Friday, July 29, 2011

Dog-food Principle: Refine your product/tool by using it yourself!

I liked this from Patri Friedman:
During my 4 years at Google, I learned the “dog-food” principle – a product is better if the development team *uses* that product while developing it. We switched to gmail, to google calendar, and other products as soon as they met our bare minimum needs.
The result was that development was informed by practical experience with the product, not aggregated surveys by marketing firms of random customers. (From A Thousand Nations blog)
 This applies to my work on, the Community Resilience Wiki. I've already started searching when I'm looking for resilience-related information to see if someone has already started a page on that topic. And you, dear reader, could be the one to create or contribute to the next cool page!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Can Eating Local Cost Less?

I want good-for-me food that is affordable and delicious. And I want to be more connected with my food in a local or direct manner. This New Hope 360 Blog post asks some of the same questions I've had:

Can local farmers feed America, including people who make minimum wage and struggle already to put food on the table for their families? Or do we need to rely on mega players such as Walmart to make healthy food affordable? Is organic an “elitist preoccupation” (as one person recently told us)? Who are the leaders in helping to make healthy food affordable for and accessible to all?
I am almost pathologically frugal.  I love that Walmart is making real food affordable. The article also said:
We... explore ways farmers, manufacturers and retailers are working to make healthy food more affordable while also changing consumer perceptions that McDonald’s prices represent the real cost of food.
I am not embarrassed to say that I occasionally take advantage of McDonald's (or Wendy's) Dollar Menu while I'm on the road for work. $1 burgers provide the most calories for my dollar, tasty, and predictably mediocre. I never buy fries, and I drink my own water. I've long suspected that I cost them money, but I appreciate that they provide fast calories, very cheap! And obviously it is either a treat or a stop-gap, and not a routine meal solution. When I buy 'real' food I'm astonished at how much it costs.

In Resilient Communities there can be synergy between local production, human-oriented environments and transportation, and global networks that results in higher quality of life over all, even if some things are relatively more expensive than they would be in a dis-integrated community.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dumbledore's Army

I'm hoping to spark practical ideas for promoting security at the community level, regardless of state budget upheaval and cuts to public services. Community resilience comes down to finding local solutions while drawing on global networks for ideas, inspiration, tools, and 'how-to'. What can we do in our neighborhoods to take care of each other when it comes to physical security?

Here's the article I started using a Harry Potter analogy, "Dumbledore's Army", on

Dumbledore's Army

A practical mashup of neighborhood watch + American colonial minutemen/British Home Guard + 4th Generation Warfare + John Robb’s insights re: Global Guerrillas, all in the context of community resilience.
This tongue-in-cheek riff on themes from a wildly popular children’s series is built around an accessible (and fictional) analogy in order to generate a seriously light-hearted discussion about community-level security. Please add your comments and instructive examples of what has worked or is working.
Dumbledore’s Army (see Wikipedia’s description) is taken from J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series. It’s a group of students who are disturbed by a trend toward paranoid tyranny and ham-fisted stupidity by the wizarding government on the one hand, and a rising tide of deadly violence on the other. The majority of grownups don’t admit the problem, lacking understanding of the times and lacking the courage to resist either government over-reach or the insurgent warlord and his thugs. Realizing that they are being fed lies and that the authorities can not actually protect them, the students voluntarily train themselves for self-defense.
They take the name Dumbledore’s Army in honor of their beloved (but politically incorrect) headmaster who is held in suspicion by the inept and heavy-handed wizarding government. Successive government administrations deny the threat posed by the insurgent warlord, initially dismissing the growing violence as random crime and lawlessness, and later blaming the Dumbledore-inspired counter-insurgency, a group calling itself The Order of the Phoenix.

External Links
William S. Lind on 4th Generation Warfare


Legal System Entrepreneurship vs. State Budget Woes

Time for some legal system entrepreneurship - move the prototypes along the development pipeline so we can quickly bring 'product' to market when demand soars!

That was my first thought when I saw this post by John Robb:

JOURNAL: Legal Decay in a Soviet Style Collapse

Here's a question I got recently:  What happens to the legal system when the US suffers a Soviet style collapse?  Answer:  It will rapidly decay.  
Here's a simple formula for this (it works for both legal systems and government bureaucracies):
Low legitimacy + slashed operating budgets = rampant corruption
Regardless of any decay in the legal system, business will still be conducted.  Small disputes will be resolved through the existing system, with graft tipping the scales or speeding the outcome.  Large disputes involving substantial wealth transfer will be something else entirely.  These disputes will be resolved through the ability of one party or the other to apply the threat of (or actual) violence to the negotiation process.  
These pressures won't only be the result of counterparties that have access or control the large mafias/gangs/militias (or corporate militaries) that will spring up during economic collapse (far larger than we've seen the US to date).  Threats will also be mounted by government/defense/security officials that use their government sanctioned command of violence (police, SWAT, military units, etc.) as a means to personal enrichment.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Published 31 years ago - But More Relevant Today

This little gem by John Pugsley was published in 1980. If you already know that inflation is really caused by increasing the supply of money (in 2011 creating trillions of $$ to bailout the politically-connected) you may prefer to skim the first few chapters. Because the economy didn't melt down in the 1980s (James Grant's work shows that trends and economic bubbles persist long after 'rational' minds expect them to collapse) you could consider Pugsley a hysterical Chicken Little always (erroneously) expecting the sky to fall.

