2020-01-06 3 min read


Planning & Strategy.

  • The IRS reformed its free file program, requiring companies like Intuit to not block their free file options from search engine indexing and imposing a consistent naming scheme that makes it clear what's free and what's just discounted. *So* many kudos to ProPublica for  their reporting on Intuit's deeply deceptive marketing and incessant lobbying efforts; the world is better off for this change.
  • On The Weeds podcast, a measured and insightful conversation about "Neighborhood Defenders," aka NIMBYs, and the negative consequences of soliciting community feedback on development projects.

Engineering, Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

  • Zinc-air batteries are metal–air batteries powered by exposing zinc to atmospheric oxygen, allowing it to oxidize. Frequently used in hearing aids, they're inexpensive and non-rechargeable.
  • B612 is an open source typeface commissioned by Airbus to be used on aircraft cockpit screens.

Distribution & Logistics.

  • A very good Twitter thread estimating the number of bananas that can be hauled by a large modern container ship. The number is around 90 million, and is dictated largely by the power consumed by the reefer (refrigerated) containers that bananas are shipped in. For other banana-related content, I *strongly* recommend Nicola Twilley's classic 2011 piece, Spaces of Banana Control.
  • The Long Island Rail Road (which I grew up on; I was pleased to be reminded that it is, despite its many shortcomings, the busiest commuter railroad in the US) is using a system made by a Dutch company to burn debris off of tracks to improve traction. A pretty cool solution to a problem I hadn't thought of; I only wish that the Northeast commuter rail corridor would produce a few more transportation technology companies so that the likes of MTA and Amtrak wouldn't have to source this tech from elsewhere.
  • Share Now, a BMW/Daimler joint venture known in the US as Car2Go, is shutting down all North American operations. "Automakers seem more focused on electrification than testing new ownership models...In the end, it may be that the 2010s were an aberration, a moment when free-flowing venture capital and automakers’ panic about the future created a wealth of private transportation options."

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


  • A super rad post on the Ubiquti forums showing a mini network rack built from LEGO Tecnic parts.
  • In September, a young writer named Natalie Beach published a long and very personal essay on The Cut detailing how she had, in the years after she graduated from NYU, helped build a friend into a mini Instagram influencer. On the surface it's an exposé, an unmasking; Beach's friend, Caroline Calloway, has an ambivalent relationship toward the truth and fails to deliver on at least a few contractual obligations during the story. But in truth it's a tragedy, and I found myself feeling sympathy for all involved - including Calloway, who in the end comes across as damaged, stuck, and rather helpless. I also recommend the NYTimes' metacommentary on Beach's essay, which poignantly describes it as "marketing for both women. It was writing. It was performance. What the moment made clear is that the line between the three has become blurred beyond recognition."
  • A clever sliding door stop.

A quick explainer on how the USS John McCain's control UI caused it to crash into a tanker in 2017.

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