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March 1, 2010

Some Thoughts Re Pigeons and Second-hand Smoke

The past week the Media once again carried warnings about feeding the Pigeons who call San Francisco home.  One of the laundry list of reasons why it is a crime to feed the birds in the City is that the Pigeons crap on cars.

If people stand on a high perch looking at the San Francisco sky, as do City Birds, they will see -- from first light of morning to dusk -- large seabirds crossing City Birds Country, the Heart of San Francisco -- going back and forth from the bay side to the ocean side of the City.

When drivers spot a big splat of bird crap on their cars, the normal response is "Those Damn Pigeons!"  Truth be told, the origin of the splat is just as likely to be a seabird crossing the sky.  Normally such birds are seen crossing the City's sky every few minutes.  The total number of large birds crossing the City's sky in one day could very easily exceed the entire population of Pigeons living in San Francisco.

Another truth is that, like it or not, birds do crap while in flight -- so what.  If the day comes in which there are no longer birds in the sky, then we can worry.  Wiping a bit of bird crap off a car is nothing to worry about.

Pigeons, like other small birds, contribute more to the City than they take.  For one thing people love to feed birds.  It is a relaxing activity, and our people need a bit of relaxation.  Birds keep streets free of anything edible.  As a result the sewer rats stay in the sewers -- a good thing.

Pigeons are not the only birds who crap on the City.  Other birds include Blackbirds, Crows, Mourning Doves, Gulls, House Finches, House Sparrows, Parrots, Ravens, Red-tailed Hawks, Robins, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Starlings.  To protect airliners, birds are being shot out of the sky.  We can only hope the same will not be true to protect the shine on cars.

In the past we have expressed compassion for those still addicted to the dangerous tobacco habit.  We know how difficult it is to quit.  And for those smokers suffering from the horrible mess the economy is in, adding the pressures of quitting the habit can make the effort difficult if not impossible.

Fortunately there are several tools available to the smoker which were not available years ago.  Before nicotine patches, gum and lozenges, the only way to quit was "cold turkey."

One thing that prompts today's smokers to quit is that smoking is socially unacceptable.  Fewer and fewer places are available to the smoker in which to light up.  About the only place left to smoke is in the confines of home.

Unfortunately, in a city like San Francisco, where around two-thirds of the people are renters, living in close proximity to their neighbors, sharing common areas and common ventilation; heavy smoking by one neighbor can really harm the health of non-smoking neighbors on either side and above and below the smoker's living space.

Legislation outlawing smoking in apartments might be the ideal solution.  Until then, cooperation between residents and building managers to protect the health and property of non-smokers is essential.

The shower moisture of a non-smoker causes streaks of tobacco tar from an upstairs neighbor's smoke to run down the non-smoker's walls.  The same brown tar finds its way into the non-smoker's clothing, towels and, gasp, lungs.  There are ways to mitigate the physical harm and damage to the non-smoker's property.  See the WikiHow page below.

A Non-smoker's Bath Stained by the Tobaco Smoke of a Neighbor Who Smokes

How to Stop Secondhand Smoke Coming Into Your Apartment

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Living in an apartment block, it can sometimes be a trial if you are plagued by the effects of secondhand smoke seeping into your home from another residence. The law may, or may not, be on your side and even where it is, the time needed to institute legal responses might result in secondhand smoke continuing to impinge on your quality of life for a long period of time. If you cannot move, there are some proactive steps that you can take to protect the quality of air that you breathe in your home.


