Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘lichen

Lichen details

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In Schroeter Neighborhood Park on February 15th I got close to lichens on decaying branches. Might the first lichen be the one people call pretty ruffle, Parmotrema austrosinense? And might the one below be the eastern speckled shield, Punctelia bolliana? In any case, don’t all those contorted surfaces ensorcel you?





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Wiktionary defines bowdlerize as ‘to remove or alter those parts of a text considered offensive, vulgar, or otherwise unseemly.’ The verb comes from the last name Bowdler, borne by English physician Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825) and his sister Henrietta Maria Bowdler (1750–1830), who together published The Family Shakespeare, an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare’s plays.

In the 20th century, bowdlerization came to be looked on as prudish. The 21st century has seen the practice come roaring back, even as the ideological prudes bringing it back have nixed any reference to the Bowdlers, who as straight white Anglo-Saxon Christians are considered to occupy a position at or very near the top of the oppression pyramid and therefore not to be given credit for anything, even establishing the precedent for the current bowdlerization.

Last week news broke about bowdlerization on a scale so vast as to rival The Family Shakespeare two centuries earlier. This time the multi-offending author is another Briton, Roald Dahl, who can’t speak for himself because he had the bad taste to die in 1990 and thus escape living vilification by today’s inquisitors. Wikipedia states that Dahl’s “books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide” and that he “has been called ‘one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century'”. As the article notes:

Dahl’s short stories are known for their unexpected endings, and his children’s books for their unsentimental, macabre, often darkly comic mood, featuring villainous adult enemies of the child characters. His children’s books champion the kindhearted and feature an underlying warm sentiment. His works for children include James and the Giant PeachCharlie and the Chocolate FactoryMatildaThe WitchesFantastic Mr FoxThe BFGThe TwitsGeorge’s Marvellous Medicine and Danny, the Champion of the World. His works for older audiences include the short story collections Tales of the Unexpected and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More.

Enter today’s woke bowdlerizers. Holly Thomas puts it this way in an opinion piece for CNN:

Roald Dahl’s books for children, some of the most beloved works of fiction ever written, have had a makeover. According to a notice from their publisher, Puffin, sensitivity readers have “reviewed” the stories’ language, and in some instances, altered it to “ensure that it can continue to be enjoyed by all today.”

All, of course, except the millions of people who’ve read Roald Dahl’s books in their original wording and prefer them that way. To give you a sense of what this latest mass bowdlerization is like, here are a few of the great many changes.

Although, the last I looked, black is a real color (or physicists would say the absence of all color), the bowdlerizers no longer allow physical objects to be described that way. Regarding tractors, the sentence saying “the machines were both black” has been cut. Similarly for white: a character no longer “turns white” but instead “turns quite pale.”

No one in Dahl’s books is now allowed to be described as fat (even though elsewhere the same woke censors use the term “fat shaming” to criticize anyone who says it’s not healthy to be fat). “Fat little brown mouse” has become “little brown mouse.” “Here’s your little boy,’ she said. ‘He needs to go on a diet’” has gotten slimmed down to “Here’s your little boy.”

“Fearful ugliness” is now just “ugliness.” “Ladies and gentlemen” is now “folks” because we can’t have any reference to the biological reality that two—and only two—sexes exist, and that they’re different from each other. Similarly, “English father” has become “English parent.”

“Frumptious freaks” has become “beastly Twits.” Won’t animals now find that first word offensive?

“Mad” is another systematic target. “You must be mad, woman!” becomes “You must be out of your mind,” even though “mad” and “out of your mind” mean the same thing (and notice how “woman” vanished). “Laughing like mad” is now “laughing wildly.” “Mrs Jenkins will go crazy” turns into “Mrs Jenkins will be furious.”

Like “disappeared” people who got airbrushed out of photographs under Stalin’s dictatorship, the new censors replace disfavored authors. Take this passage: “She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling.” Now it’s “She went to nineteenth century estates with Jane Austen. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and California with John Steinbeck.”

I could go on and on but you get the point. If you do want to see more depredations, you can follow up any of the many hits from this Internet search.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 23, 2023 at 4:29 AM

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On and near the boulders

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The last two posts have featured scenes from our October 12th visit to City of Rocks State Park, which is in southwestern New Mexico. While the arrays of boulders are the park’s major draw, as a photographer I also got attracted to things on and near the boulders. Include among them the chartreuse lichens on a shaded boulder, as shown above. Grass seed heads stood out against the darker base of another boulder:


Did I mention that the chartreuse lichens on a shaded boulder caught my fancy?



In the underbrush near some other boulders the Lady Eve noticed something moving. It turned out to be a tarantula, which I coaxed onto a stick so I could hold it up for a portrait before setting it gently back on the ground in the place it had come from.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2022 at 4:29 AM

“Bloom” patterns at Inks Lake State Park

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On May 6th we drove the roughly one hour west to Inks Lake State Park, which by coincidence we’d visited exactly one year earlier. Because of the continuing drought, the place wasn’t the coreopsis-covered wonderland we’d found there in the spring of 2019. One thing that caught my attention last week that wasn’t there when we’d last visited, in November 2021, was bright green algae in several places along the lakeline, where the algae contrasted in color with the granite that underlies the region. Shape-wise I saw similarities to the many lichens on the selfsame granite in rocks and boulders.


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The Bill of Rights consists of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Perhaps the best known of the 10 is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It’s become common these days to hear people say that the First Amendment came first because it states the most fundamental rights of American citizens. As conveniently symbolic as that justification sounds, it’s not true. An article on Thoughtco.com explains:

Drawing on the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, mainly written by George Mason, James Madison drafted 19 amendments, which he submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives on June 8, 1789. The House approved 17 of them and sent [them] to the U.S. Senate, which approved 12 of them on September 25. Ten were ratified by the states and became law on December 15, 1791.

When the Senate’s 12 amendments were submitted to the states for ratification, the first two of them failed, so the remaining 10 that got approved all moved up two slots. What was originally the third of the 12 amendments became our First Amendment. To learn more of the details, including information about the two amendments that failed in 1789—one of which finally got approved two centuries later—you can read the full article.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman







Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Two shades of green

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Under overcast skies a year ago today I went to the Sierra Nevada side of Great Hills Park. We’d had a bit of rain, and I noticed a prominent raindrop (and a tiny one) on the leaflet of a Lindheimer’s senna plant (Senna lindheimeri). I knew to look because the leaflets of that species are covered with little hairs that trap water. Nearby I scooted beneath some Ashe juniper branches (Juniperus ashei) to check out the low remains of a few trunks. In the dim light two narrow areas on a decaying trunk seemed to glow lime-sherbet green. I’m assuming those green areas were made up of fine lichens.

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Racist “anti-racism”

… [A] positive white identity is an impossible goal. White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy. This does not mean that we should stop identifying as white and start claiming only to be Italian or Irish. To do so is to deny the reality of racism in the here and now, and this denial would simply be color-blind racism. Rather, I strive to be “less white.” To be less white is to be less racially oppressive. This requires me to be more racially aware, to be better educated about racism, and to continually challenge racial certitude and arrogance.

If there’s anyone whose racial certitude and arrogance need to be continually challenged and forcefully repudiated, it’s Robin DiAngelo, author of the White Fragility from which the quoted racist trash comes. As one example of how far the United States has fallen from its ideals this year, consider that the people in charge of the American military are now forcing soldiers to read this garbage. Gone is Martin Luther King’s aspiration: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 3, 2021 at 4:31 AM

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Lichen on moss

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When I visited the Stillhouse Hollow Nature Preserve on July 7th I hadn’t been there for several years. Rain in the weeks before my visit left parts of the place looking a little Pacific-Northwest-ish, as evidenced by the lichens on moss on a dead tree branch that you see busily filling the frame in today’s close-up.


In the last post I provided governmental evidence to prove that the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” meme that some people still push developed from a false story about Michael Brown. One organization that has continued to push the false narrative is Black Lives Matter. When I checked the national organization’s website in July of 2020, it included Brown as a “victim” of an unjust system. When I re-checked the website a couple of days ago, it still memorialized the petty criminal who stole from a store, shoved the employee who confronted him, then a little later attacked a policeman and tried to grab his gun.

One thing that has disappeared from the Black Lives Matter website between July of last year and now is this statement: “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.” It’s not that those in charge don’t still want to disrupt the nuclear family. They do, but saying so on their website was bringing them too much adverse publicity, so they took their “What We Believe” page down.

Three times the “What We Believe” statement used the word collective or collectively, and twice the word comrades. Those words made it clear that this is an organization that advocates Marxism, the ideology that in the Soviet Union and China in the 20th century caused the deaths of tens of millions of people. One of the founders of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, was proud to identify herself as a Marxist in 2015: “We actually do have an ideological frame. Myself and Alicia [Garza] in particular, we’re trained organizers. We are trained Marxists. We are super versed on ideological theories.” (You can watch her saying that at about one minute into a YouTube video.)

