Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘yellow

Take home a stance

with 10 comments

 

I’ll grant you the title of this post may seem a bit strange. That’s because “Take home a stance” is an approximate way to pronounce the scientific name of today’s subject, Tecoma stans. One of the shrub’s common names causes no trouble: yellow bells. The other common name causes no trouble, either, if you know that esperanza is Spanish for hope, and what color is more hopeful than yellow?

This member of the legume family produces pods whose walls are on the thin side and decay rather easily. When I went to photograph one in that condition I noticed a tiny snail on it that I estimate was about a quarter of an inch across (6mm).

 

  

I took both pictures alongside our house on September 10th.

 

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I recently learned about the website called Freespoke. It’s a search engine that has the motto “See Clearly. Search Clearly.” If you go to Freespoke’s home page, beneath the search box you’ll also see links to three treatments of many recent news items: one from a centrist organization, one from a leftist organization, and one from a rightist organization. In addition, there are some links to stories that the mainstream media generally haven’t covered. For example, when I checked Freespoke yesterday I found a link to a story about 77 newspapers in one chain canceling the popular 33-year-old comic strip “Dilbert” because its writer, Scott Adams, has begun to satirize “woke” culture in offices.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 23, 2022 at 4:27 AM

River primrose again

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The tallest of all our evening primrose species in central Texas is Oenothera jamesii, known as river primrose. I’d discovered a good colony of it in the bed of the North Fork of the San Gabriel River near Tejas Camp in Williamson County in mid-September of 2021, so on September 12th this year I went back there and wasn’t disappointed, as you see above. And here’s a much closer look at one of the low flowers:

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 21, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Mexican water lily

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Nymphaea mexicana opening at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 8th.

 For those of you interested in the craft of photography, points 1, 9, and 18
in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s portrait.

 

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Are you troubled by the rising tides of censorship and intolerance seemingly everywhere? Dismayed by the loss of complexity and nuance in discussions about, well, seemingly everything? Frustrated that we’ve somehow shorthanded all of this with an unfortunate phrase like cancel culture? Me too.

Having grown up under a military dictatorship in Pakistan, I know well what happens when freedom of expression is threatened and people are bullied into silence. It pains me deeply to see this happening in my adopted country. As a professor, attacks on open speech and academic freedom on campus are even more alarming. Hence my podcast: Banished.

Banished is a show about our reassessment of the many people, ideas, objects and even works of art that conflict with modern sensibilities. To be clear, I have no tribe and don’t feel the need for one. So join me as I look at threats to expression across the ideological spectrum — from book bans to anti-CRT bills to the increasing dogmatism of both conservative and progressive politics. Banished is where you’ll find interesting, intellectually sophisticated and thought provoking conversations about illiberal trends.

That’s from the welcome page of Banished, a blog by Amna Khalid that I recently came across. I call your attention to a July 24th post she wrote with Jeffrey Aaron Snyder called “Cancel Culture: It’s real and on the rise, on the left and the right.” The authors state that

cancel culture is much more than a ginned up moral panic. This becomes evident when you zoom out to look at the U.S. censorship landscape beyond a narrow, partisan frame. In this piece we will debunk the myths about cancel culture advanced by both the left and the right. 

You’re welcome to read the post, which fleshes out seven of what they consider cancel culture myths. The piece includes plenty of links to relevant articles.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 14, 2022 at 4:24 AM

Sesbania drummondii

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I most often see Sesbania drummondii, known as rattlebush, at the edges of creeks and ponds. On August 23rd, when I walked in the mostly waterless bed of the creek that flows through the part of Great Hills Park nearest to where I live, I found a good many rattlebush plants springing up right in the dry creek bed. No flowers had opened yet, but the readying buds caught my attention. Then I focused on one of the plant’s arcs of leaflets; graceful, don’t you think?

  

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Anyone in the academic humanities—anyone who’s gotten within smelling distance of the academic humanities these last 40 years—will see the problem. Loving books is not why people are supposed to become English professors, and it hasn’t been for a long time. Loving books is scoffed at (or would be, if anybody ever copped to it). The whole concept of literature—still more, of art—has been discredited. Novels, poems, stories, plays: these are “texts,” no different in kind from other texts. The purpose of studying them is not to appreciate or understand them; it is to “interrogate” them for their ideological investments (in patriarchy, in white supremacy, in Western imperialism and ethnocentrism), and then to unmask and debunk them, to drain them of their poisonous persuasive power. The passions that are meant to draw people to the profession of literary study, these last many years, are not aesthetic; they are political.

