An interesting and useful discussion on Instapundit segues from the ethics of using a restaurant’s power outlets to how to prepare for power outages: read the whole thing (it’s short).
As for the ethical question, I lean towards “if you’re using something the business is paying for, chip in to their bottom line.” Coffee houses have historically served as public meeting places, not just restaurants trying to cycle as many people through their tables as possible – so every once in a while, I’ll buy something for the privilege of hanging out and taking up space, even though I don’t normally go in for $5 cups of dessert coffee. After all, if everyone freeloaded, the place wouldn’t make any money and have to close down; then where would you be? The public library? That place is annoyingly noisy and crowded. Librarians definitely don’t go “shush!” around here.
The discussions of generators and UPS’s was very interesting. We haven’t lost power for long at our place yet, but making arrangements for power outages is something any aquarist with a lot of money sunk in the livestock should consider. The aquarium ecosystem of most tanks depends on water flow, which is driven by electronics – there are heartbreaking stories of discus keepers losing beautiful, expensive fish due to natural disasters that leave them without power for days. (And for saltwater keepers, that’d be thousands of dollars. I bet they all have generators.) If power goes out for an hour or so, I start taking precautions – popping the canister filters open and draining most of the water, so the bacterial colonies can breathe, putting battery-driven airstones in the larger tanks to keep the water from stagnating. It’d be nice to have some kind of backup power, though. I doubt a UPS could run a power filter for very long. And I do have a couple hundred dollars’ worth of livestock!
One reason I’d like to have a generator is that I don’t trust the utility companies to maintain sufficiently hard infrastructure. While I’m pretty sure I live within the “death zone” if DC got nuked, we also have this tendency to get hit with pretty big storms on a regular basis. But the power still goes out, even though storm damage is predictably going to occur. I wonder what incentive it would take to get a utility company to build a more robust electrical grid?