Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Dew, dew, dew what you did, did, did before

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From November 9th at the Riata Trace Pond, look what the dew did to this gulf vervain (Verbena xutha) inflorescence. For a closer look at the effects of the roration, click the excerpt below.


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As a Thanksgiving follow-up, you can check out an appreciation of America by Jewish Iranian refugee Roya Hakakian, A Modern-Day Pilgrim From the ‘Land of No,‘ that appeared in Common Sense by Bari Weiss.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Catching up with cowpen daisies

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I saw some pleasant cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) this fall but didn’t manage to squeeze any pictures of them into my recent parade of posts till now. The view above of a fresh flower head comes from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 11th, while the portrait of flower-backed seed head remains is from October 6th along Rain Creek Parkway in my neighborhood. Even now I’m still seeing some cowpen daisies.

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Happy Thanksgiving today to those of you in the United States—and for that matter to those of you in other countries. Here’s an article appropriate to the occasion: “Grandma accidentally invited a stranger to Thanksgiving. Now, they are ‘all set for year 6.'”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2021 at 4:32 AM

After Lost Maples

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You’ve heard that on November 10th we spent a couple of hours at Lost Maples, disappointed that the fall foliage this year fell far short of what we’d seen there in 2014. Our route home took us along TX 39 by the Guadalupe River, which also proved not as fall-ful as in 2014. Finally, coming northeast from Kerrville along TX 16, Eve spotted something off to the side that I as the driver with my eyes glued to the road in front of me had missed: three strands of brightly reddened Virginia creeper vines (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) climbing diagonal branches of a live oak tree. I made a U-turn and went back to do my photographic thing. Later I thought about wordplayfully labeling the view “Red-olent of fall.”


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UPDATE. After yesterday’s commentary appeared, I was made aware of a Newsweek opinion piece entitled “I’m a Black Ex-Felon. I’m Glad Kyle Rittenhouse Is Free.”


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It’s not unusual on intelligence tests to see a question like this: What’s the next number in the sequence 2, 4, 6, …? All such questions are inherently invalid because they incorrectly assume there’s only one right next number or even one “most likely” next number. A better question would be: Give a possible next number in the sequence and a reason to justify it. For instance, if you say the next number is 8, a reason would be that you’re continuing with the consecutive even integers. If you say the next number is 9, you could be following the rule that each new number has to be larger than the one before it. If you say the next number is 6, you could be following the rule that each new number has to be at least as large as the one before it. If you say the next number is 1, a reason could be that every number in the sequence has to be a positive integer. If you say the next number is 50, a reason could be that the English-language word for every number in the sequence has to begin with a consonant. If you say the next number is 7, you could be alternating between numerals that have a curve in them and numerals that are written entirely with straight strokes.

One* lesson to take from this is that many possible explanations exist for an occurrence. If it’s important to know how or why something happened—as for example in a legal trial—then we have to investigate and try to find the actual explanation for the occurrence. Jumping to a conclusion without enough evidence can and does lead to mistakes and to injustices.

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* I started to write “The lesson to take from this” but I realized I’d be making the very mistake I’m cautioning against because more than one lesson could be drawn from this discussion. One obvious point is the one I suggested at the outset: people who design tests should stop asking what the next number in a sequence is. Another lesson I could go on to elaborate—and used to when I taught high school math but will spare you the details of here—is that if you tell me what you want the fourth number to be, within a few minutes I can come up with an algebraic formula such that when you put 1 into the formula it produces the value 2; when you put 2 into the formula it produces the value 4; when you put 3 into the formula it produces the value 6; and when you put 4 into the formula it produces the value you wanted for the fourth number. In fact I can come up with as many formulas as I like that will produce the same four values—a reality that reconfirms the important idea that there can be more than one explanation for something.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2021 at 4:22 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Lost Maples 2021

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Turns out that 2021 hasn’t been a good year for fall foliage at Lost Maples State Park, which lies about 160 miles west-southwest of our home in Austin. We spent over three hours driving there on November 10th, only to hear from the ranger at the entrance when we arrived that while 2020 had been very good, this year a lot of the leaves were turning brown and falling off. Still, I did what I could. The pleasant scene above caught my attention because it embraces two things: several already bare flameleaf sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) still adorned with prominent fruit clusters, and a few bigtooth maples (Acer grandidentatum) whose leaves were among the more colorful ones we saw of that species there this year. The branches below, festooned with ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata), give you a closer look at some bigtooth maple leaves turning colors

None of the trees we observed there this year came close to the display they put on during our 2014 visit.


