Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘red

Less fiery and fiery

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Firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) get that common name from the basal red that normally predominates on the ray florets, as you saw last time. Every once in a while a natural variant comes up all yellow. On the very overcast morning of May 4th I came across one of those yellow variants. By lying on my mat on the ground I managed—with difficulty—to get the dark sky to become a backdrop for the bright yellow flower head.

To compensate you for the missing red, here’s a prairie paintbrush (Castilleja purpurea var. lindheimeri) that was within sight of the firewheel:




I just found out that May 7–13 this year is National Wildflower Week.
Of course for some of us every week is a wildflower week.




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Just because I haven’t mentioned the southern border of the United States for a long time doesn’t mean it isn’t still out of control. It is out of control and has been for more than two years. A May 10th article in the New York Post reported that on the previous day Customs and Border Patrol had intercepted over 10,300 people who had entered the country illegally. That’s the highest number of interceptions of illegal entrants ever recorded in American history. For each of the past three days the number of daily interceptions has topped 10,000—to which must be added the thousands of so-called gotaways that authorities weren’t able to intercept. The surge is so large that federal authorities are turning most of the illegal entrants loose to go wherever they want in the United States and to do whatever they want.

The one thing the current administration adamantly refuses to do is stop people from entering the country illegally. The current administration has become the largest trafficker of illegal immigrants in the world. If that sounds far-fetched, border observer Todd Bensman says he’s confirmed that American officials are coordinating with Mexican officials on opposite sides of the Rio Grande to have people illegally cross the river in groups of 100 to 150.

If you think that allowing millions of people to enter the country illegally each year doesn’t have consequences, think again. Hospitals and emergency medical services in places along the border have been overwhelmed. There’s nowhere to house many of those people. Welfare agencies can’t handle the influx. Schools are flooded with students who don’t speak English. And there’s no end in sight to the surge of people who keep coming in. In fact authorities are predicting even higher numbers. As all those people fan out from the border to towns and cities around the country, the places they go to can’t keep up with the surge, either. Some commenters have noted that every state is now a border state, and those states are increasingly in states of emergency. 



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 12, 2023 at 4:25 AM

The Capital of Texas Highway median

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The Capital of Texas Highway’s broad median in my part of Austin is looking good now. Predominating in this May 5th photograph is a colony of Gaillardia pulchella, known as Indian blankets, blanketflowers, and firewheels. Accompanying them are lesser quantities of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera; horsemints, Monarda citriodora; pink evening primroses, Oenothera speciosa; and greenthreads, Thelesperma filifolium. As you’ve heard so many times: Texas knows how to do wildflowers.



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In 2022 researchers at the University of Southern California undertook a survey to find out what Americans know about various controversial topics involving schools. Regarding, Critical Race Theory (CRT), the executive summary of the survey notes: “Americans hold complicated views related to CRT tenets, with some partisan splits on racial beliefs most closely aligned with CRT. But they overwhelmingly support a societal goal of treating all people the same without regard to the color of their skin, and, to a lesser extent, that America is meritocratic—both ideas CRT would contest.” In particular:

The item that was hardest for respondents, with only 16% correctly identifying it as not aligned with CRT, was that society should strive for colorblindness, where everyone is treated “the same without regard to the color of their skin.” CRT critiques colorblindness, maintaining that awareness of and explicit accounting for race is central to correcting for racism and racial bias in the United States. Despite the explicit opposition of CRT to colorblindness, more than 80% of those in our sample who claimed to have heard of CRT either did not know that colorblindness is not aligned to CRT or were wrong and thought that it was. This was the only item for which most respondents confidently answered but were incorrect (63%) [all italics mine].

Apparently those mistaken respondents don’t know that Ibram X. Kendi, probably the most prominent exponent of Critical Race Theory, infamously said “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

You can download a pdf file with all the results of the University of Southern California survey.
Here’s the table of contents:


Critical Race Theory in the Public Schools

  Americans Report Knowing Little About CRT
  Americans Actually Know Even Less Than They Report About CRT
  Contrary to Headlines, Americans Are Mostly Unsure About Whether CRT Belongs in Schools
  Americans Strongly Support Colorblindness but Are Divided on Other Racial Beliefs

Learning about Controversial Topics in Elementary and High School

  Many Americans Don’t Know What is Currently Being Taught in Schools
  Americans Overwhelmingly Support Teaching Controversial Topics in High School
  Partisan Differences on Controversial Topics in the High School Curriculum are Modest,
      Except for Sex and Gender Issues
  Americans are More Mixed on Teaching Controversial Topics in Elementary School
  Beliefs About Teaching Controversial Topics in Elementary School are Mostly Bipartisan
  Very Few Americans Think Elementary Children Are Learning About Controversial Topics

Books in the Curriculum and the School Library

  Americans Do Not Approve of Teachers Assigning Students to Read Certain Categories of Books,
      Especially Those Related to Sex and Gender Issues
  There are Some Large Differences Between Elementary School and High School in Terms of
      Americans’ Support for Controversial Topics in Assigned Books
  Respondents Largely Support Book Availability in Libraries, Though for Some Topics They Do Not Want
      Elementary Students to Have Any Access
  There Are Some Substantial Partisan Gaps in Attitudes Related to Books Assigned and Available

Who Should Control the Curriculum?

