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Danish Dynamite: The Story of Football’s Greatest Cult Team
Danish Dynamite: The Story of Football’s Greatest Cult Team
Price: $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A solid book on a wonderful team, January 3, 2015
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Danish Dynamite: The Story of Football's Greatest Cult Team (2014) by Rob Smyth, Lars Eriksen and and Mike Gibbons looks at the wonderful Danish team of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Denmark didn't get a professional league with reasonable rules until the 1970s. Despite football being the big game in Denmark the national team had never managed to be good prior to the late 1970s. Kurt Nielsen was one of the first Danish managers of the National team who was a full manager in the modern sense and who could select his own team. He was friendly and allowed the players too much freedom. His successor, Sepp Pointek was a former German international who was serious about creating a good team. When he moved to Denmark he was very lucky and got a fantastic group of players who with more serious coaching became one of the best teams of the 1980s featuring the fantastic Laudrup brothers, Elkjær, Olsen and a host of others.

The team really was thrilling and would go on to remarkable success at the 1984 European Championship and the 1986 World Cup. The team then declined and went on to cause a great upset and win the 1992 European Championship.

If you like reading about soccer and great teams of the past the book is well worth reading. However, it would be better as a documentary. Apparently there is a documentary in Danish and perhaps English which would be great to see. For anyone who vaguely remembers the team but not in great detail it's a bit of a stretch. Hopefully the documentary will be released like the Kindle copy of the book.

Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World
Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World
by Mark Miodownik
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.45
87 used & new from $12.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb non-fiction book on materials. Definitely one of the best books I've read all year., November 14, 2014
Stuff Matters (2014) by Mark Miodownik is a really excellent work of non-fiction that combines a narrative that hangs the facts together, in this case a photo of the author, with a lot of really interesting facts. The book is about materials and Miodownik as a materials scientist is in an ideal position to point out how important materials are in the modern world. The book is also, critically, a delight to read.
The chapters are Indomitable; about Stainless Steel, Trusted on paper, Fundamental on concrete, Delicious on chocolate, Marvellous on foam, Imaginative on plastic, Invisible on glass, Unbreakable on diamond, graphite and graphene, Refined on porcelain, Immortal on implants and Synthesis which summarises the book.
Each chapter is full of new things to learn and interesting stories about the use and history of materials and the people who discovered the materials as well as short, interesting tales about the author himself.
The book is up there with the best non-fiction by Michael Lewis, Steven Pinker, Ben Goldacre and Simon Winchester. Material science is a really important aspect of the modern world that is sadly neglected and this book covers this subject superbly.

How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place
How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place
Price: $4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting ideas poorly presented., November 12, 2014
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How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place (2013) by Bjorn Lomborg is a short summary of The Copenhagen Consensus project that got experts in various areas to work out the cost benefit ratios of various forms of aid and then got a panel of economists including multiple Nobel Prize winners to judge them. It's a great idea and remarkable because cost benefit analysis seems to have been little used when thinking about aid spending.

The book is not a good read. The solutions are presented, the conclusion described and then five Nobel Prize winning economists present their ideas. Then the cost benefit ratios for all the options are briefly described. The book is a collection of essays with the most important parts being the cost benefit ratios that are essentially just presented.

The best options for spending have been, in order, micronutrients for children, fighting malaria, immunisation, deworming, fighting TB and R & D spending on agriculture.

The idea behind the Copenhagen Consensus is a really good one and the basic idea, that of applying standard accounting and economics practices to evaluating aid is a really valuable contribution. Micronutrient spending seems to have benefited from people reading the conclusion.

The weaknesses of the approach are in the accuracy of the cost benefit analysis and trying to apply it to things like reducing corruption and increasing free trade. These things would increase wealth substantially but are very difficult to achieve in practice.

The book may be worth having as a reference but it's not nearly as interesting or as well put together as Lomborg's other books.