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Facts Matter

I’ve prefaced a couple of my recent commentaries by saying that I strive for accuracy. I’ve asked anyone who catches an incorrect statement of fact to let me know and to point me to a reliable source of information so I can correct my mistake. Who wouldn’t want to get things right?

Alas, many mainstream news outlets in recent years haven’t been so conscientious, despite (presumably) having an ethical code that requires the checking of facts. The Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which concluded last week with a jury acquittal on all charges, is a recent example. Those charges were for four shootings by Rittenhouse, two of which were fatal, one of which wounded a man, and one of which missed. Rittenhouse claimed self-defense, and the jury concluded that prosecutors had failed to provide evidence to disprove self-defense. In the more than a year leading up to the trial, many media outlets had been making factually false claims about what occurred.

One much-repeated false claim was that Rittenhouse had carried a rifle across state lines. It turned out that Rittenhouse, who lived in Illinois, actually crossed into Wisconsin without a gun, then retrieved the gun from storage in Wisconsin. Another claim was that Rittenhouse, 17 years old at the time, wasn’t legally allowed to carry the kind of rifle he carried. When people finally checked the relevant statute in Wisconsin, they found the statute did not prevent Rittenhouse from carrying the kind of gun that he did.

Another much-repeated false claim was that Rittenhouse chased after the people he ended up shooting, as if he had been out hunting for innocent people to kill. The evidence presented at trial showed that actually all of those people had chased Rittenhouse, who shot them only after they attacked him first.

Aside from outright false statements, many media outlets slanted their coverage of the case to such an extent that readers and viewers came away with a false understanding of what had happened. The repeated harping about crossing state lines—notice the plural—was intended to give the impression that Rittenhouse had traveled through a bunch of states to carry out some nefarious action far from home in a place where he had no reason to be. Conveniently not mentioned was that only a single state line was involved, the one between Illinois and Wisconsin just a few miles from Rittenhouse’s home. (It’s the same state line I crossed a bunch of times in 2016 when we stayed at two hotels in far northeast Illinois and took day trips into Wisconsin, including Kenosha.) Also rarely mentioned in most media was the fact that Rittenhouse had been spending plenty of time in Kenosha; his father and a close friend live there; he was working as a lifeguard in Kenosha County. It takes just half an hour to drive to Kenosha from Rittenhouse’s home in Antioch, Illinois—about the same time as the average American spends commuting to work.

Many media outlets failed to mention that all of the people Rittenhouse shot were convicted criminals, not the “protestors” or “heroes” that some tried hard to portray them as. Here’s a summary of their backgrounds: “Rosenbaum was a registered sex offender [he’d raped boys] who was out on bond for a domestic abuse battery accusation and was caught on video acting aggressively earlier that night. Huber was a felon convicted in a strangulation case who was recently accused of domestic abuse. Grosskreutz was convicted of a crime for use of a firearm while intoxicated and was armed with a handgun when shot (he testified in court that he carried it concealed despite having an expired permit; Wisconsin law requires a valid permit to carry a weapon concealed).” That’s from a Wisconsin Right Now article, which offers documentation to back up the summary and also goes into much more detail. And the fact remains that all three of the people who got shot had taken part in a riot.

There was a huge campaign to racialize the case, despite the fact that Rittenhouse and the three people he shot were all white—an inconvenient truth that many accounts purposely failed to mention. American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, said last week that the three largest newspapers in Brazil had all been reporting that the men Rittenhouse shot were black, an impression the Brazilian newspapers had incorrectly picked up from the way so many American sources had reported the events.

It’s a sad state of affairs that even after all the evidence presented in the televised trial, some people in the media are still making factually untrue statements about the case. You can read more about that in an Epoch Times article.

