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, September 29, 2012


Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life.        —R. Search

1.   Why are N&Q readers obsessed with questions that are so trivial?
2.   When I die I wanted it to be said I wasted hours feeling absolutely useless
3.   Governor Brown vetoes most important wildlife bill/World needs wolves
4.   Planting Natives for Bees, Birds, and Butterflies  October 4
5.   Save the frogs by joining SaveTheFrogs
6.   Oakland Zoo media blitz
7.   October in Claremont Canyon
8.   Utah quaking aspen estimated at 80,000 years old
9.   Feedback: Hetchy/Letters from a father
10. Mission Blue Nursery plant sale Oct 27
11.  Save Daly City Dunes - Oct 3
12.  Dos Rios Ranch restoration benefit Oct 4
13.  One week to register for CalIPC Symposium
14.  Geo-metric verse
15.  Polemical tour of world's greatest underground transport systems

1.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly
When so many appalling things are happening in the world, why are N&Q readers obsessed with questions that are so trivial?

Well, some of the questions are not so trivial, such as the "control over our own evolution" one, for instance. But let's not get astray.
The fact is that human beings need leisure time in order to better carry the burden of all the appalling things that they face on daily basis. That's probably why the Guardian Weekly editorial staff has chosen to have a letters page on the Comment & Analysis page, and a Notes & Queries section on the Leisure page.
Seems fine to me.
Sandra Manzi, Geneva, Switzerland

- This is a rather trivial question so the questioner obviously knows the answer. Why did she not supply it, so we could get on with the appalling things? Maybe we find it a tad easier to discuss squirrels falling out of trees than to eliminate war, poverty, disease, etc.
K C Prince, Trieste, Italy

- In 1915 an appalling thing drastically steepened the slippery slope down which our civilisation is still accelerating uncontrollably. Yet in that year a "trivial" song was sung by those who were condemned to either long years of unspeakable, entrenched horror or a hideous, untimely death. Part of the song went like this:  What's the use of worrying, it never was worthwhile/ So pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag and smile, smile, smile.

This decision to smile, in the face of a hideous threat about which one could do nothing, can be seen as an act of high courage.
There are two sorts of death: death of the body and death of the spirit. Stress hastens both of them but laughter, however trivial its cause, has the opposite effect. Obsessive worrying is an unforgivable waste of a living organism's most precious commodity, one that could be better used to pursue trivialities that promote laughter: time.
David Inman, Dundas, Ontario, Canada

- It's cheaper than drinking.
T Coatsworth, Blenheim, Ontario, Canada

Q.  I have been told that foxes are psychopaths and will kill a coop full of chickens rather than just their meal for the night.  What is the evolutionary benefit of this trait?

A.  Psychopaths?  Foxes have during evolution developed a mortal fear of being detected and in many cases those chickens simply won't shut up.

A.  There is no benefit, but the foxes don't know this.  They think it makes them more like humans.

A.  I have been told that humans are psychopaths and will kill (and buy) and store large quantities of meat rather than just their meal for the night.  I can't see any benefit in this behavior.  Why do humans behave in this way?


For Yaedi

Looking out the window at the trees
and counting the leaves,
listening to a voice within
that tells me nothing is perfect
so why bother to try, I am thief
of my own time.  When I die
I want it to be said that I wasted
hours in feeling absolutely useless
and enjoyed it, sensing my life
more strongly than when I worked at it.
Now I know myself from a stone
or a sledgehammer.

~ David Ignatow ~

(New and Collected Poems, 1970-1985)


3.  Eric Mills:

Friday night

This just in.  The story will likely be in the CONTRA COSTA TIMES, THE OAKLAND TRIBUNE and the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS tomorrow (Saturday).

Sadly, Gov. Brown vetoed Senator Corbett's SB 1480, which may have been the most important of all the bills this year, insofar as relieving animal suffering.  SB 1480 would have established a trapping license for people who trap "nuisance" wildlife for profit.  Would have prohibited killing by drowning, crushing chests or injecting chemicals.; prohibited trapping lactating females and require consumer information.

