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.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


1.   Lively ride to the Farallones Saturday 31 - space for two more
2.   "Voice Control" dog chases a great blue heron
3.   SF MOMA looks at Buckminster Fuller's legacy in Bay Area
4.   Home is where one starts from - TS Eliot
5.   You understand my poem?  We'll have to fix that
6.   Feedback: population/more skinny on the Forest Alliance
7.   A conversation about the SF Botanical Garden
8.   Thinkwalks' Deep SF Monthly Fact
9.   Kristin Jakob - 40-year Botanical Illustration Retrospective Exhibition
10. Catalog Choice tells you how to avoid sharing your information with data brokers
11.  Robots ate my job/trip across country without human contact
12.  "Extinct" Tasmanian trees found/cities unprepared for population boom/food, not war greatest threat
13.  The venerable art of diagramming sentences
14.  California Native Plant Sale in East Bay April 21
15.  Notes & Queries: Thinkers, writers and poets again revered?

There is a foolish corner in the brain of the wisest man. -Aristotle

If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone. -Thomas Hardy

1.  On Mar 27, 2012, at 10:13 PM, John Wade wrote:
This Saturday, March 31 I have a supply run to the Farallones scheduled.  I have space for 2 more crew if you'd like to come.  Friends welcome. 

Saturday: S wind around 18 kt becoming NW in the afternoon. Showers likely. Mixed swell...WNW 8 to 10 ft and SSW 5 ft. Wind waves around 2 ft. 

It is likely to be a lively ride.

If the waves are too big for the landing PRBO will cancel and we'll try again on Sunday, when they are predicting sunshine and partly cloudy. 

Let me know if you want to make either Saturday or Sunday!  

I also have runs scheduled for April 28 and August 4, and maybe one in June or early July. 

 As always, take your meclazine (or whatever works for you) starting Thursday, and bring layers to stay warm.



2.  Hi Jake,

Follow this link to a photo posted recently on SFGate:

I call it "Voice Control"

Dominik Mosur

Dog Chasing Great Blue Heron
by bigpchamber
A very nice dog chases a great blue heron at Crissy Field.


3.  ML Carle:
Maybe a FYI about the Bucky Fuller at MOMA just opening could be included in the newsletter. I attended his lecture long ago in San Francisco. He was an incredible speaker.  After most people were seated, in marched Gary Snyder dressed as a mountain man, to his seat in front. Heads swiveled, whispering.




Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

~ T. S. Eliot ~

(excerpt, East Coker V, Four Quartets)

A poet should be of the
old-fashioned meaningless brand:
obscure, esoteric, symbolic,
the critics demand it;
so if there's a poem of mine
that you do understand
I'll gladly explain what it means
till you don't understand it.
     -Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)


6.  Feedback

On Mar 27, 2012, at 4:21 PM, Vernon Brechin wrote:
Hi Jake,
My brother Gray Brechin just sent me an example of your compilation newsletter.  I'm quite impressed and would like you to add me to your mailing list.  I live in Mountain View, down the peninsula.

I just talked with him about it and he was describing some of your history and where you are coming from.  I share your concern over the immigration issue.  In the mid-1960s I became very concerned about the population explosion and then joined Zero Population Growth.  When I saw how its principles were attacked and marginalized I became a VHEMT 'volunteer.'  That stands for the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.  I was quite pleased to see that the Wikipedia article on it was featured about a week ago.  I thought that was pretty cool for an organization that is primarily regarded as a joke.

Keep up your cool work.  I too am finding ways to share my life's insights.
I post feedback, and I'd like to post this.  (As a way of keeping the subject in front of readers periodically.  I also like to give myself a pat on the back once in awhile; helps to get through these difficult times.)  If I post it, may I use your name?  I am willing to say Name Withheld if you don't want name posted.

Are you familiar with Californians for Population Stabilization?  I like its approach to the subject, and it is pretty gutsy.  Unsurprisingly, they have been threatened, including with physical harm.  So much so that it had to move its offices to a more defensible space.    The immigration lobby is powerful and has silenced about everybody.
Thanks for adding me and thanks for asking permission to include my name on the 'feedback' piece.  No problem, go ahead. 

I have heard of the organization Californians for Population Stabilization but I've never looked much into their positions.  I will do that.  I hadn't heard of the threats levied at them but it doesn't surprise me.  Increasingly, all suggestions that humans constitute a threat at all are treated as if they are treasonous suggestions, by many folks.  They just can't let go of the concept that homo sapiens are God's chosen creature and the more of them there are the more beautiful the planet will become.

