Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for January 2022

Worlds of tiny bubbles

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At Milton Reimers Ranch Park on January 14th I focused some of my attention on the many tiny bubbles emanating from algae in the shallow margins of the Pedernales River. In one place a tiny fly seemed to perform the miracle of walking on water; later the walker flew away.


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A recent “woke” aggression into our public schools is a propaganda game called Privilege Bingo. If you want, you can read a second article about that. You can even have a third one. Heck, why not go for a fourth?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 31, 2022 at 4:43 AM

Chalk Ridge Falls Park

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It’d been at least a decade since we visited Chalk Ridge Falls Park about an hour north of us near the town of Belton in matchingly* named Bell County, so on a sunny and mild January 17th we drove up there. The fact that the falls were partly shaded and partly sunlit made them hard to photograph, and I did what I could during processing to even out the brightnesses. More interesting esthetically, and easier to deal with thanks to mostly even lighting, were winter trees and other vegetation reflected in the Lampasas River.

* The WordPress editor red-underlined matchingly. Granted, some dictionaries don’t include matchingly; others do. That raises the question of why with adjectives ending in -ing that come from verbs we sometimes add an -ly to make an adverb but in other cases we resist. I probably wouldn’t say *runningly or *workingly. The other day in an interview I heard someone say ongoingly; would you say that? On the other hand, we’ve heard about people getting along swimmingly, even exceedingly swimmingly. I’ll bet there’s a graduate student in linguistics out there somewhere who’d willingly study why some verbal adjectives ending in -ing add an -ly more resistingly than others do.


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To work at the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] in the current climate is to embrace cognitive dissonance and to abandon journalistic integrity.

It is to sign on, enthusiastically, to a radical political agenda that originated on Ivy League campuses in the United States and spread through American social media platforms that monetize outrage and stoke societal divisions. It is to pretend that the “woke” worldview is near universal — even if it is far from popular with those you know, and speak to, and interview, and read.

To work at the CBC now is to accept the idea that race is the most significant thing about a person, and that some races are more relevant to the public conversation than others. It is, in my newsroom, to fill out racial profile forms for every guest you book; to actively book more people of some races and less of others.

To work at the CBC is to submit to job interviews that are not about qualifications or experience — but instead demand the parroting of orthodoxies, the demonstration of fealty to dogma.

That’s from a January 13th article by Canadian journalist Tara Henley, who has described herself as being on the political far left, explaining why she resigned from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. You’re welcome to read the rest of her revealing account.

And in her article “How Did We Get Here?” she analyzes the ascendancy of “wokeism.” Here’s a passage:

But whatever you choose to call it, the social justice movement that’s sprung out of all this is focused mainly on shifting language and speech norms, on symbolic victories like toppling statues, and on building a vast, identity-focused human-resources apparatus that provides university graduates with lucrative administrative jobs.

This is how we wound up during the pandemic, in Toronto, with a largely racialized working-class population stuck on packed public transit, working precarious warehouse jobs for very little pay and filling emergency rooms — while the conversation on the left was almost entirely focused elsewhere.

You can also watch a discussion between Tara Henley and Megyn Kelly beginning at 51:07 in this video.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 30, 2022 at 4:37 AM

Two cowpen daisy mysteries

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By the time I wandered in and near Brushy Creek Park last December 14th, the cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) had all gone to seed and many of their leaves were drooping as they dried out. On one plant I noticed lots of red droplets on several leaves, as you see above. I queried the Facebook Texas Flora group but still wasn’t able to identify what the blood-like droplets were. For a closer look at the lowest leaf, click the following thumbnail.

Another cowpen daisy had gotten wrapped up inside a webbing that I presume insect larvae had spun. I’ve drawn a blank about that, too. Whatever these things are, at least they’re visually interesting


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Franz Kafka, where are you when we need you?

A January 27th announcement from FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, alerted me to a Kafkaequesque situation at the University of Illinois Chicago. A law school professor named Jason Kilborn had “posed a hypothetical question — which he has asked in previous years — using redacted references to two slurs, in a December 2020 law school exam. The question about employment discrimination referenced a plaintiff being called ‘a “n____” and “b____” (profane expressions for African Americans and women)’ as evidence of discrimination.” After a student (or students) complained about the occurrence of those words, even though only the first letter of each appeared on the exam, the University’s administration ended up forcing Prof. Kilborn “to participate in months-long ‘training on classroom conversations that address racism’ and compelling him to write reflection papers before he can return to the classroom. In a stunning display of unintended irony, the individualized training materials include the same redacted slur that Kilborn used in his test question.”

