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.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. -Peter Drucker, management consultant, professor, and writer

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.  Sigmund Freud

1.   First results from nationwide bee count - low numbers in urban areas
2.   Feedback: mass events in GGP/immigration/sugar drinks/copays on repro services
3.   Occultation of Venus on Monday 1-2 pm
4.   Erased Landscape: The Making of Flat Land in Central San Francisco
5.   Soundscapes - worth a thousand pictures
6.   Kezar Gardens - is it your favorite thing in your neighborhood?
7.   Some reflections on beauty
8.   A Rescue, John Updike
9.   Turtle turns table on hare

SF State researcher releases first results from nationwide bee count

Great Bee Count will be held on August 11 this year

SAN FRANCISCO, July 10, 2012 – A San Francisco State University biologist has released the initial results of her nationwide citizen science project to count bee populations and has found low numbers of bees in urban areas across America, adding weight to the theory that habitat loss is one of the primary reasons for sharp declines in the population of bees and other important pollinators.

Now the researcher plans to add to her data -- which is now the largest single body of information on bee activity in North America -- by further comparing how bee populations are faring in different types of habitats. On August 11 this year, SF State Biologist Gretchen LeBuhn and her team of researchers are urging people across the country to count bees in their yard and neighborhood gardens as part of a “Great Bee Count.”

LeBuhn launched the campaign, called The Great Sunflower Project, in 2008 to answer important questions about the decline of pollinators and the ecosystems that rely upon them. She enlisted the help of nearly 100,000 volunteers to count bees they found in their garden or yard annually. Volunteers simply count the number of bees they see on a sunflower or other plant during two 15 minute observations per month, then report the data on LeBuhn’s website.

Analyzing observations from 12,000 gardens, LeBuhn has found that urban areas have much fewer visits from bees than other habitats. Volunteers in urban gardens reported finding an average of 23.3 bees per hour, compared to 30.4 per hour in rural areas and 31.6 in forests and wildlands. Volunteers in desert areas reported an average of 31.9 bees per hour.

This year, LeBuhn has put out a renewed call for data from areas known for their healthy bee populations in order to determine the “tipping point” at which urban features can fragment bee habitats enough to cause population decline.

“We’re really interested in doing deeper comparisons of rural and urban and suburban areas, and what that means for pollinators,” she said.

She also plans to look closely at desert areas, which have higher bee diversity than wooded areas. “We know that desert systems are centers of species diversity for bees," she said.

The results mapped over the U.S. show that the average number of bee sightings can range from zero to more than 30 bees per hour, depending in part on how large the overall garden is. In general, the largest gardens have the most bee visits -- between 30 and 40 per hour on average. But even smaller gardens are visited by an average of 25 bees, and patio pots get an average of 13 bee sightings per hour.

Using data from these areas, LeBuhn plans to look deeper into habitat fragmentation, a phenomenon that occurs when in areas where bees’ habitats are disrupted by buildings, highways or other urban features. In these areas, bees often cannot find the resources they need to survive or are limited in their mobility.

But healthy bee populations are thriving in some urban community gardens, which saw an average of 41.9 bees per hour. LeBuhn believes community gardens will provide key information on habitat fragmentation, and has a graduate student who plans to look at this trend in-depth for San Francisco community gardens.

“We were surprised that community gardens had such high visitation rates,” LeBuhn said, “but that’s good news because they’re important sources of food production, and we want to make sure they’re getting enough pollinators.”

This year, LeBuhn hopes to gather more data with the help of “Garden Leaders” -- individuals who act as the liaison for groups of volunteers in different areas. The Garden Leaders will distribute seeds to participants and should make data-gathering more efficient.

While participants can make their observations and send in data any time, Aug. 11 has been named the day of the “The Great Bee Count,” in which participants all over the country will observe on the same day. Volunteers can view the interactive map showing data from the previous four years of the project and zoom in to seewhat is happening in their neighborhood or find areas where more data is needed.

“The results map that’s now on the website is pretty powerful,” LeBuhn said. “For those who already participate, this can help them look at the area around them and see if there’s anyone else they can encourage to join.”



To join The Great Sunflower Project, visit the website at or follow the project on Twitter or Facebook.

