Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘wildflowers

Time for rosinweed

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When I headed over to Bull Creek on June 24th I expected to find some tall rosinweed plants (Silphium radula) flowering. I did. It’s common for people to mistake these for sunflowers, which are out at the same time.

 

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Following up on yesterday’s commentary about education, here are similar thoughts from a June 22nd piece by Jeff Yass in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Money for Children’s Education, Not Schools,” with subtitle “It’s time to stop writing blank checks for a failing system.” The article begins:

As schools break for summer, it’s a good time to review the return America is getting on its investment in education. The Census Bureau reports inflation-adjusted spending in K-12 education has tripled since 1970 to a record $751.7 billion. Yet barely a third of all fourth-graders across U.S. urban communities can read or do math at grade level. The time has come to reimagine the way we pay for education. Let’s stop writing blank checks to failing school systems.

Consider a single mother of two. From kindergarten to high school graduation, the government will spend nearly $250,000 on each of her children. Yet she won’t have much of a say in how the dollars are spent. Without her consent, the bureaucrats who run the public schools will build facilities, hire teachers and plan curriculum that may leave her children far behind their peers, all at exorbitant prices.

The article goes on to propose that parents control how that large amount of money gets spent on their children’s education. Check it out.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 1, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Acmella repens

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At Cypress Creek Park along Lake Travis on June 12th I came upon a DYC (darn yellow composite) I didn’t recognize. Almost as soon as I posted several pictures of it in the Texas Flora group on Facebook, moderator Aidan Campos identified the species as Acmella repens, which I looked up and found is called creeping [Latin repens] spotflower.

 

  

Notice how the central disc “mounds up” as the flower head ages.

 

  

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Toutes choses sont dites déjà ; mais comme personne n’écoute, il faut toujours recommencer.

Everything has already been said; but because nobody listens, we always have to start over again.

— André Gide, Le Traité du Narcisse, The Treatise on Narcissus, 1891.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2022 at 4:32 AM

A monumental mountain pink colony at Belton Lake

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On June 14th I got a tip from Rhonda Frick Smith in Morgan’s Point Resort about a huge colony of mountain pinks (Zeltnera beyrichii) close to the dam that sustains Belton Lake, so on June 16th I drove the hour north to check it out. I have to say it was the largest colony of these flowers I’ve ever come across, probably larger than all the others I’ve seen put together. What appears in the photograph above is merely one portion of the vaster colony. (An aerial photograph in the article I linked to shows the “barren” field that was home to this enormous mountain pink colony.)

 

Mountain pinks have a knack for growing in rocky and seemingly unpromising ground, as the middle photograph shows from a somewhat sparser portion of the colony. And speaking of rocky, here’s a closer look at all the fossilized tube worm casings in the slab of rock in the upper left of that second picture:

  

These are remnants from an era when what is now Texas lay beneath the sea.

 

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The developed world became wealthy through the pervasive use of fossil fuels, which still overwhelmingly power most of its economies. Solar and wind power aren’t reliable, simply because there are nights, clouds and still days. Improving battery storage won’t help much: There are enough batteries in the world today only to power global average electricity consumption for 75 seconds. Even though the supply is being scaled up rapidly, by 2030 the world’s batteries would still cover less than 11 minutes. Every German winter, when solar output is at its minimum, there is near-zero wind energy available for at least five days—or more than 7,000 minutes.

This is why solar panels and wind turbines can’t deliver most of the energy for industrializing poor countries. Factories can’t stop and start with the wind; steel and fertilizer production are dependent on coal and gas; and most solar and wind power simply can’t deliver the power necessary to run the water pumps, tractors, and machines that lift people out of poverty.

That’s why fossil fuels still provide more than three-fourths of wealthy countries’ energy, while solar and wind deliver less than 3%. An average person in the developed world uses more fossil-fuel-generated energy every day than all the energy used by 23 poor Africans.

 

I invite you to read Bjørn Lomborg‘s full commentary in the June 20th Wall Street Journal entitled “The Rich World’s Climate Hypocrisy.” The subtitle is “They beg for more oil and coal for themselves while telling developing lands to rely on solar and wind.”

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Striped hairy belly bee

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I’m thinking the insect I found on a Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum) on June 12th is a striped hairy belly bee, which I’d never heard of till I looked at a little guide called Bees of Central Texas. Insects of this sort are in the family Megachilidae, which, despite representation in Texas, doesn’t have anything to do with mega chili. The guide notes that striped hairy belly bees “may raise abdomen while visiting flowers.” Another website says that members of this family are “large, hairy bees with black and white stripes on the abdomen. The belly often appears yellow from the pollen these species carry.” Today’s two pictures fit those descriptions.