For my money (yeah, right!) SB 1221, Senator Lieu's bill to ban the hounding of bears and bobcats, is something of a hollow victory.  With or without the use of dogs, we'll still be killing 1600 bears and 1200 bobcats every year for "sport."  I doubt that the victims much care about "fair chase"--they're dead regardless.  I recently spoke with Josh Brones, president of CALIFORNIA HOUNDSMEN FOR CONSERVATION.  He told me that if the Gov signs SB 1221 into law, many hunters would simply re-train their dogs to hunt raccoons and gray foxes instead.  I'm sure these latter animals will be happy to hear the news.  And what of those  hounds which are NOT re-trained?  I'm told that the 5200+ California bear hunters have, on average, four hounds each.  So 4 x 5,200 = 20,800 hounds.  The hunters are not likely to keep these hounds as "pets."  I'm betting that many (thousands?) will be shot, dumped in the woods, or at our already overcrowded shelters, where they'll likely be euthanized.  There's near zero demand for hounds as house pets.

So what have we accomplished, pray?  Your comments appreciated.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." -- Gandhi

The New York Times
September 29, 2012
My Alerts

The World Needs Wolves
Wolves and other predators have a powerful effect on the well-being of the ecosystems around them.  Around the planet, large predators are becoming extinct at faster rates than other species. And losing top predators has an outsize effect on the rate of loss of many other species below them on the food chain as well as on the plant life that is so important to the balance of our ecosystems.

California Native Plant Society meeting - free and open to the public
Thursday 4 October, 7.30 pm
Planting Natives for Bees, Birds, and Butterflies
Speaker:  Don Mahoney
San Francisco County Fair Bldg
9th Av & Lincoln Way in GGP

Pollinators are very important components of native ecosystems, and are becoming less common due to urbanization.  But you can help by planting the right native plants to attract bees, birds, and butterflies.  Nectar should be provided for all seasons, and nesting sites should be left undisturbed. 

Join expert Don Mahoney, Curator of Collections and Horticulture Manager at San Francisco Botanical Garden, as he emphasizes the best native plants for our local pollinators.  Don has worked at SFBG since 1984 in myriad horticultural and educational capacities, and has lectured extensively in the Bay Area on a wide variety of topics related to horticulture and habitat gardening.  He has degrees in Botany from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and a PhD in Wildland Resource Science from UC Berkeley.

JS:  Join Don and me for a pre-meeting dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant.  You can have your own private Q&A session.  Email me if you want to join us.

5.  The most important action any frog lover can take to help SAVE THE FROGS! is to become an Official Member today. Your financial support enables us to grow our movement, educate the masses, and implement on-the-ground actions that provide direct benefit to amphibians and their habitats. Just as important, the larger our supporter base, the easier it is for us to receive assistance from foundations, corporations, politicians and other nonprofits. Plus you get a great membership package when you join! So make your voice heard by joining SAVE THE FROGS! today. The frogs are disappearing fast, but we can save them -- with YOUR help.

Marsh Frog at Sunset by Selena Vanapruks, Age 13

Top 5 Reasons to become an Official Member of SAVE THE FROGS! today

#1 -- Frogs are the most rapidly disappearing animals on the planet.
#2 -- Nobody does more to help frog populations than SAVE THE FROGS!
#3 -- You understand that our programs cost real money, and you care enough about the future of our planet to chip in.
#4 -- Your children and grandchildren will thank you for helping SAVE THE FROGS!
#5 -- You get awesome membership benefits!

"I love my membership! Please, please, become a member and help save some frogs and toads! Every member counts!"
-- Red Frog Member Franceska Zweifler; Bethesda, MD

"As a new member of Save The Frogs, I appreciate the welcoming letter and materials in the packet that I recently received.  The drawing by an 11 year old was especially delightful."
-- Dr. Vic Eichler; Amphibian Biologist, Three Rivers, MI

"We need to do something as a species to save these incredible and vital creatures. Thank you for everything that you and your team are doing".
-- Green Frog Member Hazel Richards; Bruailles, France


6.  Dear Knowland Park Supporters,

I’m sure many of you have seen the Zoo’s media blitz on TV and radio—and Park supporters have also told us about at least one mailer already sent out by the Zoo. On top of that, the Zoo is offering free memberships for people who do phone banking to urge people to vote for Measure A1. We are up against Big Money—estimates we hear now from insiders are that the Zoo may be prepared to spend more than $1 million to try to pass this parcel tax. All while going on TV and claiming that without it, they can’t even take care of the animals they have now. Frankly, something about this parcel tax measure smells like manure, and it isn’t coming from the exotic animals!

We can’t ever match that kind of spending, we know. But we do need your help to get our message out to as many people as possible in the next four weeks. A good number of you have sent checks and we are so grateful for the help. But we need more of you to step up if we are going to have a chance of reaching the numbers of voters we need to reach.

When we do explain to folks that this isn’t actually about the poor zoo animals, but about the hubris of the human animals running the zoo and their demands for a huge ridgeline expansion, restaurant and offices on precious parkland and native animal and plant habitat, people get it right away. But we need your help to spread the word—we can’t buy TV and radio, we don’t have a newspaper publisher sitting on our board of directors as the zoo does, and we don’t have cozy relationships with politicians who will help us put measures on the ballot while keeping the public in the dark. And there are over 400,000 voters in Alameda County we need to reach.

We estimate we need to raise about $15,000 more to have a chance. Even at that, we will probably be outspent 100 to 1, but we have some really savvy volunteer consultants working on ways to get our message out in the most efficient ways possible. We’ve met matching grants goals before, and so I know if we really pull together we can bring in $15K fast. And remember: We only have to achieve 34% to win. The zoo needs 67% to win. So we really do have a shot at winning this—but only if you come through again.

So we need you to write a check today to help us get there. Make checks payable to No On A1 to Save Knowland Park, and write “Sponsored by E. Bay Chapter, California Native Plant Society” in the subject line. We’re scrambling to get our campaign infrastructure set up - just as zoo executives knew we would be, hence their secrecy in getting this on the ballot - and we can’t do it without you.

What we do have going for us, even if we don’t have big money, is a lot of truly dedicated people who are determined to save our Park—and all the people you know, your friends and neighbors, your work colleagues—who don’t appreciate having the fur pulled over their eyes by zoo management.

Mail your checks to our Treasurer, Lee Ann Smith, 111 Shadow Mountain, Oakland, CA 94605.

We know a lot of people are hurting financially and contributing money is a challenge for most of us—but we still do it--because we know Knowland Park matters and if we don’t stand up now, it will be lost forever. So any amount helps.

If you really are stretched so thin you simply can’t spare anything at all from your checkbooks, there are a few other important areas where we urgently need volunteers right now:

1.    Writing a letter to the editor. There are a lot of publications in Alameda County. We don’t have to limit ourselves to the Tribune and the Chronicle—in fact, it’s going to be very important to get our message out to voters in eastern and southern Alameda County. We need volunteers willing to write letters to the editor. If you are worried about what to say, or don’t have much time, we will even draft something for you to work from. To join our letter-writers team, contact Karen Smith:

2.   Helping with getting No on A1 yard signs out to people.  Lawn signs are here! Want one for your yard? Contact Karen Asbelle to find out how you can help with this: We are especially keen to get signs out to people in towns and neighborhoods further from the Park and along busy thoroughfares where they will be seen by more people. We’re asking for a $10 donation to help cover the cost of the signs, if possible.

