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, November 10, 2012


If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people. -Virginia Woolf

1.   Robert Louis Stevenson salute to Veterans Day
2.   Animal welfare legislation needed
3.   Blue-banded Pelican Contest: Clues & Tidbits
4.   Living New Deal Project - potpourri
5.   Butterflies of the Presidio: artwork from a new book
6.   Infographic: First-ever family tree for all living birds reveals evolution
7.   Beyond Searsville Dam update
8.   Cooking Pears, by Christine Colasurdo
9.   Life is denied by lack of attention...
10. Now showing:  The Pleiades
11.  Feedback
12.  A Word A Day:  vegete

1.  November 11 - Veterans Day

Give Us Courage

Give us courage, gaiety and the quiet mind.
Spare us to our friends, soften to us our enemies.
Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavors.
If it may not, give us the strength to encounter
that which is to come, that we be brave in peril,
constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath,
and in all changes of fortune and down to the gates
of death, loyal and loving to one another.

~ Robert Louis Stevenson ~

(Prayers Written At Vailima)


Below is a letter I just sent to about 50 newspapers throughout the state.  Should it appear in your local paper, I would appreciate your alerting me.  Maybe forward to your members, asking them to write their reps?

Please consider doing a similar letter on the legislative front.  Most legislators will be deciding within the next few weeks which bills they will be carrying next session.  Now's the time to hit them with your ideas.

Keep in mind that we have about 40 brand-new people in the State Capitol, many of whom will be looking to make a name for themselves.  Now's the time.

Eric Mills, coordinator

Letter to the Editor

Here's hoping an incumbent or newly-elected California state law maker will introduce legislation next session to help animals and the environment.  A few suggestions:

(1) Amend state rodeo animal welfare law (Penal Code 596.7) so as to require EITHER an on-site veterinarian OR an on-site Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) with a licensed vet on call at every rodeo, plus two-weeks advance notice to local animal control agencies.  The current "on call" vet option is not working, and animals are suffering needlessly.

(2) A ban on the Mexican charreada's brutal "steer tailing" event.  Tails may be broken, even torn off, and horses can suffer broken legs when the steers run the wrong way.  (See YouTube.)  This cruelty was banned in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties in 1993, and by the State of Nebraska in 2009  Cesar Chavez would approve.

(3) A ban on the importation of frogs and turtles for the live animal food markets.  California annually imports two million American bullfrogs (raised in Taiwan), and some 400,000 freshwater turtles (all taken from the wild) for human consumption.  These exotics, when released into local waters, prey upon and displace our native wildlife.  All are diseased and/or parasitized, though it is illegal to sell such products.  Many are butchered while fully conscious.  Worse, most of the frogs carry the dreaded chytrid fungus, responsible for the extinction of some 200 amphibian species worldwide.  The State Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (formerly Fish & Game) refuses to follow its mandate, and continues to issue the import permits.

All state legislators may be written c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA  95814.


Blue-Banded Pelican Contest: Clues and Tidbits


4.  Living New Deal Project

Our Mark on This Land: A Guide to the Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in America’s Parks
Review by Sam Redman

Our Mark on this Land | Ren and Helen Davis 
The New Deal represented a series of federal initiatives, yet much of its impact was felt on the state and local level. This was especially true of the efforts of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) whose workers poured into parks across the nation, transforming the landscape and making them more accessible to the public. In this book, authors Ren and Helen Davis offer park visitors and New Deal scholars alike an important guide to the legacy of the CCC in the U.S. park system. Read more

Congress to Postal Service: “Drop Dead!”
By Gray Brechin

The fire sale of our post offices is accelerating while the media remain largely asleep at the wheel. In July 2011, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) gave an exclusive contract to liquidate the public’s property to the giant commercial real estate firm C.B. Richard Ellis (CBRE), which also advises the Postal Service on which properties to sell. It’s no surprise, then, that so many of the post offices listed for sale or already sold happen to be in expensive real estate markets. Read more

Berkeley Fights to Save Its Post Office
By Harvey Smith

Citizens protest at the Downtown Berkeley Main Post Office

The Downtown Berkeley’s Main Post Office is widely recognized as not just a local treasure but also a national treasure. In June, the U.S. Postal Service notified the City of Berkeley of the impending sale of the downtown post office. Gray Brechin, Harvey Smith and Ying Lee of the Living New Deal quickly joined forces with labor and community organizers to form Citizens to Save the Berkeley Post Office. Read more


5.  Butterflies of the Presidio: artwork from a new book
Location: Thoreau Center for Sustainability 1014 Torney Avenue (click here for map Tides)
Dates: wine & cheese opening reception November 15th 5 - 7 p.m. (through January 31st 2013)

Text: Liam O'Brien has been painting on some path, in front of some bush, capturing some butterfly for the last three years in the Presidio. It has culminated in a book (written with Matthew Zlatunich) for the Presidio Trust: The Butterflies of the Presidio. This exhibit is a distillation of hundreds of field sketches, close-up portraits and the ten large tableaus that are the cornerstone of the book.


6.  Infographic: First Ever Family Tree for All Living Birds Reveals Evolution


7.  Beyond Searsville Dam
Deciding the Fate of Searsville Dam- Bay Nature
Thank you Aleta George and Bay Nature Magazine for the article on the fate of Stanford University's Searsville Dam.

Stanford Honors Journalist for Dam Removal Article

Stanford University's School of Humanities and Sciences, and their Knight Risser Prize for Western Journalism, has honored Lynda Mapes of the Seattle Times with a Special Citation for the report, "Elwha: The Grand Experiment", which focusses on the largest dam removal project in the world currently underway in Washington State. This impressive multi-media coverage includes animation of how the dams are being removed, videos capturing the ecosystem rebounding and fish returning, and links to live time-lapse footage of the dams coming down and reservoir areas reviving. We thank Lynda Mapes and the Seattle Times for capturing and sharing this historic river restoration project. We are encouraged to see folks at Stanford recognize this coverage and hope that Stanford will soon be honored for removing Searsville Dam, updating their water supply system, and helping to restore our San Francisquito Creek watershed and San Francisco Bay.

Other recent news

Second Obama Term Offers Opportunities to Advance Clean Water and River Protection

New Website for the Coming Film "DamNation"

Dam Removal Project Eases Flooding

San Francisquito Creek Restoration Days with Acterra: Nov. 17th and Dec. 1

JS:  The day before election - the doorbell rings.  Well, I thought, it's someone wanting my vote or to convert to his religion.  I'll make short work of this guy.
Surprise!  I recognize the elegant printing.  A jar of pear jam!  And, what's this - a poem?
I saved the pears for breakfast, but I sat down and read the poem then and there:


Each bruise from the street strikes me
with the pear’s tale of flight before
it smacked pavement, split and rolled—
some sideswiped, some top-bashed,
some too damaged even for jam.

Every autumn it’s this way: gathering
pears no one wants, washing them
the way Jesus washed the apostles’ feet,
watching them simmer toward sweetness
flecked with nutmeg and cinnamon.

Damage individuates: makes us wholly
different, informs our faces, years;
the soup kitchen is always full
with stories—the poor will be with you
always, and the story always changes.

It’s the neighbors’ tree and they don’t like
Bartlett’s; just as soon cut that old tree down.
But the stone which the builders rejected
becomes the gift of smooth green skin,
heft in the hand, flesh to desire.

Kathy, the soup kitchen’s cook, smiles
and shouts Bon Appétit to the unfamous
who might eat just once today, that’s all,
this meal of give-aways transfigured to a feast;
it’s okay to have seconds of milk and rolls.

I send the jam to friends as gifts;
Jake said he mainlined it straight from the jar.
It’s not like he’s front-page news but
Jake’s life has been one of donation
as though there were no other way to be.

A tree that cannot stop producing
becomes autumn’s tree exalted
in rows of small luminescent jars
when weak afternoon light pierces
all the world’s camouflaged wounds.

So much is secretly beautiful.
What’s hidden in plain sight
often lies not in the Bible, too famous
with stories too many times told;
no, you must look for it daily, broken.

                —Christine Colasurdo
                    copyright  2012

Christine:  I'm at a loss for proper thanks.  Life has been hard and most of the time now our existence in the world seems pointless.  My spirits can use the lift you just gave me.

Christine Colasurdo:
You should not despair. You are one of my heroes. Don't forget that. You have no idea how wonderful Nature News is and what a difference it makes, each and every one you write. And it's just icing on the big cake of good works that a certain Jake Sigg has done. I do not exaggerate when I say that there are birds out in the world singing, plants blooming, amphibians crawling, caterpillars in cocoons—and some informed Homo sapiens who are a bit more conscientious about their actions thanks to YOU. So keep up the excellent work and enjoy your life!
We Geminis are said to be good at wangling compliments from people.  Although I was describing my mood accurately, in the back of my mind I knew I would get another paean from you.

It worked.  Along with an email I got yesterday from a fan in Los Angeles, this will serve as a banquet for at least a few days.  Eventually, I'll need another fix. 

I was raised on a ranch, and the image I have when I ruminate on these compliments is of a cow or sheep chewing its cud.  (In fact, that's where 'ruminate' came from--ruminants chewing their cud, come to think of it.)  I burp it up and chew on it again and again.  It's just as good the fourth time as the first.

I'm becoming a little more honest in my old age.  Before, I would never own up to having such self-centered needs.
I have trouble imagining Jake Sigg as an ungulate but you definitely deserve to ruminate. So print out my little green bit of praise and paste it to your computer and chew on it any time you feel the need.  :-)


Life is denied by lack of attention,
                        whether it be to cleaning windows
                            or trying to write a masterpiece.
                                       -- Nadia Boulanger


10.  The Pleiades

"...No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds!
November!"  —Thomas Hood, 1844

November, indeed.  But Thomas Hood lived in England, and our November is the month I most look forward to--and the absence of the things Hood bemoaned are plentiful here.  November often has clear, mild, sunny days with clear nights for seeing stars.  And what stars.  The season for San Francisco armchair or binocular astronomers has arrived.  Fortuitously, that is when Orion, Taurus, and Auriga occupy the early evening sky.  The double whammy of atmospheric moisture obscuring stars and reflecting city lights often diminishes in autumn/winter.  If the night is chill, as in last few days, there is greater clarity.

The Pleiades can be seen by the naked eye even in our light-polluted sky as a fuzzy blob.  But just a pair of ordinary binoculars aimed at the Pleiades can reveal their stunning beauty; it is like a box of jewels.  The "jewels" are young stars seemingly buried in their gauzy birth  clothes.   Finding them is easy; for the next several weeks Jupiter will guide you.  Two bright stars on each side of Jupiter make a straight line.  The southernmost (on your right if you're facing east) is a red star, Aldebaran, the angry red eye of Taurus the Bull.  From Aldebaran lift your eyes several degrees toward the zenith, to the Bull's shoulders.  That little smudge is the Pleiades, in the Bull's shoulders.  You won't confuse them with any other group of stars; their beauty will arrest you.   Just sweep the binoculars around that part of the sky on a clear night and you'll easily find them. 

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid.

    - Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Locksley Hall

Just in the last few months, research has revealed that the Sun was born in such a cluster several billion years ago.  The cluster has since dispersed.  How astronomers figured this out is interesting, but another story.


11.  Feedback

On Nov 8, 2012, at 4:45 PM, FortuneZuckerman wrote:
Hey Jake,
Sorry about that.  You just received a note for my sister.  I never mean to clutter your mail box.  I always send your newsletter to my sister and her husband, especially the ones pertaining to water, like this one.  My brother-in-law was just elected to the Casitas Municipal Water District Board (for the third time).  They enjoy your newsletter as much as I do.  So, now and then I select reply rather than forward, and that is how you receive occasional notes meant for someone else, but it gives me the excuse to say thank you again for all of your Nature News.    Please accept my apology for the mistake.

Well, I sometimes like these "mistakes".  They give me a little insight into where my epistles end up.
Hi Jake,
I sometimes wonder what will happen if you leave the planet before your devoted Nature News readers.  Do you have a favorite charity we should support?  I don't have a lot to donate, but I would like to say thank you in some way for all you share with your readers.  This must be an odd thing to say, but I know there is nobody who has your brain and would put such care, interest and devotion into creating such worthwhile, artistic, useful and important information as you have done.   I have a feeling all of your readers think this way.  I'm always amazed and appreciative! 

This is pretty heady stuff for me, Fortune.  Like most human beings I'm starved for praise.  Never get enough of that wonderful stuff.

Producing this newsletter does cost me, and I am constantly looking for ways to reduce the amount of time I put in to creating it.  I can't go on forever, but I'm unable to give it up. Something will have to give some day.  One guy surfaced recently who can help me reduce the amount of time I spend mailing the newsletter.  That will help, but only a little.  The larger problem remains, and it lies inside me.

with Anu Garg


adjective: Lively; active; vigorous.
From Latin vegere (to enliven). Ultimately from the Indo-European root weg- (to be strong or lively), which also gave us vigor, velocity, and vegetable. Earliest documented use: 1639.
"I love to be my own master, when my spirits are prompt, when my brain is vegete and apt for thought."
Ralph Waldo Emerson's Journal; Jul 10, 1828.

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