Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘Burnet County

More from Shaffer Bend

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Last Thursday’s post was the first ever to feature pictures from the Shaffer Bend Recreation Area along the Colorado River a little east of Marble Falls in Burnet County. During our inaugural April 19th visit I got to see a few huisache daisies, Amblyolepis setigera, a species I don’t find in Austin. The most recent time I showed you some was last year, when you saw a whole colony flowering in a place close to Shaffer Bend. Above are a huisache daisy bud and open flower head; the picture below shows an intermediate stage.

 

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In a post a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the Latin word for ‘head,’ caput, led to the English word capital. A state’s or a country’s capital is metaphorically its “head” city. In a different metaphorical usage, capital is money that we accumulate to “head up” or “head into” a new business.

As the Latin spoken in ancient Gaul evolved over hundreds and hundreds of years, caput gradually got transformed into Old French chief. (Yes, words can change that much over long periods.) The Old French noun chief retained the literal meaning ‘head’ and also allowed for figurative uses. When Middle English borrowed chief, it already had its familiar native word head for the body part, so it borrowed chief in its figurative sense of ‘most important.’ That’s why James A. Garfield could write in 1869: “The chief duty of government is to keep the peace and stand out of the sunshine of the people.” The leader of the nine justices on the Supreme Court of the United States is designated the Chief Justice; the other justices regularly refer to him simply as “the Chief.” For hundreds of years we’ve called the head of an American Indian tribe its chief. A large business has its CEO and CFO and COO, meaning its chief executive officer, chief financial officer, and chief operating officer.

With regard to managerial positions like those, the people running the San Francisco Unified Schools District have once again been up to mischief—etymologically a situation in which things have ‘come to a head [chief] in a bad [mis-] way.’ Out of supposed deference to the sensibilities of people in American Indian tribes, the bureaucrats in charge of that school district have decided to drop the chief from job titles like chief technology officer and chief of staff.

Whereas the chief responsibility of a school district has traditionally been to teach students, recent chief goals in San Francisco have included renaming schools and dictating what words people must and can’t say. The Wall Street Journal editorial “Chiefly Illiterate in San Francisco Schools” and the New York Post article “San Francisco school district drops ‘chief’ from job titles” will fill you in on the chief details of this latest ideological assault on language. Meanwhile, even before the pandemic, 27 of San Francisco’s schools were rated “low performing” and 9 were among the worst in California, which is in the bottom fifth of American states academically.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Red and green at Inks Lake State Park

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One reason I headed out to Inks Lake State Park on May 6th was that some of the prickly pear cactus flowers there in other springtimes have displayed more red than I see in their Austin counterparts. The top picture shows that was true this year, too. In contrast to that red, look at all the placid green around one inlet.

  

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Did you hear about how the imaging technique of photogrammetry has revealed details of cave art in Alabama from about 2000 years ago? “The motifs, which depict human forms and animals, are some of the largest known cave images found in North America and may represent spirits of the underworld.” Check it out.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2022 at 4:27 AM

“Bloom” patterns at Inks Lake State Park

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On May 6th we drove the roughly one hour west to Inks Lake State Park, which by coincidence we’d visited exactly one year earlier. Because of the continuing drought, the place wasn’t the coreopsis-covered wonderland we’d found there in the spring of 2019. One thing that caught my attention last week that wasn’t there when we’d last visited, in November 2021, was bright green algae in several places along the lakeline, where the algae contrasted in color with the granite that underlies the region. Shape-wise I saw similarities to the many lichens on the selfsame granite in rocks and boulders.

  

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The Bill of Rights consists of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Perhaps the best known of the 10 is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It’s become common these days to hear people say that the First Amendment came first because it states the most fundamental rights of American citizens. As conveniently symbolic as that justification sounds, it’s not true. An article on Thoughtco.com explains:

Drawing on the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and Virginia’s Declaration of Rights, mainly written by George Mason, James Madison drafted 19 amendments, which he submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives on June 8, 1789. The House approved 17 of them and sent [them] to the U.S. Senate, which approved 12 of them on September 25. Ten were ratified by the states and became law on December 15, 1791.

When the Senate’s 12 amendments were submitted to the states for ratification, the first two of them failed, so the remaining 10 that got approved all moved up two slots. What was originally the third of the 12 amendments became our First Amendment. To learn more of the details, including information about the two amendments that failed in 1789—one of which finally got approved two centuries later—you can read the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Striking twice

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They say lightning strikes twice in the same place. Rattlesnakes are also known to strike. The first but not the second came true on April 27th at the Doeskin Ranch. We’d barely begun heading down the main trail when we saw two women a little ahead of us who were talking and looking toward something they’d seen. I asked them what it was and they said a rattlesnake. Years earlier we’d seen a rattlesnake along the same part of the trail, so that’s what I meant by lightning striking in the same place. As for the kind of striking that people are afraid of from rattlesnakes, this one showed no such behavior. It lay calmly across the path, not moving and not even rattling its tail. After some minutes of various people looking at it and taking pictures, it slowly moved off the trail and into low vegetation, where it disappeared from view. (Click the top picture to enlarge it to twice its length. The geometry teacher notes that that also means four times its area.)