A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy
A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy
by Daniel Clery
Edition: Paperback
22 used & new from $10.16

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting overview of the history of fusion research, November 8, 2014
A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy (2014) by Daniel Clery is a history of research into fusion power. Fusion power has long promised effectively infinite power. However research into using controlled fusion as a power source has failed to deliver a working generator. Fusion research has been going on since the 1940s so it's taken at least seventy years. In contrast fission power went from first trials to a power source in about thirteen years. This has led to many jokes about fusion along the lines of how fusion is the power of the future and always will be. The book looks at the various attempts, describes what went wrong and what led to the next steps and goes through the myriad of organisations that have been created to try and create working fusion power. It's a surprisingly interesting story.
Fusion experiments started with scientists compressing plasmas to a huge density and thus attempting to cause fusion. Initially this was done by running currents through a plasma in a magnetic field which causing the plasma to compress. The idea was that compressing the plasma sufficiently would cause fusion to happen. The problem was then how to contain the plasma. Containing the plasma so that it was sufficiently compressed and compressed for long enough then became the problem. Initially straight tubes with magnetic mirrors on each side were explored, then tori, then tokomaks. Experiments in the UK, US, Soviet Union, the EU and Japan then built bigger and bigger machines that continue to get closer to sufficiently high temperatures and pressures to cause fusion to happen. But each step has proved harder and harder and promises of progress have been broken again and again.
The book also looks at the idea of laser fusion, that is fusion causes by compressing a target with powerful lasers. Just as magnetic confinement has proved more difficult than thought on repeated occasions so has laser driven fusion.
There has been progress toward fusion, tokomaks and laser fusion have gone tantalisingly close to showing that machines that produce commercial power are possible but no machine has quite gone all the way. The book concludes by looking at the various current attempts, the Z-pinch, ITER and NIF and discussing the new developments in lasers and materials that could lead to fusion power.
The book jumps around between the various experimental groups and techniques in a way that sometimes leaves the reader a little lost as to which decade they are in but the narrative built by following each group helps overall.
The book provides an interesting overview of the technology that will hopefully one day yield a clean vast amount of power.

How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness
How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness
by Russell D. Roberts
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.25
72 used & new from $12.95

4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting, charming book from the host of Econtalk, November 8, 2014
How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life (2014) by Russ Roberts presents a summation of Adam Smith's book The Theory of Moral Sentiments and how the wisdom in it still applies to the modern world. Roberts is known by many for his superb podcast Econtalk where he interviews various people for about an hour and allows them to present their ideas in detail.
The book looks at Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith's morality is based on reason and a plethora of psychological motives. Smith believes we want others to be happy but care more about ourselves. Robert's also states that Smith believed we acted morally because we wanted to be loved and to be lovely and that we judge ourselves and want that judgement to be favourable so we don't want to lie and deceive.
In order to be happy Smith says that we should be healthy, with no debt and have a clear conscience. Material goods are not according to Roberts what Smith thinks will make us happy. To be lovely we are meant to be appropriate and work hard. To be good we must balance priorities and be prudent. Smith also though we had to be humble.
In the book Roberts has many anecdotes and uses these to reflect on what Smith means. Einstein, Keynes, Hayek and many others ideas appear. Smith summarizes the philosophy of the founder of economics not as a Ayn Rand like self-interest driven philosophy but rather as wise and skeptical.
It's definitely worth reading for anyone who is interested in Adam Smith or who enjoys listening to Econtalk.

The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Good for the West
The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Good for the West
by Charles Kenny
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $2.76
98 used & new from $1.28

4.0 out of 5 stars A great antidote to the drumbeat of doom, November 4, 2014
The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Good for the West (2014) by Charles Kenny is an optimistic look at how the changing centre of global economic activity is good for the West and the US in particular. Kenny also states what should be done so that the transition to a world where the West is no longer the richest yields an even better world.

Kenny first points out that when you are born is more important than where in terms of wealth. Being born now means that you're wealthier and live longer than most people have in history regardless of where you're born. It's the point that Matt Ridley, Bjorn Lomborg and others have made to counter the constant beating of the doom drum.

The book then describes how being wealthier than ever regardless of which country is the wealthiest is more important than being the world's largest economy. Size doesn't always help either. Smaller countries can have better health systems, better education and other strengths.

