Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘leaves

Colorful clusters along a shallowly sinuous arc

with 15 comments

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) alongside our house on September 2nd.

  

§

§        §        §

§

 

I call to your attention David C. Geary’s well-researched September 1st article “The Ideological Refusal to Acknowledge Evolved Sex Differences.” The subhead is “Boys and girls are not infinitely malleable, socially constructed products of the patriarchy.” Here’s the article’s bottom line, which is to say its final paragraph:

The claims made in a virtual world of internet algorithms populated by ideological social media pundits, journalists, and gender studies professors contradicts common sense and rational analysis of real-world phenomena. This is a world of words and ideas fraught with wishes and desires that are not always tethered to reality, including many far-fetched beliefs about the number of sexes and the origins and malleability of any associated sex or gender differences. Much remains to be learned about these differences which leaves plenty of room for legitimate debate. But there is no scientific room for the nonsensical idea that boys and girls and men and women are infinitely malleable and merely socially constructed products of the patriarchy or some other social system.

You’re welcome to read the full article by David C. Geary, who is a Curators’ Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences and the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at the University of Missouri.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2022 at 6:17 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Sesbania drummondii

with 12 comments

I most often see Sesbania drummondii, known as rattlebush, at the edges of creeks and ponds. On August 23rd, when I walked in the mostly waterless bed of the creek that flows through the part of Great Hills Park nearest to where I live, I found a good many rattlebush plants springing up right in the dry creek bed. No flowers had opened yet, but the readying buds caught my attention. Then I focused on one of the plant’s arcs of leaflets; graceful, don’t you think?

  

§

§        §        §

§

 

Anyone in the academic humanities—anyone who’s gotten within smelling distance of the academic humanities these last 40 years—will see the problem. Loving books is not why people are supposed to become English professors, and it hasn’t been for a long time. Loving books is scoffed at (or would be, if anybody ever copped to it). The whole concept of literature—still more, of art—has been discredited. Novels, poems, stories, plays: these are “texts,” no different in kind from other texts. The purpose of studying them is not to appreciate or understand them; it is to “interrogate” them for their ideological investments (in patriarchy, in white supremacy, in Western imperialism and ethnocentrism), and then to unmask and debunk them, to drain them of their poisonous persuasive power. The passions that are meant to draw people to the profession of literary study, these last many years, are not aesthetic; they are political.

That’s from William Deresiewicz’s August 17th essay in Quillette, “Why I left Academia.” The subtitle is “I didn’t have a choice. Thousands of people are driven out of the profession each year.” You’re welcome to read the full essay.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

The colors said fall; the calendar said otherwise.

with 19 comments

As hardy as poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is, this hueful plant was feeling the effects of two months without rain when I photographed it along Bull Creek on August 17th. People who’ve had patches of skin turn these colors from contact with poison ivy may be less sanguine about the sight than a disinterested nature photographer who’s never had that experience and who values a picture for esthetic reasons.

 

✦        ✦        ✦

  

If you spun a coin 10 times in a row and it came to rest tails all 10 of those times, would you draw any conclusions? You might be suspicious and think you’ve got an unevenly balanced coin that’s weighted toward one side. On the other hand, if you spin even a perfectly balanced coin 10 times in a row over and over and over for zillions of trial runs, simple arithmetic tells us to expect that on average the coin will come up tails 10 times in a row once out of every 1024 trial runs. One out of 1024 is a small number, roughly one-tenth of one percent, but it isn’t zero. Uncommon things do occasionally happen.

Where the human realm intersects the realm of probability, things can get contentious. For example, the American IRS (Internal Revenue Service) legitimately scrutinizes applications from organizations requesting tax-exempt status to make sure those organizations comply with the regulations required of tax-exempt entities. Suppose that over a certain period of time the IRS gives extra scrutiny to hundreds of tax-exempt or would-be tax-exempt organizations that lean in one political direction but to only a handful of organizations that lean in the opposite political direction. Of course that imbalance could have happened just by chance, but people who lean in the way-more-scrutinized political direction would probably suspect that the highly unbalanced scrutiny is intentional rather than random.

Sometimes that kind of suspicion has proven justified. You may recall this item from 2013:

The Internal Revenue Service is apologizing for inappropriately flagging conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.

Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS unit that oversees tax-exempt groups, said organizations that included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status were singled out for additional reviews.

