Another year! And what a year it was.
The Prepared saw a lot of action in 2017. Subscribership doubled; 8 new guest editors brought fresh voices and styles to the newsletter; 12 podcast episodes were recorded and released.
True to my word, I had something like 100 coffees with readers like yourself last year, and spent many more dozens of hours reading and replying to your (kind and almost always insightful) emails. This is *always* interesting, and one of my goals for 2018 is to find new ways to connect with you all & make new connections among you. If you're able to do one thing for me this year, please share The Prepared with a friend! The more good people to connect with the better :)
On the financial side, more than 80 people and companies stepped up to help cover The Prepared's costs. This was a big deal to me personally; both this newsletter and the podcast take significant time and money to produce, and I couldn't be prouder to be supported by such an awesome collection of engineers, operators, and entrepreneurs.
I'm excited for 2018; there's a lot of good work that I'm looking forward to doing - and learning about - this year. But to kick things off I'm taking a short a break, and turning the reins over to Dan Hui and Lisa Neigut for the next two weeks respectively.
Happy New Year, all!
Planning & Strategy.
- A good rundown of the solar system explorations planned for 2018.
- The NYTimes does a deep dive into costs on East Side Access, the troubled MTA project which has far and away the highest cost per mile of any rail project in history. The most striking thing to me here is the cost-plus nature of the MTA's bidding process. When feedback loops are tight and quality is a big concern, cost-plus can be a great way to keep projects running quickly - but the MTA's bidding & contract structure completely destroy those alignments.
- SoftBank has successfully acquired a big chunk of Uber stock, stabilizing the company somewhat and distributing a lot of long-awaited wealth to early employees whose options have to date been both highly valuable and almost completely illiquid.
- On the really crazy things that HQ2 applicant cities offered Amazon.
Making & Manufacturing.
- A short piece on Sewbo, which is using polymer lamination to make fabric stiff - and hence able to be processed fully by machines.
- SpaceX's first Falcon Heavy was raised onto the launch pad for the first time; it should launch sometime this month. The (somewhat tangential) thing that's been bugging me about this: Who is paying for this Tesla Roadster they're launching, and how exactly are they justifying the cost?
- A short profile on Tulip, the manufacturing management system that we've been using on The Public Radio.
- In SF next week? Go to HDDG and see Mo McBirney (who I had the pleasure of talking to on the podcast a month or so ago) talk about automation in manufacturing!
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- On the practice of wrapping shrubs in burlap over the winter, something that's become rather popular among weekenders in my hometown. The landscaper in this story, Antonio Sanches, is a family friend and was something of a legendary figure in my childhood.
- A big point of concern for Puerto Rico's power grid moving forward: Trimming trees more frequently.
Distribution & Logistics.
- Four new subway lines (almost 84 km of track) were opened in Guangzhou, bringing its total system length to 390.6 km; it opened in 1997. For context, the NYC subway's total system route length is 394 km, and the US as a whole has opened only 77 km of new track since 2000.
- A nice short video showing grid corrections on (mostly rural) roads.
- The Washington Post is now offering its CMS as a service to newspapers around the world.
- Leonia, NJ is making 60 surface streets off-limits to nonresidents during rush hour - a direct strike against Waze.
Inspection & Testing.
- A long, excellent analysis of Google Maps' 5-6 year jump on Apple and the ways in which they have (apparently) combined 3D aerial imagery and StreetView to create really rich maps in even tiny towns.
- On the ULA Delta IV's tendency to set itself on fire at launch.
- On all the crap industry handouts in the drafts of the recently passed tax bill.