Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘pink

Fuzzy, pink, and blue

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The genus Croton is home to plants that don’t have conspicuous flowers. Woolly croton (Croton capitatus) makes up for that, at least from a photographic standpoint, by offering a pleasant fuzziness. I found it especially appealing in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd when it was backed up by the pink of some showy palafoxia flower heads (Palafoxia hookeriana) and the blue sky that morning. As I so often do, I lay on my mat on the ground for the somewhat upward-looking first view. If you prefer your croton straight, which is to say without pretty colors coming from other things, you can have the Rembrandtesque portrait below.

WordPress tells me this blog has accumulated a little over 90,000 comments, about 42,000 of which are my replies. Both are big numbers.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 10, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Showy palafoxia in Bastrop

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Another species that doesn’t grow in Austin that I therefore drove to see in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd is Palafoxia hookeriana, called showy palafoxia, sand palafox, and Hooker’s palafoxia. This plant is sticky to the touch, as the short, soft, goo-tipped hairs in the second picture’s lower left confirm. (So do the fingers of anyone who has handled one of these plants, but I think you’ll agree that a picture of gooey fingers would take away from this post’s esthetic appeal.)

For more information about this genus in Texas, you can check out an article by Jason Singhurst.
And speaking of Texas, it’s the only American state where showy palafoxia grows.

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The other day I discovered The Thinking Shop, which sells posters and playing cards that teach about common cognitive biases and logical fallacies. If you go to the company’s online store and click on either of the posters, you can buy it but there’s also an option to download a free Creative Commons pdf version.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 5, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Sensitive briar seed pods

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A week ago you saw an August 22nd view of a sensitive briar flower globe (Mimosa roemeriana) in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. Now from that same photo foray you get a look at some prickle-covered sensitive briar pods in front of one of those flower globes.


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“Systemic racism”?

I deplore the practice of labeling every little thing “racist.” If everything is “racist,” then nothing is, and the word has no meaning. Similarly, we often hear the claim that America is “systemically racist.” Of course that was once true, most notably during slavery and then during the century of so-called Jim Crow that followed. While there are—and, given human nature, presumably always will be—individual people of one race who bear ill will toward people of another race, it’s no longer true that institutions in the United States are systemically biased against the groups they used to discriminate against.

Except in education. The American education bureaucracy has done and keeps doing an amazingly efficient job of making sure black and brown kids don’t get a decent education, even as educationists hypocritically decry the racist treatment of those groups.

For decades the National Center for Education Statistics (NAEP) has gathered data about how “well” American students of various ages perform academically. The results are sorted into three categories:

Basic “denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at each grade.” [As a math teacher I’ll add that having only a partial mastery of the prerequisites for the new material being taught makes it very difficult for a student to understand the new material.]

Proficient “represents solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, applications of such knowledge to real world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter.”

Advanced “signifies superior performance beyond proficient.”

The other day I looked at the NAEP’s chart for the 2019 performance in grade-12 mathematics [go to page 9 in that document]. The results were predictably and persistently appalling for historical minorities.

A scandalous 66% of black 12th-graders fell below even the basic level in mathematics! Only 26% scored at the basic level, and 8% at the proficient level. Add those three numbers together and you get 100%. That’s right: so very few black 12th graders reached the advanced level that their numbers rounded to 0% for the top category.

Hispanics did only a little better. 54% of Hispanic 12th-graders fell below even the basic level in mathematics. Only 35% scored at the basic level, and 10% at the proficient level. Just 1% of Hispanics made it into the advanced category.

Did you have any idea how very bad the situation is?

What’s to be done? Come back next time and I’ll offer a suggestion.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 14, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Amberique bean flowering

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I don’t often come across amberique bean (Strophostyles helvula or helvola) in Austin. I did on August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. You can probably tell that this plant is in the pea family. Harder to determine is the origin of the name amberique. My research failed to turn up anything definitive, but I did come across the hypothesis that the word originated in an indigenous language.


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On August 20th I quoted from the 2021 book Noise, by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Siboney, and Cass R. Sunstein. Here’s another interesting passage, this time about interviewing job applicants.