Professor Kilborn is now suing his university (hooray!). You can find further details in the article from FIRE.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Maroon, orange, pale green

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The opening picture a few days ago showed that the flow in the Pedernales River at Milton Reimers Ranch Park on January 14th was reduced enough to have left portions of the river bed dry or largely so. That provided me opportunities for views of algae, like the orange patch above with a maroon sycamore leaf (Platanus occidentalis) in it, or the green algae below that was corrugating and turning pale as it dried out.


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Large-scale American government lawlessness every day


Footage from FOX News reporter Bill Melugin shows large numbers of single adult men being dropped off by bus, processed, and sent to the airport after crossing the border illegally near Brownsville, Texas.

“These are all single adults being released, almost all of them men. No children, no family units. Single adults are supposed to be expelled from the country,” Melugin reported.

“We followed their taxi cabs… and those migrants were just dropped off at the airport to fly around the country,” he explained. “We talked to a couple of them who said they were going to Atlanta, Houston, and Miami and they had just crossed illegally and paid the cartels $2000 to do so.”


It’s been said that crime doesn’t pay, but this story contradicts that adage. The people who enter illegally pay the Mexican cartels, and our government then uses our tax money to pay contractors to transport the illegal entrants to places inside the United States. One cynic described the contractors who transport the illegal entrants as “travel agents” for them.

You can read the full story in a RealClear Politics article and a New York Post article. The first video embedded in the RealClear Politics article reports that last month (December) the border patrol reported 178,840 encounters with people who had illegally crossed the border. That number is slightly more than the total for December 2018, December 2019, and December 2020 combined. What the 178,840 figure does not include are the tens of thousands of illegal entrants who completely evaded the overworked, stressed-out, stretched-thin border patrol in December 2021.

Like I said, lawlessness.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 28, 2022 at 4:29 AM

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Winter yellow

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Wildflowers are sparse here in January. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t always at least some. On January 11th in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 I found a few broomweed plants (Amphiachyris dracunculoides) still flowering—barely. (That stands in contrast to how densely flowerful this species is at its peak.) To give you a sense of scale, I’ll add that each broomweed flower head ranges from 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch across (6–9mm). 

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The other day I heard about an American woman named Chloé Valdary from a New York Post article headlined “How a 28-year-old is fighting against ‘divisive’ anti-racism training.” Check it out for an alternative to the ineffective and racist “anti-racism” programs that have quickly become all too common in American institutions. According to the caption under a photograph of Chloé Valdary in the Post article, she “urges participants to embrace love rather than division in her training sessions, and uses pop-culture references to help foster better connections.” Links in the article take you to her Theory of Enchantment website.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Winter color

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Throughout the first half of January I’d been noticing that some oaks still sported leaves that looked richly red when backlit. A photographically promising stand of oaks that we passed on January 14th unfortunately lay along a narrow, winding road that didn’t allow parking anywhere nearby. Finally on January 19th at Mills Pond I was able to push my way through stalks and branches in the woods and cautiously ease myself into positions that let me see maximum saturated color in some backlit oak leaves.

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You’d expect an organization called National Public Radio (NPR) to be politically balanced, given that the American public consists of people with differing viewpoints. If NPR ever was politically balanced—and I’m not sure it was—that time has long since passed. For a good while now the stories and commentaries on the network have leaned so heavily toward the political left that I gave up listening to Austin’s NPR station years ago.

The latest confirmation of the radio network’s slant came on January 18th, when long-time NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg reported a story involving Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose diabetes puts her at greater-than-average risk if she catches Covid-19. According to the story, Justice Sotomayor, who not coincidentally is on the political left, participated in a judicial session electronically from her chambers rather than in person because Justice Neil Gorsuch, who not coincidentally is on the political right and who sits next to her when the justices convene, has been refusing to wear a mask even after Chief Justice John Roberts “in some form asked the other justices to mask up.” Totenberg based her story on accounts by anonymous sources.

