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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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The King of Ireland's Son

For reading aloud, one of my favorites is The King of Ireland's Son by Padraic Colum.

Free version at Gutenberg

It's very clearly a transcription of a story with a long oral history to it. The structure of the story telling itself was interesting to me. There are many characters who appear as the central character or a supporting character in different sections, there are many places where digressions into other stories happen or could be made to happen, if you wanted to tell it in a different order. It has many of the standard tropes of fairy tales and also some amusing consequences of that. "Red Riding Hood" isn't a name, it's a decription. The title character, and overall central figure of this book, doesn't have a name, he is merely the eldest (of three, natch) sons of the King of Ireland.

There are a couple of places where a story obviously could have been tied in, to give more background on a character or thing, that have not been used. It gives you the opportunity to spin your own yarns into this or prompt your kids to do so.

For example, from whence comes the Little Sage of the Mountain? And where did the great wing for his house come from?

Final thought: "how you get from A to B is to travel while sharing stories".

"Movies Starring Movies: HORROR MOVIE"

Youtube video link

Five minute short animation using DVD cases to stand in for actors (and in a few non-character parts, like the coffee cup with the box design for Coffy on it, or the graveyard with Tombstone tombstones.)

This is episode five in a series, I've not watched any of the others, but this was certainly worth the five minutes.

This might be the goriest short starring DVD boxes ever.

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

The Box
"How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger"
by Marc Levinson

I've finally read this book, which has been pretty much always checked out of the San Francisco Public Library since I've started checking. (It doesn't help they apparently only have two copies system wide.)

The book doesn't assume you know much about shipping before or after the container revolution, doesn't use much specialized vocabulary (save "TEU", see below) has extensive end notes that are mostly citations, and remains pretty focused on the changes brought about by containerized shipping.

As described in the book, shipping largely broke down into tankers, bulk, and "break bulk" before containers. Tankers should be obvious, bulk is things like an entire ship full of grain, and "break bulk" was the rest of it: hauled on and off by hand, moved and stowed by hand, all by longshoremen. Containers ate break bulk's lunch, then moved on to eat its breakfast and dinner, then, still not satisified, went off and cleared the shelves of the store that break bulk shops in.

Less metaphotically, the book tells the story of containers first making some stuff cheaper to ship via break bulk, making most things containerizable faster to ship in containers than break bulk, nearly eliminating dockside theft by longshoreman and thus reducing insurance costs, and then after that, having industry react to container shipping in previously unimagined ways that vastly increased the market for containerized transport.

Along the way, I found this book helped me understand a lot of changes that started before I was born and continue to evolve today. Things like the decline of major ports such as New York and San Francisco, which both suffered because container ports need a lot more space (and waterside space was not abundant in either) and because container ports benefit massively from cheap and easy connections to other modes of transport, which is cheaper and easier at the more inland Port Elizabeth (eating New York's shipping) and Oakland (eating San Francisco's shipping).

Each chapter builds on the one before it, but also each chapter attempts to be functional on its own. If you want to skip the chapter on union fights or the chapter on the standardization process, you won't miss out later on, similarly you can just read those if that's what interests you.

There are some things I'd liked to have more detail about, such as standardization. This book covers the ASA and ISO processes, but only up until the late 1960s, not say the BIC codes that identify particular containers these days. (BIC is a French acronym, and translates to something like Bureau of International Containers.)

There are also hints that lack of suitable large ports for container ships is an obstacle to the development of Africa. Checking online, I haven't found an easy to use list, but I did find:

World Port Source

Which shows locations of ports and gives generalized sizes when you drill down to individual countries. In spot checking, it looks like Greece has more ports, in about the same distribution of large, medium, and small, as all of sub-Sahara Africa. (Chicago is a "large" port and Baltimore is a "very large port" in World Port Source terminology.)

The term "TEU" is well known to anyone who pays attention to container ships, but that initialism is used only once in the text, on the last page. In a few places it is spelled out as "twenty-foot equivalent units", which makes me think the use on the last page was an oversight. Twenty-foot containers were more common earlier on in container history, but forty-foot containers are more common now. TEU is often used to describe the capacity of a ship, but you have to halve it to get the number of forty-foot containers it can carry.

Bonus for reading this far down:

9:30 video showing one factory's process for building containers (audio track is just music, so very safe to watch on mute) on Youtube

Shorter, on-line piece, on another aspect of world logistics: the pallet.

Whitewood under siege ("Whitewood" there meaning unbranded pallets.)

This offers a short history of pallets and then dives into the world of pallet resale / recycling and the heavily-handed recovery efforts of CHEP (the company that owns and rents blue pallets world wide), and newer efforts to displace wooden pallets with plastic ones. That piece has no mention of shipping containers at all.

Final thought: old 24' containers count as 1.2 TEU

The Wolf of Wall Street

I saw American Hustle in the theatres but waited for DVD to watch this. Seems like the right choice. I split the viewing up over two nights since it was so damn long. (My intermission point was the blackout on the airplane, about 100 minutes in.)

There are a couple of pieces of great acting, some excellent camera work in places, and a very believable feel to a lot of it. It's also very clearly one-sided, takes protraying excess to excess, and in all that time still leaves some key points unexplained. I'm going to comment about the one I found most extreme.

This is a minor spoiler if you haven't watched, but since it's been so long I'm assuming readers won't mind. But a bit of space.

Belfort wears a wire and warns Azoff not to incriminate himself via a written note. Later the FBI has the note in a plastic bag when they come to arrest Belfort. It is never explained how the FBI got that note. There are several possibilites: Azoff was also already working with the FBI and gave it to them. Azoff decided to work with the FBI and gave it to them because of the note. The FBI found it some other way (going through trash, other informer). It is also never explained what the consequences of the FBI getting the note are. Did finding it trigger the raid? Or was that happening on an indendent schedule? But Belfort still gets a short sentence for cooperating, even though the note suggests he wasn't really cooperating. Huh?

My wife compared this movie to an updated DiCaprio in Great Gatsby, wild parties, significant pool scene, a few other things. We both agreed that the intro should have started later in Belfort's story before flashing back. The movie starts with perhaps the highlight of time, but starting with the FBI arrest during the commercial filming or the final "Sell me this pen" bit would have been more powerful.

Apparently this is a three "fuck" per minute film, I'll give it one and a half out of three.

Final thought: it's not the first Scorsese film to raise the profanity bar