Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘buds

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.

 

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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

Posted in nature photography

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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

Tagged with , , ,

What I couldn’t see

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The cedar sage (Salvia roemeriana) in wooded areas of my neighborhood was out in force by the middle of April. I found plenty of those plants to photograph in Great Hills Park, and then on April 17th I spent time with a group of them on a rocky embankment along Morado Circle. It’s not unusual to see cedar sage flowers that have fallen off, but one really caught my attention—and caught is an apt word. The flower had landed on a leaf and miraculously was standing upright. I assumed the base of the fallen flower had happened to land in a small hole in the leaf, and that accounted for the flower’s apparent defiance of gravity. After taking some pictures of the prodigy I touched it, and only then from the way it swung about did I realize that a strand of spider silk, still invisible to me, had kept the flower from falling over. My 100mm macro lens and camera sensor resolved the strand of silk that my unaided eyes couldn’t see. Now your eyes get to see it. They also get to see some nearby cedar sage buds that had begun opening.

 

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As much as I’ve been the bearer of reassurance in my photographs from nature, I’ve also been the bearer of increasingly dismal social news in my commentaries. For the past decade, and especially since the moral panic of 2020, “wokeism” has rapidly been taking over our institutions. Medicine is no exception. Some professors of medicine have taken to denying biological sex. Medical schools are already plotting to make gender ideology and racist ideology required parts of their curriculum. Faculty and staff who won’t pledge fealty to those delusional and hateful things will risk getting fired, and people who apply to work there but don’t show evidence of sufficiently “woke” fervor won’t get hired in the first place. Medical students will face the same kinds of pressure. You can read the distressing details in John D. Sailer’s article on the website of the National Association of Scholars.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Calderón de la Barca comes to Austin

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When I walked in our untended back and side yard on April Fool’s Day I wasn’t fooled: I recognized a good half-dozen native species that had come up on their own, including this Carolina geranium (Geranium corolinianum). Apropos the foliage supporting that flower, look at this passage from Pedro Calderón de la Barca‘s 1632 play La Banda y la Flor (The Scarf and the Flower):

La verde es color primera
Del mundo, y en quien consiste
Su hermosura, pues se viste
De verde la primavera.
La vista más lisonjera
Es aquel verde ornamento,
Pues sin voz y con aliento
Nacen de varios colores
En cuna verde las flores
Que son estrellas del viento.

Green is the primary color
Of the world, and the reason
For its beauty is that
Spring dresses in green.
That green ornamentation
Is the most flattering view,
Because without voice but with breath
A green cradle gives birth to flowers,
Which are the wind’s stars.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 11, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Texas mountain laurel buds

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On March 18 at McKinney Roughs Nature Park in Bastrop County the buds of a Texas mountain laurel bush were opening. The familiar scientific name Sophora secundiflora has given way to Dermatophyllum secundiflorum.

 

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People claim lots of things, some seemingly more far-fetched than others. When Copernicus in the 1500s and then other scientists in the 1600s claimed that the earth goes around the sun, rather than the other way around, many people didn’t believe it. It seemed counter to the daily experience of watching the sun move in an arc through the sky above a seemingly immobile earth. Evidence, particularly after telescopes got perfected, eventually showed that the strange claim was true.

In October of 2020, shortly before that year’s presidential election in the United States, the New York Post broke a story saying that Hunter Biden, the son of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, had brought a laptop computer to a repair shop in Delaware but had never returned to pick it up. As happens in such cases, the unclaimed laptop then became the property of the repair shop’s owner. The laptop per se wasn’t especially valuable, but the data on it was. The laptop’s hard drive contained many photographs showing Hunter Biden doing drugs and cavorting with prostitutes. More importantly, the hard drive also contained e-mails implying that Hunter Biden was getting lots of money from foreign sources in the expectation of access to or influence with Joe Biden.

Given that the main American elections take place early in November, the story could plausibly have been what people have come to call an “October surprise”: condemnatory “information” that a partisan reveals to the public shortly before the election in an attempt to influence people not to vote for the candidate that the partisan opposes. For example, one month before Election Day in 2016 came the release of the Access Hollywood videotape in which candidate Donald Trump was seen speaking lewdly about women. The tape was real, not a fake, and it probably did influence some people not to vote for Trump.

Now let’s return to the 2020 Hunter Biden laptop story. The first question a responsible person would ask is whether the story was true. Might anti-Biden partisans have made it up in an attempt to discredit candidate Biden? Such fakery does sometimes happen, after all, so initially we can’t rule out that possibility—politics is hardly known for its nobility, is it?

Unfortunately, people at many traditional news outlets immediately claimed that the Hunter Biden laptop story was “Russian disinformation,” yet they never brought forth any evidence to prove that it was Russian disinformation. Worse, the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter suppressed even any discussion of the claim, with Twitter going so far as to completely lock the account of the New York Post, the oldest American newspaper still in print.

As becomes an ethical news organization, the New York Post had offered plenty of evidence that the Hunter Biden story was true. The mainstream media not only refused to consider it, but claimed with no evidence that the story was false. That was unethical.

And then there were the 51 former “intelligence” officials who signed a letter saying the Hunter Biden laptop story “has the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” They admitted they had no evidence that that’s what it was but kept pushing the disinformation conjecture anyhow. With all their connections, couldn’t they at least have asked around among their current counterparts to find out what they knew about the story and what they were doing to check its authenticity? Actually the letter writers didn’t even have to do that: soon after the letter appeared, the DNI (Director of National Intelligence) and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) announced that the Hunter Biden laptop story was not Russian disinformation. That made no difference to the many people pushing the “Russian disinformation” narrative.

This past week the New York Times unexpectedly ran a story about Hunter Biden. As the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board put put it on March 18: “The Times waddled in this week with a story on the ‘tax affairs’ of the President’s son, including this gem in the 24th paragraph: ‘Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.” Notice that the admission occurred only in the 24th paragraph of that story. Talk about burying the lead. Apparently the Times figured that that confirmation just barely qualified as part of “all the news that’s fit to print.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2022 at 4:30 AM

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