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, July 30, 2012


A church is a place in which gentlemen who have never been to heaven brag about it to persons who will never get there.  HL Mencken

1.   Pacifica City Council study session of Climate Action Plan August 1
2.   Getting By With a Little Help: Native Parasitic and Mycotrophic Plants of CA Aug 2
3.   Peet's coffee & teas - and poisoning raptors
4.   Lead poisoning stymies condor recovery
5.   Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour - now in October, too
6.   Super-rich hide $21 trillion.  Yes, trillion
7.   You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it - Wendell Berry
8.   Chytrid fungus from pet frogs?/our ancestors were nearly all vegetarians
9.   If the future were ahead of you, wouldn't it be in plain view?  Tuvans think so
10. Marin Municipal Water District August 2012 events
11.  Vaux's swifts turn to old, brick chimneys to survive
12.  Feedback
13.  I remember Galileo describing the mind as a piece of paper blown around by the wind
14.  Peter Raven and the Raven manzanita
15.  Report on 2012 San Francisco Butterfly Count
16.  Blissfully Lost in the Woods - no Twitter, no nothing
17.  Notes & Queries: When did neocons become neoliberals?  Some kind of con job?

1.  Carlos Davidson:

Jake, Hello. Would you be willing to put a note in your Nature News about the Pacifica City Council having a study session on a proposed Climate Action Plan? Having people interested in seeing the city address city change attend the meeting would make a big difference. Those opposed to doing anything are evidently organized and planning to turn out and speak against the plan.

The plan is the result of more than a year's work by the city's Climate Action Plan Task Force. Now the plan comes to council for a study session and hopefully soon for a vote on approval. My concern is that without a show of public support the plan will either be watered down or further delayed. It has already taken over half a year for it to come to finally come to council.

Here is the basic info:

City Council Study Session on Climate Action Plan:

    When: Wednesday August 1, 6-8pm
    Where: Council Chambers, Beach Blvd  

A copy of the plan is available at:

(JS:  Don't be intimidated by 'mycotrophic' and 'autotrophic'.  Those are fancy words for plants that get their nutrition from fungi (mycotrophs) or manufacture their own carbon compounds from sunlight, water, and minerals.  I'm unsure which plants Kipp will talk about, but maybe we'll see things like Indian paintbrushes, Indian warrior, mistletoe, broom rape, and snow plants - those brilliant red penis-like shafts that push through the duff at edge of melting snowbanks.  Kipp is a good photographer and his subjects are beautiful, so it should be a fun evening.  Join us for dinner beforehand by emailing me.)

California Native Plant Society meeting - free and open to the public
Getting By With a Little Help: Native Parasitic and Mycotrophic Plants of California
August 2, THURSDAY - 7:30 pm,
Speaker: Kipp McMichael
San Francisco County Fair Bldg
9th Av & Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park

Plants are the primary producers in nearly all ecosystems and their ability to derive sustenance from inorganic matter and solar radiation makes them paragons of self-sufficiency. Yet species from a diverse collection of California plant families have adapted to bend the autotrophic rules: Enter the mycotrophs and parasites of California. In this wide-ranging presentation, Kipp will introduce the concept of mycotrophic and parasitic plant life-strategies and will also briefly cover the natural history and biology of non-autotrophic plants.  Familiar plants like the mistletoe of yuletide doorways are only the beginning: We’ll view some of California’s most beautiful wildflowers in sunny meadows and chaparral slopes and then move-on to ghostly apparitions lurking in the shadows of the forest. Our subjects will also range from just above the waves of high-tide to the arid arroyos and sand dunes of California’s deserts. The talk will include the author’s photographs of native plants. Kipp McMichael is an amateur naturalist with many degrees, none of them plant-related (but don’t tell that to his overly-large plant collection). For 5 years from Potrero Hill and now from across the waters in Berkeley, Kipp has managed the chapter’s website and produced the YB News.