  1. Try to locate the entry point(s) of the secondhand smoke. Typical places for the seepage of cigarette smoke from one apartment to another include air vents, pipes (plumbing), gaps in insulation, eaves or other places, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, cable or phone jacks, windows and doors. Do not forget to consider balconies and outdoor patios as another possible source. Unfortunately, even the ventilation system can be a source (see "Warnings" below).
  2. See if it is possible to pinpoint the source of the cigarette smoke. If you have understanding and cooperative neighbors, you may be able to arrange with them to locate exit points in their residence and ask them to deal with these exit points in the same way as your entrance points.
  3. Seal the gaps. Gaps should be filled with suitable filler such as insulating foam for large gaps or silicone caulk for smaller ones. Consider gaps around light fittings, electrical points, around air vents, around plumbing items etc.
  4. Any vents no longer in use (common in old buildings) can be sealed by removing the diffuser/grate, cutting a plastic sheet slightly larger than the opening, and attaching the sheet to the opening using silicone caulk as an adhesive.
  5. Fit door draft excluders under doors that open into corridors or common areas. This will help prevent the entry of smoke and other undesirable elements such as dust, pollen and insects. Install a threshold under the door if there is none, and attach weatherstripping on all 3 sides of the jamb.
  6. Seal around windows with caulk or weatherstripping. Not only will this help prevent smoke from entering off balconies and gardens etc., but it will increase your energy efficiency.
  7. Install extractive window fans. These will help to draw smoke outside and can help increase ventilation. Seek professional advice on type and installation measures.
  8. Seek rectification. There are some important follow-ups that you might consider pursuing as well as the practical actions in the steps above.
    • Notify the landlord, building management or other relevant persons that you have the problem. Request that action be taken to prevent the distribution of secondhand smoke through the apartment building. Check the lease agreement or apartment building bylaws to see if you can find additional support.
    • Check local laws to see if there are bans on smoking in public places, such as gardens and common outdoor areas. It may mean that you can request property management to enforce the laws. If there are not currently laws in place to protect your family and other non-smokers, consider calling or writing to your local law makers. Don't wait for others to protect you and your kids- take action to change local laws yourself.
    • Ask for compensation from a landlord, property management or other relevant party for the repairs you have made. Keep all receipts and document all repairs made. You may not be successful but it is worth trying and it is even more important to retain this documentation if the matter turns into a legal issue later on.


  • If you can pinpoint the source to a neighbor and that neighbor seems unwilling, disinterested or even aggressively defensive about the smoking issue, it will be time to bring in a landlord, those responsible for general maintenance of the apartment block (e.g., caretakers, cooperative board, property manager etc.) and let these people take over from you. Make sure that you present well-documented evidence of your concern and be prepared to show them inside your apartment to demonstrate as well.
  • One problematic entry point is the bath. If you live above a smoking residence and their electrical fan in their bathroom is drawing the smoke out, it may be drawing it right up into the recess beneath your bathtub. If this is the case, you will need a professional plumber to come and seal the space under the bathtub.
  • You can purchase seals made for electrical outlets and lightswitch points. Ask at your local hardware store.


  • Secondhand smoke is dangerous to every person exposed to it. Chemicals from smoke, such as benzene, settle on your upholstery, paintwork, food and sleeping areas, to name but a few areas of concern. Be assertive in protecting your family's health.
  • Sealing gaps also reduces airflow in your home. This could result in stale indoor air and other health-related problems. To avoid this possibility, seek professional advice from the apartment building management or from energy efficiency experts (often attached to municipal or local governments).
  • If you are renting, or under strict rules about making changes, always seek appropriate approvals before undertaking remedial work. Don't forget, however, that this is urgent and you should press the urgency of the matter when seeking approvals.
  • Be aware that ventilation systems and portable air cleaners do not adequately filter smoke particles. They might reduce the odor but they tend to push the smoke around rather than stop it and the health-damaging effects are still occurring.

Things You'll Need

  • Tube of 100% silicone caulk
  • Sturdy plastic sheeting
  • Insulating foam sealant (ie "Great Stuff")
  • Foam outlet and switchplate inserts (in the weatherization section of home depot)
  • Door threshold and sweep, if yours in inadequate
  • Door weatherstripping (rubber or vinyl)
  • Perseverance to contact the necessary authorities (landlord, lawmakers, attorneys...)

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Stop Secondhand Smoke Coming Into Your Apartment. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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February 1, 2010

Winter 2009-10 Brings Much Needed Rain and Snow

Mother Nature has come through with tons of rain and snow throughout the Northern Hemisphere easing the drought experienced the last several years.

Snow in the Northern California mountains is being measured in the 100s of inches -- wet and heavy snow with high water content.  A couple more years of this kind of weather will serve to help fill the water reservoirs.

