To each his own. To me my own.

Animals

The Red Velvet Ant

I’ve witnessed one. And I’ll never forget that day. Nor will I regret killing it.

I was telling a couple of friends of the story yesterday. It still tops the chart of the most interesting insect I’ve ever seen, and I told them had I been blogging back then there would’ve certainly been a 4-5 page blog about it. I figure, better late than never!

Several years back when I still lived at my old house, I pulled up our steeply inclined driveway and there it was. A little over an inch long, there was this monstrous-looking bright red and black striped segmented body taking a gingerly walk on the driveway. I got out of the car and immediately ran inside for the bug killer (sorry folks – if I had a do-over I’d reach for the bug-killer again). Back outside, this ‘thing’ had made it’s way over to the edging in between the driveway and our well-manicured lawn in an attempt to hide.

The monster’s coloring was so bright it looked fake, but I was quickly reminded wasn’t once it started charging me. The hairs were long and fine, and looked so soft, like velvet. I dared not get to close because the thing ran so fast towards me, I would’ve probably had a coronary if it had reached me and stung. I had to get closer to even start spraying, and when I did what I heard about made me faint. The thing was screaming. Later, upon reading up on them I found they do this when threatened. Well, I was threatening it all right – I’m just glad this thing didn’t know how scared I was. I finally got close enough to start spraying the bug killer – at first it didn’t phase the creature.

Once it started working, I didn’t let up. (All God’s creatures? Nuh.)

The ‘red velvet ant’, also called a ‘cow killer’ is actually a wasp, and is a member of the Mutillidae family. The female is wingless, which is what I encountered. They range in size from 1/8″ to a little over 1″. The two largest ones are the Satan’s (appropriately named, wouldn’t ya say?) one being black with a yellowish-white abdomen and the other red and black. The males have wings but no stingers, while the females have stingers but lack wings. Don’t let the looks deceive you – even though they look soft and silky, the heavy outer covering of body functions as a suit of armor and can only be penetrated with great difficulty.

These ‘ants’ (remember though, they’re wasps) vary in color. On the west coast, they are generally white, central America, they appear orange and black, and on the east coast (primarily the southern states) they are bright to crimson red and black.

Cow killer


The Shark Whisperer

I love marine life. Sharks in particular amaze me – seriously, every single thing about them. I’ll get engrossed in a tv special about them in a split second. For this reason, I wish I’d done better in school and went on to excel in marine biology. Either that or writing, my two true loves in life. 😀

I watched what was actually a rerun of a special the other night where CNN’s Anderson Cooper had the amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of free-diving with professional “Sharkman” Mike Rutzen. Free diving. This means cageless. With Great White sharks.

The Great White is by far the most dangerous and powerful shark known to man. It always blows me away to see how massive these sharks were, so witnessing a human being free-diving with them is quite remarkable. Click here to see the 13-minute special aired on CBS’s 60 minutes.

It seems that I’m always learning something new about sharks – guess I can attribute this to the interest factor in that I’m always paying attention! First, contrary to what some people believe, they are not blind or even partially so. Mike said that they actually like to make eye contact with humans! Can you imagine making eye contact with a Great White up close and personal? Also, a sharks eyes are not black, they are actually blue. As he and a great white swam past each other while making eye contact, he pointed the color out – and you could even see the sharks eyes turn to him. The sharks seem to ‘like’ him. Um again, these are Great Whites – the same predator depicted in the movie Jaws!

Mike searches for curious sharks... which he calls 'players'.

Now, he doesn’t just free-dive into any old Great White infested waters, mind you. He ‘feels out’ the sharks beforehand – deciphering their ‘personality’ or ‘current mood’. This is how he will decide if the shark is what he calls ‘a player’, an endearing term he uses to describe a curious shark. With all the criteria in place – in he goes.

Mike “Sharkman” Rutzen owns and operates his own dive company off the coast of South Africa called Shark Diving Unlimited. For a nominal fee you’ll be able to cage-dive, allowing you to safely observe the sharks for yourself (you’ll just need to travel to Africa to do it with him). I can’t think of a single thing in life more awesome than the opportunity to do this. Along with his faithful and professional crew, he operates the business with his vessel Barracuda – a 12.5 meter Lee Cat specifically built for Great White shark cage diving. Her twin hull makes her extremely stable… admittedly by SDU, a good thing to keep in mind if you’re prone to sea sickness! With a maximum of 21 clients each trip, the back deck is spacious with an upstairs viewing deck that offers a great vantage point to watch the action. All diving equipment, towels and picnic lunch are on board, as well as all required safety equipment including two 15-man liferafts.

Michael believes that he is able to decipher the body language of great white sharks – and proves his theory by altering his own body language to maintain control of the interactions. By making his body smaller, he can attract a curious shark; by making himself bigger in the water he can deter a confident shark. His golden rule is to ‘stand your ground – because everything that swims away from a Great White shark is potential prey’.

German filmmaker Ralf Kiefner made a wonderful film about Michael free-diving with Great Whites. The film is called Beyond Fear and was broadcast on National Geographic. Since the release of the film, Michael has become known world-wide for his unique understanding of Great White shark behavior.

By free-diving with these magnificent creatures, Michael hopes to increase awareness of the many shark-killers out there that still exist, as well as promote the ‘gentler’ side of sharks. He believes this to be a crucial step in the right direction in changing the public’s negative image of these majestic predators.

In his native South-African accent, Michael jovially states that he’s always felt he will be one of  those who die at a younger age. When asked why, he replied, “Well you know… I smoke too much, drink too much, and I like to drive my car really fast.” AC asked, “But it won’t be from a Great White?” to which Michael replied with a sly grin, “Naw”.

Information and photos derived from www.sharkdivingunlimited.com


Dirty Dreams

Another night with very little sleep. Seems like I was up every hour. And these damned dreams, I’d like to have a night or two without them.

Last night I dreamed I was in a station wagon with an old girlfriend, who happens to be the mother of one of my daughter’s friends. She was driving erratically, and took a course off the road and down an embankment into a nearby field of sorts. We almost flipped going down it. Once we got to the ‘field’, we were stuck – we got out and noticed there was mud literally everywhere. We were then greeted by a couple of little dogs, fortunately they were friendly. Thick, heavy, orange mud abounded all over the place. I was barefoot, and everywhere I stepped was this mud, going in between my toes. The saving grace was there were also puddles of water here and there, they were muddy as well but held enough water to rinse off – albeit temporarily. I was then introduced to four ladies who are the sisters of a dear friend of mine (a different friend, not the driver of the car).

Obviously the key word in this dream is Mud. I didn’t like the interpretation of it.

  • To see mud in your dream, suggests that you are involved in a messy and sticky situation. It also suggests that some internal cleansing is needed.
  • Walking in mud interpretation #1: To dream that you are walking in mud, suggests that you are feeling weighed down by a situation, problem, or relationship. You are feeling frustrated.
  • Walking in mud interpretation #2: To dream that you walk in mud, denotes that you will have cause to lose confidence in friendships or relationships, and there will be losses and disturbances in family circles.
  • To dream that mud has gotten on your clothing or body, signifies that your reputation is being attacked and called into question.

Well, enough already of the dream stuff.

I heard something that was absolutely a scream on the news this morning. There’s this new ‘company’ out there called Eternal Earth-Bound Pet, completely founded, operated and ran by atheists. For a nominal fee, this ‘company’ promises lifetime care for almost all domestic pets if their owners are transported to heaven within the next ten years. All of the atheists who are signed up across 20 states are self-professed sinners and blasphemers, and guarantee they will be left behind when the rapture comes and the chosen are lifted.

Earthbound Pets Website

The group insists that this offer is real, as real as we christians believe the coming rapture to be. The founders are striving to assure us believers that our animals will “live in loving homes, not in animal shelters or pet mills”.

