Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ephemeral green

with 41 comments


An intermittent creek in my neighborhood was mostly dry when I visited on December 10th of the recently departed year. Along a section of the creek that still had a little water left in it I did a few portraits of the remaining algae. Patches not far from each other could look rather different, as you see here. In the second view, the spaghetti-like tendril of a vine had somehow gotten embedded in the algae.




✧       ✧       ✧


“America’s Systemic Racism Problem Is Mostly In Woke, Anti-Asian Education Bureaucracies.” That’s the headline in Helen Raleigh’s January 6th article in the Federalist. In case you haven’t heard about this latest scandal in Virginia’s schools, here’s the beginning of the article:

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin began 2023 by asking the state’s Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate the allegation that officials at Thomas Jefferson High School (TJ) intentionally withheld notifications of National Merit awards from the school’s students and families (most of them are Asians) in the name of “equity” and “inclusion.”

Asra Q. Nomani, a human rights activist and a proud mom of a TJ graduate, broke the latest scandal at the school right before Christmas. According to Nomani, the scandal was initially uncovered by another TJ mom, Shawna Yashar, whose son took the PSAT test. He was recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation “as a Commended Student in the top 3 percent nationwide — one of about 50,000 students earning that distinction.” It was the kind of honor that would have helped his applications for colleges and scholarships last fall had the TJ officials not withheld his award announcement. When the TJ officials eventually notified him of his award, the deadline for his college applications had already passed, which rendered the award useless. 

Nomani learned that her son, a graduate of TJ’s class of 2021, was never told by school officials that he was a “Commended Student” in 2020. Even more infuriating is that these two young men’s experiences were not the result of some honest one-time mistake.

Nomani discovered that “the principal, Ann Bonitatibus, and the director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, have been withholding this information from families and the public for years, affecting the lives of at least 1,200 students over the principal’s tenure of five years.” These officials’ actions (or inactions) disproportionally hurt Asian students because the majority of the school’s student body is Asian. By intentionally withholding awards and eventually delivering them late and in a low-key way, these officials robbed the students and their families of chances to celebrate hard-earned achievements. 

In addition, these officials caused undue harm to these students’ college applications and scholarships. For some first-generation immigrants with no other financial resources to fall back on, the damage caused by these school officials’ actions could have a lifetime effect, with some students having to settle for less prestigious colleges or be forced to take out more student loans. 

After Nomani broke the story, TJ’s director of student services, Brandon Kosatka, justified her* action by insisting, “We want to recognize students for who they are as individuals, not focus on their achievements.” Does she understand that celebrating someone’s achievement and acknowledging someone’s effort is an important part of recognizing students as individuals?


You’re welcome to read the full article.

UPDATE: A January 16th editorial in The Wall Street Journal revealed that even more Virginia schools failed to notify students about their Merit Scholarship awards.


* I assume the her refers to the principal, Ann Bonitatibus.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 16, 2023 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

41 Responses

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  1. The last time I visited Walden West/San Bernard, I discovered a little puddle of algae similar to this in a separate pond. Although the color was much the same, the ‘design’ was rather different: just as there are differences between your photos. I especially like the first photo, where bubbles seem to have popped, and the algae itself gives the impression of being ‘stretched.’


    January 16, 2023 at 6:33 AM

    • Now you’ve got me wondering whether enough differences exist among patches of drying algae in creeks to support an exhibition or even a book that wouldn’t get too repetitive. As you say, the ‘design’ of the patch you saw was rather different. I don’t know how many species of algae exist in our creeks or how diverse their growth habits are. Where’s a phycologist when you need one?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 16, 2023 at 8:22 AM

      • I thought I knew from the context what ‘phycologist’ meant, but I decided to check. Of course Google asked, rather primly, “Do you mean psychologist?” That reminded me that I’d never thanked you for the link to Google’s advanced search function, which I noted and have put to use. So: thanks!


        January 16, 2023 at 8:40 AM

        • You’re well come (“do you mean welcome?”). The advanced search used to be available from Google’s regular search page but for some reason they’ve removed the link, or at least I can’t find it there. If you ever misplace the link, it easily comes up if you search Google for “advanced search.” I’m glad you’ve already found it useful.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 16, 2023 at 9:04 AM

  2. Interesting pictures of something a lot of people might overlook.

    Robert Parker

    January 16, 2023 at 7:08 AM

  3. That color green is vivid. Cool abstracts.


    January 16, 2023 at 7:38 AM

  4. I hope Ann Bonitatibus and the school district will soon be parties to lawsuits from every affected student. Outrageous.

    • It is outrageous. Lawsuits are already under way on related actions in Virginia public schools:

      It seems likely others will follow against Bonitatibus and her ilk now that the withholding of Merit Scholarship announcements has become public.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 16, 2023 at 8:41 AM

    • By the way, I rarely quote from the New York Times, which is heavily slanted toward the left, but it’s good from time to time to be reminded of the slant. For instance:

      “Mr. Driver, the Yale professor, noted that those cases pitted various ethnic groups against one another in ways that sowed division.”

