Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘seeds

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

Purple prairie clover young and old

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It’s not often I’ve shown you purple prairie clover, Dalea purpurea. Here are two contrasting takes from the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 22nd. First you have a limited-focus view of fresh flowers, then a decaying seed head in front of some sunflowers, Helianthus annuus.


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Diversity? What diversity?

One of the three* sacraments in the Holy Trinity of the Critical Social Justice religion is Diversity. (The other two, in case you’ve just arrived from Pluto and aren’t au courant, are Equity and Inclusion.) Anyone not a true believer soon recognizes that the diversity in question refers only to group characteristics like skin color. It certainly doesn’t include diversity of thought. On the contrary, in the spirit of Orwell’s “Freedom is slavery,” the sacrament of Diversity requires waging a crusade against ideological diversity.

I recently learned that one ray of enlightenment has broken through, and it’s right here at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin. “The University of Texas has worked with private donors and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to establish a new think tank to promote conservative ideas on campus.” Now, you might argue that a state university has no business promoting conservative ideology. All things being equal, I’d agree with you. But in this case things are very far from equal. As a Campus Reform article notes: “In total, UT employees donated $642,693.43 from 2017-2018. Of that amount, 94.7 percent went to Democrat politicians or Democrat organizations, while just 5.3 percent of the donations were made to Republican politicians or Republican organizations.” With such an enormous ideological imbalance already existing, it would be hypocritical to begrudge establishing one little program on the other side of the political spectrum. But of course leftist activists will rail against it anyway—all in the name of Diversity.

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* Never content for long with the status quo, no matter how radical, the Critical Social Justice religion seems to be in the process of adding a fourth sacrament: Belonging. Once Belonging gets officially inducted into the pantheon, a fifth sacrament should soon be a-borning. What will it be? Safety? Solidarity? Openness (which will of course mean ‘closed to evidence that contradicts it’)? Tolerance (which won’t tolerate dissent)?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 13, 2021 at 4:32 AM

A different camphorweed stage

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In yesterday’s post you saw that the ray florets in a camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris) flower head sometimes curl like little ribbons. Now the same stand of plants in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 22nd lets you see the remains of a camphorweed seed head. The bright and pretty yellow in the background came from some “common” sunflowers (Helianthus annuus).


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Yesterday’s post also dealt with the early and continuing politicization of the Covid-19 pandemic. On July 3rd I mentioned that some countries were using the drug ivermectin as a therapeutic in treating Covid-19, while at the same time some authorities continued saying the drug is ineffective for that purpose. Regardless of the truth of ivermectin’s effectiveness, which of course as a layman I was (and still am) in no position to know, I lamented the fact that large online sites like Facebook and Twitter were banning people, some of them highly qualified, from even discussing the matter. That’s not in the tradition of a country that thinks so highly of free speech that it’s mentioned in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Since my July 3rd post there have been new developments about ivermectin. Before I go into them, let me tell you what ivermectin is. “In 2015, the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, in its only award for treatments of infectious diseases since six decades prior, honoured the discovery of ivermectin (IVM)…. IVM as deployed worldwide since 1987 has made major inroads against two devastating tropical diseases, onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis.” It’s also the case that “Ivermectin is FDA-approved for use in animals for prevention of heartworm disease in some small animal species, and for treatment of certain internal and external parasites in various animal species.”

Now for the recent developments.

A rural Oklahoma doctor said patients who are taking the horse de-wormer medication, ivermectin, to fight COVID-19 are causing emergency room and ambulance back ups.

“There’s a reason you have to have a doctor to get a prescription for this stuff, because it can be dangerous,” said Dr. Jason McElyea.

Dr. McElyea said patients are packing his eastern and southeastern Oklahoma hospitals after taking ivermectin doses meant for a full-sized horse, because they believed false claims the horse de-wormer could fight COVID-19.

“The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated,” he said.

That’s something McElyea said is now backing up ambulance systems as well.

“All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it,” said Dr. McElyea. “If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”

Rolling Stone Magazine picked up the story, as did MSNBC and various other outlets. Some of them put a decidedly “look at those stupid hicks swallowing horse paste” spin on their telling of it, conveniently failing to even mention that ivermectin does have approved human uses and that some other countries have been administering it for Covid-19.

One little problem: the story was untrue. An MSN article details the things that were wrong with it.

