Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘yellow

Lindheimer’s senna leaflets turning yellow

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From my neighborhood on December 16, 2021, come these two takes, one minimalist and the other busy, on colorful Lindheimer’s senna leaflets (Senna lindheimeri).

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Yesterday the United States Supreme Court heard a challenge to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) nationwide mandate that companies with 100 or more employees must require those employees to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The challengers, the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, contend that OSHA, not being part of the legislature, doesn’t have the authority to issue such a mandate, and that only Congress does.

During the proceedings, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the following about Covid-19: “We have over 100,000 children, which we have never had before, in serious condition, many on ventilators.” While it’s true that the rate of Covid-19 infection among children has recently climbed higher than at any previous time in the pandemic, the fact remains that children are still the least affected age group, and the claim that 100,000 children are currently afflicted and in serious condition is a gross exaggeration.

A Yahoo! News story from yesterday says that “The current number of confirmed pediatric hospitalizations with Covid in the U.S. is 3,342, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services released on Friday.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Data Tracker shows that for the entire 17-month period from August 1, 2020, through January 5, 2022, the total number of pediatric Covid-19 admissions in the United States was 82,843.

It’s unfortunate that a Supreme Court Justice would claim that the current number of pediatric Covid-19 hospitalizations is 30 times the actual amount.


What follows is part of an article from The Epoch Times on January 9.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walenksy disputed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s claim that 100,000 children are hospitalized or seriously ill with COVID-19 during arguments made before the court on Jan. 7.

During an interview with “Fox News Sunday” on Jan. 9, Walensky confirmed that there are about 3,500 children in the hospital who have tested positive for COVID-19….

When asked about there being 3,500 children hospitalized as opposed to 100,000, Walensky said, “Yes, there are, and in fact what I will say is while pediatric hospitalizations are rising, they’re still about 15-fold less than hospitalizations of our older age demographics.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 8, 2022 at 4:31 AM

More turn-of-the-year wildflowers in my neighborhood

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Like the Ageratina havanensis that you saw two posts back, Viguiera dentata blooms in the fall and increasingly into the winter. Common names for this species include plateau goldeneye, sunflower goldeneye, and just plain goldeneye. It’s not uncommon for yellow daisy-type flower heads to open asymmetrically, as the one shown here was doing on December 16th in my neighborhood. The same goldeneye bushes were still displaying flowers on the day 2022 began.

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See what you make of each of these. Are any more logical or plausible than any of the others?

  • This is Daniel. He was born 10 years ago. That means that everyone thinks he’s 10 years old. Only now he’s grown old enough to tell everyone that he’s actually an adult and is entitled to get married, vote, and buy alcoholic beverages.
  • This is Maria. She was born in Italy to Italian parents who trace their Italian lineage back 500 years. This means that when she was born everyone thought she was Italian. Until she grew a little older — old enough to tell everyone that she’s actually Japanese.
  • This is Juan. He was born to a human mother and a human father, so everyone thought he was a human boy. Until he grew older — old enough to bark and tell everyone that he’s actually a dog.
  • This is Mark. He has been a truck driver his whole adult life. That means everyone believes he drives trucks for a living. But now he’s gone to the White House to reveal that he’s actually the President of the United States.
  • This is Ruthie. She’s a transgender girl. That means when she was born, everyone thought she was a boy. Until she grew a little older — old enough to tell everyone that she’s actually a girl.


The third of those fits a rare condition called clinical lycanthropy, in which people believe themselves to be animals. “Canines are certainly not uncommon, although the experience of being transformed into a hyena, cat, horse, bird or tiger has been reported on more than one occasion. Transformation into frogs, and even bees, has been reported in some instances.”

The fourth of those could indicate schizophrenia, symptoms of which sometimes include delusions of grandeur. Approximately 1.2% of Americans suffer from schizophrenia., including the primary subject of the excellent documentary “I Am Another You,” which we watched last night.

The fifth of those is actual text from the book It Feels Good to Be Yourself, which some elementary schools have put in their library. You can read about it in a December 22nd opinion piece by Betsy McCaughey in the New York Post. Researchers have estimated that 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender.