I'm glad to see all the good works that people are involved in in the area.  I will be looking for some to join. 

Burton Meyer:
Jake:  re number 8.  Those forest alliance people are dangerous.  They have a carefully crafted, persuasive bundle of distortations.  When I asked them where they obtained their facts, they said from City records.  But when Mr. Laws pointed out that they made statements contradicted  by the City's published facts, they said "Oh we did not believe or like the City's facts, so we put in our own version."  I hope everyone notices that they are very selective with facts.  
I disagree that they're dangerous, Burton.  With enemies like that, who needs friends?  Give them enough rope and they'll hang themselves.  And they have, they have.  Their fact selectivity is so out there that when the Rec-Park Dept starts reaching out in preparation for the Natural Areas Program management plan coming back to the Commission this autumn it will blow them out of the water.  Instead of being dangerous it helps us that they make fools of themselves.

Keith McAllister:
"The ignorance and ill will of the Forest Alliance was on full view for anyone caring to look. The cherry-picking of facts, the distortions and outright lies were transparent, I thought."
For those of us who weren't there:  What were the "outright lies?"
Keith:  I don't have any reason for answering this, as I'm time-short.  You and your wife have been trying to destroy the City's Natural Areas Program since its inception.  If you were interested in a rational discussion I would take the time to tell you which were lies, which were distortions, which statements were cherry-picked.  I listened to the presentation for the first five minutes, then decided my time was better spent tightening up my talk outline; there wasn't enough substance to make listening worthwhile.

I was unable to find the Forest Alliance's board of directors on its website, and a search revealed that it isn't there.  But it was shown at the SHARP meeting, and I recognized the usual folks who have been fighting the Program for >ten years, most of them with hidden agendas.  I may have seen your wife Mary's name there. 

You moved to Oakland several years ago.  Why do you continue active on this San Francisco issue?


7.  San Francisco Botanical Gardens - a conversation, of sorts

(As I prepare this conversation, I am plagued by odd electronic artifacts intruding themselves.  I have struggled to eliminate them, but failed.  I hope they don't show up on receivers' screens.  I also apologize for the length of this dialogue, but I think it touches on some important topics on which there should be discussion.  JS)

Harry Pariser:
Dear Mr. Sigg:
I have several questions:
First of all, are you aware that the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society paid lobbyist Sam Lauter $77,000 last year?
How do you feel about that?

I along with others find it incredibly unfair that — without any community meetings whatsoever — the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society is set to build an office building (which is not in accordance with the "master plan" — which few of us had any input on anyway) in John McLaren's Arboretum. (He would be livid!)

I was wondering what your feelings are about this 'process'? Is a new road, a towering fence and offices really needed to supplement a new greenhouse our could not one of the same size be constructed near the current location at a fraction of the cost.

The remaining $14 million could be used to hire gardeners and to fund recreation center directors, etc. (Not to mention the fees, which have cost San Franciscans a fortune for maps, ticket booths, salaries, etc.... Soak the taxpayer appears to be the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society motto!)

Very few people in this community understand this project or its tremendous repercussions.

Sue Ann Schiff has failed to respond to numerous requests from me for a meeting.

I was wondering if you might be interested in helping pressure the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society to hold regular meetings with both their members and we neighbors.

I constantly see people arrive at 4 PM and being locked out.

I absolutely can not understand why entrance hours are determined without public input. (The same goes for the curtailed free hours at the Tea Garden).

Finally, I would appreciate it if you could send out this to your newsletter:

Feel free to call me to discuss: (415) 665-4829
"The three most important things in American politics are money, money, and I forget what the other one is.” —  Mark Hanna, 19th Century political boss
Harry:  I'm unsure why you sent this to me, as I am not active in the affairs of the botanical garden anymore.

Also, you made some misstatements, eg, "without any community meetings whatsoever", or "I constantly see people arrive at 4 PM and being locked out."

I absolutely can not understand why entrance hours are determined without public input. (The same goes for the curtailed free hours at the Tea Garden).
There were community meetings, noticed in this newsletter, and which critics attended, and there were hearings before the R-P Commission and Board of Supervisors.  How could you have been unaware of them?

All institutions have hours during which they're open and operating.  They can't be open 24 hours; I don't understand your complaints.
I got the impression from my conversation that you had been a strong advocate for the fees and were concerned about the affairs of the Arboretum.

