2019-04-29 2 min read


Notes, 2019-04-29.
Six months ago I asked for proposals on cathedral construction, a topic that at the time seemed both topical (the BBC had reported that La Sagrada Familia had gone for 130 years with no building permit) and on-brand for The Prepared. Cathedrals makes for *really* weird projects, and, as Nicolas Kemper writes in the feature on cathedral-building that we published this morning:
    Cathedrals are so compelling because they make visible the continued commitment that every building, city, and institution requires of their participants if they are to survive. Cathedral building ritualizes construction; they are compelling because they are never finished.
Cathedrals are tragic; to build one is perhaps the most Sisyphean of endeavors. They are plagued with delays. They are sometimes seen as symbols of oppression and ransacked (as Notre Dame was). And sometimes, they burn down. More on cathedral project management, the challenges of building to moving targets centuries in the future, and the history of NYC's own Cathedral of St. John the Divine -> here.

The most clicked link in last week's issue (~18% of opens) was Robert Caro's new book, Working.

Planning & Strategy.

  • John S. Barry, the driving force behind WD-40, died. "Mr. Barry acknowledged in interviews with Forbes magazine in 1980 and 1988 that other companies, including giants like 3M and DuPont, made products that closely resembled WD-40. 'What they don’t have,' he said, 'is the name...We may appear to be a manufacturing company, but in fact we are a marketing company.'"
  • Tool Foundry is an accelerator for companies making scientific discovery tools.

Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

  • On the remarkably long legacy of COBOL, which apparently *still* powers 95% of all ATM transactions and (partly because of COBOL's use of GO TO statements, and partly because there are hundreds of different versions of COBOL, etc) is incredibly expensive to maintain.
  • The Tektronix 453 oscilloscope was developed circa 1965 for IBM techs tasked with maintaining System/360; a key design element was that it needed to fit under an airplane seat.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.

  • Public cloud servers experience remarkably low utilization rates. "One potential benefit of using a public cloud, such as Amazon EC2 or Microsoft Azure, is that a cloud could be more efficient. This is because a cloud supports many users, and it can potentially achieve a much high server utilization through aggregating large demands...Averaged over the whole week, the individual server’s utilization ranges from 3.6% to 16."
  • Ten highways that, if torn down, would improve the economic outputs of the places they pass through.


  • CloudNC, which has had my curiosity for a few years, finally has an actual website :)
  • Michael Wolf, who photographed urbanity as a subject unto itself (especially in his 2005 collection The Architecture of Density), died.

Everything you've ever wanted to know about how why cathedrals take *so* long to build.

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