Everyone is welcome to attend membership meetings in the Recreation Room of the San Francisco County Fair Building (SFCFB) at 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park.  The #71 and #44 buses stop at the building.  The N-Judah, #6, #43, and #66 lines stop within 2 blocks.


3.  Summer greetings Jake -

I'm sure you've been wondering: What do Peet's and Poisoning Raptors have in common?  Peet's new buyer is a major stockholder in the company that makes D-Con, the same company that openly defied a 2008 EPA order to stop selling rat poison to the general public because of the thousands of pets and wildlife that are killed annually by the stuff.  Science journalist Chris Clarke's recent article outlines some of these connections in greater detail:

Peet's has three months to solidify the deal which still needs approval from its stockholders, so if readers have concerns, please email Peet's CEO Patrick O'Dea (  Peet's board has been alerted and currently seems content to ignore the relationship between their new mother company and Reckitts-Benckiser, the proud sellers of D-Con.  For more information on the impacts of D-Con and other rodenticides on non-target wildlife, see<> or sign up for reports at "Raptors are the Solution" on Facebook.

Thanks for your great e-mailed magazine -

Allen Fish
Golden Gate Raptor Observatory


4.  Lead poisoning stymies condor recovery
Iconic species may not stand on its own without complete shift to nontoxic ammunition
Science News 28.07.12

UNSAFE SCAVENGING The California condor, a species that survived near-extinction, isn’t establishing self-sustaining populations in the wild because of lead ammunition in carcasses the birds scavenge, researchers say.Courtesy of Daniel George
The California condor’s return to flying free in the wild after a close brush with extinction may be an illusory recovery.
The hundred-plus condors soaring over California swallow so much lead shot as they scavenge carcasses that the population can’t sustain itself without steady medical care and continual resupply from captive populations, says toxicologist Myra Finkelstein of the University of California, Santa Cruz. She and colleagues describe analyses of lead in blood and feathers June 25 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
About 30 percent of blood samples collected annually from free-flying condors in California show lead concentrations high enough to affect the birds’ physiology, Finkelstein and her colleagues report. Each year about 20 percent of the state’s monitored birds flunk their lead test badly enough to need detox.
This grim paper supplies the data to confirm the toll of lead ammunition on condors in the wild, which conservation biologists have warned about for years, says Jeff Walters of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Regional or species-specific regulations do restrict ammunition in California and Arizona, the two states where condors live. But those rules don’t seem to be solving the problem, Walters says.
Without a politically difficult nationwide ban on lead ammunition, he says, California condors “exist in the wild only due to costly, extensive human intervention, essentially in an outdoor-zoo state.”
The world population of free-flying California condors had dropped to 22 birds in 1982 when biologists stepped in with an ambitious plan to save them. Even though no one had bred this condor species in captivity, biologists eventually trapped all the remaining wild birds to try breeding them. The effort succeeded well enough for biologists to start releasing condors back into the wild, albeit with plenty of monitoring and help. The same threats that eroded the species to begin with are still a menace, however.
Making a wild landscape safe for condors requires strict reductions in lead exposure, Finkelstein warns. Even if only 0.5 percent of carcasses carry lead tidbits, a condor still has an 85 percent to 98 percent chance per decade of flapping down to eat one. That kind of risk matters for birds that, if healthy, live 60 to 70 years.
“I certainly would not want to see us let go of the condor — it's an iconic species of tremendous cultural value — but it's hard to justify a continued release effort until the lead issue is addressed,” says conservation biologist David Wilcove of Princeton University. “It might well be better to call off the releases until regulators develop the backbone to do something about lead.”
Walters predicts that a lead ban will eventually happen. “There is no doubt in my mind that use of lead ammunition is resulting in exposure of human children to harmful effects of lead,” he says. “We just haven’t documented the extent of this or its impact yet.  Eventually this will go the way of lead toys.” The condors may not be unusual in their reliance on people for apparent comebacks, says Mike Scott of the University of Idaho, who has written about what he calls “conservation-reliant species.” In 2010, he and his colleagues estimated that 84 percent of species listed for federal protection will need ongoing support to persist in the wild.


5.  Dear Friend of the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour,
This year, for the first time, the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour is sponsoring a series of fall events.  Visit the website for full details; here is a brief summary:

On Sunday, October 7, 2012 from 10:00 – 4:00 a free Native Plant Sale Extravaganza is taking place.  Shop at eight different locations for those hard-to-find natives at the right time of year to plant them. (Natives will be sold in Berkeley, Concord, Moraga, Oakland, Orinda, Richmond, San Lorenzo, and San Pablo.) While attendance is free, registration is required.

In addition to the Extravaganza, eight Select Tours—small group, guided excursions—are being offered for $30 per person throughout September and October.  Have you wished you could see more native plant gardens than you can visit on the day of the spring Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour?  If so, the Select Tours are for you!
Are you interested in seeing beautiful native gardens that will provide color throughout the year?  If the answer is "yes!", accompany Pete Veilleux to learn how he selects plants and designs gardens that do just that.  Would you like to visit gardens with other designers?  Then Kelly Marshall, Liz Simpson, and Michael Thilgen would love to have you join them to visit gardens that they have created.

Would you like to learn how to install a greywater system and use the water in the garden, or how to store rain water on your lot, and use it to flush toilets and wash clothes?  Geoff Holton and Margaret Norman will enthusiastically tell you how, and also to point out the other green features of their solar powered, water-wise home.

Those who would like to learn how to sheet-mulch their lawns away and install native gardens in their place shouldn't miss the two "Mow no Mo!" workshops, which will be held in Lafayette/Concord and Livermore, and will be lead by Kelly Marshall and Kat Weiss. By the end of this workshop you'll be completely comfortable with the thought of tackling (and removing) your own turf the low-cost way.  

Finally, renowned environmental educator Judy Adler will be leading an in-depth tour of her half-acre Walnut Creek garden, complete with happy chickens, a rainwater harvesting system (11,000 gallons are stored on-site), a pond, and many California native and/or pollinator friendly plants.

Select Tours are limited to groups of thirty, and they will fill fast.  Register now to reserve your space. (But make good choices; there will be no refunds or exchanges.)

Finally, plans are in the works for the main event; do you have a garden to offer for the Sunday, May 5, 2013 Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour? (Gardens must be located in Alameda or Contra Costa counties, contain 60% or more native plants, be free of synthetic pesticides, and conserve water.)  If this describes your garden, please fill out the application, and mail it and your native plant list in soon: garden visits will end next month.

The big thieves hang the little ones. -Czech proverb

Super-rich hide $21 trillion

A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary $21 trillion of wealth offshore - as much as the GDPs of the US and Japan put together - according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network. 

...The detailed analysis in the report, compiled using data from sources including the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, suggests that for many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world.

Oil-rich states with an internationally mobile elite such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria have been especially prone to watching their wealth disappear into offshore bank accounts instead of being invested at home, the research suggests.

"The problem here is that the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments," the report says.

...The sheer size of the cash pile sitting out of reach of tax authorities is so great that it suggests standard measures of inequality radically underestimate the true gap between rich and poor.  According to Henry's calculations, $9.8 trillion of assets is owned by only 92,000 people, or 0.001% of the world's population - a tiny class of the mega-rich who have more in common with each other than those at the bottom of the income scale in their own societies.

"These estimates reveal a staggering failure:  inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people," said John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network.  "People on the street have no illusions about how unfair the situation has become."

A spokeswoman for UK Uncut said:  "People like (retail empire owner) Philip Green use public services - they need the streets to be cleaned, people need public transport to get to their shops - but they don't want to pay for it."

