Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘water

Rain lily on the cusp of winter

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While we normally and understandably focus on the flowers of rain lilies (Zephyranthes sp.), I considered myself lucky on December 21st to at least find the green leaves of one as winter was about to begin. I think you’ll agree the raindrops didn’t hurt.

 

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Konstantin Kisin, a short clip of whom I linked to yesterday, recently participated in a debate at the Oxford Union in England. A nine-minute video shows him giving reasons why “This House Believes Woke Culture Has Gone Too Far.” Since the posting of that video nine days ago it has gotten over 700,000 views and over 3000 comments on the Oxford Union’s YouTube channel. The video clip has been reposted on many other websites as well. (Update: here’s a transcription of Kisin’s speech.) You can also read an ABC television station’s article about Kisin’s performance at the debate.

 

© 2023 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 22, 2023 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Reflections of different sorts

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On October 29th I stopped by the pond on Naruna Way. In other years I’d found good fall plants there, but the banks of the pond seemed to have been recently mowed and therefore temporarily useless for my purposes. Not wanting to come away empty-handed, or more properly empty-sensored, I used a telephoto lens to make abstract pictures of sparkles on the pond in front of (and some behind) a stand of bulrushes.

On November 13th in Great Hills Park I photographed dewdrops on a horizontal spiderweb near the ground. The ring flash I used has two back-to-back almost-semicircular tubes that you see reflected in each dewdrop.

 

 

In the picture below, from a small waterfall in Great Hills Park on November 13th, the rapid movement in the bubbles mostly broke up and rearranged the reflections of the two light tubes in the ring flash.

 

 

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In commentaries over the past two years I’ve pointed out the lawlessness at the southern border of the United States. In those two years Mexican cartels have become fabulously rich by taking money from millions of people, bringing them to the border, and showing them how to cross it. In some cases cartel members even brazenly lead the illegal immigrants into the United States. Members of the current American régime encourage this. It’s what they want. They say the border is secure but they’re lying. You know that they’re lying because you can watch television channels that show thousands of people being allowed to illegally enter the United States every day of the year. Actions speak louder than words.

The money that the current American régime asks for to deal with the situation is not to stop or even reduce the flow of illegal entrants but to process them more quickly and let more of them in. Look into the monstrous $1.7 billion spending bill I commented on yesterday. It gives $339.6 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for “non-detention border management requirements” [italics mine]. The bill goes out of its way to specifically prohibit that money from being used to “acquire, maintain, or extend border security technology and capabilities.” At the same time, the bill allocates $410 million toward border security for Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Oman. The current administration is okay with using Americans’ money to secure other countries’ borders but adamantly refuses to secure our own. Actions speak louder than words.

If you need more evidence, consider this fact about criminal illegal aliens: “Immigration enforcement in the interior of the country has dropped dramatically under President Biden’s policies. These policies have exempted nearly all but the most serious criminal aliens from arrest and removal and have imposed cumbersome new procedures and paperwork for ICE officers to complete cases. According to ICE records, the number of removals nationwide declined from 186,000 in FY 2020 to 59,000 in FY 2021.” That’s a 68% decline in the deportation of criminal illegal aliens. In other words, the current administration allowed 126,000 people who had entered the country illegally and who also were criminals to stay here anyhow. Actions speak louder than words.

Facts speak louder than lies.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 30, 2022 at 4:33 AM

A willet won’t will its way into your will, will it?

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On September 19th we spent time at Galveston Island State Park, where we saw—how could we not?—several kinds of shore birds. I figured the one above in the surf on the gulf side of the park is a kind of sandpiper, and Shannon Westveer confirmed that it’s a willet, Catoptrophorus semipalmatus. The dictionary says the common name mimics the willet’s cry. An hour later—to within 15 seconds—on the bay side of the state park I photographed three roseate spoonbills, Platalea ajaja, doing their bill-in-the-water thing sifting for food: 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve long known that calumny and lies in politics go back centuries, in fact probably as long as politics has existed. The introduction to Alan Dershowitz’s new book, The Price of Principle: Why Integrity Is Worth the Consequences, provides a quotation in which Alexander Hamilton called out the practice in 1797:

A principal engine, by which this spirit endeavours to accomplish its purposes is that of calumny. It is essential to its success that the influence of men of upright principles, disposed and able to resist its enterprises, shall be at all events destroyed. Not content with traducing their best efforts for the public good, with misrepresenting their purest motives, with inferring criminality from actions innocent or laudable, the most direct fals[e]hoods are invented and propagated, with undaunted effrontery and unrelenting perseverance. Lies often detected and refuted are still revived and repeated, in the hope that the refutation may have been forgotten or that the frequency and boldness of accusation may supply the place of truth and proof. The most profligate men are encouraged, probably bribed, certainly with patronage if not with money, to become informers and accusers. And when tales, which their characters alone ought to discredit, are refuted by evidence and facts which oblige the patrons of them to abandon their support, they still continue in corroding whispers to wear away the reputations which they could not directly subvert….