To be sure, there are more droughts in our future.  With our burgeoning human population, future droughts may be real killers.  We here a lot of talk about "green."  How much greener the planet would be if humans could be taught to breed more responsibly.

The best green technology -- including hybrid cars -- will be of little use once humans worldwide are stacked up like cordwood for lack of space to move around.

Now that humans are referred to as "consumers" and everything is about corporate profits which require more consumers in order for the rich to get richer; without lots of wars and pandemics, the land may become a lot more crowded than it already is.

The cold Toule Fog which chilled us late Autumn 2009 gave way to warmer and wetter weather in January 2010 as seen in this picture of rain clouds over San Francisco.  The first week of February 2010 is expected to be a wet one.

The Moss which awakened with the heavy October 2009 rains in San Francisco has continued to grow unabated through the month of January 2010. 

With plenty of water and cool temperatures, the Moss plants are growing with the appearance of mountains placed on these non-rolling stones.  The longer the rains keep these plants growing, the better off we will be.

Moss Mountains, San Francisco January 2010

January 1, 2010

Our Wishes for a Happy New Year

During 2009 Americans seemed perpetually to be waiting with bated breath for the next economic, terror and medical shoe to fall.

Everything in America seemed to be in a state of contraction:  jobs, home ownership, wages, Social Security, government programs, charitable donations, interest on savings and more.

City Birds hopes the new year will see a turnaround and that people will be able to find jobs again.  We hope the Corporation and their Government will find a way to keep people, who are on the brink of financial disaster, in their homes.  We hope that all Americans will finally be able to receive medical and dental care without going broke.

Most of all, we hope 2010 will bring peace on earth.  We have been fighting wars for so many years, we seem to have become inured to the consequences of our wars.

Finally we wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year and hope you will check back from time to time and enjoy new content which will be added to the City Birds Website during the new year.

We showed a macro close-up picture of San Francisco Moss plants starting to bud with the early, heavy rains of October 2009 in our November 1st post.  With Autumn having turned to Winter, the Moss is growing fine thanks to the above normal rainfall we have received thus far as seen in this macro close-up.  Healthy growing Moss is a sign of precipitation so needed to accommodate the growing needs of our burgeoning human population.

Toule Fog (heavy ground fog) -- usually more commonly seen in January-February -- was seen during late Autumn 2009.  Summer 2009 in San Francisco was the coldest in many years.  Record-breaking Winter temperatures (along with snow) were experienced during November and December 2009.

American White Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Canada Geese, and other water birds are now being shot out of sky by authorities protecting airliners which fly in and out of three Bay Area international airports.  These airplanes, which pollute the sky with carbon, contributing to global warming, now own the skies which were once the domain of birds.

December 1, 2009

Reflections on a Difficult Year for America

America began 2009 with great hope and expectation.  We though we would see an end to our wars with a president receiving a Nobel Peace Prize.

America began 2009 with the hope that Corporate robber barons would finally be put in their place with tough new legislation regulating their unsavory practices.

America began 2009 with the hope that, one way or another, millions of jobs would cure the worst unemployment situation since the Great Depression.

But what we have gotten thus far is causing great frustration among Americans and bewildering other nations.  The wars continue (yes, Americans troops are still dying in Iraq as well as Afghanistan).  Billions more taxpayer dollars are being spent on wars and more and more Americans are asking "Why?"

Government printing presses work day and night to print more money.  The devaluation of our currency is causing the hoarding of gold.  The weakness of the dollar is causing other nations to reconsider how much of their wealth they want tied up in the U.S. dollar.  For example, Russia is diversifying by adding the Canadian dollar (which is now about on par with the U.S. dollar) to her portfolio.

The only real success stories belong to the Military-Industrial Complex and Wall Street.  As far as jobs and security for the American People -- nada.

Here in San Francisco the laws forbidding the feeding of wild birds are now being reinforced by fines of $150 for first offenders and $300 for repeat offenders.  We are not referring only to the feeding of Pigeons, but all wild birds including gulls, feral parrots, blackbirds, Starlings, etc. Here in America everything is about crime and punishment which is wonderful for the prison corporations housing the largest prison population in the world.

