Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘flowers

Insects on goldenrod

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From the morning of November 9th on the shore of the Riata Trace Pond, here are two views of flowering goldenrod plants, probably Solidago altissima. In the top photograph you may strain your eyes to make out the Ailanthus webworm moth (which I didn’t even notice when I took the picture), but you sure can’t miss the umbrella paper wasp (Polistes carolina) shown below.


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UPDATE. Last month I reported on the way the public schools in Wellesley, Massachusetts, were purposely segregating students by race. Now I’ve learned about intentional racial segregation in a New York City junior high school. Needless to say—except that I find myself having to say it—racial segregation has been illegal in American schools ever since the Brown vs. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2021 at 4:24 AM

Dew, dew, dew what you did, did, did before

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From November 9th at the Riata Trace Pond, look what the dew did to this gulf vervain (Verbena xutha) inflorescence. For a closer look at the effects of the roration, click the excerpt below.


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As a Thanksgiving follow-up, you can check out an appreciation of America by Jewish Iranian refugee Roya Hakakian, A Modern-Day Pilgrim From the ‘Land of No,‘ that appeared in Common Sense by Bari Weiss.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Catching up with cowpen daisies

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I saw some pleasant cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) this fall but didn’t manage to squeeze any pictures of them into my recent parade of posts till now. The view above of a fresh flower head comes from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 11th, while the portrait of flower-backed seed head remains is from October 6th along Rain Creek Parkway in my neighborhood. Even now I’m still seeing some cowpen daisies.

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Happy Thanksgiving today to those of you in the United States—and for that matter to those of you in other countries. Here’s an article appropriate to the occasion: “Grandma accidentally invited a stranger to Thanksgiving. Now, they are ‘all set for year 6.'”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Mexican hat in autumn

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Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) in central Texas typically reaches its colonial peak in May. That said, individual plants can often be seen flowering here for the rest of the year. So it was on October 6th along Rain Creek Parkway in my neighborhood, where I found a modest group of them.

At the top, you see a Mexican hat inflorescence beginning to form on a gracefully curving stalk. The other two views show a fresh flower head from above and from the side.


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Time to remind you about the Good News Network. “The website, with its archive of 21,000 positive news stories from around the globe, confirms what people already know—that good news itself is not in short supply; the broadcasting of it is…. Thomas Jefferson said the job of journalists was to portray accurately what was happening in society. GNN was founded because the media was failing to report the positive news.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 22, 2021 at 4:33 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

Craters of the Moon — in a way

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So you don’t see a moon or craters in these two October 19th photographs
of Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) and wispy clouds.

The title of today’s post’s refers to the location: Craters of the Moon Blvd. in Pflugerville.
Even now, in mid-November, some Maximilian sunflowers are still with us.

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I’m about a third of the way through Bad News, by the interestingly named Batya Ungar-Sargon, who declares herself to be on the political left. If you’d like, you can watch her in a C-SPAN interview from October 24th. Here are a few things in her book that stood out for me so far.

According to a sociological study of the American press done back in 1986, “journalists were getting more and more liberal with each new generation. Among journalists fifty and older, 43 percent said they were left of center and 23 percent said they were right of center. Of journalists between the ages of thirty-five and fifty, 52 percent identified as being on the left, but just 16 percent as conservative. And in the post-Watergate generation, 70 percent identified as liberals, while just 13 percent said they were conservative.”

“And yet, the trends the sociologists noted in 1986 have only accelerated today. In 1984, 26 percent of journalists voted for Ronald Reagan; by 2014, just 7 percent of journalists identified as Republican. By 2015, 96 percent of journalists who made donations to a political campaign donated to Hillary Clinton. When researchers from Arizona State University and Texas A&M University surveyed business journalists from the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Bloomberg News, Associated Press, Forbes, New York Times, Reuters, and Washington Post in 2018, they found that just 4 percent had conservative political views.”

Such a strong leaning in one political direction has colored the way the news gets reported. “It took all of twenty years for the stories on the front pages of the nation’s major newspapers to go from being descriptive to being analytic and interpretive, a shift that began in 1954 and was completed by 1974. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt gave this shift the justification is needed: By reporting his invented accusations of communism, reporters were amplifying his charges. The lessons many (liberal) journalists learned from the episode was that it was important not just to report the facts but to interpret them. That this interpretation would inevitably have a liberal bent was not the goal so much as it was a byproduct of their sociological make up.”

Batya Ungar-Sargon reports that as far back as 1963 perceptive people in the industry were troubled by the trend. “The shift from description to interpretation was not without its critics—including on the left. James S. Pope of Louisville’s liberal Courier-Journal decried the ‘Frankensteinish’ copy that intermingled the ‘writers personal notions’ with the facts. And John Oakes, the editorial page editor of the New York Times, wrote a letter in 1963 to his cousin and Times publisher, Punch Sulzberger, decrying the shift. He felt that the news side was encroaching on his territory by becoming increasingly opinionated: ‘I suppose I am butting my head against a stone wall; but again I feel I must call your attention to the editorialization in the news columns, which in my view is steadily eroding the Times’ reputation for objective news reporting.’ He was ignored.”

Of course the editorialization and slanting of the news have grown much worse since then. As recently as maybe eight years ago I subscribed to the New York Times but gave it up because too much of the reporting had become blatantly biased.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 16, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid

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November in Austin is prime time for Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum), so on the first day of the month I hied me over to a property a few miles from home where I’ve been finding the species for the past decade. After wandering around for a while I thought I’d failed, as has happened in lean years. Eventually I came across exactly one orchid, and it turned my failure to success. (On the way back I found three more orchids in a small area but they were shorter and grew in places where portraits would have included background clutter.) The right vantage point revealed a tiny spider:


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Here are two related thoughts from approximately 1700 years apart.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” — Juvenal. English translations have included “Who will watch the watchmen?” and “Who will guard the guards themselves?” You could add current relevance with “Who will be in charge of the people who are in charge?” or “Who will police the police?” or “Who will fact-check the fact checkers?”

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” — James Madison in Federalist Papers, No. 51 (1788).

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 12, 2021 at 4:40 AM

Sunflowers from behind

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You could say I’m behind in my pictures of Helianthus annuus, the common sunflower. From the Arbor Walk Pond on October 8th, here are photographs from behind showing sunflowers in two phases. The views resonate with me, so to speak, and a sticky drop confirms that the flower head and the seed head “resinate.”


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Good news from Austin!

Right here in Austin, Texas, some high-minded people devoted to
the pursuit of truth are taking the first steps to found a new university:

  • We’re reclaiming a place in higher education for freedom of inquiry and civil discourse. Our students and faculty will confront the most vexing questions of human life and civil society. We will create a community of conversation grounded in intellectual humility that respects the dignity of each individual and cultivates a passion for truth.
  • The University of Austin is a liberal arts university committed to freedom of inquiry, freedom of conscience, and civil discourse. To maintain these principles, the university is fiercely independent—financially, intellectually, and politically.

You’re welcome to read more. And scroll down to see the well-qualified board of advisors.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 10, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Frostweed flowers and buds

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Starting in September and still continuing, frostweed (Verbesina virginica) has been flowering in many places around Austin. This portrait comes from near Bull Creek on September 30th.


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Silly me expects the news media to examine the evidence and tell the truth.

A week ago today was election day in the United States. One race that people particularly focused on was the governorship of Virginia. Because the state just one year earlier had gone for the Democratic candidate for president of the United States by a margin of some 10 percentage points, the Democratic candidate for governor, former governor Terry McAuliffe, was favored to win last week over the Republican challenger, political novice Glenn Youngkin.

One issue that became especially hot in the final month of the campaign was education. Support for Youngkin surged after McAuliffe said in a debate at the end of September that he does not believe parents should tell schools what to teach. “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision.” Thanks in part—perhaps a large part—to those statements by McAuliffe, Youngkin ended up winning the race for governor by about 2 percentage points.

One educational point of contention in the campaign had been the way in which public school teachers have been increasingly teaching their subjects through a “lens” of power differentials and hierarchies of groups defined by race and gender. That treatment categorizes each individual as “privileged” or “oppressed” according to the supposed status of the groups the individual happens to be a part of. There’s no one agreed-upon name for that kind of emphasis on power and race and gender, but many people have taken to calling it Critical Race Theory, or CRT, a term that originally appeared in higher education in the 1970s. I discussed this back on August 9th. In that commentary I pointed out how some of the people in politics and education who are pushing CRT have resorted to the sophistic defense that what they’re promoting is not actually CRT. I mentioned as an example of that denial the head of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and then I linked to an AFT document showing that the group does indeed promote CRT and is mobilizing to fight opponents of CRT.

The same sort of untrue denial of Critical Race Theory in the schools came up in the Virginia gubernatorial race, where McAuliffe and his supporters, including many commenters in the legacy media, insisted that the state’s public schools do not use CRT. McAuliffe called Critical Race Theory a “racist dog whistle” that has “never been taught in Virginia.” But all it takes is a look at the Virginia Department of Education’s website to confirm that the deniers were and still are lying. For example, on the page of memos from the Superintendent of Schools for 2019, memo 050-19 is a document entitled “Resources to Support Student and Community Dialogues on Racism.” That document endorses the book Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education. Or go to a different place on the Department of Education’s website to see the slide presentation entitled “Legal Implications of School Discipline.” Slide 22 says “Incorporate Critical Race Theory (CRT) Lens.” Christopher Rufo has documented these and other examples.

And yet on election night, as it became clearer and clearer that Youngkin would win, commenters on networks like MSNBC and CNN still kept insisting that CRT “isn’t real,” even with the ready accessibility of public evidence that it is.

Even worse, some people on those networks claimed that the election of the Republican candidate for vice-president of Virginia, Winsome Sears, was proof of white supremacy—despite the fact that Winsome Sears, a black immigrant from Jamaica, is now the first woman ever elected to that office in Virginia. In addition, commenters in the legacy media often avoided mentioning that Republican Jason Miyares, who won Virginia’s election for attorney general, is the son of a Cuban immigrant. Apparently Virginia is home to some very incompetent or very confused white supremacists, who chose “people of color” for two of the top three positions in the election. Talk about delusion in the media!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 9, 2021 at 4:51 AM

Two takes on amberique bean

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Not so long ago I showed an August 22nd picture of amberique bean (Strophostyles helvula or helvola) and I mentioned not often seeing that plant around Austin. Well, on September 30th near Bull Creek I found some more. By then the yellowing leaves offered a bit of early fall color.


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Why don’t things that are easily fixed get fixed?

Non-fiction books used to have footnotes. As “foot” implies, each footnote appeared at the bottom of a page and corresponded to a sentence higher up on the same page. That made it easy to match the little number at the end of a sentence with the matching numbered footnote below. For whatever reason—perhaps because book designers prefer pages to have a single kind of formatting—footnotes have now mostly given way to endnotes, which appear as a group at the back of the book.

One immediate disadvantage to using endnotes is that if you want to see a note you can’t just look down at the bottom of the page but have to flip to the back of the book and hunt for the matching note. Complicating the search is that the numbering of the notes starts all over with each new chapter, so you have to know which chapter you’re currently in. While some books repeat the title of the chapter at the top of each page or double-page spread, almost no books tell you the number of the chapter at the top of the page. So first you have to thumb back until you find the beginning of the chapter you’re in so you know its number. Then you run into the same problem in the endnotes, where the chapter number is usually given only at the beginning of each section of notes; if the section of notes for a chapter continues for several pages, as often happens, then past the first page of that section you can’t tell what chapter the notes correspond to.

One easy fix for the problem is to put the chapter number at the top of every double-page spread of text and again at the top of every double-page spread of endnotes.

Another fix would be sequential numbering of the notes from the beginning of the book to the end, rather than starting the numbering over with each new chapter—just as page numbers are consecutive and don’t restart with each new chapter. With consecutive numbering of notes, chapter numbers become irrelevant and all you have to do is search for the note number you want in the section at the back. (Some people might object that continuous footnote numbers in a big book could run to four digits, but I have confidence that people who are reading big books with lots of notes in the first place can handle four digits.)

Another solution is the one adopted in the book I’m currently reading, Jonathan Rauch’s The Constitution of Knowledge. Note numbers do start over with each new chapter, but in the notes section at the back of the book, the top of each page tells you what pages in the book the notes match up with, for example “Notes to Pages 238–49.” That way, before turning to the back of the book, all you have to do is see what page of text the number you’re interested in is on, then look for that page number at the end. That eliminates the need to know which chapter a note refers to.

Or, best of all, publishers could just go back to good old footnotes and save us the annoyance of repeatedly flipping back and forth between text and endnotes.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2021 at 4:35 AM

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