Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘leaf

Like a seahorse

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Don’t you think this colorfully drying smartweed leaf (Polygonum or Persicaria sp.) that I found in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 14th looks like a seahorse?

 

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Thirty-three years ago, when I was a teenager in Nairobi, I was a book burner. The year was 1989, the year of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and I was seduced by the rising tide of Islamism. I greeted the fatwa with glee.

I rarely burnt actual books: we were too poor to afford a copy of The Satanic Verses. Instead, we wrote the title of the offending novel and the name of its author on cardboard and paper and set them alight. It was comical and pathetic. But we were deadly serious. We thought Ayatollah Khomeini was standing up for Islam against the infidels, bringing down the righteous fury of Allah upon a vile apostate. Had Rushdie been attacked then, I would have celebrated.

So begins a recent essay by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “The infidels will not be silenced: Like Salman Rushdie, I choose freedom.” Those familiar with Ayaan Hirsi Ali know that when she grew up she had a change of heart and mind and is now one of the world’s great champions of free speech (for which stance the forces of oppression have persecuted her). You’re welcome to read her full essay.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2022 at 4:31 AM

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Two species, three prominent colors

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Plenty of native species have been planted around the pond at the intersection of Gault Lane and Burnet Road. On the morning of July 7th I made this group portrait that includes a pavonia mallow flower (Pavonia lasiopetala), several purple bindweed flowers (Ipomoea cordatotriloba), and a yellowed leaf on the bindweed vine. The cordato in the species name means heart-shaped, and that wavily fits the bright leaf.

 

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I’ve mentioned a few times that a group of people who believe in the traditional purpose of a university—the pursuit of knowledge, whatever facts and truths that may lead to—are busy founding the University of Austin (UATX) right here where I live. An inaugural summer session was held in Dallas, and I invite you to read the talk that Bari Weiss gave to the first class of UATX students. It’s called “The New Founders America Needs.”

  

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 15, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Beach morning glory: purple

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The term “beach morning glory” is ambiguous: people use it for Ipomoea imperati and for Ipomoea pes-caprae, both of which grow on coastal sand dunes, often even together. One easy way to tell them apart is that the former produces white flowers and the latter purple flowers, as shown here at Port Aransas on June 3rd. Other vernacular names for the purple-flowering species are railroad vine (presumably because it tends to grow along railroad tracks), goatfoot morning glory (which is what the Latin pes-caprae means), and bayhops. Both kinds of beach morning glory have thick and leathery leaves, but those of the white-flowering species are only about 1.5 inches long, while those of the purple-flowering species reach as much as 3.5 inches in length. I found one of those larger leaves that had turned conspicuously yellow, and it contrasted nicely with the day’s blue sky.

 

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All photographs are illusions.
Speaking of which, here’s an interesting article about optical illusions.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 14, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Revenge on poison ivy

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It’s all too common for poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) to cause itchy red splotches on people’s skin. It’s also not uncommon, at least in Austin, to see reddish splotches on poison ivy. As fitting as that “revenge” may seem, it doesn’t come from people but from Aculops rhois, a tiny mite that creates these little pouches in poison ivy leaflets. Today’s picture is from May 30 on the grounds of Hyde Park Baptist High School, which is home to some lush stands of poison ivy. No doubt the people who run the school wish that weren’t so.

I believe the leaflet gets its characteristic sheen from urushiol, the chemical that irritates human skin.
By the way, did you notice the ant on the margin of the leaflet?

    

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As both an American citizen and a longtime teacher I’m appalled at how my country’s schools have devolved and keep devolving. I recently came across a roughly 30-page document entitled “The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunity for All.

Here’s the gist of it:

Public education is central to American democracy. Ideally, children from every area of our country can graduate from effective and well-resourced schools that prepare them equally for active citizenship and meaningful lives. Yet, the conditions in our schools are not ideal. Schools across the U.S. tend to struggle with educating black and Latino students when compared to their white peers. This is the case even in cities where there is notable progress on other important issues like immigration, health care and neighborhood revitalization. In fact, as we show in this report, highly prosperous cities with progressive residents have particularly poor outcomes for children living at the margins. It is ironic that this is happening for children living in cities that are best positioned to reverse the nation’s shameful education “achievement gap.”

