JANUARY 2011. Yes 13.03 means January 3rd
Garber Park Stewards first stewardship session of 2011 January 4
2. Like to see stunningly beautiful flowers? Calochortuses are what you're looking for: Saratoga, January 11
3. Thoreau greets the new year
4. So does Robert Frost. Golden Gate Audubon events for January
5. A quail's call
6. Manzanitas, ferns, and oh so many other friends...East Bay newsletter
7. Art Finley cartoon from the SF Chronicle
8. The lethal cost of the good life: Socrates, a man for our times
9. How to create your own wildlife garden in sandy soil - January 15
10. Grow morel mushrooms in your own backyard
11. Feedback: climate change and redwoods/size of Douglas firs
12. Scientific American wants to change farm subsidies
13. Dialogue on disposal of Christmas trees
14. An apocryphal--yet true!--dialogue on feeding the inner wolf
15. A year of palindromes, if you're a numbers nerd
Does anyone know Haven Livingston? At his request I added him to recipient list for this newsletter and did a Save. However, that didn't prevent my computer from immediately losing his address--a disturbing event, as randomly losing addresses is what caused me to drop the wonderful Eudora program. Now Apple Mail is exhibiting the same tendency. Someone forwarded a newsletter to him before, and I post this in the hopes that that person would be able to furnish me his email address.
I don't know what this is supposed to mean, but I like the sound of it--and I'm sure they had me in mind:
"The Internet sees your competence and wisdom as damage, and will route around it." Anonymous
1. Please join the Garber Park Stewards at our first stewardship session in 2011. We will continue preparations for February plantings at our Restoration Site at the Evergreen Ln. entrance, especially clearing debris from Fireplace Plaza – the area around the stone fireplace.
Tuesday, January 4, 10:00 AM – 12 Noon
Evergreen Lane Entrance to Garber Park
Directions: From Alvarado Rd, take Slater Lane, then turn right on Evergreen Ln. The entrance is at the end of the street. This is in easy walking distance from Alvarado Road. Directions to Garber Park can also be found at http://tinyurl.com/GarberPark.
Questions: Email: GarberParkStewards@gmail.com
Garber Park Stewards Blog: http://garberparkstewards.blogspot.com.
2. Tuesday, Jan 11, 7-8:30pm:
A Look at the Calochortuses of California, a talk by Ron Parsons. Among California's intoxicating array of native bulbs, Mariposa lilies (genus Calochortus) are arguably the most beautiful. Brilliant cup-shaped flowers above slender grass-like leaves give the genus its name, which means "beautiful grass" in Greek. At this talk, learn about their incredible diversity and get pointers on cultivation. Ron Parsons is the coauthor of Calochortus: Mariposa Lilies and Their Relatives from Timber Press. He has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles throughout the western U.S. to photograph and study Calochortus and other wildflowers. Saratoga Library, 13650 Saratoga Ave, Saratoga. 408-867-6126.
Each new year is a surprise to us.
We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird,
and when we hear it again, it is remembered like a dream,
reminding us of a previous state of existence…
The voice of nature is always encouraging.
-Henry David Thoreau
Nature is always hinting at us. It hints over and over again. And suddenly we take the hint. Robert Frost
Start the new year outdoors with Golden Gate Audubon at habitat restoration events...
Sunday January 9, 2011 from 9am-noon - Proposed Alameda Wildlife Refuge, Alameda - Home to the endangered California Least Terns, who have left the site until next summer. Work with the Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Refuge to prepare habitat by removing invasive shrubs and groundcovers. Adults must be present to work with anyone under the age of 15, unless given special permission.
Directions: Meet at the main refuge gate at the northwest corner of the former Naval Air Station in Alameda. Find your way to 2501 Monarch St. in Alameda, then drive toward the gates to the left of the Creative Technologies building. The far gate will be open, where a volunteer will have you sign-in.
