Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘pink

Virginia saltmarsh mallows

with 15 comments

 

On the gulf side of Galveston Island State Park on September 19th I sat near the base of some cattails and wildflowers and took a bunch of pictures. At one point a passerby asked me what I was photographing. It seemed pretty obvious to me but I said “wildflowers.” A few minutes later a couple asked me the same question, and I answered the same way. The woman in the couple said she thought what I was photographing looked weedy. There’s no accounting for tastes, is there? The most prominent of the wildflowers I took pictures of there was Virginia saltmarsh mallow, Kosteletzkya pentacarpos or virginica, whose genus name I always have to double-check the spelling of. Below is an artsy portrait showing one of the opening flowers. That it’s reminiscent of a conch befits the oceanside location, don’t you think?

 

  

 

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Much of what we hear about race is superficial. In contrast, consider the thoughtful, nuanced, and sometimes iconoclastic discussion that Kmele Foster, Glenn Loury, and John McWhorter held in July of 2022. You’re welcome to listen to that 53-minute trialogue, “From Racial Reckoning to Race Abolition.”

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 4, 2022 at 4:31 AM

A willet won’t will its way into your will, will it?

with 17 comments

 

On September 19th we spent time at Galveston Island State Park, where we saw—how could we not?—several kinds of shore birds. I figured the one above in the surf on the gulf side of the park is a kind of sandpiper, and Shannon Westveer confirmed that it’s a willet, Catoptrophorus semipalmatus. The dictionary says the common name mimics the willet’s cry. An hour later—to within 15 seconds—on the bay side of the state park I photographed three roseate spoonbills, Platalea ajaja, doing their bill-in-the-water thing sifting for food: 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve long known that calumny and lies in politics go back centuries, in fact probably as long as politics has existed. The introduction to Alan Dershowitz’s new book, The Price of Principle: Why Integrity Is Worth the Consequences, provides a quotation in which Alexander Hamilton called out the practice in 1797:

A principal engine, by which this spirit endeavours to accomplish its purposes is that of calumny. It is essential to its success that the influence of men of upright principles, disposed and able to resist its enterprises, shall be at all events destroyed. Not content with traducing their best efforts for the public good, with misrepresenting their purest motives, with inferring criminality from actions innocent or laudable, the most direct fals[e]hoods are invented and propagated, with undaunted effrontery and unrelenting perseverance. Lies often detected and refuted are still revived and repeated, in the hope that the refutation may have been forgotten or that the frequency and boldness of accusation may supply the place of truth and proof. The most profligate men are encouraged, probably bribed, certainly with patronage if not with money, to become informers and accusers. And when tales, which their characters alone ought to discredit, are refuted by evidence and facts which oblige the patrons of them to abandon their support, they still continue in corroding whispers to wear away the reputations which they could not directly subvert….

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Marsh fleabane

with 20 comments

Been a couple of years since I showed you marsh fleabane, Pluchea odorata, so here’s a view of its flowers and then a softer view of its buds at Meadow Lake Park in Round Rock on August 23rd.

  

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At the head of an August 28th article in Quillette, Bo Winegard quotes Sir Henry Hallett Dale:

And science, we should insist, better than any other discipline, can hold up to its students and followers an ideal of patient devotion to the search for objective truth, with vision unclouded by personal or political motive.

The article per se starts out like this:

Although the modern prestige bestowed upon science is laudable, it is not without peril. For as the ideological value of science increases, so too does the threat to its objectivity. Slogans and hashtags can quickly politicize science, and scientists can be tempted to subordinate the pursuit of the truth to moral or political ends as they become aware of their own prodigious social importance. Inconvenient data can be suppressed or hidden and inconvenient research can be quashed. This is especially true when one political tribe or faction enjoys disproportionate influence in academia—its members can disfigure science (often unconsciously) to support their own ideological preferences. This is how science becomes more like propaganda than empiricism, and academia becomes more like a partisan media organization than an impartial institution.