The fence around the new office building fortress will be an apt metaphor.
I have never been a strong advocate of the fees to the SF Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum, and am now opposed to them for the following reasons:

Initially I equivocated on entrance fees.  If the SFBG Society were truly interested in a "world-class botanical garden" (a favorite phrase in its propaganda) it would need and deserve an entrance fee.  However, for all of San Francisco's pretense to being a sophisticated city, I find it lives up to the phrase only spottily--and the botanical/horticultural realm is not one of them.  When I worked there I strove hard to point it in the right direction.  By the time of my departure I was convinced that it can never happen because San Francisco's politics and the strange relationship created by the botanical garden being a section of Golden Gate Park and being under Rec-Park administration.  That is not conducive to professional management or acquiring sophistication in the botanical/gardening realm.  Theoretically, the peninsula or East Bay could be, but it would take strong leadership, which isn't visible right now.  (I do except the inspiring California native garden at Tilden Park, which is wonderful.)

It is not possible to even get anyone's attention to this, so I have given up.  Since we will never have a world-class botanic garden here, I am opposed to entrance fees, which is just one more step in the privatization of our parks.  However, I support the Society's project to get the greenhouse and nursery out of that frost pocket and put it atop the hill.  That is something I was working toward when I worked there.  I left in 1988.
Do you support cutting down 50 trees, putting up a fence, building an office building, putting in a new road, endangering frog habitat, two years of noise,

They could have built a new greenhouse for less than a million; they

Meanwhile, while volunteers slave for free, the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society pays lobbyist Sam Lauter $7,500 a month.

How much of gardeners' time (and our taxes) go into these plant sales? Do they pay to rent the Hall of Flowers?

As far as I know, they pay directly for no gardeners, pay no rent and have paid virtually nothing towards the new maps, signage (gh!) , roads (not paths as in Master Plan!), ticket booths, ticket collectors and administrators, etc.

And they close at 4 PM.

Under Herr Ginsburg, there is no publc input whatsoever. The gates close at 4 PM. An insane woman named Topher Delaney has destroyed the once delightful ambience of the Demonstation Gardens.

I think that your vision of a "world class" garden that is an independent vision that differs from what the needs of the Inner Sunset and Inner Richmond, Cole Valley, etc. community members are.

We were enjoying being able to enter from behind the Hall of Flowers up until as late as 7 or so. Really, the Arboretum should be open dawn to dusk.

They have $30 million in they capital fund, yet pay their staff (save Schiff and one or two others) rather poorly, and are allowing Bechtel (!!!!) to fund the library.

From what I understand, the place has been poorly managed for decades.

There are NO meetings with members and/or the community. Schiff was likely hired through Lauter's recommendation.

The trustees are all wealthy people, not one of whom live here.

And, after expenses, how many people have to pay to enter (and how many do not enter!) the Arboretum in order to pay for a $15-million office building.

After all, the existing greenhouse could simply be elevated, and a meeting room for volunteers (rustic of course) established in the ground floor.

But that probably makes too much sense.

We can't just have an (unnecessary) fountain that we have to pay millions of taxpayer $$$ for; we have to have the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society selling funerary plates for $5,000!
Your views are a mixture of sense and nonsense.  Some of what you state is endemic to this type of undertaking and to change it would require a major restructuring of society.  I would like to see a restructuring but I'm not waiting for it, and I don't see one visible on the horizon.  In the meantime we need a botanical garden, even one that is not world class, and if we left it to the City to run solo it would be barely distinguishable from the rest of Golden Gate Park, which the City has also done a poor job of.  It has ignored Wm Hammond Hall's clearly expressed vision (remember, he was a protege of Frederick Law Olmsted) and the park is continuing its long decline, which began when John McLaren was still in charge, but perhaps senile.  The deterioration is accelerating.

So the SF Botanical Garden Society is more or less running the garden, in a strange type of partnership with the City.  Very imperfect.  It is guilty of some of the things you charge it with, but I'm glad it's there, as it is all there is to keep the garden from deteriorating further.  Will it improve from its present sorry state? Possibly, but I'm spending my limited time and energy on other less problematic, more rewarding tasks that offer possibility of change.  I don't have a lot of hope for it.
John McLaren would have been against this office building.
Possibly.  However, because society and its needs have changed so drastically since his death in 1943 his stance on this subject is something that neither you nor I can know.  Bear in mind that he allowed the 1894 Midwinter Fair's Egyptian Museum to stay (now the de Young Museum), as well as the Japanese Village (now the Tea Garden).  Worse, he allowed himself to be sweet-talked into letting the California Academy of Sciences stay in its "temporary" quarters after the 1906 earthquake and fire, and now we have the horror of those institutions and their parking garage.  Poor Frederick Law Olmsted and Wm Hammond Hall and their vision for the park. 

