Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘creek

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

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

Sunlight at the base of a waterfall

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Look at how sunlight illuminated the splashing water at the base of a small
waterfall along the Twin Creeks Historic Park Trail in Cedar Park on March 12.

 

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On television a couple of days ago I heard someone quote Voltaire: “Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” I wondered whether Voltaire really said or wrote that, so I went searching. On the Cato Institute website I found a 2020 article by Walter Olson called “The Origins of a Warning from Voltaire,” which linked to this passage from Voltaire’s Questions About Miracles (1765):

Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois : Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné ; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre cœur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également. Et c’est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée.

Formerly there were people who said: “You believe things that are incomprehensible, contradictory, impossible, because we have commanded you to believe them; now go and do unjust things because we command you to.” Those people show admirable reasoning. Surely whoever can make you be absurd can make you be unjust. If the God‐​given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to the God‐​given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been tyrannized, all the other faculties will be tyrannized as well. And that’s what has produced all the crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

So the version I heard on television is a pithier, stronger version of the original. Voltaire was criticizing religion, presumably Christianity. Two and a half centuries later, we can apply his analysis to the secular “woke” religion of our time, in which people are demanding that we believe things as absurd as that men can give birth. More about that next time.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Yet more from Colorado Bend State Park

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Here’s a last installment from Colorado Bend State Park on February 9th. The first post you saw from there showed separate views of the pool with green water and the orange-brown rocks in Spicewood Springs Creek. Today’s top photograph combines those features and throws in stark shadows for good measure. The picture below shows that I played around with abstractions. Hardly a surprise.

 What did come as a surprise was a little ice surviving at the base of a tree a few paces away.

 

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Michael Shellenberger’s timely article in Bari Weiss’s Common Sense on March 1st bears the title “The West’s Green Delusions Empowered Putin,” and the subtitle reads “While we banned plastic straws, Russia drilled and doubled nuclear energy production.” The article explains how Russia ended up in such a strong position and Europe in such a weak one.

How is it possible that European countries, Germany especially, allowed themselves to become so dependent on an authoritarian country over the 30 years since the end of the Cold War? 

Here’s how: These countries are in the grips of a delusional ideology that makes them incapable of understanding the hard realities of energy production. Green ideology insists we don’t need nuclear and that we don’t need fracking. It insists that it’s just a matter of will and money to switch to all-renewables—and fast. It insists that we need “degrowth” of the economy, and that we face looming human “extinction.” (I would know. I myself was once a true believer.)

Michael Shellenberger’s article is short yet provides all the figures needed to justify his claims. Have a look.

 © 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 4, 2022 at 4:36 AM

A new part of Walnut Creek

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Austin’s Walnut Creek meanders from northwest to southeast for 20 miles before emptying into the Colorado River. On February 19th we walked along a new (to us) portion of the creek adjacent to the western branch of the Copperfield Nature Trail. The flow of water over bedrock beguiled some abstract pictures out of me. Patterns just a few feet apart differ substantially.

 

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My commentary from February 12th about oil and gas became all the more relevant this week when the dictator of Russia sent armies into Ukraine to take over that country. The American president, in collaboration with European countries, imposed economic sanctions that will effectively do nothing. That’s because dictators easily outlast financial sanctions; look how many decades the dictators in Cuba and Iran and North Korea have survived in spite of sanctions.

One effective measure that the United States and Europe could have taken was to cut Russia off from the world’s SWIFT system, which lets countries interchange money with one another. The Europeans wouldn’t go along with that move because they’re so heavily dependent on Russia for oil and gas, which Russia would stop selling to them in retaliation for getting cut off from SWIFT. The United States could supply Europe with oil and gas—except that the current American administration has done everything it could since its very first day in office to strangle our country’s oil and gas production, including canceling the Keystone XL pipeline that would have brought in oil from Canada. In 2020 we were energy-independent; just a year later we weren’t. In the 14 months since the current régime took over, gasoline here has risen to its highest price in years, and some analysts are predicting that the war in Ukraine and its aftermath will drive prices even higher.

In Biden’s address to the world yesterday he could have announced the equivalent of an Operation Warp Spreed to ramp up American oil and gas production as fast as possible so that we could soon supply Europe with any sources of energy that Russia might refuse them. But we heard not a peep about any such measure. The people who comprise the most “woke” administration in American history won’t hear of it. Thus dogma doth make cowards of them all.

The guests on the Megyn Kelly show yesterday made similar points and added others.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 25, 2022 at 4:00 AM

More from Colorado Bend State Park

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Four days ago you saw a February 9th picture of the attractive pool on Spicewood Springs Creek in Colorado Bend State Park, along with a view of the creek flowing over orange-brown bedrock on its way into that pool. The photograph above shows how the water flowed out of and down from the pool.

I also played around with reflections in that lower portion of the creek. The white tells you the trees were sycamores (Platanus occidentalis), whose bright limbs you saw two direct views of not long ago. A little further downstream the reflections were more complex.

 

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Some of us remember the hit 1950s musical The Music Man, set in the fictional town of River City. At one point in the story a con man named Harold Hill sings a song about the potential for vice in the town, particularly from playing pool:

Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in River City!
With a capital “T”
That rhymes with “P”
And that stands for Pool.

Notice how the song makes a thing out of the first letters T (for Trouble) and P (for Pool). Now, in a strange jumping forward to today, Harold Hill’s initials, HH, came up in a February 21st speech given by Canadian Liberal MP—more initials, this time for Member of Parliament—Ya’ara Saks. According to Yahoo! News:

“Canadian Liberal MP Ya’ara Saks stated Monday that the onomatopoeia “honk honk” was a coded message meaning “heil Hitler.”

Saks gave her testimony before Parliament on Monday, where she lamented perceived government inaction regarding the truckers.

“How many guns need to be seized?” Saks asked from her podium. “How much vitriol do we have to see of ‘Honk Honk’ — which is an acronym for ‘heil Hitler’ — do we need to see on social media?”

“Honk honk” has become an unofficial slogan of the Freedom Convoy — a reference to the protesters’ use of horns to pester and annoy residents and government officials until pandemic mandates are lifted.

Saks claimed the onomatopoeia was an “acronym” for “heil Hitler,” a phrase historically used by neo-Nazis as a declaration of support for White supremacy. It is likely that Saks misspoke — acronyms are an abbreviation of a phrase by the first letter of its words.

Saks received strong backlash on social media from users accusing her of fabricating the hypothesized link between “honk honk” and “heil Hitler.”

However, Saks doubled down on her assertion the same day on social media.

“For those who think that ‘Honk Honk’ is some innocuous joke. I’ll just leave this here,” Saks wrote Monday.

Unlike the MP, I won’t leave this here, folks, no siree. Do you see how the cryptic apostrophe in the name Ya’ara has foiled what would otherwise be two consecutive A’s in the first name of the MP? Hmmm: definitely suspicious. And notice how there’s yet another A at the end of her first name, and how even her family name contains an A. No doubt something profound’s going on here, but so far even my Sherlock-Holmes-like prowess hasn’t let me penetrate that secret code.

But I’m pleased to announce that my Sherlock-Holmes-like prowess has led me to penetrate the truckers’ cryptic semantic veil. Yesterday morning it came to me in a coup de foudre that honk honk is actually code for beep beep. Oh, those sneaky, insidious, wily, truckers! Beep beep gives rise to the alliterative initialism BB, which was once a familiar designation for the SS—not the Nazi Schutzstaffel (euphemistically a ‘Protection Squad’), but the Sex Symbol Brigitte Bardot, who gave up movie acting in the 1970s, became an animal rights activist, and is still alive at the age of 87. And what is her nationality? French!! And what is Justin Trudeau’s heritage? It’s French!!! Do you get it now? Not yet? The truckers were indeed putting out a dog whistle—BB is well known as a dog lover—for Brigitte Bardot to come to Canada, stage a coup d’état—look at that French phrase!—and replace Justin Trudeau as the country’s prime minister. Aren’t you just barking mad at yourself now for not having figured that out on your own?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 24, 2022 at 5:42 AM

