Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘leaves

Horsemint and standing cypress

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Compared to the previous post from May 30th along Balcones Woods Dr., this time the standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) in the picture above brings up the rear, while a horsemint (Monarda citriodora) dominates the foreground. But how could I not show you some more of standing cypress’s rich red? Below, an arc of its buds harmonizes in shape and contrasts in color with the arcs of its leaves.

 

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Regarding San Francisco voters’ recall this week of the city’s district attorney, who’d for years been refusing to adequately prosecute many criminals, including violent ones, Peggy Noonan had an editorial in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Personifying the majority of voters, she wrote:

We won’t let our city go down. We won’t accept the idea of steady deterioration. We will fight the imposition of abstract laws reflecting the abstract theories of people for whom life has always been abstract and theoretical. We can’t afford to be abstract and theoretical, we live real lives. We wish to be allowed to walk the streets unmolested and with confidence. This isn’t too much to ask. It is the bare minimum.

Speaking for herself, she continued:

Progressive politicians have been around long enough running cities that some distinguishing characteristics can be noted. One is they don’t listen to anybody. To stop them you have to fire them. They’re not like normal politicians who have some give, who tack this way and that. Progressive politicians have no doubt, no self-correcting mechanism.

Another characteristic: They are more loyal to theory than to people. If the people don’t like the theories the progressives impose, that’s too bad; the theory is pre-eminent.

Progressives say: We are changing all rules on arrest and incarceration because they are bad for minority groups.

The minority groups say that sounds good in the abstract but let’s make sure it’s good in the particular.

It proves not to be. The minority groups say: Stop.

The progressive says: You have to like what we’re doing, it’s good for you! What are you, racist?

The minority groups say: We’re going to fire you.

No you’re not, don’t be ridiculous.

Watch.

And they fire him. And he’s shocked.

Here’s the third distinguishing characteristic: The progressive can’t understand why. He tells reporters the voters are “in a bad mood” because of inflation and housing costs.

A final characteristic of progressive politicians is that they tend to be high-IQ stupid people. They are bright and well-educated but can’t comprehend the implications of policy. They don’t understand that if an 18-year-old is repeatedly arrested for assaulting people on the street and repeatedly let go, his thought may not go in the direction of, “What a gracious and merciful society I live in, I will do more to live up to it.” It is more likely he will think, “I can assault anyone and get away with it. They are afraid of me.”

Criminals calculate. Normal people know this and anticipate it. It is a great eccentricity of progressive politicians that they can’t.

So I do think America is on a campaign to remove them, one by one. And this is good.

You’re welcome to read the full editorial, which includes Peggy Noonan’s equal-opportunity thoughts on what progressives’ opponents can do better, too.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 11, 2022 at 4:29 AM

New Zealand: along the Cathedral Cove Walk

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Five years and a day ago we found ourselves on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, where I’d say Cathedral Cove was the scenic highlight. On our hour-long walk back up to the car park from the cove I got fascinated by what you see in the top picture: the graceful curves of leaves and korus, which is what the Māori call the fiddleheads on ferns. (Close individual koru portraits appeared here in 2015 and 2017.)

Also catching my attention along the Cathedral Cove Walk were the lichens and spiderwebs shown below. As for the brown insect, Kazuo Ishiguro might have called it the remains of the prey.

 This post ends the four-part mini-review of our 2017 New Zealand visit’s last days.

 

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It is a fine needle to thread, giving children enough space to make their own decisions and mistakes, and protecting them from real danger. Our societal pendulum has swung too far to one side—to protecting children against all risk and harm—such that many who come of age under this paradigm feel that everything is a threat, that they need safe spaces, that words are violence. By comparison, children with exposure to diverse experiences—physical, psychological, and intellectual—learn what is possible, and become more expansive. It is imperative that children experience discomfort in each of these realms: physical, psychological, and intellectual. Absent that, they end up full-grown but confused about what harm actually is. They end up children in the bodies of adults.

That’s another passage from Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life. You can also watch many presentations by them on their Dark Horse podcasts.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 8, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Two takes on greenbrier

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From December 12th in Great Hills Park the top picture shows the backlit leaf of a greenbrier vine (Smilax bona-nox) with a small insect on it. And from January 17th at Chalk Ridge Falls Park in Belton, look at the still-green leaves on the otherwise dry and impenetrable tangle this species often forms when it hangs from trees it has climbed. (At least one other kind of vine is mixed in.)

