Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘Austin

Ripple reflections on Bull Creek cliff

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Not having been to the main section of St. Edward’s Park for a long time, I went there on the morning of June 24th. At one of the access points to Bull Creek I noticed that sunlight was reflecting off ripples in the creek and creating shimmers on the cliff. Those shimmers of light in turn appeared upside down as they reflected off the surface of the water on their way to my eyes and to the camera that I put between my eyes and them.

Southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) created the horizontal green band of foliage across the cliff just above the water level. Starkly uneven lighting (which I could only partly even out while processing the image) produced a strange effect: the ferns in the right half of the photograph are clearly reflected in the water, while the main group of ferns in the left half doesn’t have an obvious reflection.

 

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One of the most important developments in the study of racial inequality has been the quantification of the importance of pre-market skills in explaining differences in labor market outcomes between Black and white workers. In 2010, using nationally representative data on thousands of individuals in their 40s, I estimated that Black men earn 39.4% less than white men and Black women earn 13.1% less than white women. Yet, accounting for one variable—educational achievement in their teenage years—reduced that difference to 10.9% (a 72% reduction) for men and revealed that Black women earn 12.7 percent more than white women, on average. Derek Neal, an economist at the University of Chicago, and William Johnson were among the first to make this point in 1996: “While our results do provide some evidence for current labor market discrimination, skills gaps play such a large role that we believe future research should focus on the obstacles Black children face in acquiring productive skill.”

That’s from Roland Fryer’s June 2022 article in Fortune magazine entitled “It’s time for data-first diversity, equity, and inclusion.” That passage supports what I’ve been saying for decades: the single most important thing our society can do for underprivileged children is give them a good education. Instead, the people in charge of education keep making excuses and adopting policies which practically guarantee that those children won’t learn much. It’s a disgrace.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 30, 2022 at 4:26 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

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

Horsemint and standing cypress

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Compared to the previous post from May 30th along Balcones Woods Dr., this time the standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) in the picture above brings up the rear, while a horsemint (Monarda citriodora) dominates the foreground. But how could I not show you some more of standing cypress’s rich red? Below, an arc of its buds harmonizes in shape and contrasts in color with the arcs of its leaves.

 

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Regarding San Francisco voters’ recall this week of the city’s district attorney, who’d for years been refusing to adequately prosecute many criminals, including violent ones, Peggy Noonan had an editorial in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Personifying the majority of voters, she wrote:

We won’t let our city go down. We won’t accept the idea of steady deterioration. We will fight the imposition of abstract laws reflecting the abstract theories of people for whom life has always been abstract and theoretical. We can’t afford to be abstract and theoretical, we live real lives. We wish to be allowed to walk the streets unmolested and with confidence. This isn’t too much to ask. It is the bare minimum.

Speaking for herself, she continued:

Progressive politicians have been around long enough running cities that some distinguishing characteristics can be noted. One is they don’t listen to anybody. To stop them you have to fire them. They’re not like normal politicians who have some give, who tack this way and that. Progressive politicians have no doubt, no self-correcting mechanism.

Another characteristic: They are more loyal to theory than to people. If the people don’t like the theories the progressives impose, that’s too bad; the theory is pre-eminent.

Progressives say: We are changing all rules on arrest and incarceration because they are bad for minority groups.

The minority groups say that sounds good in the abstract but let’s make sure it’s good in the particular.

It proves not to be. The minority groups say: Stop.

The progressive says: You have to like what we’re doing, it’s good for you! What are you, racist?

The minority groups say: We’re going to fire you.

No you’re not, don’t be ridiculous.

Watch.

And they fire him. And he’s shocked.

Here’s the third distinguishing characteristic: The progressive can’t understand why. He tells reporters the voters are “in a bad mood” because of inflation and housing costs.

A final characteristic of progressive politicians is that they tend to be high-IQ stupid people. They are bright and well-educated but can’t comprehend the implications of policy. They don’t understand that if an 18-year-old is repeatedly arrested for assaulting people on the street and repeatedly let go, his thought may not go in the direction of, “What a gracious and merciful society I live in, I will do more to live up to it.” It is more likely he will think, “I can assault anyone and get away with it. They are afraid of me.”

Criminals calculate. Normal people know this and anticipate it. It is a great eccentricity of progressive politicians that they can’t.

