Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘Texas

Widow skimmer dragonfly

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From August 22nd in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 comes a widow skimmer dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa. To be clear, this insect doesn’t skim widows. Rather it’s a kind of dragonfly called a skimmer, and the brown color on its wings fancifully reminded someone of a widow’s dark garb. I’d have preferred a less busy background (wouldn’t you?). Sometimes we have to take what comes our way.


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Here’s an update regarding an incident I linked to in my July 15th post. Women at the Wi Spa in Los Angeles were upset one day in June when a 6’2″, 200-lb., anatomically intact man who claims to identify as a woman walked around naked in the women’s locker room. An Instagram video in which one of the women complained vigorously to a staff member at the spa went viral, and that set off weeks of protesting and counter-protesting that at times turned violent. During those weeks many activists and media outlets vilified the woman who had complained. Some sources went so far as to claim there was no evidence the incident had happened, and to suggest that the video was a transphobic hoax.

Then on September 2nd investigative reporter Andy Ngo revealed in a New York Post story that on August 30th “charges of indecent exposure were discreetly filed against a serial sex offender for the Wi Spa incident, following an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.” Turns out that the anatomically intact man in question, Darren Agee Merager, had “two prior convictions [not just charges] of indecent exposure stemming from incidents in 2002 and 2003 in California.” Merager “is also facing six felony counts of indecent exposure over a separate locker room incident in December 2018. Los Angeles County prosecutors accuse Merager of indecent exposure to women and children in a changing area at a swimming pool in West Hollywood Park.” ‘Merager claims to identify as female so he can access women’s locker rooms and showers,’ reads an internal flyer by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that was sent to law enforcement departments in southern California in late 2018.” Not only that, but Merager “also has a long criminal history in California that includes nearly a dozen felony convictions for crimes ranging from sex offenses to burglary and escape.”

While Merager’s transgressive behavior isn’t representative of transgender people in general, it does provide evidence to justify many women’s concerns that at least some men will claim to identify as women to gain access to women’s private spaces—something that transgender activists have long and stridently insisted wouldn’t happen.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 6, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Sunflower yellow

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Helianthus annuus; August 22; northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183.
More of these sunflowers persisted through August, and
now into September, than I remember seeing in any previous year.


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“When schoolchildren start paying union dues,
that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.”
— Albert Shanker (1928–1997), long-time head of the United Federation of Teachers.
His remarkably honest statement goes a long way toward explaining why
American public schools do such a poor job educating students.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 5, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Tiny bee on a rain-lily

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On August 20th at the Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden in Lampasas
I found this tiny bee on a rain-lily, Zephyranthes chlorosolen.



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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is making like it’s the Centers for Language Control. Yup, that branch of the American government earns the George Orwell Newspeak Award for its latest pronouncements in the world of reality spinning or outright denial. Here are some lowlights.

You shouldn’t say “genetically male” or “genetically female” but rather “assigned” or “designated” “male/female at birth.” This supposedly scientific branch of the government is okay with canceling the science of genetics.

The CDC is big on converting a simple word into a string of words. “Smokers” should be “people who smoke.” Was anyone so in danger of assuming that smokers might include squirrels or vultures that we need to specify that smokers are actually people? Similarly “the uninsured” should be “people who are uninsured,” which thankfully rules out bumblebees, potatoes, and walruses. “Koreans” should be “Korean persons,” I guess so that we don’t mistakenly include any of the Koreans’ pets.

“The homeless” should be “people experiencing homelessness.” Though not in the list, “the clueless” should presumably be called “people experiencing cluelessness.” Actually it’s shorter to replace that with “the CDC.”

But brevity is clearly not the goal in the new suggestions. Anti-brevity is, and therefore the CDC has done at best a middling job. Think about all the missed opportunities for expansionism. “White” could have been “people characterized by having a low melanistic pigmentation and therefore capable of being noticed in dark rooms more easily than people belonging to certain other ethnoracial groups with greater melanistic pigmentation.”