SF State is the only master's-level public university serving the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin. The University enrolls nearly 30,000 students each year and graduates about 8,000 annually. With nationally acclaimed programs in a range of fields -- from creative writing, cinema and biology to history, broadcast and electronic communication arts, theatre arts and ethnic studies -- the University’s more than 212,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and beyond.


2.  Feedback

On Aug 9, 2012, at 8:10 PM, Anna-Marie Bratton wrote:
Hi Jake, I've been through Golden Gate Park several times in the last 10 days and have come to think that the yearly presentation of "Outside Lands" should
be banned - the disruption of the everyday use of the park and the destruction to the lawns and other vegetation (you should see the semi trucks, busses, and other large vehicles parked in the meadows), not to speak of the traffic in the park and surrounding areas during the actual weekend - and the noise - are outrageous; and it continues as everything is taken down.  Then, just a couple of months later, all is repeated for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass!!!!  Outside Lands tauts itself as being " green" - horse pucky!!!!!  the amount of fuel used and the greenhouse gasses spewed by the trucks delivering the event then taking it away  - and taking away the tons of trash that is left behind - and the cars driven by the people working the event is not anywhere near sustainable and the eco area
with a farmers market and eco education booths is a farce in comparison.  I understand that there is a donation to SF Rec and Park, but unless its millions of dollars it's not worth it!  And ban Hardly Strictly Bluegrass as well.

OK, rant is over - but seriously, it's not a good thing in my opinion.
I don't have a close-up perspective on this, because I avoid going into Golden Gate Park unless compelled to for some reason.  It depresses me when I see unenlightened management, loss of vision, lack of knowledge, and so on.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who cares about the Olmsted-Hall-McLaren vision for the park.  (I know I'm not, but those who do know and care have given up and lapsed into silence.)  I'm not singling out the present administration, as the problem goes back many decades, to before McLaren's death in 1943, and emanates from City Hall.  (McLaren was basically non-functional his last several years.)  Add to that today's budget strictures and you have a problem.

Rant away, Anna-Marie.  All these mass events (I think of them as industrialized entertainment) are directly counter to this vision, which can be summed up best by the phrase " urban pastoral retreat, a semblance of nature...".  I must be careful employing the word 'nature'.  For many people it is a vague and fuzzy term--eg, for some a grass soccer turf rather than a plastic one is 'nature'.  Hall/Olmsted tried to create the illusion that you're in the country, far from cities and their pursuit of 'the arid business of dissipation' (that's not Hall's exact words, which I can't remember).  He recognized that this park must suffice for poor people--of which there were plenty in the city then--as they would never be able to afford trips out into the country.  Even though we have lots more money now,  it's well to be reminded that there are huge numbers today who were born and raised here who have never taken a trip outside the city--some of them not even having been in Golden Gate Park!  And we all need a pastoral retreat, a quiet spot, on a weekly basis.  You can't find one in the city.

Time to end my rant, as I have lots to do today.  Thanks for the feedback.

Peter Vaernet
Hi Jake:  The bottom line on Immigration is that is should be regulated.  No one can just go to Japan to work, or to Belgium to work or to any other developed country's officials let undocumented people live within its borders if they are aware of undocumented people.  There is no badge of honor in being disorganized.

All government agencies have a duty to work together to enforce these and other laws. 

 On a dramatic note, 9-11 occurred because the FBI was not talking to NSA and the CIA and vice versa.....

Hans Weber:
Hello Jake: 
With respect to Richmond's fight to tax sugar-sweetened beverages, you may have heard of Dr. Robert Lustig talking about the toxicity of sugar, eg, on 60 Minutes. This seems to be an uphill struggle; there are countless morons among voters who will oppose such a tax because they want to eat whatever they like, believing themselves to be immune to diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. We all bear the burden of their health care. The heavily advertising soft-drink industry naturally promotes this attitude.
Thank you for your eye-opening newsletter!

Rick Ford:
Dear Jake, There will be an occultation of Venus by the Moon on Monday, 13 Aug.  Unfortunately the occultation will occur in the afternoon for the continental US.  13:00 to 14:00 PDT and just before Moonset on the East coast.  There is a WEB site,     for local times of occultation and reappearance.  If you like that sort of observation this is an excellent opportunity to observe Venus during the day.

Denise Louie:
Hi Jake,
Thanks for your work and the link to Scientific American's article about the Affordable Care Act's provision, which has removed insurance co-pays for reproductive preventive services for women and annual visits of our OB-BYNs.  I'm putting this link on my Facebook page.


3.  Rick Ford:
Dear Jake, There will be an occultation of Venus by the Moon on Monday, 13 Aug.  Unfortunately the occultation will occur in the afternoon for the continental US.  13:00 to 14:00 PDT and just before Moonset on the East coast.  There is a WEB site,     for local times of occultation and reappearance.  If you like that sort of observation this is an excellent opportunity to observe Venus during the day.


4.  HERE4 - Erased Landscape: The Making of Flat Land in Central San Francisco

You can subscribe and download this video and its companions through the free iTunes Video Podcast Store via:

You can also view this video streaming at:


On Aug 10, 2012, at 3:11 PM, Jake Sigg wrote:
I don't understand which of this I should post to my newsletter.  I plan to post this much, but that says "Here4".  Is "Here5" an update?  If so, should I post it?

On Aug 10, 2012, at 1:41 AM, Glenn Robert Lym wrote:
Yup, good question.

The above link takes one to the iTunes Podcast Store where a person can download one or all of my San Francisco videos as well as subscribe to the series and be notified when a new one comes online.  (The next one, won't come until next year BTW)


The link above takes one directly to a page where the video will play within that page.
And yes, the video is called HERE5 - Erased Landscape: the making of flat land in central San Francisco

So you can post either link or just one of them.  I suppose if you were just to post one, you should post the link that goes to rather than iTunes.

Hope that helps Jake.
best, Glenn Lym


While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a soundscape is worth a thousand pictures.  

Play Audio
Click on each audio clip to read the author's description of the habitat.
Forest, Lincoln Meadow
Morning, June 21, 1988
Morning, June 21, 1989
Rain Forest, Costa Rica
Morning, April 11, 1989
Morning, May 18, 1996
Coral Reef, Fiji
Eastern side
Western side

6.  Kezar Gardens

Hello Everyone!
Some members of our community garden group brought this initiative to the attention of the HANC board and staff and we are acting on it.  Improve SF is a community driven website launched by the City of SF's Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services to collect data about what people love in their area.  I created a short how-to-participate flier and left on in each garden bed as well as with the staff. 

You can also click on today's blog link to get more info on how to participate.  Basically, you join the site and share a story in the featured challenge "What is your favorite thing in your neighborhood?"  Use a picture of your own, come by and take a new one, or pick one from the website.  But, please, find a moment to take action and let people in power know what Kezar Gardens Ecology Center means to you and to this neighborhood.

And, don't forget these upcoming events!
Saturday August 11: Great Backyard Bee Count
Sunday, August 19 1-4pm: Community Garden Work Day
bring some food or drink to share


7.  Some reflections on beauty

Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

We owe it to ourselves and to mankind to give full rein to our instinctive love of Natural Beauty, and to train and refine every inclination and capacity we have for appreciating it till we are able to see all those finer glories of which we now discover only the first faint glow.  Sir Francis Younghusband

What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness. -Leo Tolstoy

 “When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty.  I think only how to solve the problem.  But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”    R. Buckminster Fuller

“Beauty is the proper conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole.”    Werner Heisenberg

“There is no excellent beauty that does not have some strangeness in the proportion.”    Francis Bacon

Our equations know things that we don't. They contain splendid surprises and opportunities for creation. Frank Wilczek, physicist

"When I have to choose between the true and the beautiful, I choose the beautiful."    Hermann Weyl

"When choosing between two evils I pick the one I've never tried before."    Mae West



A Rescue

Today I wrote some words that will see print.
Maybe they will last "forever," in that
someone will read them, their ink making
a light scratch on his mind, or hers.
I think back with greater satisfaction
upon a yellow bird--a goldfinch?--
that had flown into the garden shed
and could not get out,
battering its wings on the deceptive light
of the dusty, warped-shut window.

Without much reflection, for once, I stepped
to where its panicked heart
was making commotion, the flared wings drumming,
and with clumsy soft hands
pinned it against a pane,
held loosely cupped
this agitated essence of the air,
and through the open door released it,
like a self-flung ball,
to all that lovely perishing outdoors.

~ John Updike ~

(Americana, 2001)


Olympics competitor - wins by default.  The hare just never showed up, for some reason.  Probably couldn't stand to be humiliated.

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