Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘spiderweb

New Zealand: along the Cathedral Cove Walk

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Five years and a day ago we found ourselves on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, where I’d say Cathedral Cove was the scenic highlight. On our hour-long walk back up to the car park from the cove I got fascinated by what you see in the top picture: the graceful curves of leaves and korus, which is what the Māori call the fiddleheads on ferns. (Close individual koru portraits appeared here in 2015 and 2017.)

Also catching my attention along the Cathedral Cove Walk were the lichens and spiderwebs shown below. As for the brown insect, Kazuo Ishiguro might have called it the remains of the prey.

 This post ends the four-part mini-review of our 2017 New Zealand visit’s last days.

 

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It is a fine needle to thread, giving children enough space to make their own decisions and mistakes, and protecting them from real danger. Our societal pendulum has swung too far to one side—to protecting children against all risk and harm—such that many who come of age under this paradigm feel that everything is a threat, that they need safe spaces, that words are violence. By comparison, children with exposure to diverse experiences—physical, psychological, and intellectual—learn what is possible, and become more expansive. It is imperative that children experience discomfort in each of these realms: physical, psychological, and intellectual. Absent that, they end up full-grown but confused about what harm actually is. They end up children in the bodies of adults.

That’s another passage from Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life. You can also watch many presentations by them on their Dark Horse podcasts.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 8, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Droplets do more than make fog

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On February 1st at the pond along Kulmbacher Drive in far north Austin I wandered around taking pictures of the foggy landscape. I also got close to some of the things that the fog droplets had settled on, most prominently spiderwebs. In the top picture I went for a soft approach at a relatively wide aperture of f/6.3. The result is pleasant, though things in the background still distract somewhat from the spiderweb. To get around that, for some of my photographs I used flash, which also let me stop down to small apertures like f/22 in the picture below to keep as many of the droplets in focus as possible.

 

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MDM: a dangerous new initialism

MGM is an initialism for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a Hollywood movie studio known especially for its many musicals from the 1930s through the 1950s. Now in the 2020s an agency of the American government that goes by the acronym CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) has created the initialism MDM, standing for “misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.” Bet you didn’t know the American government thinks there are so many kinds of wrong information. Here’s how CISA sizes up the three “information activities” (oh, that bureaucratic jargon):

  • Misinformation is false, but not created or shared with the intention of causing harm.
  • Disinformation is deliberately created to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country.
  • Malinformation is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.

On February 7th the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) issued a warning bulletin:

The United States remains in a heightened threat environment fueled by several factors, including an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors. These threat actors seek to exacerbate societal friction to sow discord and undermine public trust in government institutions to encourage unrest, which could potentially inspire acts of violence. Mass casualty attacks and other acts of targeted violence conducted by lone offenders and small groups acting in furtherance of ideological beliefs and/or personal grievances pose an ongoing threat to the nation. While the conditions underlying the heightened threat landscape have not significantly changed over the last year, the convergence of the following factors has increased the volatility, unpredictability, and complexity of the threat environment: (1) the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions; (2) continued calls for violence directed at U.S. critical infrastructure; soft targets and mass gatherings; faith-based institutions, such as churches, synagogues, and mosques; institutions of higher education; racial and religious minorities; government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement and the military; the media; and perceived ideological opponents; and (3) calls by foreign terrorist organizations for attacks on the United States based on recent events.

Now, it’s true that foreign governments and non-governmental groups are working to gin up dissent in the United States. It’s hardly a new thing: Russia, a.k.a. the Soviet Union, has been doing that for a century already, and radical Islamic groups have been doing it for decades. It’s also true that we’ve had domestic terror groups, including the Weather Underground* that blew up buildings and killed people when I was in my 20s, and Antifa now.

What’s new and truly dangerous about the bulletin is that it aims to put American citizens who speak out against any of the government’s policies in the same category as terrorists. Take almost anything an American citizen says that differs from the official line, and the government will contort itself in finding some way to fit it into the triple Procrustian bed of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. The bulletin is indeed a warning to Americans, but not the warning the issuers of the bulletin intended. It’s a warning that our own government is increasingly cracking down on free speech and our rights as citizens. As I said: this is dangerous.

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* The Mark Rudd mentioned in the Britannica article about the Weather Underground was a fellow student of mine at Columbia University; I remember him from a class we both took but I didn’t really know him. Terrorist Bernardine Dohrn ended up on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. Northwestern University School of Law(!) later rewarded her by making her a professor. She and her terrorist husband Bill Ayers,** who likewise got rewarded with a professorship at a different university, adopted the child of two other imprisoned terrorists. That child is Chesa Boudin, the current District Attorney in San Francisco who has refused and keeps refusing to prosecute many criminals. He has seen to it that many have been released on little or no bail, and some of those criminals have not surprisingly gone on to commit more crimes, including murder. A fine bunch of outstanding citizens we’ve got here, folks.

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** As an indication of the increased ideological slanting in Wikipedia articles, the one about Bill Ayers says that the Weather Underground was described by the FBI as a terrorist group, as if that might be an unfair characterization of a radical communist group that blew up buildings. And though the article confirms that Ayers participated in the bombings of New York City Police Department headquarters in 1970, the United States Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972, the article had earlier made sure to tell us that no one was killed in those bombings. I guess it’s okay with Wikipedia to blow up buildings as long as you don’t kill anyone. (Actually that’s not even true: as the article admits, several Weather Underground members ended up killing themselves when a bomb they were assembling accidentally went off.)

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 15, 2022 at 4:34 AM

Dewdrop-bedecked spiderweb

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Raindrops on roses, dewdrops on spiderwebs. Clichés though they be, what veteran photographer hasn’t had a crack at one or both? On the misty morning of December 14th at Brushy Creek Park in the town of Cedar Park I spied a dewdrop-bedecked spiderweb in an inaccessible place and partly blocked by branches from most vantage points. I tried out different positions and did what I could with my telephoto lens zoomed to its maximum 400mm focal length.

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Back on August 28th last year I wrote a commentary called “FOLLOW THE SCIENCE!”. I reported on a large Israeli study showing that the protection against Covid-19 afforded by so-called natural immunity (i.e from having caught the disease and recovered) was stronger than the protection provided by getting two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech anti-Covid vaccine. I also pointed out that our government was ignoring the strong result of that study by refusing to recognize natural immunity as sufficient to allow people access to places that require proof of vaccination.

Now here we are five months later and jurisdictions in the United States are still refusing to recognize natural immunity as at least equal to vaccination. In other words, they’re still refusing to follow the science. Let’s hope that’s finally about to change. On January 19th Reuters ran an article headlined “Prior COVID infection more protective than vaccination during Delta surge -U.S. study.” Here’s the article’s first paragraph: “People who had previously been infected with COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were vaccinated alone, suggesting that natural immunity was a more potent shield than vaccines against that variant, California and New York health officials reported on Wednesday.” Now, it’s true that studies have shown that people with natural immunity who’ve also gotten vaccinated have the best protection of all, but there’s no reason for an institution or jurisdiction that accepts proof of Covid-19 vaccination not to also accept proof of natural immunity. That’s what the science requires.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

  

  

  

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 21, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Spider enclosure

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On November 1st I came across this small spider enclosure on a
purpose-bent stalk of little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium).
Three weeks later the enclosure looked about the same.


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Why don’t problems that are easily fixed get fixed?

So I was checking out at Whole Foods a couple of months ago. Because of the pandemic, many credit/debit card terminals have been upgraded so that now you can tap a card on the device instead of having to swipe the card or insert it. The problem is that a customer doesn’t know exactly where on the terminal to tap the electronic chip in the card. My first taps didn’t work, so I asked the checker-outer specifically where I needed to hold my card. She indicated a place a bit further back from where I’d tried. That worked.

I pointed out to her that the store could head off this problem by putting a little sticker with the words TAP HERE in the exact place under which the hidden sensor sits inside the terminal. She and the bagger seemed not to understand what I was saying, or else didn’t think it was important. I went on to explain that different stores use different kinds of terminals, and some of them are finicky about exactly where a card needs to be tapped. Employees who work the registers learn where that spot is, but customers can’t be expected to know, so a little sticker or some other symbol would show us the right place to tap. Eventually, one right after the other, the two clerks suddenly changed demeanor and said my suggestion was a good one and they’d pass it along to the management, but I got the distinct impression they were just saying that to get rid of me. If I go back to that Whole Foods a few months from now, I seriously doubt I’ll see a little sticker on each terminal showing where to tap a card.