Some of the CDC’s advice does get anti-brief. For example:

“People/communities of color” is a frequently used term, but should only be used if included groups are defined upon first use; be mindful to refer to a specific racial/ethnic group(s) instead of this collective term when the experience is different across groups. Some groups consider the term “people of color” as an unnecessary and binary option (people of color vs. White people), and some people do not identify with the term “people of color”.

“Although the term “LGBTQIA2” is recommended, no explanation is given for what all the letters and the one number mean. The CDC’s new guidelines also missed the chance to announce a contest to determine what the next change to that ever-lengthening alphanumeric string should be. Will the “2” gradually go up to “3” and “4” and so on, in the same way the leading digit on California license plates has done over the past several decades? Or should the string get longer, for instance “LGBTQIA2VM6YR7”? Maybe not, as people might confuse it with a car’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Or, like online passwords, maybe at least one special character should be required, e.g. “LGB#TQIA2V%M6YR7.” No hacker’s ever gonna crack that.

A cynic might say that all the CDC’s changes and complexities will be used to justify hiring a cadre of language consultants to interpret the new terms and rules to hapless bureaucrats (forgive my redundancy). Those language consultants will swell the ranks in the army of diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants already on the dole, thereby revealing the true goal of an ever larger government whose minions regulate all aspects of our lives.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a person who engages in thinking—formerly known as a thinker.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 4, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Two shades of green

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Under overcast skies a year ago today I went to the Sierra Nevada side of Great Hills Park. We’d had a bit of rain, and I noticed a prominent raindrop (and a tiny one) on the leaflet of a Lindheimer’s senna plant (Senna lindheimeri). I knew to look because the leaflets of that species are covered with little hairs that trap water. Nearby I scooted beneath some Ashe juniper branches (Juniperus ashei) to check out the low remains of a few trunks. In the dim light two narrow areas on a decaying trunk seemed to glow lime-sherbet green. I’m assuming those green areas were made up of fine lichens.


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Racist “anti-racism”

… [A] positive white identity is an impossible goal. White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy. This does not mean that we should stop identifying as white and start claiming only to be Italian or Irish. To do so is to deny the reality of racism in the here and now, and this denial would simply be color-blind racism. Rather, I strive to be “less white.” To be less white is to be less racially oppressive. This requires me to be more racially aware, to be better educated about racism, and to continually challenge racial certitude and arrogance.

If there’s anyone whose racial certitude and arrogance need to be continually challenged and forcefully repudiated, it’s Robin DiAngelo, author of the White Fragility from which the quoted racist trash comes. As one example of how far the United States has fallen from its ideals this year, consider that the people in charge of the American military are now forcing soldiers to read this garbage. Gone is Martin Luther King’s aspiration: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 3, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

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

Both sides now: an arachnid version

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On August 19th we started to go out for a walk in the neighborhood. As soon as I raised the garage door, I noticed a black and yellow garden spider, Argiope aurantia, hanging in its web just outside the door frame. Delaying our walk for 10 or 15 minutes, I took pictures of the spider from both sides, as you see here.

The conspicuous white zigzag at the bottom center of the web is called a stabilimentum. According to Wikipedia, its purpose “is disputed. It is possible that it acts as camouflage for the spider lurking in the web’s center, but it may also attract insect prey, or even warn birds of the presence of the otherwise difficult-to-see web. Only those spiders that are active during the day construct stabilimenta in their webs.” You can read the rest of that article for more information, including the various common names people have given this spider.

Let me add two things: the subject of these two portraits has maintained a web in approximately the same place since I first saw it on August 19th, and head-down is the normal stance for these spiders.


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Today, September 1st, marks 82 years since World War 2 began. Referring to that day, W.H. Auden wrote a poem entitled September 1, 1939,” which ends:

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 1, 2021 at 4:16 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Water primrose flowering

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Along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on August 13th I took pictures of narrowleaf water primrose, Ludwigia octovalvis. The top picture sets the scene and includes a couple of purple bindweed flowers, Ipomoea cordatotriloba, which starred in a recent post about the same site. The gialloscuro portrait below isolates one of the water primrose flowers.


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From the time I was in elementary school I was interested in population figures. Here are some observations from the Daily Wire about the 2020 census in the United States.

The Topline: New data from the most recent Census offers a glimpse into the changing demographics of the United States. 

Why Does The Census Matter?

Census data helps determine a state’s representation in Congress. The data also plays a role in allocating electoral votes and helps determine how much funding states can get from the federal government throughout the year. 

State Breakdown

Texas will be adding two members of Congress due to its population growth over the last decade. 

Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, Colorado and Montana will also gain one Congressional seat. 


Seven states — most notably New York and California — will be losing a member of Congress due to lower rates of population growth. 

Political Party Breakdown

It’s unclear if one party benefited more from the Census data. In the fall, states will finalize the process of redrawing congressional lines. 

States controlled by Democrats will attempt to capitalize on urban growth by redrawing lines to create as many districts as possible close to cities with the desire to maximize the impact of their voter base, which typically resides in urban areas. Republicans will take similar action, but in different regions, as their strongholds are in more rural areas.

Snapshot Of American Life In 2020

Experts had predicted a stark increase in the number of people moving to cities, but the Census data exceeded expectations. While the overall population increased, half of all U.S. counties — almost all of them rural — experienced a decrease in size. 

Almost all of the country’s population growth occurred in cities. As a result, for the first time ever, the U.S. has ten cities with populations over 1 million people.

Diversity In America 

One of the key takeaways from the data is the increasing diversity of America. 

White people are still the largest demographic, but their share of the population decreased by 8.6% over the last decade, which is the first time in census history that there was a decrease in the overall number of white Americans. 

According to the data, a large part of the increased diversity is due to immigration, but the data shows that it’s also due to the fact that white families are having fewer children on average than black and Hispanic families. 

Decrease In Population Growth

The U.S. population grew at a rate of 7.4% over the last decade, which is the slowest rate since the Great Depression.

According to the data, the average man is now over 30 years old when he first marries, and the average woman is 28 years old. In 2000, those numbers were 27 and 25. Experts also point to the student debt crisis and increased presence of women in the workplace as reasons for Americans waiting to have children. 


The Big Picture: A decline in the population growth rate may not be initially concerning, but experts say there could be a massive labor shortage if population growth doesn’t start to increase as Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers retire.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 31, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Queen butterfly on Gregg’s mistflower

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On August 20th we drove 60 miles north to the town of Lampasas. In the Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden there we couldn’t help noticing that a bunch of Gregg’s mistflowers (Conoclinium greggii) had attracted a slew of insects, especially queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus). I got to photograph this one while it was “underlit.”

The orange flowers at the far right are Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides). They were as plentiful as the mistflowers but the butterflies ignored the lantana and couldn’t seem to get enough of the mistflowers. For a better view of those lepidopteran-magnet flowers, you’re welcome to look back at a butterfly post from 2017.


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People have always known that there are two biological sexes: male and female. 20th-century geneticists discovered the mechanism that sustains the male-female distinction: DNA. I follow the science. A self-described “Blewish feminist mermaid”—and that tells you a lot right there—has delusionally rejected the science.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Pale umbrellawort

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Making its debut here today is Mirabilis albida, apparently known as pale umbrellawort, white four o’clock, and hairy four o’clock. I found this one on August 22nd—though six-and-a-half hours earlier than four o’clock—in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. The USDA map shows the species growing in places as far apart as Quebec and southern California.


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Did you hear the latest news about equity in mathematics? Because the word odd has negative connotations like ‘strange’ and ‘not usual,’ a group of college math students demanded that all whole numbers, whether previously considered odd or even, must now be designated even. Professors of mathematics immediately apologized to the students for the centuries of evenist domination they’d been complicit with, and they promised that no future syllabi or textbooks would perpetuate evenism.

Then an ideologically purer subset of students took issue with the first group, asking why they’d stopped at the whole numbers, which comprise only a tiny oppressive elite of all numbers. The second student group began chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, fraction-phobes have got to go.” The original student group found that chant, especially the “hey hey, ho ho” part, so profound they immediately recognized the disparate impact that their “all whole numbers are even” decree would have on fractions. They agreed that the sacred value of inclusion requires that fractions be included as whole numbers from now on. The mathematics professors promptly issued an apology for not having recognized their unconscious bias against fractions.

