In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


"...great innovations, whether in art or literature, in science or in nature, seldom take the world by storm.  They must be understood before they can be estimated, and must be cultivated before they can be understood."
    Clarence Dutton, quoted in Grand Canyon:  Solving Earth's Grandest Puzzle by J.L. Powell

1.   McLaren Park Natural Areas Work Party & Fire Ecology Walk Oct 27
2.   Farallon webcam runs year round - check migrations/Townsend warbler
3.   Great Grey Owls of Yosemite
4.   The Mystery of Birdsong, Nov 7 in East Bay
5.   You can help cavity- nesting birds/creekside planting/Rethinking Parking
6.   Thoughts on Prop F (from someone other than me)
7.   WalkSF - many events
8.   Ethicist critiques Roe v Wade, Obamacare, Romney
9.   Nights longer, see better where people live on the globe
10. Notes & Queries: minimum v maximum wage/what if England had Italy's climate?
11.  Feedback: sexism in Australia/your age vs sense of history
12.  Samuel Pepys sees someone drawn & quartered

McLaren Park Natural Areas Work Party & Fire Ecology Walk
Saturday Oct. 27, 9PM - 1PM
Mansell/Visitacion parking lot
(Overflow parking is across Mansell along Shelley Drive.)

Join us for a morning of nature exploration and community action in John McLaren Park! Kirra Swenerton of SFRPD's Natural Areas Program will start our day with an informative walking tour of the southern slopes fire region. After some refreshments and a brief orientation, we'll spend a couple of hours cleaning up trash along the park's roadways and within its natural areas. Finally, we'll enjoy a sumptuous free picnic lunch.
Bring your family and friends! And bring your favorite beverages, desserts, and snacks to share as well -- add to the fun however you can. Our first priority will be trash pickup, overflow crowds will be put to work weeding, clearing paths, and otherwise doing what needs to be done.

This event is sponsored by Save McLaren Park and SFRPD's Natural Areas Program, with additional support from the McLaren Park Collaborative. It's not required, but if you are attending please register for this event or send us a brief email so we can plan accordingly.


2.  The Farallon webcam runs year round; September (and early October) is the best month to look for migratory songbirds, but you never know what might show up—Great White Shark attacks on Elephant Seals have also been observed on the webcam. Recent virtual sightings have included a Brown Booby, Wandering Tattler, Golden-crowned and White-crowned Sparrows, Brewer’s and Red-winged Blackbirds, and even a passing Violet-green Swallow.
If you want to test your digital skills and patience, the link is below.


Speaking of migratory songbirds, here's a common visitor to my backyard coast live oak tree during every spring and autumn migration season:

A bird of the Pacific Northwest, the Townsend's Warbler nests in coniferous forests from Alaska to Oregon. It winters in two distinct areas: in a narrow strip along the Pacific Coast, and in Mexico and Central America.


3.  Great Grey Owls of Yosemite

Voice software helps study of rare Yosemite owls


4.  The Mystery of Bird Song, November 7, 7 p.m. at Dimond Library. How do birds learn to sing such beautiful songs? Why do they produce so many different types of vocalizations? California naturalist and author David Lukas will help answer some of these questions and share his insights into the magical world of bird song—from the ways we study bird song, to the anatomy of how birds produce sounds, to some of the social behaviors that explain common bird vocalizations. David's newly published book Bay Area Birds is the first comprehensive guide to the status, life history, and distribution of all the birds that occur in the Bay Area ( For more info: Friends of Sausal Creek, 501-3672,

A flyer is available at .

YOU Can Help Cavity Nesting Birds
Thursday, November 1
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
McClellan Ranch Preserve
22221 McClellan Road, Cupertino [map]

Want to help our fine, feathered friends but not sure how? Then attend this presentation! Mike Azevedo of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society's Cavity Nester Recovery Program will tell you the whys and hows of nest box design, placement, and monitoring. There will even be bird boxes available for purchase!

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

Friday Afternoon Creekside Planting
Friday, November 2
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Pope Street and Woodland Avenue
Menlo Park [map]
Cost: Free

Join us before "cocktail hour" to plant native plants on the banks of our local creeks! Help us improve habitat for native insects, birds, fish and other animals as we work to help restore the "bottom of the food chain" -- our native plants that support all other native life.

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

Rethinking Parking
Thursday, November 8
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Sunnyvale Heritage Park Museum
570 East Remington Drive
Sunnyvale [map]
Cost: Free

Brian Canepa, Principal at NelsonNygaard Transportation Consulting, will discuss parking issues such as the practices that have shaped our cities and transportation choices, the trade-offs in providing too much or too little parking, and what other cities doing to update parking practices and their results.

For more information, please visit the Rethinking Parking event website.


6.  Joel at

Since I work with local water issues a lot in my natural history education efforts, I've been asked about Proposition F.

Restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley is a sweet goal for the National Park environment, tourism, sustainability and balancing regional power politics. But is it reasonable from the water perspective?

Although I support Prop F, I have concerns. Here is my analysis.

Prop F is about whether the city should study and plan a process for restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley. The valley currently is down below the deep waters of one of SF's largest reservoirs. It's off limits to Yosemite Park users, despite being entirely within that park. Prop F doesn't commit to any course of restoring the valley, just to planning how to restore it and planning relocating that water and the dam's energy.

The extremely high quality of the water we now get depends in part on the high elevation reservoir at Hetch Hetchy Valley. Without that altitudinously high reservoir, we'd still have some H2O in the high elevations (Lake Eleanor and Cherry Lake), but a big part of our water would need to be stored down at lower elevations which would encounter more microbial life and therefore need more water treatment before use. This is the only downside to restoration I can think of, aside from the cost of the transition, which hasn't been determined. (Prop F would help determine it.)

So in my opinion, the goal of Prop F (planning) is excellent. As for the plan to restore, that is mostly good as far as I can tell so far: the financial price is unknown, the increase in need for treatment is bad, though proponents argue that more treatment will be needed eventually, regardless. (Their site is Note the fundraiser event they're having this Friday.)

Sadly, the only serious risk I anticipate is that the highly political PUC will fail to follow the spirit of F even if it passes. Will they ever actually agree to restoring Hetchy Hetchy Valley? This increases the chance, but, "Power yields nothing without a demand." (Frederick Douglass said that).

Maybe studying it is a waste of time, or at least ahead of its time. SF is often ahead of its time, and sometimes that's useful. If they do follow the spirit of Prop F, we'll learn a lot and get to make the real decision later. Regardless of what happens in this campaign, I anticipate further water wars in California, mostly fought among the titans, not necessarily subject to votes of the people. The lies recently propagated about Prop F, paid for by folks who contract with the city (that's illegal!), already show how nasty a cornered rat can be.

If you want Deep Facts, more than the above, you can get a fix more often (if you are on facebook) by clicking Like on or go to

Please sign up for Thinkwalks tours listed at
•  Presidio Hike, Oct 26 (this Friday morning)
•  Walk the Wiggle Sunday, Nov. 4th at noon
•  Mission District Water Walking tour Monday the 5th in the morning

7.  Connect with Walk SF


Support Walk SF for safer streets and a more walkable city

Walk SF update on how you can support Prop B for parks. 

And get ready for a little mud when you RSVP for Walk SF's first-ever trail-building event in November.
Read on:
    •    This Thu and next Tue: District 3 and District 7 Forums
    •    Vote for Better Public Spaces - Support Prop B for Parks
    •    RSVP for the Philosophers' Way Trail-building Walk, Sat 11/17
    •    Fell/Oak Project Passes: Thank You for Your Support!

This Thursday and next Tuesday: District 3 and District 7 Forums
Be sure to attend the final three Supervisorial Forums for a direct conversation about public space in your neighborhood, as the SF Parks Alliance, Friends of the Urban Forest and Walk San Francisco host discussions on safer, greener streets and parks.

At recent events, community members joined with Supervisors Eric Mar, David Campos, and John Avalos to raise concerns about pedestrian injury rates, unsafe intersections and corridors, park repairs and grafitti, and new homeowner responsibilities for tree maintenance.

This is your chance to share your priorities over the next four years for a greener, more walkable city.

Pose questions when you RSVP online to learn about your Supervisorial candidates' positions on streets, parks, and public space.     

District 3 (Chinatown/N. Beach) Forum
Thursday, October 25, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center, 1199 Mason St. at Washington St.

District 7 (Sunnyside) Forum
Thursday, October 30, 6 - 8 p.m.
San Francisco Zoo's Great Hall, Sloat Blvd. and 47th Ave.

District 5 (Hayes Valley/Haight) Forum
Thursday, November 1, 6 - 8 p.m.
Hamilton Recreation Center, Geary Blvd. at Steiner
RSVP for a District Forum today.

Vote for Better Public Spaces: Support Prop B for Parks

Walk San Francisco endorses Prop B, the San Francisco Clean and Safe Neighborhood Park Bond. Prop B will support playground, pool, and playfield improvements and shoreline restoration, and improve trails, accessibility, natural areas and habitat.

Residents in every neighborhood deserve access to safe, clean, well-maintained parks and walking trails -- join Walk SF in supporting a more walkable, livable city and better public spaces with Prop B.

Download the Yes on B sign and volunteer today:
Noe Valley Harvest Festival
Saturday October 27, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
24th St. at Sanchez
Scaregrove @ Stern Grove
Saturday October 27, 3 - 5 p.m.
2750 19th Ave.
Visitacion Valley Festival
Sunday October 28, 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Leland Ave at Bayshore
Find out more at Yes for Parks.

RSVP for the Philospher's Way Trail-building Walk, Saturday 11/17
Do more than just walk a trail -- help build a trail by joining Walk SF and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department's Natural Area (SFRPD) program in November. Help restore and beautify McLaren Park's Philospher Way Trail as part of this special, monthly members' walk.

Lend a hand to maintain the Philospher's Way Trail where walkers can explore art stations and scenic viewpoints.

Learn about McLaren Park's history, ecosystems and relation to the rest of the city's landscape from the SFRPD's Joe Grey as you work on restoring this natural area.

Space is limited, so RSVP today.

Philosopher's Way Trail-Building Walk
McLaren Park, meeting location TBD
Saturday, November 17, 9 a.m. - Noon
Free to all    
SFRPD will provide all the necessary tools, walk/work scope details, and a safety overview at the start of the walk.

Please arrive promptly at 9 a.m. to receive instructions.  

Fell/Oak Street Project Passes: Thank You for Your Support!
Last week, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors unanimously approved this project to create pedestrian safety improvements, traffic calming, and bike lanes on three blocks of Fell and Oak Streets.
The project includes 12 "bulb-outs" to shorten crossing distances, improves visibility, and provides street greening. The traffic signals on Oak and Fell will also be adjusted to lower synchronized vehicle speeds from 25 MPH to 20 MPH.

CROSS-CHECK: Ethicist Peter Singer Critiques  Roe v. Wade,  Obamacare, Romney
Singer’s work is challenging, not because his writing is difficult to understand but because it is all too clear


Photograph courtesy of NASA
Now that the days are getting shorter, our lights burn brightly later into the morning and earlier in the evening. There may be no better visual reminder of where humans live on the planet than a photograph of the earth at night. Cities shine, suburbs twinkle, and the few remaining locales that don’t glow with electricity look both desolate and peaceful. Despite our love of light, so-called light pollution can have detrimental effects to wildlife and humans. That’s why the National Park Service and the International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit focused on preserving the night, protecting wildlife, and conserving electricity, have begun to identify dark sky reserves across the world.

View article...


10.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly
All pigs are equal, but some are more so

Why is it that countries have a minimum wage, but not a maximum wage?

Sounds like far too radical an idea! I can't imagine many leaders or politicians agreeing to a maximum wage in case they themselves saw an opportunity to earn more.
Margaret Wilkes, Perth, Western Australia

• On a minimum wage and the brackets above it, all pigs are equal. But some pigs are more equal than others and, being in charge, they would never approve a maximum wage.
Ursula Nixon, Bodalla, NSW, Australia

• For the answer, Google Zeitgeist Movement, but be prepared to lose your mental comfort zone.
Dick Hedges, Nairobi, Kenya

• Because governments do not want to limit their tax revenues?
Alan Williams-Key, Madrid, Spain

• The minimum wage is an attempt to provide income equality for the least able in the workforce. The maximum wage cannot be determined, as it would do damage to that parallel universe of bank executives and football players.

We keep being told in order to get "the best" there can be no limit as to what they are paid.
Doreen Forney, Pownal, Vermont, US

• Maximum wages are subject to market forces. A minimum wage forces market economies to provide for their subjects.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany

• If you put the fox in charge of the hen coop, don't expect it to turn vegetarian.
Roger Morrell, Perth, Western Australia

Assuming that they had it

At what point does a politician lose integrity?

At birth?
Philip Stigger, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

• When he/she stands for office.
John Ralston, Mountain View, California, US

• At the proclamation of the election results.
Adrian Cooper, Queens Park, NSW, Australia

• Lose?!
Barrie Sargeant, Otaki Beach, New Zealand

• Assuming that a politician ever possessed integrity, he or she will soon lose it at the point called expediency.
Peter Vaughan, St Senoch, France

• They can only lose it if they have any to start with.
Nigel Grinter, Chicago, Illinois, US

You are what you snack on

How different would the English character have been if England had been blessed with Italy's climate?

Priority would have been given to what you eat, not how you talk.
Richard Orlando, Montreal, Canada

• Maybe they'd return the smile when they pass me in London.
Eileen Freedland, Petaluma, California, US

Behind the sofa perhaps?

Where do the pens and pencils go?

They fall through the cracks, like a lot of ideas and intentions.
Art Hunter, Napanee, Ontario, Canada

• It is a well-known fact that there is a tear in the fabric of space-time in the back of the clothes dryer; it is where all the missing socks go. There may be similar forces at work on the pens and pencils.
Jacques Samuel, Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada

• Into an old beer mug on a shelf in our kitchen. But where do they come from?
Fred Bendeich, Camberwell, Victoria, Australia

Any answers?

Why do people wear suits and (men) ties?

Gaynor McGrath, Armidale, NSW, Australia

What were the Middle Ages in the middle of? Are we in the Late Ages?

Gabi Duigu, Sydney, Australia


11.  Feedback

Rachel Kesel (re Australian prime minister Julia Gillard responding to leader of opposition):
Jake,  I looked this up after you brought it to my attention Saturday.
You might like this link, which includes a video of Gillard addressing the leader of the opposition regarding his overt sexism

On Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 5:27 PM, Jake Sigg <> wrote:
Want sexism?  Go to Australia

On Oct 23, 2012, at 8:06 PM, Steve Neff wrote:
Hi Jake,
  Your item on Mitterand's visit and history and the way later generations are unconcious of important history seemed especially noteworthy in light of George McGovern's approaching death (or has he died now?). It always blows me away (and makes me feel old) when I realize that there are so many people out there for whom Watergate and all the other scandals of that time have no meaning. Watergate was huge to me, and still is key to how I view the world (I was 14 or so at the time), and yet when I meet people born post the mid-1970s, I think "wow, this must seem as theoretical to them as, say, the Korean War does to me!". Personally, I enjoy history and try to learn and understand that which occurred before my lifetime (that seems like a good working definition of history to me!), but, sadly, there is a way in which it is hard for many people to really feel the significance of times which they did not live through. I can still feel the emotions I felt during the Watergate hearings, waiting to see what would happen, yet the McCarthy hearings, or the Cuban Missile Crisis, say, while no doubt huge bits of history, I am emotionally detached from, books whose endings I already knew.
     happy trails,
                           steve neff
Steve:  I'm glad to get your thoughts on aging and our perception of reality.  I expect just about anyone who lives long enough arrives at the realization you're having.  It is sobering and often, as in my case, a shock.

Looking back, my recollection of my epiphany is that it didn't happen until my 50s, and it was very similar to yours.  I was in conversation with someone about a recent president and the lack of awareness of history by young people; then I was told "But Jake, these young people weren't even born yet".  Obvious, but stunning, and it was the beginning of reshaping my thoughts about what is possible in managing human affairs.

Your statement "hard for many people to feel the significance of times which they did not live through" is a hard truth in life.  Only very late in life have I become really interested in history (and I was a history major!).  That may sound strange; I have always had a superficial interest, but it is much deeper now--now that I don't have that many more years to put that knowledge to use.  I experience the struggles and conflicts of, say, the founding fathers in the 1770s.  Their concerns and anxieties are living concerns; I experience them now. 

Ditto the Peloponnesian War.  In a busy world it isn't necessary to know the entire history of the world--not possible in any event.  But there are certain salient wars and events that serve as a prototype, a stand-in for all others, and the Peloponnesian War was a signal event that portrays the futility and horror of all wars--most of which solve nothing.  It was especially horrifying to me because it brought to a premature end that brilliant period of innovation and creativity that created Western Civilization.


"I went to see Major General Harrison being drawn and quartered.  He was looking as cheerful as any man could in that condition."
Samuel Pepys Diary 13 October 1661

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