Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two flies from the side of the road

with 23 comments

Here are two flies from May 10th on the north side of RM (Ranch-to-Market) 2222 just west of the Capital of Texas Highway (the same location that provided the pictures for the posts on Monday, Sunday, and Saturday). The critter above is a tachinid fly in the genus Cylindromyia on a firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella). I believe the tiny fly on a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) below belongs to the genus Poecilognathus (which was the subject of my most seen and commented-on post ever, thanks to WordPress’s Freshly Pressed feature).


❧         ❧         ❧


Face blindness, technically known as prosopagnosia, is a condition in which a person has trouble recognizing other people’s faces. According to a 2006 article in the Harvard Gazette: “The condition can be embarrassing and lead to social isolation: Severe prosopagnosics may mistake complete strangers for acquaintances even as they fail to recognize family members, close friends, spouses, and even themselves. Many report difficulty watching television shows and movies because they cannot keep track of characters. Face-blind individuals often compensate for their prosopagnosia using nonfacial traits, such as hair, gait, clothing, voice, and context.”

The same article gave an estimate of the disorder’s frequency: “Testing of 1,600 individuals found that 2 percent of the general public may have face-blindness and a German group has recently made a similar estimate. It’s conceivable that millions of people may have symptoms consistent with prosopagnosia, without even realizing it.” I’ve sometimes had difficulty keeping track of characters in movies and people that I’ve met, so I’m apparently on the spectrum for prosopagnosia.

Being facially challenged is yet another kind of differently-abled-ness that our hyper-enlightened society should be shame-faced about for not “doing the work” to ameliorate the plight of all the suffering prosopagnosics in our midst. The current sorry situation is prima facie evidence that we need to envisage solutions! In the United States we must face up to the problem by invoking the Adults with Disabilities Act to demand accommodation. From now on, every movie and television show must be made not only with closed captioning (CC) but also with facial facilitation (FF). A viewer watching a film or television show who turns on the built-in FF will see written in clear letters under each character’s face on the screen the name of the person whose face it is. Those names, of course, will follow the characters as they move about on the screen.

But wait! Even implementing that technology wouldn’t be enough of an about-face in our country’s wretchedly problematic history of systemic prosopagnosicism. Didn’t Shakespeare tell us (before he got canceled as a dead white male) that all the world’s a stage? What about the much greater number of prosopagnosia-triggering encounters outside of movies and television shows? Until electronic identification chips are perfected to the point that they can be surgically embedded in people to make facial facilitation technology operate in the world as a whole and not just in movies and television shows, Congress must pass a law requiring everyone who leaves home to wear a name tag so that prosopagnosics can recognize them. And of course to accommodate the visually impaired, those name tags must be large, with letters at least four inches high. The name tags must also be battery-powered so they’ll light up when it’s dark and would otherwise be hard or impossible to read.

Now, you may be among the people who protest that it’s unreasonable to burden the whole world with measures meant to accommodate the less than 2% of the population who suffer from an unusual condition. Oh, you hate-filled individualistic white supremacist enforcers of the cisheteronormative patriarchy!

Satire aside, consider the extreme policies some ideologues are already enforcing as they reconfigure the world to promote transgenderism, which the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law says affects 1.4 million people, or less than 0.5% of America’s 330 million people. Take our legal system: Fully intact biologically male prisoners who claim to be women can now demand to get moved to women’s prisons and share cells with women. Take education: Middle school officials have gone so far as to accuse eighth-graders of sexual harassment for not using the pronouns another child demands. If such extreme measures are already being inflicted on the population for the supposed sake of less than one-half of one percent of its members, then why wouldn’t ideologues insist on measures like those I made up for the much larger number of prosopagnosics? Better start getting your glow-in-the-dark name tags ready.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2022 at 4:31 AM

23 Responses

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  1. For someone who’s always equated “fly” with the common housefly, discovering how varied (and colorful) they can be has been a delight. I especially enjoyed seeing the one in the second image. The stripes and that long snout certainly are interesting. I went digging and found what I think might be the same insect in my archives. I just sent the photo over to BugGuide; thanks to you, I could at least suggest a genus. We’ll see if anyone confirms it.

    That aside, what a great image of the Mexican Hat. The deep, rich colors are particularly fetching, and I smiled at all that pollen on the ray flowers.


    May 25, 2022 at 6:43 AM

    • Someone at BugGuide identified the top fly for me last week, and the bottom one eleven years ago. Going by the frequency that I’ve had my submissions identified, you’re likely to get at least the genus of yours confirmed.

      As you said, flies are a huge and diverse group. I guess the annoying presence of the ones in our homes for millennia has caused that kind to dominate the word’s semantic field, even to the point that the generic fly all by itself so often means that kind of fly.

      Around this time of year I have to check myself from showing too many pictures of Mexican hats, which I always end up taking many photos of.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 25, 2022 at 7:06 AM

  2. What beauties these little creatures are. I wish I had more beautiful flies around rather than the pesky houseflies which are always trying to make themselves at home in my house. Another attraction in your post was the word, prosopagnosia, mainly because this week I finished watching a series about a detective with prosopagnosia. His chief helper was a person with amnesia. Go figure! Well, they did, and they found the culprit and the series came to a satisfactory end. The other interesting aspect of this drama was that it was one of the many K-dramas I watch these days. K-drama producers ( also J-dramas and C-dramas), although they have huge domestic audiences, have cottoned on to the fact that they can increase their influence (and softpower) by providing sub-titles. Often the sub-titles come with reminders of the names of the characters who are speaking in a particular scene. As a .000001% (or whatever) of the K-drama market I really appreciate that I am being catered for. Do they have to do this? No, not at all. Am I forcing them to? No not at all. But for me these subtitles illustrate for me the idea of ‘universal design’. https://universaldesign.ie/ With forethought and good design we can have a society which caters for everyone without one group impinging on, or dominating, another. Would I wear a name tag? Maybe, if it came with a lanyard. Then I could pretend I was one of those important workers who get to scan in and out of places with their ID, or use their ID to let me buy alcohol at the supermarket. Sometimes, they make me feel very excluded with their important name tags. 😀 😀


    May 25, 2022 at 8:34 PM

    • Speaking of small percents of the population, you’re among what must be the very tiny fraction of people who’ve heard of prosopagnosia. I learned about it only a few weeks ago from a friend. You could add that I have the counterpart to prosopagnosia when it comes to current dramas on television and in the movies: I didn’t recognize the terms K-drama, J-drama, and C-drama, but now know what they are after looking them up. When watching television, Eve and I have often found it useful to turn on subtitles for English-language movies. Subtitles help us understand people speaking English with non-American accents, especially from Britain. Subtitles help people catch words to songs. Subtitles make it possible to see how unfamiliar names are spelled. For years I’ve thought that television programs about science or history should flash the spelling of unfamiliar terms and names on the screen for a few seconds so people could see how they’re spelled; that would be something apart from subtitles. So far I don’t remember any technical program ever doing that.

      My concern is about forcing things rather than letting people do things voluntarily.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 25, 2022 at 9:31 PM

      • I also use subtitles for English language movies; I just love subtitles. I would rather people did things voluntarily too. If you can create the right environment people can be gently nudged to do the right thing. A few years ago, our banks completely changed their interior design so that they became open, welcoming spaces where people feel comfortable and want to spend time. By doing this they were actually able to increase security measures and increase business at the same time. In such spaces, people, in a way, volunteer to behave well!


        May 25, 2022 at 10:53 PM

        • That’s a good example. Speaking of banks, the one with which we’ve had our checking account for many years made a big change several years ago. It closed almost all its physical branches. In the couple of branches that remain open in Austin, there are no more tellers with access to cash drawers and to customers’ accounts, only a few general “advisers,” so I can no longer even do something as simple as exchange a $5 note for 20 quarters.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 26, 2022 at 5:34 AM

          • Hmmm……. I don’t think we have gone that far here but certainly we are encouraged to do as much as possible online. It has probably been about 5 months since I have been into a bank.


            May 26, 2022 at 6:32 AM

      • What most concerns me about forcing is the disregard that forcers have for the rights of people being forced to accept changes for the sake of those—now sometimes few in number—who supposedly benefit. If a biologically male prisoner insists he’s a woman and wants to be put in a women’s prison, then there has to be a physically separate part of women’s prisons to hold such people. Similarly, biologically male athletes who claim to be women could compete against one another, but not against actual women, over whom they have a huge physical advantage.

        Steve Schwartzman

        May 26, 2022 at 5:49 AM

    • I like the fact that there’s a Centre for Excellence in Universal Design. For decades I’ve thought that I missed out on a career as an efficiency expert. Take websites, for example: many are poorly designed and make it confusing to find what you want. And with products, it’s the rare users’ manual that explains things from the point of view of the users. The most recent camera I bought has a users’ manual over 900 pages long—and yet it lacks an index. The manual says—sometimes poorly—what each button and setting does, but almost never explains why the camera owner would want to choose a particular setting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2022 at 5:25 AM

      • 900 pages! I think the camera company needs your help to write a user friendly manual. They could pay you in kind with cameras.


        May 26, 2022 at 6:36 AM

        • I’ve thought along those lines for the two decades I’ve been using Canon digital cameras. The key is to write manuals from the point of view of users who know nothing.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 26, 2022 at 6:48 AM

  3. Great post – and now I will be wondering if there are variations of face blindness. I sometimes am able to remember well, but many times it is hard for me to recall a face unless that person was distinct – like extremely tall and lean or had a facial ‘tic’ — and recalling a name – even when I make a mental note, sometimes only a minute later the name has vaporized – darn, was that jose or luis? – and if there is a group of people, I can ‘cling’ to the first few names of introduction, but by number six or seven, it’s as if the mental cup holding the names gets too full, then overflows and loses everything. same for remembering new words in Spanish….

    I wonder if all of those challenges can be traced back to a certain area of the brain? For sure, line up over here and we’ll color code everyone who doesn’t fit into a neat little box of normal – maybe neon yellow or cobalt blue for those who are red-green color deficient?

    • I suspect that, like any human condition, there are variations of prosopagnosia, certainly in intensity and maybe also in symptoms. I’m like you: if I get introduced to more than just a few people in quick succession, the names of the latest ones bump the earlier ones, and none of them tend to stick very long. When I worked as a teacher, at the beginning of the school year it took me quite a while to finally retain the names of all my students. As you noted, the more distinctive the person or the person’s name was, the sooner I learned it (on average).

      I haven’t pursued the technical side of prosopagnosia, including which brain regions are involved. That may not even be known.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2022 at 2:33 PM

      • Yes, after leaving that comment, I realized that my ability to remember the names in a group is that no one changes their place.. if they play ‘musical chairs’ – no way would I be able to decipher what name went with which person. But – to study each person’s face and verbally tell what I see/witness? Some people tell me that I scare them/spook them and say that I am ‘a witch’ — and yes, even little children, I can pretty well predict their personalities and strengths and weaknesses by their body English, attentiveness, the set of their mouth or focus of their eyes — but when they ae out of sight – it vaporizes. Alas, we learn to live with our gifts, and for that I realize how blessed I am. You are equally blessed. (I am admiring that bluebonnet against the coral/pinkish soil/background right now. Very interesting image.)

        • In Ecuador, body English has to give way to body Spanish, ¿verdad?

          At the beginning of each school year I made a seating chart for each class and asked students to stay in the same seats, at least initially, so I could learn their names more quickly.

          No one’s good at everything, so yes, we learn to live with our weaknesses and our gifts. As artists we strive for both competence and novelty. I know I’m always on the lookout for new ways to portray familiar things.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 26, 2022 at 2:53 PM

          • With art it is easier to find subtle ways of remembering the names: Just remind the student to design their name into their drawing or painting!

            Si.. ‘verdad.’ I love that word!

  4. It’s beginning to be insect season here and flies are among the first along with some bees. You sure do have a sardonic take on many of your fellow humans.

    Steve Gingold

    May 26, 2022 at 4:04 PM

    • I believe in protecting the rights of the large majority against abuses by a small minority getting away with scamming the system.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 26, 2022 at 6:37 PM

      • Protecting the rights is a little different than ridiculing an entire group of people who, despite your opinion, are trying to make things better for a large number of people. As with many movements for change there is collateral damage. Once again I find that you pick on the more liberal among us without much to say about conservative questionable acts which have an effect also. And I am much more concerned about such things as children dying in school than someone being called out for something stupid they said in their past. BUt sadly there are those in positions to do something about change who choose to do nothing. Everyone has a different opinion on how to make things better. You appear to enjoy ridiculing those who don’t think as you do. Anyway, this is the last time I will be commenting on your commentary of things political or cultural in nature and will stick with nature itself. We don’t think the same and I would rather not rankle our relationship. I would probably have been wise to not comment here but I did.

        Steve Gingold

        May 26, 2022 at 6:55 PM

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