That’s from William Deresiewicz’s August 17th essay in Quillette, “Why I left Academia.” The subtitle is “I didn’t have a choice. Thousands of people are driven out of the profession each year.” You’re welcome to read the full essay.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 30, 2022 at 4:25 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Sunflower Sunday again

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Once again from August 14th in the northeast quadrant of US 183 and Mopac here’s a “common” sunflower, Helianthus annuus. The view from behind revealed a curlicue ray floret. Also notice the ant on the stalk.
Have a closer look from a different frame:

As sunflowers dry out, their rays tend to go from yellow to white, and curlicues become more common, as shown below. (And did you know that curlicue is just curly + cue, where cue comes from French queue, meaning ‘tail’? When people queue up for something they form a metaphorical tail.)

 

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I recently came across Gabriel Nadales’s article “I once hated America, but now I can’t wait to be an American.” The author is a former antifa member who had a change of heart:

To be sure, America has its problems. But as I learned more about America’s ideals and what it aspires to be, a country of equal opportunity, freedom, and civil discourse, I began to find a true sense of belonging. I realized that America is an imperfect nation defined not by our faults but by our accomplishments. It’s a promise to work toward greater equality and freedom for all, regardless of your skin color or background.

This equality of opportunity is exactly the reason I’ve been able to find success as a brown Mexican immigrant. In this country, I am judged by my merits, not my skin color. America has given me the equal opportunity and freedom to choose my own path despite my minority and immigrant status. The idea that I can believe in myself is incredibly empowering.

 

You’re welcome to read Gabriel Nadales’s full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 28, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Three takes on yellow

with 12 comments

Sunflowers weren’t the only yellow I found on August 14th in the northeast quadrant of US 183 and Mopac. Above is the fruit of western horse nettle, Solanum dimidiatum. Next you have a yellowing mustang grape vine leaf, Vitis mustangensis.

The sheen tells you it’s an upper surface. The fuzziness in the last picture indicates it’s the lower surface. 

  

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In 2016 in the New York Times, Samuel J. Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College summarized research on faculty political preferences and found that the leftward tilt in social sciences and the humanities was getting stronger. Citing studies by the Higher Education Research Institute, he noted that the ratio of liberal professors to conservative professors nationally by 2014 “was 6 to 1; for those teaching in New England, the figure was 28 to 1.” When restricted to the humanities and social sciences, it is difficult to find self-defined conservatives, period, as they fear losing their jobs, or if tenured, their promotions, or if adjuncts, their connection to universities whatsoever. In one small study, history departments were found to have a ratio of 33.5 to 1 of liberals to conservatives.

That’s from a 2019 op ed by Richard Vatz in the Washington Examiner. As these things go, 2016 and 2019 are ancient history. The pandemic and moral panic of 2020 accelerated the monopolization of one and only one kind of thinking at American colleges and universities. As others before me have pointed out — how could they not, when it’s so blatant? — the sacred and must-be-genuflected-to “Diversity” tolerates no more diversity of beliefs than does the dogma of any other hardcore religion.

You’re welcome to read the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2022 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

Sunflower Sunday

with 15 comments

A fresh and fully open sunflower, Helianthus annuus, brings cheer to many an onlooker—
and in my case an uplooker. This view is from August 14th in the northeast quadrant of US 183 and Mopac.

 

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Several times in the past year I’ve highlighted government programs that flagrantly violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I summarized them in a commentary in June that provided links to more details. The latest example of illegal discrimination I’ve become aware of is in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has colluded with the Minneapolis Public Schools to include a vile provision in the district’s contract with teachers. In most school districts, whenever there’s a teacher layoff, teachers are laid off in reverse order of seniority: teachers who have been working the least amount of time get laid off before teachers who have been working there longer. In the new contract, however, white teachers must be laid off ahead of less-senior minority teachers. Of course courts will strike down such blatant racism. The question I have is how the officials in the school district and the teacher’s union could even think of doing something so obviously illegal. Have they no sense of decency and fair play? Obviously not.

You can find more information in an August 17th New York Post article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 21, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Asymmetry may still be a symmetry

with 14 comments

In the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on August 14th I found a “common” sunflower (Helianthus annuus) opening asymmetrically, as often happens with this species and some others in that botanical family. While at this stage the uneven opening deprives the flower head of radial symmetry, it still possesses bilateral symmetry, with the line of symmetry passing through the longest and the shortest ray floret.

 

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An old cynic like me will tell you that if a Congressional bill is named X, then you can be pretty sure that the bill will not cause X to happen. What’s worse, the bill may not even have anything to do with X at all. The latest example in Orwellian naming is the “Inflation Reduction Act,” a monstrosity of over 700 pages filled with enormous “clean energy” boondoggles, tax advantages for the wealthy, and an expansion of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) so unprecedentedly huge that the agency will end up with more employees than the total for the Pentagon, State Department, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and CBP (Customs and Border Patrol). Spending over 700 billion dollars that we don’t have is highly unlikely to reduce inflation. Inflation will sooner or later come down, but not because of anything in the bill.

According to an August 12th article by Mike Palicz:

The bill imposes a regressive tax on American oil and gas development. The tax will drive up the cost of household energy bills. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the natural gas tax will increase taxes by roughly $6.5 billion.

The tax hike violates President Biden’s tax pledge to any American making less than $400,000 per year. Biden administration officials have repeatedly admitted taxes that raise consumer energy prices are in violation of President Biden’s $400,000 tax pledge.

letter to Congress from the American Gas Association warned that the methane tax would amount to a 17% increase on an average family’s natural gas bill. Democrats have included a tax in the bill despite retail prices for energy surpassing multi-year highs in the United States….

With gas averaging more than $4.00  per gallon across the country and only weeks removed from record-high prices, Democrats have included a 16.4 cents-per-barrel tax on crude oil and imported petroleum products that will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher gas prices….

The bill would more than double current excise taxes on coal production. Under the Democrat proposal, the tax rate on coal from subsurface mining would increase from $0.50 per ton to $1.10 per ton while the tax rate on coal from surface mining would increase from $0.25 per ton to $0.55 per ton.

JCT [the Joint Committee on Taxation] estimates that this will raise $1.2 billion in taxes that will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher electricity bills.

You can read the full article for further bad news about how this bill is going to take more of your money away from you.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 16, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Early cheer

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Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) normally reach their floral peak here from September through October. Even so, I occasionally see some flowering a month or two earlier, and that was the case on July 21st at Shoreline Dr. and Burnet Rd. I saw early Maximilians there last year, too, on July 31st.

 

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In the past year I’ve reported various attempts by the federal government and other institutions to flout the 1964 Civil Rights Act by flagrantly discriminating according to race. A few days ago another incident came to my attention. Nicole Levitt, a family law attorney representing domestic violence victims in Philadelphia, had been working for a group called Women Against Abuse, one of the largest anti-domestic-violence nonprofits in the United States. The Washington Free Beacon reports that as part of 2020’s moral panic

[the group] brought in several diversity consultants to conduct a racial-equity audit. The goal of the audit, Women Against Abuse told staffers, was to become “a fully inclusive, multicultural, and antiracist institution.”

By November 2020, the organization, which is ostensibly devoted to “serving all survivors,” was offering to pay “BIPOC” employees more than their white counterparts and discouraging black abuse victims from calling the police. Its employees were also at war with each other, bickering over whether Jews are a persecuted minority group and whether there is such a thing as a non-racist white person.

On that last matter, the group’s leaders asked all their white employees to sign a statement confirming that “all white people are racist and that I am not the exception.”

Nicole Levitt has understandably filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which she accuses Women Against Abuse of creating a racially hostile work environment. For more details you can read Aaron Sibarium’s July 22nd article in the Washington Free Beacon. You can also watch a four-minute video in which Nicole Levitt talks about the many abuses that took place at the ironically named Women Against Abuse.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 25, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Two species, three prominent colors

with 15 comments

 

Plenty of native species have been planted around the pond at the intersection of Gault Lane and Burnet Road. On the morning of July 7th I made this group portrait that includes a pavonia mallow flower (Pavonia lasiopetala), several purple bindweed flowers (Ipomoea cordatotriloba), and a yellowed leaf on the bindweed vine. The cordato in the species name means heart-shaped, and that wavily fits the bright leaf.

 

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I’ve mentioned a few times that a group of people who believe in the traditional purpose of a university—the pursuit of knowledge, whatever facts and truths that may lead to—are busy founding the University of Austin (UATX) right here where I live. An inaugural summer session was held in Dallas, and I invite you to read the talk that Bari Weiss gave to the first class of UATX students. It’s called “The New Founders America Needs.”

  

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 15, 2022 at 4:33 AM

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