Shallow Thoughts

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sun, 28 Aug 2022

Red Velvet Ant, and Other Interesting Insects

[Red Velvet Ant, by Mcevan] 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).

Read more ...

Tags: , ,
[ 12:58 Aug 28, 2022    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Fri, 08 Jul 2022

Not Only Not a State, but Not in North America Either?

[North and Central American rivers in New Mexico] New Mexicans are used to people thinking we're not part of the US.

Every New Mexican has stories, like trying to mail-order something and being told "We don't ship outside the US".

I had a little spare time and decided I'd follow a tutorial that's been on my to-do list for a while: Creating Beautiful River Maps with Python. It combines river watercourse data from gaia.geosci.unc.edu with watershed boundaries from the HydroSheds project using Python and GeoPandas, making a map that is, as promised in the title, beautiful.

Read more ...

Tags: , , ,
[ 18:05 Jul 08, 2022    More mapping | permalink to this entry | ]

Thu, 23 Jun 2022

Clicking through a Translucent Image Window

[transparent image viewer overlayed on top of topo map]

Five years ago, I wrote about Clicking through a translucent window: using X11 input shapes and how I used a translucent image window that allows click-through, positioned on top of PyTopo, to trace an image of an old map and create tracks or waypoints.

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 investigate a growing trail controversy in Pueblo Canyon, I discovered I didn't have a usable click-through image viewer.

Read more ...

Tags: , , , ,
[ 19:08 Jun 23, 2022    More programming | permalink to this entry | ]

Sat, 28 May 2022

Monday night: Tau Herculid Meteor Shower, Possible Storm

There's some talk that a usually obscure meteor shower, the Tau Herculids, may this year become a meteor storm.

For details, see EarthSky News: Will the Tau Herculid meteors produce a storm?

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.

Read more ...

Tags: , ,
[ 17:42 May 28, 2022    More science/astro | permalink to this entry | ]

Wed, 25 May 2022

A Brood of Small Cicadas

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..

[cicada from La Senda brood starting 2022-05-17] 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 (here's 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 branch.

Read more ...

Tags: ,
[ 20:01 May 25, 2022    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Fri, 20 May 2022

Sending Mail via Gmail using OAuth2 (2022 Edition)

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.

But now Google has announced they'll be removing support for password access on May 30, 2022.

Read more ...

Tags: , , ,
[ 12:32 May 20, 2022    More tech/email | permalink to this entry | ]

Tue, 17 May 2022

Time-Lapse Video of Pyrocumulus from the Hermit's Peak Fire

The Cerro Pelado fire that was threatening Los Alamos is mostly under control now (71% contained as of Tuesday morning), and the county has relaxed the "prepare to evacuate" status.

That's good, and not just for Los Alamos, because it means more people who can fight the much larger Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon fire, currently 26% contained and stretching over a huge 299,565 acres.

For those of us on the Pajarito Plateau, that means we're getting views of enormous pyrocumulus clouds towering over the Sangre de Cristo mountains from Las Vegas to just south of Taos.

I keep missing the opportunity for photos, but on Sunday night I took a series of images and made this time-lapse movie.


Read more ...

Tags: , , , ,
[ 12:25 May 17, 2022    More nature | permalink to this entry | ]

Fri, 13 May 2022

Mapping Fire Perimeters

[Fire map from mapping support.com] 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 Cerro 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.

Read more ...

Tags: , , , ,
[ 10:46 May 13, 2022    More mapping | permalink to this entry | ]