Leaders of G20 countries have repeatedly pledged to close down tax havens since the financial crisis of 2008, when the secrecy shrouding parts of the banking system was widely seen as exacerbating instability.  But many countries still refused to make details of individuals' financial worth available to the tax authorities in their home countries as a matter of course.  Tax Justice Network would like to see this kind of exchange of information become standard practice, to prevent rich individuals playing off one jurisdiction against another.

"The very existence of the global offshore industry, and the tax-free status of the enormous sums invested by their wealthy clients, is predicated on secrecy," (tax-haven expert James) Henry said.

From Observer, reprinted in Guardian Weekly 27.07.12 (excerpted)

(JS:  On the surface you would think that this should make a campaign issue for Barack Obama.  But don't hold your breath until you find out where his campaign contributions come from.  To be sure, the issue is more complicated than that...but if people don't insist, nothing will happen.)

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.  

HL Mencken


7.  When New York Times columnist Mark Bittman spent a day this spring with Wendell Berry, the man he calls "the soul of the real food movement," he found the political activist and prolific writer of novels, essays and poems so relaxing it was "positively yogic." Berry was preparing to go to Washington, D.C., to give the 2012 Jefferson Lecture, the highest honor the federal government gives for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities, but he still had time to talk for hours and give a tour of the Kentucky countryside where he was born and has lived for most of his life. Berry's planned talk -- "It All Turns on Affection" -- was thoughtful about the country's experience with booms and busts, recalling the Western writer Wallace Stegner, who coined the word "stickers" to describe people who dig in locally and do their best to build lasting community. As always, Bittman says, Berry's talk -- as it has for decades -- includes tasty, quotable lines that sound like aphorisms, and he provided some of his favorites. Here are just a few from Berry's writings:

"You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it,"

"What I stand for is what I stand on,"

"Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup,"

and the calm and lovely poem:

"When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."

NEWS: From Living Room to Lily Pad: Is the Fatal Amphibian Chytrid Fungus Spread via Pet Frogs?
Is your store-bought frog carrying a deadly secret?

GUEST BLOG: Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians
Paleolithic diets have become all the rage, but they are getting our ancestral diet all wrong


9.  AWAD
Vanishing Languages
National Geographic
"Different languages highlight the varieties of human experience, revealing as mutable aspects of life that we tend to think of as settled and universal, such as our experience of time, number, or color. In Tuva, for example, the past is always spoken of as ahead of one, and the future is behind one's back. 'We could never say, I'm looking forward to doing something,' a Tuvan told me. Indeed, he might say, 'I'm looking forward to the day before yesterday.' It makes total sense if you think of it in a Tuvan sort of way: If the future were ahead of you, wouldn't it be in plain view?"

The Endangered Languages Project

(My study of the Tibetan language helps me appreciate how our experience and view of the world is formed by our language.  Tibetan sentences frequently lack a subject, and the verb--the heavy one--is usually at the end.  Sometimes the verb is the whole thing, and parallels the Hopi, who would, instead of saying 'the lightning strikes', would merely say 'flash!'.  That seems more realistic.  Our way implies that lightning (the subject) does something (strikes/flashes).  Flash! is the whole thing; it is not done by an independent agent separate from the action.  JS)


10.  Marin Municipal Water District AUGUST 2012
Volunteer Opportunities

Trail Crew
Helen Markt Trail
Saturday, August 4, 9 AM to 2 PM

Join us to conduct tread and vegetation maintenance along shady Helen Markt Trail. We will meet at 9 a.m. at the Cataract trailhead, which is just past Alpine Dam on Bolinas-Fairfax Road. We might even make it as far as the world famous Swede Gorge Bridge!

Helen Markt Trail is named after Helen Markt, who with her husband Frank was a toll taker on Ridgecrest Boulevard in the 1930s when the road was a toll road to the top of Mt. Tamalpais. The trail was under construction in the early 1950s at the time of Helen's death, so it was named in her honor. Ref: A Visitor's Guide to Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods by Michael Hanrahan.

