Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘ice

A fifth installment of icicles

with 30 comments

 

On December 25th I spent nearly four hours photographing icicles hanging along a cliff in Great Hills Park just half a mile from home. In posts on December 28th, December 31st, January 8th, and January 14th you’ve seen how I tried out various approaches, both with and without flash. Now here are some more icicles from that productive session. The upside-down dead tree in the top photograph was an Ashe juniper, Juniperus ashei.

 

 

The second portrait is an artsy abstraction.
It’s almost monochrome, with a slight brown tinge in the lower left.

Icebergs often look blue. Icicles can appear that way, too:

 

 

Lots of the icicles that morning had a gnarly look. You might consider the ones below a sort of
bas-relief, given that they didn’t hang completely free of the vertical rock face behind them.
Once again the ice could almost pass for melted wax that had dripped and then congealed.

  

 

 

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Last year I wrote a commentary about Marva Collins, an elementary school teacher in the poor Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago. I quoted parts of an article by Carrie-Ann Biondi in the Spring 2019 issue of The Objective Standard, including this one:

Observers in Collins’s classroom repeatedly were astonished by the high-level curriculum she developed for students ages three to thirteen. She began each year with essays such as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” and fables such as “The Little Red Hen.” Students soon moved on to poetry, including works by Rudyard Kipling and [Henry] Wadsworth Longfellow. In time, they progressed to Plato’s dialogues. By second and third grade, they were reading William Shakespeare’s plays (Macbeth and Hamlet were student favorites) and reciting Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. With these under their belts, it was not uncommon for students to dive headlong into a seemingly unquenchable reading frenzy. And Collins kept hundreds of books on hand, suggesting just the right one for each student to read next. Each student wrote a report every two weeks about his latest book, presented it to the class, and answered questions raised by the other students. This sparked so much interest in reading that book that students vied to be next on the waiting list.

This week I finished reading the 1982 (and updated in 1990) book Marva Collins’ Way, by the teacher herself and Civia Tamarkin, with a foreword by Alex Haley of Roots fame. Here’s a line that stood out:

The longer I taught in the public school system, the more I came to think that schools were concerned with everything but teaching.

That’s unfortunately as true today as it was in the 1970s and ’80s. This past November, people in Austin (but of course not me) approved a school bond package of $2,439,000,000 (that’s $2.4 billion!) mostly for school modernization projects, security improvements and other upgrades. None of that fortune will lead a single child to read better or do math better or know more about history, geography, or science. It’s a disgrace.

A big reason that so many children don’t learn much in schools is the ineffective methods that teachers have been trained to use. Here again Marva Collins was on to that half a century ago:

Over the years, I have come to believe that some of the problems plaguing modern education are the result of the emphasis placed on “progressive” teaching methods. In an effort to follow John Dewey’s notion of a student-centered rather than subject-centered approach to learning, schools have too often sacrificed subject matter, being more concerned with how they taught rather than what they taught. During the late 1960s and the 1970s, when our society was becoming fascinated with pop psychology, many young men and women entered the teaching profession thinking “As long as I can relate to a child, what difference does it make if he or she can’t spell cat?

If you’re interested in education, check out Marva Collins’ Way. In addition to dealing with effective approaches to teaching, the book includes many endearing stories about the children Marva Collins taught.

 

 © 2023 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2023 at 4:31 AM

A fourth installment of icicles

with 42 comments

 

On December 25th I spent nearly four hours photographing icicles hanging from a cliff in Great Hills Park just half a mile from home. In posts on December 28th, December 31st, and January 8th, you’ve seen how I tried out various approaches, both with and without flash. Now here are more icicles from that productive session.

 

 

The shattered dead tree in the second photograph was an Ashe juniper, Juniperus ashei. The ice-framed alcove below struck me as a sort of shrine, with the ice at the bottom reminiscent of the accumulated wax from candles that have burned all the way down.

 

 

Below, I worked at catching a drop of meltwater just as it was about to separate from the icicle’s tip.

 

  

 

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We often hear that the United States has become highly polarized, with roughly equal numbers of people in camps that for convenience might be called “progressive” and “conservative” (though within each of those camps beliefs also vary). Confirming the polarization is the fact that many recent key elections have been quite close. Members of the Senate and House of Representatives are almost equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, which are labels that serve as proxies for people with progressive and conservative views.

Now, human traits like musical ability, athleticism, and intelligence, occur according to what scientists call a normal distribution. Here’s what it looks like for IQ scores:

 

  

The distribution is symmetric. Most people cluster in the middle: a little more than two-thirds of the population has IQs between 85 and 115. As you go farther from the center in either direction, the number of people tapers off. A few people with very low and very high IQs are at the extremes.

Political leanings are independent of intelligence. Some progressives are highly intelligent; others lack intelligence. Some conservatives are highly intelligent; others lack intelligence. Given that reality, you’d expect progressives and conservatives to be about equally represented among college professors. The reality is strikingly different.

The Summer 2018 issue of Academic Questions included an article by Mitchell Langbert titled “Homogenous: The Political Affiliations of Elite Liberal Arts College Faculty.” Look at this chart from the article that reports the results of a study that included 5,116 professors:

 

 

To the right of each blue bar is a number that gives you the ratio of registered Democrats to registered Republicans for professors in that field. For example, the first row in the chart shows that among professors of engineering in the elite institutions surveyed there were 1.6 registered Democrats for each registered Republican. Among professors of history there were 17.4 registered Democrats for each registered Republican. In English departments the ratio was a whopping 48.3 to 1. And in the fields of anthropology and communications not a single registered Republican could be found!

Someone who wanted to be sarcastic might say: Well, Republicans aren’t very bright, so that’s exactly what you’d expect. Obviously that’s not the reason. In fact Republicans are most represented (though still way underrepresented) in intellectually demanding fields like engineering, chemistry, and mathematics. (And now I’ll be sarcastic and point out that any dolt can be an English major but it takes brains to do calculus.) Furthermore, if you go back say 50 years, you didn’t find hugely lopsided ratios like these, and surely the distribution of human intelligence hasn’t changed in half a century.

No, the heavily skewed distribution in the 2018 study (and it must be even more so now, after the pandemic of disease and delusion that struck in 2020) reflects the way leftist ideology has taken over almost all of academia. Many departments just won’t hire an applicant whose work goes counter to the prevailing orthodoxy and who has too much dignity to genuflect and swear the required oath of allegiance to the triune academic gods of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion*, hallowed be their names.

You’re welcome to read Mitchell Langbert’s article and also the January 11th one in Quillette that alerted me to the older one: Elizabeth Weiss’s “A Report From the Stanford Academic Freedom Conference.”

 

 

* Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion often goes by the initialism DEI, which appropriately is the Latin word for ‘gods.’

 

 

© 2023 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 14, 2023 at 4:27 AM

Still more and different takes on icicles

with 38 comments

 

Here’s a third installment of portraits that came from nearly four hours of
photographic playing with icicles on the morning of December 25th.

 

 

The location was a stretch of cliffs along the main creek in Great Hills Park.

 

 

In the odd-numbered pictures I used flash. In the even-numbered photographs natural light had its way with the ice. Each approach had an advantage. Flash allowed for more to stay in focus from front to back. Natural light let the icicles hold on to the colors they picked up from their surroundings.

 

  

(Pictures from Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle will resume next time.)

  

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Parents in the United States have a strong preference for charter schools, regardless of demographic factors including race, income, geographic region or political affiliation, according to a report released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

An online survey of some 5,000 parents of schoolchildren revealed that 74 percent would consider sending their child to a charter school if one were available to them. Even among parents who might not choose a charter, 84 percent believe charter schools should be available to others.

Nearly 90 percent of families whose children have switched school types experienced a positive change as a result of the switch, with 57 percent saying their child was happier.

 

So begins a January 6th story in The Epoch Times. You can read the whole article. One thing I would want to know is how representative the online respondents were of the American population as a whole.

 

© 2023 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 8, 2023 at 4:31 AM

More takes on icicles

with 34 comments

 

Icicles and I had something in common for nearly four hours on the morning of December 25th: we met at a cliff along the main creek in Great Hills Park. As the day advanced, I swapped my heavy winter jacket for a lighter one and took off my gloves. The icicles, clad in nothing, had only parts of themselves to shed, which at first they barely and then more noticeably did.

I took hundreds and hundreds of pictures as I tried different ways of portraying the icicles. Sometimes I used flash, as above, where the nether ends of the icicles merged with ice that had formed when dripping water froze on a stone slope.

 

 

At other times I went without flash. After I noticed the still-low sun intermittently peeking through far branches and close icicles pendant from a rock overhang, I exposed for the bright light, knowing the rest of the image would remain, and wanting it to remain, largely dark. Aiming into the sun produced two artifacts. One, expected, is the sunburst. As for the other, serendipitous and pareidolic, I’ll leave it to you to see whether your imagination works the same way mine does.

Also without flash, and much farther from my subject, is the view below showing tiers of icicles adjacent to southern maidenhair ferns, Adiantum capillus-veneris. From what I’ve read, the brown fern leaves were dead, even as the plants they were on might have been merely dormant.

 

 

 

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The other day I complained about Congress passing an “omnibus” bill filled with many wasteful and frivolous things that will cause us, the taxpayers, to borrow another $1.67 trillion at increasingly high interest rates. Not only doesn’t Congress rein in profligate spending, our government doesn’t seem duly concerned about stopping fraud. Here’s a case in point.

As someone of a certain age, I’m on Medicare, which is a government health program for old folks. My December Medicare statement showed two unauthorized charges, one for August 26, 2022, and the other for September 26, 2022. In each case the biller was West Lake RX LLC, at 1255 SW Loop, Suite 120, San Antonio, TX 78227-1666, with phone number 210-851-8448. The billing in the amount of $351.90 on each of those two dates was for “1 Supply allowance for therapeutic continuous glucose monitor (cgm), includes all supplies and acces[s]o[ries] (K0553-KXCG).” The doctor who supposedly prescribed this, Laeeq Butt, is unknown to me, but when I searched online I found he practices telemedicine in Florida. I have never had any medical condition that requires glucose monitoring. When I called Medicare to report the unauthorized billings I was told that this is a known fraud and constitutes criminal activity because Medicare paid the company $183.93 each time. West Lake RX LLC doesn’t seem to have a website of its own, but at Yelp I found many people reporting similar fraudulent billing from the company.

Human nature being what it is, we expect some people to commit fraud. We also expect our government employees, of whom there are millions, to do something about it. Alas, the agent I spoke with at Medicare when I reported the unauthorized billing told me Medicare has no mechanism to flag fraudulent claims on people’s accounts. That seems to mean criminal companies will keep billing Medicare, and Medicare will keep using our tax money to pay the fraudulent claims. Outrageous, isn’t it? It’s also outrageous, since this is a known fraud, that the Federal District Attorney in San Antonio hasn’t filed charges against the company and had the police arrest the people committing the fraud.

I’ve reported all the details of my fraudulent billing not only to Medicare but also, as the Medicare agent instructed me to do, to the Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Trade Commission. Whether it will do any good remains to be seen.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 31, 2022 at 4:27 AM

No precipitation needed

with 19 comments

 

I was happy enough to have gotten frostweed ice pictures in Great Hills Park on December 18th and again just five days later. On the morning of the 25th the idea suddenly came to me that I should go hunting for icicles, even though we’d had neither rain nor snow nor sleet. So back I went to my neighborhood park, where I found that my intuition had known what it was talking about.

 

 

The sustained freeze of more than a day, followed by a couple of rounds of light thawing and more freezing, had festooned the cliffs along a section of the park’s main creek with icicles. The water that made them must have seeped through the rocky face of the cliffs, there to get frozen in the unusual cold.

 

  

In the top picture, the branches are from a dead Ashe juniper tree, Juniperus ashei. Notice the fungi on the leaning trunk. The chiaroscuro close-up in the middle is me being artsy. The bottom photograph shows an area where the cliff is approximately vertical; as a result, many of the icicles that formed there were only semi-detached from the rock surface.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Frostweed ice for the second time in five days

with 17 comments

 

The Austin weather forecast for yesterday morning had been predicting 15°, and that’s about what it was when I checked our outdoor thermometer on Friday morning. As much as I don’t thrive in frigid temperatures, I made myself go back to the convenient frostweed (Verbesina virginica) colony in Great Hills Park. This time only a few plants had done the ice trick, and it differed from last Sunday by mostly not scrolling around each plant’s stalk but rather taking ribbony shapes leading away from the stalk.

 

 

So much the better for variety.

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 24, 2022 at 4:24 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Down to around freezing overnight

with 38 comments

 

As recently as this past week I was still finding a few flowers on frostweed plants (Verbesina virginica) in Austin. The picture above is from the drizzly morning of December 10th.

The common name for this species comes not from its white flowers but from one of the strangest phenomena in botany. By the time the frost begins settling overnight on the lands where frostweed grows, almost all of these plants have gone to seed. Although each stalk stands there unappealingly as it dries out, the first good freeze can cause it to draw underground water up into its base. Now for the strange trick: the exterior of the part of the stalk near the ground splits open as it extrudes freezing water laterally, and that process produces thin sheets of ice that curl and fold around the broken stalk.

Yesterday morning the temperature in Austin got down to around freezing, so off I went to the stand of frostweed plants in Great Hills Park I’ve been relying on for a decade to produce ice. They didn’t disappoint me. Here are three frostweed ice portraits:

 

 

As always with a familiar subject, I worked to get pictures that look
at least somewhat different from the ones I’ve taken over the years.

 

 

All of these fit that description.

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 19, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Water white against blue times two

with 18 comments

On February 5th at Austin’s Bull Creek District Park I played off ice against a clear blue sky. On March 1st outside my house wispy clouds filled in for the white of the ice. Both ice and clouds are forms of water.

 

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Before she decided to strip him of all custody over his son, Drew—before determining that he would have no say in whether Drew began medical gender transition—California Superior Court Judge Joni Hiramoto asked Ted Hudacko this: “If your son [Drew] were medically psychotic and believed himself to be the Queen of England, would you love him?”

“Of course I would,” the senior software engineer at Apple replied, according to the court transcript. “I’d also try to get him help.”

 

So begins a February 7th City Journal article by Abigail Shrier entitled “Child Custody’s Gender Gauntlet.” You probably don’t know the extent to which gender ideology has been taking over our courts. If you read this article you’ll sadly find out.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 3, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Looking back less distantly, more icily

with 10 comments

Yesterday’s two posts looked back 7 and 56 years. Today’s post looks back 23 days to Austin’s Bull Creek District Park, where I went hunting for icicles and came home with a good photographic catch.

 

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Check out the article “Ukrainian Women Bring Back Traditional Floral Crowns To Show National Pride.”
It includes 14 photographs of elaborate floral headdresses.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 28, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Posted in nature photography

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An end to a week of icicle posts

with 31 comments

Along Rain Creek on February 5th I found two great icicle clusters.
Last time you saw one of them, and now here’s the other.

 

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Global warming is global. No matter where in the world oil and gas come from, the burning of them anywhere eventually affects the climate everywhere else. And yet the current American administration either doesn’t understand that globality or understands but ignores it for ideological reasons. As the price of gasoline in the United States kept rising in 2021 and into 2022—on February 10th it averaged $3.48, about a dollar more than a year ago—the current administration repeatedly asked OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) to step up production. The reasoning follows a sound economic principle: the greater the supply of a commodity, the lower its price generally gets.

But we shouldn’t have to be begging other countries to increase the supply of oil. Practically the first thing the new American administration did when it took over in January 2021 was cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline that in a few years would have increased the supply of oil coming into the United States from Canada. The administration also made it harder and more costly for oil companies to extract oil on our own federal land.

You probably aren’t aware, as I wasn’t until the other day, that throughout the 21st century the United States has continued to import oil from Russia. The quantity of Russian oil being imported has in fact now reached a record level and accounts for about 8% of all our imported oil. That’s coincidentally about the same amount as the Keystone XL pipeline would have carried once it went into operation.

It makes no sense for the United States to keep importing oil from the Middle East and Russia when we could get it from neighboring Canada and especially from our own land. As I said at the beginning, the effect on global warming is the same no matter where the oil that’s used comes from. We could have American companies and American workers profiting from our own oil, just as our country as a whole would benefit from being self-sufficient in energy.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 12, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Posted in nature photography

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