The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos

My Rating: ★★★★★

Really enjoyed this book. I felt I knew a lot about Musk, but this had more information that I previously knew. And great to learn more about Bezos, especially the early days. Also great to get a feel for a bit more of the politics behind space and the big contractors who pretty much took the piss for years. Pity that it didn’t get through to the Falcon Heavy launch.


Page 145

Found this interesting, the first guy who launched a liquid fuelled rocket in 1926 was ridiculed for publishing a paper in 1919 saying that a rocket could go to the moon (apparently impossible as a vacuum! Nothing to react against). Received ridicule from the New York Times who wrote in the 20’s and received a retraction after the moon landings.

“Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realised it becomes commonplace”

— Robert Goddard

Page 155

On cost plus contracts (cost plus a fixed margin – NASA pays this to the Boeing’s and whatnot). This is why fixed priced projects are the winner for everyone (and applicable to my business). Quote from Gwynne Shotwell:

“I’ve been doing this for thirty years, so I think I can say that – by cost-plus contracts. The incentive is on a cost-plus contract is not to minimise cost, it’s to maximise effort. Our philosophy was not to minimise effort, but optimise effort.”

Page 159

On the cancellation of constellation program (the one to go to moon and Mars) by Obama. At the time I thought what a scum bag, but when you see costs had doubled and tripled (for space craft and launch vehicle respectively) in 4 years, with the op costs predicted to be massive you can see why it was cancelled. Was annoyed at time, but now, can see it was a great win for the private space industry.

Page 254

Find this to be an amazing quote by Bezos, and feel that this is something will communicate to our little guy as he grows up.

“We all have passions,” he told the students sitting before him on the floor. “You don’t get to choose them, they pick you. But you have to be alert to them. You have to be looking for them. And when you find your passion, it’s a fantastic gift for you because it gives you direction. It gives you purpose. You can have a job. You can have a career. Or you can have a calling.”

Page 259

And my thoughts exactly on climate change (Bezos)

“If you take a baseline energy usage today, compount it at just a few percent a year for just a few hundred years and you have to cover the entire Earth’s surface with solar cells” to keep up with demand, he said. “You either go out into space or you need to control population on Earth. You need to control energy usage on Earth. These things are totally at odds with a free society. And i’ts going to be dull. I want my great-great-grandchilder to be using more energy per capita than I do. And the only way they can be using more energy per capita than me is if we expand out into the solar system. And then we can really keep Earth as this incredible gem that it is.”

GoodReads Description

The historic quest to rekindle the human exploration and colonization of space led by two rivals and their vast fortunes, egos, and visions of space as the next entrepreneurial frontier

The Space Barons is the story of a group of billionaire entrepreneurs who are pouring their fortunes into the epic resurrection of the American space program. Nearly a half-century after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, these Space Barons-most notably Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, along with Richard Branson and Paul Allen-are using Silicon Valley-style innovation to dramatically lower the cost of space travel, and send humans even further than NASA has gone. These entrepreneurs have founded some of the biggest brands in the world-Amazon, Microsoft, Virgin, Tesla, PayPal-and upended industry after industry. Now they are pursuing the biggest disruption of all: space.

via GoodReads (14 September 2019).

Game of Mates: How favours bleed the nation

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

I had heard great things about this book on Twitter, so bought it in 2018 and finally read it last month, and was fairly underwhelmed. Probably because I feel I am fairly well informed about this dodginess that goes on.

The book outlines how ‘grey’ deals are done between industry insiders, industry public servants and politicians, who work as a revolving door between government and industry. This is as clear if you actually pay any attention to the news how business works with government.

One thing that was a great read was the opposition to more regulation. I’ve generally been opposed to more regulation as it can limit competition. Great to actually see this explained in detail how that when an industry is criticised, the default answer is for more regulation which actually enhances the incumbents in the industry — as new entrants have too many hurdles to comply to.

A great summary with references is provided across many industries. But potentially sometimes a bit harsh on business — but probably not unjustly.

Amazon Description

James is our most mundane villain. His victim is Bruce, our typical Aussie, who bleeds from the hip pocket because of James’ actions. Game of Mates tells a tale of economic theft across major sectors of Australia’s economy, showing how James and his group of well-connected Mates siphon off billions from the economy to line their own pockets. In property, mining, transport, banking, superannuation, and many more sectors, James and his Mates cooperate to steal huge chunks of the economic pie for themselves. If you want to know how much this costs the nation, how it is done, and what we can do about it, Game of Mates is the book for you.

via Amazon (8 July 2019).

