Portraits of Wildflowers

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Posts Tagged ‘ice

Water white against blue times two

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On February 5th at Austin’s Bull Creek District Park I played off ice against a clear blue sky. On March 1st outside my house wispy clouds filled in for the white of the ice. Both ice and clouds are forms of water.

 

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Before she decided to strip him of all custody over his son, Drew—before determining that he would have no say in whether Drew began medical gender transition—California Superior Court Judge Joni Hiramoto asked Ted Hudacko this: “If your son [Drew] were medically psychotic and believed himself to be the Queen of England, would you love him?”

“Of course I would,” the senior software engineer at Apple replied, according to the court transcript. “I’d also try to get him help.”

 

So begins a February 7th City Journal article by Abigail Shrier entitled “Child Custody’s Gender Gauntlet.” You probably don’t know the extent to which gender ideology has been taking over our courts. If you read this article you’ll sadly find out.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 3, 2022 at 4:36 AM

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Looking back less distantly, more icily

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Yesterday’s two posts looked back 7 and 56 years. Today’s post looks back 23 days to Austin’s Bull Creek District Park, where I went hunting for icicles and came home with a good photographic catch.

 

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Check out the article “Ukrainian Women Bring Back Traditional Floral Crowns To Show National Pride.”
It includes 14 photographs of elaborate floral headdresses.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 28, 2022 at 4:36 AM

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An end to a week of icicle posts

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Along Rain Creek on February 5th I found two great icicle clusters.
Last time you saw one of them, and now here’s the other.

 

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Global warming is global. No matter where in the world oil and gas come from, the burning of them anywhere eventually affects the climate everywhere else. And yet the current American administration either doesn’t understand that globality or understands but ignores it for ideological reasons. As the price of gasoline in the United States kept rising in 2021 and into 2022—on February 10th it averaged $3.48, about a dollar more than a year ago—the current administration repeatedly asked OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) to step up production. The reasoning follows a sound economic principle: the greater the supply of a commodity, the lower its price generally gets.

But we shouldn’t have to be begging other countries to increase the supply of oil. Practically the first thing the new American administration did when it took over in January 2021 was cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline that in a few years would have increased the supply of oil coming into the United States from Canada. The administration also made it harder and more costly for oil companies to extract oil on our own federal land.

You probably aren’t aware, as I wasn’t until the other day, that throughout the 21st century the United States has continued to import oil from Russia. The quantity of Russian oil being imported has in fact now reached a record level and accounts for about 8% of all our imported oil. That’s coincidentally about the same amount as the Keystone XL pipeline would have carried once it went into operation.

It makes no sense for the United States to keep importing oil from the Middle East and Russia when we could get it from neighboring Canada and especially from our own land. As I said at the beginning, the effect on global warming is the same no matter where the oil that’s used comes from. We could have American companies and American workers profiting from our own oil, just as our country as a whole would benefit from being self-sufficient in energy.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 12, 2022 at 4:26 AM

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A new place for icicles

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On my way back from photographing ice at Bull Creek District Park on February 5th I just missed the green left-turn arrow to head home the usual way. Rather than waiting through an entire cycle of the light for the next green arrow, I continued north on Capital of Texas Highway and made the left turn onto Great Hills Trail. From there it was natural to continue along Rain Creek Parkway, where I discovered that an adjacent stretch of the creek hosted a couple of great icicle displays. The top picture shows one of them from farther back, and the bottom picture from much closer to create an abstraction. The formation reminded me of Dale Chihuly’s glass art, and I wondered to what extent icicles might ever have inspired him.

 

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The Covid-19 pandemic we’ve been living with for two years now has generated plenty of hypocrisy. You’ve probably seen or heard about at least some of the many people who’ve said they favor mask mandates—or in the case of various politicians even imposed mask mandates on their constituents—yet were then caught violating mask mandates. In an example from the February 6th NFC Championship football game in Los Angeles, the mayor of that city, Eric Garcetti, appeared without a mask in photos taken during the game. Garcetti “said he held his breath when he took off his mask to pose for a photo with NBA legend Magic Johnson.” If you believe he really held his breath, then I imagine you also believe in the tooth fairy, and in what presidential candidate Bill Clinton said in 1992: “… when I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again.” [For those not in the know, be aware that there’s zero reason to smoke marijuana if you don’t inhale the smoke.]

And in an example from February 4, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams visited an elementary school and later posted a picture of herself sitting in front of a class of children. Every child was wearing a mask; Stacey Abrams was not. I guess it’s my duty as a writer to remind you that children of elementary school age are at very low risk of harmful consequences from catching Covid-19. Abrams, on the other hand, is obese, and therefore at high risk of harm if she catches the virus. And I can’t resist mentioning that even though every child in the classroom wore a mask, CNN’s version of the photograph “masked” the children even further by blurring out the upper part of all the kids’ faces.

