Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘white

Here’s looking at you, kid[neywood flowers]

with 6 comments

How ’bout this face-on view of a small fly getting nectar from the flowers of a kidneywood tree (Eysenhardtia texana) in my neighborhood on December 16, 2021? That tree kept putting out flowers through the end of the year, even if only a tiny fraction of what it had produced at the end of October.

(This post’s title is an allusion to a line from the movie “Casablanca.”)

🎶

🎶         🎶         🎶

🎶

Three months ago in these pages I wrote a commentary pointing out that inflation is a hidden tax that most affects the people least able to afford it, including the poor, of course, and the elderly on fixed incomes. People who have dutifully saved money for their later years look on helplessly as their retirement savings dwindle in value.

Yesterday the United States government announced that from December 2020 to December 2021, the Consumer Price Index had risen 7%, which was the highest jump in 40 years. A big factor in the increase is that both the last administration and the current one each spent trillions of dollars that we don’t have. Borrowing and printing money so extravagantly contributed heavily to the high inflation we’re now experiencing. And still the current administration is desperate to borrow, print, and spend trillions of dollars more in a Congressional bill that I can’t help but call Bilk Back Better. It’s madness.

UPDATE: A Quinnipiac poll whose results were released yesterday found that only 34% of the respondents approve the current president’s handling of the economy, with 57% disapproving. (The margin of error was 2.7 percentage points.)

🎶

🎶         🎶         🎶

🎶

If you have the time, you can watch a two-hour conversation
among Steven Pinker, Jonthan Haidt, and Jordan Peterson.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 13, 2022 at 4:29 AM

A tiny white snail shell as a sarcophagus on a carpet of fallen dry Ashe juniper needles

with 31 comments

Allen Park; December 17, 2021.

❀        ❀        ❀

Have you ever noticed that some people have appropriate names while others have ironic names? An example in the “appropriate” category was a United States district judge for the Eastern District of Texas named William Wayne Justice.

Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) provides two examples in the “ironic” category. The current police commissioner there is named Danielle Outlaw. But what’s in a name? The double irony is that while Danielle Outlaw is actually trying to enforce laws and protect the citizens of Philadelphia, the real outlaw in Philadelphia’s justice system is the district attorney, Larry Krasner. His family name ultimately goes back to a Slavic word that means ‘beautiful,’ yet he is anything but beautiful in his stubbornly ideological refusal to prosecute many criminals. Unfortunately the new district attorney in Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, began bragging on day one of his term that he also will refuse to prosecute many crimes and will downgrade others from felonies to misdemeanors. You can read even more about that if you wish.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 9, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids revisited

with 27 comments

Last month you heard how on November 1st I went in search of Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) on a property in my part of town that I rely on for those flowers yet found only a few. Exactly three weeks later I returned and after much wandering about managed to find a few more orchids that I’d missed the first time around. One of those is shown above in a soft approach. In contrast, I made the portrait below when a shaft of light coming through the canopy of trees briefly lit up one of the orchids.

 

⚯       ⚯

“I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and… actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing.” — John Malone in a CNBC interview on November 19, 2021. Malone is the top shareholder of Discovery, which is poised to take over CNN. For a long time now I’ve lamented the devolution of CNN, which I remember from the 1990s, when you could tune in even at 3 AM and get news of the world.

And how ’bout this for a strange story? “A dentist in Italy faces possible criminal charges after trying to receive a coronavirus vaccine in a fake arm made of silicone.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Spider enclosure

with 16 comments

On November 1st I came across this small spider enclosure on a
purpose-bent stalk of little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium).
Three weeks later the enclosure looked about the same.


❂      ❂
❂      ❂      ❂
❂      ❂

Why don’t problems that are easily fixed get fixed?

So I was checking out at Whole Foods a couple of months ago. Because of the pandemic, many credit/debit card terminals have been upgraded so that now you can tap a card on the device instead of having to swipe the card or insert it. The problem is that a customer doesn’t know exactly where on the terminal to tap the electronic chip in the card. My first taps didn’t work, so I asked the checker-outer specifically where I needed to hold my card. She indicated a place a bit further back from where I’d tried. That worked.

I pointed out to her that the store could head off this problem by putting a little sticker with the words TAP HERE in the exact place under which the hidden sensor sits inside the terminal. She and the bagger seemed not to understand what I was saying, or else didn’t think it was important. I went on to explain that different stores use different kinds of terminals, and some of them are finicky about exactly where a card needs to be tapped. Employees who work the registers learn where that spot is, but customers can’t be expected to know, so a little sticker or some other symbol would show us the right place to tap. Eventually, one right after the other, the two clerks suddenly changed demeanor and said my suggestion was a good one and they’d pass it along to the management, but I got the distinct impression they were just saying that to get rid of me. If I go back to that Whole Foods a few months from now, I seriously doubt I’ll see a little sticker on each terminal showing where to tap a card.

