Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘pareidolia

Longhorn Cavern, part 4

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On January 26th we visited Longhorn Cavern State Park, which is about an hour’s drive west of home.
All the pictures here came from my iPhone 14 in raw mode at 48.8 megapixels per image.



Our tour guide surprised me by bringing up the word pareidolia and asking if any of us knew what it meant. It’s been a mainstay in my posts for several years, so naturally I piped up with a definition. The guide said I was only the third person he’d encountered in a tour group who knew it (and of course many of you would have known it, too). The reason he brought up pareidolia is that visitors tend to imagine they see something in several of the Longhorn Cavern formations.



The mass of rock above—found elsewhere in the cavern and moved to this pedestal—strikes many onlookers as a mammal of some sort. I leave the formation below to your imagination. Speak up if you’re so inclined.




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Here are still more quotations from Andrew Doyle‘s 2022 book The New Puritans.
(I’ve retained his British spelling and punctuation.)


This tendency to persist with false convictions even when evidence is produced to contradict them is known as ‘belief perseverance’, and is a recurring trait among ideologues. This applies as much to the student activist who has convinced himself that his university is a hothouse of white supremacy as it does to the soldier in the gulag committing acts of torture on those innocent prisoners who refused to recite the approved creed.

The greatest trick of authoritarians is to convince their subjects to rejoice in their own subjugation.

Claiming to be an ‘anti-fascist’ is rather like wearing a badge saying ‘I am not a paedophile’; it makes others wonder what you’re hiding.

Hysteria is no sound basis for political analysis….

When you ask someone to declare pronouns, you are doing one of two things. You are either saying that you are having trouble identifying this person’s sex, or you are saying that you believe in the notion of gender identity and expect others to do the same. As a species we are very well attuned to recognising the sex of other people, so, for the most part, to ask for pronouns is an expression of fealty to a fashionable ideology, and to set a test for others to do likewise. This is akin to a religious conviction, and we would be rightly appalled if employers were to demand that their staff proclaim their faith in Christ the Saviour or Baal the Canaanite god of fertility before each meeting.


UPDATE: You can read an article about belief perseverance.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2023 at 4:30 AM

Pareidolia in ice-encased yaupon twigs

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On February 2nd, coincidentally our second day in the cold, I went out into the yard with my “real” camera, a macro lens, and a ring flash to see what I could do with the ice-encased yaupon trees, Ilex vomitoria. On the top image’s right side I see the reflections of the light on the ice as Hebrew writing. Perhaps you give a big thumbs up to that. Or maybe you see something in the picture below. Speak your imaginings if you wish.




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It’s a familiar predicament. We are living through a frenzy of conformity, in which the opinions of a minority of activists are falsely presented by the media, political and corporate classes as though they reflect an established consensus. The impact is being felt in all walks of life. For instance, after the seismic events of the summer of 2020 following the killing of George Floyd, an actor friend of mine was contacted by her agency because she had not posted anything on social media in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. She was told that she must do so immediately if she wanted casting directors to consider her for any future roles. I have heard many such anecdotes, but invariably they are communicated privately. There is a strong general feeling that to publicly object to the prevailing dogma is to jeopardise one’s career and social standing. I have lost count of the number of emails from academics, artists and media figures who have contacted me to express sympathy for my criticism of the new puritans, but who admit that they could never endorse my sentiments in public for fear of ‘cancellation’. It is a circular problem that can only possibly be resolved if sufficient numbers speak out.

This is the sad reality of most present-day working environments, where to utter a forbidden opinion, to misspeak, or even to fail to show due fealty to received wisdom can be an impediment to future job prospects. As a former teacher, I am still in contact with ex-colleagues who are troubled by the sudden revisions made to curricula and pastoral policies. Many are being forced to undergo ‘unconscious bias’ training, even though there is overwhelming evidence that such schemes are unreliable and ineffective. To raise a complaint is taken as proof of the kind of prejudice that the tests seek to expose. After all, only a witch would deny the existence of witchcraft.

Many teachers are concerned about how such modifications have been rushed through with little consultation with parents or staff. One teacher told me about a school assembly, conducted over the internet in the early days of the first coronavirus lockdown, in which pupils were berated for their ‘white privilege’. The Reverend Dr Bernard Randall, a school chaplain at Trent College in Derbyshire, told me about training sessions in which staff were instructed to chant ‘smash heteronormativity’, and when he delivered a sermon about the importance of respectfully challenging such ideological viewpoints he was reported to Prevent, the government’s anti-terrorism programme. Other private schools have pledged their fealty to Black Lives Matter, despite the fact that this explicitly anti-capitalist movement objects to their existence and would presumably be happy to see these institutions razed to the ground. In a noble effort to be seen to address injustice, these schools are implementing divisive and contentious theories as though they are irrefutable truths.


