Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘bush

More from Liberty Hill

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I’ll be showing plenty more pictures from our October trip to New Mexico and west Texas, but to keep from falling too far behind in what the Austin area is doing I’m occasionally interspersing a local post.

As you heard last week in a yellow post, on the afternoon of October 21st, as we concluded our trip by driving back into the Austin area from the northwest, I noticed a lot going on in a lot on the north side of TX 29 in the fast-growing town of Liberty Hill (whose population from 2014 to 2021 jumped from 1,015 to 6,801.) The next morning I went back there so I could photograph some of our native plants that predominate in the fall. In these two pictures, I played some wind-blown poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) off against the morning’s equally wispy clouds. Two years ago I presented a poverty weed photograph with its colors partially desaturated. I experimented with this year’s Liberty Hill photographs by converting one almost completely to black and white:

 

 

 

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Yesterday morning I was reading a book. The television was on in another room. Just as I read the phrase “in the nation” in my book, I could hear a man on the television saying “in the nation.” I don’t know how to calculate the probability that I’ll read a word or phrase at the same moment someone completely independent of me speaks the same non-trivial* word or phrase. The probability must be tiny, given the large number of words and phrases in any language. That kind of simultaneous event doesn’t often happen, and yet it does sometimes happen. In fact I’ve noticed that there have been periods in my life when it has happened a bunch of times over several days. I don’t know what to make of it. Have you had that experience?

* I included the phrase “non-trivial” to rule out instances in which I read a common function word like the or a at the same time someone speaks that word. I probably wouldn’t even notice such a trivial occurrence.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 9, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Poverty weed and wispy clouds

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By October 2nd I’d seen plenty of poverty weed, Baccharis neglecta, but all of it seemed a little dingier than these bushes usually do when they flower. Oh well, the clouds over northeast Austin that day provided some of the missing wispiness.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Visiting buttonbush flowers

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Do you remember the buttonbush buds, Cephalanthus occidentalis, from June 12th? On July 12th I was wandering along Bull Creek and found some buttonbush flower globes, including this one with what appears to be a lichen moth, Lycomorpha pholus, busily working the blossoms. From what I see online, moths in this family do eat lichens, along with other encrusting algae and mosses.

 

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In my commentaries over the past year I’ve reported several instances in which the current American administration established blatantly illegal programs that judges soon put an end to. The other day I became aware of yet another illegal attempt to set up a program, this one involving education. Several groups have sued to stop it:

Today, America First Legal, Parents Defending Education, and Fight for Schools and Families filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Department of Education and Secretary Miguel Cardona for their unlawful creation of the National Parents and Families Engagement Council. The Council, formed in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), is a partisan, hand-selected committee designed to mask the Biden Administration’s devastatingly anti-child and anti-family actions, including the NSBA scandal and the CDC’s collusion with teachers’ unions to keep public schools closed.

 You can learn more from Parents Defending Education and from an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 20, 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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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

Sunny poverty weed

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On October 14th I photographed some wet poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) flowering along Bull Creek under overcast skies. As the month advanced, many of these bushes reached their peak of fluffiness, which I spent time recording in the town of Cedar Park on the morning of the 29th. Now the sun shone and the sky was clear blue, so the photographs came out quite different from those you saw earlier. Another factor this time was the presence of wind, which blew the bushes about. In the top picture you can pick out a couple of bits of fluff that had gone airborne. To deal with wind gusts I turned to shutter speeds as high as 1/640 of a second. That was fast enough to stop the motion in the following picture.

 


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Pronouns, pronouns, who’s got the pronouns?

According to the Gender Pronouns page on the website of Springfield College in Massachusetts,

  • The best thing to do if you use the wrong pronoun for someone is to say something right away, such as “Sorry, I meant they.” Fix it, but do not call special attention to the error in the moment. If you realize your mistake after the fact, apologize in private and move on.
  • It can be tempting to go on and on about how bad you feel that you messed up or how hard it is for you to get it right. But please, don’t. It is inappropriate and makes the person who was misgendered feel awkward and responsible for comforting you, which is not their job. It is your job to remember people’s pronouns.

My pronouns this week are mzekpitran for the subjective case and ervijmpt for the objective case. It is your job to remember them.

[Craziness and frivolity aside, you may be surprised that my subjective and objective pronouns don’t resemble each other. Actually English does the same thing with some of its pronouns—a fact that native speakers don’t normally think about. Consider the way English pairs the first-person I as a subject with the dissimilar me as an object, and likewise we with the dissimilar us. Corresponding to the I/me forms in the singular are the related French je/me, Russian я (ya)/меня (menyá), Portuguese eu/me, Italian io/me, Catalan jo/me, and Spanish yo/me].

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 17, 2021 at 4:40 AM

No poverty of approaches

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As October advanced I noticed more and more poverty weed bushes (Baccharis neglecta) putting out their many little white flowers. The typical visual effect is shown above in a view from alongside Bull Creek on October 14th. Notice the characteristic herringbone pattern of the branches at the right. Overnight rain had left the bushes wet, and I took advantage of that to do closeups of sodden poverty weed flowers.

As different as the last two photographs look, I took both of them at f/22 using flash. In the bottom view I aimed upward toward the cloudy-bright sky; in the middle photograph I aimed sideways.



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“For the contemporary reader, much of English literature can induce a kind of moral peanut allergy.” That’s one zinger from Michael Lewis’s article in the November 2021 issue of Commentary, “Wokeness and the English Language,” which I recommend.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Two takes on goldeneye

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From close to Bull Creek on October 14th come two takes on goldeneye bushes (Viguiera dentata), which were busy doing their expected autumnal flowering. The top view is pretty straightforward, while the bottom one goes for a limited-focus approach. Either way, yellow rules the day.


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The dialogue that appeared at the end of yesterday’s post was one I created in response to a much-repeated claim that a proposed bill in Congress, despite its $3.5 trillion price tag (which some analysts say is actually more like $5 trillion), would cost “zero, zero, zero.” I have news for the people pushing that bill: government programs don’t cost zero. They may cost some beneficiaries of the bill zero, but many other people are left paying the very high costs of those programs. After I wrote my little dialog to illustrate the abuse of the word cost and the craziness of the notion that the biggest grab-bag of government give-aways in the country’s history would cost zero, I came across an article by Ryan Bourne that made the same points and even mentioned the analogy of buying groceries.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 25, 2021 at 4:47 AM

Portraits from our yard: episode 14

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We have an American beautyberry bush (Callicarpa americana) growing in three places around our house. On October 6th I stood on a stepladder to aim mostly downward at this fruiting branch. The one yellow leaf is the first fall foliage you’ve seen here for 2021—ironic, given that afternoon high temperatures stayed in the 90s for at least a week after I took the picture.


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For at least five years, some astute social observers have been classifying Wokeness as a secular religion, complete with unquestionable dogma, proselytizing zeal, priests, and a prohibition against blasphemy. For a good explanation of the phenomenon, you can watch a remote talk that John McWhorter gave to the International Literature Festival in Berlin on September 9th.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Rattlebush flowers

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At McKinney Falls State Park yesterday the rattlebushes (Sesbania drummondii) along Onion Creek downstream from the Lower Falls were flowering, so how could I not take some pictures?

A little earlier, after I’d arrived and was walking in from the parking area, I noticed that a man near me was heading in a direction that wouldn’t take him to the Lower Falls, which is the place I assumed he was trying to get to. I called over to the man, explained that he was heading the wrong way, and pointed him in the direction he needed to go.

On my way back from photographing the rattlebush flowers I passed by the Lower Falls and noticed the man sitting nearby. He looked like he was from India, and I wanted to find out his opinion about something, so I struck up a conversation. First I asked if he lived here or was just visiting the United States. He told me he’s been in the country about 20 years. He started in New York, then moved to Texas, where he’d run a Subway shop. I asked him what he thought of America. In particular, I pointed out that many people in the news media and now even many in our government are claiming that America is a horribly racist country, and I wanted to know if he agreed. He said that there’s always some discrimination in all countries, that it’s a reality of human nature. He mentioned the caste system in India as an example. Then he said that the United States is better. That immigrant to our country understands human nature and the United States in a way that too many Americans fail to—or refuse to—understand.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 19, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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