Leaders of progressive cities often frame their policy proposals in terms of what’s best for those with the least opportunity and the greatest obstacles — those who have been “left out and left behind” …. But, in education, we found the opposite: Students in America’s most progressive cities face greater racial inequity in achievement and graduation rates than students living in the nation’s most conservative cities.

“The Secret Shame” is easy to read, maintains a calm tone, is typographically well laid out and nicely illustrated with charts and graphs presenting the data that supports the document’s claims. You’re welcome to check it out.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 13, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Stickleaf on a sunny morning

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Seems like I almost always have to go into Williamson County to find stickleaf, Mentzelia oligosperma. That was true on May 13th when we visited Northwest Williamson County Regional Park for the first time in years and found stickleaf in several spots there. The plant gets its common name from the fact that its leaves readily cling to clothing and even skin. The second picture shows why.

  

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I spend a fair amount of time looking things up because I strive for accuracy in my commentaries. That’s why I include so many links to documents. If you’re aware of any facts that I’ve reported incorrectly, please point them out. Of course people can disagree about what policies to follow, but we have to start from the facts.

 

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Speaking of illegal immigration into the United States, as I did last time, here are the official 2022 figures for the number of monthly encounters border patrol agents have had with people who illegally entered the country by coming across the border from Mexico:

January: 154,812

February: 165,894

March: 221,303

And for April the number was 234,088, the highest ever recorded. Do you see a trend? While a portion of the people encountered get sent back, many are allowed to remain, and the current administration pays their way to go wherever they choose to go inside our country. The government even sends some of the illegal border-crossers to their destinations on charter flights, though officials have managed to conceal many of those from the public. According to an April 20th New York Post article by Miranda Devine:

 

… in recent weeks “the charters are back with a fury,” says a whistleblower from Avelo Airlines, one of three charter companies raking in millions of taxpayer dollars whisking migrants out of sight.

Staffers are disturbed by the secrecy of the operation, and the prospect that they are participating in a human-trafficking operation, the whistleblower says.

“The charters are not on our paperwork, not on the [air-traffic] breakdown, not on the schedule, not on the flight plan. They’re not listed anywhere”…

Avelo employees have begun openly to discuss concerns that they may be participating in human trafficking, says the whistleblower, especially with so many ­unaccompanied minors on flights.

“We’re trafficking children,” the whistleblower says. “I am not OK with that happening . . .
“The company is saying it’s not true, but people don’t believe that, and everyone wants to leave. People stay for three months and leave.”

 

Title 42, a Covid-era policy that allows authorities to immediately send illegal entrants back across the border without having to entertain their political asylum claims (most of which are really the understandable desire to have a better standard of living), is set to expire on May 23rd—just three days from today. According to the Texas Tribune: “Homeland Security predicts up to 18,000 daily encounters with migrants — more than double the current average — when Title 42 ends.” Now, I’ve long been leery of the phrase “up to,” a staple ploy that advertisers use to make people think the average value of something is larger than it really is. So let’s say that if Title 42 ends, the number of encounters with illegal border-crosses will rise to “only” 15,000 every day rather than 18,000 every day. And let’s say that without Title 42, authorities will have to let 12,000 of those 15,000 new illegal border-crossers remain inside the United States every day. Where will that leave us? Since 12,000 is a daily number, we’ll multiply by 365.25 to estimate the yearly toll. We find that the current administration will be allowing 4,383,000 illegal border-crossers to stay in our country every year. If that continues unabated, then between now and when the current administration’s term ends in January of 2025, something like 11,000,000 illegal entrants will have been allowed to stay in our country. To give you a sense of scale, remember that the country’s largest city, New York, has a little under 9 million people. In other words, the illegal entrants allowed to stay here in just the next two-and-a-half years could be imagined to form the nation’s new largest city, though not a contiguous one. And of course to those 11,000,000 illegal entrants we’ll have to add the presumed one million or two million or three million that made it past overworked and understaffed border authorities altogether—the so-called gotaways.

