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 15, 2012


It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do. Wasting time is merely an occupation then, and a most exhausting one. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen. -Jerome K. Jerome, humorist and playwright (1859-1927)

1.   Tuolumne River Trust seeks Finance & Adminstration Director
2.   Save the date: Crane Cove Park workshop Dec 8
3.   I am happy to be a stone - Charles Simic
4.   Thinkwalks calendar/free talk TONIGHT, deep SF facts
5.   Spine of the Continent - ambitious wildlife conservation project - talk TONIGHT 5.30
6.   Vote for video on harvesting and planting the rain
7.   North Beach community meeting on Central Subway construction problems Nov 19
8.   Kids in Parks work party Nov 17 at Hawk Hill
9.   New Traditions School community planting of oaks and cisterns Nov 17
10. Knowland Park celebration and get-together Nov 17
11.  This dog believes - a different perspective on human predicaments
12.  Notes & Queries: When is a grouping of humans considered civilized?

1.  The Tuolumne River Trust is currently seeking a Finance & Administration Director to run the finance, accounting and administrative operations for the Tuolumne River Trust - with twelve staff and an annual budget of approximately 1 million. This person will maintain effective accounting and finance operations, prepare organizational and program budgets, and ensure that appropriate policies, procedures, and internal controls are maintained to safeguard our organization with strong financial management.

The Director will be an experienced professional, committed to building and maintaining effective infrastructure. He or she will demonstrate strong communication, analytical and organizational skills, acting both as a strategic thinking and hands on achiever. This position reports to the Executive Director and works closely with the Advancement Director, as well as the Finance and Audit Committees.

We have a great work atmosphere, cutting edge programs, and over 2,000 members supporting our work.

For more details, including how to apply, please click here.


2.  Please hold the date

Crane Cove Park - Draft Concept Plan - Community Workshop
Saturday December 8th 10:30 -12:30- Pier 70 Noonan Building at the foot of 20th Street.

An official meeting notice, agenda and meeting location directions will be distributed the week of 11/26.



Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.

~ Charles Simic ~

(The Voice at 3 A.M.)


4.  Thinkwalks

In honor of the 100th anniversary of SF becoming the first major US city with a transit system owned by the public, I present Deep Facts on that topic.

But first, a message from your Thinkwalks guide. Please look at the and sign up for
• Creek-out Geek-out Hike in the Presidio
• Relaxed Hike on Mt Sutro
• Divisadero Water History tour
• Transportation History bike ride

And come to our free talk & slideshow tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 15) at the Randall Museum!

All of which is easy to find at

Deep SF Facts:
In 1934, during SF labor and waterfront control battles, two men were shot by police. This is fairly well known.

But did you know that in 1907 a rail strike in SF for better hours and pay turned so violent that 31 people were killed and 1100 injured? Passengers were a majority of the deaths. A running gunbattle between "scabs" on the Turk Street line and strikers in a car chasing behind went on for many blocks. The strikers lost the strike and even disbanded their union, after protracted disaster including indictment of the Mayor (Eugene Schmitz) who was pro-labor (generally speaking).

Did you know that the electrification by overhead lines predated the cheap electricity that came with the Hetch Hetchy project? The City Beautiful architectural movement was strong in SF and so no electric wires were put up blocking views…until the 1906 quake made it necessary. Rubble and inoperable cable car cables (under the street) made it impossible to get the major streetcar lines going again without adding overhead power. Why couldn't they wait a little longer and repair the cables? Because an estimated 250,000 people, much of SF's population, had moved at least temporarily to the EastBay (which is Piglatin for Beast!) and the functions of downtown SF had moved to Fillmore Street. Getting from the ferries to Fillmore became a daily ordeal for so many people that they had to get something moving fast. The electrified cars were so overstuffed that people hanging on the ourtside were often seriously injured by what was called "brush-offs" in which one car passed another with not enough clearance. Rather than the 9 MPH of the cable cars, these cars hit 25 MPH so people also were flung off at curves, unused to the great speed.

Have fun deeply and let me know, as always, what you think…including asking for me to run one of my walks on any day you choose. (I can keep it private for your group or I can post it on the public calendar.)


5.  Book Talk: Spine of the Continent: The Most Ambitious Wildlife Conservation Project Ever Undertaken
The Center for Biological Diversity is hosting author Mary Ellen Hannibal for a reading and discussion of her new book, Spine of the Continent.

Spine of the Continent chronicles the work of scientists, activists and community members who have banded together to protect and sustain the wilderness along the Rocky Mountains -- a 5,000-mile stretch from Alaska to northern Mexico. The Center's impressive campaign to save the pika earned its own chapter.

A review in Publishers Weekly described Spine of the Continent as a "thoroughly satisfying gem... This is what scientific writing should be: fascinating and true." Hannibal tells a compelling story about the real lives of those working to fight the extinction crisis.

Here are the details:
Reading from Spine of the Continent and discussion with author Mary Ellen Hannibal
Thursday, Nov. 15; 5:30 p.m. light refreshments with the discussion beginning at 6 p.m.
Center for Biological Diversity, 351 California St., Suite 600, San Francisco



6.  Please check out and vote for this great short video on the potential of planting the rain <> .

If it wins, water harvesting will get a LOT of great exposure, and we'll have the opportunity to make a longer, more comprehensive video.

And for more juicy info on the harvest and enhancement of rainwater and other on-site resources check <>  and<> !

7.  North Beach Community Meeting with MTA and Supervisor David Chiu on possible alternatives to planned extraction of Central Subway tunnel boring machines on Columbus Ave.   

Monday, November 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Tel-Hi Neighborhood Center Gymnasium 
555 Chestnut St.

View the MTA notice here: Central Subway Community Meeting Notice


8.  Kids in Parks Work Party - This Saturday, November 17

Photo of Hoover Playground and Hawk Hill by MTP

Herbert Hoover Outdoor Classroom
14th Ave between Santiago and Rivera
10 am - 12 pm

Join us this Saturday for our partnered workday hosted by Kids in Parks.  Jeff Brown from Kids in Parks has been making progress in educating and rallying students and staff on the importance of habitat restoration for local wildlife, such as the threatened Green Hairstreak butterfly.  Their outdoor classroom extends all the way to the base of Hawk Hill, an important breeding ground for the butterfly, which is overtaken by invasive plants encroaching the few important natives.  Come support this evolving project as we take on the pesky weeds and give the natives a chance to thrive and nourish!


9.  Ribbon cutting for new Habitat Garden with Impermeable Surface - Removal and Rainwater Cistern at SFUSD elementary school
New Traditions Creative Arts Elementary School
        2049 Grove Street, San Francisco
11am Ribbon Cutting followed by tour of gardens
November 17, 9am - 11pm Community Workday to plant oak trees, install cistern

Contact: Deidre Martin, project manager and co-chair of NT Greening Committee, 415 722-1092,

New Traditions Creative Arts Elementary School invites people to come out to plant oak trees and install a rainwater cistern. The workday starts at 9am, with a brief ribbon cutting ceremony at 11am, followed by a tour of the school gardens.


10.  Knowland Park
Please join us this weekend for a Knowland Park get-together to celebrate the defeat of Measure A1 and the fact that today, the park still remains open and free to everyone! Come out Saturday, November 17, 12pm-3 pm and bring whatever you’d like to eat - this is a completely informal, relaxed, non-organized event. Bring a blanket to sit on or some folding chairs. We’ll meet at the Cameron Street entrance (Cameron is off Malcolm) and walk to wherever we wish (or just sit down and enjoy the view right there).  Park on Cameron or on any of the other side streets off Malcolm. If it rains, bring a raincoat! If it pours, we will postpone and do it another day, but we do hope for a break in the weather and hope to see you there.

We are working day and night on the next phase of our campaign to protect Knowland Park. It’s an intense period of post-campaign wrap-up and creative planning for what comes next, so this update is short and sweet. The zoo has been uncharacteristically quiet, but we are confident they have a backup plan - and we are counting on you to help us look out for it. We are entering an entirely new phase of the campaign now, and we may need to call on you to come through on short notice, so please be on the alert for our updates!

We hope all of you saw the new slide show of wildlife photos on our website ( These are the wild creatures of Knowland Park who don’t have names, who can’t be displayed on command for a press opportunity. They sometimes show themselves to us, but only on their own terms - they are shy and elusive. But it’s their homes and habitat that will be bulldozed if the zoo proceeds with its destructive plans. So take a look at what’s at stake for them - and we hope you will continue talking with your neighbors, Facebooking our posts, re-tweeting our tweets, bringing friends to the park, and spreading the word in every way. We won a big battle this election - but we have a long way yet to go. Still: six years into the fight, we are stronger than ever - and we won’t stop until Knowland Park has the protection that a place with such amazing natural resources deserves.

"Each week we'll hear from a banker or butcher, a painter or social worker as they discuss the principles that guide their daily lives.  We realize what a daunting prospect this is--to summarize a life's philosophy in just 500 words and share it with a national audience.  But that's exactly what we hope you will do."
    Radio producer Jay Allison, in his introduction to the "This I believe" series on National Public Radio


This dog believes

Well, Jay, I know this is a long shot.  You've got Colin Powell and Newt Gingrich in your series, after all.  Why should you bother with the beliefs of an undergrown Australian shepherd mix who's still figuring out the difference between Sit and Down?  But I've been trying to make my owner understand me, and she's just not getting it.  I hope a national audience will help my cause.

You see, I believe in the present.  When I'm hanging my head out of the car window, or lying on my back in a comfy bed of weeds, I'm not worrying about the 2008 presidential elections, or the fate of the Endangered Species Act.  (Though I do sometimes wonder if chasing rabbits will ever be defined as take.)  Instead, I'm soaking up my surroundings, thinking about wind, sky, sun and sleep.  The here and now always seems worth my attention.

But at least once a day, my owner looks up from her computer, or the newspaper, with an all-too-familiar look of desperation.  Then she says something like, "Pika, did you know that the Greenland ice sheet is melting even faster than anyone thought?"

I try, I really do.  I fix her with my gentlest, most sympathetic dog look, and I say, "That's a big problem.  A big, big problem.  But don't you think you'd be better able to face it if you did just a little deep panting, and took a nice long look out the window?"

She sighs.  "I know, Pika," she says.  "The present moment is all we've got.  According to you and Ram Dass and all those chicken-soup books, not to mention the Buddha and Thoreau.  But I don't have time for any panting or looking around.  Didn't you hear what I just said about the ice sheet?"

That's usually when she pours herself another cup of coffee, and starts eating chocolate chips straight from the bag.

She's not listening.  In fact, she's in the next room right now, compulsively checking her e-mail, in a state about God knows what.  But I hope the rest of you will give me a chance.  I'm not saying you should give up on your good works, or even stop that fretting you humans seem so skilled at.  We non-humans want you to clean up your planetary messes, so we need all the guilt and good works you can muster.

I'm only suggesting that you notice when spring slides into summer, when the backyard cactus blooms, and maybe even when the garbageman arrives.  You could notice when your neighbor passes by, or, when you sit down to dinner with your family, you could notice how the food tastes.  Then, after a brief visit to the present, you could get right back to the uncertain future, resuming your fretting about global warming or the upcoming town council elections.  No one would miss you, I promise--and I suspect you'd feel a lot better for your journey.

Take it from someone who lives seven days for every one of yours:  Our moments on this earth are numbered, and briefer than any of us can possibly imagine.  I believe each one is worth noticing.

Pika lives in Paonia, Colorado, with her family, which includes High Country News contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis.

From High Country News, 12 November 2006


12.  Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly

My tribe is incredibly advanced


At what point is a grouping of humans considered civilised?

When one of them has written down some stupid idea he has about how we arrived on earth and another of them has said: "That's cool – let's kill everybody who doesn't like it!" 
Dick Hedges, Nairobi, Kenya

• Gunpoint.
Andrew Muguku, Nairobi, Kenya

• When the youngest turns 40.
Tony Mount, Nakara, Northern Territory, Australia

• When this question does not need to be asked.
Keith L Muir, Mount Maunganui, New Zealand

• Everybody sees himself or herself as living in a civilised society. It is only people in other countries or cultures who are uncivilised.
Ted Webber, Buderim, Queensland, Australia

It's all a bit muddy for me

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

The Middle Ages are in between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance. They are also known as muddy evil times though historians prefer the term medieval. And now? We're in the age of Twitter and Tweet, more formally known as the Information Technology Age.
Ursula Nixon, Bodalla, NSW, Australia

Get them really cheap

Which sign best epitomises the times?

Please keep off the grass!
Gavin Mooney, Mountain River, Tasmania, Australia

• Auld lang sign?
Carmel Isaacs, Sydney, Australia

• Now is the winter of our discount tents.
Tina Cicchini, Perth, Western Australia

Let's reopen the case

Where do the pens and pencils go?

If you have no inkling, and no leads, perhaps this case should be reopened. I suspect we will find them where the filed things are.
Tim Metcalf, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

• Down the side of the sofa cushions.
Joan Dawson, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

The rich just get richer

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

The fact that setting a maximum wage would not achieve the intended income restriction can already be seen in the "bonuses" being paid today.
Susan Mlango, Vienna, Austria

• It sure beats me. Given inflation and shenanigans at the top end, the rich get richer and the rest get poorer.
Lesley Boncich, Cupertino, California, US

• Countries have minimum wages rafter than maximum wages because they don't want a revolution.
John Paul Harney, Picton, Ontario, Canada

• Because our bright economists believe in eternal growth and haven't grasped that there is a maximum for anything.
John Londesborough, Helsinki, Finland

Any answers?

What is the point of toothache?
Nigel Grinter, Chicago, Illinois, US

Why are some small bodies of water like the Salton Sea or the Dead Sea called seas instead of lakes?
Tom Oleson, Gig Harbor, Washington, US

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