Totenberg’s claim triggered an unusual joint statement by Justices Gorsuch and Sotomayor denying the validity of the story. After that, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his own statement saying that he “did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask on the bench.” Despite those statements in which the three justices named by Totenberg publicly denied the claims that she made, she continued to stick to her story based on sources that still remain unidentified.

You’re welcome to read an analysis of this situation by James Freeman in the Wall Street Journal.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 26, 2022 at 4:35 AM

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Yellow oval

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Along one of Great Hills Park’s creeks on January 1st I made an abstract portrait that played with faint colors and mostly vague shapes, plus the implied flow of the water.


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Abigail Shrier writes a Substack column called The Truth Fairy. In her January 17th piece entitled “Who Will Win America: The Cynics or The Believers?” she considers the current conflict in American politics. What’s new in her take is that she sees the battle as primarily between cynics, regardless of whether they’re on the left or the right, and believers, regardless of which side they’re on.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 25, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Zilker Nature Preserve

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In the Zilker Nature Preserve on January 13th I spotted the pod of a milkweed vine releasing its seeds. While no leaves remained to suggest what species it was, the most common vine in that family here is pearl milkweed, Matelea reticulata, so that’ll have to do as a tentative identification. Regardless of species, milkweed pods produce a chaos of silk and seeds that a nature photographer who prizes abstraction welcomes. Later we re-crossed the dry bed of Eanes Creek. The picture below shows the lower strata in a hundred-foot tall cliff carved over aeons by rushing water.



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True virtue is life under the direction of reason.

[M]en who are governed by reason—who seek what is useful to them in accordance with reason—desire for themselves nothing that they do not also desire for the rest of humanity, and consequently are just, faithful, and honorable in their conduct.

The most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts.

Freedom is absolutely necessary for progress in science and the liberal arts.

Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677); Ethics, 1677.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman






Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Milton Reimers Ranch Park

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The last time we’d been to Milton Reimers Ranch Park was maybe 20 years ago, when it was still privately owned. Eventually Travis County acquired it in its largest parkland acquisition ever. We visited on January 14th and drove down to one of the portions along the Pedernales River, where we found the water flow as reduced as you see in the top picture. The stumps on the far shore are from bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum), a bunch of which I once read got cut down at the time the Highland Lakes dams were built in the middle of the last century; I never understood the necessity for that. The stumps at Reimers bore unmistakable evidence of having been sawed across at a height of several feet above the ground, but maybe that happened in the 1800s, when settlers prized the wood of bald cypress trees.

In any case, the dry stumps gave me opportunities for abstract
closeups of designs in the wood, as you see above and below.

UPDATE: I just came across an article pointing out that a 2,674-year-old bald cypress tree in North Carolina is the oldest known living tree in eastern North America.

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“Syracuse [University] punishes student for asking man at party if he’s a Canadian sex offender.” That’s the headline from a January 19th article posted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Syracuse University has a policy that bans inflicting “mental harm,” and of course the problem with such a nebulous concept is that “mental harm” is subjective: hyper-sensitive people can claim that any action causes them “mental harm.” Many people in my country who espouse “woke” policies cause me mental distress, but that doesn’t give me any right to punish those people or have institutions punish them on my behalf. You’re welcome to read the particulars of the Syracuse University case on the website of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education; it’s a non-partisan legal organization that defends the free-speech and due-process rights of students and teachers.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman 


Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2022 at 4:31 AM

A figurative feather in my cap, a literal one in my hand

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A wanderer in nature is inevitably a finder of feathers. When I came upon this one in my neighborhood on January 2nd, I held it up in front of me and made a portrait. Call so close and tight a view monumental, and you may have given an idea to a sculptor or architect. Actually that feathered inspiration isn’t new.

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  You can’t make this stuff up.

If you or I want to fly on a commercial airplane in the United States we have to show a picture ID, typically a driver’s license or passport. Now the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has confirmed that it allows illegal immigrants to use arrest warrants as an alternative form of ID to enter airports and board airplanes. You can read about that or watch a 4-minute video about it.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 22, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Posted in nature photography

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