  • Here’s the second development. In August, a doctor who favors the use of ivermectin in treating Covid-19 wrote a remote prescription for a patient in an Ohio hospital’s intensive care unit. After the hospital refused to administer the drug because it’s not approved for that purpose in the United States, the patient’s family went to court. On August 23rd a judge ordered the hospital to administer the prescribed ivermectin. Then on September 6th another judge reversed the first judge’s order, siding with the hospital’s stance that government agencies in the United States haven’t approved ivermectin for Covid-19. The second judge noted that “This Court is not determining if ivermectin will ever be effective and useful as a treatment for COVID-19.”
  • In the third and most important development, the September 2021 issue of the medical journal New Microbes and New Infections reports the following:

Since March 2020, when IVM (ivermectin) was first used against a new global scourge, COVID-19, more than 20 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have tracked such inpatient and outpatient treatments. Six of seven meta-analyses of IVM treatment RCTs reporting in 2021 found notable reductions in COVID-19 fatalities, with a mean 31% relative risk of mortality vs. controls. During mass IVM treatments in Peru, excess deaths fell by a mean of 74% over 30 days in its ten states with the most extensive treatments. Reductions in deaths correlated with the extent of IVM distributions in all 25 states with p < 0.002. Sharp reductions in morbidity using IVM were also observed in two animal models, of SARS-CoV-2 and a related betacoronavirus. The indicated biological mechanism of IVM, competitive binding with SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, is likely non-epitope specific, possibly yielding full efficacy against emerging viral mutant strains.

If you wish, you can read the full article.

So it seems the evidence is now coming down in favor of ivermectin’s effectiveness in treating Covid-19. We’ll see if future research keeps supporting that conclusion. We’ll follow the science.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 11, 2021 at 5:10 AM

Prairie parsley seeds by purple bindweed flowers

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From August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 comes a portrait of prairie parsley seeds (Polytaenia sp.) in front of several purple bindweed flowers (Ipomoea cordatotriloba). I don’t remember taking a picture like this one before, so here’s to novelty. Pitchforks, anyone?


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Another Recent Case of Media Censorship
(I could probably post a new example every day.)

Facebook Suspends Instagram Account of Gold Star Mother Who Criticized Biden.

Facebook’s later admission that the account was “incorrectly deleted” is technically true but doesn’t
change the fact that once again an employee or a politically biased algorithm did delete an account.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 2, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Basket-flower seed head remains with clouds

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From August 13th on the Blackland Prairie along Pflugerville’s southern border
come these seed head remains of a basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus.


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Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the world’s great crusaders for women’s rights, a cause that’s especially dear to her because she grew up in a culture that didn’t afford women many rights. I recommend her August 18th article about the human rights catastrophe in Afghanistan.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2021 at 4:25 AM

Walking on feathery “ground”

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This spring I reported that the great piece of prairie on the west side of Heatherwilde Blvd. slightly north of Wells Branch Parkway in Pflugerville had become a construction zone. I held out hope that the southern end of that site, separated from the main part by some woods, might survive for another spring. Alas, when I visited on August 13th I found early signs of construction on that parcel, too, though most of it was still intact. At one point I took some pictures of a Clematis drummondii vine that had reached its fluffy stage. I was about to leave when a bit of movement on the feathery strands caught my attention. It was the walking stick you see in today’s portrait. A couple of days later on the Internet I saw a similar-looking walking stick in Austin identified as Pseudosermyle strigata, so maybe that’s what this one was.


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Here’s a good quotation for the censorious times we’re living through (and hopefully will come out the other side of): “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” It’s not clear who first said that. Many websites attribute it to physicist Richard Feynman, but always without any further details, like when or where he supposedly said it. That lack of specificity usually means a quotation has been misattributed. I found comments about the origin of this quotation in a discussion group on the history of science and math. One related thing Feynman did say—and you can watch a video of him saying it—is: “I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2021 at 4:53 AM

“Clouds” of Clematis

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Look at the great fluffy mounds of Clematis drummondii I found at the southeast corner of FM 1325 and Shoreline Dr. in far north Austin on July 31st. This is a later and more feathery stage than what you saw in a July 28th post, which was later than the flowering stage shown the day before.


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Yesterday was a shameful day for the United States government. Through the gross negligence of pulling too many American soldiers out of Afghanistan too quickly, it allowed the situation there to collapse. For days we’d been hearing that the American government was processing papers for thousands of Afghanis who’d served as translators or done other work, so that they could move to safety in the United States. Why the sudden nitpicking over paperwork, when in the single month of July the American government allowed some 212,000 people to illegally come across the southern border as “undocumented immigrants.” All the government had to do in Afghanistan was start a round-the-clock airlift, get as many of those Afghanis out as quickly as possible, and deal with the paperwork later. Any Afghanis who helped the United States that get left behind can expect the Taliban to behead them. Nice going, current American administration.

And it’s a shameful day, week, month, year, decade for the United Nations for not intervening to put a stop once and for all to the barbaric medieval fanaticism of the Taliban. With that group back in control, any gains that Afghani women made in the past 20 years are immediately wiped out. Word has already gone out that all women must wear burqas. Afghani girls, say goodbye to school; the Taliban thinks your purpose is to grow up and breed, so why do you need an education? Nice going, United Nations.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 16, 2021 at 12:37 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Portraits from our yard: episode 10

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Do you remember the white avens (Geum canadense) buds and flowers you saw here recently?
From our back yard on July 22nd comes this view of a white avens seed head.
Its hooks are obviously intended to get caught on the fur of passing animals.


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One morning last week we took a stroll through a nearby part of our neighborhood. When a woman walking her dog came near us, I asked her with no prelude, as I recently started doing to find out how people feel: “What do you think about the current state of our country?” She indicated that she wasn’t happy with it: “Somebody needs to start doing something.” Then she mentioned her young grandson and said she was optimistic that he would turn things around. I followed up: “But do you think we have enough time to wait for him to grow up and do that?” After a few seconds’ thought she said: “No.”

The woman told us her name is Lenore. “Like the Lenore that Poe wrote about?” I asked. She said that was it, that her father was fond of Poe’s works. “So he actually named you Lenore because of Poe’s poem?” “Yes,” she replied, and then she quoted from “The Raven”: “a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.” You never know what interesting things you’ll find out when you talk to strangers.

Just a few houses before the place where we encountered Lenore I’d noticed a yard sign for an organization called Braver Angels. Having never heard of it, I looked it up:

Our mission is to bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic.

We do so by observing the Braver Angels Way:

We state ours views freely and fully, without fear.

We welcome opportunities to engage with those with whom we disagree.

We treat people who disagree with us with honesty and respect.

We seek to disagree accurately, avoiding exaggeration and stereotypes.

We look for common ground where it exists, and if possible, find ways to work together.

We believe that all of us have blind spots and none of us are not worth talking to.

We believe that, in disagreements, both sides share and learn. In Braver Angels, neither side is teaching the other or giving feedback on how to think or say things differently.

Our work ethic is citizen-leadership; we’re many volunteers assisted by a professional staff.

We’re guided by the Braver Angels Rule: At every level of organizational guidance, red and blue leaders are equally represented. Regarding race, ethnicity, and social and economic class, our constant striving is to be an organization that reflects the country we seek to serve.

Sounds like Lenore is getting her wish without having to wait for her grandson to grow up. Somebody is doing something.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Portraits from our yard: episode 9

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On July 22nd I noticed that a bit of inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) had sprung up along a front walkway, partly hidden by adjacent shrubbery. Here’s a minimalist view of three fresh seed heads on a stalk that formed a graceful arc. This could almost be a small modern sculpture. Speaking of which, look how a Bosnian artist carves miniature sculptures in the lead at the tip of a pencil.


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Austin, where I live, is one of those “progressive” places with an activist city council that cut one-third of our police budget last year. As a result, Austin now has 150 fewer police officers than before and the average time it takes for the police to respond to emergency calls has gone up by several minutes. And look at the headline for an August 6th article in the Austin American-Statesman: “Austin police investigating 50 homicides in 2021, the highest number in three decades.” Riot-wracked 2020 saw 48 homicides in Austin, and 2021’s current count of 50 surpassed that with five months of the year still to run. Some “progress.”

It also recently came to light that U.S. Representative Cori Bush of Missouri had spent some $69,000 over a three-month period for private security for herself. That’s ironically the same Cori Bush who has been ardently campaigning to “defund the police.” When Representative Bush was asked about her practice of “security for me but not for thee,” she said the work she is doing is so important that no matter how much she spends for personal protection, “my body is worth being on this planet” and the rest of us will just have to “suck it up.” I should add that this is also the same Cori Bush who for years has pushed the disproven narrative that a policeman killed Michael Brown when he had his hands up and was trying to surrender. In a post last month I gave you the Obama Justice Department’s evidence refuting the “hands up, don’t shoot” claim. And this is also the same Cori Bush who said the other day that she was “elated” after the current administration extended a moratorium on evictions after admitting that the Supreme Court had already ruled such a moratorium extension unconstitutional, given that it came from the Centers for Disease Control, which has no legislative authority at all.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 10, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Posted in nature photography

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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

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