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, December 10, 2011


1.   Emily Dickinson, born 10 December 1830
2.   Congressional move to override Obama on tarsands pipeline
3.   Coastside Land Trust Holiday Art Walk Dec 11 in Half Moon Bay
4.   Another move to trash Golden Gate Park's founding vision
5.   Someone saw the total lunar eclipse this morning
6.   Jamie Dimon's Foot in Mouth Disease/and he sings Hallelujah Chorus
7.   Feedback: Penguin prostitutes/Fish & Game name change/HANC in GGP
8.   If prayer would do it...Stephen Levine
9.   Verbing weirds language/Tower of Babel
10. Help the Green Hairstreak; join Nature in the City
11.  Climate blogger reports on Durban
12.  Notes & Queries

1.  Born 10 December 1830

“Tell the Truth but tell it slant.”  Emily Dickinson

They shut me up in Prose –

As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet –
Because they liked me "still" –

Still! Could themself have peeped –
And seen my Brain – go round –
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason – in the Pound –

Although most of her acquaintances were probably aware of Dickinson's writing, it was not until after her death in 1886—when Lavinia, Emily's younger sister, discovered her cache of poems—that the breadth of Dickinson's work became apparent. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1890 by personal acquaintances Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, both of whom heavily edited the content. A complete and mostly unaltered collection of her poetry became available for the first time in 1955 when The Poems of Emily Dickinson was published by scholar Thomas H. Johnson. Despite unfavorable reviews and skepticism of her literary prowess during the late 19th and early 20th century, critics now consider Dickinson to be a major American poet. 
    - Wikipedia

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds. By Lyndall Gordon.

...It is a rare thing for a literary biographer to take on a well-known poet and completely rewrite history. This astonishing book, written with common sense and compassion, will do nothing less than revolutionise the way in which Dickinson is read for years to come. 
The Economist, 7 August 2010


(JS:  This is not just a GOP move to embarrass the administration--the pressure is also on Democrats to reverse this decision, so a reversal is certainly possible.)

2.  From the Sierra Club:
Despite a recent decision by the Obama administration to reevaluate the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline and its proposed route, during the past week we have seen legislative moves in both the House and Senate to expedite approval. Republican representatives and senators are desperately trying to force an approval of this project and are getting dangerously close!

Please ask your representative and senators in Congress not to support any bill that would force approval of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.

Click here to send a quick email to your congress rep & senator:

This pipeline accelerates global warming -- globally.

National Geographic October 2011 Story "World Without Ice" tells us what happened the last time we had global warming - before humans were evolved.


White-tailed Kite              Beau Gill

The Coastside Land Trust is joining with a group of artists along South Main Street in Half Moon Bay to welcome you to our first annual

Holiday Art Walk
Sunday, December 11th,  2 - 5 p.m.

We invite you to stroll South Main Street and discover a wealth of art treasures and gifts. Most of the businesses will be offering gift certificates as a local solution for holiday shoppers. This is a chance for the community to support small local businesses as a part of the nationwide "Shop Small" campaign. Refreshments, raffles and music will be offered at the Coastside Land Trust Gallery and at most other venues.

Holiday Cheer & Gift Options
-Greeting cards from a selection of gallery photographs, 5 for $20 or $5 each.
-Holiday discount of $10 to $40 on matted, unframed photographs.
-Great local native plant book - Plants and Plant Communities of the San Mateo Coast, by Avis Boutell, Toni Corelli and Nancy Frost, $20.
-We have a few 1-gallon and 5-gallon native Cypress trees that are available for the holidays - no charge if returned by Jan 6. $10 for 1 gallon, and $45 for 5 gallon if you keep them.
-Native plants: Brome Grass, Aster, Currant, Coffee Berry, Hummingbird Sage, Lizard Tail, Yellow Lupine, Bee Plant, Creek Dogwood, Wild Strawberry, Coyote Bush, and Yarrow in 1-gallon containers $10.

100% of the proceeds from the sale of Beau Gill's artwork directly benefits the work of the Coastside Land Trust.


4.  Trashing of Olmsted/Wm Hammond Hall vision for Golden Gate Park continues 

Here is agenda item for Recreation & Park Commission meeting of December 15:

Discussion and possible action to name Speedway Meadow the Warren Hellman Meadow.
Staff: Lisa Bransten – 831-2704

JS:  This founding vision specifies not naming park features after people, for obvious reasons:  There is no end to the political debts to be settled by naming things after the well-connected.  The first major departures from this was naming Main Drive John F Kennedy Drive, followed by Martin Luther King Drive for South Drive.  The trend has begun accelerating, and it won't stop at Warren Hellman.