Other countries being wealthier will also help the US. Kenny points out that the US trades more per capita with wealthy countries than with poorer ones. The environment is also addressed and there Kenny thinks that climate change is a serious problem but he is honest enough to point out that even with climate change the world will be considerably wealthier in a hundred years.

The advantages of immigration in keeping populations younger is examined, the virtues of trade and the opportunities presented by more international cooperation between bigger newly wealthy countries is given great coverage. Kenny also describes how he believes the US should use the institutions created by the US to better the world and more for world enrichment rather than as part of a zero sum game. He does miss here that a lot of the institutions were set up to make the West wealthy but with the intent of making the West wealthier than the Communist world.

The book makes many valid points and is nice and short. It's definitely worth reading in contrast to unwise books lamenting the fact that the US will no longer be the world's largest economy. The optimistic view is strongly grounded in reality and is really important to consider.

Commodore: A Company on the Edge
Commodore: A Company on the Edge
by Brian Bagnall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.44
68 used & new from $16.38

5.0 out of 5 stars A rip-roaring tale of a company that revolutionised computers, November 1, 2014
Commodore: A Company on the Edge (2010) by Brian Bagnall is an enthralling account of the tumultuous times of the company that created the PET, VIC-20 and C64. It's a rollicking account of how Commodore went into microcomputers, the people who made the machines and their creations. For anyone who remembers the 1980s the book provides insight into the company that produced what was, for millions of people, the first computer they had contact with.
Commodore started as a Portable Typewriter company by the Auschwitz survivor Jack Tramiel. Commodore moved into electronics and calculators. Commodore ran into trouble as Japanese firms undercut them and moved from typewriters to adding machines to calculators. They ran into trouble and were bailed out by Irving Gould, a Canadian businessman. After deciding they needed to have a chip manufacturer they bought MOS technologies and there Chuck Peddle designed the 6502 which was used by the Commodore PET, the VIC-20, the BBC Micro, the Apple II, the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo Computer family.
After Tramiel was offered to buy Apple by Steve Jobs he got Peddle to create a competitor which they did by creating the PET in 1977 in about 6 months. The PET went on to sell very well. The VIC-20 was then created in 1980 and then the C64 was released in 1982. Each machine undercut and outsold competitors including those from Apple. History tends to write more about survivors and Apple's early inferior sales compared to Commodore is rarely described. The fact that Commodore built the chip that the Apple II was built on is not well known.
The book provides a remarkable insight into what happened in the early years at Commodore. Jack Tramiel and his 'Jack Attacks' where he yelled at others are quite incredible as is Tramiel's tendency to sue, cheat and refuse to work with other companies. Peddle and others remarkable engineering talent in producing the 6502, PET, VIC-20 and C64 is well described. Tramiel's firing or turning on his employees is also staggering. Even Peddle was pushed out by Tramiel.
The book is full of descriptions of the remarkable people who created so much at Commodore. It gives a real sense of the excitement and hard work there that produced incredible machines. The book has a bit of the feel of 'Soul of a New Machine'.
The book stops as Tramiel is removed from the company and before the release of the remarkable Amiga computer.
The book crams a great deal into its pages. It is probably a bit too long for anyone who isn't really interested in the creation of Commodore products. It does, however, provide a great in depth view of Commodore and shows the bias of the Accidental Empires, a book written by a former Apple employee. The book is well written and fun to read though. As well as a view of the remarkable people who created a revolutionary computer it provides a feel of the excitement that the machines created.

The Economics of Just About Everything: The hidden reasons for our curious choices and surprising successes
The Economics of Just About Everything: The hidden reasons for our curious choices and surprising successes

5.0 out of 5 stars ... Just About Everything (2014) by Andrew Leigh is another excellent book from the ALP MP and former academic economist, October 31, 2014
The Economics of Just About Everything (2014) by Andrew Leigh is another excellent book from the ALP MP and former academic economist. The book is a popularisation of economic ideas.

First the book looks at dating and the 'first optimal stopping problem'. The Leigh examines fitness through the lens of behavioural economics. Then the book looks at sport statistics, career cycles crime, poverty and forecasting. Finally there is a summary of how to use economics in your own life.