In some much larger cities such as Bangkok they take a different approach to feeding wild birds.  At locations where people like to feed birds (and people worldwide like to feed birds) vendors sell small bags of bird seed for around a quarter.  The money helps pay for clean-up while assuring the birds get just enough of the right kind of food.  How civilized!

If San Francisco is to maintain any kind of bird population flying in our sky, people will just have to continue looking over their shoulders for the presence of Big Brother before tossing birds a morsel of food.  There isn't a lot of natural food for birds in the concrete jungle.  Birds depend on people to sustain them.

As Winter nears, nature gives us a light show of color as leaves of trees, such as these Poplars, turn from green to various shades of gold and red.

Now that thousands more American troops are being sent to Afghanistan to fight (and for many to die), our thoughts are with them.  Although Americans are weary of our seemingly colonial ambitions which necessitate our wars, we, nevertheless, recognize and honor the bravery of our troops -- not only those on the front lines at the moment, but those troops who now just stand and wait their turn to fight.

November 1, 2009

So What to Put First on our "Things-to-Worry-About List"

Ah, for the good old days when our worries consisted of things like which credit card to max out at the mall, buying things we richly deserved.  Of course, a few days later we would fall into depression because we didn't have a single new thing.

But, wonder of wonders, there in the mail was yet another "Zero % Interest" credit card offer -- more Free Money!  Life was good.

Now a whole lot of people are worrying about how to pay off those cards.  People are worrying about losing those good paying jobs which have made vicariously living lives of the rich and famous possible for America's middle-class.

Both jobs and the middle-class are disappearing by the thousands daily.  Counting those unemployed workers collecting benefits and those not on the rolls, having exhausted benefits, and those getting a few hours of work here and there; one out of every five California workers is unemployed.

During a few October days, the Markets suffered from what they call "Irrational Exuberance," causing the Recession-over Parrots to once again start their chattering.  However, by the end of the month they were silent once again.

In addition to the economy we have wars to worry about and health care to worry about and global warming to worry about, and flu -- every minute talk of the flu with its worries.  With so many things to worry about many go to sleep worrying about the things they forgot to worry about that day.

On the subject of global warming worries, BBC NEWS recently published a rather polemic piece entitled "What Happened to Global Warming?" which questions the theory.

The year in which planet Earth reached its hottest recorded temperature was 1998 -- then the global warming stopped.  Yet among governments, greenies and the Corporation salivating over the money to be made manufacturing land-grabbing solar cells and bird-killing wind turbines; the panic talk continues unabated.

After the coldest Summer in many years here in San Francisco, October (usually our "Indian Summer) saw some earlier than normal heavy rains causing flash flooding.  During Fleet Week 2009 (traditionally held the first week of October) one of two weekend air show performances by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels had to be cancelled due to the weather.

Long dormant moss plants sprouted to life after the heavy rains experienced during October 2009 in the San Francisco Bay Area.  These beautiful, tiny plants look like a green velvet carpet when standing before them.  When magnified we see leaves opening and new roots growing.  After years of little rain to support a burgeoning human population, these plants hopefully signal a wet year ahead.  May their lives be long.

August 1, 2009

The Economic Recession is Over -- They Say

The big news currently is the ending recession.  Sure millions of Americans are jobless, many of them already out of unemployment benefits; but, just around the corner, things will be coming up roses for them -- they say.

One of the good news items is that Americans are saving again -- currently at a 5.1% rate.  True we have quite a way to go before we reach the 20% savings rates of Asians, but our savings rate is at least better than during the past several years.  For those of us without credit card debt and a little money in the bank, "recession" is just a word.

Another bit of good news is that Americans are spending less.  For so many years we Americans felt the only road to happiness was the road to the shopping mall.  Now we have discovered that playing with our existing toys is a happy experience.  We are finding new uses for the things we have and we are having a blast with them.

They say we Americans aren't spending but are saving our money because we are fearful of the future.  We prefer to believe the reason why Americans are saving instead of spending is because we have finally, as a society, wised up.

People are buying new cars again, now that the Government is picking up much of the tab.  Of course here in San Francisco cars are not welcomed.  To discourage driving the meter rates are continuously going up, and it appears the time for metered parking is being extended from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.  That may be hard on businesses and restaurants and the like, but it is such a money maker and so green.  And now it seems they plan to extend parking meters into the residential neighborhoods.  They are determined to get all of us on bicycles.