Amen to that, which is from Andrew Doyle’s 2022 book The New Puritans.
You’re welcome to read Noel Yaxley’s good review of it.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 6, 2023 at 4:29 AM

Still more and different takes on icicles

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Here’s a third installment of portraits that came from nearly four hours of
photographic playing with icicles on the morning of December 25th.



The location was a stretch of cliffs along the main creek in Great Hills Park.



In the odd-numbered pictures I used flash. In the even-numbered photographs natural light had its way with the ice. Each approach had an advantage. Flash allowed for more to stay in focus from front to back. Natural light let the icicles hold on to the colors they picked up from their surroundings.



(Pictures from Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle will resume next time.)



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Parents in the United States have a strong preference for charter schools, regardless of demographic factors including race, income, geographic region or political affiliation, according to a report released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

An online survey of some 5,000 parents of schoolchildren revealed that 74 percent would consider sending their child to a charter school if one were available to them. Even among parents who might not choose a charter, 84 percent believe charter schools should be available to others.

Nearly 90 percent of families whose children have switched school types experienced a positive change as a result of the switch, with 57 percent saying their child was happier.


So begins a January 6th story in The Epoch Times. You can read the whole article. One thing I would want to know is how representative the online respondents were of the American population as a whole.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 8, 2023 at 4:31 AM

More takes on icicles

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Icicles and I had something in common for nearly four hours on the morning of December 25th: we met at a cliff along the main creek in Great Hills Park. As the day advanced, I swapped my heavy winter jacket for a lighter one and took off my gloves. The icicles, clad in nothing, had only parts of themselves to shed, which at first they barely and then more noticeably did.

I took hundreds and hundreds of pictures as I tried different ways of portraying the icicles. Sometimes I used flash, as above, where the nether ends of the icicles merged with ice that had formed when dripping water froze on a stone slope.



At other times I went without flash. After I noticed the still-low sun intermittently peeking through far branches and close icicles pendant from a rock overhang, I exposed for the bright light, knowing the rest of the image would remain, and wanting it to remain, largely dark. Aiming into the sun produced two artifacts. One, expected, is the sunburst. As for the other, serendipitous and pareidolic, I’ll leave it to you to see whether your imagination works the same way mine does.

Also without flash, and much farther from my subject, is the view below showing tiers of icicles adjacent to southern maidenhair ferns, Adiantum capillus-veneris. From what I’ve read, the brown fern leaves were dead, even as the plants they were on might have been merely dormant.





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The other day I complained about Congress passing an “omnibus” bill filled with many wasteful and frivolous things that will cause us, the taxpayers, to borrow another $1.67 trillion at increasingly high interest rates. Not only doesn’t Congress rein in profligate spending, our government doesn’t seem duly concerned about stopping fraud. Here’s a case in point.

As someone of a certain age, I’m on Medicare, which is a government health program for old folks. My December Medicare statement showed two unauthorized charges, one for August 26, 2022, and the other for September 26, 2022. In each case the biller was West Lake RX LLC, at 1255 SW Loop, Suite 120, San Antonio, TX 78227-1666, with phone number 210-851-8448. The billing in the amount of $351.90 on each of those two dates was for “1 Supply allowance for therapeutic continuous glucose monitor (cgm), includes all supplies and acces[s]o[ries] (K0553-KXCG).” The doctor who supposedly prescribed this, Laeeq Butt, is unknown to me, but when I searched online I found he practices telemedicine in Florida. I have never had any medical condition that requires glucose monitoring. When I called Medicare to report the unauthorized billings I was told that this is a known fraud and constitutes criminal activity because Medicare paid the company $183.93 each time. West Lake RX LLC doesn’t seem to have a website of its own, but at Yelp I found many people reporting similar fraudulent billing from the company.

Human nature being what it is, we expect some people to commit fraud. We also expect our government employees, of whom there are millions, to do something about it. Alas, the agent I spoke with at Medicare when I reported the unauthorized billing told me Medicare has no mechanism to flag fraudulent claims on people’s accounts. That seems to mean criminal companies will keep billing Medicare, and Medicare will keep using our tax money to pay the fraudulent claims. Outrageous, isn’t it? It’s also outrageous, since this is a known fraud, that the Federal District Attorney in San Antonio hasn’t filed charges against the company and had the police arrest the people committing the fraud.