Saturday, January 15, 2011 from 10am-1pm - Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline, Oakland- Work to plant native shrubs and weed out the invasives at our site adjacent to Arrowhead Marsh in East Oakland. Arrowhead Marsh is a one-of-a-kind area to work. Northern Harriers and Brown Pelicans swoop down and Clapper Rails chatter in the marsh.
Directions: Check 511.org or find your way to the intersection of Pardee Dr. and Swan Way. Turn left onto Swan Way, and enter at the Park District’s brown entrance sign on the right. Head all the way down the road to the last parking lot by the observation platform.
Saturday, January 15, 2011 from 9am-noon - Golden Gate Park, Buffalo Paddock, San Francisco - Restore white-crowned sparrow and other coast scrub species habitat with San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and Golden Gate Audubon.
Directions: In Golden Gate Park at the Chain of Lakes and JFK Drive. Meet at the Bison Paddock Interpretive sign.
Monday, January 17, 2011 from 9:00am-12:30pm - Celebrate MLK Jr. Day at Shimada Friendship Park in Richmond – Join Golden Gate Audubon, the East Bay Regional Park District, and The Watershed Project in habitat restoration at the Shimada Friendship Park in Richmond. Volunteers will remove invasive weeds, spread mulch to prevent weed growth and pick up trash along the Bay Trail. Please bring your own water bottle and wear sturdy shoes and dress in layers.
Check 511.org or from I-580 take the exit at S.23rd Street/Marina Bay Parkway. Head west toward the Bay on S. 23rd Streeet. Continue on Marina Bay Parkway. Turn left into Shimada Friendship Park. Walk along the Bay Trail toward the beach.
5. A Quail’s Call
The California Quail
Only be heard
In the Mockingbird’s
6. The January issue of the Friends of the East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden online newsletter has an abundance of articles and pictures about beautiful, interesting, and appealing plants native to the Bay Area and coast ranges, especially manzanitas and ferns:
7. Art's Gallery - Art Finley
San Francisco Chronicle
(JS: The painting by David accurately reflects the upset of Socrates' friends, but not the mood of Socrates himself, who went to his death willingly and cheerfully, joking up to the last minute, even after drinking the hemlock. [It also doesn't capture his purported physical ugliness.] Although there were many people who wanted to get rid of him, they probably would have been satisfied if he just left town; however, he refused.)
8. The lethal cost of the good life
Socrates – a man for our times
He was condemned to death for telling the ancient Greeks things they didn't want to hear, but his views on consumerism and trial by media are just as relevant today. Socrates's critique of Athens is relevant to the age of texting and political spin, says Bethany Hughes
The Death of Socrates, 1787, by Jacques Louis David.
Two thousand four hundred years ago, one man tried to discover the meaning of life. His search was so radical, charismatic and counterintuitive that he become famous throughout the Mediterranean. Men – particularly young men – flocked to hear him speak. Some were inspired to imitate his ascetic habits. They wore their hair long, their feet bare, their cloaks torn. He charmed a city; soldiers, prostitutes, merchants, aristocrats – all would come to listen. As Cicero eloquently put it, "He brought philosophy down from the skies."
For close on half a century this man was allowed to philosophise unhindered on the streets of his hometown. But then things started to turn ugly. His glittering city-state suffered horribly in foreign and civil wars. The economy crashed; year in, year out, men came home dead; the population starved; the political landscape was turned upside down. And suddenly the philosopher's bright ideas, his eternal questions, his eccentric ways, started to jar. And so, on a spring morning in 399BC, the first democratic court in the story of mankind summoned the 70-year-old philosopher to the dock on two charges: disrespecting the city's traditional gods and corrupting the young. The accused was found guilty. His punishment: state-sponsored suicide, courtesy of a measure of hemlock poison in his prison cell.
