Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘white

Down to around freezing overnight

with 38 comments

 

As recently as this past week I was still finding a few flowers on frostweed plants (Verbesina virginica) in Austin. The picture above is from the drizzly morning of December 10th.

The common name for this species comes not from its white flowers but from one of the strangest phenomena in botany. By the time the frost begins settling overnight on the lands where frostweed grows, almost all of these plants have gone to seed. Although each stalk stands there unappealingly as it dries out, the first good freeze can cause it to draw underground water up into its base. Now for the strange trick: the exterior of the part of the stalk near the ground splits open as it extrudes freezing water laterally, and that process produces thin sheets of ice that curl and fold around the broken stalk.

Yesterday morning the temperature in Austin got down to around freezing, so off I went to the stand of frostweed plants in Great Hills Park I’ve been relying on for a decade to produce ice. They didn’t disappoint me. Here are three frostweed ice portraits:

 

 

As always with a familiar subject, I worked to get pictures that look
at least somewhat different from the ones I’ve taken over the years.

 

 

All of these fit that description.

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 19, 2022 at 4:30 AM

A scarcity of ladies’ tresses

with 18 comments

 

On November 17th I hunted for Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) on a property in northwest Austin where I count on finding that species each fall. After 20 minutes of looking in likely spots and not finding any of those flowers, I sat down to photograph an ironweed; when I next looked up, I noticed a single orchid a few feet away. The inflorescence wasn’t very long and its lower flowers were already beginning to turn brown, but at least I found one. This year’s drought may be responsible for the fact that the orchid had no kin accompanying it.

 

(Pictures from our time in New Mexico will resume in the next post.)

 

§

 

“Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”
— a Zen Buddhist saying.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 9, 2022 at 4:25 AM

More birds from Galveston Island

with 24 comments

On September 19th we spent time at Galveston Island State Park, where we glimpsed various shore birds. You’ve already seen a willet and three roseate spoonbills. Today’s top picture offers up twice as many spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) but they play second fiddle to an even larger group of black-bellied whistling ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis). Below is a white ibis (Eudocimus albus).

 

 

 

§

§        §        §

§

  

 

For a change of pace, you can click your way through a slide show of some three dozen funny and perplexing signs. And Austin’s El Arroyo restaurant has a pedigree of clever signs.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2022 at 4:32 AM

From the prairie to the “mountains”

with 10 comments

On September 12th in the town of Cedar Park I checked out a property where I used to take pictures. Part of the property has gotten built on, and the part that temporarily remains undeveloped is no longer as lush with native plants as it used to be. Even so, I still stopped to photograph the one remaining cluster of snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia marginata. A look downward rather than upward reveals that some of the snow-on-the-mountain towered over a rich colony of silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, as well as a small stand of peppergrass, Lepidium sp.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 20, 2022 at 4:27 AM

American white water lily and its reflection

with 18 comments

Nymphaea odorata at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 8th.

 

✦         ✦         ✦

 

An unspoken truth of the climate-change crusade is this: Anything the U.S. does to reduce emissions won’t matter much to global temperatures. U.S. cuts will be swamped by the increases in India, Africa and especially China. Look no further than China’s boom in new coal-fired electricity.

Under the nonbinding 2015 Paris climate agreement, China can increase its emissions until 2030. And is it ever. Between 2015 and 2021 China’s emissions increased by some 11%, according to the Climate Action Tracker, which evaluates nationally determined contributions under the Paris agreement. The U.S. has reduced its emissions by some 6% between 2015 and 2021. Beijing made minimal new commitments at last year’s Glasgow confab on climate, despite world pressure.

That’s the beginning of a September 12th Wall Street Journal editorial whose subhead is “Beijing is building more coal-fired capacity than the rest of the world combined, U.S. climate lectures notwithstanding.” Did you catch the third word in the second quoted paragraph? “Nonbinding” means that no matter what the leaders of a country say they will do, they don’t actually have to do it. And I have news for you: many people promise to do things they have no intention of doing. Later in the editorial we find this:

The reason for China’s coal boom is obvious: The Communist Party’s priority is economic growth, higher living standards, and becoming the world’s leading power. Carbon emissions are an afterthought, and promises of future reductions are the compliment Chinese vice pays to Western virtue signalers.

And here’s the last paragraph:

While the Biden Administration does all it can to restrict U.S. fossil fuels, no matter the economic harm, Beijing is charging ahead with coal imports, coal mining and coal power to become the world’s leading economy. They must marvel at their good fortune in having rivals who are so self-destructive.

