Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Reivew: The Myth of the Rational Market

The Myth of the Rational Market
Author: Justin Fox
Published Date: June 9, 2009
Link:  http://www.byjustinfox.com/the-myth-of-the-rational-market.html

  For how much the title sounds like political ideology, the book itself is actually the complete opposite.  I thought this would be an economic version of Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States (which is much better than it's critics give it credit for), but in truth it's a dispassionate outline of the main characters of western economic thought over the last 100 years.
  The one qualm that I've heard from many other reviewers was that the book is really is just an outline, only touching on the main characters and their ideas lightly.  There is a lot of complicated material and people to cover and the book is only 400 pages long.  If you find yourself tempted to use terms like "Keynesian", "business cycles" and "loss aversion" but suspect you might not actually have a grasp on what they mean, you may find the history of minds that defined these terms illuminating.
  Personally, I found the outline structure provided a great base for learning more about the history of economic thought.  I never took a single economics class in high school, college, or grad school (and it seems I may be better off for it!), so just learning that Irving Fisher lost his fortune in the Great Depression and Hyman Minsky developed his Instability Theory in the 60's, and Eugene Fama recanted his own Efficient Markets Hypothesis in 2004 helps me keep track of just how and when ideas have changed.
  This book is intended for the lay reader and includes almost no math (which is an asset), it seems to me to be a terrific base upon which to build a foundation of historical economic knowledge.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Book Review: The Humanure Handbook

Book Review:  The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure
Author: Joseph C. Jenkins
Published Date: Sep 6, 2005
Link: http://books.google.com/books?id=pIArAAAAYAAJ&num=10

  "The world is divided into two categories of  people: those who shit in their drinking water supplies and those who who don't.  We in the western world are in the former class. We defecate into water, usually purified drinking water. After polluting the water with our excrement, we flush the polluted water "away," meaning we probably don't know where it goes. nor do we care."

  So how does it feel to part of a society with the worst waste management skills since pre-history's nomadic tribes?  It feels expensive.  Americans spend a huge amount of resources piping clean water into porcelain portals in almost every residence polluting gallons of water per person, per day, and then trying to purify that water again (or discharging it into the sea).  Even nomadic tribes could ostensibly be given marks above us since dropping trow wherever you happen to be standing is at least cheap.

  If you are open to considering the alternatives to our current waste disposal system, the Humanure Handbook will make a very strong argument for going the composting route.  There is a bit of technical science for the lay reader but it's couched in humor and pictures that should help anyone with interest understand how thermophilic composting works.

  If you are considering alternative toilets but are scared of handling or smelling feces, then please read this book.  The author has been composting humanure for over 20 years and gives you a lot of confidence and quite a bit of ammo to defend the composting toilet against detractors and your own self-doubts.