Store bathrooms often present the same kind of problem in automated sinks, hand dryers, and paper towel dispensers: where exactly to put your hand(s) to make the device come on. I often have to move my hands around to various positions until the device finally activates—and sometimes no hand position ever manages to make the device come on. The easy fix would be to use a sensor that responds to a broader range of hand positions. If the concern is that a more-sensitive sensor might cause unintentional activation by people relatively far way, then a device could have two or three less-sensitive sensors spaced out to cover different hand positions. That would raise the machine’s cost a little, but I think reducing customers’ frustration and wasted time would be worth it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 30, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Spiderwebbed Mexican hat seed head on a sinuous stalk

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After photographing a broomweed plant silhouetted by reflections of the rising sun in a pond along The Lakes Blvd. on August 19th, on the same property I made a portrait of this spiderwebbed Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) seed head on a sinuous stalk. The year of the Mexican hat, which is a name I conjured up for one focus of my photography earlier in 2020, had continued.

The fanciful name Mexican hat reminds me that German refers to a thimble as a Fingerhut, i.e. a finger hat. Another thing you might cover fingers with is a glove, which German calls a Handschuh, which is to say a hand shoe. The next time you’re in a department store, try asking a clerk where the handshoes are. I bet the reaction will be quite different from the answer you’d get if you asked where the handbags are.

As for the white webbing on the Mexican hat in today’s photograph, I recently mentioned that spider actually means ‘spinner,’ based on the webs that spiders spin. And that leads us to our quotation for today: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave,/ When first we practise to deceive!” — Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, an 1808 historical romance in verse by Sir Walter Scott (who really was a Scot).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 17, 2020 at 3:55 AM

Two takes on square-bud primrose flowers

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Along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 13th I found some bright yellow flowers of Oenothera berlandieri, known descriptively as square-bud primroses and poetically as sundrops. How could I not get down low and make abstract portraits of such sunny wildflowers? The first picture shown here plays up the idea of “a light shining in the darkness.” In the second, I was intrigued by the way one of the plant’s leaves curled into a spiral and turned reddish-brown as it dried out. A spider had been intrigued enough to hang out inside the spiral.

Unrelated proverb for today: You can’t unring a bell.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 30, 2020 at 4:41 AM

From nonagons to dewdrops

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The last post showed a least daisy surrounded by sparkly dewdrops that my camera lens had turned into nonagons. Now I feel I owe you a picture of untransmogrified dewdrops. Today’s view comes from a different ground-lying spiderweb close to Yaupon Dr. on the morning of April 23rd. Because the small size of a blog-suitable photograph makes it hard to appreciate the individual droplets, you can click the excerpt below to zoom in and get a much more detailed look at one section of the image.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 4, 2020 at 4:45 AM

Beards and webs

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The vine that botanists know as Clematis drummondii has earned the colloquial name old man’s beard because its fertilized flowers give rise to filaments that turn into an increasingly dingy fluff as they mature. (Notwithstanding the beard metaphor, those are of course female flowers.) Below from Great Hills Park on August 29th is a nice expanse of “beards,” along with seed heads of Mexican hats, Ratibida columnifera.

In contrast, a nearby Clematis drummondii plant (presumably male) was cobwebbed rather than bearded.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2019 at 3:53 AM

Back to Bastrop

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June 6th this year was both D-Day and B-Day. No, not a birthday, but a trip back to Bastrop after not having visited the state park there for several years. Go around as we would, in no place were we not reminded of the devastating 2011 fire that burned for weeks and destroyed 90% of the pine trees.

Still, there was plenty of life. Look at all the greenery around that strangely burned tree trunk.
And look at this little orb-weaver spider in the genus Argiope:

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2019 at 4:50 PM

Dewdrops on spiderwebs on silver bluestem seed head remains

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Click for better clarity.

West of Morado Circle this past Christmas morning.
Silver bluestem = Bothriochloa laguroides subsp. torreyana.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 21, 2019 at 4:27 AM

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