2020-02-24 4 min read


Notes, 2020-02-24

Hello readers, Hillary here.

Since I was here last, I started a master’s research project on waste issues in Canada’s Eastern Arctic. Managing waste resources is a huge challenge worldwide and recycling systems across North America are failing to deliver the circular supply chain they promised. In the Arctic, where most communities are isolated, waste often stays on the tundra or is managed in open dumps. Recycling isn’t a viable option and municipal solid waste is a small fraction of the waste left behind by military operations and resource development. My advisor, Dr. Hird, has written about the complicated intersection of settler-colonial development in Inuit homelands and the ongoing waste legacy, and I’ll be continuing that work.

I am preparing to work in Pangnirtung, Nunavut this summer, assisting the municipal government to design a repair and reuse program to keep materials out of the dump. I spend a lot of time browsing library catalogs looking for books about repair and more than generalized theories, I find endless repair manuals from all disciplines. From repairing DNA to repairing concrete, humans are in a constant state of beating back entropy. Everything is always in need of repair. In the last issue of Kneeling Bus, Drew proposes entropy as a more powerful organizing principle for reality than progress. Often we get trapped in the growth ponzi scheme, expanding projects beyond our capacity to maintain them and hoping things will work themselves out down the line. How might we design systems that are a collaboration between humanity and entropy?

For a quick primer on how challenging it is to manage waste in the Arctic check out this podcast about dead cars in Alaska, and to understand how materials are shipped to the Arctic check out this (highly sensationalized) show about Arctic sea-lifts.

The most clicked link in last week's issue (~30% of opens) was an overview of how meetings are run at Amazon.

Planning & Strategy.

Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

  • In Australia and New Zealand, it’s common to have a salvage shop adjacent to the municipal landfill called a tip shop. The Glenorchy Tip Shop is turning 27 this year and inspired other towns to create their own facilities. I am curious how this has impacted waste diversion over time but I can’t find any long term studies, if you have one, holler here.
  • Spencer shared this in 2017-03-27, and it’s a piece I keep coming back to: Google’s modular phone, meant to be easily upgraded or repaired, ended up scrapped after years of development. Part of the failure was a bizarre development cycle, taken from DARPA’s hardware development methods. But potentially more damning was the fact there was no strong evidence that consumers actually wanted a modular phone.
  • A lovely primer on how a smartphone camera works. I have a pretty good idea of how film cameras work from dark room photography but more layers of complexity and logic govern digital images.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.

  • Not all Kickstarter projects have panned out as promised, so it may come as no surprise that the “Air Umbrella” has been debunked as deeply impractical.
  • I love the work Jamie Allen has done on ‘apocryphal technologies’: devices that are dubiously authentic and make claims about the metaphysical. I particularly like this workshop where the Scientologist’s E-meter was recreated and critiqued.
  • Companies are beginning to label the carbon footprint of food products but the complexity of calculation may have diminishing returns. I am annoyed that yet another decision is being downloaded onto citizens when we should reasonably expect the responsibility of decarbonization to happen at a much larger scale.


An extreme Mercator projection of Atlanta, GA

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