Day 15: Pupation

Yes, that’s actually a word.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I raise caterpillars. I had two caterpillars that were growing well when the one in that post drowned, but later that day the other one began the process of turning into a pupa, which is the stage where its insides dissolve and re-assemble into an adult butterfly. And I was l fortunate enough to record video of that happening.

Some moths spin a cocoon of silk to encase themselves while they transform, but butterflies do not. Instead, they simply shed their skin. I say “simply”, but it’s pretty amazing.

As caterpillars hatch, they go through several stages, or instars, as they grow. At each of these stages, they shed their old skin to reveal a newer, bigger skin underneath, and each stage looks different than the others.

Black Swallowtail stages from caterpillar to butterfly
Eastern Black Swallowtail stages of development

Once the caterpillars have grown enough, they stop eating, and attach their tail end to a branch or other surface, and spin a sling of silk to hold them in place (see the “pre-pupa” in the image above). Over several hours the caterpillar just seems to be hanging out there, but there is a lot going on.

First, its body is detaching itself from its legs. It’s also sealing off its mouth and rectum. Then it begins forming a relatively tough, solid layer of skin underneath its existing skin. Once that skin is complete, the caterpillar begins to pulsate and wriggle, finally splitting its old skin and then shimmying its way out of it.

So when the caterpillar attached itself yesterday, I set up my phone’s camera to time-lapse, and left it running for several hours. The video is really amazing to watch.

If all goes well, this little guy will remain as a pupa for around 2 weeks, and then it will crack open that chrysalis, and emerge as a beautiful adult butterfly. I’ll be sure to post about that when it happens!

Deep Dish Pizza

OK, cards on the table: I’m a New Yorker, and I have a very strong attachment to pizza (and bagels too, but that’s another post). So I find myself in Chicago, staying one block from Gino’s East, so I figured it was time to finally try Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

I sat at the bar, and asked the bartender for his recommendation for the best intro to deep-dish pizza for a non-meat-eater. He recommended the O.M.G. pie, which has mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, so I ordered that. They offered a 9″ and 12″ version, and as I was by myself, I got the 9″.

My 9″ OMG pie

AS you can see, the pie came in its own pan, and the first piece was cut out for me. Subsequent pieces (I can’t call them “slices”) required cutting out with the spatula.

I was familiar enough to know that ingredients are upside-down compared to pizza, with “toppings” on the bottom, followed by cheese, and then the tomato sauce. It certainly looked tasty enough! So I dug in.

The first thing that’s odd is that you need a knife and fork to eat it. No self-respecting New Yorker would ever use a knife and fork to eat a pizza. But hey, this is Chicago, not New York, so I embraced that approach. And I must say, it was very tasty: the tomato sauce was fresh and bright, the cheese was rich and stringy, and the veggies were also good. But the crust?

A split-personality meal

It’s very odd: there is little or no crust underneath all the other good things. Instead, it’s all bunched up on the edge. And it isn’t anything like a pizza crust; rather, it’s a dense, cake-like bread. So as best as I could figure out, you eat the sauce/cheese/fillings, and then are left with a bunch of dense bread.

A hunk of dense bread

And the crust itself was good, but man oh man was it filling. I was barely able to finish half the pie. Contrast that with a 9″ thin-crust pie, which leaves room for dessert.

So what can I say? It was enjoyable, but it wasn’t pizza. I’d like to think of it as a tasty bread-based casserole. Now I can’t wait to get back to New York to experience the real thing once more.

Bag Claim Etiquette

This seems so simple that it should be obvious, but it apparently it’s not, so I guess I have to spell it out. When waiting at a baggage claim carousel, you should stand back a few feet until you see your bag. Not only does it make it easier for everyone to get a view of the bags, but it leaves room for unloading the bags. Don’t crowd the carousel like these people:

One guy has the right idea, but he can’t see the bags that are coming because the others are blocking his view.

On a recent flight I saw my bag coming around , and had to squeeze my way through the people crowding the carousel. When it came, I grabbed it and lifted it off in order to put it on the ground. In the process it struck one of the people crowding the area, and he gave me a dirty look. I gave him one right back. It’s simply rude not to give a fellow traveler enough room to retrieve their luggage, and when you see someone grabbing their bag, it’s up to you to get out of their way.

Hertz and the Great Tollway Ripoff

Last Thanksgiving we went on a wonderful holiday in the Florida Keys. We flew to Miami, picked up a rental car from Hertz, and drove away. There are a couple of toll roads along the way, but we had Hertz’s PlatePass, which would work on those toll sensors. I’ve used similar things with other rental companies, where a few weeks later I receive a bill for the accumulated tolls.

Not with PlatePass, however. Not only did I get a bill for the tolls (about $11), but a $25 service charge on top of that! Turns out that Hertz charges $5 a day (up to $25), even on days when you don’t run up any tolls! I’m stuck paying this, but you can be sure that I will avoid using and recommending Hertz in the future. Yeah, I found out that it’s documented on the website, but it wasn’t documented when I got in the car, nor was I given an option to disable it. So yeah, Hertz and/or PlatePass made an extra $25 off of me on that trip, but they will lose so much more than that in the future. This is what happens when businesses are short-sighted and go after the quick buck instead of developing long-term relationships with their customers.