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.

Friday, December 28, 2012


1.   Support Arc Ecology
2.   Glen Canyon Recreation Center Project update meeting Jan 7
3.   Poll for building Green Connections
4.   Fish & Game press release
5.   South San Francisco Weed Warriors work Dec 28 and 29
6.   New Thomas Jefferson biography
7.   Two from Rainer Maria Rilke
8.   Bats and frogs, our insect controls
9.   Macchiavelli tells it like it is - again
10. As does Garret Hardin
11.  Ecofarm Conference, Pacific Grove Jan 23-26
12.  Birds of Paradise Project
13.  Landfillharmonic - Eine Kleine Nachtmusick from garbage
14.  The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History Rocks, Planets, and People
15.  Help Charlie Williams raise $ for AIDS by biking to Los Angeles
16.  Betelgeuse, star of wonder
17.  Recipe for cooking the English language/ugsome/bloviate
18.  Not my job - photo
19.  Annual “Stella” Awards (warning - not inspiring)

1.  Support Arc Ecology

Suisun Bay, California
Clean Water, Recycling & Local Employment

For 60 years the Maritime Administration’s Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet contaminated San Francisco Bay with paint, heavy metal, and oil.

Since 2010, thanks to a lawsuit initiated by Arc Ecology in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council & San Francisco Baykeeper, the fleet is no longer threatening the waters of San Francisco Bay, its fish, and fisher-folk.  Thirty obsolete ships have been cleaned in Bay Area shipyards for recycling, creating hundreds of jobs in Vallejo and San Francisco.

Arc Ecology v US Maritime Administration is one more proof that protecting the environment is good for the economy and that supporting Arc Ecology is good for both.


2.  From San Francisco RecPark
We are looking forward to starting park renovation project at Glen Canyon Park.  As you may have heard, the schedule has been delayed from the original start date of October 16 due to an appeal of the project’s building permit and an appeal of the project’s review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).   Both appeals were reviewed and addressed.  The Board of Appeals voted 4-0 to reject the appeal of the building permit, and the City Attorney’s office found the CEQA appeal untimely.

In anticipation of the start of this project, the Recreation Center (which is due to receive a new heating system in the renovation!) is closing for daily use on Saturday, December 22nd, while the rest of the park will remain open until the construction starts in and around the playground and tennis courts.

In addition, I would like to invite you to an informational project update co-sponsored by Supervisor Scott Wiener and the Glen Park Association.  The Recreation and Park Department will be at the meeting to review the tree-related work, including recommended removals and new tree planting included as a part of the Glen Canyon Park renovation and to answer questions. 

Glen Canyon Recreation Center Project Update Meeting
Monday, January 7, 6:30 pm – 8 pm
Glen Canyon Park Recreation Center Auditorium
Questions? (415) 575-5601 

Improve SF Hosts Poll for Building Green Connections

SAN FRANCISCO – What kind of improvements would you like to see on San Francisco’s streets, and paths?

Your opportunity is online at to give your input on the San Francisco Planning Department’s Green Connections network, which features over 140 miles of ‘green connectors’– special streets and paths linking pedestrians, cyclists and wildlife to parks and other open spaces throughout the city.

“Through this collaborative partnership with the Planning Department and ImproveSF, we have created another way to engage our communities to help shape the vision of our streets and open spaces,” said Mayor Edwin Lee.

The map includes a network of 25 unique routes stretching across all parts of San Francisco.

“This is a 20-year long project, and in order to better connect individuals and their families to enjoy natural areas and public amenities in their community, it’s important that we hear what residents really want in their neighborhoods,” said John Rahaim, Planning Director.

Green Connections is a collaborative effort between the San Francisco Planning Department, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Mayor’s Office of Housing.  The City agencies have also partnered with three community-based organizations: San Francisco Parks Alliance, Walk San Francisco and Nature in the City.

ImproveSF is a citywide program that generates opportunities for the City and Country of San Francisco and its residents to work together via online community challenges and polls voted on by the public. The Green Connections polls close January 11, 2013.

To give your feedback now, visit And for information on Green Connections, visit


4.  Eric Mills

CA Fish and Game NEWS
December 22, 2012

See the Press Release:
DFG Releases Necropsy Results of Mountain Lions Shot in Half Moon Bay

From the California Dept. of Fish and Game (soon to be Fish & Wildlife) regarding the two mountain lion cubs (babies, really) who were killed in Half Moon Bay last week.  There are several articles on-line at the moment:  SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, HALF MOON BAY REVIEW, SAN MATEO TIMES (Google "mountain lions half moon bay).

After reading the articles and the comments (many of them mean-spirited, inapproopriate and WAY off the mark), please make some appropriate comments of your own.  TO REPEAT, THE WARDENS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM HERE. THIS IS A PROBLEM OF DFG POLICIES WHICH NEED CHANGING.

Keep in mind, too, that four mountain lions (a mother and her three nearly-grown cubs) were killed in El Dorado County last August.  The mother's "crime"?  Killing ONE unsheltered goat to feed her young.  The goat's owner reported that he had shot at the lions the previous day (illegal!), perhaps wounding one or more of them.  DFG regs require that the carcass of the offending predator be brought in for necropsy.  Yet the bodies of the three juvenile lions were left to rot in the field.   And four dead lions in exchange for ONE dead goat?  Does not compute.   IT'S CLEAR THAT THE REGS WHICH REQUIRE THAT DEPREDATION PERMITS  " S H A L L" be issued by the Dept. should be changed to " M A Y " be issued.... This would give the Dept. some discretion in such cases in the future.  Talk to your legislators.  (All may be written c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, Ca  95814.  The new session begins January 7, 2013.)

Please be civil and constructive in your comments and correspondence.  Consider some letters to the editor, and to your own state legislators.  Perhaps it's time for some legislation to see that such avoidable incidents don't happen again.  We need a few  rehab & relocate mountain lion facilities around the state (currently prohibited).

Please forward this alert to other interested parties.


5.  South San Francisco Weed Warriors

Suffering from holiday doldrums?

Join the SSF Weed Warriors for fresh air and exercise - and help us weed on the south slope of San Bruno Mountain.  The south slope has large areas of grasslands that are critical to our resident endangered butterflies. We focus on the removal of invasive non-native plants.

Workdays are on the 4th Friday of each month and the following Saturday. So there are opportunities for those who would prefer a weekend workday. You're welcome on either day, or come both days - even better!

    •    gloves provided
    •    wear long pants and layers
    •    wear long-sleeved shirt for protection
    •    wear sturdy shoes with long socks
    •    bring water!

Check out the San Bruno Mountain Watch website for all volunteer opportunities in our Stewardship Programs and Upcoming Events

Dec 28th & 29th
Friday & Saturday - 9am to noon
rain or shine

Contact leaders: or call SBMW office at: 415-467-6631

Meet behind the Mills Montessori School at 1400 Hillside Blvd in SSF.  View Google Map

On Dec 24, 2012, at 4:10 PM, Alice Polesky wrote:
Hi Jake,
I've been immersed in Jon Meacham's biography of Thomas Jefferson, "The Art of Power," and I came across a quote of his that immediately brought you to mind. While he was president (sometime between 1801 and 1809), Jefferson was despairing about the rapidly depleting number of trees along the sides of Capitol Hill and the banks of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. "How I wish that possessed the power of a despot," he said, surprising his guests (Jefferson was the most anti-tyrannical man of his time). "Yes. I wish I was a despot that I might save the noble, the beautiful trees that are daily falling sacrifices to the cupidity of their owners or the necessity of the poor." When a guest asked him if he had not the authority to save the trees on public grounds, he said "No, only an armed could guard save them. The necessity of felling a tree, perhaps the growth of centuries, seems to me a crime little short of murder, [and] it pains me to an unspeakable degree."

This biography is astonishing -- it's such a complete a picture of Jefferson, who turns out to be one of the most interesting and complex people I've ever read about. The book not only examines his life as the ultimate Enlightenment figure -- his deep participation in botany (he considered himself a naturalist), physics, philosophy, music, and history, but his relationship to power, and how he governed. I think every president should read it. One of the most fascinating aspects was the divisive nature of the politics of the time. Reading about the hatred, the attacks, the character assassination, the manipulation of the press of the time, I had a strong feeling of deja vu: "Didn't I just go through this during the past election, and isn't it still happening in Congress?" What is happening now was happening then, right from the start of our government. Jefferson received hate mail and death threats, the whole nine yards.

The whole book is amazing. I think it should be required reading for every thinking American.