I’ve reported all the details of my fraudulent billing not only to Medicare but also, as the Medicare agent instructed me to do, to the Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Trade Commission. Whether it will do any good remains to be seen.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 31, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Perhaps pareidolic lichens

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On the grounds of Central City Austin on March 4th I photographed these lichens on a dead branch.
If you’re prone to pareidolia, you might see this as the left profile of some long and scaly creature.


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Now imagine this scenario. A man is driving a tractor-trailer down a long hill when a woman driving a station wagon goes through a stop sign and crosses his path not far in front of him. The truck driver swerves and tries desperately to avoid a collision, but the station wagon is too close. Immediately after the horrible crash the man runs over and does his best to help the injured. Nevertheless, the woman and one of her three children in the car dies; the other two children are seriously injured but eventually recover. Decades later, the dead woman’s widower, who was elsewhere at the time of the crash, speaks about it repeatedly. Sometimes he intimates, and other times says outright, that the truck driver had been drinking and killed his wife and daughter. The widower never mentions that his wife drove through a stop sign into the path of the tractor-trailer coming down a long hill, nor that authorities who investigated the collision found that the truck driver had done nothing wrong and didn’t charge him with any offense.

What do you say? Did the widower act honorably?
If you were the truck driver or one of his family members, how would you feel about the widower’s claims?

Take a moment to think how you would answer those questions,
then scroll down for all the details of this true story.



The driver of the truck in the 1972 collision was Curtis C. Dunn. The driver of the station wagon was Neilia Biden. According to a January 25, 2019, article in Politico by Michael Kruse:

The truck carrying corncobs broadsided the Bidens’ white Chevrolet station wagon returning from a trip to pick the family Christmas tree. It sheared off the left rear wheel and drove the back door into the back seat and pushed the car some 150 feet into a thicket of evergreens. Neilia Biden, 30, and Naomi “Amy” Biden, 13 months, were dead on arrival at the hospital. Joseph “Beau” Biden III, 3, had a slew of broken bones, and Robert Hunter “Hunt” Biden, 2, had head injuries that doctors feared might be permanent.

After September 11, 2001, Joe Biden claimed empathy with the victims of that day’s terrorist attacks by referring to his losses in the 1972 accident. “It was an errant driver who stopped to drink instead of drive and hit—a tractor-trailer—hit my children and my wife and killed them.” In 2007, he similarly said: “A tractor-trailer, a guy who allegedly — and I never pursued it — drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch, broadsided my family and killed my wife instantly and killed my daughter instantly and hospitalized my two sons.” Here’s what the Politico article said about that:

The problem was it wasn’t true. The driver of the truck, Curtis C. Dunn of Pennsylvania, was not charged with drunk driving. He wasn’t charged with anything. The accident was an accident, and though the police file no longer exists, coverage in the newspapers at the time made it clear that fault was not in question. For whatever reason, Neilia Biden, who was holding the baby, ended up in the right of way of Dunn’s truck coming down a long hill.

“She had a stop sign. The truck driver did not,” Jerome Herlihy told me. He’s a retired judge who then was a deputy attorney general and once was a neighbor to Biden and remains friendly. A pal of Biden at the time asked Herlihy “to go out to the state police troop where the driver of the other vehicle was to make sure everything was going all right,” and so he did. “In the end,” Herlihy said, “I concurred in their decision that there was no fault on his part.”

As a 2008 article in Delaware’s Newark Post reported:

Dunn died in 1999, but his daughter says she’s fed up with Biden publicly mischaracterizing him as having been drunk when the accident occurred.

According to Delaware Superior Court Judge Jerome O. Herlihy, who oversaw the police investigation 36 years ago as chief prosecutor, there is no evidence supporting Biden’s claim.

“The rumor about alcohol being involved by either party, especially the truck driver (Dunn), is incorrect,” Herlihy said recently.

Police determined that Biden’s first wife drove into the path of Dunn’s tractor-trailer, possibly because her head was turned and she didn’t see the oncoming truck.

Dunn, who overturned his rig while swerving to avoid a collision, ran to the wrecked car and was the first to render assistance.

Police filed no charges against Dunn, who at that time lived in North East, Md. with his wife, Ruby, and their seven children.

