Useless laws weaken the necessary laws. -Charles de Montesquieu
1. Job in environmental education
2. Mission Blue Nursery propagation day tomorrow, Wednesday
3. CNPS Plant ID workshops resume Sept 12
4. No Wall on Waterfront volunteer mobilization Saturday the 14th
5. Stay posted on waterfront happenings with SF Waterfront Alliance
6. Tern limits; a small tragedy off Maine coast
7. Juana Briones de Miranda and 19th Century California, Sept 19
8. Ancient Monuments and Funerary Places in the San Francisco Bay, Sept 19
9. Feedback: population, mostly
10. A penetrating look at printing money
11. Today is Mary Oliver’s birthday/she listens to the god of dirt
12. News from Friends of Sausal Creek
13. EBRPD Botanic Garden newsletter
14. Gardening From The Ground Up: Vegetables, Native Plants in Piedmont
15. Cup of coffee for $80
16. Paul Evans views a comedy end to summer
17. Miracle Fair, by Wislawa Szymborska
18. I’m on vacation message
1. Job opportunity - Kids In Parks
Kids In Parks provides experiential environmental education to underserved populations in San Francisco’s public schools, grades K-8. We help students explore urban parks/natural areas and to understand their place in the natural world by teaching local ecology and natural history. We provide a year-long sequential program that includes (partial list):
Mapping geographical features
Hands on participation in restoration projects
Identification of flora and fauna and understanding their roles in our ecosystem
Recording and monitoring observations in field journals
Learning about our watershed, the water-cycle and the impact of erosion
Art in Nature projects, including botanical illustrations and sculpture
We are looking for an energetic person/s to help out in the classroom and on the field trips. The ideal candidate should be kid friendly, interested in local ecology, and able to go on short but vigorous hikes several times a day. We are looking for a reliable person willing to commit to the 2013-2014 school year. This person will also help organize our spring fundraiser. Bilingual in Spanish or Chinese is a plus. We are very interested in people who have a willingness to grow with our organization. The schedule is approximately 15 hours per week spread over three days. The pay is $20 per hour.
Reply to: email@example.com or call (415) 826-2083
San Bruno Mountain Watch
Mission Blue Nursery
Wednesday, September 11th
10:00 AM- 12:30 PM
Join our team of volunteers as we get ready for a big planting season. We will be washing pots, transplanting plants, and tending to our native plant garden.
Directions (View Google Map)
3. California Native Plant Society's PLANT IDENTIFICATION WORKSHOPS RESUME!
Second Thursdays, starting September 12, 6 – 7:30 pm.
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
Hensill Hall, Botany Lab, Room 440
The botany graduate students at San Francisco State University will lead the plant ID workshops on the second Thursday of the month.
The dates are: September 12th, October 10th, November 14th, and December 12th. Mark your calendars.
Please join us for some fun time keying plants and learning plant terminology in a relaxed atmosphere. If you have the new edition of the Jepson Manual, bring that along or Plants of the San Francisco Bay Region: Mendocino to Monterey (revised edition), and a hand lens. If you have any further questions, please email Mila Stroganoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is public transportation (MUNI - M car) that stops directly in front of SFSU. There is a SFSU shuttle that runs continually from and to the Daly City Bart Station and there is street parking as well as campus parking (you must pay for parking) and then make your way to Hensill Hall.
No Wall on the Waterfront
JOIN US: No on B & C/No 8 Washington Wall on the Waterfront Campaign Kickoff and 1st Volunteer Mobilization
This Saturday, September 14th @ 10 am at 15 Columbus Ave
Please join former Mayor Agnos, Board President Chiu, and a citywide coalition of environmental groups, affordable housing advocates and neighborhood leaders this Saturday morning for the official kickoff and 1st Volunteer Mobilization for the NO on B & C – NO 8 Washington Wall on the Waterfront Campaign.
On Saturday, September 14th at 10 am we will formally launch this historic campaign to stop Propositions B & C from raising waterfront height limits for tall luxury towers twice as high as the old Embarcadero Freeway that divided the city from the Bay for decades before it came down. This will be a great opportunity to get involved, meet fellow volunteers, and make a difference. Immediately following the rally, volunteer teams will fan out across the city to raise the visibility of NO on B & C and let voters know that early voting begins in just a few short weeks.
No Wall on the Waterfront Campaign Headquarters, 15 Columbus Ave, SF 94133
Food, Materials, and Volunteer Training Provided
RSVP to (415)894-7008 or Events.No8WashingtonWall@gmail.com if You’re Fired Up and Ready to Win!
The best way to keep up to date on the latest news articles and information regarding the proposed Warriors developments is to Like us on Facebook.
Click here to be directed to the San Francisco Waterfront Alliance’s Facebook page.
We post relevant news stories and information on our Facebook page instead of constantly bombarding you with emails, so please Like us if you wish to stay informed.
San Francisco Waterfront Alliance
A small tragedy is occurring off the coast of Maine
Aug 31st 2013 | CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS The Economist
One good tern serves another
THEY put in 55,000 flyer miles a year, more than any other bird. In a 30-year lifespan that is the equivalent of three round trips to the moon, just to lay one or two eggs. Yet Arctic terns are not as tough as all that. In recent years their numbers have declined by more than 40% at their breeding grounds off the coast of Maine. Similar falls have been reported in the Netherlands and Iceland.
For the past 30 years, workers like Linda Welch at the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge have been trying to restore local seabird populations on islands taken over by predatory seagulls. Arctic terns had been increasing until about five years ago. Then they began tailing off, dropping from 4,224 pairs in 2008 to 2,467 in 2012.
Lack of food appears to be the reason. The birds forage for herring and other small fish, and may face competition from commercial fishing boats. Climate change, meanwhile, may be causing the fish to swim to colder waters elsewhere (see article). Some researchers think the changing climate may be disrupting the food chain in the birds’ winter destination, Antarctica, leaving them too weak to breed in Maine.
The shortage of fish prompted 3,500 Arctic and common terns to abandon their nests on Machias Seal Island, once the largest tern colony in the Gulf of Maine, from around 2006. Last year they bred on just four of the 50-odd islands in the refuge. Without herring or hake to feed their chicks, desperate terns may resort to larger butterfish. “They can’t swallow them, so the chicks slowly starve to death with 20 butterfish surrounding them,” says Ms Welch.
Other migratory seabirds, such as Atlantic puffins and razorbills, face similar problems. Hundreds have starved to death and washed ashore from Florida to Maine. They are useful, if sad, indicators of the health of the oceans, as fish eaten by the terns also sustain species important to people, such as cod and tuna. Gradually, the troubles of the terns are likely to ripple up the food chain.
7. The Presidio
Contemporary Historians Series:
A Woman of the Ages: Juana Briones de Miranda and 19th Century California
Featuring Albert Camarillo, Stanford University
Thursday, September 19, 7 pm
Golden Gate Club, 135 Fisher Loop
View Details >>
Studying the life of Juana Briones -- ranch owner, businesswoman, humanitarian, and folk healer -- opens a fascinating window into the changes that transformed 19th century California. The daughter of a soldier with the De Anza Expedition, Juana Briones lived at the Presidio before establishing herself as one of the pioneer settlers of the Pueblo of Yerba Buena; she eventually sold her farm and moved to a rancho in the hills of Palo Alto. Albert Camarillo discusses the life and times of Juana Briones in the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1820s through the 1880s and places her story within the changing contexts of California under three flags -- Spain, Mexico, and the United States.
Albert Camarillo is the President of the Organization of American Historians for 2012-13, the nation’s largest membership association for historians of the United States. A member of the Stanford University History Department since 1975, Camarillo is widely regarded as one of the founding scholars of the field of Mexican American history and Chicano Studies. He was born and raised in the South Central Los Angeles community of Compton where he attended the Compton public schools before entering the University of California at Los Angeles. He is the only faculty member in the history of Stanford University to receive six of the highest and most prestigious awards for excellence in teaching, service to undergraduate education, and contributions to the University and its alumni association. At Stanford’s commencements in 1988 and in 1994, he received the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Education and the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 1997, he was awarded the Bing Teaching Fellowship Award for Excellence and Innovation in Undergraduate Teaching. His newest book is Mexican Americans and Ethnic/Racial Borderhoods in American Cities, 1850-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2013). He is currently working on a book titled Going Back to Compton: Reflections of a Native Son on Life in an Infamous American City, an autobiographical and historical account of Compton from the 1950s to 2010.