 You’re welcome to read the full Wall Street Journal editorial.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 18, 2022 at 4:30 AM

“Spider lily”

with 16 comments

I often find small crab spiders on rain lilies (Zephyranthes chlorosolen), the most recent time being on August 23rd. Click the excerpt below from a different frame to get a much closer look at the spider.

 

✧        ✧        ✧

  

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures the international scholastic performance of 15-year-olds in mathematics, science, and reading. You can see the 2018 results for 77 or 78 countries. In all three subjects China was #1. The United States came in 13th in reading, 18th in science, and a dismal 37th in mathematics.

That’s what I reported last year. At the end of August this year came worse news:

In a grim sign of the pandemic’s impact, math and reading scores for 9-year-olds across the U.S. plummeted between 2020 and 2022.

The declines erase decades of academic progress. In two years, reading scores on a key national test dropped more sharply than they have in over 30 years, and math scores fell for the first time since the test began in the early 1970s.

Put another way: It’s as if 9-year-olds were performing at the same level in math as 9-year-olds did back in 1999, and at the same reading level as in 2004.

How could they not, after so many American schools canceled in-person classes during large parts of the two years that the Covid-19 pandemic lasted? At the behest of teachers’ unions, plenty of schools expelled students from in-person learning even after teachers had gotten vaccinated—and long after researchers had determined in the first few months of the pandemic that children were practically immune to harmful consequences from the virus.

And of course the people in charge or our educational “system”—I hate to call anything so chaotic, inefficient, unfair, and counter-productive a system—those people who prattle on endlessly about “systemic racism,” made things worse with their harmful policies:

Reading and math score declines were most severe among students who were performing at the lowest levels. That means kids who hadn’t yet mastered skills like addition and multiplication, or who were working on simple reading tasks, saw their scores fall the most.

The gap between higher- and lower-performing students was already growing before COVID hit, but federal officials say the pandemic appears to have exacerbated that divide.

Nice going, education bureaucrats and teachers’ unions!

You can read more about the depressing findings in an August 31st article.

 

© 2002 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 10, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Two rather different takes on one rain lily in front of another

with 25 comments

Here are two portraits showing
one rain lily (Zephyranthes chlorosolen)
in front of another on August 23rd.

  

§

§        §        §

§

   

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

That great sentence, which serves as the opening line in Leslie Poles Hartley’s 1953 novel The Go-Between, also serves as a good entrée into our times. (Wikipedia notes that the line “had first been used by Hartley’s friend Lord David Cecil in his inaugural lecture as Goldsmiths’ Professor in 1949.”)

Jump forward seven decades from The Go-Between to Dominic Green’s August 26th Quillette article “The Unmaking of American History by the Woke Mob.” Here’s how it begins:

Academic historians are losing their sense of the past. In his August column for the American Historical Association’s journal, Perspectives on History, James H. Sweet warned that academic history has become so “presentist” that it is losing touch with its subject, the world before yesterday. Mr. Sweet, who is the association’s president and teaches at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, observed that the “allure of political relevance” is drawing students away from pre-1800 history and toward “contemporary social justice issues” such as “race, gender, sexuality, nationalism, capitalism.” When historians become activists, he wrote, the past becomes “an evidentiary grab bag to articulate their political positions.”

The article goes on to quote Professor Sweet again:

If history is only those stories from the past that confirm current political positions, all manner of political hacks can claim historical expertise.

Needless to say in our censorious times—and so sad to have to say—a transgressive online mob quickly rose up to excoriate the history professor for his reasonable observations about history. As Dominic Green goes on to note:

When the purpose of history changes from knowledge of the past to political power in the present and future, historians become mere propagandists. Academics who succumb to the sugar rush of activism lose their sense of balance. 

And here’s his conclusion:

Yes, history is always written backward, from present to past. And history’s present uses might include politics. But the task of a historian is to understand the strange past and show how it shapes the familiar present. If we succumb to what the English historian E.P. Thompson called “the enormous condescension of posterity,” then we lose the ability to imagine how people lived in any era before our own. We lose difference and complexity. We lose the perspective that history is supposed to impart and with it any sense of progress. Dictators are presentists, too.

