Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘reflections

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

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

Drowned remains

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At Barkley Meadows Park in Del Valle on January 29th we walked completely around Berdoll Pond, at whose far end I did many takes on drowned tree remains. The nearby skeleton of the plant shown below (perhaps poverty weed) also attracted me.

  

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The press is an availability machine. It serves up anecdotes which feed our impression of what’s common in a way that is guaranteed to mislead. Since news is what happens, not what doesn’t happen, the denominator in the fraction corresponding to the true probability of an event—all the opportunities for the event to occur, including those in which it doesn’t—is invisible, leaving us in the dark about how prevalent something is.

The distortions, moreover, are not haphazard, but misdirect us toward the morbid. Things that happened suddenly are usually bad—a war, a shooting, famine, financial collapse—but good things may consist of nothing happening, like a boring country at peace or a forgettable region that is healthy and well fed. And when progress takes place, it isn’t built in a day; it creeps up a few percentage points a year, transforming the world by stealth.

Steven Pinker, Rationality, 2021

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 18, 2022 at 4:36 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

Palmetto State Park revisited

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After this January’s little freeze but before February’s horrendous freeze and snow and ice, we drove 65 miles south to Palmetto State Park, as you saw in posts from early this year. On a sunny and mild November 23rd we revisited the park for the first time since then. The palmettos (Sabal minor) looked pretty good, don’t you think? Where the top picture sets the scene and provides context, the closer view below leans into abstraction and follows a more-is-more aesthetic.

Back to nature: apparently the great February freeze hadn’t seriously hurt the palmettos. It’s normal for there to be some tan and brown fronds as old leaves die and new ones emerge. Such is the great chain of being.

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What follows is a bit long. I hope you’ll read at least the second part.

Last week we heard that a new Covid-19 variant is spreading. All the variants of the virus so far have been named with consecutive letters of the Greek alphabet. The most serious and now dominant variant is Delta, which is the 4th letter in the Greek alphabet. The latest variant is Omicron, the 15th letter in the Greek alphabet. English speakers are not nearly as familiar with the letter omicron as with the letter delta, which our language has borrowed as the name for the area where a river widens out and deposits sediment as it flows into the sea. Americans also recognize Delta Airlines, named for the delta of the Mississippi River.

Because people are less familiar with omicron, they aren’t always sure how to pronounce it. If you’ve listened to the news for any length of time over the past week, you’ve probably heard some people pronounce the first syllable ah, while others say oh. English dictionaries accept both (but certainly not the omnicron that some people have mangled the word to). I’ve always pronounced the first syllable oh because omicron is the Greek letter that Latin and then English borrowed as our letter o.

Omicron is more than the name of a Greek letter, it’s a description of the sound the letter originally represented. Omicron is o micron, literally ‘little o’ (think about microscope and microprocessor). Greek has another letter that’s also pronounced o; it’s omega, meaning ‘big o’ (think of megaphone and megachurch). Those descriptions correspond to the fact that Greeks in ancient times held the o sound of omicron for a shorter time than the o sound of omega, which was what linguists call a long vowel. From what I’ve read, Greek lost the pronunciation distinction between little o and big o a long time ago.

Omega (written 𝛀 as a capital and 𝛚 in lower case) is the 24th and last letter of the Greek alphabet (hence the alpha and omega, the first and last, of Christianity). How Covid-19 variants will get named after the 24th one, I don’t know. I’ve joked that maybe we’ll switch to Chinese ideograms, of which there are thousands.

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Yesterday American authorities announced the first detected case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in the United States. That caused something of a panic in certain quarters and has added one more consideration to ongoing discussions of pandemic travel restrictions. At a news conference yesterday, reporter Peter Doocy posed a couple of questions to White House Coronavirus Response Team member Dr. Anthony Fauci: “You advised the president about the possibility of new testing requirements for people coming into this country. Does that include everybody?” Dr. Fauci replied: “The answer is yes.” Peter Doocy followed up by asking: “What about people who don’t take a plane, and just these border crossers coming in in huge numbers?” Dr. Fauci’s response was “That’s a different issue.”

It shouldn’t be a different issue—at least not if you believe in science. In case you didn’t catch what an evasion Dr. Fauci’s answer was, and how illogical and hypocritical, I’ll be happy to explain. The Centers for Disease Control hosts a What You Need to Know page for international airplane travel:

  • If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status) before you travel by air into the United States. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.
    • Fully vaccinated: The viral test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 3 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country if you show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
    • Not fully vaccinated: The viral test must be conducted on a sample taken no more than 1 day before the flight’s departure from a foreign country if you do not show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e., your positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).

At the same time, people illegally coming across the American border from Mexico do not have to show proof of full or even partial Covid-19 vaccination. Unless they’re exhibiting obvious respiratory distress, they don’t even need to be tested for the virus. The current administration has let hundreds of thousands of illegal border-crossers with unknown vaccine status and unknown infection status continue on into our country since January, and in many cases the administration has even paid for their bus and plane tickets into the interior of our country. In sum, unvaccinated and untested non-citizens coming into our country illegally during a pandemic don’t have to follow the health and safety requirements that the American government imposes on its own citizens. That’s lawless. That’s hypocritical. And of course with regard to controlling a pandemic, it’s anti-science.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 2, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Texture, reflection, abstraction

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Onion Creek in McKinney Falls State Park; March 15, 2021.

And here’s an unrelated observation from Sense and Sensibility (1811): “…When people are determined on a mode of conduct which they know to be wrong, they feel injured by the expectation of any thing better from them.” Throughout the novel, Jane Austen’s comments about many of her characters are trenchant, acerbic, cynical, sardonic. Those observations are unfortunately lost in movie versions of the novel. Perhaps someday a director will make a version with voice-overs to preserve the author’s commentary. Here’s another passage:

“On ascending the stairs, the Miss Dashwoods found so many people before them in the room [at a store], that there was not a person at liberty to tend to their orders; and they were obliged to wait. All that could be done was, to sit down at that end of the counter which seemed to promise the quickest succession; one gentleman only was standing there, and it is probable that Elinor was not without hope of exciting his politeness to a quicker despatch. But the correctness of his eye, and the delicacy of his taste, proved to be beyond his politeness. He was giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself, and till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the shop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy, he had no leisure to bestow any other attention on the two ladies, than what was comprised in three or four very broad stares; a kind of notice which served to imprint on Elinor the remembrance of a person and face, of strong, natural, sterling insignificance, though adorned in the first style of fashion.”

How about “sterling insignificance” as a zinger?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2021 at 4:40 AM

A farewell to icicles

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Over the past month you’ve seen plenty of pictures here showing snow, ice, and especially icicles, courtesy of the frigid weather that descended on Austin and stayed with us for a week in mid-February. But now it’s fully spring, so a farewell to winter is in order. Here are two last pictures from the part of Great Hills Park known as Potter’s Place, which I visited on February 16th. Above, you see how numerous the icicles in that little cove along the main creek were, and the flash I used allowed the clarity of the water to come through. The picture below, taken by natural light, emphasizes the icicles’ reflections in water that now seems dark.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 19, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Icicle delights

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One highlight of my foray into Great Hills Park on February 16th was icicles, which our normally mild winters seldom produce. The ones shown here formed on a bank of the park’s main creek in an area called Potter’s Place, which is named after geologist Eric Potter, who carried out many projects in the park. It’s hard to believe how different this stretch of the creek looks in a rainy spring.

In some of my pictures I played up the icicles’ reflections in the water.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 21, 2021 at 4:30 AM

Winter woods reflected in pond

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Copperfield Nature Trail; January 17th.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 28, 2021 at 3:52 AM

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