Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘strange

Draped and dropped

with 8 comments

You may have heard that for months now Texas has been enduring a drought. That was obvious at the Willow Trace Pond in far north Austin when I visited on July 21st. The water level had dropped enough to drape algae over little stumps that had been underwater, as had most of the algae. Once the air dried out the algae it lost most of its green coloring, as you see above.

Not draped but dropped, presumably by a child and not by water, was the little toy figurine that I found on the ground near by. I guess the black dots were intended to identify the big cat as a leopard, even if no leopard ever sported such regular spots or wore such a bright yellow coat. The nondescript ground-hugging plant the leopard had bedded down on belongs to the spurge family and is in the genus Chamaesyce or Euphorbia.

 

 

✶         ✶         ✶

 

The other day I came across a post by Wesley Yang entitled “Yes, Things Are Really As Bad As You’ve Heard: a Leftist Schoolteacher Struggles To Say Aloud the Things He Regularly Witnesses That Are So Outlandish They Sound Made Up By Right-Wing Provocateurs.” The craziness described there isn’t encouraging, nor is the reality that the writer Yang was talking about feels the need to remain anonymous. At least the fact that some people are calling out the craziness in their ranks is encouraging.

Here’s the anonymous writer’s penultimate paragraph:

Like I said before, I’m a leftist myself; I have a real and abiding commitment to racial justice in education. Do I like having to make the same points as pundits who want me kicked out of the classroom too? Of course not. But it’s precisely because I think racism and poverty are so rampant in this nation, and our obligation to respond so overwhelming, that I can’t keep pretending these ridiculous DEI schemes aren’t hurting the children we owe so much to. They are. It’s happening, right now.

You’re welcome to check out the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 29, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

A strange juxtaposition

with 32 comments

 

At one point while wandering along Bull Creek on July 12th I looked down and saw this note on the ground. Whoever wrote it had a hard time with the last word, which was apparently supposed to be fulfilling. The little plant adjacent to the note is poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, which very few people find fulfilling. Only once before, if I remember right, have I posted a picture of a hand-printed message. It was in 2016, and upon looking back at it now I was surprised to notice that the writer of that earlier message also had a hard time spelling its final word—and only its final word. A weird coincidence, don’t you think?

In 2016 the message was on a light pole and therefore we assume whoever wrote it wanted people to see it. Do you think that was true for this month’s note, too, or had the writer accidentally dropped it and not noticed that it stayed behind on the ground?

 

❡         ❡         ❡

    

CNN reported on June 30th that 85% of US adults who responded to an AP-NORC survey said that things in the country are headed in the wrong direction. It’s something that polls often ask about, but it’s not nearly as useful a question as it could be. That’s because the country is heavily polarized, and many respondents were presumably unhappy with the country’s direction for opposite reasons. Pollsters would do much better to solicit more than just a yes-or-no answer about being content with the country’s direction. For instance, people who say they’re discontent could be asked to tell what specific things about the country’s direction they’re discontent with, and the pollsters could then group the reasons into categories when reporting the results. If the pollsters don’t want to do that much work, they could ask the question in multiple-choice format. Here’s an example:

We’d like to know how you feel about the direction the country is headed in.
Which of these best describes your feelings?

a) The country is headed in a generally good direction.

b) The country is moving a little too far to the left (progressive), politically speaking.

c) The country is moving a lot too far to the left (progressive), politically speaking.

d) The country is moving a little too far to the right (conservative), politically speaking.

e) The country is moving a lot too far to the right (conservative), politically speaking.

f) None of the above is the reason I’m discontent with the country’s direction.

 

What do you think the chances are that polling companies will adopt my approach?

  1. The people who run polling companies will swoon at my feet and make me their polling god.
  2. I’ll have to live to be 100 before polling companies follow such a good suggestion.
  3. Somebody dropped a zero: I’ll have to live to be 1000 before polling companies follow such a good suggestion.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 21, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Another Mexican hat anomaly

with 12 comments

Eight days ago you saw a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) flower head that strangely had four columns instead of the single one that’s the norm. On May 15th the Mexican hats at the Floral Park Drive entrance to Great Hills Park were going strong, so I walked in to give them a closer look. On one flower head I discovered another anomaly: several ray florets were emerging from a place part-way up the column where only disk florets are supposed to grow. For comparison, check out the normally developing Mexican hat below, with ray florets coming out only at the bottom of the column.

 

 §

 

To see some impressive wildlife photographs, check out the work of Dave Newman, a British office manager who takes pictures on his lunch break. Avian mavens among you should be especially interested.

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Fascination of Plants Day

with 36 comments

Today is Fascination of Plants Day. The word fascination is fascinatingly close to fasciation, the strange botanical phenomenon that I’ve shown you various examples of. On May 5th I was photographing some of the many Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) that were coming up along the Sierra Nevada fringe of Great Hills Park when I noticed one flower head that lacked the characteristic flattening and spreading that fasciated plants exhibit but that had four central columns instead of the normal one. Whether that’s still fasciation or a different anomaly, I don’t know. I do know it was weird enough to show it to you on Fascination of Plants Day.

In case you’re not familiar with Mexican hats, I’ll add that the ray florets display varying amounts of yellow and brown. Often there’s a mixture of the two. Sometimes one color mostly drives out the other color, as in the middle picture, or entirely excludes it, as below.

 

 

§

§         §         §

§

 

By now you’ve probably heard about a deranged 18-year-old guy who drove several hours from a little town in New York to Buffalo, the state’s second largest city, to gun down people in a supermarket on May 14th. Most of the victims were black, and that apparently was no coincidence. A long manifesto allegedly written by the shooter soon surfaced, and the document made clear that he hated both blacks and Jews. The killer’s racist and anti-Semitic statements, along with the fact that he is white, almost immediately led some people in the news media to proclaim him, with good reason, a racist and a white supremacist. Among those people in the media were not a few who also somehow concluded that the killer is a Republican or a conservative and a follower of the conservative television network Fox News. How politically convenient—and how inconvenient that those quickly proved to be false accusations.

I couldn’t find the shooter’s manifesto online to check it for myself—it was apparently taken down not long after the incident—but I did find a May 16th Washington Examiner article by Tiana Lowe headlined “The Buffalo shooter was an eco-socialist racist who hated Fox News and Ben Shapiro.” That hardly sounds like your typical Republican or conservative, does it? Here’s a portion of Tiana Lowe’s article:

Hence, a seemingly concerted effort from the corporate media accusing the Buffalo barbarian of being some sort of Tucker Carlson [a Fox News host] acolyte would be baffling if it weren’t so transparently malicious. In the 180-page document purported to be authored by the shooter, he does not mention Carlson once. The sole explicit mention of Fox News is an infographic demarcating top Fox hosts such as Maria Bartiromo and Greg Gutfeld as Jewish. (Rupert Murdoch is decried as a “Christian Zionist” who may have Jewish ancestry,” although it’s never publicly admitted.) Ben Shapiro is mentioned multiple times, including as an example as the “rat” phenotype of Jewish people.

Moreover, the Buffalo shooter is a self-described “ethno-nationalist eco-fascist national socialist” who loathes libertarianism and conservatism in particular.

“Ask yourself, truly, what has modern conservatism managed to conserve?” the shooter wrote. “Not a thing has been conserved other than corporate profits and the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit. Conservatism is dead. Thank god. Now let us bury it and move on to something of worth.”

Hell, the shooter admits that he’s a socialist, “depending on the definition.”

“Worker ownership of the means of production?” he writes. “It depends on who those workers are, their intentions, who currently owns the means of production, their intentions and who currently owns the state, and their intentions.”

The diatribe implies “those workers” better be white gentiles who worship Mother Earth. Here, crucially, is the shooter on his homicidal obsession with environmentalism.

 

To be continued tomorrow and the next day.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2022 at 4:32 AM

An uncommon common snapping turtle

with 12 comments

Seven years ago today I encountered a common snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, not far
from Bull Creek. What made this common turtle uncommon was the inchworm on its nose.

 

§

§          §          §

§

 

Here are three passages from David Mamet’s latest book, Recessional.

 

Justice is the application of previously decided and accepted norms of conduct and the rules for their examination and dispute. It is as imperfect as any other institution. But a dispassionate, considerate, supportable, and moral resolution of differences is the goal toward which it aspires.

Social justice is the negation of that ideal. Here “feelings” are insisted upon as superior to process and order. The iconoclasts claim that justice is too slow, that it is biased, and that it is the right of the individual or whatever groups he may form to express grievances long held, and unheard, in whatever mode he elects.

It is the argument of an abusive parent: Yes, I hit her, but you would have hit her too, if you had to put up with the way she behaves.

Social justice means anarchy….

Huey Long said in 1933 that it was the easiest thing in the world to create a Fascist organization; all one had to do was call it an anti-Fascist organization.

But perhaps the greatest lesson of history is that we never learn from history. And that no great crime was ever committed save in the name of progress, or its stablemates historical necessity and redress of past wrongs.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 6, 2022 at 4:37 AM

What I couldn’t see

with 10 comments

The cedar sage (Salvia roemeriana) in wooded areas of my neighborhood was out in force by the middle of April. I found plenty of those plants to photograph in Great Hills Park, and then on April 17th I spent time with a group of them on a rocky embankment along Morado Circle. It’s not unusual to see cedar sage flowers that have fallen off, but one really caught my attention—and caught is an apt word. The flower had landed on a leaf and miraculously was standing upright. I assumed the base of the fallen flower had happened to land in a small hole in the leaf, and that accounted for the flower’s apparent defiance of gravity. After taking some pictures of the prodigy I touched it, and only then from the way it swung about did I realize that a strand of spider silk, still invisible to me, had kept the flower from falling over. My 100mm macro lens and camera sensor resolved the strand of silk that my unaided eyes couldn’t see. Now your eyes get to see it. They also get to see some nearby cedar sage buds that had begun opening.

 

§

§          §          §

§

    

As much as I’ve been the bearer of reassurance in my photographs from nature, I’ve also been the bearer of increasingly dismal social news in my commentaries. For the past decade, and especially since the moral panic of 2020, “wokeism” has rapidly been taking over our institutions. Medicine is no exception. Some professors of medicine have taken to denying biological sex. Medical schools are already plotting to make gender ideology and racist ideology required parts of their curriculum. Faculty and staff who won’t pledge fealty to those delusional and hateful things will risk getting fired, and people who apply to work there but don’t show evidence of sufficiently “woke” fervor won’t get hired in the first place. Medical students will face the same kinds of pressure. You can read the distressing details in John D. Sailer’s article on the website of the National Association of Scholars.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 5, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Doubled

with 18 comments

In northwest Austin on April 16th the flower of a southern dewberry vine (Rubus trivialis) caught my attention for two reasons: it was conspicuously pinker than the white I’m used to seeing, and its petals appeared to be doubled. Dewberry is in the rose family, and I’ve heard of doubled roses, so maybe a doubled dewberry’s not as strange as I think. Or maybe it is.

 

§

§         §         §

§

 

Mark Twain didn’t say “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” Two hundred years before Twain’s death in 1910, Jonathan Swift did write that “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect.…” A 2018 article in Science corroborates those two similar thoughts:

Lies spread faster than the truth

There is worldwide concern over false news and the possibility that it can influence political, economic, and social well-being. To understand how false news spreads, Vosoughi et al. used a data set of rumor cascades on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. About 126,000 rumors were spread by ∼3 million people. False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1000 people. Falsehood also diffused faster than the truth. The degree of novelty and the emotional reactions of recipients may be responsible for the differences observed.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 23, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Contortions

with 25 comments

Contorted is how I might describe the branch of a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) already leafing out at East Metropolitan Park on March 25th. Five days earlier, as spring officially began, I’d photographed a prickly pear pad in my part of Austin that had reached the end of its life. In addition to the usual drying out and loss of green that a dead pad undergoes, it had contorted itself in a way that made me have to do its portrait.