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Red-eared slider in Mills Pond

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Red-eared slider, Trachemys scripta elegans.

Mills Pond; August 3rd.

 

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The National Association of Scholars publishes the quarterly journal Academic Questions, whose Summer 2022 issue has just appeared. A section called Academic Levity includes an article that it describes this way: “Math teacher Steven Schwartzman explains that the equity activists have set their sights on mathematics, condemning the marginalization of whole numbers labelled ‘odd.’” I invite you to read “Equity in Mathematics,” which is a slightly altered version of a parody that I tried out here a year ago.

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 10, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Stumped

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I wasn’t stumped when it came to taking photographs—the more abstract, the better—of the many slender stumps still standing erect in the Willow Trace Pond in far north Austin on July 21st. Notice the one cattail plant (Typha sp.) that had arisen in the midst of all that wreckage.

 

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Covid-19

More than two years into the pandemic, most people worldwide have likely been infected with the virus at least once, epidemiologists said. Some 58% of people in the U.S. had contracted Covid-19 through February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated. Since then, a persistent wave driven by offshoots of the infectious Omicron variant has kept daily known cases in the U.S. above 100,000 for weeks….

People who don’t know whether they have been infected should be careful, Dr. Jameson [at the University of Minnesota Medical School] said, because they might yet get sick as antibodies wane and new variants arrive.

“There are plenty of people who’ve had the vaccines or even had Covid and then have gotten Covid again,” he said. “It’s not as if it makes you immortal.”

  

You can read more in a July 25th Wall Street Journal article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2022 at 4:28 AM

A rainbow in the falling drops

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The intersection of Gault Lane and Burnet Road is home to a good-sized pond—good enough to host not one but two fountains that shoot jets of water upward. If you stand in an appropriate place at an appropriate time, as I did on the morning of July 7th, you’ll see a rainbow created by sunlight refracting through the multitude of drops as they fall back into the pond.

 

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Here’s a question I haven’t heard anyone else ask: When people who want others to refer to them as “they/them” speak about themselves, do they say “I” or do they say “we”? My guess is that virtually all of them still use the traditional singular, “I,” rather than the plural, “we.” Would that inconsistency undermine their insistence that other people refer to them as “they/them”?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. On the “not” side is the vernacular tradition of using “they/them/their” as an indeterminate personal pronoun. English speakers have been reinforcing that tradition a lot in recent years. For example, most people—especially young ones—wouldn’t find anything wrong with a sentence like “Anyone who wants to keep their teeth should brush and floss every day.”

Walt Whitman might well have sided with that usage:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

That’s from “Song of Myself,” not “Song of Ourselves.”

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 13, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Small waterfall abstraction

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On May 25th I stood over a small waterfall in a tributary to Bull Creek, aimed straight down, and did abstract takes at slow shutter speeds like the one-quarter of a second that produced today’s portrait. Some people see flows of white hair. I see flows of the imagination.

 

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But supposing that the world has become “filled up,” so to speak, with liberal democracies, such that there exist no tyranny and oppression worthy of the name against which to struggle? Experience suggests that if men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause because that just cause was victorious in an earlier generation, then they will struggle against the just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, in other words, out of a certain boredom: for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle. And if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace and prosperity, and against democracy.

