1. Central Subway boondoggle: Democrats won't help? Republicans might, in this case. And you can, too
2. Birds in the garden; free talk TONIGHT at San Carlos Library/garden plants of woodlands in Los Altos March 2
3. Join the Bluefin tuna brigade TONIGHT in downtown SF
4. Site plan and renderings for Lands End Lookout Saturday 26 at 10 am
5. Glen Canyon to envision park improvement plan TONIGHT 6.30
6. Albany Hill in El Cerrito broom bash Saturday 26
7. CNPS field trip on Bayview Hill Sunday 27
8. Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time Friday 25 in Vallejo, Monday 28 in Berkeley
9. 100FT Wednesday and preview of Great Highway: A Journey to the Soul of Bay Area Surfing Friday March 4 in Pacifica
10. Lament, Edna St Vincent Millay, born 22 February 1892
11. California Gold: Plants & Water sustainability fair and lecture benefit for SF Botanical Garden Society Thursday, March 3
12. Struggling with permitting issues, interacting with community groups, red tape? Here's potential help
13. Feedback: Leland Yee/meaning of words
14. Horseradish without neutering
15. Australian Tourism Website - sounds like a fun country
16. Wild and weird: male squids go berserk
17. Notes & Queries: In what year would Julius Caeser say he was born?/What actually is the simplest thing in world?
Earth and sky, wood and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. Sir John Lubbock
RE: EMAIL CONGRESS
Thanks for writing to President Obama, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Democratic Officials---but with the current budget squabble, let’s communicate with the Republican Congress too. Federal government funding runs out on March 4, when a stopgap spending measure expires. And the federal fiscal year still has seven months left. A compromise budget is being negotiated. Political horse-trading is in full gallop. Most timely, wasteful expenditures should be highlighted---especially when the President’s 2011 Budget includes $200 million for the Central Subway Boondoggle. Meanwhile,San Francisco’s MTA is submitting final applications to the FTA---for potential approvals in December 2011. Please email the Congressional leaders below, using their Website E-Forms.
Howard Wong, AIA
SAMPLE EMAIL TALKING POINTS:
STOP WASTEFUL FUNDS FOR THE SAN FRANCISCO CENTRAL SUBWAY BOONDOGGLE
Please reallocate earmarks and transportation funds from the San Francisco Central Subway Boondoggle to worthy public transit projects.
The Central Subway is a political contrivance, exploiting political acumen rather than smart transportation planning.
Direct the FTA to enforce its own New Starts criteria, which would show that the Central Subway decreases net transit levels of service and disconnects San Francisco’s Municipal Railway from the Market Street/ Downtown Corridor.
The tiny 1.7 mile subway will cost $1.58 billion, benefiting few riders with marginal ridership gains.
If objectively evaluated, the Central Subway can not meet FTA criteria for New Starts Projects.
See also www.SaveMuni.com .
John Boehner, Speaker of the House
John Mica, Chair, House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
Harold Rogers, Chair, Appropriations Committee
Darrell Issa, Chair, House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform
Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader
Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip
Jerry Lewis, Appropriations Committee
Tom McClintock, Budget Committee
David Dreier, Chair, Republican Congressional Delegation
Congressman Paul Ryan
Chair, Budget Committee
1233 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
* * * * * * * *
The Economist: A report by the World Economic Forum puts America at 68th in the world for the effectiveness of its public-sector spending. 29.01.11
(JS: That's because we have so much money we don't have to worry about using it effectively. Penury, hunger, and fear are the antidotes. We may come to experience them.)
"From each according to their vulnerability, to each according to their greed."
2. Two free talks coming up. Free and open to the public. Please join us; bring a friend or neighbor.
Thu, Feb 24, 7-8:30pm:
Birds in the Garden, a talk by Toby Goldberg of Audubon Society and Arvind Kumar of the California Native Plant Society.
Is your garden visited by birds you can’t identify? Do you want to attract more birds but don’t know where to begin? Find out what birds want and how to provide it. Learn about gardening for habitat, environmentally friendly gardening with native plants, and the birds you can attract. Handouts (bird lists and plant lists) will be available.
San Carlos Library, 610 Elm St, San Carlos.