San Francisco is ignorant of this vision; it doesn't know what that vision was and can't think of an alternative, since it hasn't been exposed or educated regarding what has been lost.  That is one of the great ironies of life:  we are born into a world, and what obtains in that world at the time is taken as the standard.  This is a double-edged sword; people can't grieve over the loss of priceless things they never knew, and life goes on.  But we should revisit that Wm Hammond Hall vision and use it to guide our future.  The museum and Academy are here to stay, but we should stop the desecration from going further.  As you know, the City was only a few days ago persuaded to move a proposed industrial water-treatment plant from the park, and Rec-Park is trying to install huge artificial-turf soccer fields with night lighting.  If this is defeated the threats won't be over; as long as the park is there there will be destructive proposals of one sort or another, some of them perhaps on the drawing boards now. 
What is it that I say that is 'nonsense'?
I won't respond to this question because of lack of time.  Although your sentiments are well-placed, impracticality is threaded through nearly everything you say. One example:  closing the garden at 4 pm.  You lose me here.  Protecting the garden makes hours mandatory.

I would say that they are responsible for its deterioration. Have you been in the Demonstration Garden recently?

I agree with you that the park is getting worse. A large part of the reason for this is that inept people (Brent Dennis, Phil Ginsburg, Katie Petruchione, Dennis Kern, etc. are in charge) and millions are spent on salaries for privatization personnel and on really stupid things. An audit would save millions, but the system is too corrupt to implement and audit and follow its recommendations.

There is no reason why they Society could not return to its grassroots except that its small, aging, passive membership lets the wealthy stick it to them.

There is no reason for a new office building.

Do you know what percentage of gardeners' time is spent working with plants that will be sold by volunteers so that Sam Lauter can get his $7,500-a-month stipend?


8.  Thinkwalks

Deep SF Monthly Fact
Ever wonder why some SF fire hydrants are fatter and have a colored top? The thinner white hydrants are hooked up to the regular SF (drinking) water supply from the Hetch Hetchy system. A fat one with a colored cap says that it's a high pressure hydrant from the Auxiliary Water Supply System. The color tells which reservoir or tank supplies that hydrant. Blue = Nob Hill - Jones Street tank, Red = Clayton tank at 17th, Black = Twin Peaks reservoir.

If you've peeked recently at our easier-to-use web calendar, you know we're heading into a thoughtful spring with our typically exciting discussion-walks and new tromps around the city that we tried to keep secret.

This month you'll find the second installment of our insanely successful monthly series of Secret Creek Explorations. Almost 50 people secretly came to the one we held the first weekend in March, tromping through the SW Presidio. The next exploration will be on Sunday, April 8th. (If you're too old for egg hunting, Easter Sunday is perfect for spring and creek hunting!) We'll be visiting three creek watersheds that surround the northern section of Twin Peaks. This is an especially exciting tour for me because I helped build some of the trails we'll use. Plus, it's FREE! For details on other coming tours, check out the Thinkwalks calendar. Guess where that is:

Special request
If you are an up-and-coming graphic designer and want to help curate the new thrice-a-year outdoor history display at 860 Divisadero, call me at 415-505-8255. Now.


9.  Kristin Jakob ~ 40-year Botanical Illustration Retrospective Exhibition

March 30 - April 24, 2012; M-F 9-5, & Sat
Mill Valley Community Center
180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley    

First Tuesday Art Walk Reception, April 3, 6-8pm


10.  Catalog Choice
The diagram below shows how purchasing products and services can start a cycle of information sharing with data brokers and other companies. While some companies refrain from this practice, those that do trade your data rarely give you a way to opt out at the point of purchase. They expect you to read their privacy policy to learn how to opt out of data sharing.
Did you know that you can use your Catalog Choice Account to stop data sharing? Every opt-out at Catalog Choice instructs companies to stop sharing your identity and purchase data with data brokers. Since some of your personal data is already in the hands of data brokers, you can use MailStop Shield to suppress your name and information from their lists.
Why should you care who has your personal data? Your personal data can be used to profile you, which could impact your life in significant ways. As described in the Wall Street Journal, your data may be used by insurance companies to determine if you are a good risk. As the New York Times reveals, companies analyze your shopping habits to discover if you are undergoing a major life change like having a baby.


