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, June 14, 2012


1.   Latest on Central Subway
2.   Fight against Beach Chalet soccer fields goes on
3.   One-a-year opportunity to see California Least Terns June 16
4.   Celebrate Mt Tamalpais June 23
5.   Blog - learn a new plant every day
6.   Feedback
7.   Urban Beekeeping/Beehive Management
8.   Make a buzz during National Pollinator Week
9.   Aerial war on wildland fire ineffective, costly, and immoral
10. Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens - about the Venus transit
11.  Tour the night Earth from International Space Station
12.  Night skies under threat from ever-brighter lights
13.  Does success in business portend success as president of the U.S?
14.  Dianne Feinstein's sacrifices wilderness for oyster company
15.  SciAm potpourri
16.  Exotic diseases from warmer climates gain foothold in U.S.
17.  Parrot with remarkably coherent line of invective
18.  Insect acrobatics: How cockroaches vanish
19.  Gardener's Psychiatric hotline

1. Update
Central Subway LRT Project, San Francisco Muni (SFMTA)

Federal funding has not yet been approved for the Central Subway Project.  The SFMTA is spending state/ local/ other funding on the subway project at its own risk---months ahead of approvals.

Meanwhile, and stalwart transit advocates are talking to officials---to stop this boondoggle and instead revitalize San Francisco’s entire Muni system.

The Central Subway Boondoggle is draining funds and cutting Muni service levels---denying citywide improvements, like transit preferential streets.

Hundreds of millions of existing state/ local dollars can be poured into the citywide Muni system and the broad bottom base of the economy---with massive local jobs and enduring catalytic benefits.  San Francisco’s economy can be jump-started with hundreds of miles of beautiful transit-priority streets---energizing cafés, restaurants, retail, services, business corridors, neighborhoods…
If the Central Subway is halted, the potential funding recapture of state/ local funding, saved operating expenditures and capital renewal replacements could exceed $800 million.
Immediate jobs can be created with fast-tracked design, performance specifications and labor-intensive field orders/ coordination.
Simultaneously, political leaders can push reallocation of federal dollars to the Caltrain Downtown Extension and the Transbay Terminal Projects---assuring superior regional benefits.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
A Pattern of Muni Deficits and Service Cuts
The June 2012 budget negotiations incurred another $14.6 million deficit for the next fiscal year.
EXAMINER:  “Mayor’s wage hike pact with labor may deal a $14M blow to SFMTA”
SF WEEKLY:  “Muni: Our Transit Agency has Neglected Maintenance for Years”
CHRONICLE:  “3 hurt as Muni trolley knocks down live wires”

 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
Construction Disruptions to Businesses Have Been Hidden
During recessionary times, years of construction impacts to businesses and neighborhoods will far outweigh the subway’s negligible benefits.
EXAMINER:  “North Beach residents angry about Central Subway construction plans”
CHRONICLE:  “SF Central Subway tunnel construction to begin”.

Construction’s Economic Damage
Even large downtown businesses can not absorb eight years of subway/ street construction. Two years of heavy street impacts will damage North Beach business and cultural life---short-circuiting potential benefits of the America’s Cup and other events.  By example, the construction of the T-Line along Third Street hurt businesses severely---as most heavy construction on nearby merchants.
Tunneling is high risk construction.  The 2009 Cologne Subway’s building collapse illustrates risks---even with sophisticated German engineering.
Unfortunately, already-fragile Chinatown merchants will suffer the greatest impacts.  The Stockton/ Washington blocks will be torn up and staged with equipment---with Stockton buses rerouted.


1.       We have filed our Appeals - read the Press Release and see photos below.
2.       Press coverage is good - write in and support Golden Gate Park!
3.      Reserve one of these days for the Appeal Hearing - either June 26th or July 10th - we'll know in a week.
4.       Go on-line to find out other ways you can help to protect Golden Gate Park!


SF Ocean Edge Files Appeal to Beach Chalet Soccer Fields Environmental Impact Report to San Francisco Board of Supervisors

San Francisco  On Tuesday, June 12, 2012, SF Ocean Edge filed an Appeal to the SF Board of Supervisors of the recent SF Planning Commission decision to certify the Environmental Impact Report for the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields project.  Joining SF Ocean Edge in the Appeal are the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Golden Gate Park Preservation Alliance, the Richmond Community Association (RCA), and Sunset-Parkside Education & Action Committee (SPEAK).  On Thursday, June 7th, 2012 SF Ocean Edge and other groups also filed an Appeal to the SF Board of Appeals for the Local Coastal Zone Permit for this project.   

