Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘wildflower

A snapdragon vine flower

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It’s not often I come across a snapdragon vine, Maurandella antirrhiniflora, so when I did in my neighborhood on July 11th I made sure to take a bunch of pictures. These are small flowers, averaging about 3/4 of an inch across (18mm). I don’t know about you, but whenever I see snapdragon vine flowers I always think I’m looking at a mouth with prominent lower teeth. The fact that they would be hairy teeth doesn’t dissuade my imagination.


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Yesterday I mentioned a partisan who went on a television talk show and kept repeating a claim that the moderator of the show had shown wasn’t true. Alas, that wasn’t an isolated aberration. It’s not hard to find activists and partisan groups that repeat—sometimes for years on end—assertions which have been proven false. Consider the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” meme that has been around since 2014. It came from an incident that took place on August 9 of that year in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, outside Saint Louis. It began after an 18-year-old African American named Michael Brown grabbed some $50 worth of cigarillos from behind the counter of the Ferguson Market and pushed a worker who confronted him as he left the convenience store. A little later, as Brown and another person were walking down the middle of a street, a white police officer named Darren Wilson saw them and told them they should be walking on the sidewalk instead of in the middle of the street. An altercation ensued, during which Wilson ended up shooting and killing Brown. A rumor quickly spread that Brown had had his hands up and was trying to surrender when Wilson shot him. That rumor led, beginning the next day, to rioting, looting, arson, and the destruction of businesses. By August 16 the governor of Missouri had to declare a state of emergency and impose a curfew. When that didn’t quell the rioting, the governor canceled the ineffective curfew and called in the National Guard.

Things eventually quieted down. Later, on November 24, a grand jury that had examined all the evidence decided there were not grounds to indict Officer Darren Wilson. That led to another round of rioting in which at least a dozen buildings and multiple police cars were burned. To this day there are groups that claim that Michael Brown didn’t receive justice. The problem for those who say they want justice for Mike Brown is that the U.S. Justice Department, headed by Eric Holder, a friend of Barack Obama’s who is also black, did do a thorough investigation of the incident. The investigation showed that the narrative of Brown being an innocent victim wasn’t true. If you want to, you can read the full report on the Michael Brown incident, issued by the U.S. Justice Department headed by Eric Holder. Here are two relevant paragraphs from the end of the report (I’ve put some key statements in bold type):

In addition, even assuming that Wilson definitively knew that Brown was not armed, Wilson was aware that Brown had already assaulted him once and attempted to gain control of his gun. Wilson could thus present evidence that he reasonably feared that, if left unimpeded, Brown would again assault Wilson, again attempt to overpower him, and again attempt to take his gun. Under the law, Wilson has a strong argument that he was justified in firing his weapon at Brown as he continued to advance toward him and refuse commands to stop, and the law does not require Wilson to wait until Brown was close enough to physically assault Wilson. Even if, with hindsight, Wilson could have done something other than shoot Brown, the Fourth Amendment does not second-guess a law enforcement officer’s decision on how to respond to an advancing threat. The law gives great deference to officers for their necessarily split-second judgments, especially in incidents such as this one that unfold over a span of less than two minutes. ‘Thus, under Graham, we must avoid substituting our personal notions of proper police procedure for the instantaneous decision of the officer at the scene. We must never allow the theoretical, sanitized world of our imagination to replace the dangerous and complex world that policemen face every day.

As discussed above, Darren Wilson has stated his intent in shooting Michael Brown was in response to a perceived deadly threat. The only possible basis for prosecuting Wilson under section 242 would therefore be if the government could prove that his account is not true – i.e., that Brown never assaulted Wilson at the SUV, never attempted to gain control of Wilson’s gun, and thereafter clearly surrendered in a way that no reasonable officer could have failed to perceive. Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses, to include aspects of the testimony of Witness 101, there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat. Even if Wilson was mistaken in his interpretation of Brown’s conduct, the fact that others interpreted that conduct the same way as Wilson precludes a determination that he acted with a bad purpose to disobey the law. The same is true even if Wilson could be said to have acted with poor judgment in the manner in which he first interacted with Brown, or in pursuing Brown after the incident at the SUV. These are matters of policy and procedure that do not rise to the level of a Constitutional violation and thus cannot support a criminal prosecution. Cf. Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d 427, 430–31 (8th Cir. 1997) (violation of internal policies and procedures does not in and of itself rise to violation of Constitution). Because Wilson did not act with the requisite criminal intent, it cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that he violated 18 U.S.C.§ 242 when he fired his weapon at Brown. VI. Conclusion For the reasons set forth above, this matter lacks prosecutive merit and should be closed.

So if you hear someone still chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and saying that Michael Brown didn’t receive justice, or if you come across a website making that claim, or if that’s what you yourself have been led to believe, now you know it isn’t true.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2021 at 4:32 AM

A bluebell flower

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On a sunny June 18th I photographed some bluebells (Eustoma sp.) that were coming up in Cypress Creek Park. Sixteen days ago you saw a distinctively shaped bud of this species, and now from the same session here are two portraits showing an opening flower. As I’ve said a zillion times, bluebells are purple.