Some people think that this kind of mass lawlessness is how we should be running our country. I don’t.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 20, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Leaf and tendril

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The prostrate vine that botanists call Cucurbita foetidissima has as probably its two most common common names buffalo gourd and stinking gourd, with the latter referring to the plant’s unpleasant (to people) smell. Odor aside, the fuzzy young leaves and tendrils offer themselves up for photographic abstractions like this one from April 16th along the northernmost stretch of Spicewood Springs Rd. across from the library.

 

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“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

That sentence appears online in various places as a quotation from George Washington. The sentiment is indeed his, but the wording isn’t exact. I found out that Washington addressed the Continental Congress on March 11, 1783, at which time he referred to a certain anonymous document and criticized it:

With respect to the advice given by the author, to suspect the man who shall recommend moderate measures and longer forbearance, I spurn it, as every man who regards that liberty and reveres that justice for which we contend, undoubtedly must; for, if men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us. The freedom of speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent, we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 7, 2022 at 4:33 AM

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A metallic charm

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The young leaf of a greenbrier vine (Smilax bona-nox) in Great Hills Park on April 15th came out looking like a metallic charm when I photographed it using flash and a tiny aperture of f/25. I took pictures of a different young leaf on the vine using natural light and a broad aperture of f/3.2 for a dreamy look with little in focus. Compare and contrast, say teachers.

 

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“Anyone can do evil acts, regardless of their color.” That’s a line from a video in which Ndona Muboyayi talks about how her children’s schoolteachers were promoting the notions of “white supremacy” and “white privilege” while conveniently not mentioning that in the Rwandan genocide all the victims and all the murderers were black. You’re welcome to watch the 6-minute video, which includes Ndona Muboyayi’s belief that “The envelope doesn’t mean anything, ’cause eventually it’s going to go away. It’s what’s inside that matters, and that’s what we need to teach children.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 3, 2022 at 4:32 AM

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Another abstract nature photograph from McKinney Falls State Park on April 14

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This time the leaf in front of the buttercup (Ranunculus sp.) belonged to an Engelmann daisy (Engelmannia peristenia). The purple came from bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis). And after keeping the flowers formless in the background for two posts, I guess I owe you a picture of a detailed one in its own right. So here’s an Engelmann daisy, complete with a tumbling flower beetle:

 

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Knowing what people think — even if it’s troubling — is essential to understanding the world as it is and to deciding how to act within it. Unfortunately too many of today’s leaders — whether in education, at social media companies, or in the larger corporate and governmental world — preempt this process of understanding through censorship, believing they’re acting in the interest of either factual accuracy or emotional or psychological safety. Furthermore, they attempt to lead through confirmation, taking institutional positions on hotly contested issues, imposing a “correct” way to think.

That’s from an open letter that Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), wrote to Elon Musk, giving him suggestions for how to follow through on his promise to promote free speech on Twitter now that Musk has bought that company. You may have heard about it, and how so many of the “woke” are in a panic because Twitter’s staff will no longer be able to censor people who put forth opinions or even facts the staff doesn’t like.

You’re welcome to read all of Greg Lukianoff’s letter to Elon Musk.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 27, 2022 at 4:33 AM

A graceful curve

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On March 4th in northwest Austin I noticed the graceful curve in this dry frostweed leaf (Verbesina virginica). While I’ve photographed dry leaves whenever interesting ones have come my way, as this one did, Alessandra Chaves has done so in a more studied fashion.

 

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On Gods, Both Ancient and Modern

When I entered high school in 1959 and had to pick a foreign language to study, my father recommended Latin because English has gotten a large part of its vocabulary from Latin. In many of those cases English has borrowed directly, especially for formal words like platitude, indigenous, liberator, and curriculum. English also acquired many Latin words indirectly via the French language that evolved from Latin. Those words include conspicuously French ones like renaissance, fiancee, and omelette, along with many more that seem so native you’d hardly suspect English borrowed them: beef, count, sure, just, pair, money. My father was right, and Latin has stood me in good stead over the six decades since he recommended it.

The people who spoke Latin were of course the Romans, who practiced a religion that included many gods. In most cases the names of Roman gods were just forms of Latin words that designated something the god was supposed to be in charge of or have to do with. In Mercury, the messenger of the gods, we see the same linguistic root that we’ve inherited in commerce and merchant. Venus, the goddess of desire, has a name related to the native English word want.

The Latin word for ‘gods’ was DEI (the Romans wrote in capital letters only; lower case letters got added centuries later). I find DEI, ‘gods,’ to be a happy coincidence because DEI is the initialism that stands for the Holy Trinity of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion now worshipped in the secular religion that has overtaken so many of our institutions. Last year it occurred to me that that secular Holy Trinity could be shuffled around to make the initialism IDE, a convenient reminder that the Roman IDEs of March, which originally designated the first new moon in a given month in the Roman calendar, later came to connote an ill-fated day. Today happens to be the IDEs of March for 2022.

In what I’ll grant you is wishful thinking, I’d realized a year or two ago that the terms in the modern secular Holy Trinity could also be shuffled around to make not an initialism but an appropriate acronym: DIE, which is what would happen to wokeism in a just world. Though I came up with that on my own, it’s obvious enough that other critics of the ideology have independently hit upon it too. One of them is Jordan Peterson, who used it in an article two months ago. I encourage you to read “Why I am no longer a tenured professor at the University of Toronto: The appalling ideology of diversity, inclusion and equity is demolishing education and business.”

And in one last coincidence involving religion, let me point out that the terms in the modern secular Holy Trinity could be rearranged to lend themselves to the acronym EID. In Islam, Eid (al-Fitr) is the holiday that celebrates the end of the month of Ramadan and the giving up of fasting. Would that we could permanently give up the cultish worshiping of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity—the latter two of which hypocritically exclude a diversity of opinions.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 15, 2022 at 4:33 AM

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Maroon, orange, pale green

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The opening picture a few days ago showed that the flow in the Pedernales River at Milton Reimers Ranch Park on January 14th was reduced enough to have left portions of the river bed dry or largely so. That provided me opportunities for views of algae, like the orange patch above with a maroon sycamore leaf (Platanus occidentalis) in it, or the green algae below that was corrugating and turning pale as it dried out.

 

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Large-scale American government lawlessness every day

 

Footage from FOX News reporter Bill Melugin shows large numbers of single adult men being dropped off by bus, processed, and sent to the airport after crossing the border illegally near Brownsville, Texas.

“These are all single adults being released, almost all of them men. No children, no family units. Single adults are supposed to be expelled from the country,” Melugin reported.

“We followed their taxi cabs… and those migrants were just dropped off at the airport to fly around the country,” he explained. “We talked to a couple of them who said they were going to Atlanta, Houston, and Miami and they had just crossed illegally and paid the cartels $2000 to do so.”

 

It’s been said that crime doesn’t pay, but this story contradicts that adage. The people who enter illegally pay the Mexican cartels, and our government then uses our tax money to pay contractors to transport the illegal entrants to places inside the United States. One cynic described the contractors who transport the illegal entrants as “travel agents” for them.

You can read the full story in a RealClear Politics article and a New York Post article. The first video embedded in the RealClear Politics article reports that last month (December) the border patrol reported 178,840 encounters with people who had illegally crossed the border. That number is slightly more than the total for December 2018, December 2019, and December 2020 combined. What the 178,840 figure does not include are the tens of thousands of illegal entrants who completely evaded the overworked, stressed-out, stretched-thin border patrol in December 2021.

Like I said, lawlessness.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 28, 2022 at 4:29 AM

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