Finally the ultra-rich Americans are doing better than ever now that they are siphoning off millions of taxpayer dollars given them for the "survival" of their corporate entities-- rewarding their cleaverness in getting all that money by giving themselves lavish bonuses.

Living in San Francisco, it is difficult to relate to the concept of global warming.  With most Summer days gray and with temperatures hovering in the high 50s F, we are left wondering what all the fuss regarding global warming is about.  Although all of our summers are cool, Summer 2009 has been the coldest in many years.  The cold weather is great for the clothing merchants as warm clothing is first on the shopping list of many tourists.

June 27, 2009

Of Gay Freedom and Independence Day

With all of the celebrities, young and old, dying off and making the headlines, the media are not focused on the fact that every week body bags containing American soldiers being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are being sent home to grieving parents for burial.

Every week National Guard and Reserve troops are being taken away from their families to fight in those hellholes.  Moscow, which lost a generation of men in Afghanistan (and which is selling the U.S. their superior helicopter gunships for us to use in Afghanistan) must, at the very least, be getting a kick out of our folly in trying to bring "American values" to that primitive, tribal part of the world.

Our troops who have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan over and over again are committing suicide and going nuts in record numbers because of too much war, too much stress, too much combat.

The kicker is that we don't really know why we are fighting these wars.  We hear we are doing it to make America safe.  Really?  A lot of people think Iraq is about oil and Afghanistan is about our other unwinnable war -- the War on Drugs.  We are busy destroying the poppy fields of Afghanistan and driving the people growing the poppies into abject poverty and we are saying this is a good thing.

The Fourth of July, Independence Day, is America's Birthday.  Our over-extended troops are fighting and dying in two wars -- their young lives changed forever or ended.  From our Nation's inception, we have fought many wars.  In our current wars, too few troops are being asked too much of them.  May Stop Loss, the back door draft, come to an end soon.

Illegal aliens are invited to join the military in exchange for citizenship.  Ex-cons are welcomed by our military.  American kids with little education and even less opportunity are invited to join the military through big economic incentives.  But gay American men and women, regardless of how important their skills and how great their patriotism are not free to be in the military -- unless, of course, they stay locked up in their closets.

Assuming President Obama is inclined to give gays the same freedom enjoyed by all other groups in America, he could change that stupid "Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell" regulation with the stroke of the pen.  We would like to think he will -- but will he?

Perhaps he can't do it now because soon it will be time to start campaigning for the mid-term elections -- can't lose any demo politicians by allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

Certainly he can't do it after the mid-term elections because then it will be time to start campaigning for his re-election.  Can't offend the "moral" right wing of our government.

Perhaps if the President is re-elected he will give gays the freedom to openly serve the Nation.  Oops, no, 'cause it will be time to once again politic for the mid-term elections.

Our entire government seems to have been reduced to left leaning politicians out to get right leaning politicians -- and vice versa -- to satisfy their own motives.  It goes beyond gay freedom.  It goes to why millions of Americans can't go to a doctor or dentist.  It goes to why our schools are failing.  The wealthy politicians are happy, they have it all.

The picture to the right shows the pink triangle -- symbol of gay freedom throughout the civilized world -- blazing in the morning sun on a San Francisco hill.  During the last week of June cities throughout the land are rallying for gay rights -- freedom!  Other first world countries allow gays to openly serve in their military services -- just as they allow all of their people to have such necessities as medical care.  Isn't it time for America to grow up?

May 7, 2009

To Buy or Not to Buy -- That is the Question

Up to about a week ago, some pundits were hinting the Recession was actually a Depression.  Now, almost to the sound of trumpets, the Recession seems to be rapidly fading into the past -- if the Media are to be believed.  The Markets are going up as the rich investors are investing -- betting we are just about ready to stampede to the stores and buy, buy, buy -- at least for now.

Seniors on Social Security have been told they will not be getting cost of living increase for the next two years.  Of course the cost of living is going up.  Rents are going up, transportation costs are going up, everything is going up; but no cost of living increase for them.

Should the seniors go on spending sprees?  We don't think so; it is best to stay home, enjoy the Web, TV and games.  As the retailers say:  "Not open to buy."  The real kicker is that their Part B Medicare costs will be going up.  Thus they will be earning less each month -- all while their costs go up.

Should the seniors expect any better?  We've got wars to pay for, new weapons to build, cities we destroyed with our bombs to rebuild, banks to bail out, the world's biggest prison population to house and feed -- we've all got to make sacrifices!

The younger Americans are in credit card debt up to their eyeballs.  Are they really going to be nuts enough to go on a buying spree?  We can only hope not.  Young Americans should do as their Asian counterparts and save around 20% of what they take home.  When the need to buy a toy gets too great:  Pay Cash!

Of course, being so in debt, it will be quite some time before they will be in the position (credit card debt free and with savings) to buy stuff.  So, as with the seniors, the solution is the same:  It is best to stay home, enjoy the Web, TV and games and all of the other toys yet to be paid for -- not open to buy.

The affluent among us should buy, buy, buy.  It is their patriotic duty, enjoying as they do all possible freedoms with no need to send their children off to fight our wars.  If just a million of our rich folks would go out today and buy an American car or two, the economy would turn around on its heels.

Over the past year we have been getting a sell job regarding the virtues of public transportation.  Much of the argument centered around the then high cost of gasoline.  The rest of the sell job had to do with "green."  Bus and other public transportation saw a surge in ridership.

Now, with the near collapse of the American auto industry, talk about taking the bus has shifted to endless shock and awe of all the new cars coming soon to a showroom near you.  Public transportation ridership is dropping because the ticket prices keep going up while the service keeps deteriorating.  Plus, the price of gas has dropped -- at least for now.

Greenies sing the praises of non-gasoline cars as being eco-friendly.  Their argument is debatable.  Regardless of the fuel, cars get damaged, requiring such things as repainting.  All cars need new tires from time to time.  The result of some essential services is pollution with the smell of such things as acetone.  This picture illustrates such pollutants finding their way into the apartments of numerous buildings surrounding the courtyard being fumigated.

During a warm March morning, we made a pre-Memorial Day visit to San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio of San Francisco.  Such a cemetery is a history lesson regarding the true cost of war.  It seems odd that humans, which so cherish the sanctity of life, will slaughter entire generations of people through wars.  We just seem unable to stop ourselves.  Maybe Denny Crane is right:  "We're animals."

Here we see an orange House Finch sunning himself on a headstone at San Francisco National Cemetery.  There appeared to be a good size House Finch population at the cemetery.  This is the first time we have see them at that location.  Being Spring, the finches were singing their beautiful songs.  Also plentiful were American Robins singing their melody and chattering Brewer's Blackbirds walking around, looking for tasty morsels.

April 10, 2009

San Francisco Porta Potty Pyromaniacs Continue Flaming Unabated

Torching porta potties is not a novel idea.  There has always been a certain humorous fascination with the idea of setting the omnipresent porta potties on fire.  However, when the number of porta potty fires escalates in some of San Francisco's finer neighborhoods, it becomes news.

Perhaps it takes "Homer Simpson" type humor to appreciate the hilarity of a porta potty going up in flames.  However, before the invention of the porta potty, fun of the day was torching outhouses.  During the 20th Century, famous Canadian poet, Robert Service, wrote a hilarious poem related to the activity entitled The Three Bares.

High and dry, this Nob Hill porta potty is safe from the clutches of the pyromaniacs.  When not resting at the top of a new highrise going up, the porta potty dangles safely from the crane.  One would think that, with almost everyone walking around with one type of camera or another, the pyros would be easy to catch.  But they seem to be invisible.

Porta Potty pyromaniacs are not the only invisible criminals roaming the streets of the City, committing their dastardly deeds with impunity.  As is the case in many of the world's cities, graffiti taggers are also active and invisible here in San Francisco.  It appears the City has thrown up their collective hands in the matter.  With shrinking resources and prisons bulging at the seams and dangerous criminals to deal with, grafitti tagging (like porta potty burning) takes on a very low enforcement priority.