  

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In 1964, the Congress of the United States passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Civil Rights Act. Martin Luther King Jr. considered it a second Emancipation Proclamation, after the first one that President Abraham Lincoln issued during the Civil War a century earlier. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.”

Most Americans believe in the principle that the government should treat people equally, without regard to an irrelevant characteristic like skin color—most, but not all, and certainly not those currently in charge of our government. Last year I reported on a program in which the current administration granted loan forgiveness to farmers affected by Covid-19; the problem was that white farmers were prohibited from applying for relief under that program. That was clearly a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and a court soon struck down the barring of white farmers from the program as illegal.

Last year I also reported on a similar federal program to help restaurant owners whose businesses Covid-19 had seriously affected. The program forced white male restaurant owners to the back of the bus, so to speak, behind people of any other race and sex. Money allocated for the program would have run out before a single white male applicant could have gotten any. A court soon ruled that unequal treatment illegal, too.

What’s worse, even after those two legal defeats the current administration still keeps trying to flout the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The latest attempt I’m aware of involves proposed government assistance to would-be home purchasers. The problem is that to qualify for that aid a person has to be black.

You can learn the particulars in a Wall Street Journal editorial. If the government ever implements that race-based mortgage assistance program, of course a white person who’s excluded will sue and will once again prevail in court. How the people in our government believe they can keep trying to get away with such blatantly illegal discrimination is beyond me, but that’s clearly and shamefully what they believe.

Along similar lines, a few days later I learned of a judicial victory that took place in California at the beginning of April. California had passed a law requiring “that boards of directors of California-based, publicly held domestic or foreign corporations satisfy a racial, ethnic, and LGBT quota by the end of the 2021 calendar year.” Judge Terry A. Green found that the law “violates the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution on its face.” In his decision, Judge Green wrote:

The difficulty is that the Legislature is thinking in group terms. But the California Constitution protects the right of individuals to equal treatment. Before the Legislature may require that members of one group be given certain board seats, it must first try to create neutral conditions under which qualified individuals from any group may succeed. That attempt was not made in this case….

The statute treats similarly situated individuals — qualified potential corporate board members — differently based on their membership (or lack thereof) in certain listed racial, sexual orientation, and gender identity groups. It requires that a certain specific number of board seats be reserved for members of the groups on the list — and necessarily excludes members of other groups from those seats.

You can read more in a Judicial Watch article and another Judicial Watch article.

I also recently came across yet another example of illegal racial discrimination, this time perpetrated by Brown University, which is is engaging in segregated teacher training.

I don’t think it’s too much to expect that the people running our institutions will treat everyone alike. Unfortunately many of those people favor unequal treatment based on as irrelevant a criterion as the color of a person’s skin. There are many words for that: barbaric, unenlightened, shameful, benighted, unlawful, immoral, unfair, discriminatory, ignorant, unjust, biased, iniquitous, dishonorable, vile, unprincipled, wrong, intolerant, prejudiced, illiberal, racist. Take your pick.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 25, 2022 at 5:08 AM

Rising skyward

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Only once before, in 2015, has a picture of so-called false gaura appeared here. The top view shows that this plant produces an erect flower spike, which I’ll add can reach 9 ft., while the bottom view reveals the predilection of some leaves to turn colors. Formerly classified as Stenosiphon linifolius and now as Oenothera glaucifolia, the species apparently grows in just one place in Travis County: along Oasis Bluff Dr., which is where I went looking for and found it on June 12th, just as I have several other times over the past decade.

 

 

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Kind Words

 

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday praised fellow Justice Clarence Thomas for his dedication to the high court’s integrity in light of recent protests and threats that were made against the institution.

Speaking at the American Constitution Society, Sotomayor, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama, said Thomas is a “man who cares deeply about the court as an institution.”

And while the two often disagree in their opinions, Sotomayor said she and Thomas have a “common understanding about people and kindness towards them,” adding, “Justice Thomas is the one justice in the building that literally knows every employee’s name, every one of them. And not only does he know their names, he remembers their families’ names and histories.”

“He’s the first one who will go up to someone when you’re walking with him and say, ‘Is your son okay? How’s your daughter doing in college?’ He’s the first one that, when my stepfather died, sent me flowers in Florida,” Sotomayor added of Thomas, who was nominated by former President George H.W. Bush.

 

That’s from a June 17th article by Jack Phillips in the Epoch Times.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 24, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Looking up at composite architecture

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On June 5th I stopped by Vaught Ranch Rd., thinking I might find some skeleton plants, Lygodesmia texana, flowering there again this year. I did. The architecture of these flower heads always appeals to me. My use of a ring flash in broad daylight allowed me to stop down to a small aperture. That combination caused the bright blue sky to come out looking darker than it really was—but hey, what’s reality, anyhow? In the upward-looking view of a nearby zexmenia flower head, Wedelia texana var. acapulcensis, the sky came out brighter than with the skeleton plant but still duller than it actually was. In both cases the uniform blue proved a good isolating element for the subject.

 

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The purpose of a military is to keep a country safe from physical attack and to wage war against an enemy. People in the military train to be physically fit and to use defensive and offensive weapons. People in the military study tactics, strategy, and military history. And now in the American military they study pronouns. Once again I have to make clear that that last sentence is not something from a satirical publication like the Babylon Bee or the Onion. No, as far as I’ve been able to determine, this is for real. The U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center has apparently prepared a video about the importance of pronouns for members of the military. In style and vocabulary the film is something you’d think was geared for children in elementary school. You can watch the four-minute video, which talks about creating a safe space rather than defeating an enemy. This is madness.

I have to think the leaders in China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and other countries can’t believe their great good fortune that the American military is busy weakening itself so they don’t have to worry about it as much anymore.

 UPDATE: An article in The Federalist goes into detail about how ill-equipped the U.S. Navy is becoming even as it’s wasting time and money on “wokeism.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 23, 2022 at 4:34 AM

Pickerelweed flourishing

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On June 12th at Cypress Creek Park on Lake Travis I was pleased to see a good display of pickerelweed flowers (Pontederia cordata). Below is one of the cores from which I believe the flowers emerge.

 

This post went out at 4:13 AM Central Time to coincide with the summer solstice.
Temperature-wise, it’s been summer in Austin for quite a while already.

 

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The number of reported migrant encounters along the southern border has once again made Department of Homeland Security history — hitting a staggering 239,416 encounters in May.

You can read further details in a June 16th New York Post article

As huge as that number of interceptions is, hundreds of thousands of people who enter the country illegally each year don’t get apprehended at all because there aren’t anywhere near enough border patrol agents to keep up with the cartel-organized onslaught that our current régime has done nothing to fend off and a lot to foster. You can find out more in a June 17th Daily Mail article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 21, 2022 at 4:13 AM

Posted in nature photography

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A blowing stack of black-eyed susans

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In the ditch along San Gabriel Blvd. in Leander on June 14th that you heard about in the last post, I couldn’t help but notice a lushly flowering black-eyed susan plant, Rudbeckia hirta. Aiming the camera horizontally wouldn’t have kept the sloping sides of the ditch out of any portraits I made, so the only thing was to lie at the base of the plant and aim high enough for the blue sky to isolate and contrast with the bright yellow flowers. Complicating things was the wind, which I’m estimating blew at a pretty steady 15 mph, with gusts even stronger. While lying on the ground I steadied the plant against the wind as best I could with my left hand and manipulated the camera with my right. I also set the shutter speed to a high 1/800 of a second, which turned out to be fast enough to keep the ray florets from blurring while still capturing a sense of their movement. That’s particularly noticeable at the upper left, where you can see how the wind was blowing the florets to the right.

When I returned two days later and found the wildflowers in the ditch had gotten a reprieve from the mowers, I took some more pictures, including the one below showing a basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus.

   

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Yesterday was June 19th, and to coincide with the date the Austin PBS television station showed “Juneteenth Jamboree: Soldiers, Cowboys, and Indians.” Not far into that program, I heard the narrator telling how Columbus, after landing on an island in 1492, captured some native people and by so doing introduced slavery into the New World. Do the people writing this stuff not know there are such things as history books? If those people are too lazy to read books, at least they could go to the Internet. It doesn’t take much checking to confirm that slavery was well entrenched among the indigenous peoples of the New World long before Columbus’s time.

Even Wikipedia, as biased as it has been becoming, has a whole article on slavery among the Aztecs. And an article entitled “Maya Social Structure” from the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas begins with this sentence: “Maya society was rigidly divided between nobles, commoners, serfs, and slaves.” As the article tells us later on: “There was an active slave trade in the Maya region, and commoners and elites were both permitted to own slaves. Individuals were enslaved as a form of punishment for certain crimes and for failing to pay back their debts. Prisoners of war who were not sacrificed would become slaves, and impoverished individuals sometimes sold themselves or family members into slavery. Slavery status was not passed on to the children of slaves. However, unwanted orphan children became slaves and were sometimes sacrificed during religious rituals. Slaves were usually sacrificed when their owners died so that they could continue in their service after death. If a man married a slave woman, he became a slave of the woman’s owner. This was also the case for women who married male slaves.”

So if anyone in your presence makes the claim that white people invented slavery or introduced slavery into the Americas, please tell them it isn’t so. And if they try to give you an argument, point them to the linked articles or the many others that confirm the existence of slavery in the Americas long before Europeans came here. And if those people still keep giving you a hard time in spite of all the evidence, you’ll know they’re not sincere and don’t care about the truth.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 20, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Bug and beetle on Mexican hat

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As I was leaving the grounds of the Hyde Park Baptist High School on May 30th I caught sight of a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) that didn’t look quite normal. When I got close to check it out I discovered a blister beetle on it, and then I noticed a bug lower down as well. After the bug (likely Calocoris barberi) moved up onto the column, I made this portrait.

 

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Last week I went to log in to my savings account at a bank. A message came up saying that the bank was reorganizing its online system and I’d need to create a new password. Okay, that happens. I began the process, as part of which I received an email with a temporary password I’d have to use. Here’s the relevant portion of that e-mail:

Your new temporary password is d5KzZYu-

Please sign in with the password exactly as shown including upper and lower case. Ensure that there is no punctuation, characters or spaces before or after the password.

Do you see my dilemma? I was told to use the password exactly as shown, and yet I was supposed to ensure that no punctuation appears after the password. Was the hyphen at the end of the first line the final character of the temporary password, or was it a punctuation mark I needed to avoid? Why would the people managing the bank allow such an ambiguity to occur? It’s easy for a programmer to exclude a hyphen and all other punctuation marks from the character set from which temporary passwords are generated. And yet that didn’t happen.

Another point of confusion during the process was a reference to an OTP device. Do you know what an OTP device is? I didn’t. It turns out that the bank intends OTP as an initialism for “one-time passcode.” So why doesn’t the bank just use the full phrase and avoid any doubt? I queried the internet just now to see if I could find out what OTP stands for. Some sites did say “one-time password” or “one-time passcode.” Other sites said that OTP means “on the phone,” “one true pairing,” or something less savory.

As you’ve heard me say more than once: everything online and in manuals needs to appear in a way that’s clear to a novice user. The fact that the company’s staff knows how to interpret things is irrelevant.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 16, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Beach morning glory: white

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Botanists know the white-flowering beach morning glory as Ipomoea imperati. At Port Aransas on June 3rd the white flowers significantly outnumbered the purple ones produced by Ipomoea pes-caprae. Here are broader and closer views of the white flowers, with a tiny spider on one in the second picture. Everywhere we looked, practically all the leaves had beach sand on them. These plants have apparently learned to cope with lesser amounts of sunshine making it through to the leaves.

  

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Title IX is a section of the American legal code that “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Title IX states: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.'”

As has too often been the case in recent years, many universities have taken to enforcing Title IX in ideological ways that deny due process and a presumption of innocence to people accused of violating it. In one such case, reported Reuters on June 2nd:

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled a former assistant professor of physics can sue Cornell University for gender discrimination over claims it disciplined him following a “skewed” investigation into a female student’s sexual harassment claims.

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ revival of Mukund Vengalattore’s Title IX claims came in a case that one judge said was an example of a “disturbing trend” of threats to due process for university faculty accused of misconduct.

That judge was José Cabranes of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In his concurrence he wrote:

This growing “law” of university disciplinary procedures, often promulgated in response to the regulatory diktats of government, is controversial and thus far largely beyond the reach of the courts because of, among other things, the presumed absence of “state action” by so-called private universities. Thus insulated from review, it is no wonder that, in some cases, these procedures have been compared unfavorably to those of the infamous English Star Chamber.

As alleged, Cornell’s investigation of Vengalattore denied him access to counsel; failed to provide him with a statement of the nature of the accusations against him; denied him the ability to question witnesses; drew adverse inferences from the absence of evidence; and failed to employ an appropriate burden of proof or standard of evidence. In other cases and other universities the catalogue of offenses can include continuing surveillance and the imposition of double jeopardy for long-ago grievances.

You can read more from Judge Cabranes’s concurrence in a “Notable and Quotable” item from the Wall Street Journal.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2022 at 4:24 AM

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