Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘snail

Take home a stance

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I’ll grant you the title of this post may seem a bit strange. That’s because “Take home a stance” is an approximate way to pronounce the scientific name of today’s subject, Tecoma stans. One of the shrub’s common names causes no trouble: yellow bells. The other common name causes no trouble, either, if you know that esperanza is Spanish for hope, and what color is more hopeful than yellow?

This member of the legume family produces pods whose walls are on the thin side and decay rather easily. When I went to photograph one in that condition I noticed a tiny snail on it that I estimate was about a quarter of an inch across (6mm).

 

  

I took both pictures alongside our house on September 10th.

 

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I recently learned about the website called Freespoke. It’s a search engine that has the motto “See Clearly. Search Clearly.” If you go to Freespoke’s home page, beneath the search box you’ll also see links to three treatments of many recent news items: one from a centrist organization, one from a leftist organization, and one from a rightist organization. In addition, there are some links to stories that the mainstream media generally haven’t covered. For example, when I checked Freespoke yesterday I found a link to a story about 77 newspapers in one chain canceling the popular 33-year-old comic strip “Dilbert” because its writer, Scott Adams, has begun to satirize “woke” culture in offices.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Posted on a post in a post

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As you see in today’s photograph from August 1st on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin, little land snails are common in the Austin area. Multiple posts over the years (for example this February and May 2020) have shown how those snails like to climb both plants and inanimate objects. The snail shell on/in today’s post was such a bright white that in comparison to it the sky and clouds look unnaturally dark, but I like the effect and also welcome the contrasty chiaroscuro drama of the shell and its shadow. The rusted metal adds interesting textures and earthy colors.

 

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From time to time in the past year I’ve given examples of ideologues insisting that a word no longer means what it has long meant. Examples have included man, woman, mother, and recession [of a financial sort].

This week I became aware of two more. New York State is now banning the short word inmate, which it will replace with the cumbersome, five-syllables-longer phrase incarcerated person. What’s supposed to be gained isn’t clear, especially since inmate was already gender neutral. Possibly it’s to force more and more things to fit the mold X person, where X is a present or past participle. For example, enslaved person replaces slave and birthing person replaces mother.

The second recent attempt at definition denial stems from an incident on the morning of August 8th, when several dozen armed FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] agents, including a safecracker, showed up at the Florida home of former president Trump with a search warrant. The FBI team then spent a reported nine hours searching the premises and taking away some 15 boxes of materials.

I take no position on whether the FBI raid was justified. There’s no way for me to know. What I do take a position on is the unjustified denial by many in the media that the raid was a raid. It was funny to watch a montage of eight clips showing television commenters insisting that the raid wasn’t a raid.

Fortunately we have the Internet at our disposal, so I looked up raid in a bunch of online dictionaries. Because each dictionary gives several definitions of the word, I’ll quote just the relevant one:

 

Wordsmyth: ‘A surprise entry by police into private property, usu[ally] to make arrests or seize something.’

Merriam-Webster: ‘A sudden invasion by officers of the law.’

Lexico (Oxford): ‘A surprise visit by police to arrest suspected people or seize illicit goods.’

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s: ‘An occasion when the police enter a place suddenly in order to find someone or something.’

Longman: ‘A surprise visit made to a place by the police to search for something illegal.’

American Heritage: ‘A sudden forcible entry into a place by police.’

Vocabulary.com: ‘Search’ or ‘enter unexpectedly.’

Macmillan: ‘To use force to enter a place suddenly in order to arrest people or search for something such as illegal drugs.’

Infoplease: ‘a sudden assault or attack, as upon something to be seized or suppressed.’

Free Dictionary: ‘Search without warning.’

Webster’s (1913): ‘An attack or invasion for the purpose of making arrests, seizing property, or plundering.’

 

So yes, the raid that took place on August 8th was indeed a raid.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2022 at 4:28 AM

A terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusc

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Allow me to translate this post’s title into normal English: a snail. Here are views showing opposite sides of one that had climbed a dry grass stalk on the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 25th.

  

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Americans used to frown on human sacrifice and cannibalism. How parochially “Western” that attitude was. What “white fragility” it showed. Today’s educationists know better. In 2021 the California Board of Education unanimously approved an Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum that included—there’s the sacred value of inclusion—a section on “Affirmation, Chants, and Energizers.” In an article entitled “Parents sue California over public school curriculum that includes chants to Aztec gods,” Bethany Blankley wrote in September 2021 that the section “includes teaching students to repeat the ‘In Lak Ech Affirmation,’ which invokes Aztec deities by name, along with their titles and attributes.” The article continues:

Cortés and other conquistadors described witnessing ceremonies performed by Aztec priests involving the chants in question and human sacrifice, reports that were later confirmed by archeological findings of thousands of human skulls, History.com reports.

