Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bud

Hanging out at/on trumpets

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The at was me. The on was ants. The date was August 14. The place was the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. The bud above was about to open. Its species was Campsis radicans. Its common name is trumpet vine. If I were an ant I’d probably have stuck my head in there too. The “trumpet” below with seven sisters on it is purple bindweed, Ipomoea cordatotriloba.

 

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In recent months WordPress has been appending a grid of ads to our posts. Two days ago one of the ads looked interesting, so I clicked on it and got taken to a site called USAFacts. Here’s how it describes itself:

USAFacts provides a data-driven portrait of the American population, US governments’ finances, and governments’ impact on society. We are a nonpartisan, not-for-profit civic initiative without a political agenda. We provide vital spending, revenue, demographic, and performance information as a free public service and are committed to maintaining and expanding our available data in the future.

USAFacts believes that facts deserve to be heard. Democracy is only successful when it’s grounded in truth. We’re here to provide that grounding with trusted government data that’s both easy to access and understand. We standardize data straight from government agencies and present it in plain language with helpful visualizations so you can understand the history of programs and policies. Americans deserve unbiased facts straight from the government to have serious, reasoned, and informed debate.

As the largest source for standardized US government data, USAFacts offers something unique. We exclusively use publicly available government data presenting a vast array of reports on US spending, revenue, population and demographics, and policy outcomes. We don’t make judgments or prescribe policies. Whether government money is spent wisely or not, whether the quality of life is improving or getting worse — that’s for you to decide.

 

Here are a few facts I gleaned from browsing USAFacts.

  • Between 2010 and 2021, Texas had the largest growth [of any state] with 4.3 million more residents. Illinois had the largest decline with 169,076 fewer people. Among counties, Maricopa County, Arizona had the largest growth with 671,405 more people. Baltimore city, Maryland had the largest decline with 44,444 fewer residents. (Look at those five 4’s in a row.)
  • Obesity hasn’t doubled. It’s nearly tripled in the United States over the last fifty years…. The trend in obesity is not evenly distributed throughout American demographics. Low-income Americans were more likely than higher earners to experience obesity in 2017. Roughly 36 percent of those earning less than $15,000 a year fit the CDC definition compared to 26 percent of those with incomes greater than $75,000 per year. A similar pattern holds for those with less than a high school education (36 percent). While Asians are the least likely to be obese (11 percent), non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians are the most likely to experience obesity (39 percent for both).
  • Funding for the nation’s education system comes primarily from state and local governments. Federal, state, and local governments spent a combined $997 billion on education in 2019, the most recent year for which data is complete. Spending per student has increased 21% since the 2000–2001 academic year, after adjusting for inflation. 

 

Don’t delay delving into data delights at USAFacts.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 20, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Trumpet vines

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I’ve come to expect to see one or two trumpet vines, Campsis radicans, in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. The property lived up to expectations on August 14th when I found one there that had plenty of buds and flowers on it. The second picture, quite tonally and compositionally different from the high-flying view in the first, shows what it’s like to look into one of these “trumpets.”

 

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Yesterday I commented on the Orwellianly named Inflation Reduction Act—a contorted $739 billion boondoggle spending spree that will do a lot of things, none of which will reduce inflation. The supposed need for such an act is especially hard to understand, given that our President vehemently assured us on August 10th that the nation had zero inflation in July. Tell that to the people who shopped for groceries, paid their utility bills, bought gasoline, or went looking to buy a car that month. If you want a sense of how many Americans are feeling the effects of high inflation, and how worried a lot of them are, check out the easy-to-read bar charts and pie graphs showing the results of a survey The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) conducted in June.

According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), average prices in July were 8.5% higher than in July of last year. The CPI had been 9.1% in June, so it’s true that inflation was no higher in July than it had been in June, and was even a little lower, but that doesn’t mean there was zero inflation. Inflation still ran a hefty 8.5%, which is higher than at any time over the forty years from 1982 through April of this year.

(As a math teacher I think in terms of calculus here. The change in prices from a year earlier [akin to the first derivative] was still positive, namely 8.5%, but the change of the change in prices [akin to the second derivative] was negative: 9.1% had gone down to 8.5%.)

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 17, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Pickerelweed abstractions

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After I went rainbow hunting at the pond along Gault Lane on July 7th, I concentrated on some of the flora on the pond’s margins. Here you’re seeing two abstract portraits of pickerelweed, Pontederia cordata. The first shows a bud sheath. The second obviously shows flowers, but I took the picture at an unconventional angle.

 

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Since childhood I’ve known that in some cases a part of a country is cut off by foreign land from the main part of the country. For Americans, the most prominent example is Alaska, which Canada separates from the “lower 48” states. Hawaii is not in the same category: yes, it’s cut off from the main part of the United States, but by an ocean, not by foreign land.

Just this week I learned that people have coined a term for a part of a country that’s cut off by foreign land. The term is exclave, made by replacing the prefix en- in enclave with its opposite, ex-. Some countries are content to live with exclaves. The United States isn’t going to invade Canada to connect Washington State to Alaska. In contrast, this year Russia invaded the* Ukraine to create a land bridge to the* Crimea, which it had illegally annexed from that country in 2014 but which had still remained reachable by land from the rest of Russia only by traveling on Ukrainian land.