An editorial in Nature Human Behavior provides the most recent indication of just how bad things are becoming. It begins, like so many essays of its kind, by announcing that, “Although academic freedom is fundamental, it is not unbounded.” When the invocation of a fundamental freedom in one clause is immediately undermined in the next, we should be skeptical of whatever follows.

A little later we find out that

the journal [Nature Human Behavior] will reject articles that might potentially harm (even “inadvertently”) those individuals or groups most vulnerable to “racism, sexism, ableism, or homophobia.” Since it is already standard practice to reject false or poorly argued work, it is safe to assume that these new guidelines have been designed to reject any article deemed to pose a threat to disadvantaged groups, irrespective of whether or not its central claims are true, or at least well-supported. Within a few sentences, we have moved from a banal statement of the obvious to draconian and censorious editorial discretion. Editors will now enjoy unprecedented power to reject articles on the basis of nebulous moral concerns and anticipated harms.

You can read the rest of the article about the sorry state into which science is precipitously falling.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 6, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Two species, three prominent colors

with 15 comments

 

Plenty of native species have been planted around the pond at the intersection of Gault Lane and Burnet Road. On the morning of July 7th I made this group portrait that includes a pavonia mallow flower (Pavonia lasiopetala), several purple bindweed flowers (Ipomoea cordatotriloba), and a yellowed leaf on the bindweed vine. The cordato in the species name means heart-shaped, and that wavily fits the bright leaf.

 

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I’ve mentioned a few times that a group of people who believe in the traditional purpose of a university—the pursuit of knowledge, whatever facts and truths that may lead to—are busy founding the University of Austin (UATX) right here where I live. An inaugural summer session was held in Dallas, and I invite you to read the talk that Bari Weiss gave to the first class of UATX students. It’s called “The New Founders America Needs.”

  

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 15, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Closer looks at mountain pinks

with 10 comments

 

A post late last month revealed the largest colony of mountain pinks (Zeltnera beyrichii) I’ve ever seen. In that case the plants came up vertically in a field of caliche. Mountain pinks are also known to emerge horizontally from the faces of cliffs and roadcuts, which is what you see above from Fireoak Dr. on June 24th. Before the huge colony interposed itself last month I’d been planning to show the closeup below, from Hidden Hills Lane in Cedar Park on June 12th. It looks no worse for the delay.

  

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Two days ago I posted an excerpt from Carl Sagan’s pro-free-speech speech to the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in around 1987. That speech appeared on July 1st in Quillette, which a week earlier had published an article by Colin Wright that also argued for free speech and inquiry and against censorship: “I Got Thrown Off Etsy and PayPal for Expressing My Belief in Biological Reality.” The tag line was “Apparently, selling mugs and shirts that glorify violence against ‘TERFs’ is just fine. But ‘I 💜 J.K. Rowling‘? That‘s hate speech.” Here’s how the article begins:

If readers recognize my byline, it’s because I’ve spent the last few years arguing strenuously for the (apparently controversial) positions that biological sex is real, that there are only two sexes, and that the differences between males and females matter in some policy contexts.

My views are hardly out of the mainstream. Indeed, we are now seeing a pronounced (if belated) pushback against activists who’ve insisted that biological sex is some kind of transphobic mirage. But for several years, those activists have controlled the commanding heights of many universitiesNGOs, and even political parties. This is one of the reasons why I left my career as an academic biologist in 2020: I was tired of researching science in a subculture whose gatekeepers demanded that I repudiate basic scientific facts about human beings.

 

I invite you to read the full article in Quillette.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 7, 2022 at 4:30 AM

A monumental mountain pink colony at Belton Lake

with 29 comments

 

On June 14th I got a tip from Rhonda Frick Smith in Morgan’s Point Resort about a huge colony of mountain pinks (Zeltnera beyrichii) close to the dam that sustains Belton Lake, so on June 16th I drove the hour north to check it out. I have to say it was the largest colony of these flowers I’ve ever come across, probably larger than all the others I’ve seen put together. What appears in the photograph above is merely one portion of the vaster colony. (An aerial photograph in the article I linked to shows the “barren” field that was home to this enormous mountain pink colony.)

 

Mountain pinks have a knack for growing in rocky and seemingly unpromising ground, as the middle photograph shows from a somewhat sparser portion of the colony. And speaking of rocky, here’s a closer look at all the fossilized tube worm casings in the slab of rock in the upper left of that second picture:

  

These are remnants from an era when what is now Texas lay beneath the sea.

 

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The developed world became wealthy through the pervasive use of fossil fuels, which still overwhelmingly power most of its economies. Solar and wind power aren’t reliable, simply because there are nights, clouds and still days. Improving battery storage won’t help much: There are enough batteries in the world today only to power global average electricity consumption for 75 seconds. Even though the supply is being scaled up rapidly, by 2030 the world’s batteries would still cover less than 11 minutes. Every German winter, when solar output is at its minimum, there is near-zero wind energy available for at least five days—or more than 7,000 minutes.

This is why solar panels and wind turbines can’t deliver most of the energy for industrializing poor countries. Factories can’t stop and start with the wind; steel and fertilizer production are dependent on coal and gas; and most solar and wind power simply can’t deliver the power necessary to run the water pumps, tractors, and machines that lift people out of poverty.

That’s why fossil fuels still provide more than three-fourths of wealthy countries’ energy, while solar and wind deliver less than 3%. An average person in the developed world uses more fossil-fuel-generated energy every day than all the energy used by 23 poor Africans.

 

I invite you to read Bjørn Lomborg‘s full commentary in the June 20th Wall Street Journal entitled “The Rich World’s Climate Hypocrisy.” The subtitle is “They beg for more oil and coal for themselves while telling developing lands to rely on solar and wind.”

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Pink and blue and a change of pace

with 22 comments

On June 3rd, after touring the exhibits inside Corpus Christi’s Art Museum of South Texas, I focused my attention—which is to say my camera—on the museum’s exterior. If you call these views colorfully and geometrically minimalist you’ll get no argument from me. And speaking of pink and blue, I guess this is a good time for my periodic reminder that before the middle of the 20th century blue was considered the color for baby girls and pink the color for baby boys.

 

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Here’s a passage from Luke Rosiak’s new book Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education.

Beginning in 1985, a federal judge named Russell Clark tried to find out what would happen if money was no obstacle. He ordered a massive spending program that infused billions of extra dollars over twelve years into the decaying city schools of Kansas City, Missouri. This made Kansas City the highest-spending large school district in the country, adjusted for cost of living. It outspent similar districts around the country by two or three times. Clark said that he “allowed the district planners to dream.”

The district constructed laboratories, a planetarium, and an Olympic swimming pool, and it provided kids with computers, foreign language programs, and field trips to Senegal and Mexico. It added all-day kindergarten and aftercare, and every elementary school classroom had $25,000 of toys in it. It had a teacher-student ratio of one to twelve or thirteen and gave teachers 40 percent raises. Clark anticipated that Kansas City students’ achievement would match the national average within five years.

By 1995, the dropout rate had not decreased and test performance showed “no measurable improvement.” Over four years of high school, the average black student’s reading skills increased by only 1.1 grade equivalents. As Gary Orfield, head of the Harvard Project on School Desegregation, whose testimony helped spur the bonanza, later admitted, “They had as much money as any school district will ever get. It didn’t do very much.”

Most people would interpret the statements of politicians to mean that low-income students have less money spent on their education than their middle-class colleagues. This is because they do not understand the power of the word equity to distort reality. Only through such a word can people say that getting the most money for the worst results proves that they are oppressed…. But in reality, equity means writing bigger and bigger checks to the bureaucrats who run inner-city schools, until equal outcomes by students are achieved—even though there is little evidence that money will ever cause that to happen.

That’s because education is primarily about minds, not materials. As a Peace Corps volunteer in 1968 and 1969 I taught math for a year and a half at a school in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where high school graduates pursued a three-year course to get certified as teachers. I was a brand-new teacher myself, only a few years older than my students, far from knowing as much and being as effective as I later became after years of studying and practice. My Spanish was adequate but not perfect. During my first half-year we didn’t even have a textbook. I made things up out of my head and used the school’s hand-cranked ditto machine to run off worksheets. The point is that even with those limited resources the students learned. It doesn’t take a lot of money. It does take a culture of knowledge, something American schools have been increasingly downplaying in favor of sociopolitical indoctrination and the excuse of eternal victimhood.

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 17, 2022 at 4:24 AM

Capital variation

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From the Latin noun caput, which meant ‘head,’ we get the adjective capital, which originally and literally meant ‘having to do with a head.’ Austin, where I live, is the capital—i.e. head—city of Texas. That’s one kind of metaphor. Another is calling the inflorescence of a plant in the composite botanical family (Asteraceae) a capitulum, or ‘little [flower] head.’ Even within a plant species one flower head can look rather different from another, both in shape and color, just as human heads can. You see that exemplified here with two Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum) flower heads from Northwest Williamson County Regional Park on May 13th.

  

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In yesterday’s commentary I brought up the terrible May 14th mass murder in Buffalo, New York, in which an 18-year-old white supremacist and anti-Semite killed a bunch of supermarket shoppers, most of whom were targeted because they were black. I pointed out that some people in the media immediately claimed that the shooter was inspired by Republicans and conservatives, as well as conservative television news channel Fox News and in particular one of its commenters, Tucker Carlson. I showed you that, unfortunately for the people making those claims, a long manifesto left by the killer made clear he hated conservatives, and especially a Jewish conservative like Ben Shapiro. Nowhere in the manifesto did the killer mention Tucker Carlson.

In case anyone wants to accuse me of “cherry picking” evidence, let me add now that the killer did believe something that Tucker Carlson believes: the declining birth rate among white Americans, coupled with the American government’s allowing—even encouraging—high illegal immigration into the United States from non-European countries, has resulted in a declining ratio of white Americans. A check of the numbers confirms it. According to a Wikipedia article: “As of the 2020 Census, 61.6%, or 204,277,273 people, were white alone. This represented a national white demographic decline from a 72.4% share of the US’s population (white alone) in 2010.” You may look on the decline favorably, unfavorably, or neutrally, but the decrease in the portion of Americans who are white is real.

Now let me make a point about logic, or the lack of it. Just because two people share a certain belief or preference doesn’t mean they share all beliefs and preferences. I shouldn’t need to point out something so basic, but I feel that I have to, given the way some commenters quickly turned to guilt by association. Yes, the Buffalo killer and Tucker Carlson share a belief about the undesirability of unchecked illegal immigration. That doesn’t make Tucker Carlson in any way responsible for the mass shooting in Buffalo—any more than Senator Bernie Sanders and leftist talk-show host Rachel Maddow were responsible for the 2017 incident in which a man who admired those two public figures fired 60 shots at Republican members of Congress—one of whom almost died—who were playing baseball as practice for a game to raise money for charity.

Similarly, just because the Buffalo killer who disapproves of illegal immigration was a white racist and an anti-Semite doesn’t mean that everyone, or even most people, or even more than a smattering of the people who disapprove of illegal immigration, are white supremacists and anti-Semites. Take me, for example. As I revealed in greater detail in a commentary a year ago, I happen to be Jewish, the son of someone who fled the Soviet Union with his family in the 1920s to escape communism and anti-Semitism. I also happen to be married to someone of a different race who’s an immigrant to the United States from the other side of the world. And yet by the “logic” of some people in the media, because I don’t condone illegal immigration I must be a xenophobic anti-Semitic white supremacist. Crazy, isn’t it?

