Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘insect

Here’s looking at you, kid[neywood flowers]

with 6 comments

How ’bout this face-on view of a small fly getting nectar from the flowers of a kidneywood tree (Eysenhardtia texana) in my neighborhood on December 16, 2021? That tree kept putting out flowers through the end of the year, even if only a tiny fraction of what it had produced at the end of October.

(This post’s title is an allusion to a line from the movie “Casablanca.”)

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Three months ago in these pages I wrote a commentary pointing out that inflation is a hidden tax that most affects the people least able to afford it, including the poor, of course, and the elderly on fixed incomes. People who have dutifully saved money for their later years look on helplessly as their retirement savings dwindle in value.

Yesterday the United States government announced that from December 2020 to December 2021, the Consumer Price Index had risen 7%, which was the highest jump in 40 years. A big factor in the increase is that both the last administration and the current one each spent trillions of dollars that we don’t have. Borrowing and printing money so extravagantly contributed heavily to the high inflation we’re now experiencing. And still the current administration is desperate to borrow, print, and spend trillions of dollars more in a Congressional bill that I can’t help but call Bilk Back Better. It’s madness.

UPDATE: A Quinnipiac poll whose results were released yesterday found that only 34% of the respondents approve the current president’s handling of the economy, with 57% disapproving. (The margin of error was 2.7 percentage points.)

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If you have the time, you can watch a two-hour conversation
among Steven Pinker, Jonthan Haidt, and Jordan Peterson.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 13, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Sunlight from behind versus flash from in front

with 27 comments

Behold two takes on flameleaf sumac, Rhus lanceolata, from November 1st along Spicewood Springs Rd. In the top view I took advantage of the sun in front of me for backlighting; in the other picture I used flash. You might say the second view isn’t “natural,” but then neither is photography.

Only when processing the pictures a couple of weeks after I took them did I notice some sort of translucent insect. You can make it out near the center of the lower photograph. Higher up you can also make out a tiny lacewing egg attached by a filament to one of the leaflets. Now that you’re aware of those two things, you can also see them in the top picture.

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The other day I learned about an important court case from 2008 involving free speech. It’s described in an Inside Higher Ed article and you can watch a half-hour video about it produced by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 29, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Two brown things

with 18 comments

The opening picture confirms that as I was wandering near Bull Creek on September 30th I noticed something brown on a sideways inflorescence of giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida. I managed to find a position from which the unknown thing—probably the remains of a caterpillar—lined up with a nearby prairie agalinis flower, Agalinis heterophylla. The photograph below, from November 9th at the Riata Trace Pond, is of a curlicue or tilde coming off the main part of a bushy bluestem seed head, Andropogon glomeratus. Whether the tilde is upside down, as shown here, or right side up, depends on which side it gets looked at from. Now that I think of it, that could be a metaphor for many things in life, couldn’t it?

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The other day I came across a revealing 14-minute excerpt of a discussion between Coleman Hughes and Bonnie Snyder about some of the abuses being perpetrated by “woke” teachers in our public schools. The examples provided in the interview refute the claim that Critical Race Theory isn’t really being taught in our schools. You can find out much more in Bonnie Snyder’s new book, Undoctrinate.

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UPDATE. The day before yesterday I mentioned that I gave up my subscription to the New York Times some years ago after I found that too many of the stories the paper presented as news were ideologically slanted. Yesterday I came across an Epoch Times article from March 2021 reporting that New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood similarly found that “in stories from 2020 about Project Veritas videos, [New York Times] writers writers Maggie Astor and Tiffany Hsu had inserted sentences that were opinions despite the articles being billed as news.”

“’If a writer interjects an opinion in a news article (and will seek to claim legal protections as opinion) it stands to reason that the writer should have an obligation to alert the reader, including a court that may need to determine whether it is fact or opinion, that it is opinion,’ Wood wrote in a 16-page decision denying the paper’s request to dismiss a lawsuit from Project Veritas.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 18, 2021 at 4:36 AM

Clammyweed

with 33 comments

Clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra ssp. trachysperma) has appeared in several posts here. Because the most recent was in 2015, it’s high time to let you have another look at the helter-skelter inflorescence of this species. Notice the tiny bee in the lower part of the top picture. In the image below, you’re looking at a caterpillar on a clammyweed pod. Presumably the chomped-out part of the pod was inside the caterpillar at the time I made the portrait. Both of today’s photographs are from my neighborhood on October 6th.