The book is calm, measured and references a wealth of other studies and books. Leigh also nicely references people who don't agree with him such as a number of more pro-market economists. He also touches on one of his debates with Peter Brent, that of the efficacy of markets for prediction. It should be said that the book is also pleasantly short.

It's really an excellent book that makes you think that Australia really does have some excellent politicians. Few parliaments in the world can boast someone who writes popular books on the subject that they know best with such skill.

The Living Dead: Switched Off, Zoned Out - The Shocking Truth About Office Life
The Living Dead: Switched Off, Zoned Out - The Shocking Truth About Office Life
by David Bolchover
Edition: Paperback
33 used & new from $10.73

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The lack of great ability in the vast majority of senior management is ..., October 30, 2014
The Living Dead (2005) by David Bolchover is a book about people working in offices who do little if anything of use. It's an examination of how people become unmotivated and disenchanted but remain in jobs of dubious use. These people Bolchover refers to as 'The Living Dead'.

The book starts strongly with the author describing his own path of increasing pay and decreasing work. Bolchover then looks at how looking for meaning in a job is also critical and that the meaninglessness of much office work facilitates disenchantment. He then describes how nonsense and deceit lead to many living dead jobs with nobody willing to say that the jobs that they do are not worth doing.

Managers are next targeted and the dismal abilities of many middle managers duly mocked. The lack of great ability in the vast majority of senior management is also examined.

Finally the book describes a possible antidote to the rot by contracting out many of the services of large companies to small companies or individuals. Bolchover believes that by paying these smaller entities for what they do, rather than paying people for their attendance in an office better results will be achieved.

The book describes a common condition for employees of large companies and those who work in the public sector. It's surely true that many people do little and even more do work that is of dubious utility in large organisations.

The recommendations of the book are, however, far less certain. The problems of contracting out things all the time are evident to people who have been involved in contracting things out. Often what is delivered is not what was sought and the company that provided the service has little interest in really solving the problem.

Also, people who do little are often dealt with by organisations that can make them redundant or fire them. Doing enough to get by is probably far more common. The book also glosses over the role of the market in weeding out companies that have too many people doing too little and the way in which companies are often reorganised to dispense with functions of little value. The public sector lacks the market feedback and information to know.

The book is fun and is pleasantly short. Bolchover hasn't padded it out with needless verbiage. The condition described of people being paid to not do much or at least not nearly as much as they could is certainly common. The conclusions might not be correct but the diagnosis of the disorder is definitely insightful.

Unhappy Union: How the Euro Crisis- and Europe - Can Be Fixed
Unhappy Union: How the Euro Crisis- and Europe - Can Be Fixed

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An in depth, heavy look at the Euro and the Euro Crisis, June 8, 2014
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Unhappy Union: How the Euro Crisis and Europe can be fixed (2014) by John Peet and Anton LaGuardia is a book that looks at the problems caused by the Euro, the history of ERM and where the authors proposes fixes for Europe.
Peet and LaGuardia have both been correspondents for The Economist on Europe. They know their subject matter intimately.
Chapter 1 looks at the depths of the Euro crisis, Chapter 2 goes through the history of Europe, Chapter 3 looks at how the EU works, chapter 4 the launch and early days of Europe and Chapter 5 and 6 go through the details of the crisis. Chapter 7 & 8 describe how Europe has changed and Chapter 9 look at the European Parliament, Chapter 10 and 11 on Europe’s new foreign policy and Chapter 12 compares the Euro Zone to the US and describes what the authors can be done to fix Europe.
The book has some interesting revelations, such as that the Germans did seriously think about throwing Greece out of the Euro. The chapters on history are fun to read and even amusing in parts. The chapters on the crisis are hard going, the Byzantine details of the way Europe works make for difficult and fairly dull reading despite the enormously serious nature of the crisis they are describing. Chapter 10 and 11 highlight the problems with the EU.
The book describes the curious experiment that the Euro is. It seems the authors may inadvertently be fuelling scepticism of the Euro as they painstakingly describe the mess of European decision making. The chapters comparing the recoveries in the US to the Eurozone lend weight, again inadvertently to the idea that the Euro was a mistake.

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