Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘patterns

“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

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

New Zealand: observations along S.H. 25

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Five years ago today, near the end of our second New Zealand visit,
we found ourselves driving north from Thames along State Highway 25.

I stopped several times along the shore to record photogenic things.

Photogenic for me often means patterned or textured.

 

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And three years ago today—oh, look how calendrically attuned I am—Quillette ran Lyell Asher‘s article “How Ed Schools Became a Menace to Higher Education.”

 

… Education schools have long been notorious for two mutually reinforcing characteristics: ideological orthodoxy and low academic standards. As early as 1969, Theodore Sizer and Walter Powell hoped that “ruthless honesty” would do some good when they complained that at far too many ed schools, the prevailing climate was “hardly conducive to open inquiry.” “Study, reflection, debate, careful reading, even, yes, serious thinking, is often conspicuous by its absence,” they continued. “Un-intellectualism—not anti-intellectualism, as this assumes malice—is all too prevalent.” Sizer and Powell ought to have known: At the time they were dean and associate dean, respectively, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

More than three decades later, a comprehensive, four-year study of ed schools headed by a former president of Teachers College, Arthur Levine, found that the majority of educational-administration programs “range from inadequate to appalling, even at some of the country’s leading universities.” Though there were notable exceptions, programs for teaching were described as being, in the main, weak and mediocre. Education researchers seemed unable to achieve even “minimum agreement” about “acceptable research practice,” with the result that there are “no base standards and no quality floor.” Even among ed school faculty members and deans, the study found a broad and despairing recognition that ed school training was frequently “subjective, obscure, faddish, … inbred, and politically correct.”

That could be the damning educational equivalent of Thomas Hobbes characterizing the life of man in a natural state as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Here’s another of Lyell Asher’s observations:

There might be nothing wrong with training students in equity and social justice were it not for the inconvenient fact that a college campus is where these ideals and others like them are to be rigorously examined rather than piously assumed. It’s the difference between a curriculum and a catechism.

If you’re concerned about education, particularly the way it has rapidly been morphing into illiberal indoctrination, check out the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 6, 2022 at 4:35 AM

New Zealand: Waimangu Volcanic Valley

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Five years ago today, on our second trip to New Zealand, we spent some hours in the Waimangu Volcanic Valley in the geothermally active area near Rotorua on the North Island. What you might take for low clouds in the top picture of Cathedral Rocks is steam.

The yellow in the second photograph, like the frequent odor we noticed in the air around Rotorua, comes from sulphur. I don’t know what made the green. The last picture shows what’s called Frying Pan Lake. While the water’s a pretty blue, the steam says a swim there would be your last anywhere.

 

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Respect for reason has waxed and waned throughout history. Today, its tide is receding. University professors resign in frustration from what were once our bastions of rationality. Increasingly, the barbarians are not merely at the gates, but running the show in a vast swathe of humanities departments. After decades of decay in our academic training grounds, radical identitarianism and other irrationalities are spreading with accelerating speed, and we are woefully short of thinkers capable of fighting them.

That’s the beginning of a good article by John Hersey about reasoning entitled “Five Lessons from Julia Galef’s ‘The Scout Mindset.’” Check it out. Links in that article lead to other good ones.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 5, 2022 at 4:37 AM

New Zealand: More from Matakatia Bay

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Yesterday’s post showed photographs taken exactly seven years earlier, on the last full day of our initial visit to New Zealand. Those three views were landscapes seen from the Matakatia Bay side of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula a little north of Auckland.

The final pictures I took that afternoon—and the ones that most excited me aesthetically—were abstractions showing colors and forms on the shore at Little Manly Beach. Some of those photographs have shown up in posts since 2015. Now here are three more for your delectation.

 

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We [men and women] work side by side, and some of us imagine that because we are equal under the law, we are also the same. We are and should be equal under the law. But we are not the same—despite what some activists and politicians, journalists and academics would have us believe. There seems to be comfort, for some, in the idea of sameness, but it is a shallow comfort at best. What if the best surgeon in the world was a woman, but it was also true that, on average, most of the best surgeons were male? What if the top ten pediatricians were women? Neither scenario provides evidence of bias or sexism, although those are possible explanations for the observed patterns. In order to ensure that bias or sexism is not predictive of who does what work, we should remove as many barriers to success as possible. We should also not expect that men and women will make identical choices, or be driven to excel at identical things, or even, perhaps, be motivated by the same goals. To ignore our differences and demand uniformity is a different kind of sexism. Differences between the sexes are a reality, and while they can be cause for concern, they are also very often a strength, and we ignore them at our peril.

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

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 27, 2022 at 4:33 AM

A new part of Walnut Creek

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Austin’s Walnut Creek meanders from northwest to southeast for 20 miles before emptying into the Colorado River. On February 19th we walked along a new (to us) portion of the creek adjacent to the western branch of the Copperfield Nature Trail. The flow of water over bedrock beguiled some abstract pictures out of me. Patterns just a few feet apart differ substantially.

