Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘Texas

Fascination of Plants Day

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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.

 

 

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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

One on another (on another)

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While photographing Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) in Great Hills Park on May 5th I noticed that several Texas bindweed plants (Convolvulus equitans) had climbed on and twined around them. One of the bindweed flowers, above, got a taste of its own from an ant scurrying over it. In the second picture, note the bindweed bud about to open. In both photographs notice the eccentric and varied shapes of bindweed leaves.

  

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Independent self-reliant people would be a counterproductive anachronism in the collective society of the future where people will be defined by their associations.

The children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society that is coming, where everyone would be interdependent.

 

Those lamentable statements are alleged in several books and on various websites to be by John Dewey, the first from 1896 and the second from 1899. While I haven’t been able to verify the authorship, I can say, alas, that increasingly many people who control education are acting as if they believe those things.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 17, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Dayflower and false dayflower

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Been a long time since I showed you either a dayflower (Commelina erecta), above, or a so-called false dayflower (Tinantia anomala), below. The top picture is from May 5th in Great Hills Park and the bottom one is from April 1st in our yard, where little colonies have come up unbidden in a couple of places.

 

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Harvard has let me know that I cannot be a scholar of British Romanticism because I do not believe there are male women. For my part, I’d rather be damned with the Romantics and Plato than go to woke heaven with [English department coordinator] Erin [Saladin] and the Harvard faculty.

 

So wrote philosopher Devin Buckley after Harvard University canceled the talk she was scheduled to give there on British Romanticism. The reason for the cancellation was that as a feminist Dr. Buckley believes that radical transgender ideology gives short shrift to women. It made no difference to Harvard that the talk on British Romanticism had nothing to do with transgenderism. (“If my talk had been on astrophysics I have no doubt that I would have received a similar [cancellation] email.”)

You can read more about this incident in an article by Jonathan Turley and another on the Women’s Liberation Front website. Of particular interest in the latter is the letter that Dr. Buckley wrote in response to the cancellation. Here’s an excerpt from that letter:

 

It’s difficult to discern whether those who cancel feminists like me won’t or can’t understand us when we critique gender. My suspicion is that most people do not believe that a male can become female. They simply remain silent on the matter for the sake of their careers. I want to call them moral cowards, but I also have sympathy for those who must do this to survive, such as adjuncts who struggle to find non-academic jobs and continue to hang on desperately to exploitative part-time labor at wealthy universities which advertise themselves as bastions of social justice.

Your email disinviting me states that I am “on the board of an organization that takes a public stance regarding trans people as dangerous and deceptive.” This is a mischaracterization. Never has my organization, Women’s Liberation Front, made the claim that a person is dangerous simply because he or she identifies as trans. Rather, our organization opposes ideology and policy dangerous to women. This includes laws which allow males entry into women’s spaces on the basis of self-attested gender identity. This is happening right now in women’s prisons. 

One of my iniquitous 4W articles reported on a New York bill that would allow males to be housed with women solely on the basis of self-attested gender identity. We are already seeing the results of similar policies in California, Washington, and New Jersey. In New Jersey, for example, one of the 27 convicted male transfers being housed in New Jersey’s Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women is a trans-identified male serving a 50-year sentence for the brutal murder of a sex trafficked immigrant woman. Additionally, two women at this facility are now pregnant through their association with another trans-identified male who goes by “Demi.” There have also been reports of assaults on women by males in Washington and California prisons.

WoLF and I have never claimed that someone is dangerous in virtue of being a trans-identified person. Rather, we have claimed that some trans-identified males are dangerous in virtue of being predators. We have claimed that males in women’s prisons, for example, are a threat to women because they are violent males. WoLF has no issue with trans-identified females being housed in a women’s prison. Furthermore, one of our arguments against self-ID concerns the fact that self-attested gender identity is, by definition, unfalsifiable since it is grounded on a purely subjective experience and, therefore, may be abused by predatory males who would not otherwise identify as trans. 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 16, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Red and green at Inks Lake State Park

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One reason I headed out to Inks Lake State Park on May 6th was that some of the prickly pear cactus flowers there in other springtimes have displayed more red than I see in their Austin counterparts. The top picture shows that was true this year, too. In contrast to that red, look at all the placid green around one inlet.

  

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Did you hear about how the imaging technique of photogrammetry has revealed details of cave art in Alabama from about 2000 years ago? “The motifs, which depict human forms and animals, are some of the largest known cave images found in North America and may represent spirits of the underworld.” Check it out.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2022 at 4:27 AM

More from a newly discovered nearby neighborhood park

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A post last week showed you how rain lily flowers (Zephyranthes drummondii) were changing from white to pink and purple as they approached the end of their ephemeral lives in Schroeter Neighborhood Park, which I’d just learned about. Plenty of other native plants were coming up there, like the zexmenia (Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida) in the top picture, and the white larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum) below.

