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.
- Adam Savage made a rickshaw for his Boston Dynamics Spot, and had Spot tow him around while wearing a top hat. Aside from the obvious observation (that this is a silly project), the bloopers at the end of the video provide a little taste for BD's technology readiness level; Spot doesn't seem to really "just work." I also found myself ruminating on how workshops like Savage's are wondrous, enchanting places - and how fabrication (the act of converting materials into parts and assemblies) looks almost nothing like manufacturing (the act of making a thing, over and over again, in a repeatable and predictable way). I love both of those things, and each of them is visually fascinating, but I try to be cognizant of the spectrum between them. Only tangentially related: The fabrication tool which I probably covet more than any other is a 1960s Deckel FP1, a milling machine whose versatility and sturdiness are legendary.
- A bunch of cashew videos, thanks to your replies from 2020-01-20:
- A product overview video for a range of fully automatic cashew processing equipment. The equipment in this video looks pretty legit, but the amazing thing to me about this one is that "Cashew Nut Processing Business" (aka Oscar Cashew Tech) has more than 7000 subscribers on YouTube.
- A news piece on cashew processing in the Ivory Coast which puts current efforts to industrialize there in context. Apparently a quarter of the world's supply of cashews comes from the Ivory Coast.
- A partially narrated walkthrough of a cashew processing operation in the Ivory Coast. This is all manual and seems like the kind of place where minor injuries are common, but in general it's a professional operation.
- A video showing what seems to be a semi-cooperative cashew processing factory in Ghana.
- A very noisy video of an automatic cashew cutting and scooping line. Working in a place like this seems totally dreadful to me; note that the increased efficiency of crude automated methods also results in a *lot* of noise, none of which the workers are typically protected from.
- You can buy a cashew nut shelling machine for ~$5k FOB Henan.
- If anyone has a line on where to get Euro Gripper Tooling in the US, holler!
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 random datapoint that felt fun: Dong Xi, The Prepared's database of (Apple's) supply chain transparency reports, gets as much web traffic from China as it does from the US.
- A good list of notable African American innovators in manufacturing & technology. I'll also note that Lonnie Johnson, the inventor of the super soaker, seems like a *really* interesting guy.
- The Coastline Paradox is the observation that coastlines, with their fractal-like properties, do not have a well defined length. This is related, loosely, to a link from 2019-05-13 which argued that counting is the hardest thing about data science.
- An oldie but a goodie: Knob Feel on YouTube.
- Reposting, apropos of nothing, one of my favorite links from The Prepared of all time: An essay about payment processing in the porn industry, and just how difficult it is to run a legit business selling adult content. This was posted back in 2018-08-10, and while the original post was taken down due to negative feedback the comments in it are interesting and applicable to other underdeveloped (and just looked down on) industries.
- Most emoji scissors would make terrible scissors.
Thanks as always to our recurring donors for supporting The Prepared. Thanks also to the following readers for sending links: Yuval, Andrew, Paul, Mark, Eric, Bob, Sebastian, Nick, Jonty, Saul, James, Charlie, Geoff, John, Russ.
p.s. - We should be better friends. Send me a note - coffee's on me :)
p.p.s. - Whenever possible, we work to encourage inclusivity. Here's how.