5.  Lunar eclipse

On Dec 10, 2011, at 6:57 AM, Robert MacConnell wrote:
For those who missed it, here is a photo of this morning's total lunar eclipse. The photo shows the moon in the last moments of the penumbral phase and entering the umbral phase. This is the darkest point which my camera can still "see". About 1/2 hour later the moon was totally dark. Also, from my observing site in Richmond, it was becoming lost in the morning fog.
The second photo is 180 degrees opposite of the breaking dawn over the Berkeley hills. (OMITTED HERE--it was mostly just black, of course.  JS)
I'm raw with envy, Robert.

As excited as I am by this kind of phenomenon, when it comes to getting up (seemingly, actually 6.10 am) in the middle of the cold night, dressing, climbing to the top of the ridge to get a view of the western sky--well, it just doesn't happen anymore.  I actually did that one time about 20 years ago, only to discover that I had misread the article, and it didn't happen in San Francisco.

I keep hoping that one will happen in my area at a more convenient time.  It might, as lunar eclipses are not rare.  However, if we do get one at a convenient time it will be fogged in in San Francisco; bet on it.

Total solar eclipses are fairly rare, and none is scheduled for our area in my lifetime.  So in 1994 I flew to Bolivia to see my one and only.  It was a magnificent, awesome phenomenon packed with excitement and too much to see in the cruelly short time the powers-that-be allotted.  It was said to last between 3 and 4 minutes, but I think it was closer to 15 seconds.  :)


6.  More on Jamie Dimon on Marketplace (from Kai Ryssdal)
These final notes: Yesterday on the way out I played you a bit of tape from Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, in which he said, basically, don't blame the rich for being successful.

The bit I didn't play for you was where he complained about how much tax he pays. "Most of us wage-earners are paying 39.6 percent in taxes."

Mmmm, no. Top marginal tax rate right now? Thirty-five percent, which you'd figure a banker would know.


Non-traditional rendition of Hallelujah Chorus
Jamie Dimon, tenor
Jeff Skilling (temporarily on parole for this recording), bass
Meg Whitman, soprano
Michele Bachman, alto*

*  "If we took away the minimum wage--if conceivably it was gone--we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level."

Money. You don't know where it's been, / but you put it where your mouth is. / And it talks. -Dana Gioia, poet, critic, and translator (b. 1950)


7.  Feedback

On Dec 9, 2011, at 5:24 AM, Peter Rauch wrote:
3.   Long desired:  CA Resources Agency undertakes review of Dept of Fish & Game

"[FYI, the mission of DFG is "to manage California's diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public."]"
"Long desired" indeed !!

The changes could start with a name change --"Fish & Game" ???  What does that tell you ? It says everything about how  the "mission" and the reality are a serious mismatch. Either rename the Department to "Fish & Game Culturing and Harvesting", or to .....?.?.?.....

Start with a revision of who that "public" is who should "use and enjoy" our Calif natural resources.

Start by recognizing that "fish" and "wildlife" do not begin to embrace the native biota whose habitats must be managed for their ecological values. (Is "wildlife" a pseudonym for "game" ?   Is "wildlife" the class of all animals other than fish ?
Right on, Peter. 

About 15 years ago, when I was on the CNPS board, there was talk of this very subject of changing its name as well as shifting its function.  We even had a gubernatorial candidate (he didn't win) come to lunch with us.  He had been in the Legislature for many years, and he told us that the revenue from some game species such as feral pigs and turkeys was not that large and could be changed easily. 

Nothing happened, not even the change of departmental name.  But times are different, and may be ripe for change.  We are entering revolutionary times and all sorts of things may be possible--given public demand.  After all, it is the Dept of Resources.  Since its founding it has always based its decisions on political grounds instead of protecting our resources.

Wes Jackson, president of the Land Institute. "If we squander the ecological capital of the soil, the capital on paper won't much matter."

Janet Gilles:
Male Adelie penguin are not the only ones with loose morals
The males may have loose morals, but the hens..
There was a documentary about penguins, showing thousands and thousands of them gathering at the annual breeding grounds.  They are monogamous, but one impatient male got his nest ready (a hole in the ground).  He waited and waited and finally fell for an unattached female.
Until his extremely angry, furious mate showed up.  She chased the female all the way across the landscape, the poor thing falling into everybody's nest holes, and getting jumped on and beaten over and over again.

Fidelity is enforced by a strict code it would seem.
And the female suffers from the male's transgressions.  What else is new?