Wednesday, March 2, 7:00-8:30 pm:
Garden Plants From Valley & Foothill Woodlands, a talk by Kevin Bryant.
The hills around the Bay Area contain extensive stands of foothill woodland, a plant community that is rich in species that also do well in human-made landscapes. This talk will focus on garden-worthy plants for a woodland garden. Kevin Bryant is the past president of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and a native landscape designer. (The talk is followed by a walk through the same plant community on March 5.) Los Altos Library, 13 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos. (650) 948-7683.
3. Tuna Tour With the Center’s Bluefin Brigade
February 24, 2011
More than 25,000 people and dozens of restaurants have already signed the Center for Biological Diversity’s pledge to boycott eating and serving the amazing and imperiled bluefin tuna. Join the Center’s Bluefin Brigade as we take a “tuna tour” of San Francisco. We’ll be visiting restaurants that do and don’t serve bluefin and asking them to sign our pledge to boycott the high-end tuna. Through the Center’s petition to list Atlantic bluefin tuna under the Endangered Species Act and your support of our efforts to reduce demand for this imperiled species through our Bluefin Boycott campaign, we can save the bluefin. Costumes are welcome on the tour.
When: Gather at 5:30 p.m., tour begins at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Center for Biological Diversity office,
351 California St., Suite 600 (Between Sansome and Battery, short walk from Montgomery BART)
RSVP to Catherine Kilduff at email@example.com.
Learn more about our Bluefin Boycott and the Atlantic bluefin tuna at www.biologicaldiversity.org.
Lands End Lookout Pre-construction Kickoff
Saturday, February 26, 2011
10 am - Noon
EHDD Architects and Parks Conservancy staff will describe the site plan, renderings, and construction schedule as we prepare to break ground.
5. Dear Glen Canyon Park Community:
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is partnering with SF Recreation & Parks to vision and design a Park Improvement Plan for Glen Canyon Park.
We will be holding the third of six community workshops this Thursday, February 24th, from 6:30-8:30pm at the Glen Canyon Recreation Center, located inside Glen Canyon Park near the intersection of Elk and Chenery Street. Please invite your neighbors and others who are interested in the park to attend this workshop.
At the 2/24 workshop, the design team will present conceptual design options for the park improvement plan based on what we've heard from you at previous meetings and focus groups. The community and stakeholders will then have the opportunity to offer feedback and ask questions about these options. Your responses and ideas are really important! For more information about the process, please visithttp://sfrecpark.org/glenparkproject.aspx or contact Karen Mauney-Brodek (firstname.lastname@example.org, 415.831.2789) or Alejandra Chiesa (email@example.com, 415.495.5303).
Finally, the online survey about Glen Canyon Park will close on Thursday, February 24th. If you haven't done so already, please take 5 minutes to fill it out. Thanks!
Hillside Natural Area Broom Bash 10 AM this Sat., Feb. 26
Please join us at 10 AM to 12:30 PM this Saturday, Feb. 26, as we remove invasive, fire-prone broom at El Cerrito’s beautiful Hillside Natural Area. Great views! We made huge progress last year, but broom seed will sprout for years. And there are plenty of big bushes as we move farther into the oak woodlands.
Meet at the service-road gate on Schmidt Lane east of Navallier and just west of the El Cerrito Recycling Center (7501 Schmidt Lane). If you come later, follow the service road, keeping left. Tools, gloves, snacks, and water provided. Wear long pants and sleeves and shoes with good traction. Heavy rain – or snow – cancels!
California Native Plant Society field trip
FEBRUARY 27, Sunday, 1 to 3 pm
Bayview Hill Early Wildflowers
Leader: Margo Bors
Enjoy an inspiring walk through the wildflower-studded grasslands of San Francisco's best-kept secret, Bayview Hill. Sheltered from summer fog, this hilltop is the last refuge for many species including San Francisco collinsia (Collinsia multicolor), and offers spectacular views and beautiful rock outcrops to boot. We should see a wealth of early spring wildflowers including hillside pea (Lathyrus vestitus), checkerbloom (Sidalcea malviflora), Johnny jump-up (Viola pedunculata), footsteps-of-spring (Sanicula arctopoides), and several lomatiums and lupines. Meet at the end of Key Avenue, two blocks east of Third Street, an easy walk from the T streetcar line's LeConte station. For more information contact Margo Bors, 415-824-0471 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
8. Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time is a new documentary about the great conservationist and author of A Sand County Almanac. The film explores Leopold's life as well as contemporary environmental legacy.
The Bay Area will offer two FREE screenings in the next several days.
Friday, February 25th, Empress Theater in Vallejo -- 6:30pm shoe time, with a filmmakers reception starting at 5pm.
Reserve free tickets online at: http://greenfiremovie.eventbrite.com/
Monday, February 28th, Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley -- 7:30pm show time, no tickets, first come, first served.
For more information visit: www.greenfiremovie.com
9. Join us for the 4th Annual Surf Movie Benefit
The Pacifica Beach Coalition invites you to our Earth Day Benefit Screening of 100FT Wednesday and preview of Great Highway: A Journey to the Soul of Bay Area Surfing. This movie is about men riding the largest waves ever recorded at Mavericks. The evening is about the environment and what we can do for it when we work together. I hope you can join us.
Film Maker Eric Myers and big wave surfer Grant Washburn will be on hand for Q & A.
For more information or to order your tickets online (until Tuesday March 1st) go to www.pacificabeachcoalition.org
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I'll make you little jackets;
I'll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There'll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
Keys and pennies
Covered with tobacco;
Dan shall have the pennies
To save in his bank;
Anne shall have the keys
To make a pretty noise with.
Life must go on,
And the dead be forgotten;
Life must go on,
Though good men die;
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan, take your medicine;
Life must go on;
I forget just why.
Feb 22 It's the birthday of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, (books by this author) born in Rockland, Maine (1892). Her middle name came from a hospital - St. Vincent in New York - where one of her uncles was saved from death immediately before her birth.
Her parents divorced when she was little and she and her two sisters moved constantly with their mother. Throughout their moves, her mother always carried along a trunk full of classic literature, including the works of Shakespeare and John Milton, which she often read aloud to her daughters.
Edna was in high school when she entered a poetry contest and wrote a poem - "Renascence" - which she recited at a poetry reading, and a woman in the audience was so impressed that she paid Edna's way to go to Vassar College.
She was a rebellious student at Vassar, then moved to New York City, where she lived in Greenwich Village and had numerous love affairs with both women and men. Edmund Wilson thought she was almost "supernaturally beautiful." He proposed marriage and never got over the rejection.
In her poem "First Fig" she wrote:
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends-
It gives a lovely light!
And in "Second Fig,"
Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand
Come see my shining palace built upon the sand!
11. Hi Jake, There’s a wonderful event your readers need to know about coming up March 3. Thanks for putting it in your newsletter! Jeff Parker-The Urban Farmer Store.
As part of its 30th anniversary celebration, The Urban Farmer Store is sponsoring the California Gold: Plants & Water sustainability fair and lecture to benefit the San Francisco Botanical Society on Thursday, March 2 6-9:30 pm. Tickets $20, $10 students. 100% of ticket sales benefit the SF Botanical Garden. Tickets can be purchased at The Urban Farmer Store or at the door: San Francisco County Fair Building’s Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, corner of 9th Ave & Lincoln.
Meet and network with local people and organizations promoting sustainable practices. Learn about water conservation, rainwater harvesting, gray water re-use, growing food, permaculture, LED lighting, from APLD, CLCA, Garden for the Environment, Master Gardeners, SFPUC, The Urban Farmer Store, SF Botanical Garden, and others. Explore the information presented at the exhibitors’ tables an hour before and an hour after the lecture.
By Robert C. Perry, California Gold: Plants & Water–plants with an emphasis on their water needs, AB 1881, and planting examples that show successful combinations of plants reflecting sound conservation practices with good aesthetic expression. He is the author of Landscape Plants for California Gardens. Pacific Horticulture editor Dick Turner says this about the book: "Landscape Plants for California Gardens should be on the reference shelf of every landscape professional working in the state, and in the personal library of anyone seriously interested in gardening responsibly in California."
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On Feb 21, 2011, at 8:02 PM, Robert Laws wrote:
> Jake, Your piece on Leland Yee's brain dead take on the shark fin soup issue (Feb. 21, item 3) recalls his earlier reaction to concerns about the impact of some exotic species on the native plant popullation. Yee waived the bloody shirt then, too. Racist, he announced. I couldn't believe then that he was so clueness . Now we're down to two possibilities. Cynical demagoguery or naivety. -- Robert Laws
Clueless? He knew exactly what was going on. As I said (did you read that part?), he cynically played the race card as a reward to the off-leash people who walked precincts for him and made contributions to his campaign through their PAC. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he rewarded them handsomely. He is playing that card again in this shark fin soup business. Naivete? No; cynical demagoguery? SI. He's a grade A hypocrite.
BTW, I choked when I felt forced to vote for him in his first run for the state senate. Why? His opponents were the former senator Lou Papan (never mind why I opposed him), and Mike Nevin, who I had experience with when he was a San Mateo County Supervisor, pushing for the devastation of Montara Mountain by Caltrans' proposed Devil's Slide bypass. It wasn't just the egregious nature of this environmental horror that turned me so strongly against him as his attitude and behavior toward constituents he didn't like. I couldn't believe they way he beat up on some of them. Maybe SF supes do it too, but in a more covert, discreet way. And his exploitation of little kids up for an award--ugh, you'd have to have been there: The cloying sentimentality and treacle flowing down the aisles made me leave the room. Hard as it was to vote for Yee, there really wasn't a choice. And, in this one-party city, we'll never have a choice.
Such is the dismal state of our politics.
>> (JS: Why can't we cuss like that anymore? "Draw, you whoreson cullionly barber-monger"--boy! I could have used that on Leland Yee when he cynically played the race card in a Board of Supervisors' hearing in 2003 when, at the behest of the off-leash dog advocates, whose PAC made generous contributions to his campaign and walked precincts for him, he rewarded them handsomely by taking a citizens advisory committee away from the Recreation-Park Dept, changed its makeup, and made it report to the Board of Supervisors (!!!!) on an intra-department issue, thus unnecessarily politicizing an issue and gumming up the works. I believe that was the first and only time in San Francisco history that such a body was taken from a dept and made accountable to the Board. Draw you whoreson cullionly barber-monger!!)
> Not to mention the way he declared that removing invasive weeds is "racist." Any Yee candidacy needs to be strongly opposed.
> Thanks Jake for raising our gaze with the likes of ee cummungs!
>> 1. ee cummings greets the spring
>> wholly to be a fool
>> while Spring is in the world my blood approves
>> and kisses are a better fate
>> than wisdom
>> ee cummings
On Feb 22, 2011, at 8:50 AM, James anyone
> A question for your readers: Does know the current political stance of The San Francisco Green Party? I was quite amazed to find they supported Meg Whitman in the last election, and seem to be swinging far right, as they also argued for Schwarzenegger and Reagan and Nixon, on the general theory that it is easier to get conservatives to support environmental issues by holding their feet to the fire (of environmental action) in a Democratically controlled state.
I'll post for you, Jim. But I have no interest in the Green Party, which is a bunch of political amateurs whose only possible effect is to gum things up, and not very good even at that. Except nationally, when they gave us the gift of Geo W, Dick Cheney, Iraq, and, and,......
When they do pull one off, it's a duzy.
“It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.” David Hume
(This about this for awhile. JS)
>> When asked by banker William Ralston to lay out something like NY'C's Central Park (but larger) in the drifting sand dunes out by the beach, Olmsted advised against it. He recommended using drought-tolerant plants and natives appropriate to California, and doing so closer to downtown. That spoiled the fun of speculators who wanted something attractive and familiar to draw sucker home buyers out to the peninsula's fog zone, so William Hammond Hall was called in to create exactly what Olmsted said not to. Olmsted later wrote to Hall "I do not believe it practicable to meet the natural but senseless demand of unreflecting people bred in the Atlantic states and North of Europe for what is technically termed a park under the climatic conditions of California."
> Did Olmsted really say "drought-tolerant plants"?
> A drought is a period of several years of lower-than-average rainfall. A rain-free summer in a dry-summer climate does not constitute a drought. My theory is that the folks from the east coast and midwest considered the lack of summer rain here to be some sort of aberration -- a mistake on nature's part -- so they gave it a term that was associated with hardship.
