Jenni at the Los Alamos Nature Center had an unusual request: if I saw any
red velvet ants, please scoop them up (alive) and bring them to
the nature center for display. They already had a few,
but wanted more.
Red velvet ants aren't terribly uncommon here in White Rock. I see maybe
one a month. They're gorgeous: well named, with bright scarlet
patches against black and a texture that looks velvety-soft.
There are several other species of velvet ants worldwide, but
only Dasymutilla aureola is common around the southwestern
US; rarely, I'll see a white velvet ant, also called the
thistledown velvet ant, D. gloriosa.
You don't want to try petting them to see if they feel velvetty, though:
they're actually wasps, and possess one of the most painful stings
in the insect world. The red velvet ant's other name is "cow killer",
because of how painful the sting is (the venom isn't actually dangerous,
and certainly won't kill a cow).
But the transimageviewer.py app that I wrote then was based on
GTK2, which is now obsolete and has been removed from most Linux
distro repositories. So when I found myself wanting GIS to help
growing trail controversy in Pueblo Canyon,
I discovered I didn't have a usable click-through image viewer.
The Tau Herculids come from periodic Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, which
in 1995, began to break up, creating lots of debris scattered across
its orbit. It's hard to know exactly where the fragments ended up ...
but comet experts like Don Machholz think there's a good chance
that we'll be passing through an unusually dense clump of particles
when we cross 73P's orbit this year.
I'm not a big meteor watcher — I find most meteor showers
distinctly underwhelming. But in November 2002, I was lucky enough to
view the Leonid meteor storm from
Fremont Peak, near San Juan Bautista, CA.
Our trees in La Senda have been ticking madly for about a week.
The noise had been worrying me. Some of our drought-stressed piñons
might not have enough sap to fight off bark beetles (we lost four
trees last year to the beetles). On the other hand, cicadas do make
clicking noises (like an orchestra tuning up, preparing for the symphony).
And the ticking noise came from junipers as much as piñons;
bark beetles are usually species-specific..
But eventually we were able to find a few of the tickers and photograph
them. Definitely cicadas, though they're noticeably smaller than the
big broods of 2014 and 2019, and greener, with bigger eyes
a 2019 cicada for comparison).
It's remarkably hard to locate cicadas to photograph them,
even when you're surrounded by junipers that each have several of them
clicking loudly. Once you see them, you can see the movement as they
make their ticking noises, and as they slowly work their way along a
There's been lots of talk on mailing lists for various mail programs,
like Alpine and Mutt,
about Google's impending dropping of password access.
Although my regular email address is on a Linux server, I subscribe
to several Google Groups. I use a gmail address for those, because
Google Groups doesn't work well with non-gmail addresses (you can't
view the archives or temporarily turn off mail, and unsubscribing
may or may not work depending on the phase of the moon).
I prefer not to have to sign on to Google and use the clunky browser
interface when I have a perfectly good mailer (I use mutt) on my computer.
I send mail from mutt using a program called msmtp.
But to post to a Google Group, I need to use Google's SMTP server.
(SMTP is the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol,
the way mail gets from one computer to another across the internet.)
Up to now, I've been using an msmtp configuration that includes my
Gmail password. That requires clicking through several Gmail pages to
enable the "Less Secure Apps" setting. Google resets that preference
every month or so and I have to go find the "Less Secure Apps" page to
click through the screens again; but aside from that, it works okay.
I've been using the Wildland Fires map from MappingSupport.com
to keep an eye on the Cerro Pelado fire and the larger (though more
distant from me) Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon fires raging in the Pecos.
It's an excellent map, but it's a little sporadic in whether it shows
the fire perimeter. In any case, as a data junkie, I wanted to know how
to get the data and make my own display, maybe for a quick viewer that
I can pop up when I sign on in the morning.
Also, Los Alamos County, on its
Pelado Information page, has a map showing the "Go" lines (if the
fire crosses these lines, we have to evacuate) for Los Alamos and
White Rock and I'd like to be able to view those lines
on the same map with the fire perimeter and hot spots.