The power of first impressions is not the only problematic aspect of interviews. Another is that as interviewers, we want the candidate sitting in front of us to make sense (a manifestation of our excessive tendency… to seek and find coherence). In one striking experiment, researchers assigned students to play the role of the interviewer or interviewee and told both that the interview should consist only of closed-ended, yes-or-no questions. They then asked some of the interviewees to answer questions randomly. (The first letter of the questions as formulated determined if they should answer yes or no.) As the researchers wryly note, “Some of the interviewees were initially concerned that the random interview would break down and be revealed to be nonsense. No such problem occurred, and the interviews proceeded.” You read that right: not a single interviewer realized that the candidates were giving random answers. Worse, when asked to estimate whether they were “able to infer a lot about this person given the amount of time we spent together,” interviewers in this “random” condition were as likely to agree as those who had met candidates responding truthfully. Such is our ability to create coherence. As we can often find an imaginary pattern in random data or imagine a shape in the contours of a cloud, we are capable of finding logic in perfectly meaningless answers.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Sensitive briar inflorescence

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From August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183
comes this little sensitive briar flower globe, Mimosa roemeriana.


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Wished-for Constitutional Amendments

When the people who have come to be known as the Founders of the United States devised a Constitution to specify the form of government the country would have, they realized there was no way to anticipate all the future needs of a new and quickly growing nation. With that in mind, they established a mechanism by which to amend the Constitution as the need arose. The Founders designed the amendment process to be rigorous enough to deter frivolous and trendy changes.

The first 10 amendments got added as a group in 1791, soon after the Constitution was ratified. Those form the so-called Bill of Rights, which some of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention insisted would have to be added in return for their votes to ratify the original Constitution. In the 230 years since the Bill of Rights, just 17 more amendments have passed, for an average of one every 13.5 years. The most recent amendment got approved 29 years ago.

Over the past decade I’ve occasionally had ideas for amendments I’d like to see added to our Constitution. Maybe I’ll mention one here every so often, beginning today. Here goes.

While people casually call the United States a democracy, it’s actually a republic, or a representative democracy if you like. At the national level, each citizen is represented in the legislature by three people. One is the citizen’s locally elected delegate to the House of Representatives. With the number of Representatives capped at 435, that means each one on average currently “represents” almost 750,000 people. In the other branch of Congress, every citizen is represented by two Senators.

Although the positions of Representative and Senator are local, in the sense that they represent a portion of a state or at most a whole state, recent elections have seen huge amounts of money pouring in from out of state to the campaigns of candidates running for the Senate and the House of Representatives. It’s no longer unusual for out-of-state campaign contributions to outweigh local contributions, sometimes by a lot, and it’s true for candidates from both of the main American political parties. As I see it, that’s like letting someone from another town have a say in how you budget the money in your own household, or telling you what you should eat for supper. We wouldn’t tolerate that, but we’re allowing people from other states to have a say (via campaign donations) in who’s going to represent us in our own state.

To deal with that, my proposed Constitutional amendment says that at all levels—national, state, and local—someone may donate money to the campaign of a politician or to a group promoting a ballot measure only if the donor is legally entitled to vote for that candidate or ballot measure. Some people would try to circumvent that restriction by donating money to an organization that then funnels the money to a distant politician’s campaign or to a group promoting a ballot measure. My amendment requires that money donated to an intermediate group would have to be tagged with the jurisdiction in which the donor lives, and the intermediate group could spend that money only on political causes in that same jurisdiction. If the law caps the amount a donor may contribute to a candidate or a group promoting a ballot measure, then my amendment would make it illegal for the donor to donate to multiple intermediate organizations as a way to exceed the cap.

What do you think?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 8, 2021 at 4:28 AM

A horsemint portrait

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Here’s yet another floral portrait from the Capital of Texas Highway on June 14th.
This one shows the tiered inflorescence of a horsemint, Monarda citriodora.


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“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” — Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 9, 2021 at 4:46 AM

Yellow with a blush of pink

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Our two local species of Tetraneuris both go by the common name four-nerve daisy. The one that I find in much larger numbers and that I’ve therefore most often shown here is T. linearifolia. On June 18th in the town of Cedar Park I came across the other species, T. scaposa, and took advantage of the find to make a portrait with some nearby mountain pinks offering their contrasting color in the background.


