2020-06-29 5 min read


Notes, 2020-06-29.

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.

-Spencer Wright

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.

Making & Manufacturing.

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.

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.


The NYTimes sends Christopher Payne to a shipyard.

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