Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘buds

Wildflowers near the cliffs

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On our New Mexico trip I was so taken with the cliffs, mountains, mesas, boulders, and landscapes that I rarely turned to my macro lens, which is the one I use more than all others back in Austin. That said, I did occasionally get down and do my typical thing.



Close to the spot where I’d pulled over along Interstate 40 in the vicinity of Laguna on October 14th to savor the cliff shown above I made portraits of several wildflowers. The first one is an aster of some sort but I can’t even be sure of the genus.



The second wildflower is a species of Gaillardia, perhaps the same Gaillardia pulchella that thrives in Austin. (The BONAP map shows it in western New Mexico.) The last wildflower I take to be a globe mallow but I can’t say which one, given that a bunch of Sphaeralcea species inhabit New Mexico.





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“Democracy isn’t on the ballot. Democracy is the ballot.” — Brit Hume.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 8, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Longleaf buckwheat

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Another new wildflower for me on October 11th last year was Eriogonum longifolium, known as longleaf buckwheat and tall buckwheat. I found loose groups of these tallish plants with smallish flowers in a couple of places in Bastrop State Park. The out-of-focus yellow flower heads providing color in the second view were camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris.



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It’s become a sad fact of American life that many corporations subject their employees to mandatory “diversity” training. In almost all cases that’s a biased way of looking at society in which activists prod people into resenting one another based on the groups they happen to have been born into. In an unwitting homage to Orwell, those “diversity” trainers exhibit zero diversity in the way they categorize everything according to presumed power and privilege.

A few nights ago at an Austin get-together with Greg Lukianoff of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), I met comedian and entrepreneur Karith Foster, who has mercifully put together a humane substitute for the standard “diversity” training.

Instead of Diversity, we’re going to talk about INversity. We’re going to talk about the things we have in common with each other.

INVERSITY™ is the inverse of the word “Diversity,” which has “divide” and “division” at its root. Division is exactly what we see happening when diversity is done poorly — that includes checking a box, wagging a finger or placing blame and shame.

If you find yourself in a job that subjects you to “diversity” training, you might approach the relevant people in your company, point them to the Inversity website, and suggest they hire Inversity to do future training. You’ll be so much better off.

Even if you’re not subject to “diversity” training, check out the Inversity website for lots of interesting information. You can also watch Karith Foster’s TED talk.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 12, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Two whites from Brazos Bend

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At Brazos Bend State Park southwest of Houston on the sultry Sunday morning of September 18th I photographed two kinds of white wildflowers. At the top you see aquatic milkweed, Asclepias perennis. This species, which doesn’t grow in central Texas, looks similar to the Texas milkweed that does. Below is Carolina horsenettle, Solanum carolinensis. That nightshade is common in east Texas but rare in the center of the state, where other Solanum species like silverleaf nightshade and western horsenettle predominate.




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A time to react and a time to investigate


Sometimes it makes sense to act before investigating. If you’re walking down a street and you suddenly notice a nearby car speeding toward you, you don’t stop to wonder about the make of the car or who’s driving it or why the driver is going so fast. No: you immediately jump out of the way to keep from getting run down. (A well-known Buddhist parable makes the same point.)

Most things in life, though, do leave time to investigate before acting. What cell phone plan best meets my needs? Are there any cities I could move to that would likely make me happier than where I am now? What organizations could I join to meet interesting people?

Investigating is particularly important in reporting the news. That’s because incidents sometimes turn out to be different from the way they initially seem, especially when important relevant facts haven’t yet been ascertained.

With those things in mind, let’s look at a recent incident. On August 26th a women’s volleyball match took place at Brigham Young University, with players from Duke University as the visiting team and some 5500 spectators in attendance. Afterwards, Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson said that she and other black athletes “were targeted and racially heckled throughout the entirety of the match.”

I later saw clips from various television news shows that aired soon afterwards, in all of which the announcers stated that that’s what happened. The announcers didn’t report that Rachel Richardson said that she and her teammates been racially targeted or claimed that she and her teammates had been racially targeted, but that she and her teammates had been racially targeted. How could people in the news media so quickly know the truth of the matter when authorities hadn’t had time to investigate?