Some grafitti is really bad, some grafitti is artistic, most grafitti is in the middle.  Much grafitti seems to be located near rooftops.  Perhaps such areas make it easier to remain invisible.  However, such locations provide a very limited audience -- if to be seen is the objective.  If the motivation to tag is some joy in destruction, that is one thing.  If being "discovered" as talented is the objective, a venue such as the Web might be a better choice.

September 29, 2008

Great Distractions During Troubled Times

Mercifully the new TV season is beginning.  After the first week on the air, we are quite pleased with what is coming our way -- a lot of good entertainment.  Now that more Americans are descending into poverty, it is wonderful to have broadcast DTV to fully appreciate the shows being produced for our enjoyment in movie quality.

The new TV season (in addition to distracting us a bit from the Corporate-Government mess we are in) is also something to fill the void created by the end of the Australian Winter football season.  Fortunately we recorded many of the games on old VHS tapes to be enjoyed as we approach our Winter season.  That fast moving and, yes, artistic display of professional athleticism will be missed.  We look forward to the 2009 AFL series.  Meanwhile we enjoy Monday night summer reruns on Bay Area broadcast DTV Channel 60-2.

During the third week of September the AFL semi-final game was played at a huge, multi-tiered stadium in Melbourne, host to thousands of cheering fans.  The game was very intense -- and the birds, seemingly pale yellow birds, perhaps a type of gull, were totally in their element.  Not only were they sitting on the sidelines and flying over the action, they appeared to be participating in the game as seen in this frame seemingly illustrating a bird taking part in a tackle.  See our August 28th entry below.

August 28, 2008

The 2008 Summer Olympics Over -- Let the Politicking Begin

The opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing ushered in what has been called the most unforgettable events of its kind.  However, hooked on Australian football, we found ourselves switching back and forth between the colorful events in Beijing and the Australian Football League game of the week (broadcast on MhzNetworks' Worldview -- KCSM, Channel 43-2 (or 60-2) broadcast digital television in the San Francisco Bay Area).

So much excitement at the same time keeps the heart pumping.  Australian football is reputed to be the most exciting to watch ball game on Earth -- truly non-stop action.  The football game, along with the ceremonies which made China justifyably proud, created an evening we didn't want to see come to an end.  And each event had at least one common thread.

The architecture of the stadium which was home to the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics has the appearance of a bird's nest -- and not by accident.  The ceremonies featured China's commitment to the renewal of their people embracing nature in their everyday lives as symbolized by the return of the birds.  Beijing has many parks where its citizens enjoy watching and feeding birds (as well as taking their pet birds to the park so they may socialize with other birds).

Meanwhile, in Australia during AFL football games, flocks of birds are to be seen on the fields of play.  When the football action is at one end of the pitch, the birds relax on the other end.  When the play changes directions (which happens in an instant) the birds fly over the players, seemingly enjoying the action.  Although the birds regularly fly in front of the cameras, no mention is made of them.  They are natural and appreciated.

How joyous there are still places like Asia and Australia where birds thrive in a symbiotic relationship with humans -- led by social orders which realize that such relationships create a positive sum gain for people living in the concrete jungles which define the world's growing cities.  The most beautiful cities of the world, without birds in the sky and in the trees, appear lifeless. 

July 28, 2008

Thoughts from the Land of Exploding Heads

The things going on in San Francisco, California, and these United States are so stress inducing as to make one's head seem ready to explode.  Is it any wonder the movies being shown in theaters across the land are making millions of dollars.  The people crave escape from the inanities of what is being said and done.

In addition to our wars without end and with close to a third of Americans living in poverty and with tens of thousands of people losing their jobs each month; we hear and read about things happening and about to happen which seemingly defy logic.

One illogical move by City Hall is a new law banning the sale of cigarettes in drug stores.  Now the smokers will have to walk next door and buy their smokes at the discount cigarette stores.  This will shorten wait times at the drug stores so their customers can more quickly buy their booze, junk food and the many dangerous over-the-counter drugs.

Casting aside all of our economic problems, San Francisco's Supervisors now want to gain more power for themselves by spending four billion bucks to take over the local gas and electric company which has been serving the people well for a long time.  This would increase our utility rates by an estimated $400/capita/year.

