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.

Friday, February 17, 2012


1.   Many well-known businesses donate to anti-climate group
2.   Hetch Hetchy restoration continues gaining momentum
3.   Green Hairstreak Project Saturday 18
4. Group meeting Monday 20 - Central Subway update
5.   Feedback
6.   Corwin Community Garden news
7.   Catholics and contraception
8.   Move to stop clearcutting to plant vineyards
9.   Nothing to lose but your leash - op-ed
10. U.S. Constitution influence is waning
11. Diving in Bali video
12. Wislawa Szymborska poetry and obituary
13. Notes & Queries

Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known. -Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)

I will use the birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus (February 19) as a reason for a special edition on astronomy, probably tomorrow.  We should all be aware of what it took to build the edifice of science, especially since it is under assault by many of its beneficiaries.  I am deeply grateful for Francis Bacon, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton, but I remained cool to Copernicus.  No more.

1.  Marketplace:  Businesses defend donations to anti-climate group (excerpt)

Kai Ryssdal: On the better-than-even chance that you've never heard of the Heartland Institute based out of Chicago, it's a free market think tank that is opposed to environmental regulation. This week, somebody posing as a Heartland insider leaked a bunch of company documents.

Among other secrets, the paper trail listed Heartland's donors -- many of them well-known corporations. Corporations which are now on the environmental defensive.

A leaked fundraising plan lists Microsoft, GlaxoSmithKline, Comcast and AT&T among the Heartland Institute’s donors. The document says they funded the group’s technology and health care newsletters.

But Heartland is best known for its efforts to discredit climate science, says Joe Romm, a climate change activist with the Center for American Progress.


2.  From Today's The Sacramento Bee


No city in America prides itself on its environmental credentials more than San Francisco. If the initiative goes forward, Hetch Hetchy's defenders could have a hard time explaining to some voters why they shouldn't support a process that would lead to the dismantling of O'Shaughnessy Dam. Dan Lungren would be happy to pitch in if environmentalists need help swaying any Republicans still in San Francisco.


From Today's

Friday, February 17, 2012
EDITORIAL: Hetch Hetchy's Past and Future

Nearly a century ago, Congress rashly approved a dam and an eight-mile-long reservoir called Hetch Hetchy in the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park. The purpose was to trap water from the Tuolumne River and supply it to San Francisco. The cost was the destruction of a pristine valley that the naturalist John Muir once called "one of nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples." The project, completed in 1923 despite a national outcry, included a sweetheart deal for San Francisco: the right to buy the water for $30,000 a year. There have been many attempts to re-examine this deal and study whether the dam could be breached, the reservoir emptied and the valley restored. In the latest, Representative Dan Lungren, a Republican from California, has asked Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior, to investigate whether San Francisco is fulfilling its end of the deal, which requires the city to use all its local water sources before turning to Hetch Hetchy.

Mr. Lungren, who comes from a district that borders Yosemite, argues that the city is ignoring three vital resources - water recycling, groundwater and harvesting rainwater. He points out that San Francisco recycles no water at all, and is still paying bargain-basement prices. These measures will not be enough to replace the water San Francisco draws from Hetch Hetchy. But they will help, and, as Mr. Lungren and others have long pointed out, the waters from the Tuolumne River that now feed Hetch Hetchy could be allowed to flow farther downstream to other reservoirs that now serve the San Francisco Bay area.

Democrats, usually more sympathetic to the environment, might be expected to sympathize with Mr. Lungren's call. But Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, and Senator Dianne Feinstein - both San Franciscans - like things the way they are. Mr. Salazar should look into the matter. The issue is not only how San Francisco uses its water but whether there's any rationale, a century later, for the dam and the deal. Ninety-nine years ago, this newspaper argued against the construction of the dam. We lost, but the much bigger loss was nature's.

To read read the online version that includes links to 6 editorials about Hetch Hetchy written in 1913 click here.
Like what you read?  Submit a letter to the editor by clicking here.


Nature in the City - Green Hairstreak Project

We are looking for dedicated individuals who would like to steward our current site at the Quintara Staircase at 14th Ave. (ASAP) and the Mandalay staircase which we would like to add to the corridor.
 If you are interested or know someone who is please e-mail

Green Hairstreak Work Party

This Saturday the 18th

 14th Ave. and Pacheco

 10 am - 1pm

Save the Date!
The Green Hairstreak Corridor
Liam O'Brien and The Hidden Garden Steps
Thursday April 12th, 7:30pm
At the Randall Museum hosted by SF Naturalist Society Green

Hairstreak Butterfly: A Walk Through an Ecosystem Corridor
Deidre Martin and Melanie Trelles
Sunday, May 20th, 12 pm- 2pm (bring a bag lunch and a pen)
Bottom of Hawk Hill (14th and Rivera)

Holly Park to Alemaney Farm Butterfly Walk
Liam O'Brien
Saturday May 26th, 12pm - 3pm (Bring a bag lunch)
Bocana St. and Holly Park Cir.

Unlikely Habitat: A Tenderloin Swallowtail Tour
Amber Hasselbring & Elizabeth Stampe
Sunday, July 1st, 1pm -3:30pm
UN Plaza Fountain (Civic Center)


12/5 Group Meeting

Turk/Fillmore Police Station

Monday,  February 20, , 2012:  5:30 p.m.

Tentative Agenda

             1.)  5:30  Introductions and Treasurer’s Report                                            
             2.)  5:40  Central Subway 
                        CS not yet a “done deal”
                        Status of gap in “Local Match” funding
                        Turmoil in Washington
             3.)  6:10  Urban forum on Muni
             4.)  6:30  MTA’s TEP program with Julie Kirshenbaum (MTA)           
             5.)  7:15  Other old and new business
             6.)  Next 12/5 meeting    


5.  Feedback

On Feb 14, 2012, at 7:43 PM, Robert Laws wrote:
On Item 12, "Notes and Queries:  Latin, a beautiful language - why did it decline?" reads:   "When I was up at Oxford, a student friend of mine said to her Latin tutor: "Would you like a glass of sherry?" He said: "Puella, puella, puellam, puellae, puellae, puella." She repeated her question, and he said, "Didn't you hear me? I declined girl."
KC Prince, Trieste, Italy

At which point, the tutor should have declined any further contact with KC's friend. I would hope that KC would have given up on the friend too, for   Puella, a  first declension noun, is declined puella, puellae, pullae, puellam, puella, puella and in the plural, puellae, puellarum, puellis puellas, puellis, and puellae unless, of course, it was intended as a learned witticism.  -- Robert Laws 
I am delighted when someone exhibits a little scholarly knowledge and interest, even when it makes me feel a bit of a dullard, as in this case.  I have often said that the most valuable single course I ever took was a year of Latin when I was a freshman in high school in 1941.  Very few days go by that I am not subtly reminded of this, as so many of our words derive from Latin.  A word that I have never heard before I often know what it means because I recognize the Latin root. 

I think everyone took at least a year of Latin in those days, and many took a two-year course-- even in a small Montana farming town.  ('Town' is what we called communities of that size (476 people), but today they would be called villages.  Communities of >2000 were cities.)  It is regrettable that courses of this nature are no longer considered relevant.

Nan Wishner:
For Mr. Decker's query regarding opponents of cellular antennas in the Richmond district, try contacting the San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union:


6.  Marvellous opportunity for volunteer at Corwin Community Garden

7.  Catholics and Contraception: Letters From the Laity Paint a Very Different Picture Than the Bishops Want You to See

Sign a petition to CAL FIRE:  Stop Clear-cutting Redwoods to Plant Vineyards

Tell the California Department of Forestry (CAL FIRE) to suspend certification of Artesa Winery's Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and allow public comment on relevant changes in circumstances and impacts.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) allows, but does not require, the lead agency to accept comments from the public on a Final EIR. CAL FIRE has announced that it intends to certify (approve) the Final EIR for Artesa's project WITHOUT allowing the public to comment. We are asking them to slow down and accept input from the public.

Public comment is needed now more than ever because of Sonoma County's brand-new moratorium on vineyard conversions and the urgent reasons for it -- all of which are completely censored in the public record for Artesa! Your signature on this petition to open the public record will make CAL FIRE confront the inconvenient truth of the moratorium.

Even if you have already signed the previous petition generally opposing this project at an earlier stage of the permit process, please take a few moments to sign on to this critical, time-sensitive action. It is literally the last chance to affect the final outcome of the permit process, which is on a fast track to final approval.

Read and sign the petition:
Stop Clear-cutting Redwoods to Plant Vineyards

For more information, visit the website. 


9.  Nothing to lose but your leash (excerpted)

On a gorgeous sunny morning at a cross-country ski area on the California-Nevada border, the parking lot was full. So why was I the only one skiing while marveling at the deep blue waters of Lake Tahoe? The hut at the end of the trail sat lonely in the sun, waiting for skiers. Had everyone disappeared into a vortex?  Were they all in the lodge eating chocolate chip cookies?
Eventually I uncovered the sad truth: The cars in the parking lot were not driven by independent, free people, but by slaves to their dogs. Since the blue and special green trails were the only trails where the dog masters allow their slaves to ski with them, the dog slaves were tethered to their masters, skiing around and around on just these two short trails until the dogs had had enough.

To further humiliate their slaves, the dog masters were defecating freely on the trail, yet always expecting the slave to pick it up, put it in a plastic bag, and carry it around with them for several more hours while they skied. Watching these poor souls is almost more than one can bear.

...In an attempt to help these people escape the ruthless mind control of their masters, I have taken the plunge, organizing the Freedom Initiative for Dog Owners (FIDO). I know there are relatively few among us who have not succumbed to a punitive dog relationship; that is why I'm asking for your support. With your help, FIDO will organize interventions to free these poor slaves, so that they might finally return to a life free of canine worship.

Tim Hauserman in High Country News

Alice Polesky wrote:
I loved the irony of quoting Scalia, who thinks corporations are people and didn't recuse himself when his son was on Dubya's side in the 2000 election.

February 6, 2012

‘We the People’ Loses Appeal With People Around the World


11.  Diving in Bali 


12.  Wislawa Szymborska

The Camel

Don't tell a camel about need and want.

Look at the big lips
in perpetual kiss,
the dangerous lashes
of a born coquette.

The camel is an animal
grateful for less.

It keeps to itself
the hidden spring choked with grass,
the sharpest thorn
on the sweetest stalk.

When a voice was heard crying in the wilderness,

when God spoke
from the burning bush,

the camel was the only animal
to answer back.

Dune on stilts,
it leans into the long horizon,

the secret caches of watermelon

brought forth like manna
from the sand.

It will bear no false gods
before it:
not the trader
who cinches its hump
with rope,
nor the tourist.

It has a clear sense of its place in the world:

after water and watermelon,
heat and light,
silence and science,

it is the last great hope.

~ Wislawa Szymborska ~

(Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska, translated by Joanna Trzeciak)

Wislawa Szymborska, poet, died on February 1st, aged 88

Feb 11th 2012 | from The Economist print edition

WHEN Wislawa Szymborska won the world’s top literary prize in 1996, her friends called it the “Nobel disaster”. This was not just because she had spent an uncomfortable night before the award ceremony in the bath: the bathroom was the only part of her quarters in a grand Stockholm hotel in which she could manage to turn on the light. Nor was it the “torture” she felt in having to make a speech—one of only three she had given in her life. The real disaster was the trauma of fame and fortune. It was years before she could publish another poem. Her fans’ delight in her Nobel prize was mixed with disappointment that it had rendered her mute.

Like many Poles who survived the war, Ms Szymborska readily accepted communism in early life, seeing it as a salvation for a ruined world. Early poems praised Lenin and young communists building a steel works. Later she blamed her own “foolishness, naivety and perhaps intellectual laziness”, but some found it hard to forgive her for signing a petition in 1953 backing a show trial of four priests.

Her ironic and individualistic spirit was ill fitted to the grey conformity of “people’s Poland”: the Nobel citation said she wrote with the ease of Mozart and the fury of Beethoven. Playful, subtle and haunting, her poetry could never be in harmony with the socialist realist style dictated by the country’s cultural commissars. She mocked their intolerance of dissent in a poem on pornography:

There’s nothing more debauched than thinking.
This sort of wantonness runs wild like a wind-borne weed on a plot laid out for daisies.
Communism she likened to the abominable snowman—horrid and unreal—though she stayed in the party until 1966, hoping “to try to fix it all from the inside”. That, she said later, had been another delusion.

Ms Szymborska was 16 when Hitler and Stalin carved up Poland between them. “Old age was the privilege of rocks and trees,” she wrote. Although not a mainstream dissident, her poems distilled the essence of individual stubbornness in the face of what the party bosses said was historical inevitability.

I believe in the refusal to take part.
I believe in the ruined career.
I believe in the wasted years of work.
I believe in the secret taken to the grave.
These words soar for me beyond all rules without seeking support from actual examples.
My faith is strong, blind, and without foundation.
Scepticism was her watchword. She eschewed political causes; her fight was “against the bad poet who is prone to using too many words”. Her favourite phrase was “I don’t know”. She told the Nobel audience: “It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended.” Without it, she said, Isaac Newton would have gobbled apples rather than pondering the force that makes them drop. Her compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie would have “wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families.”

An accretion of answers

It was the same for poets. Each poem was a kind of answer, but as soon as the last full stop hit the page the result seemed inadequate. “So the poets keep on trying, and sooner or later the consecutive results of their self-dissatisfaction are clipped together with a giant paper clip by literary historians and called their ‘oeuvre’.”

Her own output was slender in quantity and lean in style. For all her erudition, she did not come across as intimidatingly brainy (unlike some other Polish post-war poets). Schoolchildren learn her poems by heart, like this one about a bereaved pet.

Die—you can’t do that to a cat.
Since what can a cat do
in an empty apartment?
Climb the walls?
Rub up against the furniture?
Nothing seems different here
but nothing is the same.
Nothing’s been moved
but there’s more space.
And at night-time no lamps are lit.
Invented words and syntactic tricks made some of her poems for Polish-speakers only. But her translators, chiefly Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak, did a fine job, particularly in the New Yorker, which has published 16 of the best.

Her humour was mischievous: the lavatory seat in her Cracow flat was made of barbed wire encased in clear plastic. Asked why she had published so little—her entire canon was only some 400 poems—she replied gently that she had a waste-paper basket. Success left no dent in her reclusive modesty, and she would never claim that her external life was interesting. Imagine trying to make a film of a poet’s “hopelessly unphotogenic” life, she said: “Someone sits at a table or lies on a sofa while staring motionless at a wall or ceiling. Once in a while this person writes down seven lines, only to cross out one of them 15 minutes later, and then another hour passes, during which nothing happens Who…could stand to watch this kind of thing?”

Who, indeed? But plenty read and love the results of her self-imposed solitude.



I am who I am.
A coincidence no less unthinkable
than any other.

I could have different
ancestors, after all.
I could have fluttered
from another nest
or crawled bescaled
from another tree.

Nature's wardrobe
holds a fair
supply of costumes:
Spider, seagull, field mouse.
each fits perfectly right off
and is dutifully worn
into shreds.

I didn't get a choice either,
but I can't complain.
I could have been someone
much less separate.
someone from an anthill, shoal, or buzzing swarm,
an inch of landscape ruffled by the wind.

Someone much less fortunate,
bred for my fur
or Christmas dinner,
something swimming under a square of glass.

A tree rooted to the ground
as the fire draws near.

A grass blade trampled by a stampede
of incomprehensible events.

A shady type whose darkness
dazzled some.

What if I'd prompted only fear,
or pity?

If I'd been born
in the wrong tribe
with all roads closed before me?

Fate has been kind
to me thus far.

I might never have been given
the memory of happy moments

My yen for comparison
might have been taken away.

I might have been myself minus amazement,
that is,
someone completely different.

~ Wislawa Szymborska ~

(Poems New and Collected 1957-1997,
trans. by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)


13.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly
Different strokes for different folks