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As someone who spent years studying linguistics, I often notice when someone uses a word in an unusual way. Take a look at this interchange:

Person A: This morning I went shopping for food and filled up a whole grocery cart.
Person B: How much did you spend?
Person A: The cash register rang up $217.65.
Person B: Wow, that cart of groceries cost you a lot!
Person A: Oh no, it cost me zero.
Person B: How do you figure that? I thought you said it cost you $217.65.
Person A: No, I said the register rang up $217.65. But then I paid the $217.65, so the groceries cost me zero.

Readers, what do you say? Is it true that the groceries cost Person A zero?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 24, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Smartweed from pond to pond and insect to insect

with 19 comments

I think the first time this year I photographed smartweed (Polygonum or Persicaria sp.) was on July 7th at the Riata Trace Pond, as shown above. Note what seems to be the segmented tan larva of an insect sitting inconspicuously in the middle of the inflorescence at the right.

The two main colors in the top photograph warrant a different observation, a surprising one that I’ve repeated here from time to time: as recently as the first half of the 20th century people in the United States took pink to be the appropriate color for boys and blue the appropriate color for girls. Let that be a reminder or how quickly and arbitrarily fashions often change.

The most recent time I photographed smartweed was at the Arbor Walk Pond on October 8th, as shown below with a leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus sp.) as the rider. Flash let me stop down the aperture to f/22 for good depth of field; that combination also gave me a very dark background, all the better to isolate my subjects.


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I commend the National Association of Scholars for its stance against gender ideology.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 20, 2021 at 4:44 PM

Light and shadow, and light

with 30 comments

Central Texas is home to several species of Sesbania, including the Sesbania vesicaria that botanists have now reclassified as Glottidium vesicarium, known as bladderpod sesbania or bagpod sesbania for the shape of its pods. In Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I played with the light and shadows on some of the many pods in evidence there that morning. I also took advantage of bright sunlight to portray a gray hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) on the flowers of what I take to be tall bush clover (Lespedeza stuevei), a species I’d never photographed before and that is therefore making its debut here today.


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Here’s more from Xi Van Fleet, a woman who escaped from the depredations of Mao’s [Anti-]Cultural Revolution and who sees worrisome parallels in the increasing repression and censorship in the United States. (I have a personal connection to such stories because my father and his parents and brother managed to escape from the terror of the Soviet Union in the 1920s.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2021 at 4:26 AM

Snow-on-the-prairie and friends

with 12 comments

On October 4th I drove east to Manor and spent a couple of hours in the Wildhorse Ranch subdivision, new parts of which have kept springing up for several years now. As was true in October last year, I found no shortage of native species doing their autumnal thing this year. Some of those plants will likely survive development; others won’t. The picturesque group that you see above, because of its location, probably won’t last. The prominent red-stalked plants are snow-on-the-prairie, Euphorbia bicolor. Across the bottom of the picture is a carpet of doveweed, Croton monanthogynus (a genus-mate of the woolly croton you saw here a week ago and again yesterday. The erect plant a quarter of the way in from the left is annual sumpweed, Iva annua, whose pollen, like that of the related ragweed, triggers many people’s allergic reactions in the fall.

Aesthetically speaking, the top picture exemplifies a more-is-more, fill-up-the-frame approach to photography. In contrast, take the minimalist view below that gives a much closer look at snow-on-the-prairie.

And while we’re offering more-detailed views, the portrait below gives you a better look at doveweed, garnished with a dameselfly that might be a female Kiowa dancer, Argia immunda.


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Austin, where I’ve lived since 1976, is the Berkeley of Texas, with leftist ideologues controlling the city’s government. In 2020, the Austin City Council’s response to months of daily rioting in cities around the country was to cut $21.5 million outright from the Austin Police Department budget and to shift another $128 million to other city departments. Predictably, crimes in Austin have increased. As local television station KXAN reported on September 13, 2021, two murders that weekend were the 59th and 60th homicides for the year so far, “the highest number of homicides Austin has recorded in one year in modern history” — and the year still had three-and-a-half months to go.

Apologists argue that crime has also gone up in many other American cities in the past year. True, but that’s hardly a justification for Austin to cut its police budget. According to that “logic,” because Covid-19 was increasing in other parts of the country last year, Austin should have reduced funding to deal with the pandemic.