NOTE:  The voters wisely decided the City Bosses will not have their own utility company to toy with.

As though the City doesn't have enough museums, some rich folks want to destroy the Main Post area of the Presidio by building yet another huge modern art museum replete with hotels, etc.  This picture shows the parade ground as the U.S. Army left it.  If the rich get there way (as is usually the case), most traces of Army history will be eradicated for the sake of the almighty dollar.  The profiteers are turning grass and trees into endangered species.

NOTE:  The decision was made by the owner of the art collection (which prompted the desire to build a large museum on the Presidio grounds) to relocate the museum in another part of town -- thankfully.  Search City Birds for many pictures of the Presidio which show military history the Army left behind -- history we must not neglect or forget.

July 11th 2008 The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the grave decline of birds in America -- many common bird populations having dwindled as much as 90% during the last fifty years.  The decline of birds in City Birds Country, the Heart of San Francisco, in the last few years has been dramatic.  Loss of habitat combined with the City's strict anti-bird feeding laws have done the job.  The last songbird in these parts is the House Finch as seen perched in this winter scene.

Closing Thoughts

City birds, which have thrived many decades of flying around while breathing in automobile emissions are now being killed by the mushrooming number of wind farms and by gigantic, tall buildings with their mirror-like sides and by human encroachment on the birds' territory combined with laws making human feeding of the birds, whose land and sky we have taken, an illegal activity and by the thoughtless cutting down of historic old-growth trees which provide food for birds while cleaning carbon out of the air we breath -- as the world goes green.

America's real wars are not on the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The real war is on the streets of the USA.  On a regular basis, many more people are shot here than in the two official wars combined.  Thus far during 2008, well over 50 murders have occurred in San Francisco -- an increase over a year ago.  And the City's homicide rate is not the highest in the Bay Area.

June 23, 2008

Good Stuff, Bad Stuff and Other Stuff

During most of Spring 2008, San Francisco experienced the sunniest, warmest and driest weather in memory.  Our usual springtime rains didn't happen and cold winds off the Pacific were rare, and for the most part gentle.

While most of us fully enjoyed the warmth and sunny sky, we now must face the fact that we are in a drought.  Fires are occurring -- the worst in California history -- and the fire season is only beginning.  Governor Schwarzenegger was not over-stating when he said that, if we have another low-rainfall year, we are in deep trouble.

In addition to the direct victims of the numerous fires burning throughout Northern California at this time, the particulate pollution wafting into the cities -- added to the pollution generated daily by the cities themselves -- is creating dangerous air quality.  The pollution takes its toll on human, avian and animal lungs.  San Francisco's saving grace is wind off the Pacific.

This is Lake Merritt, Oakland, during the early morning of June 27, 2008.  Once again we are told this is a dangerous health day -- the smoke from countless fires engulfing the San Francisco Bay Area -- and to stay indoors with windows closed if possible.  What are these poor birds to do to protect their health?

California's last drought was around twenty years ago.  The San Francisco Bay Area now has a far larger population than at that time -- so many more people and businesses requiring water.  The Bay Area is the sixth most congested part of the country.  May the rain gods look favorably upon us.

The last week of Spring 2008 saw a heatwave -- really hot, day and night.  Few homes or apartments in San Francisco have air conditioning.  It is so seldom needed as to be deemed unnecessary.  The first day of Summer 2008 in the City saw temperatures approaching 100 degrees.  The next day saw Mark Twain Summer weather with temperatures dropping around 50 degrees and the commencement of our Summer fog, clouds and wind.

The shameless profiteers who, strictly for their financial gain, tried to end rent control and create an easy eviction process to rid their buildings of tenants paying civilized rents through Proposition 98 (See May 18th entry) were soundly trounced at the polls.  But lords of the land never stop trying to make the people think that poverty is good for them.  To be sure, they will try again.

Only 22 Percent of California's Registered voters voted during the election.  In most countries, a turnout of less than 50 percent would be considered a disgrace.  With the millions of lives of so many homeowners concerned with eminent domain and renters concerned with high rents at stake, one has to wonder why so few seem to care about their futures.  Perhaps it is because so many of our citizens would just rather move away from this expensive, congested play land.

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