Thank you, Alice.

I have been all over the map with Jefferson, from idolization and worship to scorn and cynicism.  And back again.  My mind was like a yo-yo, depending on the latest piece of information I came across.  And wishing "to have the power of a despot” was not the only time he spoke anti-democratic sentiments.  Said?  Did:  He spent the exorbitant sum of $15 million for the Louisiana Purchase on his own say-so, without consulting Congress or anyone.  With your historical hindsight, go ahead and laugh.  That was a lot of money in an infant country with a few tens of thousands of people.

We’re familiar with his egregious hypocrisy on slavery--he, the author of "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...”  Some founding fathers, such as George Washington, recognized that slavery was inconsistent with this declaration and was untenable, but they thought they had to go along for the time being, as they couldn’t afford to lose the slave states.  At least Washington gave his slaves their freedom on his death, but Jefferson didn’t.  And his fathering a child with his slave Sally could go on and on.

My inconsistencies and irrationalities fade into insignificance when I look at Jefferson’s contradictions.  At some point I came to the conclusion that we humans are full of them and must somehow reconcile ourselves to them.  I’m working on it, but it’s a tough job. 

“Interesting and complex”?  Yes, indeed--in spades, in spades.  Thanks for your little mini-review.

P.S.  Divisive politics?  Yes, I have been slow to come to the realization that there is nothing new in the nastiness of current politics.  It was not only true of the the founding of our republic, but throughout history.  I got my cold shower when I started learning about democracy’s invention in Athens.  Whew!  Same stuff going on. 
It’s us.  We’re advanced primates, but primates nonetheless.

Hi Jake,
The wonderful thing about this book is that Meacham doesn't try to paper over Jefferson's flaws and contradictions; he exposes him warts and all. Jefferson himself was aware of them. The comment about wishing to be despot was said as a joke, meaning that if he had been a despot, he'd have saved the trees. He said it to shock his guests, to impress upon them how much the trees meant to him. Jefferson is the kind of person that you can love and hate simultaneously -- he had that much power. Meacham's consistent thread was Jefferson as one of the savviest politicians we've ever had. The Louisiana Purchase was interesting, because Jefferson only sought to purchase New Orleans, for strategic reasons. He was going to summon Congress, because he didn't think he had the constitutional power to decide on his own, when word came from Livingston and Monroe in France that Napoleon was offering the whole territory. He acted on his own, because of the haste -- it was an offer that he couldn't resist. But Congress didn't have to agree; they still had to ratify the treaty, which they did to the joy of the country.

I have issues with him, too, but this is still one of the most fascinating portraits of one of  the extraordinary Americans, ever, in one of the most fascinating periods of our history. I recommend it highly.

I actually did know that he was speaking rhetorically about “despot", and I say things like that, too, usually in exasperation and frustration.

I had forgotten that about Napoleon and the reason for haste in the Louisiana Purchase; good to refresh my memory.


"Ah, but the winters!
The earth's mysterious turning within.
Where around the dead in the pure
receiving of sap, boldness is gathered,
the boldness of future springtimes.
Where imagination occurs beneath
what is rigid; where all the green worn
thin by the vast summers again turns into
a new insight and the mirror of intuition;
where the flower’s color wholly forgets
that lingering of our eyes."

... have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and to try to love the questions themselves
as if they were locked rooms or books written
in a very foreign language.
Don't search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

(Letters to a Young Poet, translated by Stephen Mitchell)


Over 5.7 million bats have died from White-nose Syndrome.  Act now:
Marsh Frog at Sunset by Selena Vanapruks, Age 13

JS:  Over Christmas Eve dinner with friends, the conversation during our sumptuous repast was for cooking insects.  It was recognized that the two largest groups of natural controls on insects are bats and frogs, and they are in serious trouble all over the world.  If they disappear (should I say when they disappear?), what will we do about this problem--which, so far, is not part of the conversation!!

Will there be learned seminars or public forums posing questions like “How could we not have seen this problem coming and done something about it before it was too late?” 

In my glummer moments (I have quite a few of them) I think the answer to that question is, No, there won’t be seminars on pointless questions like this; we’ll be much too busy with more basic problems, like trying to survive with the innumerable challenges to our existence, our life support systems severely damaged.