Hypocrisies of this sort have generated the slogan “Rules for thee but not for me,” which makes the linguist in me happy. Because thee and thou are archaic, few English speakers now know which of those two forms to use when. Thou functions as a subject, thee as an object: “Thou art trying to hide but I see thee.” Therefore “Rules for thee but not for me” is correct in its grammar as well as the point it makes.

In a related development, New York’s governor has lifted the state’s “mask-or-vax” mandate for indoor dining at restaurants but not for attending school. That has created the incongruous situation in which a bunch of 80-year-olds—who because of their age are at high-risk of serious consequences if they catch Covid—can share a maskless dinner at a crowded restaurant, while a bunch of 8-year-olds—who because of their age are at practically zero risk of serious consequences if they catch Covid—must spend their 3rd-grade day at school fully masked and spaced apart.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 11, 2022 at 4:31 AM

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Complexity

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Icicles had formed on densely complex bare branches at Bull Creek District Park on February 5th.
At 10 in the morning, flash made the sky look like night was settling in.

 

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I recommend Maarten Boudry’s article in Quillette about dealing with climate change. Boudry points out the ways that climate activists’ refusal to deviate from their orthodoxy has blocked moderate solutions to the problem. And while we’re on that subject, let me again recommend three books that take a similarly moderate stance:

False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet, by Bjørn Lomborg. You can also watch a one-hour interview with him about climate change.

Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why it Matters, by Steven E. Koonin. You can also read a December 2021 discussion he had on the subject.

Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, by Michael Shellenberger. You can also read an article of his about the power of nuclear power to greatly reduce carbon emissions.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 10, 2022 at 4:30 AM

The dripping

with 12 comments

One difficulty in taking pictures at Bull Creek District Park on February 5th was the rain of seepwater and meltwater coming down from parts of the overhang. Some places where I wanted to stand were therefore off limits, and even some places where I stood didn’t fully stop splashes from getting on the glass in front of my lens, which I had to wipe with a handkerchief from time to time.

If dripping caused problems, it also made for some good pictures.

 

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I think it was last year, though it could have been 2020, when I mentioned that incidents of ideologically motivated repression, canceling, firing, disparate treatment, intimidation, and the like have become so common that I could report a new one every single day. I haven’t done that—it’s a depressingly sad commentary on how far supposedly free countries have fallen—but I have reported some prominent cases. Here’s one from a few days ago.

Thousands of Canadian truck drivers—known as the Freedom Convoy—have been protesting Covid-19 restrictions. The truckers have repeatedly said they intend their protests to remain peaceful. Supporters started a fundraiser for the truckers on the website GoFundMe, which is probably the largest and best-known such site. On February 4, GoFundMe “froze the convoy’s official campaign, claiming law enforcement convinced the company that the convoy had become violent and unlawful. GoFundMe encouraged donors to submit a refund form….” Now, GoFundMe has the electronic trail of every donation, and the company could have issued an automatic refund to all the donors without forcing each one to apply separately to get their money back. What’s worse, GoFundMe also announced “that any funds not properly returned to donors” would be donated elsewhere. Some news sources said the redirecting of funds would be to “credible and established charities verified by GoFundMe,” while other sources said the redirecting would be ”to a charity chosen by the Freedom Convoy.” The first of those is worse than the second, but either way, GoFundMe would divert money to organizations the donors did not intend or authorize.

After donors objected, and after the state of Florida threatened to investigate GoFundMe for fraud, GoFundMe reversed itself and said it would issue refunds automatically—which of course it could have done from the outset, but questionably chose not to do.

And then there’s the hypocrisy. You’ll recall the riots, arson, looting, destruction (at least $2 billion worth), and even killings that came from Black Lives Matter “protests” month after month in 2020. In spite of the violence and death, GoFundMe allowed fundraisers for Black Lives Matter to continue. Talk about double standards.

After GoFundMe’s cancellation, supporters of the Freedom Convoy moved their fundraiser to the Christian site GiveSendGo, which soon reported what it believed to be denial-of-service and bot attacks. That’s the kind of world we’re living in.

And let me add that while protesting government policies is a right, I don’t think the truckers in Canada or anywhere else should block roads. There’s plenty of room to protest without impeding the flow of traffic and inconveniencing people.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 9, 2022 at 4:32 AM

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A second day of ice

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An adage tells us to strike while the iron is hot. For me it was strike while the ice is cold. The past three posts have shown you icicles in Great Hills Park on February 4th. The temperature got above freezing by that afternoon, which caused some of the ice to melt. Then the temperature dropped from the evening through the next morning, refreezing some of the water. Nothing for it but to head out again with my camera for more ice pictures on the morning of February 5th.

My first stop was Bull Creek District Park, where I found and photographed some “regular” icicles, including those descending from the overhang shown below. The surroundings added interest in their own right: mosses and ferns above, rock designs, textures, and colors below.

What really grabbed my attention, though, were the jumbles of fallen and partly melted and dripped on and then refrozen icicles like those in the top picture. Don’t know that I’d ever seen the likes of it, so of course I took a bunch of photographs.

The ferns in both pictures are once again southern maidenhair, Adiantum capillus-veneris. The Latin species name translates as ‘hair of Venus,’ and I’ve pointed out on other occasions that Venus, the lascivious Roman goddess of love, was hardly what we’d refer to as a maiden. English bowdlerized the biologists.

For those of you interested in the craft of photography, techniques 15 and the newly added 33 in About My Techniques apply to the top photograph in this post.

 

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As a follow-up to yesterday’s commentary, let me point out that after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world in early 2019, two main theories emerged about its origin. One hypothesis held that the virus had come from bats and crossed over to humans through contact in a so-called wet market in China, probably via an intermediate animal like a pangolin. The other theory was based on the observation that the epidemic first broke out in the city of Wuhan just miles from the only level-four laboratory in China, where scientists had been working with bat viruses; the second theory held that Covid-19 had been created in that lab and accidentally escaped.

To this day no conclusive proof of either theory has emerged. Scientists have tested many animal species but have failed to turn up the proposed “missing link.” Chinese authorities refused to let international researchers examine the Wuhan lab, and whatever evidence they might once have found there has long since disappeared. Some Chinese scientists in a position to provide evidence also disappeared.

As with so many matters in recent years, the origin of Covid-19 quickly became politicized. In mid-2019, as if a switch had been thrown, virtually all establishment sources suddenly began calling the lab-leak hypothesis a conspiracy theory and asserting—with no supporting evidence whatsoever—that the lab-leak theory had been debunked.

On February 2nd I read a substack post by Matt Taibbi and Matt Orfalea entitled “TK Mashup: The Lab Leak “Conspiracy Theory,” with subtitle “‘NOT MAN MADE OR GENETICALLY MODIFIED,’ they cried in unison, until they didn’t, as Matt Orfalea’s latest trip back in time shows.” Embedded in the post is that 9.5-minute “mash-up,” which is to say a collection of many brief video clips documenting the groupthink that took place. The video would be funny if it weren’t such an indictment of herd mentality.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 8, 2022 at 4:29 AM

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Some last ice on Friday

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An hour and a half after entering Great Hills Park on February 4th I’d made a circuit and was almost back out. Then I saw something I hadn’t noticed on the way in: the many icicles that had formed on the vines and slender branches just above a small waterfall. Call it an Art Nouveau chandelier if you like.

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You probably didn’t hear about a January 2022 Johns Hopkins University report in the journal Studies in Applied Economics entitled “A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality,” by Jonas Herby, Lars Jonung, and Steve H. Hanke. You probably didn’t hear about it because as of a few days ago, to the best of my knowledge, neither CNN, nor MSNBC, nor ABC, nor NBC, nor CBS, nor The New York Times, nor The Washington Post, nor Reuters, nor The Associated Press, nor USA Today, nor Axios, nor Politico reported it. That’s a lot of nors for institutions supposedly dedicated to the news.

Here’s the abstract of the study:

 

This systematic review and meta-analysis are designed to determine whether there is empirical evidence to support the belief that “lockdowns” reduce COVID-19 mortality. Lockdowns are defined as the imposition of at least one compulsory, non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI). NPIs are any government mandate that directly restrict peoples’ possibilities, such as policies that limit internal movement, close schools and businesses, and ban international travel. This study employed a systematic search and screening procedure in which 18,590 studies are identified that could potentially address the belief posed. After three levels of screening, 34 studies ultimately qualified. Of those 34 eligible studies, 24 qualified for inclusion in the meta-analysis. They were separated into three groups: lockdown stringency index studies, shelter-in-place order (SIPO) studies, and specific NPI studies. An analysis of each of these three groups support the conclusion that lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality. More specifically, stringency index studies find that lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average. SIPOs were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9% on average. Specific NPI studies also find no broad-based evidence of noticeable effects on COVID-19 mortality.


While this meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument.

 

The authors of the study all hold or have held positions in reputable academic and governmental institutions. I’m in no position as a non-scientist to determine the validity of their report, but their conclusion is so relevant to the pandemic restrictions we’re still living with that you’d think all the organizations I nor’d (past tense of my verb to nor) would want to discuss it, even if only to point out flaws in the study. Instead, they chose not even to mention the conclusion of a scientific study that contradicts the reigning dogma.