Thomas More Society Special Counsel Paula Jonna notes, “The human sacrifice, cutting out of human hearts, flaying of victims and wearing their skin, are a matter of historical record, along with sacrifices of war prisoners, and other repulsive acts and ceremonies the Aztecs conducted to honor their deities.”

CERF [Californians for Equal Rights Foundation] argues that “California teaches systemic racism.” Its president, Frank Xu, says the curriculum’s promotion of Aztec deities “through repetitive chanting and affirmation of their symbolic principles constitutes an unlawful government preference toward a particular religious practice.

“This public endorsement of the Aztec religion fundamentally erodes equal education rights and irresponsibly glorifies anthropomorphic, male deities whose religious rituals involved gruesome human sacrifice and human dismemberment.”

Maybe it won’t be long before we hear activists shouting “Reimagine human sacrifice!” and “Reimagine dismemberment!” At least Aztec scholars were good at mathematics and astronomy, so the California curriculum could be a backdoor for getting teachers to teach arithmetic and science again, which they’ve long since sacrificed to more pressing matters like “dismantling racist structures” and “abolishing whiteness.” Of course California students would be required to study arithmetic and science in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, but that would kill two sacrificial birds with one stone: it would promote both multilingualism and multiculturalism. Kids might even kill a third bird: they could get away with saying things to each other in Nahuatl that they don’t want their parents to understand.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 8, 2022 at 4:33 AM

First snails for 2022

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As you’ve seen here many a time, land snails are common in central Texas. This year I photographed my first pair of them in Luling on March 28. The soft congregation of vapors near the bottom of the picture pretended to be another snail but I wasn’t taken in: two’s company, three’s a cloud.

 

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Picasso went through his Blue Period and his Rose Period. Me, I went through my Infrared Period from 1976 through 1983. During those years I extensively used black and white film that could record light in wavelengths the unaided human eye can’t see. I even showed one of my vintage infrared nature photographs in a post here ten years ago. Now the cleverly satirical publication The Babylon Bee has come out with a story headlined “Pride Flag Switches To Infrared Spectrum After Running Out Of Visible Colors.”

MALIBU, CA—Organizers of the Transgender Day Of Visibility unveiled an updated pride flag this week at a ceremony in Malibu. After running out of colors in the visible light spectrum, the new pride flag features colors that are only visible with special infrared goggles. 

“Human beings are only capable of seeing around a million different colors with the naked eye,” said designer Wesley Arturio. “Obviously there’s, like, way more than a million different genders and sexual orientations, so we moved to the infrared spectrum, which is about 3,000 times wider than the visible light spectrum.”

You’re welcome to read the full story.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 7, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

A tiny white snail shell as a sarcophagus on a carpet of fallen dry Ashe juniper needles

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Allen Park; December 17, 2021.

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Have you ever noticed that some people have appropriate names while others have ironic names? An example in the “appropriate” category was a United States district judge for the Eastern District of Texas named William Wayne Justice.

Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) provides two examples in the “ironic” category. The current police commissioner there is named Danielle Outlaw. But what’s in a name? The double irony is that while Danielle Outlaw is actually trying to enforce laws and protect the citizens of Philadelphia, the real outlaw in Philadelphia’s justice system is the district attorney, Larry Krasner. His family name ultimately goes back to a Slavic word that means ‘beautiful,’ yet he is anything but beautiful in his stubbornly ideological refusal to prosecute many criminals. Unfortunately the new district attorney in Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, began bragging on day one of his term that he also will refuse to prosecute many crimes and will downgrade others from felonies to misdemeanors. You can read even more about that if you wish.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 9, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Līmax in the sky with branches: both sides now

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From July 27th along John Henry Faulk Dr. you’re seeing both sides
of a little white snail (for which one Latin word was līmax).

In the title of today’s post, readers of a certain age will likely catch
the references to two songs from half a century ago.


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Ever since elementary school I’ve been interested in the phenomenon of language. George Orwell’s novels 1984 and Animal Farm, which I read in high school, and later his essay “Politics and the English Language,” which you can read online, made me aware of the ways in which propagandists distort words for ideological purposes. For example, in the appendix to 1984, Orwell explained that newspeak, the language that the dictatorship imposed on people, allowed the word free to be used only in the sense that a dog can be free from fleas, but not in the sense that a person has free thought and freedom to act independently.

The other day I came across a recent example of language distortion (and also of pusillanimous groveling):

During a recent endocrinology course at a top medical school in the University of California system, a professor stopped mid-lecture to apologize for something he’d said at the beginning of class.

“I don’t want you to think that I am in any way trying to imply anything, and if you can summon some generosity to forgive me, I would really appreciate it,” the physician says in a recording provided by a student in the class…. “Again, I’m very sorry for that. It was certainly not my intention to offend anyone. The worst thing that I can do as a human being is be offensive.” 

His offense: using the term “pregnant women.” 

“I said ‘when a woman is pregnant,’ which implies that only women can get pregnant and I most sincerely apologize to all of you.”

I invite you to read the article by Katie Herzog about that incident. Illiberal activists like to impugn people they disagree with by calling them x-phobic, where x represents some favored cause or group. I’m now proposing the alliterative term fact-phobic to describe people who deny reality, including the biological reality that anyone who becomes pregnant is a woman. Refusing to deny reality isn’t offensive. Denying reality is.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2021 at 4:27 AM

Little white snail on an opening firewheel

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Where 2020 proved an out-and-out snailfest on the prairie, the prolonged freeze in February of 2021 may explain the dearth of snails I’ve seen this spring. On May 9th I did finally see one on the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville. That little white snail had found its way onto the developing flower head of a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, which insisted on opening despite its extra load.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri.” “The most wasted of all our days is the one when we haven’t laughed.” — Sébastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort (1741–1794). Plenty of Internet sites attribute the wording “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter” to e.e. cummings, who liked to write his name in lower case and who wasn’t even born till a hundred years after Chamfort died. Perhaps cummings quoted Chamfort and somebody then mistakenly believed the saying was cummings’s own. Or else someone attributed it to cummings for no good reason at all, and others then copied that without verifying it. Cummings is worth quoting—as long as it’s done correctly. For example, take this assertion: “So far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was, is, and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality.” No groupthink for him.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2021 at 4:31 AM

The often seen and the seldom seen

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In several posts this year you’ve seen little snails that have climbed onto plants in central Texas. The plant that this snail found its way onto is one I’ve encountered only a couple of times in my two decades of nature photography. I couldn’t even remember its name, and had to go searching. Botanists call it Ammannia coccinea, whose species name is Latin for ‘scarlet.’ Colloquially descriptive names are scarlet tooth-cup and valley redstem. I found this specimen not in a valley but at Cypress Creek Park out by Lake Travis on October 4th. Turns out the species has a pretty wide distribution across a large part of the country.

And speaking of things seldom seen, I don’t believe I’ve ever come across a bluebell (Eustoma sp.) as late in the season as October 4th, but that’s what happened when I was calling it a day after photographing the little snail and already heading back toward my car. This was the one and only bluebell I saw there.

 © 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 11, 2020 at 4:35 AM

Austin’s still snailiferous

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Now well past May’s peak of limaciferousness in central Texas, the land beneath our baking sun has continued to host many a snail. Whether the small creatures I’ve found were living or dead has been mostly beyond my ability to say. They haven’t, however, been beyond my ability to photograph. I found the one above on August 6th near the tip of a Mexican hat seed head (Ratibida columnifera), and the one below on a bed of dry fallen Ashe juniper leaves (Juniperus ashei). In that portrait, taken on July 10th, I’d gone for a shallow-depth-of-field approach, with little more than the apex of the spiral in focus.

The last image, from June 15th in Great Hills Park when things were still more colorful,
shows a snail on a living Ashe juniper with a firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) beyond it.

And here’s a quotation about photography:

“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”
Ansel Adams in American Way, October 1974.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2020 at 4:33 AM

Spiral spirit

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Recent pictures of one snail on a fresh basket-flower, another on an opening firewheel, and a foursome on a dry plant have pleased some of you, so here are three more photographs from the limaciferous* Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville during the week of May 4th.

These snails are equal-opportunity climbers. In the top picture, the plant is greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium. The climbed-upon in the middle photograph is blazing star, Liatris mucronata.  Finally you have a square-bud primrose, Oenothera capillifolia.

* I coined limaciferous from the roots of Latin limax ‘snail’ and ferre ‘to bear.’
The choice was between that and the English-Latin hybrid snailferous.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 7, 2020 at 4:34 AM

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