Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. The photo above is from a walk at Lake Macbride on 8 Oct 2022. It’s a nice example of the colors of fall in Iowa.
Resources For Life News
For the Resources For Life website, I’m now providing seasonal newsletters rather than monthly installments. The fall newsletter was posted on 30 Oct 2022. [View]
As a result of my tech work, people give me their old computers, electronics, power cords, and other tech accessories. These are items that typically contain plastics and metals that shouldn’t be throw in the trash. If still functional, they may be of use to someone, or should at least be recycled to separate the materials and inner components to be repurposed.
Some devices need to be securely erased or reset before sending to a recycling facility. Working but slightly older devices can be sold on eBay. The selling process requires photos and descriptions for items being sold. I’ve been pleased to have a use for the collection of boxes and envelopes that accumulate from shipments received.
I’m estimating it will take me several months to slowly go through the excess items I have. I’ve created a resource page with recycling information for the Iowa City area to help others who are wanting to get rid of their old tech devices. [View]
Companies like Nimble sell tech accessories made from recycled materials, and with every product sold, they pay the shipping for a pound of your old electronics to be recycled. This seems like a nice full-cycle approach to responsible tech sales. [Learn More] Outfitters like The North Face are also pursuing circularity.
The Circular Business Model is described in Harvard Business Review in this way: “…manufacturing companies are talking about what’s often called the circular economy—in which businesses create supply chains that recover or recycle the resources used to create their products. Shrinking their environmental footprint, trimming operational waste, and using expensive resources more efficiently…” [Source]
These efforts help reduce electronic waste (e-waste) and preserve a cleaner planet for the next generation.
100% Solar Printing and Scanning
Using small-scale solar energy for powering specific devices has been a fun learning experience. I have a single solar panel that generates 65 to 70 watts of power in direct sunlight. The energy is stored in two battery packs of about 500Wh total. Even with the shorter days of fall heading into winter, and the sun getting lower in the sky, there continues to be a surplus of solar power beyond what I can use for the items I’m running on pure solar power.
Other than charging smartphones, small electronics devices, and AA rechargeable batteries, I have two power-hungry devices running on solar power. I have an old Dell laptop computer that pulls about 50-watts when charging (about two hours once a week). I also have a printer that uses about 10-watts with occasional 20-watt loads. When not in use, I turn it off. Since I’m only using it a few minutes a day, it isn’t a significant drain on my available energy.
The ability to print with 100% solar power is enjoyable. I use paper made from sawmill waste chips. The paper is manufactured using wind energy and hydropower. With the print setting usually on draft mode, the ink used is minimal. I make sure to have a small notice on each document printed indicating that the printing is 100% local solar power with eco friendly paper. I feel it’s important to distinguish local solar from energy credits or offsets.
To avoid having piles of paper around my desk and office, I scan all paper documents. This declutters and makes it easy to find items later. Postal mail items, invoices, receipts, notes, and bills are all scanned, shredded, and recycled. Any envelopes, cards, or scraps of usable paper are repurposed rather than recycled.
Free is Too Expensive
I created a website in August called Iowa City Free to help distribute items locally rather than selling them online. I did my best to offer many very nice working new items that are typically in high demand such as webcams, smart speakers, and more. I promoted this to thousands of people. Over several weeks of effort, only one person responded.
It seems that most people want to click a button to order something new online and have it shipped to them. The money isn’t an issue. It’s more a matter of convenience and selection. I can understand that. Another consideration is that people feel they can afford to buy things, and don’t want to deprive someone who is truly needy. “Oh, no. Let someone else have it.” I guess that says something about the community I live in.
Of the people who are financially strained, who might be interested in free items, they find that free is too expensive. They don’t have a means of transportation to come and get free items. I could ship items to needy people, but they have no permanent address. They would like a computer, but have no money for Internet service. There’s a long list of support and resources needed by people who are in difficult circumstances.
For the Iowa City area, we have an organization called CommUnity Crisis Services that offers an array of services and resources to meet people’s needs. That’s probably a better way to get support to those who need it.
An aspect of the Iowa City Free initiative was to also provide simple conveniences to neighbors, particularly those who are elderly. Perhaps someone needs an envelope and stamp, or needs a FAX sent. Simple items and services can be a great help to others and require very little from the person offering them. This aspect of Iowa City Free is further explained on the Home Services web page.
Reverse Flow Currency Economy
The key for a healthy economy is to have money (or value) flowing. The traditional flow of money is from the recipient of a product or service to the provider — consumers buying things.
In the 1970s, the closest experienced to a Google search was provided by Lexis (for legal documents) and Nexis (for magazine articles) — these later merged to become LexisNexis. I was able to test out these services in the early 1970s during their rollout. These services were available for about $100 per hour initially. That’s about $670 per hour in today’s dollars.
By the late 1990s, Google launched a more comprehensive search service for free — equivalent to money (or value) flowing to consumers at a rate of $670 per hour across billions of computer screens. Trillions of dollars in value per day. Lexis still has value for legal research, but most everything else is available on Google, including 10 million miles of 360-degree street view for maps.
Today when searching the Internet, it is possible to earn money or other valuable rewards (such as planting trees or donating cash to non-profit groups). This is an example of reverse flow currency economy.
This past week, natural gas prices dropped below zero in Texas and Europe. I suppose that means people receive checks in the mail instead of bills. Or maybe it’s like the oil industry where profits climb, but consumers pay more at the pump.
In my own business of tech consulting, I’ve had situations where a person needs computer repair services, and I provide them with a replacement computer and the tech support needed to set it up — for free. I regularly have opportunities for profit sharing to benefit my customers — rather than shareholders. Because my customers are my shareholders. Throughout the year, this takes the form of discounts, cash back, gifts, and sometimes tech accessories or peripherals.
It will be interesting to see how our world economy changes in the years ahead with more being available for zero dollars or negative dollars.
Life as a Generalist
I’ve been thinking about how the Iowa City Free website might evolve to serve local needs. Having area services listed in a single place can be helpful, so that’s at least one benefit of the site.
I received a call this morning, midway through writing this article, from someone needing to find a home for some hens. The caller was told by someone to contact me as a community resource person who might know how to find a home for these hens. This was a referral as a result of the Iowa City Free initiative. I was able to provide some guidance. It was nice to be considered as someone with expertise in finding homes for hens.
My life-long full-time vocation has been as a technologist, but I also try to be a modestly informed generalist in a variety of topics. I think this is inspired and strengthened by having a liberal arts education. Whatever a person’s primary career may be, the application of their skills and insights can be expanded by having a broad-based education and familiarity with the world. This broad and global perspective helps me better understand the needs and life of the diverse people I serve.
One day I was on LinkedIn and took a moment to review my list of skills, as submitted by the people who know me. It’s an impressive list of 31 skills. One day I hope to live up to the perception others have of me. Missing from the list is the skill of tech services provider — the one skill that has been my life-long career and specialty. This doesn’t discourage me. My resume and referrals from loyal customers over several decades affirm to me that my tech abilities are recognized and valued. But it’s an interesting example of how we may become known for something other than how we would define ourselves.
Trust in Democracy
Some years ago, I was hired by a group to promote public support of a project. I was very enthusiastic about the project and offered support above and beyond what I was paid for. I believed that the project would be welcomed by our community. It was for improvements to some local government buildings. As is typical with taxpayer-funded projects, there were some people in favor and some people against it.
My feeling was that the strongest and most effective support of the project would be achieved through clearly and fairly offering all perspectives. With approval, I made video recordings of those speaking in opposition to the proposal. I produced videos of their presentations with nicely styled visuals and PowerPoint slides.
I believed if the public could hear a fair, balanced, and effective presentation of all viewpoints, the consensus would be in favor of the project. A super-majority of votes was needed for approval.
I still believe the effort I made was the most effective way to promote the project and give it the best chance of success. Being respectful of people, even if they are in opposition to something you support, is the best choice. Acknowledging good points made by opposition is the most honest and reasonable response. Being rude, insulting, and unfairly trying to discredit someone in opposition angers those who are the target of such treatment and causes one to lose the respect and support of those who are undecided.
Ultimately the project did not receive a super-majority of support. However, had I chosen to engage in ‘dirty politics’ for the promotion of the project, I believe it would not have had as much community support and votes as it did receive.
In many respects Iowa City is a small town. After the election, I would frequently encounter many of the people who had strongly opposed the project. They would stop and engage in a friendly conversation. Some thanked me for my help in opposing the project. I think some people believed I was working in opposition to the project — because I was always friendly, polite, and respectful at public events. They just assumed I must be on their side.
I’ve approached other public initiatives and politics in general with the same perspective. I trust Democracy more than my own subjective opinions and views. It is certainly an effective mechanism to determine what serves the sentiments of a majority. Given a respectful, educated, and informed public, Democracy helps us aggregate a diversity of views and ideas to find what our collective crowd-sourced ‘super-computer’ intellect concludes is an ideal approach to a challenge or goal.
We have a midterm election coming up on November 8. I’ve always waited until Election Day to vote. This year I voted early. I want to make the shift in mindset to vote early. It feels uncomfortable — like celebrating a religious holiday at a convenient day of my own choosing. Similar to observing Passover or Easter in August.
Election Day is the equivalent of a religious holiday for those who value democracy. I think I will always recognize the official day as special and worthy of observance and reflection — perhaps by reading history books or watching movies and documentaries about democracy. It might be nice to have some traditional Election Day ornaments that symbolize the people, places, events, and principles of democracy. It’s an opportunity to revisit high points and low points in the history of democracy, and to think about how we can foster an ecosystem that supports vibrant democracy. The thing about self-governance is that you don’t really notice it or appreciate it. When fascism rises up, you notice that.
We currently have some people who want to leapfrog over democracy. They don’t pursue respectful dialog or value being considerate of others. They believe the most aggressive and heavily-armed people should rule. They have formed militia groups operating independently from and in opposition to government entities. They have spawned extremist individuals and groups. Their dream for America would be marauding hoards of militants vying for power, guided by an ever changing constellation of conspiracy theories.
Below is a two-minute video commentary that summarizes the danger of increased violence in American politics. The video is from 2016, but in today’s political climate, in light of ongoing aggression directed at legislators, this video seems even more relevant. [Source]
As people understand, value, and trust in democracy, we can reduce the trend toward violent uprisings and civil war which is a destructive “continuation of politics by other means.” A peaceful healthy democracy is always better than the alternatives.
Disclaimer: In business and public interest endeavors, I work with a wide spectrum of people who represent various political and social perspectives. I’ve encountered respectful, intelligent, competent, and trustworthy people who come from a variety of backgrounds. So, I’m disinclined to wholly endorse a single narrow group with a blanket statement of approval while rejecting any other group — political, religious, or otherwise. Instead, I support and advance certain values and principles wherever they may be fostered.
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Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.
Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 22 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith/philosophy), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and public interest efforts. This is based on the Life Map presented on the Resources For Life website. [View]