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Non-blue bluebonnets

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Above, from our first 2021 visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 25th comes a bluebonnet displaying a purple as richly saturated as I think I’ve ever seen in Lupinus texensis. No extra charge for the tiny green nymph of a katydid or grasshopper. And below are two white bluebonnets scattered in the large colony we saw in Dubina on March 29th.

A theme I’ve been pursuing here for some days now is that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense,” which is a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense can be shown not to be true.

Take taxes. Many say it’s only “common sense” that if a jurisdiction raises a tax rate it will bring in more revenue. The truth is that sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t. For example, if a tax rate goes from 10% to 11%, the increase is small enough that the higher rate won’t be enough to cause people to take an easier job with a lower salary to avoid the higher tax, so revenue will increase. On the other hand, if a tax rate goes from 10% to 50%, a lot of people will lower their earning and spending because the higher rate is just too burdensome, and as a result the government may well end up taking in less than before. And, to take an easy-to-understand extreme, if a government imposed a 90% tax on earnings, many people would stop working altogether, go on welfare, and the government would have no income of theirs to tax. There’s a good example of that kind of work avoidance in the current pandemic: the American government has given out such high supplemental unemployment benefits during the pandemic that some people find they make more money by not working than by going to a job. As a result, some owners of small business have been having a hard time finding workers.

Another consideration is that if one jurisdiction raises its tax rates to be significantly higher than the rates in other jurisdictions, people and companies have an incentive to go elsewhere. That’s happening now as people and companies from high-tax states like New York and California move to lower-tax states like Florida and Texas, so New York and California will lose all the money they used to get by taxing those people and companies. If federal corporate tax rates are raised to the point that they’re significantly higher than corporate tax rates in other countries, some companies will relocate a portion or even all of their operations to foreign countries with lower tax rates, and the United States will lose the revenue it used to get. As a historical example, in Britain by the end of the 1960s the upper tax rates were so high that the Rolling Stones moved to the south of France and John Lennon moved to the United States.

In the opposite direction, sometimes lowering tax rates ends up bringing in more revenue by encouraging people to spend more now that they have more. Lowering corporate tax rates can induce American companies to repatriate earnings they’ve kept in foreign countries to avoid excessively high tax rates at home.

In short, it’s not always true that raising tax rates brings in more revenue. The sweet spot depends on many factors, and finding it seems more magic than science.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 13, 2021 at 4:46 AM

Not done with bluebonnet colonies yet

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On April 9th we visited a new place, Turkey Bend Recreation Area in western Travis County. The bluebonnets were still thriving there, despite some unsightly trampled spots where people had obviously plunked themselves or more likely their kids down for pictures among the best-known Texas wildflowers.

In the upper part of the second picture you see Lake Travis, which was created in the 1930s by damming the Colorado River. Given central Texas’s propensity for both droughts and tremendous downpours that cause flash flooding, the water level in Lake Travis has fluctuated a lot. In some years the land on which these bluebonnets are now flowering was under water.

* * * * * * * * *

Three posts back I noted that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense.” I said that’s a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense are easily shown to be untrue. In that post and the next and yesterday’s I gave examples of “common sense” leading to incorrect conclusions. Here’s another, this time from baseball.

Let’s compare two players on a baseball team, Casey and Roger. When the team finished the first half of the season, Casey’s batting average was a whopping .387 (meaning he got a hit 38.7% of the times he was officially at bat). Roger’s batting average during the same period was almost as good at .375.

During the second half of the season (in its own right, not cumulatively from the beginning of the year), both players declined. In that second half of the season Casey batted .246 and Roger batted only .216.

Summarizing: in the first half of the season Casey out-hit Roger, and again in the second half of the season Casey out-hit Roger. Who had the better batting average for the season as a whole?

Almost everyone will say that because Casey outperformed Roger in the first half and also outperformed him in the second half, there’s no doubt that Casey ended up with the higher batting average of the two for the season as a whole.

But it’s time once again for me to say hold your horses, not so fast. In fact it’s easy to show how Roger could still have ended up with the better batting average, despite trailing in each individual half of the season. Here are three charts that do the trick (I’m sorry WordPress doesn’t seem to let me control the formatting the way I’d like).