      As if that’s not precisely what those schools are doing! Discrimination by race is what brought on the lawsuits in the first place.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 16, 2023 at 9:13 AM

      • I couldn’t get behind the paywall to read this one – probably a good thing because that quote makes me see red. Thanks, Steve.

        • I’m usually blocked, too, but this time when I followed the link it let me in. The New York Times allows non-subscribers to read a certain number of free articles every so often before cutting them off. I didn’t read the whole thing, but there was enough to confirm you’d have seen bright red.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 16, 2023 at 11:38 AM

  5. The algae in your photos appear in motion like green water swirling around pebbles. Are these pebbles or bubbles?

    Peter Klopp

    January 16, 2023 at 9:41 AM

    • There might once have been bubbles. If so, they’ve burst and left openings to what’s underneath. Often that means pebbles or rocks, as you surmised.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 16, 2023 at 11:35 AM

  6. To paraphrase Kermit The Frog: “It’s not easy photographing green.” Specifically, green algae and detritus and making it look so artistic.

    When we wander around outdoors looking for something special to photograph, we often overlook what is almost at our feet.

    Wally Jones

    January 16, 2023 at 11:51 AM

    • A macro lens comes in handy for picking out patterns in the quotidian. I use that lens more than any other.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 16, 2023 at 2:40 PM

  7. The algae make some interesting compositions.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 16, 2023 at 12:36 PM

    • They do. I’ve been drawn back to that subject for years and expect it’ll keep drawing me back.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 16, 2023 at 2:41 PM

  8. The photos and the school story make me feel green about the gills. I am surprised though that The National Merit Scholarship Corporation doesn’t notify the students directly.


    January 16, 2023 at 10:08 PM

    • I’m wondering whether this scandal will cause the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to notify students directly from now on, in addition to notifying students’ schools.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2023 at 6:47 AM

  9. The algae are a bit on the queasy side of my life. The story about the Merit Scholarship information reminds me of my own experience in high school, in which my finalist placement announcement was withheld until the semi-finalists from my school were announced, on a full page which included sophomores who had earned “Honor Shields,” those in the senior class who were doing individual studies, and other academic items. Somewhat diluted, and it did not encourage me to apply to any of the many colleges that sent me application forms.
    A friend who was volunteering in the school’s office later told me that instead of counting academic subjects only, Physical Education grades were included as well, and that the 4.0 grading system was taken out to six decimal points to break the three way tie for determining Valedictorian and Salutatorian. I apparently was third under this calculation, which I am sure you, as a math teacher, would find indefensible past the 2nd decimal point. When I related this story to my senior year English teacher years later, she didn’t deny it, but said, “It isn’t always about you.”
    Couldn’t argue with that. Being a white male doesn’t always give you privileges or an advantage, when you live in a small town with narrow streets and narrow visions, that dredged up mangroves and turned them into subdivisions.
    Anti-Asian or anti-intellectualism, bias is a poor way to run a school or to nurture our world’s young people and encourage them to be “good” members of society.
    End of rant.


    January 16, 2023 at 10:51 PM

    • I didn’t know that the kind of “dilution” you described in your first paragraph was going on decades ago. I did know about counting non-academic subjects like gym class. That prompted some schools to give a heavier weighting to harder subjects like AP classes, which is why you now hear about students with GPAs above 4.0.

      I like your phrase “a small town with narrow streets and narrow visions,” even as I dislike the thing itself. What you said about your experience in high school touches my own, but the outcome was different. In my 1963 graduating high school class, three students had close GPAs (we never learned the actual numbers) so the school designated all three of us first in the class.

      As for “It isn’t always about you,” I’ve long noticed that those who say that about academics have no qualms about celebrating the people who are best in sports. And of course bias is indeed “a poor way to run a school or to nurture our world’s young people and encourage them to be ‘good’ members of society.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2023 at 7:01 AM

      • On the other hand, I made my own choices in life, which led me to where I am now, able to indulge in my aesthetic hobbies and continue to serve others less fortunate than I. And to learn through example the art and science of photography from someone like Mr. Schwartzman. BTW, the turn of phrase you liked comes from my YouTube video “Doctor en filosofía de donde Cayó Hueso (PhD from Key West).


        January 17, 2023 at 9:43 AM

        • I don’t know about Key West, but making your own choices seems to have been key to what you did with your life.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 17, 2023 at 1:27 PM

  10. […] Two days ago I reported on a high school in Virginia whose administrators apparently on purpose failed to notify students […]

  11. Reminds me of the pondweed we get here – similar colour and possibly texture too. Our pondweed looks a bit like a thin felt but actually grows in long strands that you can twirl round a stick. (To remove it so that it doesn’t smother the other plants!)

    Ann Mackay

    January 19, 2023 at 6:00 AM

    • I see online that different things have been called pondweed. Do you happen to know the scientific name or at least the genus of the pondweed you’re referring to?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2023 at 6:37 AM

      • I had a look on the web and found out that it is actually an algae, so probably very similar to what’s in your photograph. Couldn’t find a Latin name for it, but it is known as ‘filamentous algae’. (AKA ‘Blanketweed’ or ‘Silkweed’.)

        Ann Mackay

        January 19, 2023 at 9:06 AM

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