Opinions, of course, differ from facts, and people often draw different conclusions even from agreed-upon facts. I think most people, including me, will agree that a 17-year-old with a powerful rifle shouldn’t have gone to a riot thinking that he could offer aid and protect stores. The fact that he felt he needed to help is an indictment of the authorities in Wisconsin, especially the governor, who had done and continued to do little to stop the nights of rioting that ended up causing tens of millions of dollars in damage in Kenosha.

UPDATE. After this commentary appeared, I was made aware of a Newsweek opinion piece entitled “I’m a Black Ex-Felon. I’m Glad Kyle Rittenhouse Is Free.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 23, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Mexican hat in autumn

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Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) in central Texas typically reaches its colonial peak in May. That said, individual plants can often be seen flowering here for the rest of the year. So it was on October 6th along Rain Creek Parkway in my neighborhood, where I found a modest group of them.

At the top, you see a Mexican hat inflorescence beginning to form on a gracefully curving stalk. The other two views show a fresh flower head from above and from the side.


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Time to remind you about the Good News Network. “The website, with its archive of 21,000 positive news stories from around the globe, confirms what people already know—that good news itself is not in short supply; the broadcasting of it is…. Thomas Jefferson said the job of journalists was to portray accurately what was happening in society. GNN was founded because the media was failing to report the positive news.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 22, 2021 at 4:33 AM

It’s not just flameleaf sumac’s leaves

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It’s not just the leaves of flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that turn warm colors: its fruit clusters at their most vivid become bright red. In the second view, nary a colorful leaflet remains.

Both photographs are from November 1st at the corner of Spicewood Springs Rd. and Old Spicewood Springs Rd. (Because that description could apply to either of two intersections about a quarter of a mile apart, I’ll have to specify that it was the one a block south of Capital of Texas Highway.)


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From 2019, you’re welcome to watch an interview by Malcolm Gladwell of Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, authors of The Coddling of the American Mind, and Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free-Range Kids movement.

Here’s a blurb for the discussion:

Civil discourse is in decline, with potentially dire results for American democracy. On college campuses across America, visiting speakers are disinvited, or even shouted down, while professors, students, and admini-strators are afraid to talk openly, for fear that someone will take offense. Political discussion on social media and television has devolved into a wave of hyper-partisan noise. A generation of overprotective parents are reluctant to let their children play outside without supervision. How did we get here? And how can we change the way that we engage with one another?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Moss takes a minor role

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Yesterday’s post gave you a close view of a moss carpet in northwest Austin on November 1st. Many spiderwebs parallel to the ground lay near by, made conspicuous by the myriad dewdrops that had settled on them. Because it’s hard to see details at this scale, click the thumbnail below for a closer look at some of the sparkly dewdrops.


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UPDATE. Six weeks ago I wrote a commentary pointing out that inflation is as much of a tax as any that a legislature imposes on you. Inflation makes your money worth less. People who have lived within their means and saved for retirement—like me!—find that their savings won’t go as far as expected. Those who can least afford inflation—the poor—are affected most by the rising prices inflation causes.

At the time I wrote my commentary, authorities had calculated the U.S. inflation rate to be 5.4%. Since then the figure has been updated to 6.2%, the highest rate in three decades. And still the current administration is pushing to spend trillions of dollars more, despite the fact that our country is already $29 trillion in debt. It’s delusional: borrowing additional trillions of dollars will only drive the inflation rate higher and do even more damage than this year’s profligate spending has already done.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Moss on the ground

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From November 1st comes a close and bright look at moss on the ground.
The dry leaves fallen onto the moss were from Ashe junipers, Juniperus ashei.


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You may have heard of Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and political dissident. The other day we watched Margaret Hoover interviewing him in November 2021 for her television show Firing Line. I was glad to hear him warning about the danger of political correctness in the United States, which he said reminded him of the “Cultural Revolution” in China. If you’re not familiar with that horrible movement, it entailed the persecution of tens of millions of people and the deaths of many of them. Here’s the relevant portion of the interview:

Ai Weiwei: But certainly, in the United States, with today’s condition, you can easily have an authoritarian. In many ways, you’re already in the authoritarian state. You just don’t know it.