Keith Howell:
Inspired by your email and your kind words, I badgered the Academy, and the indexing of California Wild is now a bit more accessible. The story on the penguins is at

Rocks are a hot commodity among breeding Adelie penguins. Some Adelie females will do just about anything--including prostituting themselves to bachelor neighbors--to get their beaks on the precious nesting materials.

On Dec 8, 2011, at 5:33 PM, Louise Lacey wrote:
Two other distinguishing features: ravens are bigger, and their voices are lower.

13.  Crows/ravens: help in differentiating
Yes, although those, especially the voice, are a bit subtle.  Ravens are perceptibly bigger, but if I can't see the stout beak or other distinguishing feature, I find I sometimes become confused and need to see them side by side to be sure of the size difference.

On Dec 10, 2011, at 10:48 AM, Sid Kass wrote:
Jake:  I agree with you that the Park is to be a Park, not a convenient place to put great public institutions like the de Young and the Academy of Sciences.

Why, then do you coddle HANC's use of parkland for a function that not only increases auto traffic and crowds, but is also noisy and smelly?
Sid:  The HANC recycling center is a complex issue, and I can't give you a straightforward defense.  I am coming from several places at once.  I have never been 100% comfortable with its presence in Golden Gate Park, as it is clearly a nonconforming use.  But if you start down that road you will find rampant nonconforming uses--don't get me started. 

A little history:  I feel fiercely loyal to HANC.  When it started in 1974 it was a pioneer in recycling and educating the public.  Recycling is common now and you can't get through a day without hearing the word perhaps dozens of times.  Not in 1974:  it was new and strange.  HANC has been innovative and prevented untold recyclable material going to landfill.  It provided employment for many who were otherwise unemployable, keeping them off the streets and the public dole.  It took the lead in bottle redemption, and is continuing to do that (see the links below).  With the revenue from the center it has funded, and continues to fund, very worthwhile community projects.  This is a formidable record, and its activities have stimulated innovative thinking.  It is evolving into the beginnings of an ecological center--much needed--as well as community gardens, which are starting now.  With its history of creative thinking and activity, I would like to see it somehow joined to the City (but not run by the City--please!)

For these reasons and for its possibilities for serving and educating the public in these rapidly changing times it should be cherished.  I have little faith in San Francisco govt, and, like all govt agencies, it must be drug into contemporary times kicking and screaming.  Organizations such as HANC serve that purpose.  I wish it were otherwise, but that's the way the world works.

This is only a sketch, and someone closer to HANC could give you a more persuasive defense.

          → Wikipedia CRV
          → CRV 101 A simple Guide to Bottle and Can Recycling
          → Cal Recycle
          → Bottle Bill Facts

Jim Ansbro:
Hi Jake, A great source for various science presentations is :

Alice Polesky:
As a friend of mine said after Obama was elected:  "One type of person I don't ever expect to be elected is an atheist."
Sad but true, Jake. But at least if the secularists can come out as a show of force, that would be a good thing.


If prayer would do it

If prayer would do it
I'd pray.

If reading esteemed thinkers would do it
I'd be halfway through the Patriarchs.

If discourse would do it
I'd be sitting with His Holiness
every moment he was free.

If contemplation would do it
I'd have translated the Periodic Table
to hermit poems, converting
matter to spirit.

If even fighting would do it
I'd already be a blackbelt.

If anything other than love could do it
I've done it already
and left the hardest for last.

~ Stephen Levine ~

(Breaking the Drought)

LTE, Guardian Weekly

Regarding The own goal of well-being: even the headline to Pat Kane's piece doesn't sufficiently prepare one for "Rather than angsting about general ill-being (sic), Bill Watterson's Calvin said, "Verbing weirds language," and Hobbes replied: "Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding."  Eventually seemingly presently?

Donna Samoyloff
Toronto, Canada

From Hebrew Babhel (Babylon). In the Old Testament (Genesis 11:4-9), people united in an attempt to build a city with a tower that reached the heavens. This displeased god who halted the project by confounding people's speech so they wouldn't understand one another. Earliest documented use: before 1382.

(The more things change the more they remain the same.  Sounds like the babble emanating from our marvellous electronic technology.  Understanding is decreased as the shouting at each other increases.  JS)


10.  Help the Hairstreak! - and other projects

Join Nature in the City -

2011 has been a historic year around the world and with Nature in the City, In the first quarter of 2011, we became, for the time being, an all-volunteer organization. 

