Dasymutilla occidentalis

Velvet ant

Dasymutilla occidentalis, a “Velvet Ant” also known as the “Cow Killer” due to the severity of its sting, is actually a wasp. This is one of the wingless females.


I had significant trouble keeping up with her, as she was fully aware of my presence and not particularly pleased. Taking off my lens hood allowed me to get closer without spooking her, but she did her best to avoid the lens.

Most shots were too blurry, even at f/2.8 with my 60mm macro; anything under 1/1000 sec shutter was definitely no good, but luckily ISO 400 on the 30D is nice and clean. Depth of field was, of course, a major issue; look at this middle shot, where the eyes were the intended focal point, yet I just missed and focused on the back of the head. Uncooperative subjects can be frustrating.

I understand why ring flashes come in handy. Tracking this girl with a tripod would be impossible.


These wasps are parasites, and take over bumble bee nests and the like. I found myself in much peril chasing her across this patch of yard, as her hosts were more mobile even than she.

It’s all about what you can see

At home, I have a Dell 24″ LCD that is just wonderful for running Photoshop and Lightroom, or anything else graphical. Vista actually looks very nice on the huge, wide aspect (1920×1200) screen. It’s not ideal for programming, which, depending on the environment, tends to be a vertically-intensive task. At $800+, it’s a photo geek luxury.

For a long while at work I have opted for a 20″ widescreen (1680×1050) monitor (to give me extra horizontal space in Visual Studio) paired with a 17″ (a similiar height, 1280×1024) for reading docs. At the time, this was perfect work environment… for the money. $500+ for the 20″ over a year ago, and $200+ for the 17″. Bling, bling.

Only a year later, 20″ LCDs are well under $400 apiece… so I’ve obtained a Dell 20″ 4:3 (1600×1200) monitor for other tasks at work, and personally purchased a second one to complement it. 1600x1200x2 is very nice, but I’m also finding that, with the easy (and fairly efficient) rotational capability of the graphics chipset of this laptop, 1200x1600x2 is a possibility. Do I want to see 87 lines of code at once, or just a still-reasonable 62?

In addition, the entire set-up can be had for $700 or so, which is completely reasonable to someone who once paid $1000 for a 19″ CRT. Cheaper, and far more effective for a programmer, than a single 24″ LCD.

Landis scandal

I’ve been asked a few times over the past day what I think of the Landis doping news. First of all, I fear few people I know have any concept of how to enjoy endurance sports. Without overanalyzing a complicated situation, I will always respect the stage 17 feat, and I’ll be a Landis fan regardless of the ruling body’s decisions. Floyd won the 2006 Tour de France. I don’t want to believe he “cheated”, and a 1:4 T/E ratio doesn’t lead me to believe he did.

Elvis in San Diego

I think there were around fifteen Elvii that ran the San Diego Rock’N’Roll Marathon in 2006. One of them was pushing a boom box in a baby stroller, one was carrying a pace group sign, but the coolest were these two. I’d love to do this sometime, perhaps starting with the shades. Who says Elvis is dead?

Elvis, Susi, Jeri, Bo, and Elvis post-marathon 2006

Heroic Landis

After a collapse yesterday (no excuses given, which gets big points with me) Landis crushed the field to do the impossible. Coming from eight huge minues back, he’s now back within 30 seconds of the lead, and has a chance to win with the upcoming time trial. I’m now a huge fan. For sure, I have enjoyed this Tour more than any of Armstrong’s efforts.