Last week I implemented the first tentative steps towards reopening The Prepared’s workshop - steps that are at the same time reassuring (it’s nice to have a plan in place) and tenuous (I don’t see how the zombies *won’t* come back to NYC soon). Doing so feels like a test of my leadership and risk management skills that’s on par with what I experienced during Hurricane Sandy, though the diffuse nature of today’s challenges leave me with both more uncertainty and a greater sense of opportunity. Sandy was an event that needed to be managed almost completely in retrospect, whereas the traumas we face today (the pandemic, the environment, a culture that is deeply, systematically, and violently unfair) remind me more of the parable in David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water. It is not really possible to point at the problems that humanity faces right now; it is nevertheless our responsibility to try to overcome them.
Somewhat separately, a standing request: If you know (or if you are) a person who a) works on the kinds of things that The Prepared covers, and b) is from an underrepresented background, we want to hear from you here.
The most clicked link from last week's issue (~29% of opens) was a single-frame comic poking fun at the difference between Boeing's and Airbus's cockpit UIs.
Planning & Strategy.
- antenna-theory.com is a wonderfully Web 1.0 repository of references, guides, and miscellany related to antennas.
- A very good video series on engineering principles for makers. I especially like Jeremy’s workshop organization, which uses space in really clever ways, and his willingness to build his own power tools.
- I’ve been enjoying Emily Atkins’ HEATED newsletter, a daily calling-to-task on the urgency of climate change.
- Somerville, MA has a population of 80,000. Only 22 of the buildings in Somerville are legal to build under its current building code.
Making & Manufacturing.
- Munro & Associates tear down a Tesla Model Y HVAC unit, finding a large injection molded part that has a little FDM insert bonded into it. The insert itself is pretty messy looking but seems to have done the trick, namely that production was able to continue even though a big and complex tool needed to be reworked.
- The USDA’s Handtools for Trail Work handbook (PDF), which has pretty detailed info on all manner of heavy hand tools suitable for forestry, demolition, and landscaping work. After browsing this, I officially added a McLeod tool to my personal wishlist.
- An open source tool for documenting cables, wiring harnesses and connector pinouts.
- Two manufacturing videos that 3yo Nora enjoyed watching with me: An automatic carrot harvester and an automatic carrot peeler. Related, Gastropod on carrots, with some good info (around 29:00) on how “baby carrots” have allowed carrot farmers to increase yield dramatically. Check out the video embedded on that page as well - I prefer eating whole carrots, but the baby carrot production process does seem *highly* efficient.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- In the paid subscriber Slack last week (and then again in our weekly lunchtime Zoom chat), Nick shared Rebuilding Tally Ho, a now 77-episode (and counting) YouTube series made by a young Brit living in Washington state and painstakingly rebuilding a 110-year-old wooden sailboat of some historical note. This series is absolutely engrossing; it drew me in immediately and is both educational and, for me, super nostalgic. There’s obviously specialized boatbuilding knowledge sprinkled throughout, and some pretty awesome jigs & old tools (I especially recommend this crazy, hacked together sawmill). But what really gets me is the sense of community, and naïveté, and the way that the protagonist frames each new development as an opportunity rather than a setback. Strongly recommended.
- When copper alloys come in contact with chlorides, water, and oxygen, a destructive chemical reaction begins which is, for all practical purposes, impossible to halt. Art conservators call it bronze disease, and the only way to pause it is to put the affected part in an oxygen- or moisture-free environment. This is relevant today because lots of old statues are made of copper alloys, leading some action-oriented people to consider finding and applying guerrilla sources of chlorides, i.e. throwing cans of tomatoes at statues of old racists.
Distribution & Logistics.
- There are now (at least anecdotally) more bikes than cars in Paris at rush hour, after Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo opened 650 km (403 miles) of bike lanes in May (a number that is, coincidentally, very close to the 425 miles that the Regional Plan Association proposes for NYC). Meanwhile, Streetsblog reports that a total of 67 miles of bike lanes + open streets have been opened in NYC during COVID-19, though in an email last week from Brooklyn DOT Commissioner Keith Bray, NYC has apparently only opened 53 miles thus far.
- In Nigeria, tomatoes are often loaded into raffia baskets and strapped to the top of gasoline trucks to be transported to market.
- A lookbook (with short, heartfelt profiles) of USPS employees at the Jamaica, Queens post office.
- The Stoosbahn is a funicular in Switzerland with a maximum gradient of 47.7°; its cars are barrel-shaped and mounted such that they can pitch up and down, allowing their interior floors to remain level.
- Supply chains for PPE are still “a little fragile,” even at some of the largest and best-funded hospitals in the US.
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- Bunnie Huang on contact tracing. “Singapore [and presumably any other country that takes contact tracing seriously] needs hardware tokens to better serve two groups: the underprivileged, and iPhone users. The underprivileged can’t afford to buy a smartphone; and iPhone users can only run Apple-approved protocols, such as their Exposure Notification service (which does not enable full contact tracing). In other words, iPhone users, like the underprivileged, also don’t own a smartphone; rather, they’ve bought a phone that can only be used for Apple-sanctioned activities.”
- Last year the USDA rejected a proposal to ban hydroponics and aquaponics under the National Organic Program; a coalition of conventional farmers is now suing to have that decision reversed. They claim that organic farming should dictate not only the content of the product being produced, but also should be inextricably linked to soil enrichment during the farming process, and hydroponics just don’t do that.
- An open-source microscope built using LEGO bricks, Arduino and Raspberry Pi.
- This chart, which appears to come from this article, shows that the six Bay Area counties have had remarkably low (and flat) COVID-19 infection rates relative to the rest of California. If you sort this table of California counties by per capita income (or by median family income), you’ll notice that the six Bay Area counties are also the six wealthiest counties in California. I posit [without additional evidence cited] that these two facts are causally linked.
- On my personal website, a blog post on the many frustrations I encountered while trying to use Patreon to build The Prepared into a business. Patreon is a very good product idea, poorly executed and with a billing model (Patreon takes a percentage cut of sales off the top) that is ultimately unfriendly to creators. While I deeply appreciate the support I received there, using Patreon was frustrating, full of (bad) surprises, and ultimately held The Prepared back as a business.
- I’ll be (virtually!) hosting the New York Hardware Startup Meetup next Wednesday, 2020-07-08.
Thanks as always to The Prepared's paid subscribers for supporting The Prepared. Thanks also to the following readers for sending links: Xavier, Skyler, Nick, Rob, Chris, Sam, Gabe, Andrew, Rob, James, Oliver, Daniel, Ken.
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