2020-02-17 6 min read


Notes, 2020-02-17.

As I'm writing this I have 72 links in my queue that I think you, dear reader, should read. I've got a half dozen videos of cashew processing operations; a *really* thought provoking rabbit hole on the printed textiles that we think of as African (for length reasons, this won't make it in today's newsletter 😢); an excuse (admittedly kind of a stretch) to mention one of my most coveted manual machine tools. It's all so interesting; it's all too much; there's just not enough space.

As I wrote in The Prepared's 2019-Q4 paid subscriber update - and in the blog post which summarized parts of it - one of my primary goals over the next year is to transition The Prepared from a hub-and-spoke model (with me at the middle; I should note that I have benefited hugely from this over the past six years) to a distributed network. In other words, I want to do a better job at connecting *you* with *each other.* But I also want to do a better job at sharing the right information at the right time, and as I confront a deep backlog I wonder whether The Prepared is doing that as well as it could be. So, my request to you: If you have thoughts on how The Prepared could be better, click this link and give me some feedback.

Separately, careful readers may notice that this email's format is *slightly* different than previous weeks. If there are any issues then please give me feedback on that too :)                                                                            The most clicked link in last week's issue (~19% of opens) was photos of the new Huoshenshan Hospital being constructed in Wuhan.

Planning & Strategy.

  • I'm sure I've mentioned this years ago, but the Amazon-style meeting (which there really should be a better name for - send your recommendations here) is, in my experience, *much* more productive and enjoyable than conventional PowerPoint presentation meetings. I ran one of these recently (and had the pleasure many years ago of presenting a version of this document at Amazon HQ) and walked away with a sense that there had been both a high density of information transferred per minute, and also a greater degree of level setting and empathy established. The people who I presented to seemed to understand where I was coming from, and the conversation that followed had a form that was both structured and organic. As Adam mentioned in The Prepared's paid subscriber Slack, another "unanticipated benefit is that it helps communicate to people who aren't in the room why a decision was made; you can just read the memo and get more or less the same information as everyone in the room."
  • Gekokujō is a Japanese term which "is variously translated as 'the lower rules the higher' or 'the low overcomes the high'" and which essentially refers to a principled and socially acceptable mutiny.
  • Rachel Holt, who joined Uber in 2011 and has been running its "New Mobility" (bikes/scooters) division since 2018, and Dayna Grayson, who led investments in Tulip, Formlabs, Desktop Metal, and Onshape while she was a partner at NEA, have started their own venture firm, Construct Capital, to be based in DC.
  • Michael Nielsen's list of projects that have taken an exceptionally long time. Related, Nicholas Kemper's feature on theprepared.org about cathedral construction and St. John the Divine, on which worked stopped for thirty years and yet somehow it's "actually pretty far ahead of schedule."
  • Reinvented is a magazine dedicated to changing "the general perception of women in STEM fields while inspiring interest in STEM for young women nationwide."

Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

  • This is slightly old news by now, but owners of older Haas machining centers are revolting over lack of product support on older tools (like, 90s and aughts). I have some sympathy for Haas here, but I'm also aware that manufacturers of heavy equipment like Caterpillar and John Deere (note, Deere has other *big* issues on maintainability) keep huge libraries of old casting & forging tools so that they can support ancient equipment. Presumably we'll eventually get to a steady state where control boards are seen the same way mechanical parts are; I wonder whether the end of Moore's law, over which there has been so much hand-wringing, might at least bring some stability to the electronics market and give a little more heft to the argument that electronics are only end-of-life because nobody's willing to pay for them to be resuscitated.
  • A somewhat alarmist piece on what happens to wind turbine blades when they're reached the end of their usable lifespan. Read to the end of the article before forming a judgement on how big of an issue this is; while the headline seems scary the magnitude of this problem (and even the idea that it's a problem in the first place) is a little overblown.

Distribution & Logistics.

  • A really fantastic Twitter thread about a series of Amazon purchases gone wrong. A 3rd party Amazon seller sells cardboard boxes, and labels them with a UPC code. Other 3rd party Amazon sellers purchase those boxes and use them to sell cases of granola and sets of Harry Potter coasters; they apply their own UPC codes but don't cover up the UPC codes that were applied by the box seller; hilarity ensues. As one of the follow-up comments notes, you can actually track this by searching for the box sellers' products and looking at the user-submitted photos that were taken when the wrong item showed up.
  • A side by side map of the 90 minute public transit commuter zones of SF and London. Check out the whole thread - the data is pretty cool and also 🤦‍♂️
  • A very good dashboard of confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


A thread on engineering.stackexchange of the engineering terms in NYC transit structures.

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