  Americans Think Parents Have Relatively Little Control Over What is Taught in K-12 Classrooms
  The U.S. Public Believes that Parents and Teachers Should Have the Most Control Over What is Taught
  There is Considerable Support for Parents Opting their Child Out of Lessons
      that Include Content they Disagree With



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2023 at 4:30 AM

Scarlet leatherflower

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One place I’ve come to count on for scarlet leatherflowers (Clematis texensis) is the trail connecting Springfield Park to McKinney Falls State Park. Sure enough, I found some of those bright flowers along that forested trail on April 13th. In the pair above, I had the good fortune that one of the flowers had split open to reveal what’s inside, including an ant. Below, you see what becomes of a leatherflower after it has matured.





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The push for equity—forced equal outcomes for all racial groups regardless of individuals’ ability or effort—has become an obsession among many ideologues in recent years. It’s not new, however. You probably remember the so-called Great Recession of 2008. A main cause of it was that politicians and activists had been pushing the government to get lenders to give mortgages to more people in minority groups, even if those people had poor credit histories and a higher-than-average risk of default.

To that end, the American government was allowing lenders to give mortgages to people who hadn’t even saved enough money for a reasonable down payment. When I bought my first house, in 1986, I put 20% down; that was the minimum required to keep from having to pay for mortgage insurance. By the time we sold that house in 2004, not only wasn’t the buyer required to put any money down, he even got money back! He’d been allowed to take out a mortgage for more than the price of the house, with the mortgage company giving the difference back to him in cash.

The reason mortgage lenders had traditionally required a substantial down payment was that it served as “skin in the game.” People who have invested money up front in a house will likely feel the need to protect their investment by taking good care of their property. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, many people who’d been allowed to put very little or no money down on their houses simply walked away. They had very little or nothing to lose, so why not just leave? That quickly left the nation’s mortgage holders with several million abandoned homes they were now unexpectedly responsible for maintaining and trying to sell, even as they were no longer getting the income they’d counted on from monthly mortgage payments to meet their own expenses.

I’ve lived long enough to observe how things go through cycles, for good and for ill. After a débâcle, the ideologues responsible for it—almost none of whom ever suffer any punishment for their failures—swear that they’ll take steps to make sure such a thing never happens again. But of course they don’t take those steps, or else they do initially but then, as time passes and the public’s memory of the catastrophe fades, the ideologues go back to their old, destructive ways.

That’s where we find ourselves again now. As the Washington Times reported on April 18:


Homebuyers with good credit scores will soon encounter a costly surprise: a new federal rule forcing them to pay higher mortgage rates and fees to subsidize people with riskier credit ratings who are also in the market to buy houses.

The fee changes will go into effect May 1 as part of the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s push for affordable housing, and they will affect mortgages originating at private banks across the country. The federally backed home mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will enact the loan-level price adjustments, or LLPAs.

Mortgage industry specialists say homebuyers with credit scores of 680 or higher will pay, for example, about $40 per month more on a home loan of $400,000. Homebuyers who make down payments of 15% to 20% will get socked with the largest fees.


An article on the same subject in the New York Post added this:


Meanwhile, buyers with credit scores of 679 or lower will have their fees slashed, resulting in more favorable mortgage rates. For example, a buyer with a 620 FICO credit score with a down payment of 5% or less gets a 1.75% fee discount — a decrease from the old fee rate of 3.50% for that bracket.

When absorbed into the long-term mortgage rate, that equates to a 0.4% to 0.5% discount.


You read that right: not only will borrowers with poorer credit histories and very low down payments get a reduced rate on their mortgage, but to add insult to injury, people who are good credit risks and who offer substantial down payments will have extra money extorted from them to subsidize the risky borrowers.

Like I said, ideologues don’t give up on their schemes, they just wait out the consequences of the last failure and then go back to doing the same unjust and outrageous things—or even worse ones.

You can read the disheartening details in the full Washington Times article and the full New York Post article.

(After this posted, I realized that the government’s new mortgage program follows the motto “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” That motto, or variants of it, circulated among European socialists in the mid-1800s. Karl Marx, co-author of “The Communist Manifesto,” then popularized it. The motto appeared in the Soviet Union’s 1936 Constitution in the form “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work.”)

(Second update: this unfair new mortgage policy is another example of why we need a Constitutional amendment stating that every time a regulatory agency promulgates new rules, Congress must approve those rules before they can go into effect. The same must be true for executive orders. We can’t have a country run by administrative agencies and executive orders. The Constitution makes clear that Congress, and only Congress, makes our federal laws. There’ll be more about this in the next post.)



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 21, 2023 at 4:24 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Bull nettle and red phlox

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Cnidoscolus texanus and Phlox drummondii on March 19th in western Bastrop County.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman







Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2023 at 4:26 AM

Coral honeysuckle flowering

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Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) in Springfield Park on March 12th.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 20, 2023 at 4:30 AM

Indian paintbrush seen from above

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Castilleja indivisa; March 5th south of Smithville.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 16, 2023 at 4:25 AM

Tansy mustard in a phlox colony

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On February 17th we drove 80 minutes south to Gonzales. Several miles north of the town, on the east side of US 183, we encountered a good colony of phlox, as depicted two posts back. Erect among the supersaturated red and hot pink phlox phlowers stood scattered tansy mustard plants, Descurainia pinnata, like the one you see here. Its cluster of yellow flowers measured only about an inch across.



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Yesterday I became aware of an important February 18th opinion piece by Jonathan Turley in The Hill.
Here’s how it begins:

Last year, the Biden administration caved to public outcry and disbanded its infamous Disinformation Governance Board under its “Disinformation Nanny,” Nina Jankowicz. Yet, as explored in a recent hearing (in which I testified), the Biden administration never told the public about a far larger censorship effort involving an estimated 80 FBI agents secretly targeting citizens and groups for disinformation.

Now it appears that the administration also was partially funding an “index” to warn advertisers to avoid what the index deemed to be dangerous disinformation sites. It turns out that all ten of the “riskiest” sites identified by the Global Disinformation Index are popular with conservatives, libertarians and independents.

That sounds like a knockoff of China’s “social credit” system which scores its citizens, based in part on social media monitoring.


Our government acts unethically when it contributes public money to an organization that blatantly favors the political viewpoint of the administration in power and stigmatizes opposing political viewpoints. If you lean politically left, just imagine how you’d react if you found out that your government was using your tax dollars to extol right-leaning organizations and discredit your left-leaning views. Our government should not be funding any partisan organizations, period.

I invite you to read Jonathan Turley’s full piece. On the good side, just as I became aware of his article, I also found out that in response to it “The National Endowment for Democracy [Is] To Cut Off Further Support for the Global Disinformation Index.” You can read that follow-up article on Jonathan Turley’s own website.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 22, 2023 at 4:29 AM

Phlox is already phloxing

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Yes, phlox is phloxing now a little south of Austin, as we confirmed with an 80-minute drive down to Gonzales on February 17th—probably the earliest I’ve ever seen these flowers. Fortunately the ice storm almost three weeks earlier seemed not to have had a negative effect there; who knows, maybe the precipitation even helped. Phlox flowers come in various colors; the combination of saturated red and hot pink on a single flower that you see above may be unique (if you’re aware of it in another kind of flower, please let us know).

Below is the densest section of the colony. Of the two yellow flower heads, the one on the left is a Texas dandelion, Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus, and the one on the right is Texas groundsel, Senecio ampullaceus.
(Click to enlarge the panorama.)





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A year and a half ago I linked to an article about Yeonmi Park. Here’s how the Independent Institute describes her:

Born in Hyesan, North Korea, to educated parents, Ms. Park grew up in a society devoted to the worship of “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-Il and uncompromising hatred for any and all critics of his regime. However, after watching a pirated copy of the 1997 film, Titanic, the veil of tyranny began to fall, as she had caught a glimpse of a free world that one day she would yearn to join. In 2003 when she was ten, Ms. Park’s family suffered a crucial blow. After her father, who had been a critic of the regime despite his privileged position as a member of [the] Workers’ Party, was sentenced to hard labor for smuggling, her family faced starvation. After his release on medical leave, the family decided they had to flee from North Korea, but became separated before they could escape together. On March 31, 2007, and at the age of thirteen, Ms. Park and her mother crossed the frozen Yalu River into China, hiding from Chinese government officials who would return them to North Korea. However, they fell into the hands of human traffickers, and when one of the traffickers threatened to report them to the authorities if she didn’t have sex with him, her mother intervened for her safety by offering herself to be raped by the trafficker. Nevertheless, both were sold into sex slavery and Ms. Park was subsequently repeatedly raped. In October 2007, Ms. Park sent word to her father and arranged to smuggle him into China. There, he was diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer, and in January 2008, while the family was living in secret, Park’s father died aged 45. The family was unable to formally mourn him, fearing that they would be discovered by Chinese authorities, and they secretly buried his remains in the ground of a nearby mountain. In February 2009 at the age of fifteen, with the help of Chinese and Korean Christian missionaries in the port city of Qingdao they were able to evade the attention of authorities and fled through the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and then by plane to South Korea.

From there Yeonmi Park eventually made it to the United States, where she became and continues to be a great advocate for freedom.

The other night we watched a riveting two-hour interview with her. If you have the time, it’s well worth watching, even if parts of it are unsettling. Turning on the closed captioning (CC) may make it easier to understand certain words and phrases, given Yeonmi Park’s Korean accent.

If you don’t have two hours, you can still watch much shorter clips from the full interview:

Growing Up in Harrowing Conditions in the Oppressive Regime of North Korea (10 minutes)

Escaping North Korea as a Teenager, and Encountering More Horrific Incidents (9 minutes)

Adjusting to America and Enjoying Its Freedom and Opportunity (7 minutes)

Yeonmi Park attended my alma mater, Columbia University, which was once a great institution but has devolved into a hotbed of ideological indoctrination and the suppression of dissident opinions. Yeonmi Park was incredulous, in light of her horrible life in North Korea, when she encountered Woke College Students and Professors Who Claim Victimhood (8 minutes). She contrasts that to her own view that “America is a miracle. It is literally the best country in human history.” She reminds me of my grandmother, who escaped the tyranny of the Soviet dictatorship in the 1920s. When she was in her 80s she once said to me, in her heavy Russian accent, “America is still the best country.”

Hypocritical Elites Who Talk Human Rights But Don’t Practice What They Preach (8 minutes)


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2023 at 4:28 AM

Dense possumhaw fruit

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On January 22nd in the little town of Canyon City—in Texas any hamlet can get named a city—this densely fruited possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) wouldn’t let me keep driving unless I made a portrait of it. I gave in.



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In a comment last week our New Zealand friend Amanda made me aware that groups like the World Health Organization have been using the term malnutrition in a non-traditional way. Here’s that group’s definition: “Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related noncommunicable diseases.”

Now, Latin mal- means ‘bad’ or ‘badly,’ so etymology could support the World Health Organization’s definition of malnutrition. However, my guess is that most English speakers, perhaps almost all, believe malnutrition refers exclusively to undernutrition or to the insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals. That’s how I’ve always interpreted the term. To see whether I’ve been out of line, I turned to a bunch of dictionaries. Merriam-Webster defines malnutrition as “faulty nutrition due to inadequate or unbalanced intake of nutrients or their impaired assimilation or utilization.” Here’s the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary: “a poor condition of health caused by a lack of food or a lack of the right type of food.” The American Heritage Dictionary’s definition is “Poor nutrition because of an insufficient or poorly balanced diet or faulty digestion or utilization of foods.” The Collins English Dictionary puts it this way: “If someone is suffering from malnutrition, they are physically weak and extremely thin because they have not eaten enough food.”

The closest that any of the dictionaries I consulted came to including obesity or being overweight was: “[Malnutrition] can be caused by not getting enough to eat, or it can be caused by not eating enough healthy foods.” Even so, there’s no mention of being overweight or obese.

I believe an organization that communicates with the public needs to do so clearly. It should not use a word in a way that many people will interpret differently from what the organization intends by the word. Are the World Health Organization and some other groups including obesity and being overweight in the category of malnutrition to increase the number of people the groups can label “malnourished”? In other words, are the groups defying the traditional definitions of malnutrition and malnourished for ideological purposes or to increase funding? I don’t know. I became aware of this only five days ago and I haven’t done any research on it. What I can say is that the conjecture is at least plausible, given how many recent instances I’ve seen of ideologues trying to redefine words away from their longstanding meanings, much as George Orwell presciently described in his novels 1984 and Animal Farm, and in his essay “Politics and the English Language.”


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 1, 2023 at 4:30 AM

Racing against the sun

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Two months ago today we drove from Lost Maples to Kerrville. The route eventually runs alongside the Guadalupe River, and by the time we reached the town of Ingram the sun didn’t have much longer to stay above the trees. I hurried to take a few pictures by that last and very warm light. One was the abstraction above, showing the upper parts of sunlit sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) reflected in the river. The camera sensor’s weakness—its limited dynamic range compared to the human retina—worked in my favor by rendering details on the river bank very dark in comparison to the water and the reflections; processing pushed the dark to black. The more conventional scene below, no longer lit by direct light, features a bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) that had turned russet.




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“Have you heard? The world’s about to end.” Well, of course it isn’t. In a seven-minute video John Stossel highlights a bunch of cataclysmic predictions that failed to come true. And no, the predictions of doom didn’t come from leaders of religious cults—unless, of course, you recognize climate catastrophism for the secular religious cult that it is.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2023 at 4:34 AM

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