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.

Monday, December 31, 2012


“Beauty is no quality in things themselves: it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them” David Hume

1.   Advice for a new year from James Broughton
2.   And from Thoreau
3.   Got triskaidekaphobia?  Then just skip 2013
4.   Blue-banded Pelican Program is great success
5.   SF Christmas Bird Count sets record
6.   Animal potpourri
7.   Feedback: Stella Awards hoax/more on Thomas Jefferson
8.   Life on the Brink:  Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation
9.   Chinese Exclusion Laws: exhibit and speaker series
10. Bioneers - Breakthrough Solutions for People and Planet
11.  Berkeley Rapper Lil B to lecture on NYU
12.  The Ascent of Man in two minutes, music by Paul Dukas

Quit your addiction
to sneer and complaint
Try a little flaunt
Call for comrades
who bolster your vim
and offer you risk
Corral the crones
Goose the nice nellies
Hunt the bear that hugs
and the raven that quoths
Stay up all night
to devise a new dawn

~ James Broughton ~

(Little Sermons of the Big Joy)



Each new year is a surprise to us. We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again, it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence…The voice of nature is always encouraging.
     Henry David Thoreau

Unlucky 2013?

Beware of the globalisation of superstition, says John Grimond

Nov 21st 2012 | from The World In 2013 in The Economist

Twenty-thirteen: for most people, another year, much like 2011 or 2012, nothing special. Okay, the United Nations says it will be the International Year of Water Co-operation and also the International Year of Quinoa. If that doesn’t seem special enough (quinoa is, after all, only a vegetable), maybe this will: 2013 will be the first year since 1987 to have all digits different from one another. Interestingly (to some people), 20 and 13 add up to 33, which numerologists—crackpots who assign mystical significance to certain numbers—consider a “highly charged master number”, full of meaning. But not all crackpots are numerologists. Some are triskaidekaphobiacs, and for them the prospect of 2013 is not so much interesting as terrifying.

Yes, triskaidekaphobia is a long word meaning fear of 13. Lots of people seem to have it. The Romans were spooked by 13. So were the Vikings. To this day some people will not sit down 13 to dinner; a teddy bear may have to be introduced to push the total up to 14. Some will not buy a house numbered 13, embark on a ship setting sail on the 13th day of the month (especially if it is a Friday) or sleep in a hotel room on the 13th floor. Some tall buildings, notably in China and other parts of Asia, appear not to have 13 storeys at all: their numbers go from 12 to 14. Since triskaidekaphobiacs are irrational, they may really believe their hotel has no 13th floor and sleep peacefully on the one labelled 14. Thirteen, they may protest, is really just a name, not a number.

Oh yes? Those who seek explanations for the superstitious fear of 13 all seem to believe that its crucial quality is quantity. It was Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, who brought the numbers up to 13 at the Last Supper (never mind that the same could be said of any of the other disciples, or even of Jesus himself). It was the 13th era, the first after the dozen 1,000-year reigns of the 12 constellations, which supposedly presaged chaos for the ancient Persians, and which even now makes modern Iranians leave their houses and go out to cleanse their souls on Sizdah Be-dar, the 13th day of the year. It was women’s 13 menstrual cycles a year that gave the number a bad name when the solar calendar came to displace the 13-cycle lunar calendar. Or so it is said by credulous expositors. 

Yet plenty of people think 13 is freighted with good associations. The ancient Egyptians believed that, on the last rung of a 13-step ladder to eternity, the soul would find everlasting life. The ancient Greeks—some of them, anyway—thought Herakles’s 12 labours were followed by a lucky 13th, his killing of the lion of Kithaeron for King Thespius, for which the reward was permission to make love to each of the king’s 50 daughters over 50 consecutive nights. Many modern Jews believe the “collective souls” of the Jewish people can be compared to the 13-petalled rose mentioned in the Zohar, a revered text for mystical followers of the Kabbalah school of thought.

The Romans were spooked by 13. So were the Vikings
Those who believe that 13 brings good luck have one thing in common with those who believe that it brings misfortune: the complete absence of reason behind their convictions.

Even so, prudent readers of The World in 2013 will tread warily in the year ahead. The superstitious may be a minority, but they are everywhere and, with the globalisation of political correctness, they should not, it seems, be ignored.

Sensitive souls (clearly most, if not all, of our readers) will realise that from 2013 on, neither hearts nor minds will be won with 13-point plans, bakers’ dozens, presentations at sixes and sevens, least of all with 13 red roses. For anyone engaged in business, or entertaining, or courtship, it will henceforth be as necessary to inquire about numerical allergies and preferences as it already is to ask about dietary ones: 2013 seems certain to contain nuts.

Blue Banded Pelican Program is Great Success
Citizen’s love spotting the birds and learning their history

A banding study being done by California non-profit International Bird Rescue is providing new information and lots of excitement among birders about the travels of California Brown Pelicans.  Reports of pelicans in Puget Sound and Victoria Island have the researchers excited as well.

So far, 1,050 rehabilitated pelicans have been banded with bright blue bands with white letters. In only three years, with no promotion about the study until now, 220 individuals have been sighted, from Mexico to as far north as British Columbia, an amazing 20% reporting rate.

Reports and photos come in daily. “What excites everyone involved is the ability to learn the history of the birds, which before this band study was difficult to impossible,” said Jay Holcomb, IBR’s director and head researcher of the Blue-Banded Pelican Project.

Two birds approximately six months of age have provided surprising data about the travels of young pelicans. R36 and R41 were admitted to IBR’s bird rehabilitation center near San Francisco, CA this past summer with human caused injuries. They were released together under the Golden Gate Bridge on August 23, 2012 to survive on their own, destination unknown. Researcher Mike Robinson working at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve on Vancouver Island, BC was the first to spot R36. Robinson took photos and used Google to find information about the blue-banded birds not typically seen among the elephant seals, snowy owls and whales in the icy waters of the Salish Sea.

“We knew that pelicans follow the fish, and that many feed along the coast of Oregon and Washington, but we were surprised that these young pelicans, who survived life-threatening, human-caused injuries, flew that far north so quickly after their release,” said Holcomb.

“This is the positive of our work, the payoff. These birds have made incredible journeys. They first flew about 400 miles from the Channel Islands, where they most likely hatched and fledged. They then flew from San Francisco to Vancouver Island, most likely following adults, a distance of around 800 miles,” Holcomb said.

This should give people a whole different perspective on pelicans who are typically associated with warmer climates and are prevalent in southern regions such as the Southeastern Seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico, Southern California and Mexico.

As it turns out, California Brown Pelicans are heartier than they look.

International Bird Rescue is asking people who spot blue banded pelicans to report them on its website at:


SF Christmas Bird Count sets record

What a glorious day for a count! It started out cool and windy, especially for the teams by the ocean, but by midday the sun was strong and hats came off.  And best of all… we set a new record for the San Francisco Christmas Bird Count. Eighteen teams counted a preliminary total of 179 species – breaking the prior SF CBC record of 177 species and surpassing this year’s Oakland CBC total of 177. (Not that San Franciscans are competitive, of course — not in the slightest.) “It was a remarkable day. I’m anxious to see the total numbers we ended up with,” said CBC co-compiler Dan Murphy, who together with co-compiler Alan Hopkins will now collect and tally final numbers.
Some preliminary findings from the count, as reported at the festive CBC dinner at the Log Cabin in the Presidio:
§ The only remaining California Quail found in the 15-mile-wide San Francisco count circle were at the Pacifica archery range.
§ Two Clapper Rails were found at Heron’s Head Park.

§ The team covering eastern Golden Gate Park set a new record of 70 species in its territory and had a “seven warbler day.”
§ The Sunset team counted 1,900 Red-throated Loons along the beach!
§ The Lake Merced team counted 40 rarities from six species that are not usually found in San Francisco, including Tree Swallows, White-throated Swifts, Great-tailed Grackles and a Tropical Kingbird.
§ The McLaren Park team – one of the teams with a particular challenge since their territory was landlocked, without water birds – found 55 species including four woodpecker species.
§ The Presidio team encountered some 3,000 gulls at a massive herring run at the end of the day.
§ The team with the highest count for the day was the Candlestick area team with a whopping 113 species, edging out the Presidio which had 104.
Click here to see more photos of the count (both birds and birders) and the dinner afterwards on our Facebook page.
Click here to read the S.F. Examiner’s coverage of the count team in the Eastern Parks area.
Thanks to the Presidio Trust for co-sponsoring the San Francisco count! If you couldn’t make it to this year’s count, please join us for our next one in December 2013.


6.  Animal potpourri - Sushi and Bugs: Parties Teach Kids a Thing or Two

College student's turtle project takes dark twist

The Associated Press

Clemson University student Nathan Weaver holds a fake turtle he is using in his research to try and save the animals in Clemson, S.C. Weaver is placing the fake turtle in roads near campus and seeing how many drivers intentionally run over it. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

Weaver put a realistic rubber turtle in the middle of a lane on a busy road near campus. Then he got out of the way and watched over the next hour as seven drivers swerved and deliberately ran over the animal. Several more apparently tried to hit it but missed.

"I've heard of people and from friends who knew people that ran over turtles. But to see it out here like this was a bit shocking," said Weaver, a 22-year-old senior in Clemson's School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences.

To seasoned researchers, the practice wasn't surprising.

Sometimes humans feel a need to prove they are the dominant species on this planet by taking a two-ton metal vehicle and squishing a defenseless creature under the tires, said Hal Herzog, a Western Carolina University psychology professor.


Camouflaged animals


7.  Feedback

(I received a slew of emails pointing out my gullibility on the Stella Awards; I post only three. 

As Pogo would say: “I is covered with rue.”  JS)

On Dec 28, 2012, at 6:40 PM, Richard Moe wrote:
On Dec 28, 2012, at 5:23 PM, Jake Sigg wrote:
Mrs. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City

Snopes is your friend

On Dec 31, 2012, at 5:43 AM, Michael Ellis wrote:
I am disappointed in your recent post.
I assumed you checked it all out thoroughly before posting this below is bullshit

And disappointed you should be, Michael.  I am acutely embarrassed, and I can’t claim innocence because I’m well aware of all the crap that floats around, and aware that there are places to easily check things out.  When I’ve been caught before I thought I’d learned.  Why I am so slow to learn is a puzzle to me.  I’ll now retreat into my cave and lick my wounds.

You will allow that in this crazy world believability is no longer a criterion.  What is happening in real life is often beyond credence.  However, that doesn’t excuse me.

On Dec 28, 2012, at 9:31 PM, Ruth Gravanis wrote:
Re the "Stella" Awards --  To learn about what really happened to Stella Liebeck, please go to's_Restaurants
and if you get the chance, watch the documentary, "Hot Coffee."

The Hot Coffee movie goes on to explore the pros and cons of tort reform in general.

And I confess that even after learning the facts of the case I am still uncomfortable and divided about this decision.  You may dismiss this because of my preference for hot coffee--which you can’t get anymore in any restaurant, in part because of this decision.  There is still the question of taking responsibility for your own clumsiness.

On Dec 28, 2012, at 9:25 PM, Glenn Lym wrote:
On Dec 28, 2012, at 5:26 PM, Jake Sigg <> wrote:
My inconsistencies and irrationalities fade into insignificance when I look at Jefferson’s contradictions.  At some point I came to the conclusion that we humans are full of them and must somehow reconcile ourselves to them.  I’m working on it, but it’s a tough job. 

Have you seen the video I did looking at Jefferson as an architect?  You might find it interesting in terms of Hemings and in relationship to another architect I look at in that film, Philip Johnson.

Dan Gluesenkamp:
Hi Jake - I dunno about what was in Jefferson's soul or whatever but... one of the memorable days of my life was touring his place with Bob Case. I think of that short day, often. So maybe there is something to be said for a kook who is still shaping lives 200 years after he last lusted after another primate...


8.  Tackling the Taboo:  Leading environmental activists and scholars take on population in new book 

Book review of Life on the Brink:  Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation, By Leon Kolankiewicz

When it comes to human overpopulation and the war it is waging on nature, the American environmental establishment has been AWOL for several decades.  Now comes a refreshing new anthology published by the University of Georgia Press that seeks to remind environmentalists of all that is at stake and make them reconsider their dereliction of duty. 

In Life on the Brink:  Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation (University of Georgia Press, 2012, ), co-editors Phil Cafaro and Eileen Crist have marshaled a veritable who’s who of environmental and conservation leaders, scholars and activists in a collection of essays that tackles this touchy topic head on.  Cafaro is a professor of philosophy at Colorado State University, president of the board of Progressives for Immigration Reform, and the author of two prior books on environmental ethics. Crist is an associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society at Virginia Tech and author of Earth Ethics in an Age of Crisis.

...Population isn’t ignored because it’s boring or passé, but because it touches on a plethora of compelling but emotionally-fraught and politically divisive issues, including sex, contraception, abortion, immigration, ethnicity, race, religion, culture, language, and limits to growth.  While the environmental establishment opted to avoid population and being called nasty names, it cannot avoid overpopulation’s many environmental impacts.

Life on the Brink is organized into four parts:  introduction, impacts, necessary conversations, and solutions.  The essays in each part guide the reader from the causes, current status, and impacts of overpopulation to solutions:  discussions of what we know works, as documented especially in the chapters by Engelman and Ryerson.  While the contributors have diverse opinions on different issues, what our priorities should be, and the most effective and appropriate scales at which to advocate and implement solutions to the population problem, they are united in their belief that “ending population growth worldwide and in the United States is a moral imperative that deserves renewed commitment.” 