You’re welcome to read Dominic Green’s full essay.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 4, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Posted on a post in a post

with 20 comments

 

As you see in today’s photograph from August 1st on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin, little land snails are common in the Austin area. Multiple posts over the years (for example this February and May 2020) have shown how those snails like to climb both plants and inanimate objects. The snail shell on/in today’s post was such a bright white that in comparison to it the sky and clouds look unnaturally dark, but I like the effect and also welcome the contrasty chiaroscuro drama of the shell and its shadow. The rusted metal adds interesting textures and earthy colors.

 

§

§        §        §

§

 

From time to time in the past year I’ve given examples of ideologues insisting that a word no longer means what it has long meant. Examples have included man, woman, mother, and recession [of a financial sort].

This week I became aware of two more. New York State is now banning the short word inmate, which it will replace with the cumbersome, five-syllables-longer phrase incarcerated person. What’s supposed to be gained isn’t clear, especially since inmate was already gender neutral. Possibly it’s to force more and more things to fit the mold X person, where X is a present or past participle. For example, enslaved person replaces slave and birthing person replaces mother.

The second recent attempt at definition denial stems from an incident on the morning of August 8th, when several dozen armed FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] agents, including a safecracker, showed up at the Florida home of former president Trump with a search warrant. The FBI team then spent a reported nine hours searching the premises and taking away some 15 boxes of materials.

I take no position on whether the FBI raid was justified. There’s no way for me to know. What I do take a position on is the unjustified denial by many in the media that the raid was a raid. It was funny to watch a montage of eight clips showing television commenters insisting that the raid wasn’t a raid.

Fortunately we have the Internet at our disposal, so I looked up raid in a bunch of online dictionaries. Because each dictionary gives several definitions of the word, I’ll quote just the relevant one:

 

Wordsmyth: ‘A surprise entry by police into private property, usu[ally] to make arrests or seize something.’

Merriam-Webster: ‘A sudden invasion by officers of the law.’

Lexico (Oxford): ‘A surprise visit by police to arrest suspected people or seize illicit goods.’

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s: ‘An occasion when the police enter a place suddenly in order to find someone or something.’

Longman: ‘A surprise visit made to a place by the police to search for something illegal.’

American Heritage: ‘A sudden forcible entry into a place by police.’

Vocabulary.com: ‘Search’ or ‘enter unexpectedly.’

Macmillan: ‘To use force to enter a place suddenly in order to arrest people or search for something such as illegal drugs.’

Infoplease: ‘a sudden assault or attack, as upon something to be seized or suppressed.’

Free Dictionary: ‘Search without warning.’

Webster’s (1913): ‘An attack or invasion for the purpose of making arrests, seizing property, or plundering.’

 

So yes, the raid that took place on August 8th was indeed a raid.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Back-to-back water willow flowers

with 16 comments

 

On June 25th I found these back-to-back water willow flowers (Justicia americana) in a colony in Bull Creek. Flowers in this species are small, measuring only 1/4 to 5/8 of an inch (6–15mm).

 

❁       ❁       ❁

 

I find myself thinking a lot lately about the deficit of imagination among people who consider themselves savvy and sophisticated.

Here’s what I mean: Let’s say you work for a prestigious company or organization that professes to care about a certain set of values: open-mindedness, curiosity, excellence, hard work. And let’s say you watch as a colleague, previously held up as a paragon of those values, is ostracized and smeared for a thought crime that was not considered a thought crime until about five minutes ago. Maybe he made a bad joke. Or maybe he used the phrase “guys” instead of folks. Or Hispanic instead of Latinx.

Common sense would tell you: If it can happen to him, it can happen to me. Common sense would insist: If the leopard is currently eating the face of the person in the the cubicle next to me, what will stop it from eating mine?

But when the leopard comes for your colleague, what I have witnessed is that something like 99% of people find a way to wiggle out of this obvious next step. They tell themselves the person getting their face eaten deserved it. Or that the leopard was just particularly hungry that day.

That’s what makes today’s essay, by UCLA Anthropology Professor Joseph Manson, so important.

Most people who leave their jobs as professors these days do not do so because they have a choice. They leave because they are pushed out by ideological bullies. But Professor Manson is leaving of his own volition. Why? In large part because he understands the nature of leopards.

That’s Barry Weiss’s introduction to Joseph Manson’s July 7th essay “Why I’m Giving Up Tenure at UCLA,” which you’re welcome to read.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 9, 2022 at 4:24 AM

More from a newly discovered nearby neighborhood park

with 22 comments

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.

  

✳︎

✳︎         ✳︎         ✳︎

✳︎

  

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

%d bloggers like this: