Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘leaf

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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Yellow oval

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Along one of Great Hills Park’s creeks on January 1st I made an abstract portrait that played with faint colors and mostly vague shapes, plus the implied flow of the water.

 

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Abigail Shrier writes a Substack column called The Truth Fairy. In her January 17th piece entitled “Who Will Win America: The Cynics or The Believers?” she considers the current conflict in American politics. What’s new in her take is that she sees the battle as primarily between cynics, regardless of whether they’re on the left or the right, and believers, regardless of which side they’re on.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 25, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Backlit sycamore leaf

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The foliage of a bald cypress tree wasn’t the only backlit thing I portrayed at Inks Lake State Park on November 29th. The leaves of sycamore tree saplings (Platanus occidentalis) tend to grow in an upright posture, and that made it easy for me to line up one such leaf against the sparkles coming off Inks Lake. Lens optics turned that bright scene into a phantasmagoria. Note the spider silk across each of the two arcs formed by the leaf’s upper lobes.

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Two posts back I mentioned that I’m reading Steven Pinker’s new book Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters. Based on some statistics he mentions that were taken from Bobby Duffy’s Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything, I invited you to estimate what percent of the American population you think certain groups represent. (The percents in other countries often differ, of course.)

Survey respondents on average have estimated 28% of Americans are immigrants, whereas the actual figure is 12%.

Survey respondents on average have estimated 24% of Americans are gay, while the true figure is 4.5%.

Survey respondents on average have estimated about a third of Americans are African Americans, when the actual figure is 12.7%.

Survey respondents on average have estimated 18% of Americans are Jews, who in fact make up only 2% of the population.

Survey respondents on average have estimated that in the world as a whole, 20% of girls and women aged 15–19 give birth each year, while the actual figure is just 2%.

One cause of the discrepancies in perception is media coverage, which focuses on certain things out of proportion to their actual occurrence. For example, you never see an urgent news story about the tens of thousands of airplanes that took off, flew, and landed safely today; you only hear about the minuscule fraction of planes that crashed.

People’s tendency to estimate the proportion of something based on the degree to which they’ve been exposed to that thing is known as the availability heuristic.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 17, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Small frog on a palmetto leaf

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On November 11th at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center the Lady Eve caught site of a small frog on a palmetto leaf (Sabal minor) and called my attention to it.

UPDATE: This appears to be an American green tree frog, Dryophytes cinereus. Austin is at the western edge of the range for that species.


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I invite you to take a look at Michael Shellenberger and Peter Boghossian‘s chart showing the taxonomy of the Woke religion. “We decided to publish the Woke Religion Taxonomy because it was helpful to our own understanding of Wokeism as a religion, and we felt it might help others. The Taxonomy identifies common myths and supernatural beliefs and helps explain why so many people continue to hold them, despite overwhelming evidence that they are false. We are under no illusion that the taxonomy will reduce the power that Wokeism holds over true believers. But we also believe it will help orient those who are confused by its irrationalism, and are seeking an accessible overview. Finally, we are publishing it because we recognize that we might be wrong, either about matters of fact or classification, and hope it will encourage a healthy discussion and debate. As such, we have published it with the caveat that it is ‘Version 1.0’ with the expectation that we will revise it in the future.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 11, 2021 at 4:30 AM

Red oak leaf and soft clouds

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While down close to the ground on November 22 photographing the Great Plains ladies tresses’ orchids you saw last time, I noticed some oak leaves near by that looked bright red from backlighting by the sun. As shown here, I managed to isolate one of those leaves against soft clouds. The species could well have been Texas red oak, Quercus buckleyi.


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“We write to express our alarm over recent trends in K-12 mathematics education in the United States.”

So begins an open letter signed by hundreds of experts in mathematics, computer science, engineering, and related fields. The letter goes on to explain that the movement for “equity” in mathematics education, whatever its professed goals, actually harms American students and reduces our nation’s mathematical preparedness. The letter isn’t long, and I encourage you to read it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 7, 2021 at 4:15 AM

Two takes on smartweed

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From the Arbor Walk Pond on October 8th come these two flowerless and abstract takes on smartweed (Polygonum or Persicaria sp.). In the top picture you’ll recognize the way backlighting increases color saturation, particularly in the reddish patches that contrast with the soft and subdued blue of the sky. How smart of smartweed to produce leaf nodes that offer themselves up to smart photographers.



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For a couple of years I’ve been aware of The Babylon Bee, a parody website like The Onion in which everything is made up. To get a feel for The Babylon Bee, you can check out a few stories:

The Babylon Bee is clearly a satirical website. No reasonable person would ever think that a story with the headline Report: More Unborn Babies In New York Identifying As Convicted Criminals So They Can’t Legally Be Executed is real. Nevertheless, one peculiarity of the times we live in is that so-called fact-checking organizations have occasionally investigated The Babylon Bee’s made-up stories and rated them for truthfulness! Politifact, for example, gave a Pants on Fire rating to the story “ISIS Lays Down Arms After Katy Perry’s Impassioned Plea To ‘Like, Just Co-Exist.’”

For more information, you’re welcome to watch an interview with The Babylon Bee’s CEO Seth Dillon that begins at about 49:00 into a recent episode of the Megyn Kelly Show.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2021 at 4:38 AM

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