That passage from Francis Fukuyama’s 2006 book The End of History and the Last Man was prescient, given the social upheaval we’ve seen in the past few years and especially since the moral panic of 2020. You may be interested in listening to a one-hour conversation between Francis Fukuyama and Andrew Sullivan from May 27th. Among other things, Fukuyama speaks about what he considers deformations of liberalism on both the political left and right.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 5, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Rain, rain lilies, rain

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Rain lilies (Zephyranthes drummondii) took their common name from the fact that they come up a few days after a decent rain. We got that rain on April 25th, and by the 28th I noticed plenty of buds in the area where I photographed lace cactus flowers that day. I returned on the 29th and found almost all the buds had become flowers. I went back again on the 30th to follow their progress. A little light rain had me going back and forth to my car for shelter twice, but then I got to photograph rain-covered rain lilies. The picture above shows a still-fresh flower; the rain lily below was already beginning its decline.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 2, 2022 at 4:21 AM

Sunlight at the base of a waterfall

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Look at how sunlight illuminated the splashing water at the base of a small
waterfall along the Twin Creeks Historic Park Trail in Cedar Park on March 12.

 

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On television a couple of days ago I heard someone quote Voltaire: “Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” I wondered whether Voltaire really said or wrote that, so I went searching. On the Cato Institute website I found a 2020 article by Walter Olson called “The Origins of a Warning from Voltaire,” which linked to this passage from Voltaire’s Questions About Miracles (1765):

Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois : Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné ; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre cœur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également. Et c’est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée.

Formerly there were people who said: “You believe things that are incomprehensible, contradictory, impossible, because we have commanded you to believe them; now go and do unjust things because we command you to.” Those people show admirable reasoning. Surely whoever can make you be absurd can make you be unjust. If the God‐​given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to the God‐​given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been tyrannized, all the other faculties will be tyrannized as well. And that’s what has produced all the crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

So the version I heard on television is a pithier, stronger version of the original. Voltaire was criticizing religion, presumably Christianity. Two and a half centuries later, we can apply his analysis to the secular “woke” religion of our time, in which people are demanding that we believe things as absurd as that men can give birth. More about that next time.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2022 at 4:35 AM

New Zealand: Cathedral Cove

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Five years ago today we found ourselves on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, on whose eastern side we visited Cathedral Cove. The place hosted plenty of tourists, whom you don’t see, and many birds, which you do. In the top photograph you can barely make them out on the central rock and the one a little farther away at its right; you have no such trouble in the second view.

 Four years ago I showed two other portraits of gulls from the Cathedral Cove excursion.

 

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You may have heard that Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, heeded Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky’s urgent request to maintain communications with the outside world by enabling the Starlink satellite system for Ukraine and sending ground receiving units there.

You probably know that Elon Musk is in charge of Tesla, which makes more all-electric vehicles than any other company in the world. It’s clear Elon Musk is producing all those cars as a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere, which in turn should slow global warming and its harmful effects on the world’s climate.

Depending on the news outlets you follow, however, you may not have heard what Elon Musk announced on March 5. As The Hill reported:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk urged the United States to increase its oil and gas production following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite the negative impact on his company.

“Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil & gas output immediately. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures,” Musk tweeted on Friday.

“Obviously, this would negatively affect Tesla, but sustainable energy solutions simply cannot react instantaneously to make up for Russian oil & gas exports,” he added.

You’re welcome to read the full story, especially if this comes as news to you. [Update: yesterday Elon Musk also called for Europe to restart dormant nuclear power stations and increase power output of existing ones.] Musk’s stance on oil is in stark contrast to that of the current American administration, which wants to keep importing oil from Russia [update: that finally changed] and is negotiating to re-allow another dictatorship, Iran, to sell its oil on the open market—all while obstinately refusing to take any steps to increase oil production in the United States. You can find further details in a story by the Federalist. And news broke yesterday that the current administration is negotiating with yet another dictatorship, the one in Venezuela, to start buying oil again.

As I pointed out in a commentary on February 12, no matter where oil comes from, the burning of it and its derivatives sends the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere.* As a result, we should get as much oil as possible from our own country, or from a friendly nation like Canada. What we should not be doing is giving in to the current administration’s obsession—because that’s what it is—of getting oil from hostile and unfree countries like Russia and Iran and Venezuela. If reducing the warming power of carbon in the atmosphere is important, so is reducing the power of dictatorships to keep oppressing their own people, and in the case of Russia other people as well.

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* Actually I was wrong, but the correction makes for an even stronger argument to use our own oil. As The Federalist reported on March 5th: “According to the International Energy Agency’s global methane tracker, Russia was the world’s leading producer of methane emissions last year with its oil and gas operations producing 30 percent more per unit of production than the United States. Iranian producers emitted 85 percent more methane per unit of production when compared to U.S. operators.” The reason that’s so bad is that methane contributes to global warming at a much higher rate than an equal weight of carbon dioxide.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 7, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

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