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I recently read the book Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why it Matters. The author, physicist Steven E. Koonin, was Undersecretary for Science in the U.S. Department of Energy during the Obama administration, so is in no way a “climate denier,” meaning a person who denies that the climate is changing. The book’s title, however, indicates that Koonin takes issue with the widely bruited-about notion that climate change is “settled science.” Basing his book entirely on data gathered by the American government and the United Nations, he offers a rational assessment of the current climate situation, free from the hysteria and catastrophism that characterize so many activists and politicians.

As Koonin wrote in a Wall Street Journal essay in 2014: “Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is ‘settled’ (or is a ‘hoax’) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.” (Apropos of that, just last week someone who has worked for decades in a technical field at the University of Texas told me the atmosphere there has become so oppressive that an employee dare not even bring up the subject of climate change.)

I’m attentive to language, so I appreciate one point Koonin makes in Unsettled: some people, especially environmental activists, use “climate change” to mean only that portion of the change in climate attributable to human activity. That usage is misleading because it excludes the not-insignificant changes in climate attributable to natural causes such as volcanic eruptions, the wobble in the earth’s axis, and the varying intensity of the sun’s radiation reaching the earth. Distinguishing between natural causes and human causes of climate change turns out to be a difficult problem. Failing to consider the natural and perhaps quite large component of climate change that is natural ends up making the human-caused component seem disproportionately influential and urgent to deal with—which of course is what activists want.

In April I recommended environmentalist Michael Shellenberger’s rational book about climate change, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. Now that Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why it Matters is out, I recommend it, too.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 16, 2021 at 4:42 AM

Silverleaf nightshade flower

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One of Austin’s most common wildflowers is silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium. I photographed this one along Capitol of Texas Highway on June 14th. Flash and a small aperture of f/20 caused the bright sky to come out a very dark blue. You can see it that way if you look at the full image against a black background; in contrast, the white surrounding the photograph on this page will make most of you (and me) see the deep blue as black. You may also imagine that the flower’s yellow stamens are little bananas, but I wouldn’t advise eating them unless you want to suffer the effects of toxic masculinity. (Many plants in the nightshade family are poisonous, but some, e.g. tomatoes and potatoes, have become staple foods.)


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What’s poisonous in our legal system is the denial of due process and the attempt by ideologues to change our legal ethos from “innocent until proven guilty” to “guilty until proven innocent” or even “guilty because accused.” My niece, Adrienne Levy, works for a law firm that represents people whose due process has been violated. Her arguments carried the day in an important case in Colorado last month.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 6, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Tiny bees in a white prickly poppy flower

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I don’t know about the species of these tiny bees, but the flower they’re reveling in is Argemone albiflora, the white prickly poppy. This picture comes from June 14th along the Capital of Texas Highway.


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The other day I watched a roughly one-hour-long talk given by economics professor Glenn Loury. Toward the end he became impassioned at times about the need to better educate African-American students so they can fairly compete intellectually. If you’d like to hear the last part of his talk, you can begin listening at around 54:10 and continue to 1:03:00 in the video.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 5, 2021 at 5:46 AM

July 4, 2021

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Today being July 4th, here’s a vintage red-white-and-blue picture of Ipomopsis rubra, known as standing cypress and Texas plume. The sky was filled with plumes of its own in Williamson County on that long-ago day (May 20, 2009), so I included both kinds of plumes in the portraits I made.

And here’s a quotation that relates to July 4th:

may it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view. the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

That’s from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Roger Weightman on June 24, 1826. (I’ve preserved the idiosyncratic punctuation and capitalization of the original.) It was the last letter Jefferson ever wrote. He died on July 4, 1826, as did John Adams. The story (perhaps slightly embellished) has come down to us that Adams’s last words were “Thomas Jefferson lives”; unbeknownst to Adams, however, Jefferson had died hours earlier in Virginia. Was any other simultaneous death ever as symbolic as that of the second and third presidents of the United States, both of whom were deeply involved in creating the Declaration of Independence and seeing it adopted exactly 50 years before the day they died?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman (whose age today and for a year to come will match the Spirit of ’76).

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2021 at 4:45 AM

Not an anomaly

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It’s not an anomaly for Tinantia anomala to grow wild in a semi-shaded portion of our yard, as I was happy to discover a colony doing this past spring. Today’s front and back portraits are from April 25th, though I noticed some of these wildflowers still blooming at our place well into June.

Also not an anomaly among common names for plants are some designed to keep people from confusing a species with a similar one. That’s the case here, where the vernacular name false dayflower alerts you that this isn’t the plain old dayflower, Commelina erecta, that you recently saw here and that’s in the same botanical family. The false may be helpful, but I still wish Tinantia anomala had a more positive name than that or the widow’s tears that people also call it. How about purple dayflower or noble dayflower?