Background  On May 24, 2012, the San Francisco Planning Commission voted to certify the Beach Chalet  Environmental Impact Report and to approve the Local Coastal Zone Permit.  The  SF Recreation and Park Commission then approved the project.  The Commissions supported the project despite testimony from many organizations and individuals who found numerous deep-seated flaws in the EIR, as well as the Planning Department’s acknowledgment that it had received over 1,000 emails, the majority of which opposed the project.

Impacts on Golden Gate Park  The soccer complex project would destroy one of the few open grasslands in Golden Gate Park by removing over seven acres of natural grass and replacing it with artificial turf. It would  install over 150,000 watts of sports lighting on 60 foot poles, that would be lighted from dusk until 10:00 p.m. every night of the year.  Bright  lights disrupt the natural environment and affect migratory birds and other wildlife.  Located right next to Ocean Beach,  the banks of lights would ruin the beauty of Ocean Beach for strollers at sunset and the Dark Sky for families studying the night sky.

The Appeal  Richard Drury, a partner at the environmental law firm Lozeau - Drury LLP, is representing SF Ocean Edge in the Appeal.  According to Drury, “The EIR falls far short of CEQA legal requirements.  It fails to consider many environmental impacts and a hybrid alternative to this project.  Children need play fields, but they also need natural places to enjoy the environment.  Once the Park is paved it will be gone forever.”

The value of Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Park Master Plan   The Western end of Golden Gate Park, located next to Ocean Beach, is prime parkland.  Isabel Wade, Founder of the Neighborhood Parks Council, says, "We all want better recreation opportunities in San Francisco, but they should not come at the expense of the unique open space assets at the quiet end of our Flagship park, nor should we violate the Master Plan for the park without full examination of any other options for a sports complex."

Win-win solution - the Hybrid Alternative  SF Ocean Edge proposes a feasible win-win solution - the Hybrid Alternative.  The more urbanized West Sunset Playground fields are scheduled for a renovation with natural grass. The  Hybrid Alternative would simply swap field renovation methods.  It would renovate the fields at West Sunset with artificial turf that is made of safe materials and with appropriate lighting, and renovate the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields with real grass and no lights.

There is only one Golden Gate Park  Katherine Howard, a landscape architect and member of the SFOE Steering Committee says, "We support youth soccer. Switching the proposed Beach Chalet artificial turf fields and sports lights project with West Sunset's natural grass renovation gives children renovated playing fields and protects Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach for children today and for future generations to enjoy.  The Hybrid Alternative is a win-win solution for everyone."

2.  Write to the Examiner and the Chronicle: read the articles above and then write in:
SF Examiner article:
·       Write a letter with your views.  (Best is less than 150 words. Include  name, phone number, city)
SF Chronicle article:
·       Write a letter about it to the editor of the SF Chronicle!  (Best is less than 200 words.  Include name, phone number, city)
·       Express your opinion on SF Gate  and vote for the comments that you like.


3.  Golden Gate Audubon Society invites you to
Return of the Terns - June 16

California Least Tern and chick / Photo by Eleanor Bricetti

There are still tickets available for Return of the Terns, a once-a-year opportunity to view the colony of endangered California Least Terns at Alameda Point.

The East Bay Regional Park District is hosting one-hour bus tours on Saturday to see the terns and their chicks, accompanied by a wildlife biologist.  This area is normally closed to the public.

Golden Gate Audubon and Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Refuge have been working for decades to establish an official refuge at Alameda Point, where the old naval airstrip has become the most productive breeding colony on the West Coast for endangered California Least Terns.

Come view the terns!
Reservations required; $8 per ticket.
Space is still available on the 11 a.m. and noon bus tours (1 p.m. is almost full).
Tours leave from the Crab Cove Visitor Center. Arrive a little early.

For reservations, call 888-EBPARKS or go to -- type the tour number into the search box.
The 11 a.m. tour is #28954, noon is #28955, and 1 p.m. is #28956.
Participants must be age eight or older.

The Park District is also offering free slide shows about the terns at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m., and birding at 2:30 p.m.
For more info, see the Park District web site.

Hope to see you there! And meanwhile...

Help Golden Gate Audubon continue to lead the fight
for permanent protection of the terns:
(510) 843-2222


4.  Celebrate Mt Tamalpais

If you're in town on Saturday June 23rd and looking for something to do, please join us at the Sky Oaks Ranger Station and Lake Lagunitas for a celebration of Mt Tamalpais!

It's a free, family friendly day of hikes, workshops, lectures, and much much more. Partners include the California Academy of Sciences, Bay Area Puma Project, STRAW, PRBO Conservation Science, iNaturalist, the California Native Plant Society, the North America Butterfly Association and many others.

The complete schedule can be found at


5.  A blog to mention on your blog?

Thanks for the great blog that you put out.  I always enjoy reading it! It just occurred to me while looking at it this morning that your other readers might be interested in a project that I've taken on: I'm learning about one new local plant every day and writing about it in my blog ( Virtually all of the plants are found throughout the SF bay area, so despite the name it's not that Marin-centric. I've been having a lot of fun with the project and would love to share it with other botany geeks in the area. I'm a reporter and science writer when I'm not working on this, so I try to bring those skills to the blog as well - making sure it's well researched and hopefully easy to read (which so many plant guides aren't, I'm afraid...)

Anyway - thanks for your time - and keep up the good work!


6.  Feedback

Ed Dunn (re Christina Olague's support for HANC Nursery):
She also supports the recycling center which pays for the nursery, 10 green jobs and serves as the fiscal agent for the Garden For the Environment.

John Rusk:
 Some of those who joined in the discussion of  alcohol in history might be interested to learn that there is a society devoted to the History of Alcohol and Drugs.   You can find its blog at:

Bob Hall:
Thanks for you article and follow up commentary about your trip to NZ. Good stuff.

A friend of mine just sent me an article on the city's troubles with the NZ Christmas tree.

A Green Idea That Sounded Good Until the Trees Went to Work
The article smacks of journalistic hyping.  While it is foolish to ignore problems street trees create, I tend to give little weight to such articles, which are mostly grist for the media mill.  They must have articles, the subject has to be jazzed up, writers need subjects to write about, readers are titillated or outraged--everybody wins.  Most trees are capable of getting into sewers and buckling sidewalks.  Is that a reason for not having them?

Bob Case (re nudibranchs in last issue):
Jake, Hermissenda crassicornis was first collected by Otto von Kotzebue in 1824 in the Alaskan intertidal.   It was collected in Ketchikan Alaska in 1947 by G. Dallas Hanna and has been collected up and down the coast from Alaska to Baja California, including San Francisco Bay and Duxbury Reef by many armatures including myself, during the 1950-80s.  A common  predator and cannibal, north and south of the Golden Gate.
Historical information is taken from MacFarland's Studies of Opisthobranchiate Mollusks of the Pacific Coast of North America,  Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences published by the Academy posthumously in 1966.    I did a dissection of the beast collected in SF Bay in 1966 at SF state.

Jake after reviewing the video sans sound the nude in the video is Phidiana pugnax aka Hermissenda pugnax and Phidiana nigra.  This nude looks much like Hermissenda crassicornis but has mostly been found in the Monterey Bay Area although I have found it in SF Bay.  The way the text is written I was not sure which beast they were talking about.  I could not pick up the sound on the  video.


7.  Garden for the Environment

June 16, Urban Beekeeping Part II - Beehive Management


June 18th - June 24th
The launch of our Bring Back the Pollinators campaign spurred an outpouring of activity. Hundreds of people have signed the pollinator protection pledge and pollinator habitat signs have been popping up in gardens and on farms across the country. In the last few weeks, our staff has presented short courses in half a dozen states and our new guidelines Conserving Bumble Bees have just been released.

For Bring Back the Pollinators, every week is pollinator week, but National Pollinator Week (June 18th-24th) puts bees, butterflies, flies, and other pollinators in a special focus, and is the perfect time to take an extra step toward protecting these essential animals. Here are three things you can do during pollinator week.

Start a buzz

Talk to your neighbors about pollinators. You may already be doing this, especially if you have signed the Pollinator Protection Pledge or installed a pollinator habitat sign, but during the upcoming week, make a point to talk about what you are doing in your yard to help pollinators. If you are not sure how to start the conversation, the Bring Back the Pollinators web page has the key points you need, and the Pollinator Conservation Resource Center includes fact sheets and other information to share with neighbors. Get one more person to sign the pledge!

Save the buzz

Plant a flower. If you don't have a pollinator garden, now is a great time to start one. There are many excellent flowers that will provide a rich source of nectar and pollen for pollinators and create a beautiful yard. For information about choosing flowers, read Attracting Native Pollinators or visit

Give the buzz a home

If you have flowers in your garden, make sure you also have nests for bees. Nest blocks for solitary bees are easy to make with a drill and some scrap lumber, and there's still time for them to be occupied this summer. Instructions for making a variety of bee boxes, can be found in the Pollinator Conservation Resource Center or in Attracting Native Pollinators.

9.  GUEST VIEWPOINT: Aerial war on wildland fire ineffective, costly and immoral
Aviation accidents account for more wildland firefighter deaths than any other single cause. From 1999 to 2009, 61 firefighters died as a result of air crashes. Last Sunday, two more aviators’ names were added to that list when their air tanker crashed while dumping retardant on the White Rock fire. On that same day, tragedy was averted narrowly when another retardant air tanker was forced to make a belly landing because its gear failed to deploy.

In 2002, a government- appointed blue-ribbon panel concluded that, “The safety record of fixed-wing aircraft and hel icopters used in wildland fire management is unacceptable.”

The report noted that “if ground firefighters had the same fatality rate (as firefighting aviators), they would have suffered more than 200 on-the-job deaths per year.”

Since the report’s publication, aviation-related fatalities have gone up 50 percent compared with the three-year period preceding the panel’s report — not including last weekend’s tragic loss of life.

When a firefighter risks his life rescuing a child from a burning home, we applaud his heroism. If he dies in the effort we honor his sacrifice, knowing he gave everything to save that child’s life. While we mourn his loss, our society agrees that saving a child’s life is worth the risk and the ultimate price paid.

But what are we to think when firefighters die trying to save sagebrush and juniper from burning? The White Rock fire threatens not a single home. It poses no danger to any person, save the firefighters themselves. The fire is burning in one of the least populated corners of our nation — on the Utah-Nevada border — on  federally owned land inhabited by jackrabbits and coyotes.

Yet our government has thrown everything in its arsenal at this natural, lightning-caused fire. More than 300 firefighters — along with four helicopters, six engines, four bulldozers and three water tenders — continue to battle this fire before ... well, before what? Before it burns itself out, just like an adjacent fire did a couple of years ago.

The cost to taxpayers will be upwards of $1 million, while the cost in human life is immeasurable.

Our society’s aerial war against wildfire will continue to sacrifice lives and money in a fruitless campaign against nature. Each year, we dump tens of millions of gallons of toxic retardant on fires, with no evidence that these bombings improve firefighting effectiveness. There is no correlation between the amount of aerial retardant used and success in keeping fires small.

We know that the best way to protect homes from wildland fire is to keep vegetation clear from around the house and build with fire-resistant roofing. Retardant doesn’t save homes; proper construction and landscaping save homes.

Some in Congress, including Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden, think the solution is to give pilots new airplanes. Half a billion dollars of shiny new airplanes will not make aerial firefighting any more effective. Nor will new planes make the job substantially safer. Flying low through smoke on hot, windy days in the nation’s most rugged landscapes is a recipe for disaster no matter what aircraft is being piloted.

Sensible wildland fire policy is less sexy and heroic than the warlike television footage of bombers raining red retardant on burning brush. Avoid building in fire-prone land. If you do build, use fire-resistant roofing, install covered gutters and keep landscaping around your house low and green. We know these fire-wise tactics work; they are the only strategy that works regardless of fire intensity or firefighting effectiveness.

Ten years ago, the government’s blue-ribbon panel said the aerial firefighters’ death rate was “unacceptable.” Today, the government’s fruitless and ineffective aerial war against wildland fire can only be called immoral.

Congress should stop pandering to our innate fear of fire and promote sensible management policies that save lives and homes.

Commentary by Andy Stahl of Eugene, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics


10.  BOOK REVIEW: Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens, By Andrea Wulf

Buy this book

Next time you’re having a bad day at work, consider the travails of Guillaume Le Gentil, an 18th century French astronomer. He spent more than a decade toiling over measuring the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769. By precisely timing the planet’s passage across the face of the sun, Le Gentil hoped to contribute to a global scientific effort to determine the size of the solar system.

Le Gentil made his way to India in time for the 1761 transit, but the presence of English troops forced the captain to turn back to sea. Disappointed, he stuck around the region until 1769, when (spoiler alert) a “fatal cloud” obscured the entire transit. By the time Le Gentil made it back to France, his heirs had declared him dead.
Le Gentil is just one of many quirky astronomers profiled by Wulf in this overview of the 18th century Venus transits. Wulf forgoes much of the background science in favor of the personalities of those sent to observe from remote corners of the planet. Swedish astronomers battle boredom in the long northern nights, and a French expedition battles typhus in Baja California. Captain James Cook and his Endeavour expedition make their way to the South Pacific, where curious natives steal and dismantle Cook’s quadrant.
Wulf’s stories come together in a portrait of the first truly global scientific endeavor. Countries sent astronomers to observe the transit in hopes of national glory, but science also benefited. And on June 5 this year, astronomers will follow in Le Gentil’s footsteps, hopefully with a little more success. That day will see another transit of Venus, the last until the year 2117.
    Science News


11.  Astronomy picture of the day - from the International Space Station

I wonder how they got that symphony orchestra up there.



NATIONAL PARKS:  Night skies under threat from ever-brighter lights
Greenwire: Monday, June 11, 2012 (excerpts)'

Stargazers from around the world come to Bryce Canyon National Park to experience one of the most spectacular night skies in the United States.
To meet demand, rangers offer astronomy programs three times a week during the peak summer season and every Saturday the rest of year -- even on winter nights when snow covers the ground and temperatures fall well below zero.
"It knocks people's socks off, seeing distant galaxies and star clusters with the naked eye that you usually need a small telescope to see," said Kevin Poe, the park's "Dark Ranger."

...In a high, dry and remote part of Utah, Bryce Canyon is one of the darkest spots measured in North America and boasts 305 cloudless nights a year, making it "perfectly poised to become a night sky mecca," Poe said.
But a fast-growing metro area less than 60 miles away and a proposed expansion of a nearby coal mine threaten to degrade the darkness -- and the local night sky tourism industry -- with light pollution.
Bryce Canyon is not alone. Artificial light is pouring into national parks across the country, not only diminishing the quality of the night sky for stargazers, but affecting flora and fauna that depend on dark nights for survival.
"It doesn't take very much light at all to obscure darkness," Poe said. Just one streetlight in the parking lot where he sets up his telescopes would cut the number of stars visitors could see from 7,500 to about 2,000.
With the expansion of energy development across the West, and population growth more broadly, National Park Service officials warn the problem is only going to get worse -- unless developers, cities, utilities and homeowners make a conscious effort to install dark-sky-friendly lighting.

...Big Bend National Park, which spans the border of Texas and Mexico, is a perfect example of the dramatic change that can occur when a park switches to night-sky-friendly lights.
Even though the park is in one of the darkest places in the continental United States, its exterior lights used to flood the Chisos Basin and shoot up into the sky so visitors could hardly see the stars.
Over the past few years, the park replaced many of the 60-, 100- and 200-watt incandescent and fluorescent lights in its developed area with 1- or 2-watt LEDs, reducing its energy consumption by 98 percent and light pollution by -- no joke -- 10,000 percent, said David Elkowitz, the park's spokesman.

Local ordinances
Springdale, a town of 530 permanent residents that hosts more than 3 million annual visitors on their way to Zion, takes its night sky very seriously. Not only is the star-filled night one of the main reasons people live there; it is a key part of the tourism economy that supports the town's tax base.
Concerned about light pollution from increasing development, the community adopted an ordinance in 2009 that limits outdoor lighting to only the places where it is needed for safety, such as pathways, building entrances and parking lots.
There was widespread community support for the ordinance, especially after Moore gave a presentation on the importance of the night sky, light pollution and dark-sky-friendly lighting, Dansie said.

...There had also been some concerns about crime. A common misconception is that decreased lighting leads to increased crime, even though there is no proven link between the two. In fact, brighter lights can actually aid criminals by creating darker shadows in which to hide, Moore said.

...However, even places that do not have such laws recognize the benefits of dark-sky-friendly lighting.
"It's more expensive up front, but then energy costs decrease over time," said Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager of St. George.

Biological impacts
The impact of light at night is not just about tourist dollars or the humbling experience of looking beyond the planet into space; scientists are very concerned about the impact lighting has on the animal kingdom.
For millennia, species have evolved with regular cycles of light and dark. Dark is an essential element for nocturnal species to hunt, mate and hide from predators.
The impacts of artificial light have been documented for a range of species, including migratory birds, bats, sea turtles and frogs. But it doesn't take a study for fishermen to know that fish bite differently when it's a new moon versus a full moon.
"When we start to see artificial light reaching crescent moon stage, quarter moon stage, we become concerned, because you would anticipate biological effects at those levels because the moon altered them," Moore said.
When moths and other insects are attracted to lights, it draws them away from their important jobs of pollinating plants and producing offspring that feed entire food chains, Poe said. While the loss of a species due to light pollution has not been scientifically documented, researchers say it is a basic ecological principle that when habitat niches disappear, so do the species that depend on them.
"If sky glow makes it so it never gets darker than the full moon, the species that forage under a new moon, they are probably going to drop out of your system," said Travis Longcore, a spatial science professor at the University of Southern California and a leading expert on ecological light pollution.
National park managers may get more insight into how light is affecting the species in their parks soon. With increased computing power, Moore and his team are able to increase the resolution of the night sky images from 5,000 megapixels to 36 million.
They are currently reprocessing the data they have collected over the past 10 years at this higher resolution, which will more accurately pinpoint sources of light as well as tell them how much light is falling on a specific patch of ground. Biologists will be able to use the data to determine if the amount of light is beyond a healthy threshold for the species living in that ecosystem, Moore said.
"We are at the point," he said, "where we have very good, hard data showing in many different terms what the impacts of artificial light at night are in a particular spot in a national park."

The dramatic difference dark-sky-friendly lighting can make is captured by images taken before and after Big Bend National Park replaced its outdoor lights in the Chisos Basin. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.


13.  Does success in business portend success as Pres. of the US?

(excerpt)...Why is this the case? Because, according to Stewart, "running a successful business venture — like Bain Capital, to pick one at random — has almost nothing in common with leading the United States as its president."

Unlike the businessman who is praised for his forceful decision-making, the successful president must not just make wise decisions, he must also be able to persuade the country, the Congress and powerful interest groups to accept his decision. The president — unlike the CEO who mostly has to answer only to a like-minded board of directors and his company's bottom-line — has to be able to inspire, to court, to intimidate, to negotiate and, yes, to yield.

John Stewart is right. The presidency is a far more complicated, demanding and multifaceted job than that faced by any corporate chairman or CEO, where to quote Will Rogers, who died in 1935, "the business of government is to keep the government out of business, unless business needs government aid."

It turns out that being a successful businessman may well preclude you from becoming a successful U.S. president.


Dianne Feinstein's War
California's senior senator has been fighting for Drakes Bay Oyster Company at Point Reyes National Seashore — and against the creation of the first marine wilderness on the West Coast


15.  Scientific American

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”
    “Maud Muller” by John Greenleaf Whittier

MIND MATTERS: How to Age Well 
The importance of letting regrets go

NEWS: Extended Forecast: Northern Hemisphere Could Be in for Extreme Winters
Winter weather is more likely to be seriously cold or strangely warm, and less likely than ever to be "normal"

OBSERVATIONS: My Morning Cup of Coffee Kills Monkeys

EXTINCTION COUNTDOWN: Cougars Are Returning to the U.S. Midwest after More Than 100 Years


16.  “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 Economist 31.07.10)

CLIMATEWIRE: Exotic Diseases from Warmer Climates Gain Foothold in U.S.
Climate change is helping make the U.S. more hospitable for diseases ranging from Chagas to dengue fever

Dengue virus found in donated blood

The virus that causes dengue fever has turned up in a dozen units of blood donated in Puerto Rico.  The disturbing finding suggests that authorities might need to screen for the mosquito-borne virus in endemic areas.  Blood from donors in Puerto Rico also goes to other Caribbean islands and the United States.  Blood donations are not currently screened for dengue virus.  From Science News

A salient moment in the education of Jake Sigg came in 1991, when Greg Archbald and I journeyed to Indianapolis for a symposium on biological pollution.  We listened to two days of environmental horror stories, to which I thought I was conditioned.  The single talk that I most remember was a University of Michigan professor who related the story of a shipment of used rubber tires from Japan (!!) sitting on the docks in Houston, in which was found the tiger mosquito,  Aedes aegypti, carrier of the yellow fever and dengue fever viruses.  (In short order, the mosquito had been found in South Carolina and as far north as Chicago and Minneapolis.)  Knowing that if the vector is here it is only a matter of time before the virus arrives, he reported it to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, requesting that action be taken.  The response from CDC, in essence:  When it's killing as many people as AIDS, let us know.