Store bathrooms often present the same kind of problem in automated sinks, hand dryers, and paper towel dispensers: where exactly to put your hand(s) to make the device come on. I often have to move my hands around to various positions until the device finally activates—and sometimes no hand position ever manages to make the device come on. The easy fix would be to use a sensor that responds to a broader range of hand positions. If the concern is that a more-sensitive sensor might cause unintentional activation by people relatively far way, then a device could have two or three less-sensitive sensors spaced out to cover different hand positions. That would raise the machine’s cost a little, but I think reducing customers’ frustration and wasted time would be worth it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 30, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Sunny poverty weed

with 31 comments

On October 14th I photographed some wet poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta) flowering along Bull Creek under overcast skies. As the month advanced, many of these bushes reached their peak of fluffiness, which I spent time recording in the town of Cedar Park on the morning of the 29th. Now the sun shone and the sky was clear blue, so the photographs came out quite different from those you saw earlier. Another factor this time was the presence of wind, which blew the bushes about. In the top picture you can pick out a couple of bits of fluff that had gone airborne. To deal with wind gusts I turned to shutter speeds as high as 1/640 of a second. That was fast enough to stop the motion in the following picture.


✓       ✓
✓       ✓       ✓
✓       ✓

Pronouns, pronouns, who’s got the pronouns?

According to the Gender Pronouns page on the website of Springfield College in Massachusetts,

  • The best thing to do if you use the wrong pronoun for someone is to say something right away, such as “Sorry, I meant they.” Fix it, but do not call special attention to the error in the moment. If you realize your mistake after the fact, apologize in private and move on.
  • It can be tempting to go on and on about how bad you feel that you messed up or how hard it is for you to get it right. But please, don’t. It is inappropriate and makes the person who was misgendered feel awkward and responsible for comforting you, which is not their job. It is your job to remember people’s pronouns.

My pronouns this week are mzekpitran for the subjective case and ervijmpt for the objective case. It is your job to remember them.

[Craziness and frivolity aside, you may be surprised that my subjective and objective pronouns don’t resemble each other. Actually English does the same thing with some of its pronouns—a fact that native speakers don’t normally think about. Consider the way English pairs the first-person I as a subject with the dissimilar me as an object, and likewise we with the dissimilar us. Corresponding to the I/me forms in the singular are the related French je/me, Russian я (ya)/меня (menyá), Portuguese eu/me, Italian io/me, Catalan jo/me, and Spanish yo/me].

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 17, 2021 at 4:40 AM

Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchid

with 22 comments

November in Austin is prime time for Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum), so on the first day of the month I hied me over to a property a few miles from home where I’ve been finding the species for the past decade. After wandering around for a while I thought I’d failed, as has happened in lean years. Eventually I came across exactly one orchid, and it turned my failure to success. (On the way back I found three more orchids in a small area but they were shorter and grew in places where portraits would have included background clutter.) The right vantage point revealed a tiny spider:


✻      ✻
✻      ✻      ✻
✻      ✻

Here are two related thoughts from approximately 1700 years apart.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” — Juvenal. English translations have included “Who will watch the watchmen?” and “Who will guard the guards themselves?” You could add current relevance with “Who will be in charge of the people who are in charge?” or “Who will police the police?” or “Who will fact-check the fact checkers?”

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” — James Madison in Federalist Papers, No. 51 (1788).

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 12, 2021 at 4:40 AM

Frostweed flowers and buds

with 11 comments

Starting in September and still continuing, frostweed (Verbesina virginica) has been flowering in many places around Austin. This portrait comes from near Bull Creek on September 30th.


⟒     ⟒
⟒     ⟒     ⟒
⟒     ⟒

Silly me expects the news media to examine the evidence and tell the truth.

A week ago today was election day in the United States. One race that people particularly focused on was the governorship of Virginia. Because the state just one year earlier had gone for the Democratic candidate for president of the United States by a margin of some 10 percentage points, the Democratic candidate for governor, former governor Terry McAuliffe, was favored to win last week over the Republican challenger, political novice Glenn Youngkin.

One issue that became especially hot in the final month of the campaign was education. Support for Youngkin surged after McAuliffe said in a debate at the end of September that he does not believe parents should tell schools what to teach. “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision.” Thanks in part—perhaps a large part—to those statements by McAuliffe, Youngkin ended up winning the race for governor by about 2 percentage points.

One educational point of contention in the campaign had been the way in which public school teachers have been increasingly teaching their subjects through a “lens” of power differentials and hierarchies of groups defined by race and gender. That treatment categorizes each individual as “privileged” or “oppressed” according to the supposed status of the groups the individual happens to be a part of. There’s no one agreed-upon name for that kind of emphasis on power and race and gender, but many people have taken to calling it Critical Race Theory, or CRT, a term that originally appeared in higher education in the 1970s. I discussed this back on August 9th. In that commentary I pointed out how some of the people in politics and education who are pushing CRT have resorted to the sophistic defense that what they’re promoting is not actually CRT. I mentioned as an example of that denial the head of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and then I linked to an AFT document showing that the group does indeed promote CRT and is mobilizing to fight opponents of CRT.