  

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Yesterday we watched an excellent one-hour C-SPAN program from the Steamboat Institute on March 12th. Dr. Bjørn Lomborg, author of the book False Alarm that I’ve highly recommended a couple of times, explained why we have to take into account not just the costs of unmitigated climate change but also the costs of the climate change programs meant to deal with the problem. Those programs entail costs of their own that can rival those of climate change. The first 35 minutes of the video are Dr. Lomborg’s presentation, and in the remainder of the hour he answers questions from the audience. I hope you’ll watch the program.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 9, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Crab spider on prairie paintbrush

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One of the flowers I expected to see at the Doeskin Ranch on April 27th was prairie paintbrush, Castilleja purpurea var. lindheimeri, based on what I found there last year (though a month earlier in the season, when things were on a normal schedule rather than the delayed one we had this spring). As I got close to one prairie paintbrush I noticed a little crab spider on it, as you see here. The plant bumping up against the paintbrush was white milkwort, Polygala alba, which was out in force at the Doeskin Ranch. Below is a somewhat dreamy view of white milkwort near a few sensitive briar flower globes, Mimosa roemeriana.

 

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“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

— President Harry S. Truman
Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States. August 8, 1950.
  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 8, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Blue stars and Barbara’s buttons

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Drove the 36 miles out to the Doeskin Ranch on April 27th in hopes of finding some blue stars (Amsonia ciliata). Found a few. Also found some flower heads of Barbara’s buttons (Marshallia caespitosa) with both a longhorn beetle (Typocerus sinuatus) and a bug of some sort.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 1, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Not a partridge in a pear tree

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Not the Christmas song’s partridge in a pear tree, but a bunch of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in a live oak tree (Quercus fusiformis) is what we found on January 3 while driving along Burnet County Road 330 for what I think was the first time ever. Branches blocked the line of sight to all but the highest-perched birds, so I zoomed in on a few of those. Click the thumbnail below for a closer look at the top pair from a different frame.

After I moved a little closer all the vultures flew away, leaving me to take a few more-is-more pictures of the scraggly live oak branches in their own right.

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It’s heartening that people and organizations have been working to counter the onslaught of illiberalism coming from certain sectors of our society. In posts over the past year I’ve singled out some of the people and organizations that uphold free speech and due process, and that work against “wokeism” and “cancel culture,” or whatever other name you care to use.

Following is a list of people and groups working to maintain the values of a free society. Some of these consider themselves politically center-left, some center-right, and others centrist or independent. The important thing is that all of them favor freedom, value open discussion grounded in demonstrable facts, and deplore indoctrination. The links below take you to sites where material keeps getting added (as opposed to books, which could make up another list), so you can go back to each site from time to time—even daily for some—and expect new articles.

Heterodox Academy

FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education)

Quillette

FAIR (Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism)

Bari Weiss

The Daily Signal

Glenn Loury

The National Association of Scholars

Megyn Kelly

Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying

Douglas Murray

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The Federalist

Sharyl Attkisson

1776 Unites

No Left Turn in Education

Peter Boghossian

City Journal

Steven Pinker

Victor Davis Hanson

Abigail Shrier

Zaid Jilani

Judicial Watch

Reason

Vivek Ramaswamy

Coleman Hughes

The Epoch Times

Jewish Institute for Liberal Values

Christopher Rufo

Jordan Peterson

Michael Shellenberger

Matt Taibbi

Glenn Greenwald

James Lindsay

Tara Henley

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2022 at 4:22 AM

Field of white, May delight

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From along US 183 in Burnet County’s tiny town of Briggs on May 12th, get a load of this dense prairie bishop colony, Bifora americana, with some firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella, as accessorizing bits of eye-catching red. Three days earlier I’d gone to a prairie parcel in Pflugerville where prairie bishop looked this good in 2020, only to find it paltry there this year. It’s another example showing the vagaries of nature.

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Imagine a couple born one day apart celebrating their 100th birthdays and 76th wedding anniversary.
You needn’t just imagine it.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2021 at 4:36 AM

Texas flax

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From April 9th along FM 1431 north of Marble Falls comes a colony of what I take to be Linum hudsonioides, known as Hudson flax or Texas flax, that turned the land yellow. Below is a closer look that includes some flowering and budding globes of antelope horns milkweed, Asclepias asperula.