UPDATE: Here’s a follow-up on the last of those topics from Dr. Erika Anderson, who was the first transgender president of the US Professional Association for Transgender Health.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 6, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Autumnal arboreal Austin

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On December 8th along the southern fringe of Balcones District Park I noticed several trees putting on a pretty fall display. Not sure what kind of tree they were, I queried Facebook’s Texas Flora group. Wesley Franks replied that he thinks it’s either Texas ash, Fraxinus albicans (formerly Fraxinus texensis and Fraxinus americana ssp. texensis), or Mexican ash, Fraxinus berlandiera. Both are native in Austin. He added that the Mexican is more often planted. For a closer look at some of the leaves, click the excerpt below.

(The only other ash trees I’ve ever shown here were from a visit to west Texas in 2015.)

As we’d almost walked out of Balcones District Park and were just across the street from our car, I noticed how appealing a cedar elm tree, Ulmus crassifolia, appeared when I stood underneath it and looked up at the light coming through its yellowing leaves:

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Here’s a passage from Bobby Duffy’s Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything:

We not only have a built-in bias towards focusing on the vivid and threatening, we also tend towards thinking things were better in the past, and therefore are worse now. Neither of these tendencies is dumb, as they have their roots and our strong sense of self-preservation, including in remembering our history more fondly than the reality justifies.

But they have consequences, which the media and politicians exploit. The media know we are drawn to these stories. Politicians often exploit them to provide a sense of threat or decline. But that’s partly because both those groups are human too: journalists are interested in these stories themselves, and at least some politicians will genuinely believe their faulty facts because they ‘feel’ right.

It’s an effective sales technique, whether it’s clicks or votes we’re after. But it has serious consequences and is perhaps the main reason why our delusions are so important and dangerous. When we feel this false sense of threat and decline, it opens a space for someone, anyone, to sell us an easy solution—which is often that the current system is broken and we need to tear it up.

Our own starting point should therefore be to understand that most things are getting better, not to kid ourselves into accepting the status quo, but to counter a deep trait that leads us to a greater danger. In Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker shows endless charts with good things (mostly) going up, and bad things (mostly) going down. He quotes Barack Obama, who cuts through our biases to highlight that, when it comes right down to it, while our world today is very far from perfect, it is better than the past:

“If you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you did not know ahead of time who you would be—you didn’t know whether you were going to be born into a wealthy family or a poor family, what country you’d be born in, whether you were going to be a man or a woman—if you had to choose blindly what moment you’d want to be born, you’d choose now.”

And speaking of Steven Pinker, FAIR (The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism) hosted an hour-and-a-half discussion between him and Melissa Chen that you’re welcome to watch. Both are on FAIR’s Board of Advisors.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 20, 2021 at 4:31 AM

Another way-out-of-season wildflower

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Far outnumbering the lone way-out-of season bluebonnet I photographed along Mopac on December 9th were the many Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia) on the same embankment. I saw plenty of these flowers, along with lots of other Engelmann daisy plants that looked fresh and healthy but hadn’t yet produced any flowers. Marshall Enquist gives the normal blooming season for the species as March through July, so these Engelmann daisies were only a little less of a rarity in December than the bluebonnet. This season’s first good frost on December 11th apparently didn’t hurt the Engelmann daisies because I’m still seeing plenty of them flowering along Mopac.

Both pictures show the typical concave (pinched-in) configuration of the ray florets as a bud opens.

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The other day we watched the film Makala, which means ‘charcoal’ in Swahili. The documentary follows Kasongo, a rural Congolese man who ekes out a bare living laboriously cutting down trees, turning the wood into charcoal, and trekking that charcoal to a town to sell it. If you want to appreciate how good we have it in first-world countries, watch Makala. To learn more about the movie, you can read a review by Roger Ebert.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 18, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Insects on goldenrod

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From the morning of November 9th on the shore of the Riata Trace Pond, here are two views of flowering goldenrod plants, probably Solidago altissima. In the top photograph you may strain your eyes to make out the Ailanthus webworm moth (which I didn’t even notice when I took the picture), but you sure can’t miss the umbrella paper wasp (Polistes carolina) shown below.

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UPDATE. Last month I reported on the way the public schools in Wellesley, Massachusetts, were purposely segregating students by race. Now I’ve learned about intentional racial segregation in a New York City junior high school. Needless to say—except that I find myself having to say it—racial segregation has been illegal in American schools ever since the Brown vs. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2021 at 4:24 AM

Catching up with cowpen daisies

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I saw some pleasant cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) this fall but didn’t manage to squeeze any pictures of them into my recent parade of posts till now. The view above of a fresh flower head comes from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 11th, while the portrait of flower-backed seed head remains is from October 6th along Rain Creek Parkway in my neighborhood. Even now I’m still seeing some cowpen daisies.

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Happy Thanksgiving today to those of you in the United States—and for that matter to those of you in other countries. Here’s an article appropriate to the occasion: “Grandma accidentally invited a stranger to Thanksgiving. Now, they are ‘all set for year 6.'”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Craters of the Moon — in a way

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So you don’t see a moon or craters in these two October 19th photographs
of Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) and wispy clouds.

The title of today’s post’s refers to the location: Craters of the Moon Blvd. in Pflugerville.
Even now, in mid-November, some Maximilian sunflowers are still with us.

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I’m about a third of the way through Bad News, by the interestingly named Batya Ungar-Sargon, who declares herself to be on the political left. If you’d like, you can watch her in a C-SPAN interview from October 24th. Here are a few things in her book that stood out for me so far.

According to a sociological study of the American press done back in 1986, “journalists were getting more and more liberal with each new generation. Among journalists fifty and older, 43 percent said they were left of center and 23 percent said they were right of center. Of journalists between the ages of thirty-five and fifty, 52 percent identified as being on the left, but just 16 percent as conservative. And in the post-Watergate generation, 70 percent identified as liberals, while just 13 percent said they were conservative.”

“And yet, the trends the sociologists noted in 1986 have only accelerated today. In 1984, 26 percent of journalists voted for Ronald Reagan; by 2014, just 7 percent of journalists identified as Republican. By 2015, 96 percent of journalists who made donations to a political campaign donated to Hillary Clinton. When researchers from Arizona State University and Texas A&M University surveyed business journalists from the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Bloomberg News, Associated Press, Forbes, New York Times, Reuters, and Washington Post in 2018, they found that just 4 percent had conservative political views.”

Such a strong leaning in one political direction has colored the way the news gets reported. “It took all of twenty years for the stories on the front pages of the nation’s major newspapers to go from being descriptive to being analytic and interpretive, a shift that began in 1954 and was completed by 1974. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt gave this shift the justification is needed: By reporting his invented accusations of communism, reporters were amplifying his charges. The lessons many (liberal) journalists learned from the episode was that it was important not just to report the facts but to interpret them. That this interpretation would inevitably have a liberal bent was not the goal so much as it was a byproduct of their sociological make up.”

Batya Ungar-Sargon reports that as far back as 1963 perceptive people in the industry were troubled by the trend. “The shift from description to interpretation was not without its critics—including on the left. James S. Pope of Louisville’s liberal Courier-Journal decried the ‘Frankensteinish’ copy that intermingled the ‘writers personal notions’ with the facts. And John Oakes, the editorial page editor of the New York Times, wrote a letter in 1963 to his cousin and Times publisher, Punch Sulzberger, decrying the shift. He felt that the news side was encroaching on his territory by becoming increasingly opinionated: ‘I suppose I am butting my head against a stone wall; but again I feel I must call your attention to the editorialization in the news columns, which in my view is steadily eroding the Times’ reputation for objective news reporting.’ He was ignored.”

Of course the editorialization and slanting of the news have grown much worse since then. As recently as maybe eight years ago I subscribed to the New York Times but gave it up because too much of the reporting had become blatantly biased.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 16, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Two sources of fall color together

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Leaves of the mustang grape vine (Vitis mustangensis) tend to turn yellow or even orange, as you see here from FM 2222 just west of Loop 360 a year ago today. That the mustang grape above chose to change colors on one of our most red-turning species, prairie flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata), was a happy coincidence for this photographer. The second picture, taken near by, shows that mustang grape vines can climb high enough to cover a tree.

Individual mustang grape leaves sometimes turn yellow at other times of the year, as the one below
did on August 25, 2020; backlighting enhanced the colors and brought out details in the venation.

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“You need to understand history because history is all about you.” That was one memorable comment by Jordan Peterson in a nearly two-hour discussion with Heather MacDonald, hosted by Stephen Blackwood, that took place in February 2020 on the topic of higher education, and specifically about what the ‘higher’ of ‘higher education’ means.

If you have the time, I recommend that passionate conversation, which takes place at a high plane yet remains comprehensible and rewarding. (Jordan Peterson’s first answer is long, from about 5:00 to about 17:00 in the video, so if your time is limited you may want to skip that section.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 8, 2021 at 3:28 AM

Two takes on amberique bean

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Not so long ago I showed an August 22nd picture of amberique bean (Strophostyles helvula or helvola) and I mentioned not often seeing that plant around Austin. Well, on September 30th near Bull Creek I found some more. By then the yellowing leaves offered a bit of early fall color.

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

Non-fiction books used to have footnotes. As “foot” implies, each footnote appeared at the bottom of a page and corresponded to a sentence higher up on the same page. That made it easy to match the little number at the end of a sentence with the matching numbered footnote below. For whatever reason—perhaps because book designers prefer pages to have a single kind of formatting—footnotes have now mostly given way to endnotes, which appear as a group at the back of the book.

One immediate disadvantage to using endnotes is that if you want to see a note you can’t just look down at the bottom of the page but have to flip to the back of the book and hunt for the matching note. Complicating the search is that the numbering of the notes starts all over with each new chapter, so you have to know which chapter you’re currently in. While some books repeat the title of the chapter at the top of each page or double-page spread, almost no books tell you the number of the chapter at the top of the page. So first you have to thumb back until you find the beginning of the chapter you’re in so you know its number. Then you run into the same problem in the endnotes, where the chapter number is usually given only at the beginning of each section of notes; if the section of notes for a chapter continues for several pages, as often happens, then past the first page of that section you can’t tell what chapter the notes correspond to.

One easy fix for the problem is to put the chapter number at the top of every double-page spread of text and again at the top of every double-page spread of endnotes.

Another fix would be sequential numbering of the notes from the beginning of the book to the end, rather than starting the numbering over with each new chapter—just as page numbers are consecutive and don’t restart with each new chapter. With consecutive numbering of notes, chapter numbers become irrelevant and all you have to do is search for the note number you want in the section at the back. (Some people might object that continuous footnote numbers in a big book could run to four digits, but I have confidence that people who are reading big books with lots of notes in the first place can handle four digits.)

Another solution is the one adopted in the book I’m currently reading, Jonathan Rauch’s The Constitution of Knowledge. Note numbers do start over with each new chapter, but in the notes section at the back of the book, the top of each page tells you what pages in the book the notes match up with, for example “Notes to Pages 238–49.” That way, before turning to the back of the book, all you have to do is see what page of text the number you’re interested in is on, then look for that page number at the end. That eliminates the need to know which chapter a note refers to.

Or, best of all, publishers could just go back to good old footnotes and save us the annoyance of repeatedly flipping back and forth between text and endnotes.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Camphorweed puts on a show

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In Bastrop State Park on October 11th camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris) was putting on quite a display, as were Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani). In the first view, for which I got down low, those tall sunflowers played only a secondary role behind the dense camphorweed. The following picture shows that elsewhere in the park the supporting cast for camphorweed included showy palafoxia (Palafoxia hookeriana) and woolly croton (Croton capitatus).

And below’s a closeup of a camphorweed flower head against a flowering spike of Liatris aspera.

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I’ll bet you haven’t heard, as I hadn’t, about the mammoth cheese that the people in Cheshire, Massachusetts, made and gave to President Thomas Jefferson in 1802. “The 1,235-pound (560 kg) cheese was created by combining the milk from every cow in the town, and made in a makeshift cheese press to handle the cheese’s size. The cheese bore the Jeffersonian motto ‘Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.'” You can read more of the fascinating details in a dedicated Wikipedia article. Today’s supermarkets sell many kinds of cheeses, but I’ve yet to see any with inspirational quotations on them. Someone’s missing a great business opportunity, don’t you think?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2021 at 4:38 AM

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