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.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


A poor society may ask only that its products be well engineered.  But a richer one is certain to require that they have beauty as well.     Joseph Wood Krutch

1.   Businesses angry over Central Subway construction impacts
2.   Tuolumne River Trust seeks Finance & Administration director
3.   Knowland Park update
4.   River of Words is back! - invest in the next generation
5.   Camp out in Golden Gate Park!  Trail building event - Save the dates Aug 3-5
6.   Library of Congress reading list - read it!
7.   Optimism is the default setting for western capitalism - but....
8.   I used to wait for the flowers; my pleasure reposed in them...
9.   What is the Higgs boson? = video
10. TS Eliot - we shall not cease from exploration...
11.  San Francisco's Thriving Ravens at the Randall July 19
12.  Enhancing one of last natural lakes in city - in Presidio
13.  You can help to monitor water quality in Stevens Creek
14.  Tea partier wants God, not government to help people
15.   Observations on marriage by Edith Wharton and Oscar Wilde

1.  Hi Everyone:  If you're in North Beach on July 17, 6:30 PM, "North Beach Neighbors" is hosting a Central Subway Informational Forum on construction impacts. See Below Flyer. info on construction concerns:

Construction impacts on North Beach businesses has prompted potential litigation---construction noise, dust, debris, equipment, staging areas, metal plates, lane closures, bus rerouting, rats, cockroaches….
SFIST:  “North Beach Folks Want to Stop/ Stall Central Subway Construction”
CHRONICLE:  “North Beach alliance battles subway tunnel”
EXAMINER:  “Lengthy Central Subway work worries locals, vendors”
KGO-TV:  “Business owners angry about Central Subway construction plans”

Economically-fragile Chinatown merchants will suffer the greatest impacts.  The Stockton/ Washington blocks will be torn up and staged with equipment---with Stocktonbuses rerouted.
Even large downtown retail can not sustain 6+ years of street construction and vehicular rerouting.
CHRONICLE:  “SF Central Subway work costly for a few businesses”
CHRONICLE:  “In Bayview, it’s not business as usual with rail project”
NEW YORK TIMES:  “Subway Work on 2nd Avenue Hobbles Stores”
WALL STREET JOURNAL:  “Rats Mob the Upper East Side”

In the FTA letter, dated January 7, 2010:  “The Central Subway Project is a high risk project located in a densely populated urban center.  It is the largest, most complex project ever undertaken by SFMTA.”
The older historic districts of North Beach, Chinatown and Downtown are extremely susceptible to unstable ground conditions---especially with high water tables and seismic risks.


Job Opportunity: Join our team!
July 14, 2012

The Tuolumne River Trust is currently seeking a Finance & Administration Director. This is a great opportunity to join a motivated team working to promote the stewardship of the Tuolumne River and its tributaries. The successful candidate will run the finance, accounting and administrative operations for the Tuolumne River Trust - with twelve staff and an annual budget of approximately 1 million. This person will maintain effective accounting and finance operations, prepare organizational and program budgets, and ensure that appropriate policies, procedures, and internal controls are maintained to safeguard our organization with strong financial management.

The Director will be an experienced professional, committed to building and maintaining effective infrastructure. He or she will demonstrate strong communication, analytical and organizational skills, acting both as a strategic thinking and hands on achiever. This position reports to the Executive Director and works closely with the Advancement Director, as well as the Finance and Audit Committees.

For more details, including how to apply, please click here.

Help us spread the word!
Please help us find the best candidate by forwarding this notice to your friends, posting it to your Linked In account, or sharing our post on Facebook. Thanks!!