When I heard this I felt like I'd been hit by a Mack truck.  I saw immediately that this was not an isolated incident, a type of event that occasionally happens--it is far more than that.  It is the way the world works politically.  Budgets are finite, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  If CDC had diverted money from AIDS or other politically popular program, someone would have had to face a storm of protest--possibly even lose his/her job.  Alternatively, no one is considered responsible for the arrival of the disease and the vector.  Sadly, this is the way the world works.


17.  A parrot with a remarkably coherent line of invective has been given a private pen at a wildlife sanctuary, after swearing repeatedly at distinguished visitors, including a mayor, a vicar, and two police officers.
Barney the five-year-old macaw can now be seen only on special request, like the British Library's collection of erotic books.
Trained by a previous owner who had a dislike of authority, he initially appeared to be a potential draw at the Warwickshire Animal Sanctuary because of his vivid blue and gold plumage and his habit of saying "Thank you, big boy," when given a digestive biscuit.
But his other side was revealed when a civic party came on a tour of the sanctuary and Barney spotted the mayor's chain and the woman vicar's dog collar.  Instead of the Benedicite ("Oh all ye fowls of the air, bless ye the Lord"), he told the mayor:  "Fuck off," before turning to the vicar and saying:  "You can fuck off too."
The sanctuary's owner said:  "To their credit they didn't take offence and laughed it off--and luckily so did two policemen who were told:  "And you can fuck off, you wankers."
The parrot is thought to have kept up its watching TV after the 9 pm watershed.
                           Guardian Weekly 5-11 Aug 05

18.  Insect acrobatics

Flipping roaches

How cockroaches vanish

Jun 9th 2012 | from The Economist

ANYONE who has tried to swat a cockroach will know those insects’ strange ability, in the heat of pursuit, to disappear. Robert Full and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, have now worked out how they do this—and taught a miniature robot to copy the feat.

Dr Full had been using high-speed photography to study how cockroaches employ their antennae to sense and cross gaps. When the researchers made the gaps wider, they saw the animals flipping back underneath the ledge at the edge of the gap, rather than jumping across the empty space. As they report in the Public Library of Science, cockroaches running towards a gap suddenly grip the edge with the hooklike claws on their rear legs and swing 180° to land firmly underneath the ledge, upside down. They can pull off this stunt in a fifth of a second—so fast that the animals’ bodies are subject to between three and five times the force of gravity, and also so fast that the movement is invisible to the human eye.

Dr Full and his colleagues have since identified similar behaviour in other animals with hooklike toes that are good at escaping pursuit: geckos, for example. They have also teamed up with members of Berkeley’s robotics laboratory to program a small six-legged robot that has strips of Velcro attached to its rear legs to do the same trick. Such a robot could be fitted with a camera and used as a surveillance device. Some people, though, might prefer it to be fitted with a miniature machinegun and used as a UCPV (unmanned cockroach pursuit vehicle).


19.  Ring, ring...Hello! and welcome to the Gardener's Psychiatric hotline.

If you are buying plants, yet have no space or time to plant them, you are obsessive-compulsive.  Please press 1 repeatedly.

If you want someone else to do the digging, you are co-dependent.  Please ask someone to press 2.

If you will plant anything and everything, you have multiple personalities.  Please press 3, 4, and 5.

If you are sure the sun, rain, bugs, and plant diseases are out to get you, you are paranoid delusional.  We know who you are and what you want..just stay on the line so we can trace the call.

If you are sure the flowers are talking to you, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which button to press.

If you can't throw away a plant, even if it is dying, you are manic-depressive and it doesn't matter which button you press.

If you think your garden is being attacked by evil spirits, press 6-6-6.

If you continue to plant only flowers with fragrance, you are nasally fixated.  Please press the scratch-and-sniff button.

If you occasionally hallucinate and know that this year your garden is going to look as good or better than Martha Stewart's please be aware that the thing you are now holding to the side of your head is alive and is about to bite your ear.

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