The same sort of untrue denial of Critical Race Theory in the schools came up in the Virginia gubernatorial race, where McAuliffe and his supporters, including many commenters in the legacy media, insisted that the state’s public schools do not use CRT. McAuliffe called Critical Race Theory a “racist dog whistle” that has “never been taught in Virginia.” But all it takes is a look at the Virginia Department of Education’s website to confirm that the deniers were and still are lying. For example, on the page of memos from the Superintendent of Schools for 2019, memo 050-19 is a document entitled “Resources to Support Student and Community Dialogues on Racism.” That document endorses the book Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education. Or go to a different place on the Department of Education’s website to see the slide presentation entitled “Legal Implications of School Discipline.” Slide 22 says “Incorporate Critical Race Theory (CRT) Lens.” Christopher Rufo has documented these and other examples.

And yet on election night, as it became clearer and clearer that Youngkin would win, commenters on networks like MSNBC and CNN still kept insisting that CRT “isn’t real,” even with the ready accessibility of public evidence that it is.

Even worse, some people on those networks claimed that the election of the Republican candidate for vice-president of Virginia, Winsome Sears, was proof of white supremacy—despite the fact that Winsome Sears, a black immigrant from Jamaica, is now the first woman ever elected to that office in Virginia. In addition, commenters in the legacy media often avoided mentioning that Republican Jason Miyares, who won Virginia’s election for attorney general, is the son of a Cuban immigrant. Apparently Virginia is home to some very incompetent or very confused white supremacists, who chose “people of color” for two of the top three positions in the election. Talk about delusion in the media!

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 9, 2021 at 4:51 AM

Halberdleaf rosemallow flower up close

with 23 comments

From October 18th at the Arbor Walk Pond, here’s a close abstraction that plays up the curves in a halberdleaf rosemallow flower, Hibiscus laevis. If you’ve forgotten or never knew what one of these flowers “normally” looks like, you can skip back to a post from September.


❦      ❦
❦      ❦      ❦
❦      ❦

You may never have heard of Trofim Lysenko, whose ideology-over-science approach to agriculture led to the deaths of millions of people in the Soviet Union and China. The group Minding the Campus has now begun giving the Trofim Lysenko Award for the Suppression of Academic Speech to similarly benighted ideologues in academia. The first awardee is Williams College Professor Phoebe Cohen, who said: “This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated.”

That raises the interesting question of whether Prof. Cohen will live up to her professed belief and stop culturally appropriating anything that was rigorously developed entirely or mostly by white men. If so, she should give up using insignificant little things like radios, televisions, telephones, airplanes, automobiles, washing machines, air conditioning, and light bulbs. Fat chance she’ll do that.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 4, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Kidneywood

with 29 comments

Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana) is a slight tree whose flowers smell like tangerine fruit. I haven’t showed you this species since 2016, so you could say it’s overdue. The first two pictures, one looking more upward and the next more downward, show how densely kidneywood can flower. I made both of those views on Morado Circle in my neighborhood on October 23rd.

The portrait below, from October 14th along Bull Creek, gives you
a close look at a kidneywood inflorescence whose buds were opening.


❀      ❀
❀      ❀      ❀
❀      ❀

While living in Honduras a long time ago I learned the proverb “Más vale prender una vela que maldecir la oscuridad,” “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Yesterday I came across a similar thought: “The pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.” It was attributed to Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935), first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine under the British mandate.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 2, 2021 at 2:31 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Smartweed from pond to pond and insect to insect

with 19 comments

I think the first time this year I photographed smartweed (Polygonum or Persicaria sp.) was on July 7th at the Riata Trace Pond, as shown above. Note what seems to be the segmented tan larva of an insect sitting inconspicuously in the middle of the inflorescence at the right.

The two main colors in the top photograph warrant a different observation, a surprising one that I’ve repeated here from time to time: as recently as the first half of the 20th century people in the United States took pink to be the appropriate color for boys and blue the appropriate color for girls. Let that be a reminder or how quickly and arbitrarily fashions often change.

The most recent time I photographed smartweed was at the Arbor Walk Pond on October 8th, as shown below with a leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus sp.) as the rider. Flash let me stop down the aperture to f/22 for good depth of field; that combination also gave me a very dark background, all the better to isolate my subjects.


❂      ❂
❂      ❂      ❂
❂      ❂

I commend the National Association of Scholars for its stance against gender ideology.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 20, 2021 at 4:44 PM

%d bloggers like this: