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, November 8, 2012


“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”   Loren Eiseley

1.   Help Plant*SF get a Ford Fdn grant
2.   Youth Stewardship Program celebration/planning Nov 14
3.   Correction: Bag It, the film - postponed
4.   Water: You will want to listen to this YouTube on life's most important substance
5.   Mendenhall Glacier - shocking photos 1894 vs 2008
6.   Water:  important thoughts
7.   The Gardener of Eden - James Broughton
8.   SaveTheFrogs needs your help at SF Green Festival Nov 10-11
9.   What to do about a pelican with a blue band on its leg
10. Democracy.  E.B. White understands it very well
11.  Ditch AT&T, take up with CREDO
12.  Native plants for landscaping projects app
13.  Save the date for PCL Symposium Jan 12
14.  Obituary:  George McGovern
15.  Notes & Queries

1.  The Ford Foundation has selected Plant*SF as one of 5 finalists for a $5,000 grant that if received will establish a Plant*SF Garden Stewardship Program. This will provide training, tools and support for renters and others who desire a place to garden to get their hands dirty and be directly involved with the neighborhood greening movement. At the same time, Plant*SF’s demonstration sites will receive on-going care to stay refreshed in the years to come. It’s a win-win!

Please take a moment to vote online (until midnight this Friday 11/9) or at the Green Festival Ford Pavilion this weekend (11/10-11/11) to make this program happen!



2.  Please join us for our annual Youth Stewardship Program kick-off celebrating our 14th year of FREE hands-on environmental education and service-learning field trips for 2nd-12th grade. Enjoy light refreshments and an informal presentation to learn more and meet the educators. Bring your planner and get an early start reserving your classroom visit and field trip dates!                                                              
Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
EcoCenter @ Heron’s Head Park Cargo Way and Jennings Street



3.  Acterra

We will NOT be doing the Bag It! film showing on Nov. 15 as previously planned.

Bag It: The Movie 
(Co-sponsored by Acterra)
Peninsula Conservation Center


(JS:  Brock "Mostly Water" Dolman will make your time investment in this YouTube worthwhile.  He is a highly skilled and gifted presenter and will take you on a 19-minute virtuoso tour of a subject than which there is nothing more important to life.  You may find his imaginative wordplay provocative and inducing to new ways of thinking.)

Brock Dolman - Watershed City 2.0 - TEDxMission talk on YouTube

Below is a YouTube link to my TedxMission Talk from Oct. 13th down in San Francisco called-
Watershed City 2.0: Re-thinking and Retrofitting for Resilience!

Mostly Water,


(photo failed to post)
Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska 1894 and 2008.
Direct measurements by the Juneau Icefield Research Program show that the glacier has retreated by more than 2800 meters since 1910 and at least 580 meters since 1948.

Credits: 1894 photograph by William Ogilvie, NSIDC/NOAA. 2008 photograph by Gary Braasch/World View of Global Warming


Nothing is weaker than water
Yet nothing overcomes immovable objects
As water does.  There is no substitute
Thus weakness overcomes strength
And gentleness overcomes rigidity.
No one denies it and no one tries it.
    Laotse, The Book of Tao

“Water can stand for what is unconscious, instinctive, and sexual in us, for the creative swill in which we fish for ideas.  It carries, weightlessly, the imponderable things in our lives:  death and creation.  We can drown in it or else stay buoyant, quench our thirst, stay alive.”    Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces

“To trace the history of a river, or a raindrop, as John Muir would have done, is also to trace the history of the soul, the history of the mind descending and arising in the body.  In both, we constantly seek and stumble on divinity, which, like the cornice feeding the lake and the spring becoming a waterfall, feeds, spills, falls and feeds itself over and over again.”
    Gretel Ehrlich, River History

"Near by is the graceful loop of an old dry creek bed.  The new creek bed is ditched straight as a ruler; it has been 'uncurled' by the county engineer to hurry the run-off.  On the hill in the background are contoured strip-crops; they have been 'curled' by the erosion engineer to retard the run-off.  The water must be confused by so much advice."
                Aldo Leopold, Sketches Here and There


The Gardener of Eden

I am the old dreamer who never sleeps
I am timekeeper of the timeless dance
I preserve the long rhythms of the earth
and fertilize the rounds of desire

In my evergreen arboretum
I raise flowering hopes for the world
I plant seeds of perennial affection
and wait for their passionate bloom

Would you welcome that sight if you saw it?
Revalue the view you have lost?
Could you wake to the innocent morning
and follow the risks of your heart?

Every day I grow a dream in my garden
where the beds are laid out for love
When will you come to embrace it
and join in the joy of the dance?

~ James Broughton ~

(Packing Up for Paradise)


8.  Save The Frogs at the SF Green Festival and we need volunteers Nov 10-11
SAVE THE FROGS! will hold a table at the San Francisco Green Festival this coming weekend. We will have an informational table and an art creation station at the nation's largest and most diverse sustainability event in the United States. This event is located at the SF Concourse Exhibition Center, located at 638 8th St. (at Brannan). SAVE THE FROGS! will be located in the Community Action area, booth number 960. Please come out, make some frog art, and support our efforts by purchasing a frog gift for your friends and family! 

For ticket information, please go here:

Volunteers Needed: SAVE THE FROGS! is excited to be working in the Bay Area and we have many projects developing in the region. As such, we are seeking a few dedicated individuals that can help SAVE THE FROGS! with future events/projects in the Bay Area. From grade school students to wildlife biologists, we could use your help! If you are interested, please email me directly.

“Evolutionary biology is now uttering and seeking those forces that link us with all those that have being.  If we can discover the meaning in the trilling of a frog, perhaps we may understand why it is for us not merely noise but a song of poetry and emotion.”    Adrian Forsyth


9.  Helping people learn what a pelican with a blue band on its leg means and what to do if you see one

I work with International Bird Rescue, and have been involved with the organization since 2006. I lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay facility in Fairfield for two years and spent four months in Louisiana working as a member of Bird Rescue's oil spill response team in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I've seen the harsh and unbearable for wild birds and the utterly remarkable. Pelicans, to me, represent one of the most amazing creatures on the planet.

In 2009, International Bird Rescue started placing highly visible large blue bands (in addition to the small silver federal band) on all California Brown Pelicans prior to release. We recently released our 1000th Blue Banded Pelican! We want to know more about their survivability in the wild post-release, where they migrate and how and where they get into trouble. With this data, we can then take steps to address the places and perils these birds find themselves in.

We need the public's help in tracking and reporting these birds to us. With many out there, and a band that is easy to spot, we want people to know what the band means and why its important, and easy, to report a sighting. These birds travel from Mexico to Washington, presenting lots of coastal opportunities to spot them.

We'd be very grateful for your help in broadcasting the information. I have attached the pdf of our recent launch and contest announcement as well as the English version (Spanish available too) of the current flyer. I would be very happy to provide any other information for you or answer any questions. I am available at 630-577-7825.


10.  Democracy, by E.B. White

“...Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms on the right. It is the don’t in don’t shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles; it is the dent in the high hat. Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half the people are right more than half the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths,the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere. Democracy is a letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea which hasn’t been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It’s the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee.”
(New Yorker July 1943)

(Love that E..B. White.  He represents the best in human beings, and he understands democracy.  Would that someone would bring this bit of simple wisdom to the attention of the Supreme Court, some of whose members seem unclear on the concept.  JS)

I can only assume that your editorial writer tripped over the First Amendment and thought it was the office cat.
    E.B. White

“Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”
    Nathaniel Hawthorne


If you believe in progressive values like environmental protection and clean energy, you might be interested to know that only one phone company stands with you—CREDO Mobile.
Consider this: CREDO has raised more than $70 millionfor progressive nonprofit groups over the years, including more than $13 million for environmental groups,, Rainforest Action Network, the Sierra Club and many more.

In contrast, AT&T and Verizon Wireless have donated$875,000 and $153,600 respectively to members of the House and Senate Tea Party Caucuses.¹ They also gave$169,500 and $41,000 respectively to the 2010 campaigns of global warming deniers in Congress.²

Whenever our environment is under assault, we mobilize our members and allies.

We've fought the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, withmore than a million calls and letters to decision-makers, and more than 1,000 of our activists arrested in dignified protest at the White House.

We also helped shut down more than 75 coal-fired power plants, and defended (against a fierce assault from the coal industry) the EPA rule to limit mercury emissions, with more than 200,000 public comments in support of the rule.

New! Acterra Stewardship's Native Plants App
Cost: Free

Acterra's new phone app is here -- a guide to plants that are native to the San Francisco Bay Area that Acterra recommends for landscaping projects. The app, which includes plants that are available at Acterra's Native Plant Nursery, offers photos and details about each plant, as well as a guide that recommends plants for a variety of common environments and uses.

For more information and to download the app, please visit the iTunes website. (App works on iPhones and iPads with iOS 6.)


13.  Save the date

Planning & Conservation League Environmental Symposium
UC Davis
12 January 2013

More information:, 916-822-5636


George McGovern, politician and hunger-fighter, died on October 21st, aged 90
Oct 27th 2012 | from The Economist

IN HIS own mind, George McGovern was as straightforward an American as you could wish to see. He was born in a parsonage and brought up on the South Dakota prairie. He fell in love in college (Dakota Wesleyan) and stayed married to Eleanor “for ever”. His old age was spent in the same small town in which he had been a boy. His creed, too, was simple, the theme of the speech with which he had won the South Dakota oratory contest at 17: “My brother’s keeper”. He became a Democrat, though both his family and his state were staunchly Republican, because that was the party of the average Joe. His public career was devoted to easing the hunger of the poor, and that was all he wanted to be remembered for.
All the more frustrating, then, that he was remembered for something else: for running, in 1972, the most idealistic or daft campaign for the presidency ever seen, and for earning one of the soundest electoral trouncings. He promised swingeing cuts in the defence budget, an end to the war in Vietnam, an amnesty for draft-evaders, universal health care, a guaranteed job for every American and an income above the poverty line for every American household. Bright-eyed young volunteers stuffed envelopes for him; Hollywood stars turned out for him; Simon and Garfunkel sang. To no avail. Richard Nixon won 49 states; he won Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

His name became a byword for Democratic disaster, linking him for ever to the long-haired likes of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and to those who screamed “Hell, no, we won’t go!” But he was no radical. He seldom got mad at anyone, hugely regretting any loss of his “sense of balance”. His soft, slow plainsman’s drawl held just the slightest quaver of emotion. Out of Christian principle, he loathed abortion, and did not want pot legalised. He was no pacifist, either. War had a purpose sometimes, and in 1944-45 he had flown the lumbering B24s to prove it, making 35 bombing sorties over Europe. He saw no such purpose in Vietnam. Alone, he spoke out in Congress against the war (“This chamber reeks of blood!”) and ran for president to appeal for peace again.
Politics never seemed quite the right career for him. He believed in the ideal and the impossible. Guile was unknown to him. His best advice was “Never say anything that, down inside, you think is wrong.” Driving the straight roads of South Dakota in his clunking sedan, he could enlist farmers as Democrats with a handshake; but he never learned the art of schmoozing. After four years in the House, from 1957, and 18 in the Senate, from 1962, he had almost no legislation to his name. In 1970 he rewrote the election rules for the Democratic Party: mayors, bigwigs and labour barons lost their backroom power to choose delegates, and openly contested primaries replaced them. His party eventually prospered from this, as it did from the near-death experience he had given it. But in 1972 he offended the powerful, and hurt his chances. He hurt himself more by clinging to, then abandoning, his running-mate Thomas Eagleton, who had admitted mental problems. Expediency was not something he knew much about.

His true talent lay behind the scenes. On the agricultural committees he worked for price supports, grain reserves, food stamps, rural development. Farmers had no better friend than George McGovern. But he added another dimension, hinting at his youthful leanings to follow his father as a Methodist minister: a conviction that out of America’s surplus, the poor of the world should be fed.

This conviction went deep. He first felt it in Mitchell, his home town, where the domed Corn Palace was decorated each year with murals made from corn, seeds and grass, the bounty of the plains. There too, in his boyhood, ravaging dust storms seeped through every chink in the house, and swarms of grasshoppers ate even the wooden handles of hoes left in the fields. Nature gave and took away. In wartime, he did the same: dropping bombs and then food parcels over Germany and Italy, where emaciated children fought and drowned over Hershey bars flung into the Bay of Naples.

Want and plenty

In 1961 President Kennedy put him in charge of Food for Peace, which gave poor countries credits to buy American grain. Within a year, 10m more people were being fed from America’s surplus. He helped to set up the UN World Food Programme and became, to his delight, “the point-guy on global hunger”. In later years he determined to give a square meal to the 300m schoolchildren who, he reckoned, started the day without one. Three books laid out his strategy for ending world hunger by 2030. He was eager to live to see it.

There was also work to do closer to home. He had never forgotten his fundamental horror that plenty and want could co-exist in the same country. Malnutrition in America, however, meant excess of the wrong things, as well as deficiency of the right ones. The only report he left behind, besides his work on election rules, was one advising Americans on what they should eat: less fat and sugar, more vegetables. And, with that, the thought that they should also give up war, hunger for justice, and feed on dreams.


15.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly

Why do people wear suits and (men) ties?

Suits are a group thing, a kind of uniform proclaiming membership of respectable business or professional society and providing the wearers with a sense of security. Ties are the only way men can express their individuality – or in the case of old school or regimental ties, their membership of a sub-group, which adds yet another layer of security to those whose individuality has been subordinated to the need to conform. Women, fortunately, have more freedom in their choice of accessories.
Joan Dawson, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

• Suit-wearing is a matter of looking uniform and it is ... costumary. For men, ties can proclaim which school they attended, the regiment they served in, their university and club. 
Ursula Nixon, Bodalla, NSW, Australia

• Corporate culture requires people to be tied to a suitable fashion.
Margaret Wyeth, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

• Some women think it suits them and for blokes it's the ties that bind.
Bill Bunbury, Margaret River, Western Australia

• In my experience, people wear a tie to keep their lunch off their shirt.
Robert Corr, Melbourne, Australia

• Men wear suits and ties in the sweltering Australian summer so that they can keep their office air conditioning at Arctic temperatures and female colleagues have to wear jackets and cardigans to keep warm!
Margaret Wilkes, Perth, Western Australia

• Like ... why knot?
Harvey Mitchell, Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia

Ours is the Muddle Ages

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

The fall of the Roman Empire in the west to the fall of Constantinople in the east.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany

• Middle Ages would seem to indicate an unknown, but possibly hopeful, follow up. Sadly, given our track record, I think we're actually in the Last Ages.
Alison Monks-Plackett, Pillemoine, France

• No, the Muddle Ages.
Roger Morrell, Perth, Western Australia

The effluent of the affluent

Where do the pens and pencils go?

We all know that washing machines are connected by wormholes. When a sock disappears, it reappears instantly in another washing machine at the other end of the wormhole somewhere else in space-time. This is easy for us to accept as like wormholes, washing machines are a relatively modern piece of kit.

But what if pencil boxes were also connected by wormholes? If proven, this would turn modern cosmology on its head as it would show wormholes predate domestic appliances.
J Nicolson, Brisbane, Australia

• To the streets of San Francisco. I haven't bought a pen for several decades because I find so many on the street. Clothes, too. I rarely buy clothes because I find good clothes on the street. I send them to the laundry and either wear them or donate them to Goodwill. I partly live off the effluent of an affluent society.
Jake Sigg, San Francisco, California, US

• At school, I pick up pens left everywhere by my students, then take them to Amnesty International letter writing every Thursday. The students arrive with no pen, borrow one from the box then walk off with them. The wheel of samsara thus combines with improving their karma.
Peter D Jones, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

• Into the junk box of history, unless you are enjoying your reputedly golden years.
Philip Stigger, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

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