You shouldn’t be surprised that this recent American incarnation of Marxism is as unethical and hypocritical as every other one has been. For example, even as millions were driven to starvation in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, those in control got wealthy and lived the good life. Similarly, North Koreans today lead miserable lives while Kim Jong-un gets fat. This spring brought the revelation that Patrisse Khan-Cullors, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter who revels in being a Marxist and is therefore presumably a champion of the masses and an enemy of capitalism, nevertheless managed to buy not one, not two, not three, but four houses worth some 3.2 million dollars in all. I guess that’s supposed to set an example of fair housing practices, though it seems to be a new form of Redlining.

Many people who support Black Lives Matter do so because they want fair treatment for everyone, regardless of race. That’s a noble goal, one that I support, too, but just be aware that the national Black Lives Matter organization stands for things other than those you may think it does.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2021 at 4:38 AM

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Lichens at Enchanted Rock

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Yesterday you heard that on April 12th we visited Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
How about the red-orange color of the lichens in the abstract view above?
Below, see the way pale gray lichens almost completely covered the rock in the foreground.

And here’s little lichen ring you can slip on your rough imagination’s finger:

For a concise and colorful primer on lichens, check out “Why Lichens Matter.” As for what makes matter matter, the answer is existence. An English-language etymologist would add that matter, which traces back to mater, the Latin word for ‘mother,’ is the universe’s ‘mother stuff.’

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2021 at 4:46 AM

Textures of different kinds

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At the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on March 24th I focused on textures of different kinds. The photograph above reveals a prickly pear cactus pad from which all the outer covering and inner cells and water had passed away, leaving only the sturdy structure that once supported them. In contrast, the picture below shows a rounded, colorful patch of lichens on a boulder.

For those interested in the art and craft of photography, I’ll add that the first photograph exemplifies point 4, and the second one point 15, in About My Techniques.

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A theme I’ve been pursuing here for a week now is that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense,” which is a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense can be shown not to be true.

Here’s a simple example from the everyday world of buying and selling. Suppose an item in a store goes up 50% in price and later comes down 50% in price. A lot of people would say it’s “common sense” that the rise in price and then the fall in price by the same percent would bring the item back to its original price; in this case the +50% and the –50% would cancel each other out.

Alas, that bit of “common sense” isn’t true. To see that it’s not, let’s give the item in question a specific price, say $40. After that price goes up by half (+50%), it’s $60. After the $60 price gets reduced by half (–50%), it drops to $30. The new price is less than the original $40 price, not equal to it.

Now let’s go a step further. In the real world, switching the order of two actions usually leads to different results. For example, mixing the ingredients for a cake and then baking them will give a very different cake than the one you’d get by baking the ingredients first and then mixing them. Waiting for an empty swimming pool to fill up and then diving head-first into it is recreational; diving head-first into an empty swimming pool and then waiting for it to fill up could well be fatal.

With those examples in mind, it seems “common sense” that if we go back to our example of prices and reverse the order of the two equal-percent changes, we might well get a different result. Specifically, what will happen if this time we first apply a 50% decrease to a price and then a 50% increase? Last time the final price ended up lower than where it started. By reversing the order of the changes, might the price now end up higher than where it started? As I used to say to my students: when in doubt, try it out. Beginning once again with a price of $40, if we reduce it by half (–50%) the new price is $20. If we now increase that $20 price by half (+50%) the final price is $30. The result comes out exactly the same as before: the original $40 price will still end up getting reduced to $30. Unlike many things in the real world, in this situation reversing the order of our actions makes no difference.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 14, 2021 at 4:28 AM


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Here are three abstract views of nicicles (nice icicles) from February 17th in our yard.

You may be aware that the Icelandic word for ‘glacier’ is jökull. That’s the cognate [i.e. linguistic relative] of the -icle part of icicle. The original word that -icle was a diminutive of meant ‘ice,’ so icicle says the same thing twice. If we had the word wetwater it would be the same sort of redundancy. On another score, the only words in English that rhyme with icicle appear to be bicycle and tricycle; leave those vehicles out in a winter storm and you could end up with many a bicycle icicle or tricycle icicle.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 2, 2021 at 4:39 AM

The temperature dropped 15° in as many minutes

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There I was lying on the ground at the edge of Lake Pflugerville on December 30th last year to photograph this bare bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) against menacing clouds when suddenly the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, both noticeably, as the predicted cold front came through. Adding some brightness to the bleak sky and dark branches were the colorful lichens on the tree’s trunk:

Unrelated thought for today:  “Credulity is always greatest in times of calamity.” — Charles MacKay,
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, first published in 1841.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 10, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Three views of lichens on granitic rock

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One of the pleasures of visiting the area near Inks Lake in Burnet County is the visibility of granitic rock.

Here are various types of lichens I saw along Park Road 4 on April 27th.

UPDATE: After this posted, I found an article that explains lichens in a way I hadn’t heard before.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2020 at 4:30 AM

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