guys. Between them, they came up with the ethical theory known as utilitarianism. The goal of this theory is encapsulated in Bentham’s aphorism that “the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.”

Which all sounds fine and dandy until you start applying it to particular cases. A utilitarian, for example, might approve of the occasional torture of suspected terrorists—for the greater happiness of everyone else, you understand. That type of observation has led Daniel Bartels at Columbia University and David Pizarro at Cornell to ask what sort of people actually do have a utilitarian outlook on life. Their answers, just published in Cognition, are not comfortable.

...To find out, the two researchers gave 208 undergraduates a battery of trolleyological tests and measured, on a four-point scale, how utilitarian their responses were. Participants were also asked to respond to a series of statements intended to get a sense of their individual psychologies. These statements included, “I like to see fist fights”, “The best way to handle people is to tell them what they want to hear”, and “When you really think about it, life is not worth the effort of getting up in the morning”.

...Dr Bartels and Dr Pizarro then correlated the results from the trolleyology with those from the personality tests. They found a strong link between utilitarian answers to moral dilemmas (push the fat guy off the bridge) and personalities that were psychopathic, Machiavellian or tended to view life as meaningless. Utilitarians, this suggests, may add to the sum of human happiness, but they are not very happy people themselves.

That does not make utilitarianism wrong. Crafting legislation—one of the main things that Bentham and Mill wanted to improve—inevitably involves riding roughshod over someone’s interests. Utilitarianism provides a plausible framework for deciding who should get trampled. The results obtained by Dr Bartels and Dr Pizarro do, though, raise questions about the type of people who you want making the laws. Psychopathic, Machiavellian misanthropes? Apparently, yes.


“MARK TWAIN had it backwards,” Steve Schneider joked, in a lecture he gave to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1972. “Nowadays, everyone is doing something about the weather, but nobody is talking about it.” The lecture was on the topic that Mr Schneider, then 27, had been working on for two years and would work on for another 38: what were humans doing to the climate? (Obituary in The Economist 31.07.10)

Mark Twain:

"Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat."


"The river always wins."

11.  Buttonwood

Pensions, Ponzis and pyramids

The retired are always supported by their children

Sep 24th 2011 | from The Economist print edition

IN OLDEN days it was quite common for families to keep a store of spare cash in a cake tin or cookie jar to save for future expenditure, such as Christmas presents. Just occasionally this petty-cash fund had to be tapped for immediate needs, and raiders would ease their consciences by leaving an IOU for the requisite sum.

One way of viewing the American Social Security Trust fund is as a massive cookie jar filled with IOUs. The assets of the fund are Treasury bonds, in other words promises to pay by the federal government. The scheme is thus dependent on the ability of future taxpayers to keep funding it.

In 1999 the Office for Management and Budget said that the fund’s assets “do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits. Instead, they are claims on the Treasury that, when redeemed, will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures. The existence of large trust fund balances, therefore, does not, by itself, have any impact on the government’s ability to pay benefits.”

Does this make Social Security a Ponzi scheme, to quote Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and a leading Republican presidential candidate? Not really. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Ponzi scheme as “an investment swindle in which some early investors are paid off with money put up by later ones in order to encourage more and bigger risks”. The first part of that definition applies to Social Security but not the second. The scheme’s costs have been monitored and the rules adjusted by raising payroll contributions and extending the retirement age. Such shifts have extended the period before the trust fund runs out of assets, and further shifts are perfectly possible.

A better term for Social Security would be a pyramid scheme, which the same dictionary defines as “a usually illegal operation in which participants pay to join and profit mainly from payments made by subsequent participants”. Illegal it isn’t, but future workers do have to generate the tax revenues that pay the benefits of future pensioners, and that is a problem if one generation is smaller than the one before.

Although the term “pyramid” may sound rather pejorative, it is true of all pension schemes. Many European governments do not bother with a formal fund but use pay-as-you-go schemes, funding benefits out of future taxes. The effect is the same. Funded or unfunded, a pension scheme is a claim on a future generation.

Nor would it make much difference were Social Security to be invested in other assets such as equities, investment-grade bonds and property. The value of such assets is dependent on their future cashflows (dividends, interest and rents). But by 2030 or 2040, those cashflows will be generated by our children. If the economy were then in a dire state, equity and property prices would have plunged and the assets would not cover the liability.

Indeed, Social Security is in a rather better financial condition than many state and local funds which have followed the diversified-portfolio route. Thanks to some dubious accounting, a large number of such schemes have not been funded properly.

Some may argue that a funded pension scheme encourages savings, and that higher savings boost economic growth. That sounds good in theory but is hard to spot in practice. Britain and America both have pension-fund assets worth more than 100% of GDP, but very low savings rates. Germany has a high savings rate but pension-fund assets of just 14% of GDP.

Perhaps the existence of a fund makes it easier to monitor the liability and to make needed adjustments accordingly? That seems a little doubtful, too. Even without such a structure, European countries have reduced future pension costs.

Some of the pyramid problems could be avoided if developed-world pension schemes invested in those emerging markets with more favourable demographic trends. Workers in rich countries could accumulate claims on the wealth generated by future Brazilian, Indian and Turkish workers. But America and Britain have done the opposite, running current-account deficits so that central banks in Asia and the Middle East have accumulated claims on them instead.

America’s pyramid is not as shakily constructed as Europe’s, however. The American fertility rate is around the replacement rate of 2.1, compared with 1.4 for Germany and Italy, where populations are in decline. It is health-care costs, rather than pension costs, that are the bigger threat to American finances.


 “The greatest dangers to liberty come from men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”  Louis Brandeis

12.  Excerpt from Steve Mirsky in Scientific American, Sept 2007, about dangerous ideas:

Nature’s chief news and features editor Oliver Morton has the dangerous idea that “our planet is not in peril,” although he quite rightly points out that many inhabitants of the planet are in great jeopardy because of environmental crises.  Actually, George Carlin covered this territory years ago when he said, “The planet is fine.  The people are fucked…the planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.”

My personal favorite entry is that of philosopher and psychologist Nicholas Humphrey, who knows a dangerous idea when he sees one and so simply quotes Bertrand Russell’s truly treacherous notion:  “I wish to propose…a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive.  The doctrine in question is this:  that it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatsoever for supposing it true.”  The danger of ignoring this doctrine can almost certainly be found in the politics or world events stories on the front page of today’s New York Times.  On whatever day you read this.

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