Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘rocks

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

Yellow oval

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Along one of Great Hills Park’s creeks on January 1st I made an abstract portrait that played with faint colors and mostly vague shapes, plus the implied flow of the water.

 

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Abigail Shrier writes a Substack column called The Truth Fairy. In her January 17th piece entitled “Who Will Win America: The Cynics or The Believers?” she considers the current conflict in American politics. What’s new in her take is that she sees the battle as primarily between cynics, regardless of whether they’re on the left or the right, and believers, regardless of which side they’re on.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 25, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Zilker Nature Preserve

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In the Zilker Nature Preserve on January 13th I spotted the pod of a milkweed vine releasing its seeds. While no leaves remained to suggest what species it was, the most common vine in that family here is pearl milkweed, Matelea reticulata, so that’ll have to do as a tentative identification. Regardless of species, milkweed pods produce a chaos of silk and seeds that a nature photographer who prizes abstraction welcomes. Later we re-crossed the dry bed of Eanes Creek. The picture below shows the lower strata in a hundred-foot tall cliff carved over aeons by rushing water.

 

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True virtue is life under the direction of reason.

[M]en who are governed by reason—who seek what is useful to them in accordance with reason—desire for themselves nothing that they do not also desire for the rest of humanity, and consequently are just, faithful, and honorable in their conduct.

The most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts.

Freedom is absolutely necessary for progress in science and the liberal arts.

Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677); Ethics, 1677.

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

  

  

  

  

  

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Joshua Tree National Park revisited

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On this date five years ago we spent much of the day at
Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California.

As tall as some of these “trees” grow, they’re actually members of the yucca family, Yucca brevifolia.

Not all Joshua trees remain erect:

In some places a mountainous wall of boulders dwarfed the Joshua trees.

According to Wikipedia, “The name ‘Joshua tree’ is commonly said to have been given by a group of Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century: The tree’s role in guiding them through the desert combined with its unique shape reminded them of a biblical story in which Joshua keeps his hands reached out for an extended period of time to enable the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan (Joshua 8:18–26). Further, the shaggy leaves may have provided the appearance of a beard. However, no direct or contemporary attestation of this origin exists, and the name Joshua tree is not recorded until after Mormon contact; moreover, the physical appearance of the Joshua tree more closely resembles a similar story told of Moses.”

The same article lists a whopping 14 scientific names synonymous with Yucca brevifolia. That raises a question I don’t know the answer to: which plant has had the most scientific names?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 5, 2021 at 4:39 AM

More from Yoho National Park and vicinity

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Four years ago today we spent some scenic time in and around British Columbia’s Yoho National Park. One highlight was Natural Bridge Falls, with its intriguing rock formations on the Kicking Horse River. Carloads and busloads of tourists swarmed the site, so it took patience and some judicious framing to get pictures without any people in them, like the first one below.

Along the Trans-Canada Highway a little west of Yoho National Park
we saw a bunch of female bighorn sheep, including the one
in the bottom portrait, whose texture and coloring seem
to me now to match those of the rocks in the top picture.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2021 at 4:38 AM

The high cliff along Bull Creek

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As often as I’ve shown scenes from Bull Creek, I don’t think I’ve ever shown this stretch that includes one of the tallest cliffs along the creek. The second photo offers you a better view of the way some slabs of rock have fallen on the creek bank. If you have trouble making out the yellow flowers, don’t worry; an upcoming post will give you a close look at one along a different part of the creek. Both of today’s pictures are from July 5th.


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As manic as some segments of American society have become, voices of reason and moderation do exist. Two such are Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, whose book Cynical Theories appeared in 2020. Its subtitle is How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody. Here’s an example of their principled opposition to what I’ll call academania:

We affirm that racism remains a problem in society and needs to be addressed.

We deny that critical race Theory and intersectionality provide the most useful tools to do so, since we believe that racial issues are best solved through the most rigorous analyses possible.

We contend that racism is defined as prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory behavior against individuals or groups on the grounds of race and can be successfully addressed as such.

We deny that racism is hard-baked into society via discourses, that it is unavoidable and present in every interaction to be discovered and called out, and that this is part of a ubiquitous systemic problem that is everywhere, always, and all-pervasive.

We deny that the best way to deal with racism is by restoring social significance to racial categories and radically heightening their salience.

We contend that each individual can choose not to hold racist views and should be expected to do so, that racism is declining over time and becoming rarer, that we can and should see one another as humans first and members of certain races second, that issues of race are best dealt with by being honest about racialized experiences, while still working towards shared goals and a common vision, and that the principle of not discriminating by race should be universally upheld.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 11, 2021 at 4:36 AM

Shedding some light on the colorful limestone overhang

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Last week you heard about and saw two pictures of a limestone overhang in a hard-to-reach section of Great Hills Park. I mentioned that direct sunlight never reaches the overhang’s wall and ceiling. That said, the floor of the overhang is a creek bed; with enough water in it, and with the sun low enough in the sky, some rays of light bounce off the water and onto the ceiling of the overhang. Because the water’s surface isn’t perfectly still, the reflected light shimmers overhead, as you see in today’s picture from June 10th.


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And here’s a clever quotation for today: “If somebody thinks I’m cherry-picking, show me the other part of the tree.” — Steven E. Koonin in a televised interview about his book Unsettled on May 25, 2021. Also unsettled is the question of why English speakers have picked cherry-pick rather than the alliterative peach-pick or plum-pick, or else apple-pick, lemon-pick, or some-other-fruit-pick. Maybe cherries got picked because they’re small, and therefore cherry-picking is like nit-picking. One thing’s for sure: cherries make for a much tastier pie than nits. And did you know that cherries was originally the singular of the word? We got it from Anglo-Norman cherise. But that sounded to the folks in merry old England like it was a plural, along the lines of berries and ferries, so they created a new singular, cherry. Linguists call that process back-formation, for which today’s picture of the geological formations at the back of the overhang is therefore appropriate. What fun to lead you from limestone to linguistic information and back again.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2021 at 4:32 AM

A colorful limestone overhang

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I live in northwest Austin’s Great Hills neighborhood, which is home to the unsurprisingly named Great Hills Park. An isolated arm of the park, seldom reached because getting there entails walking in a creek and pushing past various obstacles, houses a long limestone overhang. Given the geography and the position of the sun throughout the year, direct light doesn’t fall on the overhang’s ceiling or most of its back. An approaching visitor will initially see the inside of the overhang as very dark, though eyes do get somewhat accustomed after a person has been under the overhang for a bit. Even so, the dimness makes it hard to appreciate the ways in which seeping water over eons has colored the stone. I used flash to light up the formations and reveal the pastel colors that you see in these two images, both from June 10th.


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Did you hear about the family in Edinburgh that has six living generations?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 18, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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