2020-01-13 3 min read


Planning & Strategy.

  • Over the past year, I've been collecting a list of awesome women in manufacturing, engineering, and logistics - a resource for people looking for experts for consulting projects, journalism, or panel discussions. I'd *love* to include your recommendations as well; please send them here.
  • ZF Friedrichshafen AG, also known as ZF Group, is a prominent manufacturer of vehicle transmissions with €36 billion in revenue in 2018. It "is more than 90% owned by the Zeppelin Foundation, which is largely controlled by the town of Friedrichshafen," Germany. Related, the Bose Corporation is majority owned by MIT, which famously incubated Amar Bose at the Acoustics Lab at Building 20.
  • A favorite old blog post that I somehow may have never included in the newsletter: From Gongkai to Open Source, Bunnie Huang's 2014 piece on intellectual property norms in the Shenzhen electronics ecosystem. Related: Bunnie tears down a Form 3.
  • Casper loses an average of about $160 on every $1000 mattress they sell. I wonder if the takeaway from the 2010s is that today, it's ultimately cheaper to build/acquire a chain of physical retail locations than it is to build the backend (and all of the related tribal knowledge) for a direct-to-consumer company. Of course the corollary is that the D2C infrastructure stack will presumably get cheaper as the industry matures; I'm curious where D2C really is on that maturation path and how the stable state unit economics compare between the two business models.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • The original iPod was still in pre-prototype phase during the 4th week of January, 2001. It shipped to customers the first week of November that same year. The total project duration was around 290 days.
  • A rather mesmerizing video of a glass forming lathe creating male threads on what appears to be a borosilicate tube.
  • A remarkably quiet 10-minute video of a BMW carbon fiber production process. I'm a bit shocked at the lack of eye protection & respirators here.
  • A clever hack using a USB fob + a kill cord to trigger a complete destruction of your laptop in the case that it's ripped from your hands.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.

  • A very good rundown of sustainability issues in the printing ink used in packaging.
  • Perhaps the best unit of measurement ever is the Banana Equivalent Dose, a measure of radioactivity which equates to 10^−7 sievert. "Although the amount in a single banana is small in environmental and medical terms, the radioactivity from a truckload of bananas is capable of causing a false alarm when passed through a Radiation Portal Monitor used to detect possible smuggling of nuclear material at U.S. ports." Bananas' radioactivity comes from potassium-40, which the human body maintains in equilibrium - meaning that you can eat all of the bananas you'd like without increasing the amount of radioactive potassium.
  • I'm looking for a good book on either Alexander Graham Bell or the history of AT&T; send recommendations here. Note that I've already read (and *loved*) The Idea Factory


  • The Wanggongchang Explosion "was an unexplained catastrophic explosion that occurred on May 30 of the Chinese calendar in 1626 AD at the heavily populated Ming China capital Beijing, and had reportedly killed 20,000 people. The nature of the explosion is still unclear to this day, as it is estimated to have released energy equivalent to about 10-20 kiloton of TNT, similar to that of the Hiroshima bombing."
  • My random, NYC-centric hot take of the week: The brutalist monolith (33 Thomas St) that most infrastructure nerds know as "the Long Lines Building" is a one trick pony, a flash in the pan. But the original AT&T Long Lines Headquarters (32 Avenue of the Americas, fka 24 Thomas St) is a treasure, and the experience of entering its lobby from the Canal St A/C station is a palpably prewar - and, today, a remarkably inclusive - experience.

On the systemic issues that allow cruise ships to *not* hook up to shore power while parked at Red Hook, Brooklyn.

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