In related news, on February 3rd the Associated Press did report that Sweden and several other European countries are removing Covid-19 restrictions: “Among the measures and recommendations that will be lifted, Sweden will allow people to return to restaurants with no limitation on how many people can be there, how much space there should be or opening hours. Requirements for vaccine certificates and wearing face masks on public transportation will also be removed, as well as the recommendation to limit social contacts.”

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 7, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Ice medallion

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My ice hunt in Great Hills Park on February 4th led me to check out a high creek bank that had generated a slew of long icicles last February. No such luck this year—which is not to say nothing interesting was there: an irregularly shaped medallion of ice that had formed on roots dangling from the high creek bank caught my attention. Notice the “regular” icicle beyond it.

I tried out various compositions, including some like the one
below that incorporated reflected colors from the creek.

 

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A key adage from statistics warns us that “Correlation isn’t causation.” Just because one kind of a thing matches up with another doesn’t mean that one causes the other. A classic example points out the correlation among children between shoe size and knowledge of the world: the larger a child’s shoe size, the more the child is likely to know about the world. Of course it isn’t shoes that are increasing children’s knowledge. Shoe size among children is a proxy for age, with a larger shoe size corresponding on average to an older child. More time alive is the true cause of increased knowledge among children.

Another classic example is that just because roosters often crow shortly before sunrise doesn’t make their crowing the cause of the sun’s rising. Stop roosters from crowing, and the sun would come up all the same.

In Rationality, Steven Pinker’s latest book, he cites two amusing correlations: “A bored law student, Tyler Vigen, wrote a program that scrapes the web for datasets with meaningless correlations just to show how prevalent they are. The number of murders by steam or hot objects, for example, correlates highly with the age of the reigning Miss America. And the divorce rate in Maine closely tracks national consumption of margarine.” So if you want the divorce rate in Maine to go down, should you tell the state’s residents to stop eating so much margarine? Hardly.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 6, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Icicles on southern maidenhair ferns

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Little did I think on January 29th when Robert Parker posted a photograph of ferns in ice that I’d have a crack at the same subject just a week later. Cold rain and sleet came to Austin on February 2nd, followed by more than a full day of continuously sub-freezing temperatures. No way yesterday morning was I not going to head down to Great Hills Park and check for ice formations that the wet and then frigid weather might have created. Not far into the park I found the bulbous head of an icicle partly encasing the southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) that you see above. Another location offered up a bunch of icicles hanging from a cliff that also was home to maidenhair ferns.

 

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In the last post I brought up Alice Dreger‘s 2015 book Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice, and I quoted some scholars’ praise for it. Now let me quote the book’s conclusion (except for an epilogue).

If—as the investigative press collapses and no longer can function as an effective check on excess and corruption, and people live and die forever inhabiting self-obsessed corners of the Internet, and the government and the ad-selling Google industrial complex ever increase surveillance on us, and we can’t trust people in the government to be our advocates or even to be sensible—if we have any hope of maintaining freedom of thought and freedom of person in the near and distant future, we have to remember what the Founding Fathers knew: That freedom of thought and freedom of person must be erected together. That truth and justice cannot exist one without the other. That when one is threatened, the other is harmed. That justice and thus morality require the empirical pursuit.

I want to say to activists: If you want justice, support the search for truth. Engage in searches for truth. If you really want meaningful progress and not just temporary self-righteousness, carpe datum. You can begin with principles, yes, but to pursue a principle effectively, you have to know if your route will lead to your destination. If you must criticize scholars whose work challenges yours, do so on the evidence, not by poisoning the land on which we all live.

To scholars I want to say more: Our fellow human beings can’t afford to have us act like cattle in an industrial farming system. If we take seriously the importance of truth to justice and recognize the many forces now acting against the pursuit of knowledge—if we really get why our role in democracy is like no other—then we really ought to feel that we must do more to protect each other and the public from misinformation and disinformation. Doing so means taking on more responsibility to police ourselves and everybody else for accuracy and greater objectivity—taking on with renewed vigor the pursuit of accurate knowledge and putting ourselves second to that pursuit.

I know that a lot of people who met me along the way in this work thought I’d end up on one side of the war between activists and scholars. The deeper I went, however, the more obvious it became that the best activists and the best scholars actually long for the same kind of world—a free one.

Here’s the one thing I now know for sure after this very long trip: Evidence really is an ethical issue, the most important ethical issue in a modern democracy. If you want justice, you must work for truth. And if you want to work for truth, you must do a little more than wish for justice.

  

And that was in 2015, before the onslaught of religiously fanatical unreasoners and cancelers who hit us in 2020 and who have kept up their assaults ever since.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 5, 2022 at 4:24 AM

Posted in nature photography

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