11.  From Marketplace
(David Brancaccio left New Jersey about 3-4 days ago and is driving to San Francisco without human contact--ie, he buys food, gasoline, and what else he needs through robotic technology.)

EXTINCTION COUNTDOWN: 2 Trees Twice Thought to Be Extinct Rediscovered in Tanzania

CLIMATEWIRE: Most Cities Unprepared for Coming Population Boom
As the world's human population moves to cities, how cities grow may well determine the fate of the planet

Food, Not War, Is the Biggest Threat to World Security, Argues Lester Brown


13.  The Venerable Art of Diagramming Sentences
A Picture of Language

The curious art of diagramming sentences was invented 165 years ago by S.W. Clark, a schoolmaster in Homer, N.Y.

Put simply, parsing requires the student to break down a sentence into its component words, classifying each in terms of its part of speech, as well as its tense, number and function in the sentence.

the word itself is schoolboy slang derived from pars orationis, Latin for “a part of speech.”

Words are timeless. You should utter them or write them with a knowledge of their timelessness. -Kahlil Gibran, mystic, poet, and artist (1883-1931)


14.  Celebrate John Muir's birthday at
Saturday, April 21, 2012, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
California Native PLANT SALE
Organized by the Volunteers of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden is located at the intersection of Wildcat Canyon Road & South Park Drive near the Brazil Building in Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley (admission is free)


Photos by John Rusk
California shrubs, trees, perennials.
Find many plants that are not available in a commercial nursery.
Horticultural advice gladly given!
Come and explore the Garden.
Buy some plants to take home.
Proceeds directly benefit the Garden.
Please bring boxes to carry home your treasures and an umbrella if it rains.
Refreshments available.    510-544-3169


15.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly

This form of wealth will always sink

Gold bullion. Photograph: Jonathan Nourok/Getty Images  

When was a currency last floated and why?

Couldn't say for sure about an entire currency, but a $5 note came out of my trouser pocket while it was in the washing machine the other day.

Barrie Sargeant, Otaki Beach, New Zealand

• When the last Spanish galleon sank in a hurricane in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the gold in the last chest did not float for long.

John Carlson, Tucson, Arizona, US

• Why don't you ask the IMF buoys?

Robert Locke, Fondi, Italy

Up against the wall

Will there be a time when thinkers, writers and poets are again revered, rather than tech wizards?

Trouble was that whenever there was a revolution they were first against the wall. Perhaps it's a good thing that technological wizardry is currently dazzling the masses.

Jenny Dodd, Bayswater, Western Australia

• Computer says no.

David Isaacs, Sydney, Australia

Keep those hedges trim!

Do hedge fund managers and investment bankers serve any useful social purpose?

Yes: they provide work for the police and prison guards.

Reiner Jaakson, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

• If the managers employ the bankers to keep their hedges trim, and their wage is then invested in new funds – the answer is yes.

Jennifer Horat, Lengwil, Switzerland

• Hedge fund managers are very useful to privet sector investors.

Jim Dewar, Gosford, NSW, Australia

Don't forget the pepperoni

Are we well and truly stuck with the QWERTY keyboard?

Not at all! Experts believe that within five years simply eyeing your smartphone will instruct the device to order the pizza you're yearning for and automatically direct you to the nearest outlet.

David Tucker, Halle, Germany

• It snot teh keyboardks faulat.

Margaret Wyeth, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

• By no means: the reason Christopher Sholes came up with the QWERTY layout for the Remington Number 1, the first commercial typewriter, was to prevent the key-bars getting stuck by separating the most commonly used letters.

As for why we stick with it, after 138 years of two-fingered pecking for most typists: we're used to it, and nobody can agree on an alternative.

Noel Bird, Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia

• Only if you're glued to your PC for too long.

Roger Morrell, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Universal citizenship

Is there a "Land of the Free and a Home of the Brave"? If so, where is it?

No. But there is The Land of the Fee and the Home of the Slave, and wherever you live, you are a citizen.

Doug Porteous, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Any answers?

Why do people believe what they believe?

Elaine Smith, Boston, Massachusetts, US

Is Facebook a more effective opiate of the masses than religion?

Bob Walsh, Wilton, Connecticut, US

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