Monday, May 11, 2009

The Box

— Matt Harris @ 7:44 pm

I just finished reading Mark Levinson’s The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library. Normally, I wouldn’t read a history of shipping containers. Actually, I didn’t think someone would write a history of the shipping container ;-), but Mark Levinson did. I heard it recommended on a talk show (I can’t recall which one) and I thought I’d check it out.

It was a pretty interesting read. What I found really surprising is the level of transportation regulation that used to exist in the United States. The book wasn’t about that regulation, but it just kept popping up – from goverment subsidies on shipbuilding to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC).

I found it fascinating that after 1935, the ICC controlled practically all aspects of trucking. It determined what could be transported, the routes that could be used, the prices that would be charged and who could and could not compete. Much of the third chapter of the book was about how one major entrepeneur spent his time getting around ICC regulations. When reading that chapter, I kept having flashbacks to Atlas Shrugged

It is definitely worth reading. A sample chapter can be found here.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek – To Boldy Reimagine A Franchise

— Matt Harris @ 2:06 pm

I went to see the new Star Trek film yesterday. I think it was a good, but not great film. For a long, detailed review, see Jonah Goldberg’s on National Review Online.

Spoiler Warning.

A few spoiler-filled comments of my own below:

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Joined Facebook

— Matt Harris @ 10:05 am

I finally got off my duff and joined Facebook in mid-April.
It just occured to me that I might want to mention that here. 😉

My facebook profile is

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game

— Matt Harris @ 12:23 pm

With the release of the 4.0 version of D&D and all of the tension that created in the D&D gaming community, it seems to me that there are a lot of new gaming systems that are being spun off the 3.5 SRD. While some are just trying to fix/improve the 3.5 rules (for example, Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG ), others are trying for a more retro feel, attempting to create versions of the rules that play and feel like older versions of D&D. While this has been going on prior to the 4.0, e.g. Castles & Crusades, I think the process has accelerated as all of the gamers who aren’t moving to 4.0 look for a new RPG homes.

My all-time favorite version of D&D was the D&D Cyclopedia set of rules and the associated game world of Mystara. The Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game looks to me like an attempt to recreate much of the ruleset of the D&D Cyclopedia version of the rules. I have only done a cursory review of the core rules, but here are things that jump out at me, including some differences from the D&D Cyclopedia ruleset:

Overall, the rules appear to be very, very compatible with the D&D Cyclopedia version of D&D. I certainly think that one could run any of the old Basic and Expert modules without any prework needed for conversion. The only thing that would need to be done when running is converting racial classes to standard classes and converting from the old THAC0/AC system, both of which should be very easy.

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