Habitat Restoration 
Oak Woodlands near Lake Lagunitas
Saturday, August 18, 9 AM to Noon  

Restore oak woodland and native grassland habitat by removing outcompeting Douglas-fir trees near Lake Lagunitas. Help preserve oaks, madrones and associated species before they become shaded out by Douglas-fir trees.

We will meet at 9 a.m. at the Lake Lagunitas parking lot, which is located at the end of Sky Oaks Road in Fairfax.   

Book Passage
Thursday, July 26, 7 PM

We are celebrating our centennial with the publication of "Images of America: Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Municipal Water District," a photo history book by MMWD Director Jack Gibson. Join us for a reading, reception and book signing at Book Passage in Corte Madera at 51 Tamal Vista Blvd. 
Save These Dates!

Trail Days: Sept 8, Oct 6           
Habitat Restoration: Sept 29, Oct 20  

When at the store, check out a product's trash profile before you purchase it. Pick the one with the least amount of waste, such as a product using less packaging or packaging made from recyclable materials.

Registration & Event Information
To pre-register or for more information about the above volunteer events, call 415-945-1128 or e-mail or visit our Volunteer page on our website. 


Save a chimney, save a swift

 As their natural roosts disappeared, Vaux's swifts turned to old, brick chimneys for refuge during long migrations. Those safe havens are disappearing, too. Luckily, the swifts -- and the chimneys -- have found a champion in Larry Schwitters.   High Country News


12.  Feedback

Jeanne Halpern:
Jake, Though I opened your latest Nature News too late to go to any of the events, I so much appreciate your including "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye, a poem that knows no deadline.  Nor do any of her poems.  When Louis and I led our first Sierra Club "Lovers Hike" on Mt. Tam in February 1997 - fifteen years ago! - we recited about twenty love poems along the route, and our last one was Nye's "Valentine for Ernest Mann," with the same perfection of detail as "Kindness."  It sent me back to an anthology of her work, Words under the Words.  Thanks so much for this delicious hour with an old friend.  Jeanne

Michael Ellis:
love the poems especially you send

 I pass them on to my email list and get lotsa credit!! thanks :)
And I take them from a guy named Joe Riley--and I get lotsa credit.


I Remember Galileo

I remember Galileo describing the mind
as a piece of paper blown around by the wind,
and I loved the sight of it sticking to a tree,
or jumping into the backseat of a car,
and for years I watched paper leap through my cities;
but yesterday I saw the mind was a squirrel caught crossing
Route 80 between the wheels of a giant truck,
dancing back and forth like a thin leaf,
or a frightened string, for only two seconds living
on the white concrete before he got away,
his life shortened by all that terror, his head
jerking, his yellow teeth ground down to dust.

It was the speed of the squirrel and his lowness to the ground,
his great purpose and the alertness of his dancing,
that showed me the difference between him and paper.
Paper will do in theory, when there is time
to sit back in a metal chair and study shadows;
but for this life I need a squirrel,
his clawed feet spread, his whole soul quivering,
the loud noise shaking him from head to tail.
O philosophical mind, O mind of paper, I need a squirrel
finishing his wild dash across the highway,
rushing up his green ungoverned hillside.

~ Gerald Stern ~

(This Time: New and Selected Poems)

(JS:  What I write here has nothing to do with the Stern poem, but it triggered a memory of driving across the Mojave Desert about 50 years ago.  I saw a desert tortoise in the middle of the road.  I swerved to avoid it, but noticed a big semi-trailer in my rear view mirror.  I pulled to the side and made a dash for it, but was too late.  Fortunately, it was in the middle of the road, so avoided being crushed.  I was told that turtles should be pointed in the direction in which they were going because once on a course they continue it.  So this story ended OK, but I couldn't help wondering what was going on inside that tortoise mind from what to a human or most animals would be a traumatic experience.)


14.  Peter Raven and the Raven manzanita

Today we take a look back not just at the environmental movement but also its media coverage.  Peter Jennings, famed evening news anchorman, used to do a segment called “Person of the Week”.  This report featured people doing incredible things that you may not know about.  On October 14, 1988, the spotlight was turned on Peter Raven.  Raven is a well-known botanist who has won every award known to man on the subject.  After teaching at Stanford, he decided to pursue a career as the director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, dedicated to biodiversity and representing plants in context with culture.  He is a firm believer in saving endangered plants and outspoken about how we still don’t know enough about our ecosystems to live without certain species and the effect of their loss could prove devastating to us all.

Jennings was making a statement himself by discussing Raven.  He notes the incredible surge in mainstream American culture to learn more about the environment and conservation.  He also astutely addresses the reasons why people like Peter Raven are so important to our society.


Peter Raven is native to California and he got his education at UCLA before teaching at Stanford, in his early days.  He also is responsible for discovering the last known Raven manzanita plant in the Presidio of San Francisco.  The plant, over 100 years old, has never procreated and may be the last of its kind on earth.  Recently, when construction on Doyle Drive began, another rare manzanita was discovered after much of the overgrown vegetation was removed from a road median.  The Franciscan manzanita is also now a proud addition to the conservatory of rare plants at the Presidio.


"The whole secret of the study of nature is learning how to use one’s eyes.” –George Sand

Report on 2012 San Francisco Butterfly Count

Well, we pulled it off. I have an eight week window ( four weeks prior and after the Fourth of July) to get this done.  (Sometimes I think those three in that Apollo 13 movie had an easier time reentering the Earth's atmosphere than we do pulling off a count during June/July Gloom.) After only one cancellation due to the marine layer, 16 people in 9 parties spread out through our fair city ( and two islands) yesterday, July 24th,  for the 18th Annual San Francisco Butterfly Count  - sponsored by the North American Butterfly Association.

The results:
Western Tiger Swallowtail (P. rutulus) -- 9, Anise Swallowtail (P. zelicaon) --64, Pipevine Swallowtail (B. philenor) - 20 ( Thanks Bill and Al out on Angel Island for those), Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) - 220, Orange Sulphur (C. eurytheme) -- 1 (Thanks Presidio Group the lone sulphur), Gray Hairstreak (S. melinus)-- 7, Spring Azure/Echo Blue - (C. ladon echo) -- 15, Acmon Blue (P. acmon) -- 23, Western Pygmy Blue (Brephidium exile) - 1 ( at India Basin shoreline - the smallest butterfly in North America finally made it to the count!), Gulf Fritillary( A. vanillae) -- 7 (dependable population at Alemany Farm) , Mylitta's Crescent (P. mylitta) - 1, California Sister (A. bredowii) - 13 ( again at Angel Island - rare in our city proper)  American Painted Lady (V. virginiensis) -- 15, Painted Lady (V. cardui) - 6, Field Crescent (Phyciodes campestris) - 44, West Coast Painted Lady (V. annabella) -- 34, Red Admiral (V. atalanta)-- 24, Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) -- 83, ' California' Common Ringlet (C. tullia californica) -- 92 (double last years), *Common Wood Nymph (C. pegala) -- 4, *Propertius Duskywing (E. propertius)  (first year to count - seen at Angel Island)-- 2, Common Checkered Skipper (P. communis)-- 44, Fiery Skipper (H. phyleus) -- 64, Sandhill Skipper(Polites sabuleti) - 92 (a huge emergence along the salt grass at Candlestick and Heron's Head),  Woodland Skipper (O. sylvanoides) - 4,  Umber Skipper (P. melane) -- 7. Unidentified Papilionidae: 1, Unid Ladies: 2 , Unid.Nymphalidae: 14, Unid. Hesperiidae: 6, Unid. Lycaenidae: 5
 Total species: 26 (last year- 26 - we tied it), Total individuals: 916 (last year - 967)

Observations: When we hold it later in the window, spring species fall out (especially in low rain years) - no Large Marbles. Monarchs are rare (having not passed through the city yet on the way south.) Holding it late gave us the Pygmy Blue. I vote for more rain personally. Low numbers in species reflects more just catching the end or the beginning of a species flight. The count is always an interesting snapshot into the city. Wonderful to see the trends through the years as things adapt and depart from the cement jungle. Quite a Darwinian place for butterflies.

I can't express enough gratitude to that group of loyal, hardcore naturalists that show up on such crazy short notice each year to pull this off. Yes, I'm the Energizer Bunny in the field, but I can't be every place I need to be on this important day. We have MANY passionate lepidopterists in this city, taking time out of their lives to take the pulse of these ephemeral residents that give us so much joy. What a splendid thing.

Check out my blog at to see pictures from the day. - Liam O'Brien


16.  From MIke Wood

Hi Jake, Perhaps you saw this op-ed piece in the NYT this weekend.  Interesting, because I just said farewell to my son who started a 26 day backpacking trip in the Sierra.  A school requirement (how cool is that?). Nothing particularly new or surprising, except perhaps the purported fact that the number of backcountry campers in our national parks has fallen by nearly 30 percent  since 1979.

What’s particularly relevant to me, and why I found it essential to teach Philip a bit about wilderness, is that in our current life-style, our youth, raised on multi-media, high-tech gadgetry, and perpetual connectivity to their friends is the loss of the ability to be bored.  Boredom is where the seeds of creativity, insight and self-reflection sprout.  How can they when we are constantly distracting ourselves with Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and all the other things that make up modern “communication”?  The kids camp I help run ( in northern Mendocino has only a few rules, but first on the list is no electronics (along with no candy in your sleeping bag, be nice to animals, and say please and thank you).
Blissfully Lost in the Woods


17.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly

One's right from one's left
When did neocons become neoliberals? Is this some kind of con job?

Since Adam Smith declared that "all nations … [should] follow the liberal system of free exportation and free importation" (1776), the word, in European political economy, has denoted what we today call conservatism (free trade, minimal governmental regulation). In North America, the word came more to mean "free from bias [and] prejudice" (1772), and thus, some version of progressivism.

How "right" came to mean "left" in traversing the Atlantic is as curious a question as is how, in the US, blue came to signify the Democrats on the left and red (the colour of revolution since at least the 14th century) came to represent the Republicans on the right.
Andrew Horn, Cambridge, Massachusetts, US

• Neocons are neither new nor conservative and neolibs are not new let alone liberal. The big con is that both champion a big America and especially a big corporate America. And in turn corporate America champions the neocon Republicans and the neolib Democrats – at our expense.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany

• Are neologisms con-trolling thought?
Donna Samoyloff, Toronto, Canada

• It's because they just don't know their right from their left.
Ursula Nixon, Bodalla, NSW, Australia

It's just a piece of string

Is there a common thread in our existence?

Yes. A woman with a needle in her hand.
Jane C Russell, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, US

• Cotton.
Nigel Grinter, Chicago, Illinois, US

• String theory.
Tony Cairns, Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia, Canada

• The common thread in our existence is surely our dependence on this fragile and beautiful earth. As  we seem determined to exploit the earth and watch its systems collapse we will probably see the thread unravel in the next generation or two …
Margaret Wilkes, Perth, Western Australia

• Yes, trying to weave our way through a material world.
Mac Bradden, Port Hope, Ontario, Canada

The reader is not amused

What does the Queen carry in her purse?

In the questioner's California, you may carry a "purse", which in English English is a small receptacle intended purely for money. In England a lady carries a "handbag". As Her Majesty the Queen never carries any money, it is unlikely that she carries a purse within her handbag.
Elisabeth Cox, Teddington, UK

Any answers?

How British am I? Is there any way of knowing?

Christopher Nutter, Essen, Germany

Does the end ever justify the dishonest means that are used to attain it?
Louis Gibb, York, UK