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What is an anomaly, at least during my lifetime in America, is the recent refusal by some media outlets to allow the discussion of certain subjects. Take the Covid-19 virus. In 2020, there were people, including reputable scientists, who conjectured that the virus had originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, where coronaviruses had been under study for years. Many media outlets labeled that conjecture a “conspiracy theory” and said it had been debunkedeven though no evidence had been brought forth to disprove the conjecture. People attempting to discuss the topic on Facebook had their posts taken down.

In 2021, some countries have authorized the drug ivermectin as a therapeutic in treating Covid-19. India, the second most populous country in the world, is one of them. Other countries offering ivermectin as a treatment for the disease are South Africa, Zimbabwe, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Mexico. Here’s an overview. On the other hand, some sites say ivermectin is not effective against Covid-19. You can search the Internet and find other sources that are against ivermectin as a therapeutic for Covid-19. I don’t know the truth of the matter. What I do know, though, is that institutions like Facebook and YouTube and Twitter should not be banning people from presenting legitimate evidence that a medicine is effective.

If you’ve been reading my posts for the last few months, you know I’ve been speaking out against censorship. Other have, too, like Bari Weiss: “How have we gotten here? How have we gotten to the point where having conversations about important scientific and medical subjects requires such a high level of personal risk? How have we accepted a reality in which Big Tech can carry out the digital equivalent of book burnings? And why is it that so few people are speaking up against the status quo?”

I hope you’ll join us by using your power of speech in the service of free speech.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 3, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Bluebell time again

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On June 18th, after photographing some mountain pinks I’d been tipped off to, I stopped at nearby Cypress Creek Park and found to my pleasure that a bunch of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) were coming up. Bluebells put out distinctively shaped buds, as you see in this portrait of one with an opening flower behind it.


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For those of you who find yourselves in jobs where you feel like you’re walking on eggshells all the time and can’t speak openly about what you believe, here’s a relevant thought from someone who lived through Soviet oppression: “In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” ― Czesław Miłosz. (If I understand right, Polish cz is pronounced like English ch, ł like w, w like v, and sz like sh. As a result, Czesław Miłosz comes out sounding like Cheswav Miwosh.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 1, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Make my day

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I haven’t shown a photograph of a dayflower (Commelina erecta) here since 2012. Today’s picture is from Allen Park on May 15th. You could say figuratively that the two tiny flies on the dayflower made my day flower.


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What doesn’t make my day flower is the craziness that descended upon many American colleges and universities in recent years. You may or may not have heard about something called micro-aggressions. Those are innocuous or even traditionally aspirational statements that now upset the permanently distraught inmates who run academia. Here are examples of statements now considered so terrible that if you utter them you’ll be branded a bigot and get reported to a “bias response team“:

America is a land of opportunity.

People are likely to succeed if they work hard.

When there’s a job opening, the most qualified person should get the job.

Where are you from?

There’s only one race, the human race.

All lives matter.

That last sentiment has recently gotten person after person after person after person fired from or forced out of their jobs. Purges like those show how microaggressions have led to megasuppressions that have metastasized out of academia and into many other institutions.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2021 at 4:42 AM

Tube-tongue

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Welcome to tube-tongue (Justicia pilosella), a little wildflower making its debut here today. On June 14th I’d gone out driving along Capital of Texas Highway looking for mountain pinks, which normally appear along that road by mid-June. I didn’t find any, but the colony of tube-tongue made up for it. The plants stood only several inches tall, and the flowers are only about an inch in size, so getting decent pictures had me down on the ground—and my neck too close to some stinging nettles, I’m afraid. Ah, the occupational hazard of being a nature photographer in Texas. On the technical side, I used flash and a small aperture, so the bright sky got rendered as a dark blue-grey (that’s more apparent if you look at the picture against a black background).


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It’s by no means only people with conservative or libertarian leanings who are appalled at the illiberal policies being imposed on America, particularly those that clamp down on freedom of expression, inject “wokism” into everything, and rouse mobs to “cancel” anyone they disagree with. Also speaking out against those harmful trends are what I’ll call classical liberals, who generally identify themselves as being on the political left or center-left. Here are a few whose recent doings and writings you may want to check out.

Steven Pinker

Bari Weiss

Jonathan Haidt

Greg Lukianoff

Nadine Strossen

John McWhorter

Glenn Greenwald

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 22, 2021 at 4:44 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Two quite different takes

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On May 15th in Allen Park I found a nice group of silverpuff plants (Chaptalia texana) with prominent seed heads. I took the top picture by natural light, of which there wasn’t a lot, so the resulting broad aperture of f/2.8 led to a dreamy portrait with little in focus. For the closer view below I used my ring flash and an aperture of f/13 so I could keep a lot more details sharp. Fireworks, anyone?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 13, 2021 at 4:36 AM

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