I could take a shot at the Republicans, because (in this country) they are the principal deniers of biological problems; however, they are not alone, and our castigating them has the effect of making us complacent about our own actions. 


Machiavelli’s The Prince had this to say about change:
It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones.


10.  Garrett Hardin

Continuity is at the heart of conservatism: ecology serves that heart. 

Fundamentalists are panicked by the apparent disintegration of the family, the disappearance of certainty and the decay of morality. Fear leads them to ask, if we cannot trust the Bible, what can we trust?

However, I think the major opposition to ecology has deeper roots than mere economics; ecology threatens widely held values so fundamental that they must be called religious.  An attack on values is inevitably seen as an act of subversion.

Moreover, the practical recommendations deduced from ecological principles threaten the vested interests of commerce; it is hardly surprising that the financial and political power created by these investments should be used sometimes to suppress environmental impact studies.

Pacific Grove, CA
January 23 - 26, 2013
Join the Xerces Society at the 33rd annual EcoFarm Conference for a full day short course, workshops, and one-on-one consultations.
Pre-Conference Pollinator Conservation Planning Short Course

Bees, butterflies, and other insects pollinate more than 85% of flowering plants and many fruits and vegetables. In many places, however, this essential service is at risk.

This groundbreaking full day training will outline the latest science-based approaches to reversing the trend of pollinator declines, and will equip you with strategies necessary to protect and manage habitat for these important insects.

Detailed agenda and more information:
Click here to view a detailed course agenda and find out more information about this course.

January 23rd - 9 am to 4 pm.
Cost: $75 Course Registration Fee.
The registration fee includes lunch and a pollinator conservation toolkit, including the comprehensive guide Attracting Native Pollinators.  

Registration required:  For more information about EcoFarm 2013 Conference rates click here.

New this year at Eco-Farm, participants can take advantage of free individual consulting offered by Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation biologists. This service will assist farmers in planning their own pollinator and beneficial insect habitat restoration projects, and in accessing USDA conservation programs for financial assistance.


12.  Birds-of-Paradise Project
This fall, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Geographic are bringing the Birds-of-Paradise Project to the public with a gorgeous coffee-table book (published October 23, 2012), a major exhibit at the National Geographic Museum (opening November 1),  and a documentary on the National Geographic Channel

13.  Landfill Harmonic teaser

Eine Kleine Nachtmusick from Landfillharmonic


The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People
by Neil Shubin
Pantheon Books, 2013 (($25.95))

Biologist Shubin's grand tour of human origins goes beyond the well-worn Carl Sagan line, “We're made of star stuff.” Shubin, whose last best seller discussed how humans evolved from fish, focuses on our molecular composition as it relates to Earth and the cosmos: our bodies are mostly  hydrogen, which formed during the big bang; carbon came from the fusion reactions inside stars; algae most likely gave rise to the oxygen we breathe. Even those familiar with the basic underpinnings of how we evolved will find The Universe Within engaging. It is laced with Shubin's own fossil-hunting adventures and filled with colorful tales of historical figures, such as Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered a way to measure a star's distance from Earth, and Galileo's lesser-known writings on how gravity dictates an organism's shape.

Mini-review in Scientific American


15.  Charlie Williams

From June 2nd through June 8th I will ride my bike 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles in AIDS/LifeCycle 12.  I’ve committed to raising a minimum of $3,000 and I need your support.  The funds I raise will enable the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation help those impacted by HIV get the treatment and care they need, and provide targeted prevention efforts for high risk populations.

Please click on the link below and donate as generously as you can.  Together we can make a difference.
Click here to visit my personal page.


16.  Betelgeuse, star of wonder

JS:  Before trying to wrap your mind around the size of Betelgeuse, try to comprehend our Sun.  I used to have a kitchen table covered with plate glass, and under the glass I kept a map with the northern and southern hemisphere skies, the two hemispheres side-by-side, touching each other.  Below the point of contact was a portion of a circle representing the diameter of the Sun, and inside it the proportionally-sized planets.  Between the Earth and Moon was a line drawn to same scale.  That line fit inside the Sun 2 1/2 times! 

I looked at the sky map every meal I ate, absorbing (osmosing may be a better word) perspectives I otherwise might not have ever learned.  After perhaps 20 years, one morning at breakfast that Earth-Moon distance fitting 2 1/2 times inside that little part-circle depicting the Sun’s surface registered for the first time.  I was stunned and stopped eating as my brain tried to imagine this.  Another quarter-century later I still struggle with it.