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No matter how effectively a false belief flaunts the believer’s mental prowess or loyalty to the tribe, it’s still false, and should be punished by the cold, hard facts of the world. As the novelist Philip K. Dick wrote, reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

So much of our reasoning seems tailored to winning arguments that some cognitive scientists, like Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, believe it is the adaptive function of reasoning. We evolved not as intuitive scientists but as intuitive lawyers.

Steven Pinker, Rationality, 2021

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Upton Sinclair, 1934. Quote Investigator traces earlier incarnations of the thought.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 3, 2022 at 4:34 AM

Two cowpen daisy mysteries

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By the time I wandered in and near Brushy Creek Park last December 14th, the cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) had all gone to seed and many of their leaves were drooping as they dried out. On one plant I noticed lots of red droplets on several leaves, as you see above. I queried the Facebook Texas Flora group but still wasn’t able to identify what the blood-like droplets were. For a closer look at the lowest leaf, click the following thumbnail.

Another cowpen daisy had gotten wrapped up inside a webbing that I presume insect larvae had spun. I’ve drawn a blank about that, too. Whatever these things are, at least they’re visually interesting

 

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Franz Kafka, where are you when we need you?

A January 27th announcement from FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, alerted me to a Kafkaequesque situation at the University of Illinois Chicago. A law school professor named Jason Kilborn had “posed a hypothetical question — which he has asked in previous years — using redacted references to two slurs, in a December 2020 law school exam. The question about employment discrimination referenced a plaintiff being called ‘a “n____” and “b____” (profane expressions for African Americans and women)’ as evidence of discrimination.” After a student (or students) complained about the occurrence of those words, even though only the first letter of each appeared on the exam, the University’s administration ended up forcing Prof. Kilborn “to participate in months-long ‘training on classroom conversations that address racism’ and compelling him to write reflection papers before he can return to the classroom. In a stunning display of unintended irony, the individualized training materials include the same redacted slur that Kilborn used in his test question.”

Professor Kilborn is now suing his university (hooray!). You can find further details in the article from FIRE.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Winter color

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Throughout the first half of January I’d been noticing that some oaks still sported leaves that looked richly red when backlit. A photographically promising stand of oaks that we passed on January 14th unfortunately lay along a narrow, winding road that didn’t allow parking anywhere nearby. Finally on January 19th at Mills Pond I was able to push my way through stalks and branches in the woods and cautiously ease myself into positions that let me see maximum saturated color in some backlit oak leaves.

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You’d expect an organization called National Public Radio (NPR) to be politically balanced, given that the American public consists of people with differing viewpoints. If NPR ever was politically balanced—and I’m not sure it was—that time has long since passed. For a good while now the stories and commentaries on the network have leaned so heavily toward the political left that I gave up listening to Austin’s NPR station years ago.

The latest confirmation of the radio network’s slant came on January 18th, when long-time NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg reported a story involving Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose diabetes puts her at greater-than-average risk if she catches Covid-19. According to the story, Justice Sotomayor, who not coincidentally is on the political left, participated in a judicial session electronically from her chambers rather than in person because Justice Neil Gorsuch, who not coincidentally is on the political right and who sits next to her when the justices convene, has been refusing to wear a mask even after Chief Justice John Roberts “in some form asked the other justices to mask up.” Totenberg based her story on accounts by anonymous sources.

Totenberg’s claim triggered an unusual joint statement by Justices Gorsuch and Sotomayor denying the validity of the story. After that, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his own statement saying that he “did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask on the bench.” Despite those statements in which the three justices named by Totenberg publicly denied the claims that she made, she continued to stick to her story based on sources that still remain unidentified.

You’re welcome to read an analysis of this situation by James Freeman in the Wall Street Journal.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 26, 2022 at 4:35 AM

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Winter leaf colors from a native grass

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Inland sea oats is a common native grass in the woods in my northwest part of Austin. The second word in the grass’s scientific name, Chasmanthium latifolium, means ‘wide leaf,’ and while I don’t consider this grass’s leaves especially wide, they’re certainly wide enough to have offered up some colorful foliage in Great Hills Park on the second day of the year.

