Plant Trees SF Events 2011 Archive: 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024


1.   Rachel Carson on the "control of nature"
2.   Send the governor a letter on CEQA
3.   Journalism:  how pundits seem so smart
4.   What is solar-powered, builds selves on-site, recyclable, waste-free, withstands weather extremes, are the source of food and oxygen.....?
5.   See some of the above miracles Saturday the 26th/Chaucer tells why you want to
6.   Ravens and crows:  what's going on?
7.   In the Company of Crows and Ravens/Bird Brains
8.   Cats are No. 1 threat to birds
9.   Daylight Savings Time, a bird's view
10. Male bluebird at home/bluebird couple - photos
11. Spring Migration:  This is the season when small creatures rush indoors to replace us, claiming their ancestral territory
12. An acerb view of birds and Spring, by Dorothy Parker
13. Roadkill is stuff of jokes, but is a serious matter
14. Presidio Trust, NPS, GGNRA imagining new ways of engaging visitors
15. Feedback:  worms
16. Confusing headlines, eg, Hershey bars protest
17. Words, words - from Save the Words.  Do we really want to save all of these? /Some word meanings may be all-important
18. Mormon birthrates:  the more women in a household, the lower the average birthrate/penalties of bigamy
19. Botany trip to San Clemente Island April 7-12
20.Women:  GOP wants to audit your abortion
21. Has Barack Obama ever been brave? More pertinently, will he ever be?
22. Feedback on Obama from a reader

1.  The "control of nature" is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.  The concepts and practices of applied entomology for the most part date from that Stone Age of science.  It is our alarming misfortune that so primitive a science has armed itself with the most modern and terrible weapons, and that in turning them against the insects it has also turned them against the earth. Rachel Carson


2.  Mary Keitelman:
Thanks for this great newsletter Jake!

For item 1, attack on CEQA, you may wish to let your readers know, they can go to this link, and send a letter to Governor Brown.

Or, contact the governor by mail:
Governor Jerry Brown, c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814; 
or call 916-445-2841; 
or fax 916-558-3160


3.  The first law of journalism:  "First simplify, then exaggerate."

The phrase "investigative journalism" is, in a sense, tautologous because all journalism should involve some kind of investigation that results in the revelation of a hidden truth.  Guardian Weekly 12-18 November 2004

For Egypt, this isn’t 1989, 1979, or 1789
Said of another revolution, it's as true of this one:  "No one predicted this, but everyone could explain it afterwards."  To be honest, we thought we'd last about five minutes," one of the organisers of the original 25 January protest that began this Egyptian revolution told the BBVC.  "We thought we'd get arrested straight away."  If they had been, if Hosni Mubarak's security forces had once again murdered the foetus in the womb, the world wide web would now be filled with articles by experts explaining why "Egypt is not Tunisia".  Instead, the web is abuzz with instant, confident explanations of what nobody anticipated.  Such are the illusions of retrospective determinism.

So before we go any further, let us make two deep bows.  First and deepest to those who started this, at great personal risk, with no support from the professedly freedom-loving west, and against a regime that habitually uses torture.  Honour and respect to you.  Second, hats off to Lady Luck, contingency, fortuna - which, as Machiavelli observed, accounts for half of everything that happens in human affairs.  No revolution has ever got anywhere without brave individuals and good luck….

Excerpt from Timothy Garton Ash's column in Guardian Weekly 18.02.11

(Only in recent years did I catch on to how pundits were so wise (after the fact).  Many times I thought "How interesting.  I didn't know all this was going on; no one was reporting or commenting on this at the time.  Why didn't they tell us then?  Eventually it dawned on me why.  I'm a slow learner.  JS)  

In those days we had a real political democracy led by a hierarchy of statesmen and not a fluid mass distracted by newspapers.  
Winston Churchill


4.  The Wonderful Workings of Plants - excerpts from a talk by Jim Bishop

Plants are a vital part of our world...but are often seen as "just there".  Plants are not "just there".  From the tiniest ones to the great trees, plants are an incredible life form.  They are completely solar-powered, build themselves from on-site materials, are recyclable and virtually waste-free, can withstand weather extremes without shelter...and are the source of the food and oxygen that everything else depends on.

We'll explore plants' amazing capabilities, covering how they:  move water from damp dirt to tree-top; use light to make food from air and water; transport nutrients to where they need them; endure extremes of heat and cold, dampness and dryness; and some of the chemicals they produce for their own protection.  You'll never take the green world for granted again.


5.  California Native Plant Society Field Trip 
Members and non-members are encouraged to attend free walks. Trips are held rain or shine, but heavy rain cancels unless otherwise noted. 

MARCH 26, Saturday, 1 to 4pm
Rancho Corral de Tierra (San Mateo County)
Leaders: Jake Sigg & Susie Bennett
Rancho Corral de Tierra is an ecological gem, a large tract of formerly private land on Montara Mountain that is in the process of being transferred to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area from the Peninsula Open Space Trust (see Join Jake Sigg and GGNRA natural resource specialist Susie Bennett to explore a portion of this huge (3,858 acres) parcel, which contains 3 of Montara Mountain’s 4 peaks and a multitude of botanical wonders. Today’s walk will meander through the area between McNee Ranch State Park and the town of Montara. Expect beautiful vistas, rolling hills, and potential for exposure to poison oak and ticks as we pass through coastal scrub, seasonal wetlands, annual grasslands, and some remnants of coastal prairie. Most of the terrain is relatively flat, but more adventurous walkers may choose to explore the native grass communities growing along the ridges. Join us at the Le Conte Portal at the northern edge of Montara near the intersection of Le Conte Ave. and Kannoff. From Highway 1, head east on Montara’s 2nd St., take the first right onto Main, first left onto 3rd St., and the third left onto Le Conte. Drive to the northern end of the road and park parallel. Heavy rain postpones to April 2. (Contact: Susie Bennett 415-265-1540 or, Jake Sigg at 415-731-3028 or

When that Aprille with his shoures sote                
The Droughte of March hath perced to the rote,  
And bathed every vein in swich licour                   
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;                  
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.              
When April, with its sweet showers,
has pierced the drought of March to the root,
and bathed every vein in such (sweet) liquor,
of which virtue the flower is engendered;
then folk begin to long to go on pilgrimages.
  Chaucer, Canterbury Tales


6.  Ravens and crows

There were no ravens in San Francisco during my first decade or so as a gardener.  Ravens began moving in in the 1970s, and were remarked on at the time.  Over the next three decades ravens--and later crows--became exceedingly common.  However, in the last year ravens have disappeared in my neighborhood (south of GGP), and I see only crows. I spend a lot of time in my sunroom and have a good view of northern San Francisco, so if there were ravens in this area I would see them.

Does this accord with others’ observations?  If so, does anyone have a clue about why?  Do they occupy specific ecological niches and are crows better competitors in this environment?  One possible regret I have--and I never forget for a moment about the damage ravens are doing to some natural systems, such as deserts--is that ravens are not only very intelligent but also that they have such a playful and creative spirit.  I'm sure crows must be intelligent also, although not as obviously so to me.  And I haven't noticed playfulness, either, although it's possible that I just haven't noticed.


7.  High Country News
In the Company of Crows and Ravens, by John Marzluff and Tony Angell

Wildlife professor John Marzluff and artist and writer Tony Angell put their heads--and pens--together to unravel the complex
mystique of crows and ravens. The two examine the role of the corvids in world history and culture, and watch with wonder as the cocky birds dive-bomb golden eagles, take over cities and suburbs alike and use moving autos to crack walnuts.

This reminds me of a book on the same subject (the whole family, including jays and magpies) published by Sierra Club Books about 20 years ago and called Bird Brains.  I ordered the book by telephone from the Sierra Club on the basis of its ad in The Yodeler.  They told me that the book had not yet arrived, and they would call me when it did.  After waiting two or three months and not hearing from them, I called them:

Is Bird Brains in yet? I asked.  
(Long pause).
Uh, who would you be referring to? was the reply.

If you are ever on a birding trip with Alan Ridley, ask him to describe a scene of ravens playing.  His enactment is the next best thing to being there, and, if you need convincing, this will convince you that ravens play for no other reason than to just play.  And rather sophisticated play, too.  A delightful scene.


8.    Cats Are No. 1 Threat to Birds
CS - Cat in Grass

Maybe it’s time to start keeping your kitty indoors: Cats are the number one threat to birds, new research shows. A study of the mortality of baby gray catbirds in the Washington suburbs found that 80 percent of the birds were killed by predators—and the predator was a cat 47 percent of the time. The American Bird Conservancy says cats kill 500 million birds each year, as opposed to the 440,000 birds killed each year by wind turbines. “The idea of a man-made machine chopping a bird in half creates a visceral reaction,” said one Bird Conservancy official. “while the idea of a predator with its prey in its mouth—well we’ve seen that on the Nature Channel. People’s reaction is that it is normal for cats to kill birds.”
Read it at The New York Times

9.  "Here and Now"

"Once again we do the dance of the hours to the tune of our lives, Daylight Savings Time.  They tell me we will 'lose' an hour and to 'set the clock ahead'.  Do we fall behind or jump for it?  Human language.

Somewhere a bird on a tree is living in its time and space,
Listening for subtle variations of life while examining its toes."

Jack Dodson


10.  Report from KPFA transmitter site volunteers Bob Nelson and Robert MacConnell:
Western Bluebird House on the southwestern fence!  
Male Bluebird appears to be occupying the birdhouse on the southwest fence... 
Photo by Robert MacConnell 3-17-11

Robert MacConnell provides the following images of an apparent male-female bluebird couple:
Bluebird female.jpgBluebird male .jpg
Bluebird Female, by Robert MacConnell, 3-17-11         Bluebird Male, by Robert MacConnell, 3-17-11

(JS:  I have a bluebird box in my coast live oak tree [for cavity nesters such as chickadees, which have nested in it, and I haven't lost hope that a nuthatch might move in some day], and it is important that the hole be the right size.  A starling tried very hard to gain access, but the hole was too small for it, so it gave up.  I caught a squirrel successfully enlarging the hole, presumably for its nest, but I chased it away before it got very far.) 

"I would like to paint the way a bird sings".  - Claude Monet


Spring Migration
Margarita Engle

once again

just as promised

the blessed season of ants and millipedes

has arrived

  armies of beetles and moths seize our winter-weary house

  turning the walls inside-out



everything that has been musty and stale

spills outdoors

over these inverted walls

people, books, papers, pencils, all is flowing

riparian and leafy-green

         sliding down vertical cliffs

                  of dusty brick and cobwebbed stucco


this is the season

when small creatures

rush indoors to replace us

patrolling the couch and dinner table

claiming their ancestral territory

while we

moved by the same heat of restless wonder

flow outward

to take our rightful place

as wandering nomads

From Wings, journal of the Xerces Society, Spring 2006


"Every year, back comes Spring,
with nasty little birds yapping their fool heads off
and the ground all mucked up with plants."
Dorothy Parker


13.  From CoastalZone website (

KTVU news a few weeks ago about a road kill survey project spearheaded by U.C. Davis. Here’s an excerpt from the project’s website:

Roadkill is the stuff of jokes and sometimes supper. But wild animals hit by vehicles are a serious concern of some ecologists, including UC Davis researcher Fraser Shilling, who just completed the first year of the largest-ever citizen-science survey of roadkill.
"Thousands of animals are killed on California’s roads every day, including endangered species. This is a threat to the state’s natural legacy and, for some species, their very existence," said Shilling, a staff research associate and co-director of the UC Davis Road Ecology Center.
To collect data that could help transportation planners and conservation managers design more wildlife-friendly roads, Shilling and colleagues created a website where anyone can quickly record roadkill observations.
Now Shilling has released the first year of data for the California Roadkill Observation System and launched a similar effort for the state of Maine with Maine Audubon.

UC Davis Road Ecology Center – Roadkill Observation System Project intro and overview:
CA Roadkill Observation System (This includes observer sign up, online observation form, data on observations and photos, maps, list of California taxa, etc):

(Skunks are primarily what I see at this time of year, their mating season.  So far this year I have seen three roadkills just in the streets of my neighborhood.  JS)


14.  The Presidio Trust, National Park Service, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy are now imagining new ways to engage visitors in all that the Presidio has to offer. We are eager to hear your ideas about how to enhance the visitor experience. Below, please find information about a series of six workshops to gather community input. The workshops will be held March 22 to May 31. We enthusiastically invite you to join us for these brainstorming sessions. Feel free to share this invitation with others in the community: colleagues, friends and family. All are welcome! RSVP to (415) 561-5418 or Thank you! 

The Presidio Visitor Experience - A Public Workshop Series
Six workshops held March 22 through May 31.
What makes an experience extraordinary?
The Presidio of San Francisco has the potential to engage the local community and visitors in exciting and innovative ways. What would make the Presidio visitor experience relevant, inspiring, and meaningful? What programs, tools, and activities would help people participate in and connect with this unique urban national park?
The Presidio Trust, the National Park Service, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy invite you to join us for a series of facilitated workshops to share your ideas about how hiking, biking, bird watching, stewardship, archaeology, architecture, and history can be made more vibrant for our community. You’ll also learn about the parks existing “Centers of Engagement” such as Crissy Field Center and the Stewardship and Sustainability Center, as well as facilities now in the planning stage, including the Visitor Center and Heritage Center.
Workshops will include a mix of discussions with subject experts, brainstorming and public comment.
RSVP required to (415) 561-5418 or Please specify which dates you plan to attend. Sign language interpreters are available. The Golden Gate TTY number is (415)556-2766.
All workshops will be held at the Presidio Log Cabin from 6 to 8 pm.
Tuesday, March 22
Making Connections at the Presidio
Hear about projects that have been recently implemented at the Presidio, its Centers of Engagement, and plans for the Visitor Center and Heritage Center. Building upon previous work such as the Presidio Stories Symposium, participants can roam among a series of “stations” and suggest ways of enhancing the visitor experience at this unique national park.
Thursday, March 24
How to Make History Come Alive at the Presidio
Join in a lively discussion with host Doug McConnell and a panel of innovators from around the country who have been invited to share their experiences in making history exciting and relevant to diverse audiences.
Monday, April 11
Engaging our Past: Military, Architectural, Cultural, and Natural History
Prepare to roll up your sleeves and join in a workshop where participants are asked to contribute their ideas for creating experiences around buildings, landscapes, archaeology and other historic sites throughout the Presidio.
Monday, April 25
A Walk in the Park: Recreation, Health, and Wellness
This workshop will focus on how to inspire people to make the healthy choice – have fun, get some exercise, get close to nature, and make the Presidio a part of their everyday lives.
Monday, May 16
Connecting with Nature: Natural Resources and Stewardship
Ideally all visitors to the Presidio are somewhere on the path to becoming stewards of this treasured national park site. Help us identify ways in which visitors can make a deeper connection to the amazing diversity of natural resources at the Presidio.
Tuesday, May 31
Visitor Experiences at the Presidio
Please join us to hear a presentation on the development of conceptual plans for the Visitor Center and Heritage Center. 


15.  Feedback

Alane Weber:
> Reply to #13 Re:  Native Worm species for composting.  I am an expert on vermicomposting, but not on other species, including our native worms.  What I have found from 20 + yrs of practical experience is that the native worms I'm aware of here on the west coast (predominately gray with a pinkish clitellum bump 1/4 of the way down from the front end/head or the night crawlers)  will not function so well in a worm bin setting, which is far richer in nitrogen from the organic matter of  the fruit, veggie & leftover scraps, than they are used to.  Their natural habitat is in the soil, which they consume (pass through their many-chambered gut) along with the nutritious microbes that exist in soil (aka "soil foodweb"). Or, in the case of night crawlers which burrow vertically 3 - 5 feet deep (worm bins shouldn't be deeper than 6").  If there does exist a suitable native or "wild" worm in these here parts, you would find them in cow or horse manure piles.  Seek them there... but my guess is you may already find one of the many species of "composting worms" already there.  - Alane Weber, San Mateo Co Master Composter Program Teacher/trainer

Doug Allshouse:
> Jake,There was an article about earthworms some years ago in the Chronicle. It's my understanding that earthworms were brought to North America by European settlers, probably the Pilgrims. They have wreaked havoc on some specific ecosystems, one was in Minnesota. Had we not moved them around while settling this nation it is believed that earthworms would still reside only in Massachusetts.
> I should have "googled" this first. Turns out there are about 100 species of worms indigenous to North America. Most of our worms awere killed by the glaciers, so only southeastern and northwestern US had native worms that survived. European and Asian worms have invaded the US. Minnesota had no worms because of the glaciers and the forests evolved without them, but non-native worms have degraded them because of consumption of understory. They relied on slow leaf rot to boost plant species.


16.  Confusing headlines - from Anguished English 













Nouns as verbs, verbs as nouns, adjectives as verbs:
SF Examiner 22 Aug 2010 headline:  Family of slain cyclist outraged driver is free 

JS:  I read that headline 4-5 times without ever understanding it.  So I read the story just for the purpose of figuring out the headline.  Afterward I understood that my mind was stuck on outraged.  I am so habituated to "outraged driver" that I couldn't make the shift to understanding outraged as a verb rather than an adjective.

And this might have made a good caption to a picture:  "the butterfly chasing cop, from early 20th century San Francisco".  However, it was just a sentence in a newspaper of the 1920s without a pictures, and, without the hyphen (butterfly-chasing cop) one would not understand that the cop chases butterflies, rather than the other way around.


17.  Words, words

Each year hundreds of words are dropped from the English language.  Old words, wise words, hard-working words.  Words that once led meaningful lives but now lie unused, unloved, and unwanted.

Today, 90% of everything we write is communicated by only 7,000 words.  You can change all that.  Help save the words!

If not for yourself then for generations yet to come.  Now you may ask, "What have future generations done for us lately?"

Well, not much.  But one day they'll be grateful.  You never know, they may even have a word or two to say about you.

1.  Why are words important?  Words are the cornerstone of language.  The more words we have, the richer our vocabulary.  Words allow us to communicate precisely.  Without the right word to describe something, well…we'd be speechless.

JS:  This question "Why are words important?" caught my eye, ever sympathetic as I am to anyone aiming for clarity of expression, not to mention stopping the deterioration of communication--nor my receptivity to lost causes.  However, because of the words that they were trying to preserve, I initially thought this site was tongue in cheek, until I read on.  I guess they're serious.  

I do bemoan a shrinking vocabulary and the loss of words through misuse--Exhibit A is 'pristine', irreplaceable by any other word in the language, yet it has been forever destroyed by misuse.  Without a word there is no concept, so this really impoverishes our lives--and seemingly no one has noticed.  However, I sampled some of the words this site wants to preserve and they lost me.  

The ones I sampled sound like those that they use on NPR's Says You.  Three panelists are verbally given a words, then given cards, one of which has the correct definition to a word no one has ever heard of, and the other two have to make up definitions good enough to fool the other panel, which must determine which is the correct one.  Fun and entertaining, but no one misses these words, which is why the very smart panelists haven't heard of them before.  Use declining brain-storage space for these words that are better off dead?

Speaking of the importance of words, here is a dramatic example of the consequences of not knowing what a word means:

LTE, Scientific American, March 2011
Michael Lemonick's "Climate Heretic" seems to suffer from a common misconception.  Lemonick tends to avoid any distinction between skepticism and denial when referencing so-called climate skeptics.  At the same time, he makes much of the rigidity so evident among some in the majority.  Such portrayal does an injustice to serious proponents on all sides of the issue.  To refer to all those as "skeptics" implies that the vast majority of climate scientists then are credulous.

Skepticism--true skepticism, not the intractable bias characteristic of denial--is absolutely fundamental to the scientific method.  I would submit that if but a single attribute can be said to characterize climate science in the hostile public policy milieu of recent years, it is surely skepticism.

Whatever their position on a topic or their bias toward a conclusion, true skeptics will ultimately follow the evidence where it leads.  Deniers, on the other hand, interpret that same evidence only as it might support their foregone conclusions.  The gulf between these mindsets is wide.  In an age already rife with misinformation and scientific illiteracy, that difference should be acknowledged by scientists and journalists alike and at every opportunity.

Dom Stasi
Studio City, Calif.


18.  Mormon birthrates

Scientists have now uncovered an odd fact about 19th-century Mormons:  the more women in a household, the lower the average birthrate.  "Although it is great in terms of numbers of children for successful males to have harems, the data shows that, for every new woman added to a male's household, the number of children that each wife produced goes down by one," said biologist Dr Michael Wade, of Indiana University.  The result is the first time scientists have observed humans being affected by what is known as the Bateman gradient:  the more sexual partners the male fruit fly had, the lower the fecundity of each partner, the geneticist Angus Bateman noted.  Guardian Weekly 11.03.11

"Bigamy is having one wife or husband too many. Monogamy is the same."     --Oscar Wilde

Lord Russell, English jurist:  The maximum penalty for bigamy?  Two mothers-in-law.


19.  Dear Friends of the Jepson Herbarium,
It is my great pleasure to announce the following addition to our 2011 workshop schedule! At this time, registration is open only to current members of the Friends of the Jepson Herbarium, and to individuals who were on the 2010 San Nicolas Island workshop waiting list. If space allows, we may open registration to the general public.
San Clemente Island
April 7-12, 2011
Instructor: Steve Junak

(Contact the Jepson Herbarium for more information.  JS)




21.  Lexington
The courage factor

Has Barack Obama ever been brave? Perhaps more pertinently, will he ever be?

Mar 17th 2011 | from The Economist print edition

IT IS hard to see risk-free options for outside intervention in Libya. And as Colonel Muammar Qaddafi closes in on the pro-democracy rebels, Barack Obama, as is his wont, is erring on the side of caution; carefully considering, as he has for weeks, what, if anything, he ought to do. But this prompts a question about the president. Has he, at any point in his presidency so far, demonstrated real political courage? It is surprisingly hard, more than two years in, to think of an unambiguous example.

True, he went to the wire on health reform, but by the time he got round to doing so it would have been even riskier for him to accept defeat than to press forward. He spent nearly $1 trillion on economic stimulus and bailed out the car companies. But although they were controversial he had plenty of support for both decisions, which makes them bold rather than truly brave. If political courage is taking a clear stand against the majority on some gut instinct or principle, it is much easier to list the cases where Mr Obama has chosen discretion over valour.

He has left Guantánamo open, despite promising to close it. He reinforced the troops in Afghanistan, but set a date to start withdrawing, a careful bit of bet-hedging. He pushed for peace in Palestine, but retreated at the first whiff of domestic opposition. He created a bipartisan commission on the deficit, but then distanced himself from its recommendations. He said he would let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for the rich, but backed down after the mid-term elections. His support for gay rights has been a study in caution, like his position on gun control. He declined to criticise the treatment of Private Bradley Manning, the alleged WikiLeaks informant, whom the Marine Corps holds in solitary confinement and who has to stand naked outside his cell every morning. He fired an official who did speak out.

If Mr Obama is not brave, is he a coward? That is too harsh: politics, being the art of the possible, is not always about drawing a line and making a stand. Courage is a virtue in a president, but so are cool calculation and risk-aversion. If these are the president’s dominant traits, some will say that they are a welcome corrective after the martial impetuosity of his predecessor.

Besides, one interpretation of that list is that Mr Obama is calculating, not craven. Guantánamo? While the terrorist threat continues, a case can be made that there is still a place for detentio

[Message clipped]
For updates and info, contact scott at planttrees dot org.