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Here’s an interesting bit of history I learned from an article by Jarrett A. Lobell in the July/August 2021 issue of Archaeology, which is one of the magazines I subscribe to: “When it was built nearly 5,000 years ago, the Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest structure in the world, a title it would retain for more than 3,500 years, until it was surpassed by several of England’s medieval cathedrals.”

Since 2010 the world’s tallest building has been the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. I can’t imagine it will retain its title for another 3500 years; it’s highly unlikely to still even exist 350 years from now. Sic transibit gloria mundi.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 2, 2021 at 4:43 AM

Time again for mountain pinks

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Flowers and bullet-like buds of Zeltnera beyrichii on June 18th in Cedar Park.
Thinks to Kathy Werner for tipping me off to the location.
(In return I tipped her off to the location of some bluebells near there.)


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A few days ago I finished reading Douglas Murray’s excellent book The Madness of Crowds, in which he pointed out something I’d begun noticing, too: the hits that come up in response to certain searches on Google are biased. Murray gave several examples, one of which was that when he searched for “straight couples,” many of the pictures that came up in Google Images showed gay couples. His book is from 2019, so I tried that experiment for myself last week to see what sort of results I’d get in mid-2021.

The top row of hits I got for “straight couples” contained seven pictures. The first showed a lesbian couple. The second showed a gay male couple. The third showed a male-female couple. The fourth showed a lesbian couple. The fifth showed a male-female couple. The sixth and seventh both showed lesbian couples. In summary, only two of the seven pictures in the top row matched the search string “straight couples.”

It’s practically impossible for a set of hits so different from the search string to come up by chance. To understand why, imagine all the pictures of couples out there on the internet; billions of them have been posted. Now imagine that you searched for pictures of couples without specifying any particular kind of couple. Using the estimate that 5% of couples are same-sex, I did the calculations to find out how often a random grab of seven pictures of couples would yield an assortment with five gay couples and two straight couples. The arithmetic shows you can expect that to happen only 0.14% of the time, or approximately 1 out of every 700 times. And remember, that’s without specifying what kind of couple you’re after. The fact that I searched specifically for straight couples makes the 5-gay-and-2-straight result I got much less probable than the already tiny 0.14% we’d expect if we didn’t specify the kind of couple.

The only conclusion possible, in fact the one Douglas Murray came to, is that Google is cooking the books—and since Google is a search engine and not accounting software, cooking the books means rigging the search algorithm to distort reality. And this from the company whose original motto was “Don’t be evil.”

Oh, and just in case anyone feels an overwhelming ad hominem urge to label Douglas Murray homophobic for pointing out what he did about Google, he happens to be gay.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 28, 2021 at 4:27 AM

Brown-eyed Susan colony

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Here’s a wildflower that hasn’t appeared in these pages for a good while: Rudbeckia hirta, known as brown-eyed Susan or black-eyed Susan. (Maybe Susan’s the sister of the Barbara whose buttons you saw last time.) Mixed in are a few firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, many of which had already gone to seed by the time I took this picture at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on June 7th. Among some of the brown-eyed Susans I found the basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus, that’s shown below. Sometimes my hair looks like that, except for the pink.


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My country’s current administration is changing the word mothers to birthing people in some official documents. Honest. At least greeting card companies have 11 months to update their products for May 8, 2022, which will be the next Birthing People’s Day. A whole lot of changes are gonna have to get made. Whereas ma and mom were pet forms of the now discredited and unspeakable m-word, I guess children will fondly call the people who birthed them their bir. And of course the verb smother will have to be changed to sbirthingperson. As in: Google, Facebook, and Twitter keep sbirthingpersoning the expression of truths they don’t want you to know.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 12, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Pink yarrow

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I’d read that yarrow flowers (Achillea millefolium) could be pink.
Nevertheless, all of the ones I’d seen were white.
Finally in Great Hills Park on May 18th I came across a few pink ones.

The Old English word for this plant was gearwe, which has evolved into our modern yarrow.
Similarly, yet used to be gīet; year was gēar; and the geard that became yard still showed its link to garden.

And we can’t leave without mentioning that pink
was the name of a flower before it became the name of a color.

For an interesting and readable account of yarrow’s distribution and genetics,
you’re welcome to check out an article from A Wandering Botanist.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 29, 2021 at 5:37 AM

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