  

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Some ancient theologians asserted the existence of nine kinds of angelic beings:

  • Seraphim
  • Cherubim
  • Thrones
  • Dominions (or Dominations)
  • Virtues
  • Powers
  • Principalities
  • Archangels
  • Angels

Not only can you find out more about each supposed kind of angelic being in the article “9 Types of Angels,” you can also read about the medieval debates that angelologists engaged in to determine how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

Not to be outdone by a paltry nine categories, present-day theologians assert the existence of “as many genders as we say there are.” Here are some of them:

  • Agender
  • Aliagender
  • Androgyne
  • Aporagender
  • Bigender
  • Boi
  • Butch
  • Cisgender
  • Demiboy
  • Demienby
  • Demigirl
  • Demitrans
  • Female
  • Feminine of center
  • Femme
  • Gender expansive
  • Gender fluid
  • Gender outlaw
  • Genderqueer
  • Gendervoid
  • Graygender
  • Intergender
  • Male
  • Masculine of center
  • Maverique
  • Neither
  • Neutrois
  • Nonbinary
  • Novigender
  • Omnigender
  • Pangender
  • Polygender
  • Soft butch
  • Stone butch
  • Third gender
  • Trans
  • Transfeminine
  • Transgender
  • Transmasculine
  • Trigender
  • Two spirit

After I gleaned those from various sources, I came across a Dude Asks article with a list of 112 genders as of the year 2022, along with a brief explanation of each. Check them out for your great edification. It occurred to me as a math teacher that each of the 9 types of angelic being could come in each of those 112 genders, so in all there are 9 x 112 = 1008 angelicogendric combinations. In fact the number is really higher than 1008. One reason is that some of the genders in my first list aren’t included in the 112 of the second list and need to be added. Another reason is that most likely at least one new gender will have been gen(d)erated in the week since I prepared this post. Thanks to the advances that modern science has engendered, it’s as hard to keep up with the many recent changes in genders as with the many recent changes in botanical genera.

Despite my best efforts I haven’t yet found an article that tells how many angelicogendric beings can dance on the head of a pin, but I’ll remain agenda-fluid and keep searching for the answer.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

  

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 14, 2022 at 4:28 AM

“Bloom” patterns at Inks Lake State Park

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On May 6th we drove the roughly one hour west to Inks Lake State Park, which by coincidence we’d visited exactly one year earlier. Because of the continuing drought, the place wasn’t the coreopsis-covered wonderland we’d found there in the spring of 2019. One thing that caught my attention last week that wasn’t there when we’d last visited, in November 2021, was bright green algae in several places along the lakeline, where the algae contrasted in color with the granite that underlies the region. Shape-wise I saw similarities to the many lichens on the selfsame granite in rocks and boulders.

  

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The Bill of Rights consists of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Perhaps the best known of the 10 is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It’s become common these days to hear people say that the First Amendment came first because it states the most fundamental rights of American citizens. As conveniently symbolic as that justification sounds, it’s not true. An article on Thoughtco.com explains:

Drawing on the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, mainly written by George Mason, James Madison drafted 19 amendments, which he submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives on June 8, 1789. The House approved 17 of them and sent [them] to the U.S. Senate, which approved 12 of them on September 25. Ten were ratified by the states and became law on December 15, 1791.

When the Senate’s 12 amendments were submitted to the states for ratification, the first two of them failed, so the remaining 10 that got approved all moved up two slots. What was originally the third of the 12 amendments became our First Amendment. To learn more of the details, including information about the two amendments that failed in 1789—one of which finally got approved two centuries later—you can read the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Thursday threesome, little beastsome

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⇧ Lacewing on Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) in Great Hills Park on May 5th.

 

⇧ Spider on prairie celestial (Nemastylis geminiflora) in Round Rock on April 11th.

 

⇧ Bug in prickly pear cactus flower (Opuntia engelmannii) in north Austin on May 1st.

  

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Did you know that in 2021 the most popular first names given to babies in the United States were Liam for boys and Olivia for girls? You can see the follow-up top 9 for each sex last year in this USA Today article. Of the 20, one was originally an occupational last name: Harper, literally someone who makes harps. And of course that gives me an ever-welcome chance to harp on the usefulness of etymology.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 12, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

Three pearl milkweed flowers

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From May 1st in Schroeter Neighborhood Park come these three pearl milkweed vine flowers (Matelea reticulata), several buds, one leaf, and one ant. In the universe of flowers, not that many are green, a color normally associated with foliage and photosynthesis. Also unusual is the little pearly structure at the center, inside of which lie each flower’s reproductive elements.