Or maybe he was just ahead of his time. If he is correct about deliberate political and economic manipulation by predatory elites (and I tend to believe it would be sporadic and impossible to coordinate in some movie-style conspiracy), then their efforts are beginning to backfire sharply! Check out Part 2 and consider whether aspects of The Alpha Strategy by John Pugsley could work in the context of community resilience:
The production and savings parts of the Alpha Strategy are plans by which an individual completely avoids conventional investment markets, and instead invests his surplus wealth in real tangible and intangible goods, and stores these goods until he is ready to consume them, or until it is convenient to trade them for goods he wants to consume. Goods to be saved will include (1) the knowledge and skills of his trade, (2) the tools, supplies, and inventory for his business, (3) the regular consumer products he uses in his everyday life, and (4) raw materials and finished products that he can store for later trade with others.
This sounds resilient:

  • Invest in Production: your trade, tools, education, marketable skills
  • Save Consumables
  • Save Real Money
While I haven't entirely severed ties with the world of digital claims on wealth and standard investments, I am looking for ways to thrive in a world where community resilience makes sense.

As an example of relevance, author John Pugsley could have been writing about the the late 1990s thru 2008 (except people were buying w/ only 5% or nothing down):
Most homeowners saw the equity in their homes soar during the 1970s. Having bought with 10 percent to 20 percent down, and with prices doubling or tripling on single family homes, the homeowner has multiplied his initial capital by five to twenty times, and all this while enjoying occupancy of the house.
This explosion in value has presented many middle-class Americans with the first substantial wealth they have ever had. Residential real estate has been rising so steadily, for so long, that many Americans, especially those under forty, have never experienced a period of declining real estate values, and even most older citizens cannot remember when real estate was not going up.

[I saw this thanks to Al Lowi who shared a note from via Facebook. I love 'the network'.]

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Entrepreneurship + Community = Antidote to Gloom&Doom

Lately you've probably noticed a lot of people selling stuff/ideas based on economic gloom & doom. I'm a recovering doom & gloomer myself. (My friends will recall that I was very worried about Y2K!) Instead of buying that doom-gloom, grab onto entrepreneurship in the context of community. Make the world better thru sustainable service.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thrift Culture

I just need to post this before it slips back into the ether.

We'll take a closer look another day.

My Ideal Place to Live

A thought provoking perspective from David Rauschenbach. I haven't read him enough to know how much of this is tongue-in-cheek, but I take it seriously...with a slight smile. Makes me think of my dear friend Vertis B.
I should like to go to bed, and sleep in perfect peace and security. And if a nuke should go off over my head in the middle of the night, I should think that I might stir a little, while dreaming about the foresight of my community, and with sadness about the ignorance and poverty of others who placed fear-mongers in charge of the whole mess. But then I should like to fall right back to sleep, knowing that my family can easily survive the fallout by taking a fast, if we are in practice, and by living through it like those Japanese nurses who only recently died at a ripe old age, in spite of all the radiation which had no effect on them, apparently for two main reasons. And I would ideally live through such times without any major lifestyle alteration, and especially without giving up any fear offering to anyone, because that would only perpetuate the whole mess, rather than steer a path through it.
Scroll to the end for this gem of a reading list:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

PECO Alternatives for electricity in Pennsylvania

I've been at a total loss about where to buy my electricity now that PECO's rates are going up & Pennsylvania allows some competition. This list of suppliers is a terrific head start. 
Thanks to Hugh Hyatt (software & systems engineer) for sharing this with me:
Here are the results of research I [Hugh Hyatt] did on rate code RS (not RH—to see rates for RH look at electricity suppliers. Ambit Energy, Respond Power and Stream Energy appear to be the winners, based solely on price.  Below are all results in price per kWh, in brief, in alphabetical order:

   Ambit Energy                                8.4-8.9¢
   Anthracite Power & Light                8.69¢
   BlueStar Energy                            8.878-9.348¢
   Champion Energy                          9.78¢
   Commerce Energy                       11.55-11.87¢
   ConEdison Solutions                      8.89-9.09¢
   Direct Energy                                9.42¢
   Dominion                                      8.91-8.99¢
   Energy Coop Assoc of PA               9.28¢
   Energy Plus Holdings                      8.95¢
   Energy Savers                               9.38-9.77¢
   Gateway Energy Services               8.9¢
   GEXA Energy Pennsylvania             9.8-10.4¢
   IDT Energy                                    9.8139¢
   Liberty Power                                 9.178-10.699¢
   MXenergy                                      9.39¢
   North American Power                    8.99¢
   Palmco Power PA                           8.49¢
   PECO                                            9.92-10.06¢
   Public Power                                  9.799¢
   Respond Power                              8.4¢
   Spark Energy                                 8.93¢
   Stream Energy                               8.4¢
   Superior Plus Energy Services         9.42¢
   TriEagle Energy                              9.4¢
   Verde Energy USA                          8.99¢
   Viridian Energy                               9.49¢
   Washington Gas Energy Services      9.6¢

Prices vary according to date of service, contract length, green-ness of energy, how you sign up. Cancellation fees for contracts vary. All pricing is without any promotion codes. It should be easy to find the websites by Googling for supplier names.  Let me know if you want the extra details I have or if you have a promotion code to share with me. :-)

With regard to customer service, PECO says, "Whether you are purchasing your electricity from a competitive electric generation supplier or from PECO, we will continue to safely deliver electricity, provide billing and customer support, and respond to outages and other emergencies for ALL customers."

There are also a couple of competitors to PECO for natural gas, but PECO still has the best rate (prices per thousand cubic feet—Mcf):

   Commerce Energy    $6.82
   PECO                       $6.29
   Shipley Energy         $6.99