First Half of the Season
– – – –At-batsHitsAverage = Hits ÷ At bats
Casey3112 12 ÷ 31 = .387
Roger15257 57 ÷ 152 = .375

Second Half of the Season
– – – –At-batsHitsAverage = Hits ÷ At bats
Casey6115 15 ÷ 61 = .246
Roger5111 11 ÷ 51 = .216

Season as a Whole
– – – –Total At-batsTotal HitsAverage = Total Hits ÷ Total At bats
Casey31 + 61 = 9212 + 15 =27 27 ÷ 92 = .293
Roger152 + 51 = 20357 + 11 = 68 68 ÷ 203 = .334

So you see Roger did significantly better than Casey for the season as a whole even though Roger had a lower average in each individual half! This is an example of the very interesting phenomenon known as Simpson’s Paradox. What throws people’s “common sense” off here is that Roger had a lot more at-bats than Casey, especially in the first half of the season, when Roger was batting extremely well. You could say that the players were weighted differently. This is akin to the example a few posts back about average rates of speed while driving, where more time was spent at a slow speed than at a fast one. This baseball example is another one that shows you can’t average averages.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 11, 2021 at 4:45 AM

Bluebonnet in the fall

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The warm autumn in Austin this year has led to various “spring” wildflowers blooming out of season. So it was for this bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on October 23rd, which had risen from its basal rosette and was already forming an inflorescence. The behaving-as-expected, which is to say seasonal, flowers in the background were purple fall asters (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium). Oh well, now I guess I’ll have to break down and show you a picture of them in their own right, too.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2020 at 4:21 AM

Bluebonnet pod forming

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Soft hairs cover the seed pods of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), as you see in this pod that’s still forming.
I lucked out in getting one of the palmate leaves to serve as a pleasantly unfocused background
in this March 18th portrait from the embankment of Mopac at Braker Lane.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 24, 2020 at 4:49 PM

Greenthreads among the bluebonnets

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One of Austin’s most common wildflowers is Thelesperma filifolium, which has yellow-orange flowers but is called greenthread because of its threadlike leaves. This year greenthread flowers began appearing along the edges of highways in my part of town in January; the flowers have become more conspicuous since then. The view above is from March 18th at the intersection of Mopac and Braker Lane. Last spring the people in charge of mowing prematurely cut down all the wildflowers along the entire length of Mopac, so in spite of overcast, occasional slight drizzle, and a breeze, I went out to get some pictures in case the opportunity didn’t last.

The arc of greenthreads shown below especially caught my attention.

Of course the bluish-purple flowers are bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2020 at 4:31 PM

Bluebonnet colony with Engelmann daisies

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Click to enlarge.

Here’s a colony of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) along I-35 in far north Austin yesterday.
The few yellow flowers are Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia).
Below is a closer look at one of the Engelmann daisies.
Notice the buds’ pinched look as they open.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 18, 2020 at 4:33 PM

First bluebonnets for 2020

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I photographed my first bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) this year
on February 29th along the Capital of Texas Highway at the Arboretum.
The breeze blew briskly, and I struggled getting my head and the camera
low enough to play the flowers off against the clouds. Somehow I managed.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 2, 2020 at 4:40 AM

Huisache tree flowering in a field of bluebonnets

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Along FM 1470 northeast of Poteet on March 21st I found this flowering huisache tree at telephoto length in a large field of bluebonnets (probably Lupinus subcarnosus) and Texas groundsel (Senecio ampullaceus). Huisaches for the last several decades passed as Acacia farnesiana but recently became Vachellia farnesiana. What an inconstant world.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2019 at 4:37 AM

First bluebonnets for 2019

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Earlier this week I heard on a local television news channel that some bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) had already flowered along the Capital of Texas Highway near the Arboretum. Yesterday I followed up that lead and, sure enough, there were the bluebonnets. Despite the overcast sky and the wind I took lots of pictures, picking varied stages of development and of course varying my compositions. I chose to show this picture because of the orange-brown rock in the background, which added a novel touch, at least in my experience. As I see it, color carries much of the weight of the picture, and only the flower parts in the upper center of the photograph are in focus. Below is another use of selective focus, this time on a developing inflorescence.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 8, 2019 at 4:33 AM

Bluebonnets redeem themselves

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The previous post mentioned my disappointment, after driving over a hundred miles the day before, at not finding any large colonies of Texas bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis. In response, three people left comments about places east of Austin, rather than west, that had some good bluebonnet displays. Within a few hours I followed up on the first lead, by Agnes Plutino, about Sam Houston Avenue in Georgetown. I drove east along it to TX 130, where I took the picture you see here. The red flowers are Indian paintbrushes, Castilleja indivisa.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 6, 2018 at 4:40 AM

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