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 BLOG >> July 2016

Rainwater Harvesting & Irrigation v0.2 [Agriculture
Posted on July 30, 2016 @ 08:11:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Added a pump to my rainwater harvesting and irrigation system. I thought I would use gravity to take rainwater from the water tote to the gardens but I'm not satisified with the pressure. Could raise the water tote and get some more water pressure that way but it was easier and more assured to add a 1/2 horsepower self-priming pump to the system. Here is what version 0.2 of my current system looks like:

School of Permaculture from Plano Texas has a useful recent video on their rainwater harvesting and irrigation system (RHIS). The video focuses on the design of a first flush system which is an important consideration in urban environments. They have a more sophisticated setup than mine for sure, but the simplicity of the hookups to get my system working effectively will make it attractive to some. Lots of interesting design ideas in version 3 of their RHIS that might help to inform the next iteration of my RHIS.

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Unregistered Investors - Navin Kodani & Brown F. Raymond [Site News
Posted on July 28, 2016 @ 08:09:00 AM by Paul Meagher

An investor we have registered may express interest in a proposal and subsequently share proposal information (which may include contact information) with other investors they know. In most cases this can be a good thing if the other investor is real and legitimate; but it can also be a bad thing if the unregistered investor approaches an entrepreneur and starts asking for lots of personal information that entrepreneurs don't want to share with an unregistered investor.

Lately, I've been asked a about an unregistered investor by the name of Navin Kodani who has approached a number of entrepreneurs as an investor with our service. He is not registered and I do not recommend you deal with him. He is asking for sensitive information that should not be divulged to an unregistered investor. I suspect he is an associate of a deactivated NY site investor, Cole Bregman, who contacted some entrepreneurs and obtained some of their contact info though those contacts before he was deactivated. There is a pattern of Navin Kodani contacting the same entrepreneurs who were contacted by deactivated investor Cole Bregman.

Another unregistered investor brought to my attention today is Mr. Brown F. Raymond with email address brown.raymond@financier.com. The financier.com email address is often used by financial scammers and is often enough for me to pass judgement that the supposed investor is a scammer. This is an unregistered investor posing as a registered investor.

We don't get this problem happening that often but when it happens in the future I will "out" these false investors when it is reported to me and I determine that the behavior should not be allowed to continue.

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Getting Organized [Management
Posted on July 25, 2016 @ 10:03:00 AM by Paul Meagher

This is the toolkit I haul around with me from vine to vine in my small vineyard as I do pruning work and some minor trellis maintenance work.

The 7 items in the green grocery carrier that I use to hold my tools are:

  1. Felco #2 Pruner
  2. Tape gun (also known as a tapener gun) for tying vines to the trellis
  3. 7 inch multipurpose plastic ties also for tying vines the trellis (more heavy duty tie than the tape gun)
  4. Multipurpose fencing tool
  5. Couple of short pieces of fencing wire (for tightening the trellis wire)
  6. Two wire joining and tensioning spools
  7. Fencing staples (use wooden posts for my trellis)
  8. A pair of gloves.

It takes awhile to figure out what tools are most useful and worth carrying around with you. My wife carries around a small trolly so she can put pruned material from the vines into it. She also carries gloves, Felco #2 pruners, a water bottle, insect repellent, and some sunscreen. We all carry around the set of tools that are right for us and for the job as we define it.

I spent some time yesterday thinking about how I could organize my vineyard tools more efficiently. I have more vineyard tools and materials than are shown in the green bin above and I was wondering how I might organize those tools as well. I have a small arts-and-crafts toolbox that I decided would be a good storage for my "core helper" tools. The "core helper" tools consist of replacement parts for the tape gun as well as long nose pliers to remove and insert the tape gun blades if need be. It also includes extra wire tensioners and extra plastic ties if I need them. This blue box can physically sit inside the green box I use for my core tools.

You'll also notice that I have an even bigger sturdy grey container for some bulkier vineyard tools and materials (e.g., gold-colored wire tensioning tool, wire spools, string trimmer line, wedges, a maul, etc...). This might be considered my "core extension" toolkit. The three toolkits can nest inside each other as illustrated in the photo above. If I filled the core extension toolkit with a gas jug for my string trimmer and more trellsing tools, I wouldn't try to nest the toolboxes; however, it is interesting to note that the toolkits can be physically nested within each other and, in one armload, I can load most of the vineyard tools I might need into my truck and take them to where I will be doing vineyard work. By organizing my tools in this way I don't have to make as many decisions about which tools I will need for jobs in the vineyard.

It pays to spend some time getting yourself organized so you don't have to spend alot of time in search mode looking for the tools you need to complete a job. If you find yourself spending alot of time in search mode getting ready for a job, perhaps you need to spend some time getting organized.

This blog was inspired in part by my own organizing efforts and also by former Wired editor Kevin Kelly whose Cool Tools blog is worth checking out. In particular, check the postings on the topic of What's In My Bag which was an inspiration for this blog.

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Seasonal Patterns [Design
Posted on July 18, 2016 @ 10:31:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I spent some time researching seasonality and found this interesting diagram.


Source: http://www.freshartistry.com/blog/2014/1/20/food-seasonality

Lots of time-based patterns exhibit periodicity, that is, the pattern recurs, and because of this you can often represent time-based patterns as sine waves or step functions that grow and diminish over time (e.g., lettuce grows and can be harvested at different intervals through the growing season). This diagram contains alot of time-based information presented in a very effective manner. It also reminds me a bit of permaculture zones and sectors. A sector is represented by what each season brings and a zone by how far the type of item is away from your personal space (zonation is not really used here however within each band, the size of the font differs to suggest imporantance of the food within that food grouping).

This is just one way to represent time-based patterns. I offer it up as a stimulus to think about whether time-based patterns are important to your business (e.g., patterns associated with sales, income, taxes, cashflow, profits, spending, growth, etc...), what are the various techniques we might use to respresent these temporal patterns, and whether it might be useful to make an effort map these temporal patterns.

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Patterns In Time [Design
Posted on July 8, 2016 @ 09:34:00 AM by Paul Meagher

In a recent blog, A Pattern A Day, I proposed the goal of learning a pattern a day. If you google the phrase "a pattern a day" you will see this phrase interpreted to mean learning some simple new visual pattern every day. That is one way to interpret the phrase but it is not a very interesting interpretation to me. Such patterns will often be quickly forgotten and ultimately have little bearing on day-to-day living. I'm in search of patterns that are more significant and which aren't just spatial in nature.

The architect Christopher Alexander proposed 253 design patterns that were more significant because they were patterns he felt made the buildings, towns, and construction more alive and joyful to be around. His criteria for identifying architectural patterns worth caring about was that they promote life and joy. The patterns he identified involved a connection between a particular way of designing a building, town, or landscape and positive human reactions to it. There are definite visual elements to the patterns he identified but they were worth caring about because of the positive emotional reactions they generated.

Lately I have come to the realization that alot of the patterns that I care about take place over time. Anyone who gardens is interested in the response of plants to sunlight, water, drought, fertilization, disease, and a variety of other factors. One particular temporal pattern I'm studying at the moment is how long it takes for weeds to emerge after I till up some soil for planting. Rather than planting into tilled soil right away, I'm now waiting for a few days to see when the weeds will emerge so I can quickly eliminate them with a flame weeder (pictured below) before I plant into the bed. I'm trying to create a stale seed bed to plant into so I am observing how long it takes for weeds to emerge after I till the soil so I can remove them just prior to planting. This is supposed to create less plant competition and less weeding. We'll see.

I think it takes about 5 days for weeds to emerge after I till and prep a bed but for me to be more certain I will examine this more than once. Tomorrow I'll be returning to my farm where I'll be quite interested in how many weeds there are in some beds I prepared for planting last friday. After 8 days I should have lots of weeds to flame before I plant my next round of seeds.

The pattern that interests me in this case is not based on any positive emotions it might inspire (although seeing weed seedlings quickly evaporate under heat is quite pleasurable), but rather it is a pattern worth learning because it can potentially lead to better yields and less work. There is a very practical motivation for wanting to learn patterns of weed emergence. Notice the use of the word "patterns" (in the plural) rather than "pattern" (in the singular). Weeds emerge at different rates depending on the ambient conditions (amount of rain, sunlight, ground temperatures, etc...) and the seed bank in the soil so I don't expect weeds to always emerge after 5 days. The term pattern is often used to label a phenomenon that exhibits some variability around a typical pattern or ideal set of circumstances.

Many temporal patterns of interest to gardeners can be measured in days but there are many other temporal patterns that occur in much shorter or much longer time periods. For example, Allan Newell in his book Unified Theories of Cognition (1990) suggested that it was important to consider the time scale over which different patterns of human behavior happen (p. 122) because we need to use different explanatory concepts to account for them.

The diagram is useful to remind us that regularities occur at different time scales. Sometimes patterns can be explained by reference to concepts situated in the relevant band, or perhaps by concepts situated in a lower or higher band.

We can look for temporal patterns in business as well that might be useful for designing or managing aspects of a business. Sam Altman published a recent article called Later Stage Advice for Startups in which he discusses patterns that successful startups need to respond to after 12-24 months of growth. If they don't respond to some of these temporal patterns he argues chaos will ensue. Worth a read.

The purpose of this blog is to raise the issue that patterns occur in time as well as in space and often in both (spatio-temporal patterns). Often when we use the term pattern we think about nice visual patterns but these patterns are often somewhat trivial compared to the patterns that are worth caring about. Many of the patterns worth caring about take place over time and we can use our knowledge of them to help us navigate our way in business, life and gardening. Hence the phrase "timing is everything".

NOTE: One of the best philosophical discussions on what a pattern is was by the philosopher Daniel Dennett in his article Real Patterns (1991, PDF download). Of course you can find lots of discussion on temporal patterns among day traders but whether they are "real patterns" is often in doubt.

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Predicting Bank Failure [Finance
Posted on July 5, 2016 @ 08:56:00 AM by Paul Meagher

The 2016 Behavioral Economics Guide (PDF) was recently published. The introductory article by Gerd Gigerenzer discussed a research program between his research group and the Bank of England. Some of that research is reported in a paper called Taking Uncertainty Seriously: Simplicity versus Complexity in Financial Regulation (2014). The basic argument being made in these papers is that we would probably do better in regulating banks if we used simple heuristics to decide if a bank was at risk of failing rather that relying upon increasingly complex metrics to arrive at that assessment. Indeed it can be argued that the complexity of the metrics is making it even more difficult to assess the risk of bank failure.

How do we go about deriving these simple heuristics? You can use a framework of multiple fallible indicators to come up with the best set of indicators to determine if a bank might fail or not. Here are some of the indicators they looked at.

Using the indicators that had the most explanatory power, they proposed the following "fast and frugal" decision tree as a basis for evaluating whether a bank is likely to succeed or fail. A fast and frugal decision tree involves making a pass/fail decision at each node so you don't have to traverse all the nodes to potentially make a decision as to the vulnerability of the bank.

The purpose of this blog is to whet your appetite to read some of the linked to papers to read more. It is also to demonstrate an approach to coming up with your own fast and frugal approach for dealing with complex assessment problems (identify indicators, rank order them, and incorporate them into a fast and frugal decision tree or lens model). I'm not aware of this approach having much traction yet among bank regulators and the authors offered up this model as "illustrative" of a suggested approach rather than a real proposed model. That is too bad because such a model would allow the general public to gain a sense of how vulnerable a bank might be to failure. We can't do that with more complex approaches and therein lies one of the the problems with overly complex approaches that don't necessarily perform any better at predicting bank vulnerability that simple approaches.

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