What we've been reading: Rugby, socialist internet and money in the bank

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Well, that was a week. It’s done and dusted. Over with. Finito. TGIF. Now it’s time for a well earned weekend reprieve.

While you’re at it, why not help yourself to a nice read. Every week, the AccountingWEB team (and some friends not of the AccountingWEB ilk) collate a list of things we loved reading.

And, boy, do we have a mix this week: from Fran’s jingoistic reverie after South Africa’s rugby heroics at the weekend to Salvador Allende’s plan to build a socialist internet in the 1970s. No one can accuse us of having uniform tastes. 

Please enjoy and if you have anything to share, let us know in the comments below. 

Fran: How Faf de Klerk's NFL-style defence is causing headaches

You may have heard, South Africa beat the All Blacks this past weekend. What's more, they beat them in New Zealand, which is rugby’s equivalent of scaling Everest. In the history of the All Blacks as a sporting entity, New Zealand has lost at home only 38 times.

Safe to say, before Saturday’s kickoff I wasn’t feeling confident. And when the Springboks - as the South African team is called - quickly slumped to 12 - 0 down, I thought my misgivings would be correct.

But then, the game started to change. South Africa scored a few tries and their defence began to harry and disrupt New Zealand’s playmakers. The invincible All Blacks looked remarkably fallible.

Central to this defensive disruption was Faf De Klerk, the pocket-sized dynamo that plays scrum-half for South Africa. As this fascinating analysis by Ben Smith on Rugbypass shows, De Klerk plays a roving defensive role, reminiscent of a free safety in NFL.

The tactic is risky and it’s unheard of. Scrum-halves traditionally fulfil the role of sweeper, cleaning up kicks and corralling any line breaks that occur. But De Klerk clearly enjoys the imprimatur of the coaching staff to do as he pleases.

Another reason I’m flagging this article is that it's emblematic of a new golden age of rugby writing. No more rote analysis and or ‘tale of two halves’ pablum: it’s deep and actually interesting. As a lifelong fan of the game, it's been a revelation.  

Ray: Project Cybersyn – Chile’s socialist internet

I'm interested in the history of technology but had somehow never heard of CyberSyn, the networked planning and logistics system launched by the Salvador Allende's socialist Chilean government in 1972.

George Eaton's piece for New Statesman offers an entertaining, eye-opening run through the genesis, triumph, and eventual collapse of this pioneering project:

“A national network of 500 telex machines collected real-time data from factories, such as production output, energy use and labour levels, and transmitted it to two mainframe computers in the Santiago-based control room... As well as the telex network, Project Cybersyn also featured an economic simulator to model alternative policies. But its enduring face was the hexagonal, Star Trek-like operations room, which featured mounted screens and seven white fibreglass swivel chairs... with inbuilt push-buttons.”

The image of the control room that accompanies Eaton’s article is astonishing – surely inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but suggesting a chic 1970s hairdressing parlour.

CyberSyn was eventually done away with by General Augusto Pinochet after the coup that brought him to power, any whiff of planning and central control being far too reminiscent of communism for the right-wing Junta’s liking. The technicians behind it went into exile.

Fifty years on, though, in the age of management dashboards and supermarkets supplied by algorithm, CyberSyn seems deeply prescient.

Richard: How to retire in your 30s with $1m in the bank

Maybe it is because I am a “lazy millennial” but I could think of nothing better than retiring early. I don’t think I'm alone thinking this. I have spoken with accountants at conferences who hold similar dreams. In fact, I can remember speaking with one accountant a couple of years ago who had given zero consideration about MTD because he already had his eye set on the golf course and an early retirement.

But as the retirement age creeps up in this never-ending age of austerity, this dream seemed like just that. However, adopters of the FIRE movement could make these dreams into a reality. That’s right, no need to toil away the years. FIRE followers are dropping out of the workforce in their 30s and 40s.

The FIRE movement stands for financial independence, retire early. Followers of this movement popularised on Reddit message boards tend to work in the tech industry who, as this NY Times piece describes, “geek out on calculating compound interest over 40 years, or the return on investment (R.O.I.) on low-fee index funds versus real estate rentals”.

So how does it work? Well, the FIRE hack pretty much means slashing your expenses and amassing income-generating investments. So out with that Manchester United club box and replace it with a more frugal lifestyle.

Actually, accountants are perfect for this lifestyle because FIRE-acolytes are obviously “numbers orientated and fascinated by the minutiae of taxes and accounting”, as you can imagine with such a thrifty ambition.

So what would retirement look like? A 40-year old FIRE-convert interviewed for the article talked about being “life-rich” but “short on luxuries”. So if you tire of your 12-14 hour shifts during busy season, perhaps it’s time you quit the rat race.

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