Based on the initial claim of racial targeting, officials at Brigham Young University apologized to the Duke team and banned the fan who supposedly had done the racial targeting. It was an instance of Lewis Carroll’s satirical “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.”

You can probably guess where this is going. As NPR (National Public Radio) reported on September 14th:

Brigham Young University has apologized to a fan it banned for allegedly shouting racist slurs at Black volleyball players visiting from Duke University, saying the school’s investigation found no proof of racial heckling or slurs…

Announcing the findings of its inquiry, BYU Athletics said last week that it went to great lengths to find moments in which the fan in question or anyone else might have yelled slurs during the match. The effort included a review of numerous records, it said, including match video from the school’s broadcast outlet with the commentators’ audio track removed, and video footage from security cameras.

“We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event,” from fans and BYU personnel to Duke’s players and team staff, the department said.

“From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event,” BYU Athletics said, adding that it would not tolerate such conduct.

How could so many in the media have gotten the story wrong? The sad answer is that they wanted the racial targeting to have happened because it would have fit their ideology, and in too many cases they let ideology overrule the facts. This was only the latest in a series of similar allegations that turned out to be false. Probably the best-known previous one came in 2019, when actor Jussie Smollett claimed that in the wee hours one morning he went out to get a sandwich and two white supremacists put a rope around his neck in Chicago, that bastion of white supremacy. In that case, too, the media had been filled with stories about how horrible that racist incident was. And yet, as CNN reported in March of this year:

Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was sentenced Thursday to 30 months of felony probation, including 150 days in jail, and ordered to pay restitution of more than $120,000 and a $25,000 fine for making false reports to police that he was the victim of a hate crime in January 2019.

You would think that such a prominent incident and subsequent trial would have taught everyone in the news media the lesson of not jumping to conclusions about a racially charged claim before a thorough investigation has taken place. You might think that, but you’d be wrong.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 28, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Marsh fleabane

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Been a couple of years since I showed you marsh fleabane, Pluchea odorata, so here’s a view of its flowers and then a softer view of its buds at Meadow Lake Park in Round Rock on August 23rd.



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At the head of an August 28th article in Quillette, Bo Winegard quotes Sir Henry Hallett Dale:

And science, we should insist, better than any other discipline, can hold up to its students and followers an ideal of patient devotion to the search for objective truth, with vision unclouded by personal or political motive.

The article per se starts out like this:

Although the modern prestige bestowed upon science is laudable, it is not without peril. For as the ideological value of science increases, so too does the threat to its objectivity. Slogans and hashtags can quickly politicize science, and scientists can be tempted to subordinate the pursuit of the truth to moral or political ends as they become aware of their own prodigious social importance. Inconvenient data can be suppressed or hidden and inconvenient research can be quashed. This is especially true when one political tribe or faction enjoys disproportionate influence in academia—its members can disfigure science (often unconsciously) to support their own ideological preferences. This is how science becomes more like propaganda than empiricism, and academia becomes more like a partisan media organization than an impartial institution.

An editorial in Nature Human Behavior provides the most recent indication of just how bad things are becoming. It begins, like so many essays of its kind, by announcing that, “Although academic freedom is fundamental, it is not unbounded.” When the invocation of a fundamental freedom in one clause is immediately undermined in the next, we should be skeptical of whatever follows.

A little later we find out that

the journal [Nature Human Behavior] will reject articles that might potentially harm (even “inadvertently”) those individuals or groups most vulnerable to “racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia.” Since it is already standard practice to reject false or poorly argued work, it is safe to assume that these new guidelines have been designed to reject any article deemed to pose a threat to disadvantaged groups, irrespective of whether or not its central claims are true, or at least well-supported. Within a few sentences, we have moved from a banal statement of the obvious to draconian and censorious editorial discretion. Editors will now enjoy unprecedented power to reject articles on the basis of nebulous moral concerns and anticipated harms.

You can read the rest of the article about the sorry state into which science is precipitously falling.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 6, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Sesbania drummondii

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I most often see Sesbania drummondii, known as rattlebush, at the edges of creeks and ponds. On August 23rd, when I walked in the mostly waterless bed of the creek that flows through the part of Great Hills Park nearest to where I live, I found a good many rattlebush plants springing up right in the dry creek bed. No flowers had opened yet, but the readying buds caught my attention. Then I focused on one of the plant’s arcs of leaflets; graceful, don’t you think?



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Anyone in the academic humanities—anyone who’s gotten within smelling distance of the academic humanities these last 40 years—will see the problem. Loving books is not why people are supposed to become English professors, and it hasn’t been for a long time. Loving books is scoffed at (or would be, if anybody ever copped to it). The whole concept of literature—still more, of art—has been discredited. Novels, poems, stories, plays: these are “texts,” no different in kind from other texts. The purpose of studying them is not to appreciate or understand them; it is to “interrogate” them for their ideological investments (in patriarchy, in white supremacy, in Western imperialism and ethnocentrism), and then to unmask and debunk them, to drain them of their poisonous persuasive power. The passions that are meant to draw people to the profession of literary study, these last many years, are not aesthetic; they are political.

That’s from William Deresiewicz’s August 17th essay in Quillette, “Why I left Academia.” The subtitle is “I didn’t have a choice. Thousands of people are driven out of the profession each year.” You’re welcome to read the full essay.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Clematis drummondii flower and buds

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On July 15th in Great Hills Park I sat with some Clematis drummondii
vines and made these close portraits of buds and a flower.

I aimed at a higher angle in the second picture and so won the sky as a background.
Flash and a small aperture made the bright blue seem unnaturally dark but I like the effect.




Speaking of unnatural, there’s more “Hands up, don’t shoot” in the top picture than in the narrative that has become an article of faith—a false faith—among certain activists. The Clematis at the top hands-down has a greater claim to having its hands up.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Buttonbush budding

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Cephalanthus occidentalis; Cypress Creek Park; June 12; daylight flash with f/25 aperture.

To see what this would open out into, you can look back at a picture from 2013.


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In a commentary four days ago I gave several examples of the current federal administration trying to establish programs that on their face violate the U.S. Constitution or national laws. Administrations in some smaller jurisdictions think they can get away with lawlessness, too. In a recent example, New York City passed an ordinance that would have let some 800,000 legal residents who aren’t American citizens vote in local elections. In response, several citizens sued New York City, noting: “By dramatically increasing the pool of eligible voters, the Non-Citizen Voting Law will dilute the votes of United States citizens, including the Plaintiffs in this action.” This week a judge sided with the plaintiffs.

The judge wrote in his decision: “There is no statutory ability for the City of New York to issue inconsistent laws permitting non-citizens to vote and exceed the authority granted to it by the New York State Constitution. Though voting is a right that so many citizens take for granted, the City of New York cannot ‘obviate’ the restrictions imposed by the constitution.”

Last I heard, New York City is indeed still part of New York State, and therefore has to follow the laws of New York State. Given that reality, I did what the judge did and what the authorities in New York City either didn’t do or did and then ignored: I looked at the relevant part of New York State’s Constitution. Here’s what I found in Section 1 of Article II, which is devoted to suffrage:

Every citizen shall be entitled to vote at every election for all officers elected by the people and upon all questions submitted to the vote of the people provided that such citizen is eighteen years of age or over and shall have been a resident of this state, and of the county, city, or village for thirty days next preceding an election.

I put the word citizen in italics to emphasize it. Non-citizens, by definition, aren’t citizens. You’d think the authorities in New York City could understand the difference. Presumably they did understand the difference but chose to violate New York State’s Constitution anyhow. As I said, that’s lawlessness.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 29, 2022 at 4:31 AM

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Rising skyward

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Only once before, in 2015, has a picture of so-called false gaura appeared here. The top view shows that this plant produces an erect flower spike, which I’ll add can reach 9 ft., while the bottom view reveals the predilection of some leaves to turn colors. Formerly classified as Stenosiphon linifolius and now as Oenothera glaucifolia, the species apparently grows in just one place in Travis County: along Oasis Bluff Dr., which is where I went looking for and found it on June 12th, just as I have several other times over the past decade.



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Kind Words


Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday praised fellow Justice Clarence Thomas for his dedication to the high court’s integrity in light of recent protests and threats that were made against the institution.

Speaking at the American Constitution Society, Sotomayor, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama, said Thomas is a “man who cares deeply about the court as an institution.”

And while the two often disagree in their opinions, Sotomayor said she and Thomas have a “common understanding about people and kindness towards them,” adding, “Justice Thomas is the one justice in the building that literally knows every employee’s name, every one of them. And not only does he know their names, he remembers their families’ names and histories.”

“He’s the first one who will go up to someone when you’re walking with him and say, ‘Is your son okay? How’s your daughter doing in college?’ He’s the first one that, when my stepfather died, sent me flowers in Florida,” Sotomayor added of Thomas, who was nominated by former President George H.W. Bush.


That’s from a June 17th article by Jack Phillips in the Epoch Times.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman







Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 24, 2022 at 4:30 AM

More from Shaffer Bend

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Last Thursday’s post was the first ever to feature pictures from the Shaffer Bend Recreation Area along the Colorado River a little east of Marble Falls in Burnet County. During our inaugural April 19th visit I got to see a few huisache daisies, Amblyolepis setigera, a species I don’t find in Austin. The most recent time I showed you some was last year, when you saw a whole colony flowering in a place close to Shaffer Bend. Above are a huisache daisy bud and open flower head; the picture below shows an intermediate stage.



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In a post a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the Latin word for ‘head,’ caput, led to the English word capital. A state’s or a country’s capital is metaphorically its “head” city. In a different metaphorical usage, capital is money that we accumulate to “head up” or “head into” a new business.

As the Latin spoken in ancient Gaul evolved over hundreds and hundreds of years, caput gradually got transformed into Old French chief. (Yes, words can change that much over long periods.) The Old French noun chief retained the literal meaning ‘head’ and also allowed for figurative uses. When Middle English borrowed chief, it already had its familiar native word head for the body part, so it borrowed chief in its figurative sense of ‘most important.’ That’s why James A. Garfield could write in 1869: “The chief duty of government is to keep the peace and stand out of the sunshine of the people.” The leader of the nine justices on the Supreme Court of the United States is designated the Chief Justice; the other justices regularly refer to him simply as “the Chief.” For hundreds of years we’ve called the head of an American Indian tribe its chief. A large business has its CEO and CFO and COO, meaning its chief executive officer, chief financial officer, and chief operating officer.

With regard to managerial positions like those, the people running the San Francisco Unified Schools District have once again been up to mischief—etymologically a situation in which things have ‘come to a head [chief] in a bad [mis-] way.’ Out of supposed deference to the sensibilities of people in American Indian tribes, the bureaucrats in charge of that school district have decided to drop the chief from job titles like chief technology officer and chief of staff.

Whereas the chief responsibility of a school district has traditionally been to teach students, recent chief goals in San Francisco have included renaming schools and dictating what words people must and can’t say. The Wall Street Journal editorial “Chiefly Illiterate in San Francisco Schools” and the New York Post article “San Francisco school district drops ‘chief’ from job titles” will fill you in on the chief details of this latest ideological assault on language. Meanwhile, even before the pandemic, 27 of San Francisco’s schools were rated “low performing” and 9 were among the worst in California, which is in the bottom fifth of American states academically.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Plump green stars

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From six years ago today in west Austin here are some buds of green milkweed (Asclepias viridis) with a couple of firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) in the background. Below is a take on antelope horns milkweed buds (Asclepias asperula) in a slightly more advanced state on April 17th of this year in my neighborhood and in a different photographic style that relies on flash.


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Just as a man may not recognize that he is in a prison until he tries to break free, a scholar may not understand the taboos that confine him until he transgresses them. I saw the prison, but I did not really feel it until I tried to escape. Academia is much more pleasant than a literal prison, of course, and anybody in a position to complain about the encroachment of political biases on scholarship has lived a charmed life. Nevertheless, academia has become an intellectual prison, and many of the incarcerated professors were therefore compelled to live a dual existence. In public, they either endorsed the prevailing dogmas about race and sex or they kept their thoughts to themselves. In private, they could be more candid, and would sometimes even complain about the more extreme beliefs of their colleagues and pundits who would write about science in the prestige media.

That’s a paragraph from the recent Quillette article “Academic Exile, Two Years On,” in which Bo Winegard describes how even as a student with mostly far-left political beliefs he ran afoul of the rigid orthodoxy that has captured higher education and punishes people who question any portion of the reigning dogma.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 29, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

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