3.   Helping with tabling at events. We had a blast at the Solano Stroll and have many other fun events coming up, many of which we will do in partnership with our California Native Plant Society partners. It’s easy and fun to do and so rewarding, because many people have not heard about the zoo’s plan to build out into the Park, and they don’t like the idea of being tricked into paying for it. Even some among our group who aren’t particularly social have gotten fired up doing it—it is so great to see how many people care about protecting parkland! If you would be willing to work with others on staffing a table for a few hours, contact Karen Putz who is coordinating this work--

4.     Printing and posting flyers. We’ve been gratified to see that many of you have already started doing this on your own, using the flyer from our website
Think about all the places you go where others who like to walk, hike, walk dogs, breathe free, and enjoy nature and open space also go. Those are great places to look for public bulletin boards, information tables, etc. and post flyers. Our website has two versions: plain and pull-tab. If you use the latter, tear off one tab after cutting between them—we’re told no one likes to be the first to pull one off!

5.     Forward ou rposts, like us on Facebook, retweet our @KnowlandPark tweets! Every bit helps. You never know who may speak to someone else who knows someone else who…you get the idea. Lots and lots of tiny pebbles thrown into the big stream spread ripples that can go a long way.

6.     If you’re a member of a group—any group—share information about Measure A1 and ask them to vote NO! And if they are willing to endorse No on A1 organizationally, let us know—the zoo has a lot of the big political groups, but we could make a stand with book clubs, quilting circles, garden clubs, hiking groups—you name it! Send us your small group endorsement and we’ll publicize it.

Let’s get going. We have so little time—but we have a real chance to educate the public about the Park and show zoo executives that even all their money can’t make the  public pay them to destroy our own park.


October in Claremont Canyon

Tuesday October 2, Garber Park Habitat Restoration. Join us at 10 AM til Noon at the Evergreeen Lane entrance as we continue preparing the ground for winter planting on the hillside. Activities will include removing invasives, especially Erhardta grass, vinca, Cape Ivy and Himalayan Blackberry. The nearest address is 144 Evergreen Lane, Berkeley. From Alvarado Road, take Slater Lane, turn right on Evergreen and go to the end of the street.

For more information, email To learn more about Garber Park and the Garber Park Stewards, visit our blog:
Friday, October 5. Sudden Oak Death Treatment Workshop.  
Dr. Matteo Garbelotto, UCEE Specialist in Forest Pathology and Mycology at UC Berkeley will present a two-hour field workshop in Garber Park from 10 AM to Noon. He will demonstrate treatment methods aimed at the prevention and spread of Sudden Oak Death. SOD has now been confirmed as present in this Coast Live Oak forest. Treatment includes the strategic removal of Bay Laurel trees and the use of phosphonate for individual trees. Other subjects to be discussed include when to protect your home from SOD-related risk, how to clean tools and shoes to avoid the spread of SOD, when to perform yard work such as pruning and how to dispose of infected plant material--all to avoid the spread of SOD. See above for directions to Garber Park.

See and for more information. RSVP to

Saturday, October 13. Habitat Restoration Stewardship.  On Creek to Bay Day last month we made tremendous progress removing invasives from the Measure DD creek stabilization project area in Garber Park. More needs to be done before planting this Winter. Please join us as we remove invasive Himalayan blackberry and Cape ivy along Harwood Creek - from the bridge on the Lower Loop Trail all the way down to Claremont Avenue. Meet at 10 AM at the Evergreen entrance to Garber Park. See above for directions.

Save these Dates

Saturday, November 3rd: Stewardship Day. CAL students will join us in both the Upper Canyon and in the area above Stonewall. We will do trail work and remove invasives. Lunch will be provided courtesy of local merchants.

Sunday, November 11th: Claremont Canyon Conservancy's Annual Meeting. Everyone is invited to attend at the Claremont Hotel. Wildland fire expert Jon Keeley will be our featured speaker. Refreshments will be served.

For hikes, stewardship and restoration work, please remember to wear long pants, long sleeves, gloves and sturdy boots or shoes.

For more information about the Claremont Canyon Conservancy, go to


8.  From Wikipedia, submitted by Clark Natwick:

In the Fishlake National Forest in Utah , there is a colony of quaking aspen that is an estimated 80,000 years old, though no individual tree currently alive is anywhere near that age. Even the oldest non-clonal trees in the world, at some 4,000+ years of age, don’t approach the age of the root system of this organism, known asPando, or the Trembling Giant.

On the western edge of the Colorado Plateau, a single root system has been metabolically alive for 80,000 years. Or maybe more: There’s some debate on the age, with that figure being a conservative estimate.

Taken as a whole, all the individual trunks, branches and leaves weigh in at an estimated 6,600 short tons: The heaviest known organism on the planet.

And it’s a tree, or, rather, trees, operating on an entirely different time scale that most other plants and certainly any animal, covering 106 acres.

Let that all sink in.

A single organism has been alive for all of recorded human history and well into prehistory, growing above ground, in a climate suitable for it, sometimes being driven back by fire above ground but remaining alive below, since the Late Pleistocene period, at the start of the last glacial period, over 60,000 years before the ice age would reach its maximum extent.

In terms of human development, it’s the paleolithic period. Humans existed in small bands around the world, hunting and gathering. Anatomically and behaviorally, these are modern humans. In other parts of the planet, neanderthal were over 30,000 years from going extinct. Over in what’s now Indonesia, Homo floriensis flourished. All of which is to say, that Homo sapiens weren’t the only tool-using people on the block.

Except that in North America, humans had not yet even arrived on the scene. When this tree colony first came into being, it would be another 50,000 years before humans started coming over from Asia, into Alaska, and then moving down towards the Trembling Giant. By the time any human being set eyes on this grove, it was already, from our perspective, older than ancient.

I could go on and on, listing the chronology of everything that’s happened to Pando, but you get the picture. Its history is one where humanity is but a blip—albeit right now, and from the perspective of our limited lifespan, a blip that is doing a whole lot of disruption to Earth. 

Will Pando live through the Anthropocene and all the changes we’re causing on the climate?

Read more:

JS:  I used to get so excited contemplating the age of the bristlecone pines of the White Mountains.  When the nearby creosote bush rings of the Mojave Desert was found to be older, it was still exciting.  Then the fungal mats of a giant mushroom in Michigan made the news.  All this was still wonderful, but had a subtle dampening effect on my enthusiasm.  When I mused on bacteria or other microorganisms that reproduce primarily by cell division, the picture started getting more complicated, as the DNA could be millennia old.  But it's still fun to contemplate these time scales.


9.  Feedback

On Sep 28, 2012, at 4:34 PM, Peter Vaernet wrote:
Just because the rest of California is wasteful does not make the 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of green hydroelectricity a year "minuscule".  San Francisco is a very effective per capita user of both Electricity and H2O.

It would require building fossil fuel-powered filtration plants, and no Sir...1.7 billion kilowatts would not be produced elsewhere.
...and don't get me started on the ridiculous quotes regarding Giardia in the Hetch Hetchy water...that is just plain ignorance .

Peter:  I welcome feedback, and print it even when it disagrees with me, as you know.  However, we've been over this ground before, and we will never agree; we talk past each other.

I acknowledged before that there are powerful arguments for the status quo, arguments which at one time held sway with me.  However, my thinking has evolved.  A granite batholith that pushed up past 14,000 feet and was carved over millions of years into the grand canyons of Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy - those are supreme values.  When I am stymied for words to express my thoughts on this I turn to Muir.  You included some of his words in your return email, stepping over them like over a body, without acknowledging its existence.  I cannot read those words and remain indifferent; my pulse quickens, no matter how many times I read them.  Everything else--all the good arguments you adduce--are as nothing in comparison. 

But those are your values.  My values are promoting things that lift people's spirits.  Have you noticed that there are fewer and fewer such things with every day that passes?  There is no substitute for that in these tawdry times of crumby buck grubbing, where almost everything has been commodified, even air and water.

Sharon Kato:
Jake -       I don't know if you've read this poem, I find it to be a nice one to read when the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket.    
    Sharon Kato

Letters from a Father- - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More = link to page on the web


10.  Mission Blue Nursery Native Plant Sale!
Save the Date!
Saturday, October 27th, 2012


11.  Join San Bruno Mountain Watch for a presentation on the natural history and significance of the Daly City Dunes.
The Daly City Dunes, now threatened by a development project, are an important part of the plan to recover the San Francisco Lessingia.  They should be preserved because the dunes are a unique remnant of an ancient dune ecosystem that is rare and endangered-and worthy of saving for future generations.  The dunes are also home to an ancient Ohlone Indian Cultural site.

WHEN: Wednesday, October 3rd, 7 pm - 8:30 pm
WHERE: Teglia Center, 285 Abbott St., Daly City

Help Save the Daly City Dunes!

For more information about the Daly City Dunes, click here.



The Next Chapter:  Bringing Dos Rios Back to Life
Have you heard that Tom Stienstra, Outdoors Editor for The San Francisco Chronicle is our guest speaker for next Thursday's Dos Rios Ranch restoration benefit? And did you know we've added a shuttle from our Modesto office for those from out of town?
Over 100 of our supporters have already purchased tickets to attend this once-in-a-lifetime celebration and we want you to get in on the fun.

Ticket sales end in just a couple of days!  Get your tickets today online or by calling (209) 996-4652.

Thursday, October 4th, 6pm - 9pm
Marines' Memorial Club
609 Sutter Street, San Francisco
(call us about our shuttle from our Modesto office!)

6pm - Fine wine, beer and gourmet hors d'oeuvres overlooking Union Square
7pm - Dos Rios Project overview
Award Presentations
Special presentation by Tom Stienstra

Purchase Tickets Now
$100/person - (Proceeds benefit the Tuolumne River Trust's ongoing efforts to restore Dos Rios Ranch and the Tuolumne River.)


13.  One week to register!
Cal-IPC's 21st Annual Symposium - Rohnert Park 
"Bay to Basin: Coordinating Response to Invasive Plants Across California"

Wednesday - Saturday, October 10-13, 2012 

Space is still available for the Symposium, Habitat Restoration Workday, and field trips!

Advanced registration is available until Friday, October 5.
After that date, please register at the door. Register now!

(Picture failed to post)

Source: Geo-Metric Verse (1948) by Gerald L. Kaufman

Most people would probably put poetry and math at opposite ends of a spectrum, but author Gerald L. Kaufman was dedicated to marrying the two. In his book titled Geo-Metric Verse from 1948, he has 64 poems integrating mathematics and verse, which he amusingly admits is “written mostly for fanatics.” Guest blogger Bob Grumman muses over the Ellipsonnet and several other mathematical poems in his post “M@h*(pOet)?ica – Louis Zukofsky’s Integral”

Scientific American

In praise of mass transit
A polemical tour of the world's greatest underground transport systems
Straphanger:  Saving our Cities and Ourselves, by Taras Grescoe

Margaret Thatcher once declared that "a man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself a failure".

In the US - "the most extravagantly motorised nation in the history of the world" - vehicles now outnumber drivers by five to four.  Los Angeles, once hailed as an "autopia", is now the most congested city in the US, with drivers wasting 72 hours a year stuck in traffic jams - Americans now spend nine years of their lives sitting in their cars, and the pollution they produce kills 30,000 US citizens each year.

Squib from review in Guardian Weekly 28.09.12


Governor Ann Richards:  "My most difficult challenge in Texas politics was to teach men to make the coffee."