Green Hairstreak workday on
Quintara Steps November 19, 2011


11.  From Andy Katz:

Over the last two weeks, world leaders have been working to negotiate a strategy and framework to address climate change.  Even at the end of the scheduled negotiations, the outcome on the big picture still remains in doubt, both on the timeline and ambition of an agreement to limit the impacts of global warming, and important implementation goals such as launching the Green Climate Fund, technology transfer mechanism, and adaptation planning.

I’ve been writing about the negotiations on my blog –, and expect to host a report-back in January for a conversation about where the talks go from here – and where our climate protection and clean energy jobs work in the Bay Area and California fits in.

(JS:  I get so frustrated and exasperated by inaction on this grimly serious subject that I metaphorically pull the plug.  The world has always been short of courageous leaders, but on occasion one will come along with the awareness of a problem and the strength and ability to bring others along with him/her.  In all the world's 7 billion people there isn't a single one visible now--to take on this issue or any vexing issue.  [I'm thinking the euro crisis and the U.S. debt problem.] 

I can't see awareness at any level.  All the people I know are living pretty much as they were before.  I and my friends do modify our behavior, but we were doing that even before the awareness of climate threat vaulted into headlines in 1988.)


12.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly

What is the most unflattering description of a town in literature?

Surely it's Bill Bryson's description of Blackpool in Notes From a Small Island: "On Friday and Saturday nights it has more public toilets than anywhere else in Britain; elsewhere they are called doorways."
Julia Taylor, Hastings

George Orwell had a bit of a downer on Sheffield in The Road to Wigan Pier: "It has a population of half a million and it contains fewer decent buildings than the average East Anglian village of five hundred. And the stench! If at rare moments you stop smelling sulphur it is because you have begun smelling gas. Even the shallow river that runs through the town is usually bright yellow with some chemical or other."
Barry Wright, Sheffield

In The Condition of the Working Class, Friedrich Engels' description of the town I was born in is fairly unflattering: "Among the worst of these towns after Preston and Oldham is Bolton, 11 miles north-west of Manchester. It has, so far as I have been able to observe in my repeated visits, but one main street, a very dirty one, Deansgate, which serves as a market, and is even in the finest weather a dark, unattractive hole, in spite of the fact that, except for the factories, its sides are formed by low one- and two-storied houses.

"Here, as everywhere, the older part of the town is especially ruinous and miserable. A dark-coloured body of water, which leaves the beholder in doubt whether it is a brook or a long string of stagnant puddles, flows through the town and contributes its share to the total pollution of the air, by no means pure without it."
Pat Bleasdale, Moss Side, Manchester

It's got to be Philip Larkin's Coventry: "nothing, like something, happens anywhere".

Is Martin Richards trying to find something to take the sting out of Dickens's verdict on his home town? "If any one were to ask me what in my opinion was the dullest and most stupid spot on the face of the Earth, I should decidedly say Chelmsford." As another Chelmsfordian, I've always been quite proud that the town even gets a mention in Dickens's correspondence. Better to be infamous than insignificant!


(JS:  I offended someone from Bakersfield when I called it the armpits of the universe, assuming that was a generally recognized fact.  I added insult to injury by saying "As a hole, what do you think of Bakersfield?"  Whew!  I didn't think even a resident would be offended.  We all learn one way or another.)

Is Neil Sedaka's "Oh Carol/I am but a fool/Darling I love you/Though you treat me cruel" the worst-ever rhyme in a popular song?

Gilbert O'Sullivan's We Will has a great line: "Take off your shoes/the both of you's". 

Pam Rowlands, Stoke-on-Trent,

I can't believe nobody has put forward Gang Starr's "I can excel real well/ like a Gazelle". Or Roots Manuva's, "I see clearer than most/I sit here contending with this cheese on toast", although I suspect that's knowingly bad from Rodney.

Kieron Hayes, Coventry

For me this pile wins by a mile, from Riders on the Storm by The Doors: "There's a killer on the road/His brain is squirming like a toad." Do brains or toads "squirm"?

Phil O'Shea , London NW10

Surely, Surely the title must go to Marc Bolan: "Deborah, You look like a Zebra." Surely.


As a subsection of worst pop rhymes, may I suggest worst rock similes? I'll start it off with: "She had the face of an angel, smiling with sin/The body of Venus with arms" by AC/DC.


Any answers?

We know about the introduction of potatoes and tobacco to Europe, but whom do we thank for the introduction of chocolate?
Brian Robinson, Brentwood, Essex

What do members of the royal family give each other for Christmas – or is it a state secret?

Janet Turner, Frome, Somerset

Who discovered clams are happy, and how? And why aren't cockles?
Percy Barber, Ontario, Canada

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