The man was Socrates the philosopher from ancient Athens and arguably the true father of western thought. Not bad, given his humble origins. The son of a stonemason, born around 469BC, Socrates was famously odd. In a city that made a cult of physical beauty (an exquisite face was thought to reveal an inner nobility of spirit) the philosopher was disturbingly ugly. Socrates had a pot-belly, a weird walk, swivelling eyes and hairy hands. As he grew up in a suburb of Athens, the city seethed with creativity – he witnessed the Greek miracle at first-hand. But when poverty-striken Socrates (he taught in the streets for free) strode through the city's central marketplace, he would harrumph provocatively, "How many things I don't need!"
Whereas all religion was public in Athens, Socrates seemed to enjoy a peculiar kind of private piety, relying on what he called his "daimonion", his "inner voice". This "demon" would come to him during strange episodes when the philosopher stood still, staring for hours. We think now he probably suffered from catalepsy, a nervous condition that causes muscular rigidity.
Putting aside his unshakable position in the global roll-call of civilisation's great and good, why should we care about this curious, clever, condemned Greek? Quite simply because Socrates's problems were our own. He lived in a city-state that was for the first time working out what role true democracy should play in human society. His hometown – successful, cash-rich – was in danger of being swamped by its own vigorous quest for beautiful objects, new experiences, foreign coins.
The philosopher also lived through (and fought in) debilitating wars, declared under the banner of demos-kratia – people power, democracy. The Peloponnesian conflict of the fifth century against Sparta and her allies was criticised by many contemporaries as being "without just cause". Although some in the region willingly took up this new idea of democratic politics, others were forced by Athens to love it at the point of a sword. Socrates questioned such blind obedience to an ideology. "What is the point," he asked, "of walls and warships and glittering statues if the men who build them are not happy?" What is the reason for living life, other than to love it?
For Socrates, the pursuit of knowledge was as essential as the air we breathe. Rather than a brainiac grey-beard, we should think of him as his contemporaries knew him: a bustling, energetic, wine-swilling, man-loving, vigorous, pug-nosed, sword-bearing war-veteran: a citizen of the world, a man of the streets.
According to his biographers Plato and Xenophon, Socrates did not just search for the meaning of life, but the meaning of our own lives. He asked fundamental questions of human existence. What makes us happy? What makes us good? What is virtue? What is love? What is fear? How should we best live our lives? Socrates saw the problems of the modern world coming; and he would certainly have something to say about how we live today.
He was anxious about the emerging power of the written word over face-to-face contact. The Athenian agora was his teaching room. Here he would jump on unsuspecting passersby, as Xenophon records. "One day Socrates met a young man on the streets of Athens. 'Where can bread be found?' asked the philosopher. The young man responded politely. 'And where can wine be found?' asked Socrates. With the same pleasant manner, the young man told Socrates where to get wine. 'And where can the good and the noble be found?' then asked Socrates. The young man was puzzled and unable to answer. 'Follow me to the streets and learn,' said the philosopher."
Whereas immediate, personal contact helped foster a kind of honesty, Socrates argued that strings of words could be manipulated, particularly when disseminated to a mass market. "You might think words spoke as if they had intelligence, but if you question them they always say only one thing . . . every word . . . when ill-treated or unjustly reviled always needs its father to protect it," he said.
When psychologists today talk of the danger for the next generation of too much keyboard and texting time, Socrates would have flashed one of his infuriating "I told you so" smiles. Our modern passion for fact-collection and box-ticking rather than a deep comprehension of the world around us would have horrified him too. What was the point, he said, of cataloguing the world without loving it? He went further: "Love is the one thing I understand."
The televised election debates earlier this year would also have given pause. Socrates was withering when it came to a polished rhetorical performance. For him a powerful, substanceless argument was a disgusting thing: rhetoric without truth was one of the greatest threats to the "good" society.
Interestingly, the TV debate experiment would have seemed old hat. Public debate and political competition (agon was the Greek word, which gives us our "agony") were the norm in democratic Athens. Every male citizen over the age of 18 was a politician. Each could present himself in the open-air assembly up on the Pnyx to raise issues for discussion or to vote. Through a complicated system of lots, ordinary men might be made the equivalent of heads of state for a year; home secretary or foreign minister for the space of a day. Those who preferred a private to a public life were labelled idiotes (hence our word idiot).