Why tell you this?  I’m trying to set the stage for Betelgeuse, the red giant star that is the right shoulder (remember, he’s facing us) or Orion the Hunter, high above the eastern horizon at dark.  Read on.

Ask Astro, Astronomy June 2008: 
Q:  Have we ever seen any star as more than a point of light?
A:  Yes.  In 1995, astronomers using the HST’s Faint Object Camera imaged the disk of Betelgeuse, the brightest star in Orion.

Betelgeuse, a red supergiant, is about 600 times the Sun’s diameter and lies relatively nearby, just 425 light-years away.  This combination gives Betelgeuse the largest apparent diameter of any star beyond the Sun.

At optical  wavelengths, Betelgeuse’s disk is about 0.055” across.  In the ultraviolet, though, the star’s extended UV-emitting chromosphere makes it 2.2 times bigger.  This enabled…to image Betelgeuse’s disk.  They compare the feat to resolving a car’s headlights from about 6,000 miles away.

The Hubble images revealed an enormous bright spot, more than 10 times Earth’s diameter, that is at least 3,100 degrees F (1727 C) hotter than the rest of the star’s surface.  Astronomers think the bright spot may be related to the star’s magnetic activity.

Bob Berman:  "If Betelgeuse were represented as a ball with a diameter equal to a 20-story building, a relative Earth would be the period at the end of this sentence.”

(Betelgeuse can be seen as the right shoulder [he’s facing us] of Orion the Hunter, visible now in the eastern sky after dark.  Orion is nearer the horizon than Jupiter, and to the right--south.  More on Betelgeuse soon.  JS)

A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg
History of the English language in eight lines

If the English language were a cake, its batter would have Germanic flour. Sugar, butter, and milk would be of Norse, French, and Latin origins, not necessarily in that order. And on top of that would be icing with little flourishes here and there made up of dozens of languages -- Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Hindi, and others -- it has borrowed from.
Of course, that's the simplified view you might see on a Martha Stewart cooking show. The recipe for the making of the English language takes hundreds of ingredients, thousands of years of messy hodgepodge, and it goes on forever -- it's still in the oven. A language is never finished, unless it's a dead language.

Here's a very brief biography of the English language. The 5th century brought Germanic tribes to Britain, pushing away Celtic speakers; in the 9th century it was the Vikings with their Norse; in the year 1066, French became paramount with William the Conqueror. Latin came over from academia and religion in fits and starts at various times throughout. Later, colonization, trade, and exploration brought words from dozens of languages, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, and others into the English language.


A.Word.A.Day - ugsome
adjective: Dreadful, loathsome.
From Old Norse ugga (to fear). As in many typical stories where one child in a family becomes well-known while the other remains obscure, "ugly" and "ugsome" are two words derived from the same root -- one is an everyday word while the other remains uncommon. Earliest documented use: around 1425.

(I ran into this word in the current The Economist)

Bloviation is a style of empty, pompous, political speech which originated in Ohio and was used by United States President, Warren G. Harding, who described it as "the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing”.  The verb "to bloviate" is the act of creating bloviation. In terms of its etymology, according to one source, the word is a "compound of blow, in its sense of 'to boast' (also in another typical Americanism, blowhard), with a mock-Latin ending to give it the self-important stature that’s implicit in its meaning.


18.  Not my job

(image failed to post)

(I know, this is the season when we’re trying to buck up your spirits and help everyone feel good.  This item is not likely to do that.  Sorry.  JS)

From Dan Liberthson:

It’s time again for the annual 'Stella Awards’!

For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in New Mexico ,where she purchased coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving.
Here are the Stellas for last year -- 2011.......

Kathleen Robertson of Austin , Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.

Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

Terrence Dickson, of Bristol , Pennsylvania, who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count 'em, EIGHT days and survive on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental Anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish Keep scratching. There are more...

Jerry Williams, of Little Rock , Arkansas , garnered 4th Place in the Stella's when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle - even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

Amber Carson of Lancaster , Pennsylvania because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. What ever happened to people being responsible for their own actions?

Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000....oh, yeah, plus dental expenses.

(Drum roll....)
This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was: Mrs. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma , who purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner’s manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her, are you sitting down? $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

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