Chinese American History Network 

Fremont Public Library to host exhibit and speaker series on the Chinese Exclusion laws and the recent Congressional resolutions expressing regret.
The "Remembering 1882"exhibit and accompanying lecture series raises awareness of the legacy of the Chinese exclusion acts, and the recent (2011-2012) U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Resolutions expressing regret for the passage and enforcement of these discriminatory laws.


Where:  Fremont Main Library:  2400 Stevenson Blvd, Fremont, CA 94538.
When: The exhibit "Remembering 1882" will be available for view during normal business hours for the Fremont Public library – Saturdays from 10-6pm, Monday and Tuesday from 1-9pm, Wednesdays from 12-6pm, and Fridays from 11-6pm. The exhibit runs from Saturday January 5, 2013 through Thursday February 28, 2013.


What: On Saturday, January 5 2013 the Fremont Public Library in conjunction with the Chinese American History Network will open for public viewing the acclaimed history exhibit "Remembering 1882." On the opening day of the exhibit noted Chinese American historian and author Philip Choy will kick-off a four speaker Chinese American History lecture series that takes place will each Saturday morning in the library during the month of January to accompany the exhibit.

In 1882 Congress passed The Immigration Act of 1882 - to prevent people of Chinese descent from entering the United States. This law broke apart families, reduced the Chinese American population in half, and denied Chinese immigrants the right to become citizens. Remembering 1882 explores the historical debate around the Exclusion Act from its origins through its full repeal in 1968, and the importance of habeas corpus to the Chinese American struggle for civil rights.

On Saturday January 5, 2013, speakers from some of the key Chinese American civil rights organizations that worked for the recent Senate and House resolutions, expressing regret for the exclusion laws, will open the series with brief insight into the work involved in achieving these statements of regret. Historian Philip Choy will kick off the lecture series with a talk on the exclusion laws and San Francisco's Chinatown, followed by a book signing.

The exhibit "Remembering 1882" is a traveling exhibit designed and made available to the public by the Chinese Historical Society of America.  Cosponsoring organizations:  Alameda County Public Library, Asian Pacific Island Public Affairs Association (APAPA), Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA), Chinese American History Network (CAHN), Chinese Historical Society of America, Citizens for Better Community, South Bay Chinese Club.

Why: The series of Chinese Exclusion laws first passed in 1882 and later renewed and augmented until initial repeal in 1943, reflected decades of public debate and American public sentiment. The Chinese exclusions laws and their impacts are an essential part of the nation's history. How these laws, that flew in the face of the human rights guarantees enumerated in the US constitution, came about, how they were repealed, and how the US Senate and House of Representative came to issue resolutions disavowing these laws in 2011 and 2012, is something that every American should know.

(1.)  January 5, 2013, 10:30am:  Noted historian Philip Choy will talk about the connection between the exclusion laws and the development of San Francisco's Chinatown. Philip will also talk about his new book and conduct a book signing as part of his presentation.
(2.)  January 12, 2013, 10:30am:  Historian and author Judy Yung will speak on the role of Angel Island and the exclusion laws. Judy will conduct a book signing following her talk.
(3.)  January 19, 2013, 11:00am:  Librarian and genealogist Christine Devillers will present a talk on conducting Chinese American genealogical research and the special challenges and resources confronting Chinese American beginning their family history research.
(4.)  January 26, 2013, 10:30am:  Chinese American history activist Geraldine Low-Sabado, a fifth generation descendant of the Chinese American fishing village founded in Pacific Grove in the 1860 talks about the village and the squid fishing industry her ancestors helped found. A showing of the short documentary "By Light of Lanterns" will be a part of her presentation.


10.  Breakthrough Solutions for People and Planet -

"Bioneers has been consistently ahead of the curve.  It is a hatchery for the next wave of important ideas that five years hence people will be talking about in Rotary Clubs."    Bill McKibben, author and founder

"We face insurmountable opportunity."  Pogo


11.  From Jim Fisher
Berkeley Rapper Lil B To Lecture At N.Y.U.
By Jim Fisher
Berkeley Patch, April 4, 2012

Quick facts:
Rap name: Lil B "THE BASEDGOD"
Birth name: Brandon McCartney
Born & raised in Berkeley, attended Berkeley & Albany High.
Sample: "Earth's Medicine"

Best to you, and thanks for your newsletter. Been receiving it for years.


12.  The Ascent of Man, music by Paul Dukas