Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘geology

Devil’s Waterhole

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On January 26th we spent some time at Inks Lake State Park, located about an hour west of Austin. The damming of the Colorado River has deepened and widened a portion of Valley Spring Creek to create what people call the Devil’s Waterhole, as you’re seeing above. Further upstream is the small waterfall shown below. Both views reveal how attractive the bedrock and boulders are in that part of central Texas.



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The University of Central Florida has adopted radical Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programming that segregates students by race, condemns the United States as “white-supremacist culture,” and encourages active discrimination against the “oppressor” class, characterized as “male, White, heterosexual, able-bodied, and Christian.”

Officially, UCF reports that it has 14 separate DEI programs, costing in the aggregate more than $4 million per year. But this dramatically understates the reality, which is that the ideology of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” has been entrenched everywhere. The university’s administration and academic departments have created a blizzard of programs, classes, trainings, reports, committees, certifications, events, documents, policies, clubs, groups, conferences, and statements pledging UCF to left-wing racialism.

So begins Christopher Rufo’s February 15th City Journal article “Racism in the Name of “Anti-Racism.” Of course segregating people and programs by race is blatantly illegal, but the attitude of “anti-racist” racists could be summed up as: the 14th Amendment and the 1964 Civil Rights Act and human decency be damned.

As the article explains, Rufo and some of his colleagues have proposed doing away with racialized bureaucracies and programs in Florida’s universities. You can read about that in the document titled “Abolish DEI Bureaucracies and Restore Colorblind Equality in Public Universities.”


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 21, 2023 at 4:23 AM

Lichens on boulders at Inks Lake State Park

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On January 26th we spent several hours at Inks Lake State Park.



Boulder-hugging lichens are a prominent feature there.
Naturally I couldn’t resist doing some abstract takes on them.



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 A Multiplicity of National Anthems


Since the moral panic of 2020 it’s become ever more common at sporting events in this country to hear not only the traditional national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but also what some are calling the black national anthem. So much for the “United” States.

Now, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander—and also for all the gander’s neighbors. Where the black share of the U.S. population is 13.8%, the Hispanic share is 19%, so surely a Hispanic national anthem should join the regular national anthem and the black national anthem at sporting events. In the spirit of inclusion, shouldn’t we also recognize the 6.2% of the U.S. population that’s Asian? Surely an Asian national anthem should join the regular national anthem and the black national anthem and the Hispanic national anthem at sporting events. And we can’t forget the 2.6% of the American population descended from aboriginal peoples, so an aboriginal national anthem should join the regular national anthem and the black national anthem and the Hispanic national anthem and the Asian national anthem at sporting events. And what about the 3.2% of the population that identifies as mixed-race? Surely a mixed-race national anthem should join the regular national anthem and the black national anthem and the Hispanic national anthem and the Asian national anthem and the aboriginal national anthem at sporting events. Oh, and we’ve got to include the largest racial group of all, the 75.8% of the population that is white. Therefore a white national anthem should join the regular national anthem and the black national anthem and the Hispanic national anthem and the Asian national anthem and the aboriginal national anthem and the mixed-race national anthem at sporting events.

But why stop with racial groups? Women make up 50.5% of the population, so a women’s national anthem should join the regular national anthem and the black national anthem and the Hispanic national anthem and the Asian national anthem and the aboriginal national anthem and the mixed-race national anthem and the white national anthem at sporting events. The same goes for the 49.5% of the population comprising men, therefore a men’s national anthem should join the regular national anthem and the black national anthem and the Hispanic national anthem and the Asian national anthem and the aboriginal national anthem and the mixed-race national anthem and the white national anthem and the women’s national anthem at sporting events.

Moving away from biological sex, we find that genderologists have identified dozens and dozens of genders and are hard at work discovering many more. As a result of that groundbreaking research, we’ll need a cisgender national anthem, a transgender national anthem, a cishet national anthem, a non-binary national anthem (or perhaps several), an intersex national anthem, a cloudgender national anthem, a genderqueer national anthem, a gender-fluid national anthem, an agender national anthem, a gender-void national anthem, an omnigender national anthem, a pangender national anthem, an androgyne national anthem, an aporagender national anthem, a demi-boy national anthem, a demi-girl national anthem, a neutrois national anthem, a mekangender national anthem, a maverique national anthem, a lunagender national anthem, a xenogender national anthem, and on and on and on.

To be fair to people with disabilities, we’ll also need an arthritis national anthem, a paraplegia national anthem, a quadriplegia national anthem, a wheelchair national anthem, a hypertension national anthem, an overweight national anthem, an obese national anthem, a pacemaker national anthem, an Alzheimer’s national anthem, a cancer national anthem, a stroke national anthem, an asthma national anthem, a blind national anthem (written down in Braille, of course), a short-sighted national anthem, a far-sighted national anthem, a deaf national anthem, an anemia national anthem, a gastritis national anthem, a cleft-palate national anthem, an emphysema national anthem, a stutterer’s national anthem, a bald national anthem, a schizophrenia national anthem, a bipolar national anthem, an autism national anthem, a dandruff national anthem, a halitosis national anthem, a little people’s national anthem, an anorexia national anthem, an eczema national anthem, and so forth. We also mustn’t forget a national anthem for dead people, as it’s not unusual for at least one person to die at a large sporting event, especially when fans riot.

I see no choice but for our government to create a new cabinet position, the Secretary of National Anthems, whose first job will be to commission the composing of an anthem for each of the thousands of groups into which the country’s population can be subdivided. To avoid categorical appropriation, naturally only a composer who is a member of a given group will be allowed to create the anthem for that group.

I see two ways of dealing with the fact that playing through all the national anthems at a sporting event will take days. One possibility is to cancel the sporting events themselves and turn the playing of all the anthems into very long concerts. If sports fans object to that minor inconvenience, another possibility is to play a modest selection of national anthems—say 20 to 30—at each sporting event. The Secretary of National Anthems would be charged with setting up an elaborately rotating schedule of selections which would ensure each national anthem gets played as many times a year as each other national anthem. The Secretary would also have to commission additional anthems and modify schedules as new categories of identity are discovered, which recent history guarantees they will be.

Why no one else has written about this before me, I have no idea (though it reminds me that we also need an intelligence national anthem). Once a country goes from one national anthem to two, it’s only logical to keep on going down that long and winding road to infinity.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 19, 2023 at 4:30 AM

Farewell to Palo Duro Canyon

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Palo Duro Canyon lies in what’s called the Panhandle Plains. As you approach, the flat land
offers nary a clue that you’re getting close to the second largest canyon in the United States.



Eventually you reach a place where the land drops away and you suddenly see swaths of the canyon
spread out before you. A convenient parking lot lets you get out and take in the vistas.



We stopped there only on our way out of the park, so eager had I been when we arrived in the morning
to get down into the canyon. These four pictures, all taken sequentially from the same spot an average
of one minute apart, show you some of the canyon’s diverse and intriguing geological formations.



A cursory look has left me thinking there’s no overlap among the four photographs.



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I’ve spoken many times now about the authoritarianism creeping—and sometimes bounding—into the English-speaking countries. Briton Andrew Doyle has felt it, too. Here’s the beginning of his 2021 book Free Speech:

It’s the kind of phrase that wouldn’t seem out of place in the pages of a dystopian novel. Yet these were not the words of an agent of some totalitarian regime, but rather those of a police officer in the United Kingdom in 2019. Harry Miller, a fifty-three-year-old entrepreneur and former constable, was contacted by Humberside Police following a complaint by an offended party about a poem that he had shared on social media which was deemed to be transphobic. During the course of the conversation, the officer explained that, although not illegal, this nevertheless qualified as a ‘non-crime hate incident’. Why, Miller asked, was the unnamed complainant being described as a ‘victim’ if no crime had been committed? More to the point, why was he being investigated at all? To which came the ominous response: ‘We need to check your thinking.’

Over the past decade, many people have detected a pattern of minor changes in our culture, a kind of piecemeal reconfiguration at odds with our hard-won rights to personal autonomy. Miller’s case is not an isolated affair. Between 2014 and 2019, almost 120,000 ‘non-crime hate incidents’ were recorded by police forces in England and Wales. This sort of development has left a substantial number of us feeling as though we are no longer on secure ground; the tremors are too persistent. The ‘culture wars’, although often dismissed by commentators as a manufactured phenomenon, are closely tied to this gnawing sense that something is amiss. Miller’s experience is one of many stories in which the principle of free speech has been casually disregarded for the sake of what is perceived to be a higher social priority.

Much of this can be explained by a sea change in the public’s attitude to free expression and its key function in a liberal society. A new identity-based conceptualisation of ‘social justice’ has brought with it a mistrust of unfettered speech and appeals for greater intervention from the state. We are left facing that confusing and rare phenomenon: the well-intentioned authoritarian. When those who long for a fairer society are also calling for censorship, we find ourselves stranded on unfamiliar terrain. How are we meant to respond when the people who wish to deprive us of our rights sincerely believe that they are doing so for our own good?


In addition to reading Free Speech, you can watch Andrew Doyle interviewing Toby Young, the head of the Free Speech Union, on what has been called ‘offense archaeology.’


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 10, 2023 at 4:31 AM

More from Palo Duro Canyon

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Here are a few more pictures from our October 20th visit last year to
Palo Duro Canyon, the largest one in the United States after the Grand Canyon.



Easy pickings, you might say, in such a scenic place.




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Tomorrow marks the start of the 118th Congress. As political discourse resumes, the phrase we’re likely to hear is that staple of progressive rhetoric: “the right side of history.” We will be told that this is where progressives are, and anyone who disagrees with them is on the wrong side—backwards, obsolescent, headed for the dustbin.

The phrase embodies a specific view of history, the idea that the course of human events—with whatever stops and starts and temporary setbacks—traces an inevitable upward path. The notion dates back to the nineteenth century, if not earlier: to Hegel and Marx, to the liberal or “Whig” historians, to the Progressive movement itself. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

And those on the “wrong side” of history? “History will judge them”—will judge Donald Trump, will judge Bill Barr, will judge Dave Chappelle and J.K. Rowling, will judge all the bads.

But history does not have sides. It does not take sides. The progressive view of history is not an observation. It’s a theory. It’s a myth that takes its place alongside other, different, historical myths: the belief that history is cyclical; the belief that history represents a long decline from some imagined Golden Age; the belief that we are heading towards apocalypse, or Messiah, or both.


That’s the beginning of a January 2nd article in The Free Press by William Deresiewicz entitled “There Is No Right Side of History.” The subtitle is “I’m a political progressive. The idea that ‘history’ is on our side—which we’re sure to hear during this 118th Congress—is a dangerous myth.”

I’m not a political progressive and I don’t share Deresiewicz’s criticism of certain people, yet I find his take on history cogent. You’re welcome to read the full article.

(Last August I referred to an article by him in Quillette titled “Why I left academia.” The subtitle was “I didn’t have a choice. Thousands of people are driven out of the profession each year.”)


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 9, 2023 at 4:26 AM

Near the Mesquite Camping Area

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Park Road 5 is the main thoroughfare through* Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Texas panhandle. On October 20th we drove as far southeast as the road goes. Near its end I pulled into the Mesquite Camping Area to take pictures of attractive geological formations close by.



The trees give you a sense of how large these formations are.



* Almost no native English speakers know that thorough and through are
two forms of the same word. If you do a thorough job you go all the way through it.
A thoroughfare is a road that goes all the way through a terrain.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 7, 2023 at 4:27 AM

Palo Duro Canyon

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We drove from Santa Fe to Amarillo rather than follow a more direct route back to Austin because we wanted to spend time at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which we hadn’t visited for at least 20 years.



My impression is that most people outside Texas have never heard of Palo Duro, even though it’s the second largest canyon in the United States. The largest is obviously the Grand Canyon, and some people have even called Palo Duro the Grand Canyon of Texas. On October 20th we spent about four-and-a-half hours going around the state park, with me of course taking many photographs.



The pictures in this post are all from Capitol Peak, perhaps the most scenic place in the park.



Could you tell that the second and fourth photographs show the same formation from different angles?



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You may be aware that by the early 20th century a blight had wiped out most of America’s billions of chestnut trees. With that in mind, you may want to read the article titled “Technology Puts American Chestnut Trees on the Comeback Trail,” whose subtitle is “U.S. considers releasing a genetically modified version tolerant of blight, as some people warn of environmental risks.”


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 4, 2023 at 4:36 AM

Closing an eventful day

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Late in the afternoon on October 18th we stopped at Camel Rock on US 84 north of Santa Fe. While no colorful sunset came to meet us there the way it had in 2017, for a brief time the sun did pierce the western clouds to spotlight parts of the badlands prominent on the eastern side of the highway. That dedicated light advantaged me, as did focal lengths at the long end of my 100–400mm lens, when I hurried to portray the illumined badlands formations before the clouds settled back in.



In the top picture, the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo Mountains provided the background. That’s where this one remarkable photographic day began. It included yellow aspens and cottonwoods and willows, forests, badlands, hoodoos, and of course snow-covered mountains. It has provided the material for 10 posts with at least two photographs apiece. I could easily have done more posts about that day but the time has come to move on, even as the next day saw us moving on.



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Yesterday on a local television program the announcer spoke about “a California nursing home facility.” That last word is redundant because a nursing home is a kind of facility. Nothing is lost in saying “a California nursing home.” Similarly unnecessary is the last word in often-heard phrases like “in a school setting” and “in a hospital setting.” It’s sufficient to say “in a school” or “in schools,” “in a hospital” or “in hospitals.”


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 7, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Camel Rock again

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By the time we’d visited the Santuario de Chimayó and eaten at the Rancho de Chimayó restaurant to celebrate the Lady Eve’s birthday on October 18th, it was late afternoon and therefore too late to continue on to Taos, as we’d be losing daylight by the time we got there. We turned back toward Santa Fe. On the way down US 84 I couldn’t resist stopping again at Camel Rock. On our previous visit to the area in 2017 we’d lucked out and caught a great sunset there. No such luck this time. Still, a photographer has to deal with conditions as they are, and these two pictures show the approaches I tried. In both cases I played up the clouds, and in the second image I obviously went for a silhouette.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 5, 2022 at 4:26 AM

From Nambé to Chimayó

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On October 18th at Nambé Pueblo I had a great time photographing the hoodoos and other formations. Then, as we continued north-northeast on Highway 503, which forms a portion of the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway, to reach Chimayó about 10 miles away, we kept seeing more parts of the Nambé badlands that deserved to pictured.



You’re seeing two of those pictures here. And who could resist the clouds
over the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo mountains off to the east?




© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 3, 2022 at 4:30 AM

More from Nambé Pueblo

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On October 18th at Nambé Pueblo I had a great time photographing the badlands. Today’s first two pictures provide closer looks at hoodoos on opposite sides of the panorama that set the scene two posts back. The patch of yellow at the edge of the second picture was a cottonwood tree, Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii



And here’s a clear shot of the hoodoo that previously appeared behind trees:



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 2, 2022 at 4:34 AM

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