 

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My commentary from February 12th about oil and gas became all the more relevant this week when the dictator of Russia sent armies into Ukraine to take over that country. The American president, in collaboration with European countries, imposed economic sanctions that will effectively do nothing. That’s because dictators easily outlast financial sanctions; look how many decades the dictators in Cuba and Iran and North Korea have survived in spite of sanctions.

One effective measure that the United States and Europe could have taken was to cut Russia off from the world’s SWIFT system, which lets countries interchange money with one another. The Europeans wouldn’t go along with that move because they’re so heavily dependent on Russia for oil and gas, which Russia would stop selling to them in retaliation for getting cut off from SWIFT. The United States could supply Europe with oil and gas—except that the current American administration has done everything it could since its very first day in office to strangle our country’s oil and gas production, including canceling the Keystone XL pipeline that would have brought in oil from Canada. In 2020 we were energy-independent; just a year later we weren’t. In the 14 months since the current régime took over, gasoline here has risen to its highest price in years, and some analysts are predicting that the war in Ukraine and its aftermath will drive prices even higher.

In Biden’s address to the world yesterday he could have announced the equivalent of an Operation Warp Spreed to ramp up American oil and gas production as fast as possible so that we could soon supply Europe with any sources of energy that Russia might refuse them. But we heard not a peep about any such measure. The people who comprise the most “woke” administration in American history won’t hear of it. Thus dogma doth make cowards of them all.

The guests on the Megyn Kelly show yesterday made similar points and added others.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 25, 2022 at 4:00 AM

Milton Reimers Ranch Park

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The last time we’d been to Milton Reimers Ranch Park was maybe 20 years ago, when it was still privately owned. Eventually Travis County acquired it in its largest parkland acquisition ever. We visited on January 14th and drove down to one of the portions along the Pedernales River, where we found the water flow as reduced as you see in the top picture. The stumps on the far shore are from bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum), a bunch of which I once read got cut down at the time the Highland Lakes dams were built in the middle of the last century; I never understood the necessity for that. The stumps at Reimers bore unmistakable evidence of having been sawed across at a height of several feet above the ground, but maybe that happened in the 1800s, when settlers prized the wood of bald cypress trees.

In any case, the dry stumps gave me opportunities for abstract
closeups of designs in the wood, as you see above and below.

UPDATE: I just came across an article pointing out that a 2,674-year-old bald cypress tree in North Carolina is the oldest known living tree in eastern North America.

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“Syracuse [University] punishes student for asking man at party if he’s a Canadian sex offender.” That’s the headline from a January 19th article posted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Syracuse University has a policy that bans inflicting “mental harm,” and of course the problem with such a nebulous concept is that “mental harm” is subjective: hyper-sensitive people can claim that any action causes them “mental harm.” Many people in my country who espouse “woke” policies cause me mental distress, but that doesn’t give me any right to punish those people or have institutions punish them on my behalf. You’re welcome to read the particulars of the Syracuse University case on the website of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education; it’s a non-partisan legal organization that defends the free-speech and due-process rights of students and teachers.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2022 at 4:31 AM

The silky strands are better known than the flowers

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When it comes to the Clematis drummondii vine, the swirls of silky strands that spring from its fertilized flowers garner much more attention than the flowers themselves. I sure paid plenty of attention to the lustrous strands I found in the northwest quadrant of Howard Lane and Heatherwilde Blvd. on July 17th. Click to enlarge.


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In a survey by the Cato Institute a year ago, about 62% of respondents confirmed that “the political climate these days prevents them from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive. The share of Americans who self‐​censor has risen several points since 2017 when 58% of Americans agreed with this statement.” While the latest survey included respondents across the political spectrum, conservatives were half again as likely (77%) to feel intimidated as people on the political left (52%). Given all the turbulence over the 12 months since last year’s survey, I imagine the numbers would be even higher today. It’s a shame that in a supposedly free country any people should have to worry about speaking their mind.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2021 at 4:37 AM

An archaeology of light

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An adage says “Out of sight, out of mind,” and yet the saying’s first two words could just as well be replaced by “in.” Familiarity breeds a sort of visual contempt in which ordinary objects might as well be buried.

To let light uncover those everyday objects around the house is to practice an archaeology of light.

On the technical side, I took the first two pictures with my “real” camera
and the third with my iPhone. I prepared this post in 2020 but kept postponing it.

And here’s a thought about photographic esthetics: “Now to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going out for a walk.” — Edward Weston. A bunch of different wordings occur on the Internet. Research leads me to think this one is the most likely to be authentic. I came across a version of the quotation in an article by David duChemin called “Are Your Photographs Poetic?“, which I recommend to you.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 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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