2021-06-28 5 min read


Notes, 2021-06-28.

I moved into what is now The Prepared’s shared workshop in late 2018, about a year after I had shipped a few pallets of holiday rush orders out of my Brooklyn basement. Between the high humidity, and the low ceilings, and the often rickety stairs, basement workshops can be tough, and at some point I had started inquiring on all the shop space within a ~15 minute bike ride of my home. I initially looked for something for just myself, but I soon found that even the scrappiest light industrial landlords deal in units that are many thousands of square feet - not exactly a good fit for one person and a workbench. And anyway, I was thinking more and more about using The Prepared to build many-to-many relationships. So when the landlords offered me a few months of discounted rent on a larger unit, I allowed myself to be taken in by their sales pitch.

Probably the most visible result of running a semi-cooperative workshop is the vast quantity of tools that I’ve acquired since starting it. Years of admittedly casual study on the Toyota Production System (and eye rolls from my significant other) tell me that this is a curse - an albatross hanging around my otherwise lean production neck. But I can’t help but see embodied wisdom in a well-equipped and well-used shop, and it’s been enlightening to explore the non-overlapping parts of the shop’s tool Venn diagram. There is a sense of long term bilateral umarellism in shared workshops, and I believe that observing others’ work - and having my own work observed as well - makes me a better generalist mechanic.

-Spencer Wright

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~15% of opens) was an article on daisugi, a Japanese method of growing clear, straight Kitayama cedar. And:

  • This Friday (2021-07-02), The Prepared's Members' Reading Group will do a final group interview with Adam Rogers about Full Spectrum.
  • Next Tuesday evening (2021-07-06), we're opening up The Prepared's Project Show & Tell to everyone! Join us for presentations on 80/20-style t-slotted pasta, folding bike wheels, and more :)

Planning & Strategy.

  • An interesting and useful thing to know about in NYC commercial real estate: The good guy guarantee, a relatively common feature of commercial lease agreements. The good guy guarantee is an opt-out clause, allowing the tenant (and sometimes the landlord) to cancel a contract with (typically) 90 days notice. The result of the good guy guarantee is that even a 10 year lease can be broken pretty painlessly - something that landlords are amenable to in times where commercial real estate is hot.
  • Lina Khan was nominated and confirmed as chair of the Federal Trade Commission, signaling a potential sea change in antitrust enforcement and right-to-repair law. In 2017, Khan wrote an article on Amazon in the Yale Law Review that made a strong (and historically based) argument for a fresh perspective on competition. Amazon is famous for its focus on short-term customer benefit, which almost by definition exempts them from contemporary antitrust regulations, but Khan eloquently and effectively argues that they are obviously anticompetitive; certainly other tech companies (especially Apple, as Ben Thompson has argued) follow a similar pattern.
  • CFM International, the GE/Safran jet engine consortium which controls something like 40% of the market, unveiled a new open-rotor gas turbine aircraft engine design. Aircraft are engineered for and certified with specific engines; for example CFM’s most recent engine, the popular LEAP, is certified for the 737 Max and the A320Neo (where it competes with the infamous Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan). This means that engines and aircraft are often developed in parallel processes, with Boeing/Airbus working in tandem with CFM/Rolls Royce/Pratt & Whitney. Anyway, this new open-rotor engine (dubbed “RISE”) boasts 20% fuel burn reductions and a targeted release date in the mid-2030s, making it sync up nicely with Airbus’ - but not Boeing’s - development cycle. It also contains “additional technologies” which “make it compatible with sustainable biofuels or hydrogen and allow it to be adapted to hybrid-electric operation.”

Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

  • Vertushka were Soviet dial-less telephones, connected directly to the Kremlin via manual switchboards. They look like Voldermort Western Electric 500s.
  • A quick video of a Tesla Model 3 getting *very* confused while following a truck that’s carrying a couple of stop lights.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.

  • A Mach 30 (!!!) wind tunnel will open in Beijing “soon.” “The surface of an aeroplane travelling at such a speed could reach 10,000 degrees Celsius (18,032 Fahrenheit) – hot enough to break air molecules into atoms, even giving some of them an electric charge. ‘This air is no longer the air we breathe in,’ said Han. ‘The flying vehicle we study is like swimming in mud.’”
  • “A quad is a unit of energy equal to 1015 (a short-scale quadrillion) BTU.”
  • On the HBR Ideacast, a very good four-part story (starting here) on the totally bizarre rise and fall of Carlos Ghosn. The show comes to the conclusion that companies simply shouldn’t allow their executives to have CEO roles at multiple companies, which seems totally rational to me - but at the same time I’m not exactly holding my breath for Jack Dorsey or Elon Musk to change their behavior.


  • A dingbat is a style of two- or three-story apartment building common to LA and elsewhere in the Sun Belt. They’re boxy, stuccoed, and are raised above sheltered car ports.
  • A good thread on the myriad public health and wellness benefits of trees.
  • My 4 year old really enjoyed David Attenborough’s Life In Color on Netflix, and it’s *super* fun to hear her tell a grownup about how bees can see in ultraviolet.

Images of the Gwangyang Steel Plant, the largest steel mill in the world; see also this marketing video on the plant.

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