8. San Francisco Natural History Series
Ancient Monuments and Funerary Places in the San Francisco Bay
Guest Speaker: Perry Matlock
7:30pm, Thursday, Sep 19th, 2013
FREE at the Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA
Perry Matlock, archivist for the Sacred Sites Preservation & Rights of Indigenous Tribes, will talk about the shellmounds and the people who made them.
Jonathan Young & Brian Hildebidle came and talked to us August 15 on the Past, Present, & Future of Presidio's Mountain Lake.
The last 60-70 years have not seen Mountain Lake in the Presidio treated well. When the Spanish came across it in 1776, Father Pedro Font wrote:
“This place and its vicinity has abundant pasturage, plenty of firewood, and fine water, all good advantages for establishing here the presidio or fort which is planned. Here and near the lake there are yerba buena and so many lilies that I almost had them within my tent.”
The lake changed most drastically when Highway 1 (Park Presidio) was put laid in. Sediment from the tunnel through the Presidio was dumped into the lake, and drains from the highway, sent oil and gas directly from the road into the lake. Once 20' deep, its depth was lowered to only now 9′ at its maximum, and became slowly but surely full of lead.
Add to that the acid and tannins from leaves from the abundantly planted Eucalyptus trees, all sorts of odds and ends (including a carriage according to one member of the audience), and all sorts of turtles, frogs, fish and other critters (including in 1996, a Cayman alligator), the lake has changed dramatically from when Father Pedro found it.
Much of the talk about restoring the lake started when the lead was first noticed by a scientist in the 90s (and later affirmed by various agencies). People also were worried about the increasing murkiness of the lake.
Two efforts are being made to restore the lake: one is to get rid of the lead, and at least some of the sediment that was dumped there. This involves filtering sludge vacuumed up from the bottom and pumped up into bags which will are being taken to a landfill. This will also remove some of the accumulated leaf litter. Some of the eucalyptus is also being removed to reduce the amount of impact they have on the lake (many trees remain near the lake as part of a “historical forest”).
The other effort is to try and restore the lake back to more like what it once was. This involves two fairly difficult task: one is to remove the invasive species and relocate them to other places where they will not have the same impact. Already about 40 fish (carp, bass, and a couple sturgeon) and 17,000 juveniles have been removed, as well as numerous turtles. In case you are worried, these have been taken elsewhere to live out there lives — the fish to a private lake, the reptiles to Sonoma County Reptile Rescue.
The other, perhaps most complicated task is to restore native species back in the lake. This is not just animals but also plants. One group of people will be setting up a set of compatible plants species, the others will focus on bringing into the pond species that will, should, and can thrive. This is complicated not only be the problems of individual species, but also the status of endangered species and how they can be treated. Another factor — at least where amphibians is concerned is the Chytrid fungus that is having a devastating effect on many amphibian species.
It is a long term effort that will require vigilance, testing, and monitoring to make maintain the appropriate balance The depth can't be restored to it's prior depth because of the risk to the roadway , so pumps are also going to be utilized at least until some of the plant communities take hold.
It's a little bit akin to a gigantic aquarium project, where you've had to start out with a filthy tank full of species that you are not particularly interested in.
Why go through all this work to try and re-establish this ecology? To preserve and protect biodiversity — and all the ecological functions and stability that biodiversity can provide; to test the theories and experiment with introduction frameworks of how these restorations actually happen; and last but not least to provide environmental education — engaging the local community, to bring an awareness of our urban ecology and how we interact with nature in a city, and to be a living museum for all these marvelous creatures.
October 17 -- Bird Feathers and Bird Bones -- David Lukas
November 21 -- World of the California Newt -- Lance Milbrand
On Sep 7, 2013, at 9:18 PM, Peter Vaernet wrote:
" In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.”
...in my opinion, one "simplify" would have sufficed.......:)
Some of us are hard of hearing; others need everything repeated before they get it. Both, however, tend to be simple-minded anyway, so we’re half-way there. :-)
Also, re overpopulation: I feel that one of the small things I can do as an individual is donate lots of money to for example POST (Peninsular Open Space Trust) and Trust for the Public Land plus the Nature Conservancy. This act preserves land so that it will be forever open, unchanged and unbuilt on.