Another Russian exclave that European countries are worried about is Kaliningrad Oblast—an oblast is akin to a state—which used to be German but after World War II became part of Russia. The Kaliningrad Oblast remains separated from the rest of Russia by Poland and Lithuania. Russia had for decades controlled both of those countries, and Lithuania in particular is worried that Russia wants to re-annex it. Given what’s going on in the Ukraine, the worry is justified.

The most complicated exclave in the world appears to be Baarle-Hertog, which comprises 24 tiny pieces of Belgium inside the Netherlands.

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* With certain geographic names English has traditionally used the. Everyone says the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the Vatican. People familiar with New York City know about the Bronx. For most of my life people said the Ukraine, but English speakers are now increasingly dropping the the in the Ukraine.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 14, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Baby blue eyes

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It’s been years—four, I think—since I showed you the little wildflower colloquially called baby blue eyes, Nemophila phacelioides. Here’s a portrait from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 23rd that includes an opening bud in addition to the flower.

 

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Last week I happened upon William Deresiewicz’s article “Escaping American tribalism: Only personal bravery can end polarisation.” Deresiewicz explains how he, a self-styled progressive, became disillusioned with media outlets he used to love, in particular NPR (National Public Radio):

My discontent had been building since the previous summer, the summer of the George Floyd protests. It was clear from the beginning that the network would be covering the movement not like journalists but advocates. A particular line was being pushed. There was an epidemic of police violence against unarmed African-Americans; black people were in danger of being murdered by the state whenever they walked down the street. The protests were peaceful, and when they weren’t, the violence was minor, or it was justified, or it was exclusively initiated by the cops. Although we had been told for months to stay indoors, the gatherings did not endanger public health — indeed, they promoted it. I supported the protests; I just did not appreciate the fact that I was being lied to.

But it wasn’t just that story. Overnight, the network’s entire orientation had changed. Every segment was about race, and when it wasn’t about race, it was about gender. The stories were no longer reports but morality plays, with predictable bad guys and good guys. Scepticism was banished. Divergent opinions were banished. The pronouncements of activists, the arguments of ideologically motivated academics, were accepted without question. The tone became smug, certain, self-righteous. To turn on the network was to be subjected to a program of ideological force-feeding. I was used to the idiocies of the academic Left — I had been dealing with them ever since I started graduate school — but now they were leaking out of my radio.

I encourage you to read the full article. It concludes with an incident that reinforces its anti-tribalism theme. The publication that originally accepted the article soon turned around and rejected it:

I had written a piece about the truths we aren’t allowed to utter on the Left, but that truth too, apparently, must not be uttered. The editor, it seemed, did not appreciate the irony.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 2, 2022 at 4:32 AM

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Autumn sneezeweed

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One place I’ve learned to look for autumn sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) is a spot along the trail that follows Bull Creek near Lakewood Dr. Sure enough, that’s where I found this flower head and bud on September 30th. On another flower head a grey Tachinid fly agreed to sit for its portrait.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 1, 2021 at 4:38 AM

But soft, what light on yonder flower falls?

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The date was August 13th, and the place was a property along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on the Blackland Prairie in far north Austin. You’ve already seen a flowering colony of partridge pea plants there, so now here’s a closeup of a single Chamaecrista fasciculata flower as it opened. Notice how the reddish blush shades through orange to yellow as your eyes follow it away from the flower’s base.


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Our word coincidence comes from Latin, where co meant ‘together with,’ in meant ‘into,’ and cid came from a root that meant ‘to fall.’ A coincidence is ‘things falling into each other.’ The night before last a 1929 movie shown on Turner Classic Movies ‘fell into’ tragic current events. The film, mostly a romantic comedy, was The Love Parade, directed by Ernst Lubitch. The movie marked the screen debut of Jeanette MacDonald, who played Queen Louise in the imaginary country of Sylvania. Opposite her was Maurice Chevalier as the hitherto womanizing military officer Count Alfred Renard (which happens to mean ‘fox’ in French). A synopsis of the film says this: “Queen Louise’s cabinet are worried that she will become an old maid, and are delighted when she marries the roguish Count Renard. Unfortunately, he finds his position as Queen’s Consort unsatisfying and without purpose, and the marriage soon runs into difficulties.”

In a scene that shows the wedding between the royal Louise and the commoner Alfred, the dignitaries include the ambassador from Afghanistan (there’s the coincidence with this week’s tragic events). After the priest follows royal protocol and pronounces the newly married couple “wife and man,” the ambassador comments in a fake language: “A singi. A na hu. A na hu. Prostu, pass harr. Fo malu a yu.” The Sylvanian Prime Minister asks what that means, and the Afghan ambassador’s translator tells him: “He says, man is man and woman is woman. And if you change that, causes trouble. He does not see how any man could stand being a wife. And therefore, he hopes this will be a most unhappy marriage.” The Prime Minister replies: “For heaven’s sake, if he reports this to Afghanistan. Tell him, this is a love match. It will be the happiest marriage in the world.”

Unfortunately, the two-decade involvement of the United States and Afghanistan didn’t end up being the happiest marriage in the world. Things fell apart.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2021 at 4:22 AM

Gumweed really is gummy

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On July 18th in southeast Austin I saw my first gumweed (Grindelia sp.) for 2021. Notice the little drops of goo along the serrated edges of the leaves. Holding on to these plants, as I often do to stabilize subjects while I take their pictures, left me with a sticky left hand and I had to be careful not to transfer any of that to my camera. As in other pictures I’ve recently shown here, using flash on a bright day to allow for a smaller aperture and a greater depth of field caused the sky to come out unrealistically dark. The effect isn’t “natural,” but then neither is photography.


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Here’s yet another thought by Wendell Berry, this time from his 1968 essay “Some Thoughts on Citizenship and Conscience in Honor of Don Pratt.”

To hear the boasts and the claims of some of our political leaders, one would think that we all lived in the government. The lower order of our politicians no doubt do so, and they no doubt exhibit the effects. But though I am always aware that I live in my household and in the world, I wish to testify that in my best moments I am not aware of the existence of the government. Though I respect and feel myself dignified by the principles of the Declaration and the Constitution, I do not remember a day when the thought of the government made me happy, and I never think of it without the wish that it might become wiser and truer and smaller than it is.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 17, 2021 at 4:15 AM

Portraits from our yard: episode 3

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In our yard we have three stands of Turk’s cap bushes, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii. I don’t know if someone planted them before we moved in 17 years ago or if they sprang up on their own. I’ve found Turk’s cap growing wild in the woods in our neighborhood, so both possibilities are plausible.

The top portrait reveals the interesting “architecture” surrounding a bud. The second photograph shows the characteristic rich red of a Turk’s cap flower beginning to emerge from a bud.


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I recently came across the April 19th article “America’s Smug Elite Is Harming Our Kids,” by Rutgers professors Jacob Hale Russell and Dennis Patterson. Here are two paragraphs that will give you a feel for the tenor and contents of the article. (Links within the quoted passages were in the original.)

This disdain for healthy skepticism, a normal part of functioning science and democracy, is corrosive to public trust and impedes the accumulation of knowledge. A climate of overconfidence makes it both more likely that we will adopt bad policy and harder to fix our missteps. Reversals of conventional wisdom are, for better or worse, inevitable in science. We have had many reversals of official positions on COVID-19—from the usefulness of masks to which medications work to guidance about school openings—and will likely see more as evidence continues to come in. The problem is that our current climate locks us into polarized mindsets, which makes it harder to recategorize “misinformation” that winds up being correct….

While it is tempting—especially in the wake of a presidency that showed a keen disregard for facts—to suggest that elite culture is simply tamping down misinformation, this is a self-serving myth. Most who study scientific communication have found that admitting uncertainty doesn’t harm public trust. When we and others express alarm at the overlabeling of misinformation, we are not defending those who do things like deny the existence of COVID-19 or spread falsehoods about vaccine side effects. Over the course of the pandemic, we have also seen the misinformation label regularly applied to mainstream scientists speaking in their field of expertise. The suppression of doubt can be subtle, such as the kind of bandwagoning and overconfidence that drown out debate, or it can be obvious—from outright censorship to misuse of the phrase “fact check” when applied to disagreeable opinions. This approach not only hampers discourse, but ultimately undermines public trust in science and the credibility of the very elites who claim its mantle.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 1, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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Bluebell time again

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On June 18th, after photographing some mountain pinks I’d been tipped off to, I stopped at nearby Cypress Creek Park and found to my pleasure that a bunch of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) were coming up. Bluebells put out distinctively shaped buds, as you see in this portrait of one with an opening flower behind it.


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For those of you who find yourselves in jobs where you feel like you’re walking on eggshells all the time and can’t speak openly about what you believe, here’s a relevant thought from someone who lived through Soviet oppression: “In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” ― Czesław Miłosz. (If I understand right, Polish cz is pronounced like English ch, ł like w, w like v, and sz like sh. As a result, Czesław Miłosz comes out sounding like Cheswav Miwosh.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 1, 2021 at 4:35 AM

A new month, a new wildflower

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I remember seeing snake herb flowers (Dyschoriste linearis) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center years ago. I don’t recall ever seeing any in the wild till this spring, when I’ve come across the species at least three times. Either it’s having a good year or my eyes have opened. To give you a sense of scale, let me add that snake herb flowers range from about 3/4 of an inch (18mm) to an inch (25mm) across. The picture above is from Allen Park on May 15th. I’d found the bud below in Liberty Hill on May 6th.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “One of the most treacherous forms of censorship is self-censorship—where walls are built around the imagination and often raised from fear of attack.” You’re welcome to read the full article about PEN International, the 100-year-old organization that upholds writers’ freedom and works against censorship.

In a poll of 2000 people in the United States in mid-2020, 62% of respondents said the political climate prevents them from sharing their political views. After all that has ensued in the year since then, I suspect the percent of self-censorers is higher now.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 1, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Posted in nature photography

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