Colorado Bend State Park

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Not having been to Colorado Bend State Park in probably at least 15 years, on February 9th we drove the hour and three-quarters northwest to get there. After such a long ride, we unfortunately discovered that authorities had closed the rugged trail down to Gorman Falls due to residual ice and mud that made the going treacherous. To compensate, we trekked a level and easy trail to a part of the park along Spicewood Springs Creek that we hadn’t seen on our long-ago visit. There we found a pool whose water looked deliciously green in the day’s bright sunlight. That contrasted with the orange-brown bedrock over which the creek frothed on its way into this pool, shown below at 1/1250 of a second.

 

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I have never in my adult life seen anything like the censorship fever that is breaking out across America. In both law and culture, we are witnessing an astonishing display of contempt for the First Amendment, for basic principles of pluralism, and for simple tolerance of opposing points of view.

That statement by David French—versions of which I, whose adult life is decades longer than his, have also been making for the past two years—comes from a February 6th article that includes relevant quotations by Frederick Douglass and John Stuart Mill, along with links to other good articles. I do hope you’ll read David French’s “Our Nation Cannot Censor Its Way Back to Cultural Health.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 20, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Reflection as indirection for abstraction

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A recent post presented pictures of sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) with white bark. In the first of those views I’d aimed at a conspicuous part of my subject and zoomed in tightly to heighten the abstraction. Another way to go for abstraction is to look at a subject indirectly, and probably the most common way to do that is via a reflection. Here are two examples from January 22 of that approach to white-branched sycamores along Brushy Creek just west of the round rock in the creek that gave Round Rock its name.

 

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Do you think citizens have a right to know what their government’s employees have done? I do, and I hope you agree. The Capitol Police Department’s leaders disagree. They don’t want to make public the following things:

  • Email communications between the U.S. Capitol Police Executive Team and the Capitol Police Board concerning the security of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The timeframe of this request is from January 1, 2021 through January 10, 2021.
  • Email communications of the Capitol Police Board with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concerning the security of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The timeframe of this request is from January 1, 2021through January 10, 2021.
  • All video footage from within the Capitol between 12 pm and 9 pm on January 6, 2021.

The organization Judicial Watch is suing to get that information. Good for them. We the people have a right to know what our government does. The fact that the government is fighting to keep that information away from its citizens can only fuel suspicions that the government was derelict in its planning for that day, or worse, did something unethical or nefarious.

 © 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 16, 2022 at 4:37 AM

Yellow oval

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Along one of Great Hills Park’s creeks on January 1st I made an abstract portrait that played with faint colors and mostly vague shapes, plus the implied flow of the water.

 

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Abigail Shrier writes a Substack column called The Truth Fairy. In her January 17th piece entitled “Who Will Win America: The Cynics or The Believers?” she considers the current conflict in American politics. What’s new in her take is that she sees the battle as primarily between cynics, regardless of whether they’re on the left or the right, and believers, regardless of which side they’re on.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 25, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Zilker Nature Preserve

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In the Zilker Nature Preserve on January 13th I spotted the pod of a milkweed vine releasing its seeds. While no leaves remained to suggest what species it was, the most common vine in that family here is pearl milkweed, Matelea reticulata, so that’ll have to do as a tentative identification. Regardless of species, milkweed pods produce a chaos of silk and seeds that a nature photographer who prizes abstraction welcomes. Later we re-crossed the dry bed of Eanes Creek. The picture below shows the lower strata in a hundred-foot tall cliff carved over aeons by rushing water.

 

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True virtue is life under the direction of reason.

[M]en who are governed by reason—who seek what is useful to them in accordance with reason—desire for themselves nothing that they do not also desire for the rest of humanity, and consequently are just, faithful, and honorable in their conduct.

The most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts.

Freedom is absolutely necessary for progress in science and the liberal arts.

Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677); Ethics, 1677.

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

  

  

  

  

  

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2022 at 4:33 AM

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