 

To be continued tomorrow.

 

 

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2022 at 4:33 AM

More from a newly discovered nearby neighborhood park

with 22 comments

A post last week showed you how rain lily flowers (Zephyranthes drummondii) were changing from white to pink and purple as they approached the end of their ephemeral lives in Schroeter Neighborhood Park, which I’d just learned about. Plenty of other native plants were coming up there, like the zexmenia (Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida) in the top picture, and the white larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum) below.

  

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Some ancient theologians asserted the existence of nine kinds of angelic beings:

  • Seraphim
  • Cherubim
  • Thrones
  • Dominions (or Dominations)
  • Virtues
  • Powers
  • Principalities
  • Archangels
  • Angels

Not only can you find out more about each supposed kind of angelic being in the article “9 Types of Angels,” you can also read about the medieval debates that angelologists engaged in to determine how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

Not to be outdone by a paltry nine categories, present-day theologians assert the existence of “as many genders as we say there are.” Here are some of them:

  • Agender
  • Aliagender
  • Androgyne
  • Aporagender
  • Bigender
  • Boi
  • Butch
  • Cisgender
  • Demiboy
  • Demienby
  • Demigirl
  • Demitrans
  • Female
  • Feminine of center
  • Femme
  • Gender expansive
  • Gender fluid
  • Gender outlaw
  • Genderqueer
  • Gendervoid
  • Graygender
  • Intergender
  • Male
  • Masculine of center
  • Maverique
  • Neither
  • Neutrois
  • Nonbinary
  • Novigender
  • Omnigender
  • Pangender
  • Polygender
  • Soft butch
  • Stone butch
  • Third gender
  • Trans
  • Transfeminine
  • Transgender
  • Transmasculine
  • Trigender
  • Two spirit

After I gleaned those from various sources, I came across a Dude Asks article with a list of 112 genders as of the year 2022, along with a brief explanation of each. Check them out for your great edification. It occurred to me as a math teacher that each of the 9 types of angelic being could come in each of those 112 genders, so in all there are 9 x 112 = 1008 angelicogendric combinations. In fact the number is really higher than 1008. One reason is that some of the genders in my first list aren’t included in the 112 of the second list and need to be added. Another reason is that most likely at least one new gender will have been gen(d)erated in the week since I prepared this post. Thanks to the advances that modern science has engendered, it’s as hard to keep up with the many recent changes in genders as with the many recent changes in botanical genera.

Despite my best efforts I haven’t yet found an article that tells how many angelicogendric beings can dance on the head of a pin, but I’ll remain agenda-fluid and keep searching for the answer.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

  

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 14, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Following up on rain lilies

with 24 comments

For the three days from April 28th through April 30th I photographed first buds and then flowers of the abundant rain lilies (Zephyranthum drummondii) I found in Dominion at Great Hills Park on the far side of my neighborhood. I intended to continue my documentation for a fourth straight day on May 1st, when the flowers would begin to shrivel and turn colors as they approached the end of their short lives. And so I did, but in a different place; the location wouldn’t matter because all the rain lilies in Austin were of the same brood and on average would be in the same stage of development. I went to Schroeter Neighborhood Park, which though a mere two miles from home I’d never heard of till a day earlier, when someone posted pictures showing lots of rain lilies there.

With a different place, a different approach, as today’s two pictures show. In each one I got close enough to a rain lily that everything in the photograph except a portion of the nearest flower would be out of focus, and mostly way out of focus. (I think the yellow-orange flower heads were greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium.)

 

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“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
— George Orwell.

That line was in the preface that Orwell wrote for Animal Farm, but when he finally found a willing publisher for his allegory and it appeared in 1945, the preface wasn’t included. An article in The Quote Investigator tells how the preface then got lost and wasn’t rediscovered until 1971. You can read the preface if you’d like to.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 4, 2022 at 3:20 AM

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