You’ve gotta be kidding me. These idiots have no idea how their very own quality of life will suffer after the imminent rapture (that they are now monetarily profiting from) occurs. There will be catastrophes of epic proportions everywhere. Pain, grief, sorrow, depair, desperation….you name it. Do you think they’re gonna worry about living up to some contract for pets of the persons who will now be considered lucky and blessed in their eyes? It’s gonna be a job for them to be able to keep their own pets alive and intact.

So, thanks for the offer, atheists – but no thanks. I’ll continue to rely on the fact that my dear Lord has a plan implemented for our dearly loved furbabies, as he has a plan in place for everything and everyone. I will make no deal with the likes of you. The Lord created them, and upon his return for us I trust and believe our dear pets will be taken care of in a way mannered by Him.

And Him alone.


Group Effort

Nature fascinates me, I think that’s obvious. All of us at the office have this in common. It’s my opinion, I know but – it’s a wonderful thing to have in common. We’re blessed with huge windows that span approximately 12′ wide or more, enhancing our viewing pleasure to begin with. It’s all way too inviting.

About 10am on a Tuesday morning, from the hallway window most of us had already noticed more than a herd of Canadian geese headed our way from down the road. Okay, I know Canadian geese aren’t usually a favorite, and are often considered a hindrance. But, we’ve more than adopted all of the wildlife surrounding us and, well – I have stories. Some funny, some sad. On this day the group consisted of many more than I was able to get in the picture – more up on the hill to the left… and MANY more to the immediate right of me, on our lawn.

Amazingly enough, even being geese, these little guys were truckin’ quickly down the road. I ran back to my spot for my camera, then came the long sprint to the front door, and outside to the road even further. My coworkers stood guard from the front window. 🙂 Once I got within snapshot distance, it was SO funny… out of that long line of geese (so much more to the left and right of the camera that I couldn’t capture) they just STOPPED, with each of them turning their profile view to me. They were moving along so quickly…. but they just halted. It was hilarious, and this is how they appear in the picture.

This afternoon, I was talking to my 21-yr old daughter who was running a 100 degree fever, sick with a bug at home. I spied 6-7 deer outside my window (once again). Our ‘code’ at work for a mass deer sighting consists of yelling ‘DEER… DEER… DEER… DEER…’ until all the other employees have safely made it to the window. I ended up interrupting my daughters conversation to sound the deer alarm. I do think she understood our outlandish antics. 🙂


Good morning, deer

This year I’m having even more trouble getting into Christmas than last year, and that’s saying a lot. The push to get myself started shopping yesterday ran into about 4 in the afternoon. Needless to say, the stores were jammed. I could swear that this one crying child followed me literally everywhere I went. ‘Tis the season.

By the time I got home I was, um, feeling my age. I just don’t remember being so tired after shopping last year. I excused it by reminding myself that I don’t go out and shop for long lengths of time regularly anyway, that this was a ‘shock to the ole body’. Shock the monkey.

Still, I’m constantly reminded of the fact that Christmas is over commercialized. This makes it tougher by the year, for me anyway, to ‘get into’ the season. Just for once I’d like to plan a trip to leave on Christmas Day or even New Years and just get the hell outta Dodge for a couple days. No responsibilities, just leave it all behind. I know a couple of people who do this. One year I’ll do it myself….

I just went by the hallway window at work where five very graceful deer stood grazing on the front lawn. I stood motionless (for a second anyway) before running back for my camera. I returned with camera in one hand, cam-phone in the other – and right away notice that they’re onto me. All five were staring straight at me – it was so funny looking, an intoxicating moment to have an entire herd of wildlife looking straight at you. I managed to get a shot of two with my regular camera, but not the entire pack (sad face). I’ll post it when I get home to my cord. The deer just made my day, quite possibly my entire week. 🙂

I’ll letcha know on that.

Two of the five