Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘pareidolia

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

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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.

* * * * * * *

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

Shadow as an emblem of a bird in flight

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Along the North Walnut Creek Trail on the morning of September 19th I looked down at a mushroom and saw a dark bird winging west. Oh, the world of illusions we live in. Casting the magic shadow spell was a straggler daisy plant, Calyptocarpus vialis.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 27, 2018 at 4:46 AM

New Zealand: the retrospective from a year ago concludes

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Well, folks, it’s been fun reviewing some of the sights and sites that made our 2017 visit to New Zealand so memorable. I’ll admit it’s not hard to do that in such a scenic country.

Like the past several posts, here’s a last one from Cathedral Cove on March 7th. It’s something that Georgia O’Keeffe might have felt right at home with if you allow dried-out driftwood to take the place of a sun-bleached animal skull.

I’d planned to take pictures for one more day on this trip, and in particular I wanted to go back to Whangaparaoa, where I’d seen some colorfully appealing patterns on Little Manly Beach in 2015. Alas, even as we drove back to Whitianga from Cathedral Cove, drops began to fall (look at the dark sky in the upper left of the photograph), and the rain continued heavily all through the night. When we went to check out of our apartment the next morning to head for Auckland, the manager told us that so much rain had come down that both roads off the Coromandel Peninsula were washed out. We ended up spending an extra day in Whitianga with little to do, given the yucky weather. By the morning of March 9th, one of the two roads off the peninsula had reopened and we made it to Auckland with a few hours to spare before we had to check in at the airport for our flight home. Adiós, New Zealand.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 10, 2018 at 4:44 AM

New Zealand: the glow not of worms but of day

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A year and a day ago we visited the Kawiti Caves in Waiomio to make up for something we’d missed on our first New Zealand trip: the famous glowworms. I couldn’t record that sort of glow on a public tour, so I turned my camera loose on what the glow of day revealed outside the caves. Mostly that meant native bush and boulders. (If we extend the scope of “native” to include “boulders,” we can ask whether there’s such a thing as a non-native boulder? I guess a large meteorite qualifies.)

I couldn’t decide which of two prominent rock formations to show, so I’ve included both. At the far right in the second view a few of you may see a pareidolic head akin to New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain, which collapsed in 2003.

What most caught my attention outside the glowworm caves was the old man’s beard lichens (genus Usnea) hanging conspicuously from some of the trees:

Just a month before I came upon this beard lichen in New Zealand, I photographed a species of Usnea an hour east of Austin.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 9, 2018 at 4:38 AM

A hoodoo begets a head

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Click for greater size.

This heady panorama is from the morning of September 3rd at Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, where strange cloud shadows in the sky had greeted us a couple of hours earlier.

If you’re interested in the craft of photography, point 6 in About My Techniques is relevant to today’s picture.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2017 at 4:51 AM

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