3.  Dear Knowland Park Supporters,

We are in a transitional phase in the ongoing effort to save the Park. We are still engaged in discussions with the lawyers and with our California Native Plant Society (CNPS) partners about an appeal of the lawsuit. As I’ve explained, appealing has both pluses and minuses, even setting aside the substantial money it would cost. An appeals court decision sets legal precedent, which would obviously be wonderful if we won—but if we lost, could make things harder in the future for others bringing cases around similar circumstances. So there is a lot to digest. The deadline for appealing is still almost two months away. If you have opinions about this, now is the time to make them heard by emailing us through the website! (

Meanwhile, as we highlight in the latest blog post (, the zoo’s practice of saying one thing and then doing whatever it wants continues. We’ve described before in an earlier blog post the shameful bait and switch the zoo pulled on community members who worked to negotiate an agreement about the expansion project back in 1998. That agreement resulted in a formal memorandum of understanding that the zoo now chooses to ignore and claims has no legal meaning. That’s just part of a longstanding pattern of saying one thing and doing another, as those who have tried to negotiate with the zoo in the past have learned repeatedly.

This time we point out that after Friends of Knowland Park called attention to the dumping of what must be literally tons of construction debris, old signs, asphalt and concrete down a creek drainage in the Park, the zoo’s Executive Director, Dr. Joel Parrott, first denied doing any dumping-- and then, after we submitted color photos and Google Earth images, he assured the city council in writing that the debris would be removed in 60 days. That was in June, 2011.

More than 1 year later, it is all still there. As we note in the blog post, this is why those who care about the Park have little cause to believe the many other assurances from the zoo and the city about mitigation measures. The zoo does whatever it wants, and the city turns a blind eye. The pattern is so oft-repeated and so egregious that one can’t help but acknowledge that the zoo has a permanent hall pass in the city’s regulatory and political circles. The question is why.

We so much appreciate all your contributions that helped us make our recent matching grant! Since Knowland’s animals are truly, genuinely wild and don’t have names or “talk” to us like zoo animals, we can’t say for sure what they think, but it is gratifying to see how many people care about Knowland’s native animals and plants and are willing to take a stand (and write a check) to help conserve and preserve their habitat. If you missed the matching grant deadline, we still can use any donations—every penny goes for Park protection, and all the work we do is volunteer. You can donate on the website with the PayPal button ( or send a check made out to CNPS to our Treasurer, Lee Ann Smith, 111 Shadow Mountain, Oakland, CA 94605. All donations are tax deductible.

"... man has still within him sufficient resources to alter the direction of modern civilization, for we then need no longer regard man as the passive victim of his own irreversible technological development."
    Lewis Mumford, “The Next Transformation of Man”

River of Words and 
The Center for Environmental Literacy 
invite you to
Invest in the Next Generation 

Help us help children fall in love with the earth and with the beauty and power of words and images.

For 17 years, thanks to your support, we've been inspiring, educating and honoring young people and their teachers. Our innovative mix of environmental education and the arts has spawned a committed network of educators, students and voices for conservation and social change, a network whose message is heightened by and embodied in the extraordinary art and poetry of children from around
the world.

2012 River of Words Winners at Library of Congress
Again this year, River of Words' young artists and poets have shared their voices and vision with audiences around the country -- at The Library of Congress, the Sangre de Cristo Museum and Buell Children's Museum in Colorado, the Saint Mary's College Museum of Art in California, and at schools, community centers, conferences, on radio, television and online. Read more . . .

Fall Fishing
           Like paper gymnasts, crisp fiery leaves tumble
           Igniting the forest floor with beauty and light
           The old oak sleeps
           His wrinkled fingers creaking in the wind
           The roar of a distant river is a lion tamed
           I remember fishing there with my dad,
           Sitting on the stumps as we talked about
           Everything and nothing at all
                               Jonathan Long, age 11
                               Mission Viejo, California
                               2012 Finalist

Your gift -- your investment in these young people and the future -- will ensure that they learn how to use the power of their own imaginations, their curiosity and their love of the earth to become the wise and compassionate leaders the world will need to address the challenges of the 21st century.

Make a gift online:

Click to direct your gift to a specific area, select Kalmanovitz School of Education, then Center for Environmental Literacy.   

Or, send a check made out to Saint Mary's College with "River of Words" in the memo line to: Saint Mary's College, P.O. Box 4300, Moraga, CA 94575-4300.

“Love is a canvas furnished by Nature and embroidered by imagination.”  Voltaire


5.  The Golden Gate Park Oak Woodland Trail Building event, scheduled for FRI pm to SUN pm AUG 3-4-5,  is a prime opportunity for all who want to contribute to the development, restoration and stewardship of our Oak Woodlands in Golden Gate Park.

This is a ' signature ' event organized by V-O-Cal in collaboration with REI,  the SFRPD Natural Areas Program and with support from Friends of the Oak Woodlands Golden Gate Park.

We aim for 150 volunteers .. .. legal and protected camping in the Fuchsia Dell (first legal camp in GG P since 1906!) is available for those who want to be close to the action for the 3 days ...... all meals will be provided for the entire crew.

We are going to complete 3 sections of volunteer driven work :
  McLaren Hts  ( a new and long awaited section revealing a healthy canopied Coast Live Oak and Toyon grove ) ,
  Fuchsia Hts. west entrance  extension (an attractive section running east/west above the Fuchsia Dell .. also canopied)
  and the Coon Hollow partial reroute.

The Oak Woodlands Nature Trail, funded by Park Bond 2008 and contracted for completion in early 2013, will link a variety of attractive landscapes, habitat restoration sites and historic infrastructure .

It will provide access for contemplation, nature study, appreciation of natural aesthetic, recreational exercise and enhance public safety in a region of the Park that is vulnerable to abuse.

The various habitat restoration sites along the route , as they continue to develop and mature, will showcase the reasonable, flexible and science-based management plan of the Natural Areas Program and the value it adds to Golden Gate Park.

Our new Park Partner, Friends of the Oak Woodlands, Golden Gate Park is stepping forward to contribute advocacy and resources to this stewardship.

The Aug 3-4-5 event must be a success ! ....  we have a responsibility to make the most of this opportunity and put our boots on the ground to support the Natural Areas Program and community vision for the Oak Woodlands.

Results matter .. we can throw a touchdown on Aug 3-4-5 !    It's going to be FUN !!

PLEASE REVIEW THE DETAILS  and YOU MUST REGISTER for this Aug 3-4-5 event by CONTACTING  the <> website.

The Library of Congress reading list shows America's questioning spirit, says Michael Dirda in the Washington Post

Most great book lists concentrate on works of the highest literary or scholarly merit.  Happily, the Library of Congress's exhibition, The Books That Shaped America, ignores the familiar high-culture shibboleths and embraces cookbooks (Irma Rombauer's The Joy of Cooking) and school-books (McGuffey's Primer), mysteries (Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest) and science fiction ( Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451), political tracts as well as poetry, both Dr Seuss and Dr Spock.

When first published, these books shocked people, made them angry, shook up their deepest beliefs.  They shamed readers with accounts of racism, greed, corruption, Puritanism and provincial narrow-mindedness.  Here are the impassioned works that made us look into the bedroom and closet and boardroom.  Just skimming through the titles of The Books That Shaped America underscores that in the US anything can be questioned, everything can be changed.

If, however, there is any single, great American theme, it is self-transformation.  So here are Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, that stirring guidebook to personal improvement, and Frederick Douglass's account of his years of slavery and his escape from it.  Here, too, is one of Horatio Alger Jr's rags-to-riches novels, and Edgar Rice Burroughs's great bildungsroman Tarzan of the Apes, and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and even Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People.  Jefferson spoke of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", but he might just as well have said: become who you truly are.