 

And speaking of pearls, I’ve been reading Julian Baggini‘s The Ego Trick. This passage sets forth probably the book’s most important point:

It would be claiming too much to say that neuroscience has fully explained what selves are and how they can exist. Nevertheless, real progress has been made in recent decades and we are now in a position to at least sketch out how the self is constructed.

The most important finding, which seems to be universally accepted by all researchers into the self and the brain, is that brain research has given up on the search for the pearl of self. As the clinical neuropsychologist Paul Broks put it to me, ‘We have this deep intuition that there is a core, an essence there, and it’s hard to shake off, probably impossible to shake off, I suspect. But it’s true that neuroscience shows that there is no centre in the brain where things do all come together.’ The unity of the self is not to be explained in terms of a single, unified brain region, which acts as the master controller.

This is not what common sense would expect, but philosophers have anticipated it. For some time now, they have been wary of explanations which commit what is known as the homunculus fallacy. This is best explained through the example of vision. Armed with an elementary knowledge of how the eye works, it is tempting to think that light shines on the retina and then the brain creates from this a single, three-dimensional image. But who sees this image? The temptation is to think (or perhaps more usually assume) that there is a kind of mind’s eye which inspects the image in the brain. But then how does this ‘mind’s eye’ see this image? It cannot be that there is a little person — a homunculus — in our brains which watches mental images. If that were the case, we’d have to ask what was going on inside the head of that homunculus. Would there be another mental image, and if so, what would be seeing that? An even smaller homunculus? If we continued to explain each stage in the same way, we’d end up with an infinite number of ever smaller homunculi, each packed Russian-doll-like into our brains. Such an infinite regress could never explain how any seeing actually went on at all.

What is true of vision is true of the mental in general. Daniel Dennett uses the term ‘Cartesian theater’ to label this misguided way of thinking. The idea here is that it is easily assumed that in order to explain consciousness, we have to think of there being a single, unified centre of consciousness somewhere ‘inside’ us, whether we think this is an immaterial soul or a special part of the physical brain. But this cannot explain the unity of consciousness at all. You cannot explain the unity of experience by simply positing an inner, unified experiencer. That simply begs the question: how is unity of experience possible in the first place?

So even before neuroscience shone a light on how experience is unified in the brain, philosophers had a theoretical reason to think that, whatever the answer was, it couldn’t be that there was a kind of ‘inner self’ doing the work. Neuroscience has in effect discovered through experiment and observation what philosophers had concluded just by thinking.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Two views of prickly pear cactus flowers

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From April 28th in my part of Austin come outer and inner flower views from a prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii. I’m happy to report that as of today these cacti are still putting out flowers.

 

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As someone who has worked in the field of race relations for twenty-five years, I am utterly amazed that advocacy for “race essentialism” has come to the forefront over the last decade. Race essentialism is the practice of ascribing character traits and experiences to individuals based on the color of their skin. Advocates justify this approach by highlighting how skin color has been used to oppress people in the past as well as in the present, and argue that recognizing one’s “race” is necessary in order to correct for racism and build a more equitable future.

So begins an article by Quay Hanna entitled “How talking to strangers on the bus changed my views on race.” The author had grown up as a white supremacist but came to realize how mistaken that ideology is.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 10, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Striking twice

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They say lightning strikes twice in the same place. Rattlesnakes are also known to strike. The first but not the second came true on April 27th at the Doeskin Ranch. We’d barely begun heading down the main trail when we saw two women a little ahead of us who were talking and looking toward something they’d seen. I asked them what it was and they said a rattlesnake. Years earlier we’d seen a rattlesnake along the same part of the trail, so that’s what I meant by lightning striking in the same place. As for the kind of striking that people are afraid of from rattlesnakes, this one showed no such behavior. It lay calmly across the path, not moving and not even rattling its tail. After some minutes of various people looking at it and taking pictures, it slowly moved off the trail and into low vegetation, where it disappeared from view. (Click the top picture to enlarge it to twice its length. The geometry teacher notes that that also means four times its area.)

  

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Yesterday we watched an excellent one-hour C-SPAN program from the Steamboat Institute on March 12th. Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, author of the book False Alarm that I’ve highly recommended a couple of times, explained why we have to take into account not just the costs of unmitigated climate change but also the costs of the climate change programs meant to deal with the problem. Those programs entail costs of their own that can rival those of climate change. The first 35 minutes of the video are Dr. Lomborg’s presentation, and in the remainder of the hour he answers questions from the audience. I hope you’ll watch the program.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 9, 2022 at 4:36 AM

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