So I do think America is on a campaign to remove them, one by one. And this is good.

You’re welcome to read the full editorial, which includes Peggy Noonan’s equal-opportunity thoughts on what progressives’ opponents can do better, too.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 11, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Mostly about color

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Driving along Balcones Woods Dr. on May 30th I pulled over, as I’d done several times in recent years, by a house with wildflowers growing along the street and in the front yard. What particularly drew my attention was several flowering Ipomopsis rubra plants, known as standing cypress or Texas plume. Along with photographs taken at small apertures to keep as many things sharp as possible, I experimented with broad apertures for shallow depth of field. In this view I aimed down and managed to line up a standing cypress flower with a firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) on the ground below it. I ended up with a portrait as saturated in color as it was soft in details, with just a few key details in focus.

 

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“California Court Rules That Bees Are Fish”

You’ll be forgiven for assuming that headline comes from a satirical publication like The Babylon Bee or The Onion. It doesn’t. It’s a headline from Reason, where you can read the full story. Heck, in a semantic world where people with male genitalia command us to unqualifiedly consider them women and where equity means the unequal treatment of people, then of course bees are fish. Just like I’m an airplane.

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 10, 2022 at 4:28 AM

The straight and narrow

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The long flower spikes of gulf vervain, Verbena xutha, can curve a lot. They can also grow erect, as shown here on May 23rd at Strathaven Pass and Wells Branch Parkway on the Blackland Prairie along the Pflugerville–Austin border.

 

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The title of today’s post describes not only the portrait of a flower spike but also what I believe is the right approach to reporting on the world: we must do our best to get straight to the truth and then report only things that we’ve verified are true. Unfortunately I hear many things cited in the media as facts that aren’t facts—sometimes even when the people making the false claims know that they’re false.

On June 1, 2021, the President of the United States announced: “According to the intelligence community, terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today.” Some people in the “intelligence” community may have claimed that, but the government’s own statistics show it isn’t true, as Jason Reilly pointed out on May 27, 2022, in the online British magazine Sp!ked. The article bears the headline and sub-head “Buffalo and the myth of America’s race war: Talk of rampant white supremacy is divisive nonsense.” Here are some of the relevant statistics that Jason Reilly (who incidentally is black) reveals in his article:

In 2018, there were 59,778 white-on-black violent crimes, compared with 547,948 black-on-white violent crimes, out of roughly 20 million total crimes. This category of crime, broken down along racial lines, is just over 90 per cent black-on-white. Those figures are not entirely typical, but the black-white ratio has been at least 75:25 in every postwar year I have ever examined.

Unexpectedly, similar patterns exist within the sub-category of ‘hate’ crimes. While a significant number of the hate-crime incidents serious enough to be reported to a police department and then the FBI (1,930 in 2019) do target blacks — again, crime is bad, and scumbags of all races should be arrested — it is also the case that blacks are dramatically overrepresented as hate-crime offenders. Out of 6,153 hate-crime offences in 2019, 1,385 (23 per cent) involved a black lead offender while 3,564 (58 per cent) involved a white offender. This is striking, given blacks make up just 12 per cent of the US population while whites, here including Caucasian Hispanics, make up 75 per cent.

African Americans represented a substantial percentage of the 666 hate attackers of whites in 2019, and both whites and blacks behaved badly toward Hispanics (527 total attacks), Jews (953) and gays of all races (746). Numbers of this kind, while obviously unfortunate, undercut the prevalent narrative of a nation riven by near race-war levels of ethnic conflict. All hate crimes combined – 7,314 – made up only an infinitesimal chunk of the full annual caseload of millions of crimes.

Actual research into mass shootings again uncovers patterns of rare, racially diverse violence. While the archetypal pop-culture image of a mass shooter is almost certainly a mentally troubled white, conservative young man in a black-stretch trench, an empirical database put together by Mother Jones reveals that the demographics of the crazed mass-murderer ‘population’ roughly match those of the US overall. Out of the just under 65 cases recorded between 1982 and 2012, which involved a lone gunman or pair of gunmen attacking strangers and killing at least four people, 44 (almost exactly 70 per cent) of them involved a white male perpetrator. This rate appears to have declined to about 60 per cent in the 65 cases added to the database between 2013 and 2022.

You’re welcome to read the full article, which includes even more statistics to refute the false and therefore malicious claim that “terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today.”

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 9, 2022 at 4:27 AM

Small waterfall abstraction

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On May 25th I stood over a small waterfall in a tributary to Bull Creek, aimed straight down, and did abstract takes at slow shutter speeds like the one-quarter of a second that produced today’s portrait. Some people see flows of white hair. I see flows of the imagination.

 

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But supposing that the world has become “filled up,” so to speak, with liberal democracies, such that there exist no tyranny and oppression worthy of the name against which to struggle? Experience suggests that if men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause because that just cause was victorious in an earlier generation, then they will struggle against the just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, in other words, out of a certain boredom: for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle. And if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace and prosperity, and against democracy.

That passage from Francis Fukuyama’s 2006 book The End of History and the Last Man was prescient, given the social upheaval we’ve seen in the past few years and especially since the moral panic of 2020. You may be interested in listening to a one-hour conversation between Francis Fukuyama and Andrew Sullivan from May 27th. Among other things, Fukuyama speaks about what he considers deformations of liberalism on both the political left and right.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 5, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Horsemint stages

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A native wildflower that typically begins to make itself seen here by mid-May is the horsemint, Monarda citriodora. The species was on schedule in Great Hills Park on May 15th when I took these pictures showing a formative and a more developed stage.

  

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Last year I mentioned that the incidents of institutions clamping down on freedom of expression have become so common in what used to pride itself as “The Land of the Free” that I could probably report a new suppression-of-thought incident every single day. I’m beginning to wonder if I was too modest: I might well be able to report two a day now.

I recently read about an incident in the Minding the Campus article “Free Speech Under Fire at St. Vincent College,” by Mike Sabo. If you read it, you’ll see it’s yet another instance of the DIE gang (diversity, inclusion, equity) working to kill off opinions they don’t like—hence the acronym DIE.

I studied a lot of linguistics in college and graduate school, along with a bunch of specific languages in varying degrees, from years down to several months. With that kind of language background, I figured I should do a little translating for you from Religion into English. “Diversity” means uniformity of ideas. “Inclusion” means exclusion of any person with an idea that contradicts current dogma. “Equity” means forced sameness of results, regardless of the competence or efforts of the people involved. Another way to say it is that “equity” means treating people unequally, with some getting favored treatment based on immutable characteristics like skin color or ethnic heritage and others being penalized for those immutable characteristics. Still another way to put it is that equity means inequality before the law.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 3, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Vertical and horizontal takes on maidenhair ferns

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After much-needed bouts of rain on two consecutive days, I headed out on the morning of May 25th to see how the land looked. My third and last stop was along the cliff on the west side of the Capital of Texas Highway a bit north of the Colorado River. Water seeping through the rocks there supports plants on the cliff face and at its base. In particular, for several years now that water has sustained a grand column of southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris), as you see above. The trees atop the cliff are Ashe junipers (Juniperus ashei), with possibly some eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana) mixed in.

My second stop of the morning had been close to there, at Bull Creek District Park, where tree shadows falling across maidenhair ferns and wet rocks had me taking a bunch of pictures.

 

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Gasoline prices just hit new record highs, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, inflation-wise. As consumers know, but federal officials seem slow to admit, everything is becoming more expensive. And while the purchasing power of our money is expected to erode more slowly in the months to come, getting from here to there will be painful. Unless you’re a politician looking for a sneaky way to cover the government’s bills, there’s nothing good about inflation, which damages the economy while doing the greatest harm to the most vulnerable.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline across the United States is currently $4.62, according to AAA. That’s up from $4.17 a month ago and $3.04 at this time last year. The White House wants to blame Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the soaring cost of driving (at least, when not hailing an “incredible transition” to green energy), which comes just in time to hobble Americans’ summer travel plans. But, while that war certainly squeezed energy supplies, prices were rising before troops crossed borders in February, and they climbed for all sorts of goods and services as money lost its purchasing power.

That’s the opening of the article “Politicians Cause Real Pain With Inflationary Policies” by J.D. Tuccille that appeared yesterday on the website of Reason. The summary beneath the title says “Inflation damages the economy while doing the greatest harm to the most vulnerable.” You can check out the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 2, 2022 at 4:31 AM

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