If identity is malleable, so, too, are the conditions of life and society.  Americans are do-gooders, ready to fight for what they believe is right or attack that which is wrong, corrupt or unjust.  The library's list nearly starts with Thomas Paine's call to arms, Common Sense, then includes WEB Du Bois's searing The Souls of Black Folk; Ida M. Tarbell's classic "muckraking" History of the Standard Oil Company; Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which exposed the insanitary conditions in Chicago's meat-packing industry; and, finally, in our own time, closes with both And The Band Played On, Randy Shilts's groundbreaking account of the Aids epidemic and The Words of Cesar Chavez, the inspiring leader of the United Farm Workers.

Some thinkers might view the library list as distinctly multicultural, blatantly offering something for everyone.  But if America is anything at all, it is multicultural.  It's also refreshing to see William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks and Allen Ginsberg representing 20th-century American poetry instead of those usual cosmopolitan modernists Ezra Pound and TS Eliot.  But Walt Whitman is here, too, and Emily Dickinson, and all of them remind us that the recurrent theme of American literature is loneliness.

Any list yields surprises.  If you were to pick the greatest five-year period in American literature, you would be hard-pressed to match 1850-55:  Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1852), Melville's Moby-Dick (1852), Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854) and Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1855).

Sexual politics is another theme, from Margaret Sanger on birth control to Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, from Alred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male to the Boston Women's Health Book Collective's Our Bodies, Ourselves.  At the same time, the list doesn't shy away from bestsellers such as Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind and Ayn Rand's melodrama-cum-economic tract Atlas Shrugged.

The Library of Congress deserves kudos for this exceptionally imaginative and convincing list.

The Books That Shaped America is at the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington DC until 29 September

(JS:  And if you've never been in the Library of Congress, that is an experience in itself.  I was stunned by its beauty and magnitude.)


7.  From Larry Elliott, Guardian Weekly

..."Confidence across networks was key," says (author Paul Ormerod in Positive Linking) of the U.S. action.  "Confidence across networks of financial institutions that the monies owed to them by others would be paid.  And confidence across networks of individuals that their worlds were not about to fall apart."

...Optimism is the default setting for western capitalism.  As Daniel Kahneman notes in his book Think, Fast and Slow, we have an inbuilt optimism bias that makes us view the world as more benign than it actually is.  Optimism is healthy, he says, but can be a risk as well as a blessing because it tends to lead us to exaggerate our ability to predict the future.  "The evidence suggests that an optimistic bias plays a role - sometimes the dominant role - whenever individuals or institutions voluntarily take on significant risks."

This was what happened in the years leading up to the crisis, but the optimism bias has now been replaced by a pronounced pessimism bias.  Lasting recovery will only come when that pessimism bias is eradicated.  A change in mood could happen at any time.  But that could be my optimism bias talking.

“The basis of optimism is sheer terror.”  Oscar Wilde

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.  Barry LePatner
“Education is what you get when you read the fine print.  Experience is what you get when you don’t.”    Pete Seeger


What’s Left 
(for Peter Hennessy)

I used to wait for the flowers,
my pleasure reposed on them.
Now I like plants before they get to the blossom.
Leafy ones – foxgloves, comfrey, delphiniums –
fleshy tiers of strong leaves pushing up
into air grown daily lighter and more sheened
with bright dust like the eyeshadow
that tall young woman in the bookshop wears,
its shimmer and crumble on her white lids.

The washing sways on the line, the sparrows pull
at the heaps of drying weeds that I’ve left around.
Perhaps this is middle age.  Untidy, unfinished,
knowing there’ll never be time now to finish,
liking the plants – their strong lives –
not caring about flowers, sitting in weeds
to write things down, look at things,
watching the sway of shirts on the line,
the cloth filtering light.

I know more or less
how to live through my life now.
But I want to know how to live what’s left
with my eyes open and my hands open;
I want to stand at the door in the rain
listening, sniffing, gaping.
Fearful and joyous,
like an idiot before God.

~ Kerrie Hardie ~

(Cry for the Hot Belly)

9.  What is the Higgs boson? - video

Scientists at Cern, the Geneva-based European laboratory for particle physics, are revealing their latest findings in their search for the Higgs boson. Here, science correspondent Ian Sample – author of Massive: The Hunt for the God Particle – explains what a Higgs boson is, how Cern physicists are looking for it, and why it matters if they find it -

They may have finally found it - excerpts from Guardian Weekly 13.07.12
...The discovery of the Higgs particle ranks as one of the most important scientific advances of the past 100 years.  It proves there is an invisible energy field that pervades the vacuum of the known universe.  This field is thought to give mass to the smallest building blocks of matter, the quarks and electrons that make up atoms.  Without the field, or something like it, there would be no planets, stars, or life as we know it.

...According to the theory, all of the particles in the newborn universe were massless and hurtled around at the speed of light.  But one trillionth of a second after the big bang, the Higgs field switched on, turning the vacuum of space into a cosmic glue.  Some particles feel the Higgs field more than others.  The quarks that make up atomic nuclei feel a lot of drag from the field, and become heavy for subatomic particles.  Others, such as electrons, feel less drag and gain much less weight.  Particles of light, called photons, feel no drag at all..."The excitement will continue now, as we all try to figure out just how this thing behaves."

"What do they call it...the primordial soup? the glop?  That heartbreaking second when it all got together, the sugars and the acids and the ultraviolets, and the next thing you knew there were tangerines and string quartets."

                Seascape, Edward Albee

Knowledge is invariably a matter of degree: you cannot put your finger upon even the simplest datum and say this we know.     TS Eliot

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We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot

San Francisco's Thriving Ravens
Guest Speaker: Adrian Cotter
7:30pm, Thursday, July 19th, 2012
FREE at the Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA

Adrian Cotter started observing common ravens (Corvus corax) after unexpectedly coming across a nest on a federal courthouse a few years ago. Since then, he’s sought them out and observed them in great roosts from San Bruno mountain to the Golden Gate, and watched them rear their young on trees and buildings around the city.

He’s come to understand some of the challenges that they face and the ones that they create for us, while getting a better understanding of the ebb and flow of their lives: when and where they nest, how densely they nest, where the juveniles hang out, where do they sleep, how they deal with crows, hawks, and other birds, and more…

Come learn more about the lives of our local resident ravens — and learn to tell a crow from raven.


8/16 Wild Foods Foraging, the Good, the Bad, and The Ugly - Jonah Raskin
9/20 Bay Area Life Cycles - Becky Jaffe
10/18 The UNnatural History of San Francisco Bay - Ariel Rubissow Okamoto
11/15 Forgotten Landscapes: California 500 years ago - Laura Cunningham

The Development of the Two Ends of the Great San Francisco Dune Fields
In Search of Eradicated Landscapes
Guest Speaker: Glenn Lym

When Glenn Lym first moved to SOMA, as an architect he quickly noticed that things were a little out of whack. Buildings tilted here, streets cracked there – nothing was straight. As he began to look into it, what unfolded was a story of how downtown San Francisco was changed from a field of dunes to a street gridded flatland.

Of course, that’s hard to imagine these days. It’s hard to think that our Market street — along more or less flat straight shot to the wharf — was a non-obvious even audacious idea. The truth is that downtown was the last stop of the sands being blown across the peninsula. To make the gridded streets we have today, road builders had to cut through huge sand dunes.

Glenn made this more real through photos and a 3D model he’s built using maps done by U.S. coastal surveys around the time of the Civil War — the dunescape was an important feature of the land.

The dunes in those days were thought of as being the abode of thieves and vagabonds, not something to be preserved let alone protected. They were slowly and surely carried off and used as fill to further expand the city, the 60′ dune at 2nd and Market, the 120′ dune further up Market.

Glenn talked about the development of SOMA, Rincon, Happy Valley — the chief residential area of the city for a long time –, the Hayes street marsh upon which many of those sinking SOMA buildings are built on, the private plank roads that were built out over the sand to the flat and desirable Mission area.

The sand reached the edge of the Mission district, Glenn showed a picture of Woodward Gardens built on a dune. But it was not the dunes alone that were removed, things like Rincon Hill and the Clinton mound were good solid rock.

It is amazing to think of the effort, industry, and vision required to do all of that — in such a relatively short period of time changing the face of this place. It seems like we would be hard put to recognize this place if we had a chance to go back.

Glenn also showed a video on the history of Golden Gate Park, which you can watch yourself online:
Part 1:
Part 2:

Or you can watch it in higher resolution in its entirety on Glenn’s site:

Also worth watching, are Glenn’s other videos from his HERE series:


12.  The Presidio - Enhancing Mountain Lake

The decade-long effort to enhance one of the last natural lakes in the city is taking a big step forward. Later this month work begins to shore up the lake so that it can be cleaned and deepened beginning in fall 2012 (get complete project details). As a first step, non-native red-eared slider turtles (shown), one-time household pets abandoned in the lake by their former owners, are being adopted by Sonoma County vineyards. Twenty-eight turtles and several species of fish have already been saved and relocated, allowing for the possible introduction of native species in the future. Next year, through a grant from the San Francisco International Airport, work will begin to enhance the East Arm of Mountain Lake.

Read More »


13.  Come help us determine the quality of water in Stevens Creek with monitoring activities which are easy and fun to carry out. Even the youngest volunteers will enjoy performing tests with our color-changing indicator kits.

Saturday, July 28
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
1000 La Avenida Street,
Mountain View [map]
(Meet near the La Avenida entrance to the Stevens Creek Trail, near Microsoft)
Cost: Free

For more information and to register, please visit the Acterra Stewardship Events website.

Save the Date: Silicon Valley Watershed Summit
Saturday, September 22
8:30 am - 2:00 pm
Smithwick Theater
Foothill College

Heard Around the West
High Country News 29.10.10

The last we noticed, elected officials don’t place one hand on the Constitution and solemnly swear to uphold the Bible. But Republican Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favorite who’s running against Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., sounds as though she’s more than ready to switch books. A former teacher at a religious school and a longtime state legislator, Angle describes her campaign as a “calling from God,” telling TruNews Christian Radio’s Rick Wiles that “What’s happening (in America) is a violation of the First Commandment — entitlements make government our God. We’re supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and our daily bread, not for our government.” Angle may have a comfortable relationship with God, but she is clearly uneasy with most mainstream reporters, dodging the working press whenever possible. When Nevada TV reporter Nathan Baca persisted in asking why her Web site initially stated that she wanted to eliminate Social Security and the EPA, Angle refused to comment as she walked quickly to her car, though she did have a few questions of her own, including: “Where do you get your questions?” Later, Angle explained to Fox News’ Carl Cameron that she simply wants the press to “be our friend.” She defined the friendship this way: The press should “ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported.” Up until Angle’s victory in the contested Republican primary, Reid, who wins no plaudits in Nevada for his role as majority leader of the Senate, seemed to face a losing future: Both his poll numbers and the state’s economy were “in the toilet,” as the Los Angeles Times bluntly put it. Now, Angle’s campaign idiosyncrasies have transformed the election into a horse race. Meanwhile, Reid can boast he’s still capable of bringing bacon home to Nevada, the latest an announcement that the Silver State came in first among 25 other competing sites for the nation’s new “solar energy demonstration zone.” A portion of the Nevada Test Site, where nuclear bombs were exploded and tested for decades, will become a proving ground for the latest solar energy technologies.

I begin to see what marriage is for. It's to keep people away from each other. Sometimes I think that two people who love each other can be saved from madness only by the things that come between them: children, duties, visits, bores, relations, the things that protect married people from each other. -Edith Wharton, novelist

“Self-love is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” - Oscar Wilde

"Bigamy is having one wife/husband too many. Monogamy is the same."     --Oscar Wilde

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