> Anyway, I'm hoping that people will stop saying drought-tolerant or drought-resistant when they mean climate-appropriate or climate-adapted or bioregionally relevant or . . . maybe we could have a contest.
> I think that's a paraphrase that I used. As I recall, Olmsted said something like "plants gathered from the Coast Range mountains," by which I take it he meant those able to get through a CA summer. (I'll check on this in his papers when I get home.)
> I'm getting interested in how the landscape architects and botanists employed by the New Deal public works agencies insisted on native plants, as on the serpentine hill at the US Mint and at the Mountain Theatre on Mt. Tam. I'll append notes I took from an article about using CA natives for roadside planting.
> Waugh, Frank A., "Roadside Ecology — California Notes," Parks & Recreation, 26:3 (April, 1936), 119-127.
> "Waugh traveled 6000 miles around state in summer, 1935, studying native vegetation and especially those suitable for roadside landscaping which was being done by CCC.
> "The important facts presented here are, first, that there are many kinds of plants native to CA which fit themselves naturally to the roadsides; second, that such plantings are especially desirable under existing conditions; and third, that highway engineers and others are already engagd in the utilization of native flora for practical and esthetic ends." -127
Ruth, I don't want you to think that I've gone soft on language crime, but my rants have done absolutely nothing to change even the small circle who get my newsletter. I can't stop them from using 'pristine', nor 'hike' for a wildflower saunter or walk, or to say "I hope" instead of hopefully. People just don't change, and your little dam is not going to stop a torrent. Drought-tolerant, I fear, is here to stay. Landscrape architects have been using it for at least four decades, about the same amount of time that they've been using the hated "plant materials" for plants. They even teach courses at universities in Plant Materials.
So I know when I'm beat. But I'll continue the struggle against using 'affect' for 'effect'. I can't give up on that one. Even the NYTimes used it in a front-page headline!
BTW, Ruth, I was hiking the Milford Track in New Zealand (350" a year), and it hadn't rained for seven days (thank god). The newspapers were talking about the drought.
> I actually got some folks at the Garden for the Environment to stop saying drought-tolerant. I don't know whether I've ever gotten anyone to stop using "forest" for plantation. But I'll keep on needling, even if I don't expect change. 'Gives me something to do.
> I'll accept that a seven-day dry spell can be called a drought, provided it's unusual for the place.
> While I try not to say "hopefully," I've accepted the notion that there is such a thing as a sentence adverb, even though the good nuns at St. Aloysius spoke of adverbs modifying only adjectives, verbs and other adverbs. It's hard to justify using "fortunately" while eschewing "hopefully." To say "Fortunately, the rain put the fire out" is not to say that the putting out was being done in any particular manner. What is really meant is that it was fortunate that the rain put the fire out.
> Perhaps I'm going soft, but I promise not to say incentivize or incent. Oh my! I just noticed that the spell-check program in this computer recognizes incentivize as a word. Oy.
While we're on the subject of changing word meanings:
I was in a hurry to catch a train at the Muni Metro Van Ness station. The machine kept telling me to tap my card on a part of the machine, which I did, to no avail. The agent in his glass cage said "TAP your card!", which I did repeatedly. A line started forming behind me, eager to get through. They all said "Tap your card". I was in a sweat, as the machine was not responding to my tapping. Finally, the agent came out of his cage and slid the card. That, evidently, is what tap now means.
Who decides when a word is to change meaning, and how do they get everyone (except me, evidently) to go along?
Mark Twain epigraph: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
...and on a related subject:
I needed to call the San Francisco Dept of the Environment. It was not listed in the telephone book. I called the City directory to get it, and when I called the DoE I asked why it was not in the telephone book. They didn't know, but informed me it was in the Yellow Pages under Recycling.
Despairing of ever getting horseradish in a grocery store, I, who can't find my way around a kitchen, found some horseradish root at a farmers' market. On the internet it suggested adding to mashed potatoes and to scrambled eggs, so that is what I did. Delicious, really delicious. I don't know why you can't get anything but a neutered substitute in grocery stores. For some reason producers think the public wants castrated mustard and horseradish--and SUGAR!! That is all that is available.
I looked up the plant in an economic botany text, and its name is Cochlearia armoracia--and armored against predators it certainly is with those powerful compounds. It goes on: used as a condiment for flavoring meat, vegetables; in pickles; promotes appetite; invigorates digestion.
15. The following inquiries were sent by potential visitors to the Australian Tourism Website. The answers are those posted by website officials, excellent indicators as to why this country is such big fun to visit. You need to know that Kings Cross is the red light district of Sydney, and that Australia is home to more of the world’s most poisonous snakes than any other continent.
Q. Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A. No. We are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.
Q. Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A. Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca, which is where you come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.
Q. Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? (USA)
A. A-fri-ca is the big triangle-shaped continent south of Europe. Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not..,oh, forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.
Q. Can you send me the Vienna Boys’ Choir schedule? (USA)
A. Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is…oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.
Q. Can I wear high heels in Australia? (UK)
A. You are a British politician, right?
Q. Can I bring cutlery into Australia?
A. Why? Just use your fingers like we do.
16. Center for Biological Diversity
Wild and Weird: Male Squids Go Berserk
Even wonder why squids go berserk? We didn't either, until we read about scientists who recently discovered a molecule that makes male squids go mad with aggression. Investigating the longfin squid during mating season, biologists found that males were visually attracted to masses of eggs laid on the sea floor -- and when they came into contact with a single protein on the eggs' surface, they instantly went from swimming calmly to extreme belligerence. Males grappled with each other, lunged at each other and beat their fins, apparently in an attempt to get at females (even when females were nowhere to be seen). The molecule appears to be the first aggression-causing pheromone -- a secreted chemical that triggers a social reaction in animals -- known in any marine creature.
Interestingly, the pheromone in question is similar to a protein found in other animals . . . including at high levels in human males. The bar-brawl molecule, perhaps?
Read more in The Christian Science Monitor.
17. Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly
Didn't Julius Caesar die in 44BC?
In what year would Julius Caesar have said he was born (he certainly would not have said 101BC)?
The Romans dated everything from the foundation of the city (ab urbe condita) on 21 April 753 (BC), so, depending on whether Julius Caesar was born before or after 21 April 101, he is likely to have called his year of birth 652 or 653AUC.
John Hazlehurst, Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, UK
• One ... ergo ego?
Archibald John Campbell, Tauriac, France
• Annus nativitatis meae, perhaps?
Joan Dawson, Halifax, NS, Canada
• He would indeed have said something closer to: natus sum anno ab urbe condita sexcentisimo quingesimo tercio (DCLIII).
Nicholas Albrecht, Paris, France
Dick Hedges, Nairobi, Kenya
• Asked this question by our correspondent, Julius first laughed off the suggestion that he had never actually been born but was delivered by caesarian section. "As soon as I landed in Britannia," he said, "I realised that the Brits would never twig the difference between 'Caesar' and 'scissors' in Latin."
As for my date of birth, my mum had six kids after me, and I expect she wrote all the dates down at the beginning of some family scroll. Sorry, I have to be going, it's nearly the Ides of March."
Bernard Burgess, Tenterden, Kent, UK
• When I was there, I can't remember years being given numbers at all. I think we named them after whichever consul was ruling at the time. Caius Marius was the consul ruling in the year that Julius Caesar was born. Caesar would have said he was born in the fifth year of the governorship of Publius Caius Marius.
Martin Cooper, Sydney, Australia
• He was too busy building an empire to worry about his age.
David Rydygier, Toronto, Canada
Wherever did that log go?
What actually is the simplest thing in the world?
Philip Stigger, Burnaby, BC, Canada
Roger Morrell, Perth, Western Australia
• Getting inane questions printed in the Guardian Weekly.
Roy Cartlidge, Montreal, Canada
• The simplest thing in the world is answering questions posed by people who write them to the Guardian Weekly.
Kendall Wild, Rutland, Vermont, US
• George W Bush. Or death. Or perhaps these are the same thing.
Ian Carter, Mount Eden, New Zealand
• A piece of cake.
Nigel Grinter, Buffalo Grove, Illinois, US
Air mail to the Philippines
To be successful, what is the optimum distance to push the envelope?
David Isaacs, Sydney, Australia