 

✢         ✢         ✢

 

And speaking of contortion, I recommend Reason for its anti-contorted stance, which is to say its adherence to reason. The magazine of “free minds and free markets” promotes free speech, due process, and the deciding of matters based on evidence and logic. If you check out the Reason website, you’ll notice that it finds things to criticize in camps on both sides of the conventional left~right political divide. You could call that outlook libertarian.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Two notable encounters

with 36 comments

As many years as I’ve lived in Austin (almost 46), and as many years as I’ve been seriously taking nature photographs (about half of 46), I still keep finding new places to ply my trade here, even as properties where I’ve worked have kept succumbing to development, including a few more already this year. On March 12th we trod the Twin Creeks Historic Park Trail in Cedar Park for the first time. About half a mile in, on the grounds of the mid-19th-century John M. King Log House, a man approximately my age came up to me and asked if I’d found an iPhone. He had one in his hand, but it turned out to be his wife’s, from which he was intermittently calling his lost phone to see if he could hear it ringing. Unfortunately he couldn’t.

About 10 minutes later Eve came across an iPhone in a case on a park bench, and of course that had to be the phone the man was looking for. The case included his driver’s license (and credit cards!), so I figured I’d be able to track him down, if necessary by driving to the address on his license. That proved unnecessary because it turned out that the man—surprisingly and again not prudently—kept his phone unlocked. As a result I was able to go into the phone, look at the log of recent calls, and call his wife’s phone. Talk about making someone’s day. We hung around while the man walked all the way back from the parking area, which he had just reached when I called. He said that after three round trips between the parking lot and the old log house, he wouldn’t need to do his stationary bicycle that evening.

Near the log house and then further along the easy-to-walk trail, I stopped every now and then to photograph several prominent sycamore trees with white limbs, one of which appears below. Most interesting, though, was the sycamore shown in the top picture, which had apparently fallen across a creek and then managed to stay alive for years, as evidenced by the large vertical branches rising from the horizontal trunk. Strange, don’t you think?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

Two cowpen daisy mysteries

with 18 comments

By the time I wandered in and near Brushy Creek Park last December 14th, the cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) had all gone to seed and many of their leaves were drooping as they dried out. On one plant I noticed lots of red droplets on several leaves, as you see above. I queried the Facebook Texas Flora group but still wasn’t able to identify what the blood-like droplets were. For a closer look at the lowest leaf, click the following thumbnail.

Another cowpen daisy had gotten wrapped up inside a webbing that I presume insect larvae had spun. I’ve drawn a blank about that, too. Whatever these things are, at least they’re visually interesting

 

✣         ✣         ✣

 

Franz Kafka, where are you when we need you?

A January 27th announcement from FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, alerted me to a Kafkaequesque situation at the University of Illinois Chicago. A law school professor named Jason Kilborn had “posed a hypothetical question — which he has asked in previous years — using redacted references to two slurs, in a December 2020 law school exam. The question about employment discrimination referenced a plaintiff being called ‘a “n____” and “b____” (profane expressions for African Americans and women)’ as evidence of discrimination.” After a student (or students) complained about the occurrence of those words, even though only the first letter of each appeared on the exam, the University’s administration ended up forcing Prof. Kilborn “to participate in months-long ‘training on classroom conversations that address racism’ and compelling him to write reflection papers before he can return to the classroom. In a stunning display of unintended irony, the individualized training materials include the same redacted slur that Kilborn used in his test question.”

Professor Kilborn is now suing his university (hooray!). You can find further details in the article from FIRE.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

%d bloggers like this: