Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘yellow

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 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

Full house

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From May 13th at the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park, look at all the Euphoria kernii beetles that had crammed themselves into the base of a prickly pear cactus flower, Opuntia engelmannii. The beetles did seem to be in a state of euphoria.

 

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 Here’s more about consciousness from philosopher Julian Baggini’s The Ego Trick:

So we have these three facts: thoughts and feelings are real, they are not describable in purely physical terms, but the universe has within it only the physical things described by the equations of physicists. It seems the only way to make sense of this is that mental events emerge from physical ones, without being strictly identical with them. As the neurologist Todd E. Feinberg puts it, “your life is not a pack of cells; your life is what your particular pack of cells collectively do, though I cannot observe such a thing as your life, touch it, put it under a microscope, or keep it on a bottle on a shelf.” Thought and feeling are what matter does, when it is arranged in the remarkably complex ways that brains are. Matter is all that is needed for them to exist, but they are not themselves lumps of matter. In this sense, “I” is a verb dressed as a noun.

The idea that the mental emerges from the physical is a tricky one. It looks to me like a partial description masquerading as an explanation. What I mean is, to say consciousness is an emergent property is not to explain consciousness at all. To do that you’d have to explain how it emerges, and although some claim to have done that, most remain unconvinced. But what does seem to be true is that consciousness does indeed emerge from complex physical events in the brain, even if we don’t know how it does so. Whatever the mechanism, we have thoughts and feelings because we have physical brains that work, not because there’s something else in our heads doing the mental work instead. The evidence for this is simple but overwhelming: damage the brain, and you impair consciousness. Change the chemicals in the brain, and you change consciousness. Stimulate certain parts of the brain, and you get a certain kind of experience. To accept this (as surely we must) but insist that brains aren’t the engines of thought is not impossible, but it is perverse.

(Another passage appeared in a post two weeks ago.)

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 24, 2022 at 4:26 AM

More from a newly discovered nearby neighborhood park

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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.

  

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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

Two views of prickly pear cactus flowers

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From April 28th in my part of Austin come outer and inner flower views from a prickly pear cactus, Opuntia engelmannii. I’m happy to report that as of today these cacti are still putting out flowers.

 

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As someone who has worked in the field of race relations for twenty-five years, I am utterly amazed that advocacy for “race essentialism” has come to the forefront over the last decade. Race essentialism is the practice of ascribing character traits and experiences to individuals based on the color of their skin. Advocates justify this approach by highlighting how skin color has been used to oppress people in the past as well as in the present, and argue that recognizing one’s “race” is necessary in order to correct for racism and build a more equitable future.

So begins an article by Quay Hanna entitled “How talking to strangers on the bus changed my views on race.” The author had grown up as a white supremacist but came to realize how mistaken that ideology is.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 10, 2022 at 4:36 AM

We abstract experimental nature photographers experiment with abstract nature photographs

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Here’s the leaf of a spiderwort (Tradescantia sp.) in front of a buttercup (Ranunculus sp.) at McKinney Falls State Park on April 14. I assure you this is not how you would have seen things had you been there.

 

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Social media has both magnified and weaponized the frivolous…. [M]any of America’s key institutions in the mid-to-late 2010s… got stupider en masse because social media instilled in their members a chronic fear of getting darted. The shift was most pronounced in universities, scholarly associations, creative industries, and political organizations at every level (national, state, and local), and it was so pervasive that it established new behavioral norms backed by new policies seemingly overnight. The new omnipresence of enhanced-virality social media meant that a single word uttered by a professorleader, or journalist, even if spoken with positive intent, could lead to a social-media firestorm, triggering an immediate dismissal or a drawn-out investigation by the institution. Participants in our key institutions began self-censoring to an unhealthy degree, holding back critiques of policies and ideas—even those presented in class by their students—that they believed to be ill-supported or wrong.

Those insights come from social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s recent article in The Atlantic, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” in which he criticizes extremists on the political far right and far left. Check out this thoughtful, thorough article. You’re also welcome to listen to his recent 87-minute conversation with Andrew Sullivan on The Weekly Dish.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 25, 2022 at 4:33 AM

A good time for Nueces coreopsis

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After we visited both parts of Lake Somerville State Park on April 6th, we continued clockwise around the lake. On LBJ Dr. across from Overlook Park Rd. in Washington County we found this happy colony of Nueces coreopsis, Coreopsis nuecensis. (Click to enlarge.) The erect white-topped plants in the background were old plainsman, Hymenopappus scabiosaeus. Below is a closer view of one in Round Rock on April 2nd.

  

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There’s been a lot of hoopla since U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled on April 18 that a public mask mandate in mass transit (planes, trains, etc.) is unlawful.

Some critics of the ruling complained that a single judge had overturned all the medical science established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact the judge did no such thing. Nowhere in her 60-page decision did she rule “on the merits” of the issue. She did not decide—and never claimed to have the requisite expertise to decide—whether wearing masks in public transit vehicles is an effective way to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but that’s not what the ruling dealt with.

What the judge did rule on was the legality of the CDC issuing its mass transit mandate. “Judge Mizelle said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had exceeded its authority with the mandate, had not sought public comment and did not adequately explain its decisions.”

Another illogical reaction to the decision came from people who interpreted the end of a requirement to wear masks in mass transit as meaning that nobody would be allowed to wear masks in public transit. The judge’s ruling, of course, did not prevent anyone wanting to wear a mask from doing so—or even wearing double or triple masks, goggles, a face shield, and earphones if they want to.

Yet another unfounded accusation was of the ad hominem*—or in this case ad mulierem*—type. Some people complained that Judge Mizelle is only 35 years old. Age has nothing to do with the validity of a legal argument. Some people complained that Judge Mizelle had never tried a single case in court. True, but then neither had Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, whom the critics of Judge Mizelle presumably support and whom they no doubt did not criticize on those grounds. In any case, that’s irrelevant to the facts and legal principles adduced in the current decision.

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* The Latin phrase ad hominem means ‘against the man.’ We use that phrase when a person criticizes some personal trait of an opponent rather than dealing with the opponent’s arguments. The Latin word homo, of which hominem is one grammatical form, meant not only ‘man’ in a biological sense but also generically ‘human being.’ For anyone who objects to the use of a male form as a generic, I’ve turned to the Latin word mulier, ‘woman,’ to create the indisputably female phrase ad mulierem.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 24, 2022 at 4:32 PM

Texas groundsel covering the ground

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On April 8th along US 290 west of Ledbetter in eastern Lee County I stopped to photograph a great display of Texas groundsel, Senecio ampullaceus. You’re looking at just one portion of the colony.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 14, 2022 at 4:03 PM

Two creamy kinds of flowers

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Plains wild indigo (Baptisia bracteata var. leucophaea) doesn’t grow in Austin. It does grow a bit to our east and to our south. A little north of Gonzales along US 183 on March 28th the Lady Eve found several young plants and called them to my attention. The moody portrait above shows one of them.

Outside the town of Shiner on the same outing I pulled over to photograph a so-called horrid thistle, Cirsium horridulum, a native species that doesn’t normally grow in Austin. Some people rhymingly call this plant bristle thistle, and others use the names spiny thistle and bull thistle. Flower color varies, so the names yellow thistle and purple thistle are also in use.

I “planetized” the thistle flower head, which is to say that a circular crop and black background make me imagine the thistle as a planet in the void of outer space.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 9, 2022 at 4:24 AM

Posted in nature photography

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