On July 5 this year, KXAN quoted Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon: “When it comes to the most critical calls… — shootings, stabbings, rape and domestic violence in progress — the current response time average is nine minutes and two seconds…. That is a minute-and-a-half slower than the department’s three-year average of seven minutes and 30 seconds.”

In response to the increased dangers caused by such a large reduction in the police budget, a group called Save Austin Now got enough signatures (close to 30,000) on a petition to place a proposition on the ballot for November 2nd, just two weeks from now. Among the things that Proposition A [as it’s designated] would do are:

  • establish minimum police staffing and require there to be at least two police officers for every 1,000 residents of Austin;
  • add an additional 40 hours of training each year on “critical thinking, defensive tactics, intermediate weapons proficiency, active shooter scenarios, and hasty react team reactions”;
  • pay police officers a bonus for being proficient in any of the five most frequently spoken foreign languages in Austin; for enrolling in cadet mentoring programs; for being recognized for honorable conduct;
  • require police officers to spend at least 35% of their time on community engagement;
  • require full enrollment for at least three full-term cadet classes until staffing levels return to the levels prescribed in Austin’s 2019-2020 budget [in 2020 the City Council had canceled two cadet classes as part of its “defund the police” hysteria];
  • require the mayor, council members, staff and assistants of council members, as well as the director of the Office of Police Oversight, to complete the curriculum of the Citizen Police Academy and participate in Austin’s Ride-Along Program [in other words, the people in charge of the police should know what the police actually do in their job!];
  • encourage the police chief to seek demographic representation, as reflected in “racial, ethnic and gender diversity of the city,” in hiring police officers.

Do you find anything objectionable there? All of those things sound worthy to me. Nevertheless, leftist activists who want to keep the police underfunded are fighting fiercely against this proposition. Money to campaign against it has been coming in from many places outside Austin and outside Texas. As Austin’s NPR radio station KUT reported on October 4: “Billionaire and left-wing activist George Soros gave $500,000 to Equity PAC, a political action committee lobbying against Prop A. The group also received $200,000 from The Fairness Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization founded in 2016 that backs progressive ballot measures.”

So there you have it: the people pushing “equity” and “fairness” are working to undermine civil order and public safety. What a sorry state of affairs for my country.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 17, 2021 at 4:33 AM

One more take on woolly croton

with 53 comments

On a woolly croton plant (Croton capitatus) in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I noticed that a green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) had caught what appears to be a potter wasp, seemingly in the genus Parancistrocerus, from the subfamily Eumeninae.

One of the great existential questions of our time, at least in the Anglosphere (i.e. the English-speaking parts of the world), is how to spell the adjectival form of wool: is it woolly or is it wooly? Dictionaries accept both, though the form with a double-l seems to be favored, for the same reason we write really rather than realy and totally rather than totaly. For people who come to woolly as non-native speakers, its non-literal meanings must seem strange. Merriam-Webster gives these:

2a: lacking in clearness or sharpness of outline
woolly TV picture

b: marked by mental confusion
woolly thinking

3: marked by boisterous roughness or lack of order or restraint
where the West is still woolly— Paul Schubert—used especially in the phrase wild and woolly

Though my pictures have usually come from the wild and my posts have sometimes been wild and woolly, I trust you haven’t found any instances of really totally woolly thinking in them.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Sunflower and more

with 31 comments

From Twin Lakes Park in Cedar Park on September 24th, here’s a backlit back view of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) with out-of-focus silver bluestem seed heads (Bothriochloa laguroides) beyond it. On one of the sunflower’s rays I noticed a tiny insect. Once I did, I brought my macro lens as close as possible to what turned out to be a true bug (as opposed to the common English use of bug to mean any kind of insect). Naturalist Ken Wohlgemuth says it might be in the genus Harmostes (which I showed a member of in 2015). Click below to truly enlarge the true bug.


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Discussions of taxes focus mostly on income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and other overt forms of taxation. Many people don’t realize that low interest rates are a form of tax. For much of my life, and as recently as 2008, people who lived within their means could save some money and put it in a bank to get interest of 4% per year. As decades passed, compound interest would let a person’s savings grow to a nice nest egg for later in life. Since the financial crash of 2008, however, governments around the world have kept interest rates artificially low, so low that 1% has often been the best deal available. A big reason why governments have done so is that they continue borrowing extravagantly, and lower interest rates correspond to lower repayments of debt.

Another tax that often isn’t thought of as a tax is inflation. People in recent months have begun to notice it because so many prices have been rising. Among the most conspicuous are the prices of staple foods—have you been to the supermarket lately?—and of fuel. The price of natural gas has risen 100% in the United States this year, and 280% in Europe, as winter approaches and the demand for heating homes heads for its annual peak. According to one website, “The annual inflation rate in the US eased [!] to 5.3% in August from a 13-year high of 5.4% reported in June and July.” So even as thrifty people struggle to get pitifully little interest on their savings in a bank—the best rates are currently running at about half of a percent—the value of each dollar keeps going down.

Not only is inflation a hidden tax, but it’s the kind of tax economists classify as regressive. That means it disproportionately affects people who are the least able to afford it. A wealthy person doesn’t care if gasoline is $3 a gallon or $6 a gallon, or if a loaf of bread this year costs a dollar more than it did last year. But for a person who is living on the margins and who needs to drive to work, the dollar-a-gallon rise in the price of gasoline over the past year is painful, as is paying noticeably more for a cart of groceries to sustain a family.

Several years ago I would occasionally ask someone out of the blue: “Have you got your $60,000 ready?” That was the share of the national debt owed by each person in the United States, from newborn baby to centenarian. By 2019 the per-capita share had risen to around $69,000. By 2020 it had soared to almost $81,000. As of two weeks ago, the amount every single person in America owes was calculated to be $85,424.

I bring all this up now for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s distressing to watch helplessly as the money we’ve dutifully saved by living within our means is worth less and less each month. Another reason is that the current administration in the United States is pushing to “spend”—which means borrow—$3.5 trillion more than the trillions it has already borrowed. That will drive the national debt even higher; soon I’ll be asking you whether you’ve got your $100,000 ready to pay your individual share. Profligate borrowing will also further incite inflation, which, as noted, most affects the people least able to cope with it. To use a word that’s in vogue, all this is unsustainable. Our representatives in government have to find ways to begin paying down the national debt, not driving it ever higher. In short, just as individuals have to live within their means, so do governments.

(And let me head off potential criticism by adding that I was against the large increases in the debt under both Obama and Trump. Inordinate debt is bad no matter which party is responsible for it.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2021 at 4:27 AM

Grasshopper central

with 31 comments

While at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on September 25th I though of calling the place “grasshopper central” for the many insects of that kind I saw ensconced on plants and jumping about. Here are two portraits of grasshoppers on river primrose plants (Oenothera jamesii).


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Yesterday I outlined a proposed Constitutional amendment of mine that would require legislators to read and understand bills before being allowed to vote on them. Actually that would be part of a larger amendment dealing with legislative bills. Here’s more of what I’d like to see included.

1. A legislative bill shall deal with only one subject.

2. The first line of the bill must state what that subject is, and it must conform to the general understanding among the public of what that subject includes.

3. For each pending Congressional bill, every sentence shall be identified by the name and position of the person or persons who wrote the sentence. If the writer(s) acted on behalf of or at the behest of some other person(s) or organization(s), those identifications must also be included.

4. Unless Congress by a three-quarter majority in each house separately declares a national emergency, the complete text of a bill must be released to the public and made readily available online at least 14 days before a bill is brought to a vote.

5. A non-partisan commission created by Congress shall thoroughly examine every final bill and remove all parts of it that don’t conform to points 1–3 above. The commission is also empowered to prevent, and must prevent, voting on any bill whose final form the public has not had easy access to for 14 days.

Point 1 is intended to eliminate the monstrous bills we now get that run to hundreds or even thousands of pages and that include a slew of unrelated things. Politicians too easily hide pet projects and controversial proposals in the welter of such “omnibus” bills. My idea is to have the legislature vote separately on each proposal or small group of related proposals. That would let the public know which legislators support which things.

Point 2 is intended to head off concept creep and gross semantic inflation. For example, the current administration has been referring to anything under the sun as “infrastructure,” e.g. “human infrastructure” and “family infrastructure,” whereas the normal use of the term “infrastructure” includes only physical structures like roads, bridges, airports, dams, power lines, railroads, ports, canals, and the like.

Point 3 is intended to reveal who is actually inserting provisions into a bill. As things stand now, the real promoters are often hidden from the public.

Point 4 is intended to give the public and the press a reasonable amount of time to find out what’s in a bill before it gets voted on.

Point 5 creates a neutral external body to enforce the provisions that members of Congress may be too pusillanimous to adhere to.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2021 at 4:32 AM

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