The third picture offers an even closer view so you get a better sense of what these flax flowers are like. The yellow flowers without red centers are a kind of bladderpod (Physaria sp., formerly Lesquerella).

A theme I’ve been pursuing for over a week now is that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense,” which I find to be 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.

Here’s an example from geography. Suppose you have access to a list of all the rivers (including streams, creeks, etc.), in the United States, along with the length of each one (rounded to the nearest whole mile). For example, that list would include:

The Missouri River (various states): 2341 miles.
The Rio Grande (various states): 1759 miles.
The Ohio River (various states): 979 miles.
The Yellowstone River (mostly Wyoming): 678 miles.
The Cache River (Missouri): 213 miles.
The San Marcos River (Texas): 75 miles.
The Scott River (California): 60 miles.
The East Mancos River (Colorado): 12 miles
The Chelan River (Washington): 4 miles.
The Kisco River (New York): 3 miles.

There’d be thousands of rivers in the full list. The number for the length of each river has a first—and in some cases only—digit. Now here’s the question: of all those thousands of lengths, what portion (or fraction or percent) of them have 1 as their first digit? “Common sense” would lead many people to think as follows: “Rivers are natural phenomena, free from any human bias. They come in all sorts of lengths, from very short to very long, so it seems the length of a river is as likely to begin with any digit as with any other. There are 9 possible first digits (0 can’t be a first digit for a length), so on average 1/9 of the lengths, or about 11%, would have 1 as their first digit. The same would be true for each of the other possible first digits.”

Alas, rivers don’t have that sort of “common sense.” Dumb aqueous brutes that they are, they keep on going with the flow in their own stubborn way. If you could see the list of all the river lengths, you’d find that about 30% of them begin with a 1, nearly 18% with a 2, and so on down the line in decreasing fashion, with not even 5% of the lengths beginning with a 9.

Ah, you say, maybe that’s because Americans are recalcitrant and cling to antiquated measures of length like inches, feet, yards, and miles. Surely there’d be “equity” (oh, that horrid word, which means forced sameness of outcomes for groups) if we did our measuring in civilized kilometers rather than hillbilly miles. It turns out that if you converted miles to kilometers, most individual river lengths would end up having a different first digit than before, yet amazingly the first digits as a group would still follow the same distribution, from 1 as the most common down to 9 as the least common!

This phenomenon, which holds for many things other than lengths of rivers, has come to be known as Benford’s Law. You’re welcome to read more about it. (And we should add that Benford’s Law follows Stigler’s Law, which “holds that scientific laws and discoveries are never given the names of their actual discover.”)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 16, 2021 at 4:36 AM

Textures of different kinds

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At the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on March 24th I focused on textures of different kinds. The photograph above reveals a prickly pear cactus pad from which all the outer covering and inner cells and water had passed away, leaving only the sturdy structure that once supported them. In contrast, the picture below shows a rounded, colorful patch of lichens on a boulder.

For those interested in the art and craft of photography, I’ll add that the first photograph exemplifies point 4, and the second one point 15, in About My Techniques.

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A theme I’ve been pursuing here for a week 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.

Here’s a simple example from the everyday world of buying and selling. Suppose an item in a store goes up 50% in price and later comes down 50% in price. A lot of people would say it’s “common sense” that the rise in price and then the fall in price by the same percent would bring the item back to its original price; in this case the +50% and the –50% would cancel each other out.

Alas, that bit of “common sense” isn’t true. To see that it’s not, let’s give the item in question a specific price, say $40. After that price goes up by half (+50%), it’s $60. After the $60 price gets reduced by half (–50%), it drops to $30. The new price is less than the original $40 price, not equal to it.

Now let’s go a step further. In the real world, switching the order of two actions usually leads to different results. For example, mixing the ingredients for a cake and then baking them will give a very different cake than the one you’d get by baking the ingredients first and then mixing them. Waiting for an empty swimming pool to fill up and then diving head-first into it is recreational; diving head-first into an empty swimming pool and then waiting for it to fill up could well be fatal.

With those examples in mind, it seems “common sense” that if we go back to our example of prices and reverse the order of the two equal-percent changes, we might well get a different result. Specifically, what will happen if this time we first apply a 50% decrease to a price and then a 50% increase? Last time the final price ended up lower than where it started. By reversing the order of the changes, might the price now end up higher than where it started? As I used to say to my students: when in doubt, try it out. Beginning once again with a price of $40, if we reduce it by half (–50%) the new price is $20. If we now increase that $20 price by half (+50%) the final price is $30. The result comes out exactly the same as before: the original $40 price will still end up getting reduced to $30. Unlike many things in the real world, in this situation reversing the order of our actions makes no difference.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 14, 2021 at 4:28 AM

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