Biden has been alluding to alcohol being involved in the crash for nearly a decade. During a speech in 2001, Biden told an audience at University of Delaware that a drunken driver crashed into his family.

So much for telling the truth. The articles linked above offer many more details, as does one by Guy Benson from 2019 in Town Hall. A 2020 article by Megan Palin in the U.S. Sun includes many comments by Dunn’s daughter Deborah Criddle, along with photographs showing the Dunn Family and the Biden Family in the relevant decade and later on. A March 16th article by John Soriano in the Federalist originally prompted me to head down the path that became today’s commentary.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 19, 2022 at 4:34 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

Winecup flower center

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In this closeup of a winecup (Callirhoe sp.) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 25th the shadow struck me as appropriate for the profile of a gnome or ogre or some such creature.

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It’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense.” That’s a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense are easily shown to be untrue. Over the next week I’ll give some examples, starting now.

Suppose you live in City A. One morning you get on an Interstate highway, drive to a place in City B, and with light traffic you end up averaging 70 mph for the trip. Three days later you return along the same route, but this time traffic is heavy, and in addition rain pours down for much of the time. As a result, you end up averaging a pitiful 30 mph for your return trip from City B to City A. Now here’s my question: what was your average speed for the round trip? Most people who are given these facts and asked that question will say the average speed for the round trip was 50 mph, which they got by averaging 70 and 30: 70 + 30 = 100, and 100 ÷ 2 = 50. It’s common sense, right?

So simple, so easy—and so wrong! People who come up with an answer of 50 mph don’t understand what an average is. An average is the total of one kind of thing divided by the total of another kind of thing. The very label “miles per hour” tells you what to do: take the total mileage traveled on the round trip and divide by the total number of hours spent doing it.

Let’s suppose City A and City B are 210 miles apart. Driving that 210 miles on the way from A to B at an average of 70 mph took you 3 hours. Returning another 210 miles from B to A at an average 30 mph hour took you a whopping 7 hours. The total distance you drove was 210 miles out plus 210 miles back, or 420 miles. The total time you spent was 3 hours out plus 7 hours back, for a total of 10 hours. As a result, 420 miles ÷ 10 hours gives an average speed of 42 miles per hour for the round trip.

Now, most people’s “common sense” would probably have them objecting: Wait a minute, not so fast (which is a convenient play on words in an example about speeds). These people would assume the average speed depends on how far apart City A and City B are. Well, in fact it makes no difference at all how far apart City A and City B are. Pick any distance you like, do the same kinds of calculations I did (which may mean you’ll need to pull out a calculator because the numbers probably won’t come out so pretty), and you’ll still end up with an average of 42 mph for the round trip.

The reason the true round-trip average speed ends up below the “common sense” but wrong average of 50 mph is that you spent more time driving at a slow speed of 30 mph than at a fast speed of 70 mph, and that pulls the average speed down. In summary, the truth is that despite “common sense” you can’t generally average averages.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 8, 2021 at 4:43 AM

Return to the cliff: textures

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Beyond orange and green things, I mostly focused on geological textures during
my January 16th return to the cliff along the Capital of Texas Highway south of FM 2222.

In the next picture, those among you of the pareidolic persuasion may see
a right-facing profile in the shadow, perhaps even that of George Washington.

And let me close by pulling back to a more expansive view showing an especially photogenic portion of the seeping cliff. At its top you see Ashe junipers (Juniperus ashei), seemingly ubiquitous in many parts of Austin.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 21, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Like a lion

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This rock formation reminds me of an animal’s head, most often a lion’s.
I photographed it along a tributary of Bull Creek in Great Hills Park on June 24th.
Hail, hail, not Freedonia but pareidolia.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 4, 2019 at 4:45 AM

A preternaturally svelte and icy en pointe

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A preternaturally svelte and icy en pointe.

Great Hills Park; January 17, 2018.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 4, 2019 at 11:24 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Surprise on a ten-petal anemone

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I inaugurated the new wildflower season here with a post showing a ten-petal anemone (Anemone berlandieri) that I photographed on January 28th. As each fertilized flower matures, a lengthening seed column develops in the center, and eventually the sepals fall off. That was on its way to happening to the anemone in today’s picture from February 18th. When I moved in to make my portrait, I discovered that a crab spider had gotten there first. Those of you inclined to pareidolia may well see a face in the upside-down spider’s abdomen.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 28, 2019 at 4:40 AM

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