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The other day I came across a quotation on the Internet: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” The website attributed the quotation to Thoreau. Having long ago learned not to trust Internet quotations to be accurate, I went searching to find out whether Thoreau really expressed that thought, and if so, whether the wording was correct. My quest led me to an excellent site, The Henry D. Thoreau Mis-Quotation Page, where I learned that the idea was indeed Thoreau’s; the wording wasn’t. On August 5, 1851, Thoreau had written in his Journal: “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”

If such things interest you, check out The Henry D. Thoreau Mis-Quotation Page, which includes incorrect wordings as well as sayings attributed to Thoreau that he never said. Of all the improper wordings, probably the most widely disseminated is the one that changes a word in the last part of this sentence from Thoreau’s essay “Walking”: “The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the world.” People often quote the last eight words in isolation and turn wildness into wilderness.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 16, 2022 at 4:32 AM

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One thing that poison ivy is good for

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One thing that poison ivy is good for is color in the late fall and early winter. This portrait comes from the lower portion of Allen Park on December 17, 2021. I’ve read that the sheen on the leaflets attests to the presence of urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy that irritates most people’s skin. “Look but do not touch” remains sound advice. The most interestingly colored poison ivy I ever saw was also in the lower portion of Allen Park, way back in 2006.

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Yesterday we went to the Austin Nature Center, not to visit the indoor exhibits but to walk through the place and onto the trails beyond. When we arrived at the main building we were met with a sign saying everyone has to wear a mask not only inside buildings but outdoors as well. That doesn’t “follow the science.”

Currently 98.3% of all new Covid-19 infections in the United States are from the Omicron variant. According to an NPR article, “…given how contagious omicron is, experts say, it’s seriously time to upgrade to an N95 or similar high-filtration respirator when you’re in public indoor spaces. ‘Cloth masks are not going to cut it with omicron,’ says Linsey Marr, a researcher at Virginia Tech who studies how viruses transmit in the air.” Yet the Austin Nature Center—and presumably every other institution that requires masks indoors—allows cloth masks.

As for outdoor transmission of Covid-19, it’s rare. David Leonhardt noted last year in a New York Times article entitled “A Misleading C.D.C. Number” that “the share of transmission that has occurred outdoors seems to be below 1 percent and may be below 0.1 percent, multiple epidemiologists told me. The rare outdoor transmission that has happened almost all seems to have involved crowded places or close conversation.” Those are hardly the conditions you’ll find outdoors at a nature center, are they?

Following the science, we ignored the mask mandate as soon as we were away from the Austin Nature Center buildings. When we stopped a minute later to look at some rescued raptors in outdoor enclosures, we noticed a young couple who had also stopped there. I saw that they weren’t wearing masks either, and I asked them sarcastically if they weren’t afraid of catching Covid-19. Turns out the couple was visiting from Florida, and the guy said that in his state things aren’t restrictive the way they are in Austin. I told him Austin is the Berkeley of Texas and people here are crazy; then I made sure to add that although Eve and I live here we aren’t crazy.

Later, even farther away from the Nature Center, we encountered first one and then another small group of young children on an outing in the woods. The adult guides were wearing masks, as were many but not all of the little children. Later I was sorry I hadn’t asked if the children’s parents had decided whether their kids had to wear a mask or could go maskless outdoors. We’ve known since early in the pandemic that children are by far the least susceptible group, so there’s no reason for them to be wearing masks when they’re out in nature. That’s the science.

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 14, 2022 at 4:38 AM

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A tiny white snail shell as a sarcophagus on a carpet of fallen dry Ashe juniper needles

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Allen Park; December 17, 2021.

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Have you ever noticed that some people have appropriate names while others have ironic names? An example in the “appropriate” category was a United States district judge for the Eastern District of Texas named William Wayne Justice.

Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) provides two examples in the “ironic” category. The current police commissioner there is named Danielle Outlaw. But what’s in a name? The double irony is that while Danielle Outlaw is actually trying to enforce laws and protect the citizens of Philadelphia, the real outlaw in Philadelphia’s justice system is the district attorney, Larry Krasner. His family name ultimately goes back to a Slavic word that means ‘beautiful,’ yet he is anything but beautiful in his stubbornly ideological refusal to prosecute many criminals. Unfortunately the new district attorney in Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, began bragging on day one of his term that he also will refuse to prosecute many crimes and will downgrade others from felonies to misdemeanors. You can read even more about that if you wish.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 9, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Lindheimer’s senna leaflets turning yellow

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From my neighborhood on December 16, 2021, come these two takes, one minimalist and the other busy, on colorful Lindheimer’s senna leaflets (Senna lindheimeri).

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Yesterday the United States Supreme Court heard a challenge to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) nationwide mandate that companies with 100 or more employees must require those employees to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The challengers, the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, contend that OSHA, not being part of the legislature, doesn’t have the authority to issue such a mandate, and that only Congress does.

During the proceedings, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the following about Covid-19: “We have over 100,000 children, which we have never had before, in serious condition, many on ventilators.” While it’s true that the rate of Covid-19 infection among children has recently climbed higher than at any previous time in the pandemic, the fact remains that children are still the least affected age group, and the claim that 100,000 children are currently afflicted and in serious condition is a gross exaggeration.

A Yahoo! News story from yesterday says that “The current number of confirmed pediatric hospitalizations with Covid in the U.S. is 3,342, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services released on Friday.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Data Tracker shows that for the entire 17-month period from August 1, 2020, through January 5, 2022, the total number of pediatric Covid-19 admissions in the United States was 82,843.

It’s unfortunate that a Supreme Court Justice would claim that the current number of pediatric Covid-19 hospitalizations is 30 times the actual amount.

UPDATE:

What follows is part of an article from The Epoch Times on January 9.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walenksy disputed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s claim that 100,000 children are hospitalized or seriously ill with COVID-19 during arguments made before the court on Jan. 7.

During an interview with “Fox News Sunday” on Jan. 9, Walensky confirmed that there are about 3,500 children in the hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19….

When asked about there being 3,500 children hospitalized as opposed to 100,000, Walensky said, “Yes, there are, and in fact what I will say is while pediatric hospitalizations are rising, they’re still about 15-fold less than hospitalizations of our older age demographics.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 8, 2022 at 4:31 AM

A tale of two sumacs, part 2

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In yesterday’s post you saw that Rhus trilobata, one of Austin’s three native sumac species, produces colorful fall foliage, though not on the scale of our renowned flameleaf sumac. The third species, Rhus virens, is known as evergreen sumac. (In fact Latin virens means ‘being green’; compare verdant, from the same root.) Normally evergreen sumac’s leaves do remain green, but some of them occasionally turn warm colors. In my experience, that seems to be when something afflicts the tree, e.g. a freeze, or when a branch gets broken and dies. From Allen Park on December 17th, here are two different-hued examples of evergreen sumac not being green. The sheen on the leaves characterizes this species.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

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My father and his parents and brother fled from the Soviet Union in the 1920s, so I’ve always been aware and leery of the tyranny of ideological regimes. Another Russian escapee, Anna Krylov, recently had a letter published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry in which she drew on her own early life in the USSR, “where communist ‘ideology permeated all aspects of life, and survival required strict adherence to the party line and enthusiastic displays of ideologically proper behavior.’ I noted that certain names and ideas are now forbidden within academia for ideological reasons, just as had been the case in my youth.”

Normally these days the people who uphold cancel culture lash out at anyone who speaks up against enforced ideologies. The reaction against Anna Krylov, however, was better than has recently been the case with many other people that illiberal ideologues have attacked: “I expected to be viciously mobbed, and possibly cancelled, like others before me. Yet the result surprised me. Although some did try to cancel me, I received a flood of encouraging emails from others who share my concern with the process by which radical political doctrines are being injected into STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] pedagogy, and by which objective science is being subjugated to regressive moralization and censorship. The high ratio of positive-to-negative comments (even on Twitter!) gave me hope that the silent liberal majority within STEM may (eventually) prevail over the forces of illiberalism.”

You can read more about this in Anna Krylov and Jay Tanzman’s article in Quillette, “Academic Ideologues Are Corrupting STEM. The Silent Liberal Majority Must Fight Back.” The article includes lots of links to related stories.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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