Margaret Hoover: How so?

Ai Weiwei: Many things happening today in U.S. can be compared to Cultural Revolution in China.

Margaret Hoover: Like what?

Ai Weiwei: Like people trying to be unified in a certain political correctness. That is very dangerous.

You may recall that back in June I highlighted the testimony of Xi Van Fleet, a refugee from Communist China who made the same point to the “woke” Loudoun County School Board in Virginia.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Two brown things

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The opening picture confirms that as I was wandering near Bull Creek on September 30th I noticed something brown on a sideways inflorescence of giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida. I managed to find a position from which the unknown thing—probably the remains of a caterpillar—lined up with a nearby prairie agalinis flower, Agalinis heterophylla. The photograph below, from November 9th at the Riata Trace Pond, is of a curlicue or tilde coming off the main part of a bushy bluestem seed head, Andropogon glomeratus. Whether the tilde is upside down, as shown here, or right side up, depends on which side it gets looked at from. Now that I think of it, that could be a metaphor for many things in life, couldn’t it?

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The other day I came across a revealing 14-minute excerpt of a discussion between Coleman Hughes and Bonnie Snyder about some of the abuses being perpetrated by “woke” teachers in our public schools. The examples provided in the interview refute the claim that Critical Race Theory isn’t really being taught in our schools. You can find out much more in Bonnie Snyder’s new book, Undoctrinate.

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UPDATE. The day before yesterday I mentioned that I gave up my subscription to the New York Times some years ago after I found that too many of the stories the paper presented as news were ideologically slanted. Yesterday I came across an Epoch Times article from March 2021 reporting that New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood similarly found that “in stories from 2020 about Project Veritas videos, [New York Times] writers writers Maggie Astor and Tiffany Hsu had inserted sentences that were opinions despite the articles being billed as news.”

“’If a writer interjects an opinion in a news article (and will seek to claim legal protections as opinion) it stands to reason that the writer should have an obligation to alert the reader, including a court that may need to determine whether it is fact or opinion, that it is opinion,’ Wood wrote in a 16-page decision denying the paper’s request to dismiss a lawsuit from Project Veritas.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 18, 2021 at 4:36 AM

Sunny poverty weed

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On October 14th I photographed some wet poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) flowering along Bull Creek under overcast skies. As the month advanced, many of these bushes reached their peak of fluffiness, which I spent time recording in the town of Cedar Park on the morning of the 29th. Now the sun shone and the sky was clear blue, so the photographs came out quite different from those you saw earlier. Another factor this time was the presence of wind, which blew the bushes about. In the top picture you can pick out a couple of bits of fluff that had gone airborne. To deal with wind gusts I turned to shutter speeds as high as 1/640 of a second. That was fast enough to stop the motion in the following picture.


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Pronouns, pronouns, who’s got the pronouns?

According to the Gender Pronouns page on the website of Springfield College in Massachusetts,

  • The best thing to do if you use the wrong pronoun for someone is to say something right away, such as “Sorry, I meant they.” Fix it, but do not call special attention to the error in the moment. If you realize your mistake after the fact, apologize in private and move on.
  • It can be tempting to go on and on about how bad you feel that you messed up or how hard it is for you to get it right. But please, don’t. It is inappropriate and makes the person who was misgendered feel awkward and responsible for comforting you, which is not their job. It is your job to remember people’s pronouns.

My pronouns this week are mzekpitran for the subjective case and ervijmpt for the objective case. It is your job to remember them.

[Craziness and frivolity aside, you may be surprised that my subjective and objective pronouns don’t resemble each other. Actually English does the same thing with some of its pronouns—a fact that native speakers don’t normally think about. Consider the way English pairs the first-person I as a subject with the dissimilar me as an object, and likewise we with the dissimilar us. Corresponding to the I/me forms in the singular are the related French je/me, Russian я (ya)/меня (menyá), Portuguese eu/me, Italian io/me, Catalan jo/me, and Spanish yo/me].

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 17, 2021 at 4:40 AM

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