Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Shrewd King 12.4: High tech and the pull economy

“Sensors are not magic” Dmitri was telling Quinn. “They have to be in the right place. They have to be properly installed. They have to communicate and somebody has to be paying attention and most important, the person paying attention needs to take action.”

“I am going to show you how to install them and how to set up communication nodes” Dmitri said. “But first, I want to demonstrate what they do.”

“Walk over to that shed as quietly as you can” Dmitri said.

Quinn slowly picked places to place his feet, bringing the balls of his feet gently in contact with the ground. Nothing happened.

“Now walk back the same way” Dmitri said.

Again, nothing happened.

“Now walk normally toward the shed.”

This time a strobe at the peak of the shed started flashing at Quinn’s second step and a siren started hooting.

“We are going to start with seismic sensors. They sense the ground shaking” Dmitri said. "Like I said, sensors are not magic. They can only pick up what is there."

Reaching into a box, Dmitri pulled out a plastic, soft-drink cup with a couple of wire leads protruding from its mouth. “This is the actual sensor.”

Tipping it so Quinn could look inside, Quinn saw a round ferrite magnet glued to the bottom of the cup and several turns of thin, copper wire glued to the sides of the cup.

“Nobody picks up trash, right?” Dmitri said. “That makes this a sensor you can install in plain sight and nobody will notice. You just have to make sure that the cup stays upside down, even if it gets windy.”

“How does it work?” Quinn asked. It hardly seemed possible that something so simple could sense ground shake.

“The bottom of the cup acts like a diaphragm and the weight of the magnet resists moving. The coil moves up-and-down through the magnetic field and generates a tiny amount of electricity” Dmitri said. “Most of the magic is in processing the signal.”

“So the coil moves and the magnet doesn’t?” Quinn asked.

“Exactly” Dmitri said.

Quinn spent the rest of the morning learning how to install the sensors and hook up the processing units. He also learned to locate and install the battery and mini solar panel.

Something Dmitri could not teach Quinn was how to set up the alert system to maximum advantage. Dmitri had designed the system with both an audible and a strobe. Obviously, a poorly designed system would alert the intruder while failing to alert the defenders.

The afternoon was spent learning the basic technology and installation of signal repeaters. Quinn’s vision was to install sensors at the potential staging sites to backstop this human intelligence network.

Dmitri cautioned him that he needed to learn to walk before he ran.


Mr Yoder met with his Amish neighbors. They were floored by fifteen bushels of corn going for $100, silver.

“Well, I guess when you are hungry, you will pay what is asked.” Mr Yutzy observed.

Mr Miller, the youngest of the four farmers said, “That does not make it right.”

Mr Yoder responded, “When people don’t pay a fair price, they get wasteful. I think the English farmers don’t want to run out of grain before the next harvest comes in.”

Mr Miller scratched his chin beneath his beard. “I am be willing to sell the English corn for less than $6.67 a bushel but I don’t know what a fair price is.”

Mr Gruber, the oldest of the four Amish farmers spoke up for the first time. “What did we get the last time we sold corn to the elevator in Charlotte?”

“That was before the government took all the corn we were storing in the elevator and shut them down.” Mr Yutzy said.

Mr Yoder was looking through his little, pocket notebook. “The last corn I sold I was paid $3.93 a bushel.”

Miller, Yutzy and Gruber chimed in as they checked their notebooks: “$4.05/bushel”, “$4.10/bushel” and “$3.90/bushel” respectively.

“How good was the corn they were selling?” Mr Gruber asked.

“Not very good. They let it stay on the stalk too long and it got rained and snowed on.” Mr. Yoder said. “Our corn is much better.”

Bragging is frowned upon by the Amish. As Mr Yoder saw it, it was purely a matter of being accurate.

“It is no farther to Kate’s Store than it was to the elevator.” Mr. Gruber noted. “I think we could each sell them fifteen bushel of good, Amish corn and have a minimum bid of $4 a bushel.”

“Would you take paper money?” Mr Miller asked.

Gruber said “Silver. The paper money is backed by the promises of the same people who stole our corn out of the elevator.”

Mr Yutzy suggested the men share the plan with their families and to pray about the decision.

It would be telling if the English farmers did not allow the Amish to sell their corn at the auction. If they refused, then they were motivated by Mammon. If they were welcomed, then the English farmers were obviously most concerned about a poor harvest and running out of corn in the coming year.



  1. Not sure I agree with the conclusion reached by the Amish. As I understand it, the farmers are selling their corn at auction at a much higher price than before, in order to MOTIVATE people to get off their ass and WORK to help make sure that there IS another harvest. It's not about the money.

    So if the Amish come in and sell corn at 40 percent less, and better quality corn at that, they are undermining what the farmers are trying to do. The Amish should come TALK to the local leaders such as Ken Salazar and the three main farmers, and find out what their motivation is. It isn't money. That way, they could figure out how to get their own corn sold while at the same time working with and not against the legitimate and necessary goal the farmers have in mind.

  2. The Amish are discussing nothing different than what the triumverate is doing, just with better quality at a better price.

    This is how markets work. At a given level of supply, the price will settle at a given level. I believe the farmers have overplayed their hand, pushing prices above what the market will support. Hopefully, they're about to learn a lesson in hubris.

    1. You both have valid points and I enjoy reading your comments.

      I am not going to comment because I don't want to spoil the story.

      I do want to add that allowing prices to rise increases supply and creates substitutions while artificially holding prices down reduces supply and stifles innovation. That is one of the lessons of rent control, for instance.

      Ultimately, society has to decide which crisis it would rather grapple with: A crisis of affordability or a crisis of availability.


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