Fast Line at JFK

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Remember when you could cut the lines at the airport by using those new-fangled kiosks all the non-techies were afraid of? Then when you could check in at home and print your own boarding pass (and incidentally edit its PDF source code to bypass what little security the ID checks provided)?

I think those days are over. (Except for editing the boarding pass source code. That still works.) This morning at JFK the smart move would have been to wait till you got to the airport to check in. The line for offline checkin was nonexistent. The line for online baggage check was wrapped around three times and growing fast, and this was at 5:15 in the morning. Heck, you probably could have showed up at the airport with no reservation and oversized luggage, bought a one-way ticket using cash, and still gotten through the line faster.

The general public has finally discovered the wonders of online check-in, and in a completely predictable tragedy of the commons, it’s now just as slow as regular check-in used to be, except we’re doing more of the work. It’s like thirty years ago when everyone started using self-serve to save money, and soon self-serve prices had risen to where full-service used to be.

Long-horned Bee

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Black bee in flower
Long-horned Bee, Melissodes bimaculata
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2007-07-22

There are actually several species and genera of Long-horned Bees. They don’t have individual common names.

Who Says Homeopathy Can’t Hurt?

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

There’s a popular belief about homeopathy and other folk cures that “It can’t hurt”. You might as well try it. Sadly that isn’t true as this case indicates. It seems that “A chewing gum company turned cold remedy manufacturer” was selling a homeopathic nasal spray that destroyed people’s sense of taste and smell.

For a long time, I didn’t know much about homeopathy, and just thought it was some sort of mild herbal medicine. Then one day while I was waiting for a prescription to be filled at my pharmacist’s I picked up a pamphlet advocating homeopathy and started reading. It very quickly became obvious that it was total quackery.

Eastern Amberwing Female

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Eastern Amberwing, Perithemis tenera, ♀
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2007-07-22


Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Beth and I happened to walk by the City Cinemas Village East yesterday just in time for Ratatouille (well a few minutes late, but movies never start on time anyway) so we decided to stop in. That proved to be fortuitous. Ratatouille is a wonderful movie, absolutely perfect. It didn’t hit one false note. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s the best movie Pixar has ever made, and that’s saying something. It’s certainly the most adult movie they’ve ever done, despite the talking rats. Don’t worry: Ratatouille is completely appropriate for children too, but adults will enjoy this film on a whole different level.

Without giving anything away, the plot was original. Every character was fully drawn out, and a real character, never a caricature. And speaking of drawing, the animation has achieved a new level of fluidity and grace. Technically I don’t think there’s anything Pixar couldn’t achieve at this point.

I suppose Ratatouille doesn’t slap you upside the head with its originality quite as much as Toy Story did. However, you can’t hold that against it. There can only be one genre-busting original, and Pixar more-or-less invented the 3D-animated feature with Toy Story. However, with Ratatouille they’ve finally perfected it.

The only quibble I have isn’t even about the movie itself, but the previews. In the reverse of the usual situation, the previews made the movie seem a lot less interesting than it actually was. That’s a big reason I hadn’t gone to see it already. The previews made it look like just another silly animal picture, but really this movie is so much more. There’s a heart to this picture that a two-minute preview just couldn’t bring out.

If you haven’t seen it yet, go see it. You won’t be disappointed.

Broad-winged Skipper

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Skipper butterfly perched
Broad-winged Skipper, Poanes viator
Ridgewood Reservoir, 2007-07-14