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Finished reading 8th August 2019

Found this book difficult to read, felt like it was mostly the author big-noting himself and how he can solve every business and world problems (e.g. education, poverty and government can all be solved easily with scrum). Additionally, can also make any team and at least 4 times better within 4 weeks. He should run for president.

General thoughts: 

  • Probably the end of the book is more useful, and could be wrapped up in just a few dozen pages.
  • The focus on sporting teams I don’t feel odd relevant for most teams, especially with remote team members. 
  • Everyone having no titles. How does this work? We have iOS developers and front-end and back-end they all do different things so these titles are relevant.
    • But maybe the gist of it is that everyone is accountable and not blame shift between titles (but he didn’t say this).
  • One week sprints with nothing being added is not realistic. With everything in backlog being ready for users at end. What about big functions? And bugs and general urgent production issues.

Some Quotes

Page 80

What a motivational speech. I imagine that he is loved by everyone that he comes in and issues this speech too.

My standard speech to teams large and small is: “Do you really want to suck forever?

Page 82

Working with trades (electricians, plumbers), and having many friends (and family) as trades, I cannot ever seeing this working. Unless they are all employed by the one company (not likely).

Here’s what happened. Eelco decided to make the contractors work as a Scrum team. He had weekly projects they had to move to Done, and in the contractor’s trailer parked in his front lawn he had a Scrum board full of sticky notes listing out tasks. Every morning he’d gather the carpenters, the electricians, the plumbers, or whoever else was needed for that week’s Sprint and go over what was done the day before, what they were going to get done today, and what was getting in their way. Eelco says it made them think and communicate about the project in a different way than they had before. Plumbers and carpenters talked about how they could help one another work faster. Shortages of materials were discovered before their absence stopped all progress. 

Page 107

This is fairly airy-fairy. No reporting, no nothing. Cells just dividing?

Flow In a theoretically perfect world, there would be no process, no meetings, no forms, no reporting. Instead, there’d be the creation of exactly what the customer wants, even if the customer didn’t know they wanted it yet. Any “process” that people use is wasteful, and that includes Scrum.

Page 109

Agree, but hard to do in practise, especially when managing a team.

Multitasking Makes You Stupid. Doing more than one thing at a time makes you slower and worse at both tasks. Don’t do it. If you think this doesn’t apply to you, you’re wrong—it does.

Page 114

Very true. Often get people wanting to have detailed plans before a project starts. And want it delivered urgently. The planning takes up a ton of time, and will probably be wrong.

As I’ve said previously, the very act of planning is so seductive, so alluring, that planning itself becomes more important than the actual plan. And the plan becomes more important than reality. Never forget: the map is not the terrain.

Page 145

Can’t agree more.

The Map Is Not the Terrain. Don’t fall in love with your plan. It’s almost certainly wrong.Only Plan What You Need To. Don’t try to project everything out years in advance. Just plan enough to keep your teams busy.

Chapter 8

The Product Owner chapters are generally good, including “Observe, Orient, Decide, Act” and explaining MVP (Page 180 and 186).

And agree with “Money for Nothing and Change for Free”. Business model of doing large government contracts is to change, charge, charge for change requests.

Page 196

Risk types. 

Three most common types of risk are market risk, technical risk, and financial risk. Or … Do people want what we’re building? Can we actually build it? Can we really sell what we’ve built?

Page 201

Definition of product owner. 

The Product Owner. She translates vision into Backlog. She needs to understand the business case, the market, and the customer.

Has knowledge of the domain and the power to make final decisions. He or she is available to answer questions and is accountable for delivering value.

Amazon Description

For those who believe that there must be a more agile and efficient way for people to get things done, here is a brilliantly discursive, thought-provoking book about the leadership and management process that is changing the way we live.
In the future, historians may look back on human progress and draw a sharp line designating “before Scrum” and “after Scrum.” Scrum is that ground-breaking.  It already drives most of the world’s top technology companies. And now it’s starting to spread to every domain where leaders wrestle with complex projects.

via Amazon (14 September 2019).