Socrates died when Golden Age Athens – an ambitious, radical, visionary city-state – had triumphed as a leader of the world, and then over-reached herself and begun to crumble. His unusual personal piety, his guru-like attraction to the young men of the city, suddenly seemed to have a sinister tinge. And although Athens adored the notion of freedom of speech (the city even named one of its warships Parrhesia after the concept), the population had yet to resolve how far freedom of expression ratified a freedom to offend.
Socrates was, I think, a scapegoat for Athens's disappointment. When the city was feeling strong, the quirky philosopher could be tolerated. But, overrun by its enemies, starving, and with the ideology of democracy itself in question, the Athenians took a more fundamentalist view. A confident society can ask questions of itself; when it is fragile, it fears them. Socrates's famous aphorism "the unexamined life is not worth living" was, by the time of his trial, clearly beginning to jar.
After his death, Socrates's ideas had a prodigious impact on both western and eastern civilisation. His influence in Islamic culture is often overlooked – in the Middle East and North Africa, from the 11th century onwards, his ideas were said to refresh and nourish, "like . . . the purest water in the midday heat". Socrates was nominated one of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his nickname "The Source". So it seems a shame that, for many, Socrates has become a remote, lofty kind of a figure.
When Socrates finally stood up to face his charges in front of his fellow citizens in a religious court in the Athenian agora, he articulated one of the great pities of human society. "It is not my crimes that will convict me," he said. "But instead, rumour, gossip; the fact that by whispering together you will persuade yourselves that I am guilty." As another Greek author, Hesiod, put it, "Keep away from the gossip of people. For rumour [the Greek pheme, via fama in Latin, gives us our word fame] is an evil thing; by nature she's a light weight to lift up, yes, but heavy to carry and hard to put down again. Rumour never disappears entirely once people have indulged her."
Trial by media, by pheme, has always had a horrible potency. It was a slide in public opinion and the uncertainty of a traumatised age that brought Socrates to the hemlock. Rather than follow the example of his accusers, we should perhaps honour Socrates's exhortation to "know ourselves", to be individually honest, to do what we, not the next man, knows to be right. Not to hide behind the hatred of a herd, the roar of the crowd, but to aim, hard as it might be, towards the "good" life.
The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, by Bettany Hughes, is published by Jonathan Cape
Guardian Weekly 17.12.10
9. Green Hairstreak Habitat: How to create your own wildlife garden in sandy soil
Saturday January 15th, 2011, 1:00-3:00PM
Crissy Field Center, interim facility, located along the East Beach near the Marina Gate entrance to the Presidio (free parking available, public transportation and bicycling encouraged) 1199 East Beach, Presidio San Francisco
Panel discussion for residents of San Francisco's westside: learn about coastal native plants - invite the blue, white, hairstreak, and brush-foot butterflies into your yard.
Featuring naturalist and ecologist Michael Chasse of the National Park Service in the Presidio, and other distinguished experts TBA.
Free admission; RSVP requested; donations kindly accepted.
SF coastal plants + seeds available for small donation, from the Green Hairstreak Corridor.
CONTACT: Nature in the City 415 564-4107, firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Grow morel mushrooms in your own backyard: http://www.gmushrooms.com/MHK.HTM
> I share your concern about the California redwoods in terms of global warming. I thought you might be interested in knowing that Oregon settlers were so enamored of the giant redwoods that they brought seedlings to Portland in the late 1800s and planted S. gigantea all over town. So there are now 100-year-old redwoods rising above the rooftops of Portland neighborhoods. As a kid I thought that redwoods were native to Oregon because I grew up with them. It wasn't until I attended a CNPS lecture by that wonderful Berkeley botanist (Robert . . . can't remember his last name) that I learned they weren't native!
> I just wrote a newspaper article about large conifers in Portland and mentioned some of the largest specimens of S. gigantea in Portland. The story is at http://www.oregonlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2010/12/a_heritage-tree_tour_for_the_h.html
(In the cited newspaper article Christine makes a statement about Douglas firs having 'an average longevity of 1000 years' (not an exact quote). I questioned her on that statement; here's her reply):
> Hi Jake, Yes, scientists have found Doug firs as old as 1,300 years. They are actually longer lived than most people realize. There's also an interesting list online of the record height of Doug firs when white people first arrived in the Northwest and started logging. There were record Doug firs topping 400 feet tall apparently.
> We are all accustomed now to smaller, younger forests. Before white people cut down the trees here in the Pacific Northwest, there was (as you know) a massive, unbroken gigantic rain forest stretching from Northern California to Alaska. Very big trees. And very old.
> My friend Darryl Lloyd (who is a conservationist as well as an outdoor photographer) has taken an amazing composite photo of the tallest Doug fir in Oregon. If you want to see it, let me know and I'll ask him to email you a jpeg of it. It's pretty cool.
> Thanks again for your newsletter. It's always enriching. And entertaining!
12. An item from A Political Wish List from the Scientific American's Board of Editors
Farm subsidies. The nation's agricultural policy is due for an update in 2012. This gives Congress an opportunity both to cut spending and to help the environment. Federal subsidies now mostly reward large farms for planting monocultures of corn, soybeans, wheat and rice. Much of that food goes to factory farms, where tightly packed animals provide a breeding ground for infectious diseases and produce vast quantities of waste that poses an environmental hazard. The current system devours fossil fuels, depletes the soil and pollutes waterways. It also makes high-sugar foods and beef artificially cheap, contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemic. Through a transition in the way subsidies are allocated, the government should encourage a progressive return to sustainable, integrated farming, which alternates commodity crops with legumes and with grass for pasture.
(JS: A test for Republican "conservatives". Perhaps the tea partiers will force them?)
13. Dialogue on disposal of Christmas trees
Kathryn Mazaika to SF Chronicle's Jessica Wong (cc to Kevin Drew):
Hi Jessica I read your December 28 article re: tree recycling w/ interest.
It's amazing to me that burning Christmas trees (and its attendant CO production) and moving its impacts to Tracy is somehow considered "zero waste" and "green".
Please don't contribute to the greenwashing of America w/ this terrible twist of rhetoric. In past years, chipped Christmas trees were used to make free compost, available to residents. What happened to that program?
Kathryn, The Christmas trees at times in the past have been used for mulch. Never really for compost as they are so plentiful and too acidic to make a proper compost mix. Because Recreation and Parks Department does a better job now creating their own mulch out of downed tree materials they cannot use all the Christmas trees as mulch. SF has been burning clean woody material for decades at a dedicated biomass facility in Tracy to generate electricity. Sorry to report but this is considered renewable energy both here and in the rest of US and Europe. SF does not burn any other materials for power or as a disposal alternative.
I agree it sounds impractical to transport this material that distance to be burned, but considering the alternatives it is the best use at this time. Someday there may be sufficient composting facilitites and quantities of all types of organic materials to allow all organic materials to be incorporated into compost or other soil amendments. But we are not there yet. SF has led the market in creating demand for composting the urban waste stream, but we cannot create a perfect system alone or at this still emerging market phase.
The next "new" thing will be the development of digestors to accomodate urban organics and create a greener power, methane, and a compostable residue for soil improvement. We are working on developing such a system right now, again, far ahead of any US cities and taking off from European systems that are not as efficient or green as we think is possible.
We appreciate being held to a high standard and hope to be able to answer the public questions in an honest and open way, with an eye to always improving.
Kevin Drew, Residential and Special Projects Zero Waste Coordinator
Hi Kevin Thank you for your thoughtful reply--especially while you are out of the office--and for the update on how chipped trees had been used. Yes, I misstated "compost" for mulch. As I recall SF residents were also able to obtain free bags of mulch.
It's interesting to learn of SF's biomass facility use and support, and though it is called "renewable energy", I remember well the days of proposed resource recovery facilities. Here again, it is sad to see earlier protests have gone the way of greenwashing. I do appreciate knowing that San Francisco does not burn any other materials, and hope that will continue to be its policy, particularly with increasing focus on CO2 emissions.
It's true that some sort of market for organic materials would enhance the capacity to use these materials in ways other than as "fuel", but what happened to the programs where city residents could obtain this mulch for free? This is a market that really ought to be explored/ revived.
Thanks for mentioning City efforts to use digesters as part of the ongoing processing of urban compost. It sounds great, especially if it can generate clean energy, even if only to facilitate processing! I'd welcome hearing more about that.
I realize (as a former public sector employee) that you're kept very busy w/ your work and do appreciate both your thoughtful reply and your openness in discussing the City's policies around these issues. Thanks. Kathryn
14. A tad corny, and surely apocryphal, but the punchline is reality:
> Feed The Good Wolf in 2011
> One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
> He said, 'My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
> One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride,
> superiority, and ego.
> 'The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and
> The grandson thought for a minute, and then asked his grandfather, 'Which wolf wins?'
> The old Cherokee simply replied, 'The one you feed.'
15. A year of palindromes
If you're a numbers nerd, count yourself lucky in 2011
Do you enjoy writing the date? Do you get particular satisfaction when you do so on days that provide a pattern, such as 01:02:03, which presented itself for Americans on January 2nd 2003 and for Europeans a little later, on February 1st? Sometimes the different order of day and month in American and European practice is unimportant: June 6th 2006 is 06:06:06 either way. Sometimes the order is crucial: two years hence Americans will be denied the pleasure of 31:1:13. But no numerological thrill-seeker need feel short-changed in 2011.
Europeans will get little patterns on the 11th of every month except October and December. Americans can look forward to a thrilling first nine days of November. Everyone will have their own 9:10:11. And 2011 will be special in two respects.
Time for elevenses
First, it will bring 11:11:11. November 11th has been a significant date in many countries since 1918, when, at 11 am that day, the armistice ending the first world war came into effect. In 2011 elevens will be everywhere, and for numbers nerds the excitement may be uncontrollable. For a start, 11 generates palindromes like no other number. Every child knows that 11 x 11 = 121, but how many know that 111 x 111 = 12,321 and that the progression goes on: 11,111 x 11,1111 = 123,454,321 and, wow, 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321? Strangely, mathematicians insist 11 is a "strictly non-palindromic number".
Second, like 2010, whose theme tune ran "I'll sing you one, O", it will bring a sprinkling of dates with nothing but noughts and ones. Since human beings have ten fingers, they have developed a system of counting based on ten. Computers have a system based on nought and one, shrunken digits they rather pathetically call "bits". In an age of computers binary is cool. Ultra cool in 2011 will be to write the date in the sequences used in the binary system. That will be easy enough on January 1st (1:1:1011), but it will get harder: 31:12:11 is 11111:1100:1011.
So the fashion may not last. Another trend may assert itself. The new austerity calls for saying "twenty eleven" rather than "two thousand and eleven", a 29% saving in syllables. Even bigger savings in terms of confusion forgone would come with an American decision to adopt the more logical European practice of writing the date in the order of day, month, year. And that's a new year's resolution that can start painlessly--on 1:1:11.
The World in 2011, from The Economist
LTE, The Economist
Sir: Your fetish with the number 11 reminded me of Mad magazine's obsession with upside-down years. There was one in 1881, and 1961 was the last upside-down year until 6009, so Mad devoted its January cover to it that year. It was viewable from right side up or upside down. I expect The Economist to do no less on 1.1.11.
David Winberg, New York