It didn’t take long before a third group of math students more woke than the second group started agitating because of the harm that would still befall the irrational numbers, which can never be expressed as fractions no matter how much affirmanumerative action colleges and government agencies give them. Imagine those numbers going through life saddled with the name irrational, as if they’re not in their right mind! The second student group soon confessed their lack of inclusiveness and agreed, for the sake of belonging, that all numbers will now belong to the set of whole numbers. The mathematics professors quickly issued an abject apology for othering the numbers they hadn’t previously accepted as whole numbers.

Barely had things settled down when a fourth group of math students complained that all the previous groups were still oppressors because categorizing numbers in any way at all is racist. For the sake of equity, the fourth group insisted that the only allowable view is that all numbers are equal. From now on, no matter what number a student comes up with as an answer to a question on a math test, that answer has to be correct because all numbers are equal. Similarly, students must now be allowed to pay whatever amount they want for tuition because any number of dollars is equal to any other number of dollars. The mathematics professors immediately acceded to the new demands and issued a deep apology for the violence caused by their previous silence about all numbers actually being equal.

But then a fifth group of students pointed out that all those changes were meaningless because, let’s face it, mathematics is based on objectivity and rigor, which are tools of the cisheteronormative white supremacist patriarchy. The mathematics professors, without even waiting to hear the fifth student group’s demands for change, realized that the only proper course of action was to stop studying and teaching the horrid subject of mathematics altogether, so they shut down the mathematics department. In its place they created a new department to offer Doctorates in Diversity Training (DDT).

Okay, so all those things didn’t really happen—at least not yet. Give it a few months.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 29, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Little metallic sweat bee on a partridge pea flower

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As you’ve heard in a couple of recent posts, I photographed a bunch of partridge pea plants (Chamaecrista fasciculata) along Wells Branch Parkway on August 13th. At one point I got intrigued by the way a compound leaf cast its shadow on one petal of a partridge pea flower. Not long after I started taking pictures of that, a metallic sweat bee came by to visit the flower. The bee kept moving around and more often than not stayed fully or partly hidden behind petals. Oh well, we photographers do what we can, testing our reflexes to grab quick shots when our subjects briefly come out in the open.


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FOLLOW THE SCIENCE!

Ever since Covid-19 vaccines became more and more available in early 2021, reasonable folks began to wonder about people who’d gotten Covid-19, recovered from it, and therefore had what’s called natural immunity. One question was whether those who’ve acquired natural immunity still need to get vaccinated. Related to that was the question of whether vaccines might cause any harm to people with natural immunity.

For the past several months, the United States government has been saying with increasing vehemence that people with natural immunity must still get vaccinated, all the while declining to offer scientific evidence for the need and safety of that position. Jurisdictions and institutions that have begun calling for proof of vaccination to do various things (for example attend sporting events, eat in restaurants, or even come to work) have refused to exempt Covid-recovered people, even though their immunity has been generally believed to be at least as strong as the one provided by vaccines.

Such stances are political, not scientific. Look at the opening sentence from an August 26th online article published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science: “The natural immune protection that develops after a SARS-CoV-2 infection offers considerably more of a shield against the Delta variant of the pandemic coronavirus than two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to a large Israeli study….” The article goes on to give advice to people who have neither had the virus not gotten vaccinated against it: people in that group should get vaccinated. They should not toy with the idea of acquiring immunity by subjecting themselves to the virus, because some people who contract the virus get seriously ill and even die.

I encourage you to read the full article. You may also want to read a similar August 27th article on the ZME Science website. It points out that people who recovered from Covid-19 and then also had a single shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine ended up with even stronger protection than those with naturally acquired immunity alone.

Now that there’s solid scientific confirmation that naturally acquired Covid immunity “offers considerably more of a shield against the Delta variant of the pandemic coronavirus than two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine,” will American government jurisdictions stop saying that naturally immune people still need to get two shots of the Pfizer (or Moderna) vaccine? Will institutions that call for proof of vaccination now accept proof of naturally acquired immunity in lieu of vaccination? Don’t hold your breath.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 28, 2021 at 4:34 AM

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