Neither POST nor TPL nor any conservation organization has an impact on increasing human numbers, the driver of all political decisions. We talk about preserving lands “in perpetuity”, but when push comes to shove there is no such thing. The legal basis for “in perpetuity” language can be changed when pressures build up.
Have you noticed what is happening to park budgets, whether national parks, state parks, or wherever? If you took a vote in the House of Representatives to sell off some of our national parks you may not get a majority, but you would get a frighteningly large number of Yes votes. They are probably the same representatives who vote to deny UN family planning funds to nations that desperately need the funding to enable women to make choices. You mean you haven’t been paying attention to the bizarre proposals coming from some of our “leaders”?
I would not discourage you from contributing for land preservation, just saying it does nothing for the population problem. There are organizations which work directly to assure that all children are wanted. (An aside: I recently heard in a meeting that all children of homosexual couples are wanted, a dig at those who prate about “family values”, but whose actions undermine those very values.) Planned Parenthood is the stellar example in enabling and educating people in this area.
On Sep 8, 2013, at 9:41 PM, Peter Vaernet wrote:
Good points...I guess I can only do so much - preserving land at least means that they will not build on it while I am alive....:)
I do donate $$ also to the Population Connection.
I forgot to mention the organization that I favor in this regard - Californians for Population Stabilization. My reason to favor it is because it is willing to grasp the nettle of immigration, which almost no other organization will. And it is effective; it could be even more effective if it had more donations--which, unsurprisingly, aren’t easily come by.
We certainly wanted our son..we adopted him from birth at UCSF from a family of 6 children...the birth mother died five months later. I have connected him to all his siblings so they can hang out together....
At least the Western world has lower and lower birth rates,,,,so we need to work on immigration controls, both in Europe and the North American continent. That can be quite difficult, but people are waking up around these issues, even in Europe, where the borders are very leaky.
The western world’s birthrates are declining, and yes, immigration can be fingered in many countries for the increasing numbers of people. As Europe’s economic/political problems worsen, we’re seeing increasing resistance and hostility to immigration, including outright racism. (This shouldn’t be surprising, as Europe has always been racist--even openly, unlike us.) As the economic/financial situation continues to deteriorate expect more ructions. The European Union requires the free movement of people to its members, which is theoretically a good thing, but that can only work as long as people tolerate it. I don’t expect such tolerance to continue, so the EU is in as much trouble as we are.
I am posting below a Guardian Weekly column by economist Ha-Joon Chang on the weird economic/financial system we have. He fingers the basis for the severe dislocations in the world’s economies, and why printing trillions of dollars in past six years isn’t providing a remedy. That much I had figured out for myself, but what I didn’t know is that this was a conscious choice made by the powers-that-be and can be changed. I hope he’s right, because capitalism is the only system that works, but the bizarre kind we have today doesn’t work and is depleting resources and disrupting communities and people's lives. It is unsustainable.
I will give a donation to Californians for Population Stabilization.
Yes, many Europeans have to cope with the liquid borders...
A crucial thing is to make sure that people arriving in for example Denmark accept Danish culture. We do not give up the gains we have made under Enlightenment Philosophy to 11th century thinking.
Odd, we Americans have not been so reluctant about changing our culture, which is rapidly changing in unanticipated ways--some good, some bad. Maybe it’s because our lineage and history doesn’t reach so far back that it isn’t treasured as much as those of Europeans.
I’m glad that Americans are hard on racism. Racism has been common--common? - nay, universal through human history--but it has caused much human misery, and is unfair to those born in the wrong time or place. Nevertheless, humans are tribal by instinct, and it is healthy to be aware that that is our nature. Intimidating people through political correctness has limited value as education, but it doesn’t solve problems--it just drives them underground. I find it very understandable that Danes and others want to preserve their culture. It is, after all, unique, and preserving that is part of preserving diversity that multiculturalists prate about.
I guess my point in reference to the Enlightenment, was more along the lines speaking up for general Western culture, not just Danish culture...the enlightenment notion that it is wrong to have slaves, that women do deserve to have access to higher education and work outside and the right to participate in general social activities, human rights, and perhaps one of the most important notions of separating religion from science and governing. These were very much ideals that the American founding fathers wrote up in their idealistic visions for the creation of the United States of America. Science has progressed so rapidly in the west because we are to a greater degree free from religious notions of that god has created and rules everything, so there is no need to ponder science and administrative skills sets.
On Sep 9, 2013, at 3:53 PM, Olive Bavins wrote:
Jake: I do not know if this is of interest to you or not but I thought I would forward it to you just in case.
I have been keenly aware of this displacement of San Franciscans by these techno newly rich. Not good.
A day will come when they will wonder why they can’t find anybody to clean their houses, pick up their garbage, or serve their lattes. Commuting from Modesto every day is expensive, and leaves little time to actually work.
Besides, have you noticed how high rents are getting in Modesto? Selma, Coalinga, anyone?
Another financial crisis looms if rich countries can't kick their addiction to cash injection
by Ha-Joon Chang in Guardian Weekly (excerpt)
Five years on from the last crash, quantitative easing remains the weapon of choice for governments unwilling to challenge the current economic model
The Guardian, Friday 30 August 2013 13.00 EDT
Illustration by Matthew Richardson
…This is a stark reminder that things are still not well with the world economy, five years on from the outbreak of the biggest financial crisis in three generations in September 2008.
...In its initial phase, QE may have had acted like an electric shot to someone who just had a cardiac arrest. But subsequently its boosting effects have been largely through the creation of unsustainable asset bubbles – in the stock market, in property markets and in commodity markets – that may burst and generate another round of financial crises. On top of that, it has caused much collateral damage to developing countries, by overvaluing their currencies, helping them generate unsustainable credit booms, and now threatening them with the prospect of currency crises.
If its effects are at best debatable and at worst laying the ground for the next round of financial crises, why has there been so much QE? It is because it has been the only weapon that the rich country governments have been willing to deploy in order to generate an economic recovery.
QE has become the weapon of choice by these governments because it is the only way in which recovery – however slow and anaemic – could be generated without changing the economic model that has served the rich and powerful so well in the past three decades.
This model is propelled by a continuous generation of asset bubbles, fuelled by complex and opaque financial instruments created by highly leveraged banks and other financial institutions. It is a system in which short-term financial profits take precedence over long-term investments in productive capabilities, and over the quality of life of employees. If the rich countries had tried to generate recovery through any other means than QE, they would have to seriously challenge this model.
Recovery driven by fiscal policy would have involved an increase in the shares of public investment and social welfare spending in national income, reducing the share going to the rich. It would have generated new public sector jobs, which would have weakened the bargaining power of capitalists by reducing unemployment.
Recovery based on a "rebalancing" of the economy would have required policies that hurt the financial sector. The financial system would have to be re-engineered to channel more money into long-term investments that raise productivity. Exchange rates would have to be maintained at a competitive level on a permanent basis, rather than at an over-valued level that the financial sector favours. There would have to be greater public investment in the training of scientists and engineers, and greater incentives for them to work in and with the industrial sector, thus shrinking the recruitment pool for the financial industry.
Given all this, it is not a big surprise that those who benefit from the status quo have persisted with QE. What is surprising is that they have actually strengthened the status quo, despite the mess they have caused. They have successfully pushed for cuts in government spending, shrinking the welfare state to the extent that even Margaret Thatcher could not manage. They have used the fear of unemployment in an environment of shrinking social safety nets to force workers to accept more unstable part-time jobs, less-secure contracts (zero-hour contracts being the most extreme example), and poorer working conditions.
But is this maintenance, or even fortification, of the ancient regime likely to continue? It may, but it may not. Greece, Spain, and other eurozone periphery countries could explode any day, given their high unemployment and deepening strains of austerity. In the US, which is considered the home of quiescent workers, the call for living wages is becoming louder, as seen in the current strikes by fast-food restaurant workers. The British are (overly) patient people, but they may change their mind when the full extent of budget cuts unfolds in the coming months.
All of these stirrings may amount to little, especially given the weakened state of trade unions, except in a few countries, and the failure of the parties on the left of centre to come up with a coherent alternative vision. But politics is unpredictable. Five years after the crisis, the real battle for the future of capitalism may be only just beginning. Guardian Weekly
Ha-Joon Chang teaches economics at Cambridge University. He is the author of 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism
Today's the birthday of one of the best-selling poets in America, Mary Oliver, born in Maple Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland (1935). When she was a teenager, she dropped out of college and made a pilgrimage to Edna St. Vincent Millay's estate in upstate New York, and although Millay had been dead for some time, her sister Norma still lived there. The two women hit it off, and Oliver ended up living on the estate for several years. It's there that she met Molly Malone Cook, who had come to pay a visit to Millay. Oliver and Cook fell in love and moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts, together. Cook became Oliver's literary agent, and also sometimes impersonated Oliver for phone interviews because she hated talking to the press. They were together for more than 40 years, and after Cook died in 2005, Oliver published Thirst (2006), a collection of poems about her grief.
She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, for her collection American Primitive (1983), and she's one of the best-selling American poets, but she's a very private person who rarely gives interviews. Oliver's most recent book is A Thousand Mornings (2013), and her upcoming book Dog Songs (2013) will be released this October.
Mary Oliver wrote: "Every day I walk out into the world / to be dazzled, then to be reflective."
The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,
and never once mentioned forever
~ Mary Oliver ~
Pruning Your Native Garden, a talk and demonstration by Jocelyn Cohen, Wednesday, September 18, 7 p.m., Dimond Library, 3565 Fruitvale Ave. A native garden looks most pleasing when it has a human touch. Shrubs and trees are at their best with some pruning and shaping, and this fall is the time to do it, while many of our California natives are semi-dormant. During this presentation, you’ll learn about the different forms of many native plants and how to bring out their best characteristics—and health—through proper pruning.
Jocelyn Cohen is an ISA Certified Arborist and APA Certified Aesthetic Pruner. She has extensive experience with land restoration, tree care, aesthetic pruning,California native woody plants, organic gardening, and soil rebuilding. She teaches workshops at the East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Marin Art & GardenCenter, and other venues around the Bay Area.
For more info: 510-501-3672, email@example.com, or www.sausalcreek.org
The Friends of Sausal Creek is proud to have Oakland volunteer extraordinaire Karen Paulsell named as a 2013 Cox Conserves Heroes finalist for the Bay Area.
Karen is a Renaissance woman when it comes to restoration. Karen does everything from propagating thousands of native plants to making watershed maps to lobbying for the local environment. She's a one-person restoration dynamo and treasure trove of knowledge about the Sausal Creek Watershed.
Visit www.ktvu.com/coxconservesheroes to view the videos of the three finalists ... and vote for Karen! Please ask family, friends, and colleagues to do the same. The deadline for voting is 5 p.m. on September 26.
The winner gets $10,000 donated to their favorite environmental charity, in this case, FOSC. That would go a long way toward meeting our goals for this year.
13. East Bay Regional Parks District Botanic Garden Newsletter, September 2013
Another winning issue. You should get on its email list. This one is devoted, appropriately, to fire followers: the plants that come up abundantly after a burn. Many of them depend on periodic burns.
14. Gardening From The Ground Up: Vegetables, Native Plants
Want to grow vegetables, see more hummingbirds, and enjoy your garden more with less work?
Attract butterflies, bumble bees, song birds, hummingbirds, and other beneficial critters to your garden. Learn healthy garden management, grow edible plants, enjoy the wonder and beauty of California native plants, learn how they can help you sustain an enviormentally friendly, water saving and easy care garden.
Beginners, black thumbs, seasoned gardeners all welcome. Get thrilled to spend time in your garden. Have fun with beautiful slide shows and hands on Field Trip. http://thegardenisateacher.com/
Piedmont Adult School Wednesdays 7pm - 8:30pm Sept. 18, 25, Oct. 2, 9
and Field Trip Saturday 8:45 am - 10:30 am Oct. 12
A way to test the genuineness of the world’s costliest coffee
Aug 31st 2013 The Economist
Where there’s muck, there’s brass
THE most expensive coffee in the world is shit. That is not an opinion, it is a fact. To make Kopi Luwak you must, of course, start with high-quality beans. But then you have to feed them to palm civets, wait while they pass through the animals’ guts (having their fleshy exteriors digested as they go) and be ready to collect them when they come out of the other end. The result, when cleaned, fermented, dried, roasted, ground and brewed, sells for as much as $80 a cup. The reason for this apparently ludicrous price is the sublime effect on the beans’ flavour of the chemical reactions they undergo in a civet’s stomach.
Given that price, a lot of counterfeit and adulterated Kopi Luwak gets peddled as the real thing. And until now there has been no reliable way to detect it. A purchaser may think from the flavour that he has been duped, but he cannot prove it.
Eiichiro Fukusaki of Osaka University, in Japan, plans to change that. As he describes in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, he and his colleagues in Japan and Indonesia have developed a chemical test which, they believe, can reliably detect essence of civet in coffee.
Dr Fukusaki’s quest began with many piles of civet faeces, as well as undigested coffee beans from plantations in Bali, Java and Sumatra, all of which he treated by roasting them at 205°C and then grinding them up. Instead of popping them into a percolator at this point, though, he mixed them with distilled water, methanol and chloroform to extract the sorts of chemicals that give coffee its flavour. He then ran the extracts through a gas chromatograph and a mass spectrometer, to see what was in them.
The crucial giveaways of Kopi Luwak turned out to be four substances: citric acid, malic acid, pyroglutamic acid and inositol. The real McCoy had much more of the first two than similar beans that had not undergone trial by civet, and the ratio of the last two was reliably different. Moreover, the differences were big enough that even a 50:50 mixture could be identified, enabling adulterated Kopi Luwak, as well as stuff masquerading as it, to be detected.
Whether lower levels of adulteration than that can be detected remains to be seen. But Dr Fukusaki’s method, if widely adopted, would certainly weed out the worst excesses of the fraudulent Kopi Luwak market. On the other hand, it might inspire counterfeiters to try tweaking their products with laboratory chemicals. And if that resulted in the same flavour as the genuine article it would relieve the civets of their onerous task and open up the drinking of Kopi Luwak to mere mortals.
16. Comedy end to summer / Nature watch / Paul Evans, Guardian Weekly 26/9/06
Five buzzards rise and circle in a sky of gathering grey cloud - a shifting pentagram of dark birds. They call in high, sharp voices, as silvered as the afternoon light.
There is some wing-flipping sparring. The birds' calls ring through the air as far below apples fall from the trees. A hummingbird hawk-moth visits late flowers, hovering, darting, vanishing like some shared exotic dream. On dusty paths iridescent green-bronze ground beetles run like predatory metal vehicles. A magnificent emperor dragonfly zooms through the air, flinging himself at every corner of his empire, leaving invisible beams of raw energy through space. All these animals have a powerful presence and a way of living that makes our own look feeble and ill-adapted. So what happened to crane-flies?
In through the open window comes a daddy-long-legs, a wraith cursed with a comedy body, too much legs with too little wings. It jerks and dithers to reach the light bulb in a spindly, suicidal joke. There is something arcane about the misfit crane-flies and there are thousands of them around at the moment. After spending all that time underground, munching grass roots, the grubs - leatherjackets - have transformed, on some predetermined signal, to act out the punchline of their lives. In the day they cluster on warm walls. At night they seek out light bulbs and candle flames, as if feeding on light itself is enough, especially light that will kill them. I am developing a great respect for daddy-long-legs, in whom I recognise so much of ourselves.
The commonplace miracle:
that so many common miracles take place.
The usual miracles:
invisible dogs barking
in the dead of night.
One of many miracles:
a small and airy cloud
is able to upstage the massive moon.
Several miracles in one:
an alder is reflected in the water
and is reversed from left to right
and grows from crown to root
and never hits bottom
though the water isn't deep.
A run-of-the-mill miracle:
winds mild to moderate
turning gusty in storms.
A miracle in the first place:
cows will be cows.
Next but not least:
just this cherry orchard
from just this cherry pit.
A miracle minus top hat and tails:
fluttering white doves.
A miracle (what else can you call it):
the sun rose today at three fourteen a.m.
and will set tonight at one past eight.
A miracle that's lost on us:
the hand actually has fewer than six fingers
but still it's got more than four.
A miracle, just take a look around:
the inescapable earth.
An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:
can be thought.
~ Wislawa Szymborska ~
18. In addition to Out of the Office messages, at this time of year I also get lots of I'm on Vacation messages. Here's another
Don't need no iPod, no iTunes, no iPhone
Don't need no iPod, no iTunes, no iPhone
I'm on iCation
making music on my own
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