Lerner said the practice, initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati, was wrong and she apologized while speaking at a conference in Washington.

The illegally discriminated-against groups sued and eventually received a financial settlement from the government (which unfortunately means that we the taxpayers paid for the politically motivated misdeeds of some people at the IRS).

You may say that’s old news, which it is. I bring it up, however, because I just came across an article that once again raises doubts about the fairness of our government bureaucracies. You’ll recall that two years ago the U.S. government carried out its once-every-decade census of the population. The results of the census determine, among other things, how many seats in the House of Representatives each state gets. Based on the 2020 census, 7 states lost one House seat apiece; 5 states gained one seat apiece; 1 state (yay, Texas!) even gained two seats.

With that in mind, look how the August 22nd article by Hans von Spakovsky begins:

In a shocking report, the U.S. Census Bureau recently admitted that it overcounted the populations of eight states and undercounted the populations of six states in the 2020 census.

All but one of the states overcounted is a blue [liberal] state, and all but one of the undercounted states is red [conservative].

Those costly errors will distort congressional representation and the Electoral College. It means that when the Census Bureau reapportioned the House of Representatives, Florida was cheated out of two additional seats it should have gotten; Texas missed out on another seat; Minnesota and Rhode Island each kept a representative they shouldn’t have; and Colorado was awarded a new member of the House it didn’t deserve.

So 14 states were incorrectly counted, and in 12 of the 14 cases the result favored the same political party. Could that heavy imbalance have happened merely by chance? Yes, it could have. But the political party that got by far the greatest advantage from the incorrect census counting is the same party that benefited from the illegal IRS over-scrutiny in the previous decade. That understandably raises suspicions among those who are, in the words of an adage, “once bitten, twice shy.”

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Drying leaves

with 24 comments

While in Great Hills Park on the morning of July 15th I made portraits of several kinds of drying leaves. The top photograph shows those of a white prickly poppy, Argemone albiflora. I don’t know what kind of leaves got pulled together in the webbing you see below, nor what critter did the pulling.

 

§

§        §        §

§

 

Incompetent Competencies

The other day I read with horror about how the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) just released its official Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Competencies. For me, competency means that doctors are thoroughly educated in anatomy, disease, and medicine. For the AAMC, competency means that medical students and doctors will glibly prattle all the required woke dogma. As John D. Sailer notes in an article about this for the National Association of Scholars, “the president of the AAMC and the chair of the AAMC’s Council of Deans emphatically stated their support: ‘We believe this topic deserves just as much attention from learners and educators at every stage of their careers as the latest scientific breakthroughs’—a truly remarkable statement of priorities from the leaders of America’s foremost medical education association.”

And as I note here now, time spent on “woke” drivel means time stolen from a proper medical education. It means less-competent doctors, and therefore poorer medical care and ultimately more deaths. On other occasions I’ve noted that the rearranged Holy Trinity of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity yields the acronym DIE. Now it’s clear that the acronym will be even more apt than I realized.

Here are a few of the cant- and jargon-filled incompetent competencies the AAMC is pushing:

Demonstrates knowledge of the intersectionality of a patient’s multiple identities and how each identity may result in varied and multiple forms of oppression or privilege related to clinical decisions and practice [students]

Identifies systems of power, privilege, and oppression and their impacts on health outcomes (e.g., White privilege, racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, religious oppression) [students]

Articulates race as a social construct that is a cause of health and health care inequities, not a risk factor for disease [students]

Practices moral courage, self-advocacy, allyship, and being an active bystander or upstander to address injustices [residents]

Role models anti-racism in medicine and teaching, including strategies grounded in critical understanding of unjust systems of oppression [faculty]

Role models how knowledge of intersectionality informs clinical decision-making and practice [faculty]

If you want to feel sick, go ahead and read the article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

Horsemint and standing cypress

with 15 comments

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.

 

§

§         §         §

§

  

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

with 43 comments

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.

 

‡         ‡         ‡

  

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

with 26 comments

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.)

⩈          ⩈          ⩈

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

with 18 comments

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

 

✣         ✣         ✣

 

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

Tagged with , , ,

Winter color

with 31 comments

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.

⩩          ⩩          ⩩

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

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Winter leaf colors from a native grass

with 27 comments

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.

↯          ↯          ↯

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

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: