Sunday, May 31, 2009

Star Search

We caught the new Star Trek movie this weekend. I've never been a big Star Trek fan, and this movie didn't convert me. It was enjoyable from a summer blockbuster point-of-view, but the story was pretty weak and most of the character development was devoted to laying out the back stories for Spock and Kirk and felt more perfunctory than anything else. Perhaps now that they've gotten that out of the way, the next installment of the franchise can do something a little bit more interesting.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Graffiti Bridge

The ruins of the old Michigan Central Train Depot is probably one of the most iconic symbols of Detroit's decline. Still, I had to chuckle a big when I saw my family name graffito tagged in front of the buildings crumbling facade.

It caught my brother's eye while looking through this photo gallery from the Detroit Free Press. He claims to have no idea how our name wound up spray painted in front of the depot. I've looked into his alibi, and it seems to check out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

I feel like I've spent enough time crammed into an aluminum tube at 35,000 ft. to call myself a seasoned traveler, so I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that until a couple days ago, I had no idea how easy it is to prevent frequent flier miles from expiring without even having to go to the airport (thanks, Mahalo). I had a bunch of miles on American Airlines that were about to expire. American doesn't even fly out of Providence anymore, so the chances of me being able to use the miles or keep them active by booking an American Airlines flight were looking pretty slim. I started looking into donating the balance when I discovered that most airlines will keep your miles active as long as you do something before they expire. That could be as little as donating 500 miles to a charity or buying a $5 item from one of the airline's partners to earn yourself a couple frequent flier miles and keeping your mileage balance active in the process. I donated a pittance to American's Miles for Kids in Need program to see if it worked - and it did. I'll probably just wind up donating the rest of the miles anyway, since I'm unlikely to fly anywhere with American Airlines in the next 18 months, but it's nice to have options.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


May 10 | 6:05 pm | My Front Yard

Monday, May 11, 2009

Beethoven's Last Symphony

Taken out of context, this panel from today's Hi and Lois is probably the funniest thing that has come out of that comics page institution in decades.

h/t: The Comics Curmudgeon

Saturday, May 09, 2009

In Which I Agree With Same-Sex Marriage Opponents

Here's a quote from today's ProJo cover story from Christopher Plante, director of Rhode Island's chapter of the National Organization for against (same-sex) Marriage. It's a great quote because it works no matter how you feel about marriage equality.
“It is amazing that four centuries after Roger Williams founded this great state on liberty and individualism, Rhode Island again stands alone in New England, holding back a tide of cultural revolution and belief that would radically change our families and communities"
I agree that it is amazing that Rhode Island is honoring its heritage of liberty by denying equal marriage rights to all of its citizens - amazingly bad. I also agree that granting same-sex marriage rights would definitely change our families and communities - for the better.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bloody Good

You get a new mug for every gallon of blood you donate. I think it's kind of funny to make a drinking vessel branded with a blood donation center's logo, but maybe that's just me. I think I'll take mine to work, mix some water, corn starch, and red food coloring in it, and leave it on my desk.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Medieval Times

I recently finished reading a couple of books that wound up complimenting each other pretty well. The first was Barbarians to Angels: The Dark Ages Reconsidered. I wanted to read a book about the middle ages and this one seemed well received. It's short and a quick read, but I didn't find it very enlightening. Part of the problem is that a lot of the book is dedicated to examining archaeological records, which can get really dry. My main problem with the book, however, is the author's assertion that the people of the middle ages shouldn't be considered less civilized than the Romans even though they were largely illiterate and their architectural, artistic, and engineering accomplishments paled in comparison to the Romans. I agree that these so-called barbarians have gotten something of a bad rap; their more civilized contemporaries and even their modern descendants were and are all to willing to commit acts of great brutality when it suits their purposes. That doesn't absolve them of their barbaric behavior, nor does it change the fact that they failed to achieve the level of sophistication of the Romans.

The second book, A Short History of Byzantium, is a condensed version of John Julius Norwich's three volume history of the Byzantine Empire. It covers the entire history of the Byzantine Empire, so it starts in roughly the same time period as the first book but continues all the way to the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century. It's a narrative, not an academic history, and Norwich is prone to making sensational statements without providing any real justification, but it's an interesting read. My only real complaint is that the condensed version goes for breadth instead of depth. It mentions ever single monarch to sit on the throne in Constantinople. Some of the lesser emperors only got a couple pages and the greats only got a chapter. It was difficult to follow all of the names as a casual reader. One of the few things that I remembered about the Byzantine Empire from history class was the great schism of 1054, so I naturally assumed it was a big deal. I was surprised to learn that it wasn't much different than one of the many previous doctrinal disputes between Rome and Constantinople. It's tempting to look at moments in history as sharp dividing lines where nothing in the world after that moment is the same as it was prior to it, but that's generally not how things happen.