When I write for The Prepared, I first thematically organize a dozen-or-so interesting links from the yawning abyss of my bookmarks and then use any emergent themes to write the introduction. This week, my links were decidedly fish-themed—which got me thinking about one of my favorite, easy, under-the-radar travel activities: visiting hatcheries.
A hatchery is like a combination mini-aquarium, research station, and industrial operation. The US Fish & Wildlife Service operates 70 hatcheries in the United States and each state operates additional hatcheries on its own, including a dozen in New York. They are usually close to main highways and make great road trip stops or even day trips: the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, for instance, has science exhibits, natural history exhibits, and a fully stocked fishing reservoir with rental equipment.
If your interests are similar to mine—and I assume that they are to some extent because you are reading this newsletter—you will really enjoy how open hatchery staff are to showing you the behind-the-scenes operations of spawning, breeding, and transporting fish. On my bucket list for hatchery-related operations: the Salmon Cannon in Washington and the Aerial Fish Restocking in Utah.
The most clicked link from last week's issue (~9% of opens) was the Wikipedia page for kei trucks, the little (and highly practical) utility trucks that dominate Japanese micro-logistics. In the Members' Reading Group this week, we're starting The Toaster Project, Thomas Thwaite's fantastical and epic effort to recreate the supply chain for an almost comically simple object -- a simple sliced bread toaster.
Planning & Strategy.
- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is working with the marketing studio Span to rebrand invasive Asian Carp as Copi in an attempt to make it a more appealing food. It’s worked in the past: Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish), monkfish (goosefish), and uni (urchin, also called whore’s eggs by American fisherman as recently as 1990) were all successful rebrandings.
- Speaking of fish, it’s always a surprise to me how much of what feels like traditional cuisine is actually very modern, accidental, or even engineered. In Japanese cuisine, tuna and salmon rose to their contemporary status only in the 20th century: tuna was a poor man’s fish until post-war Western influence brought a taste for fattier meat, and salmon was an undesirable fish until the 80s when a desperate Norwegian government ran aggressive ad campaigns in Japan.
- This is now a fish section. Sometimes invasive species’ growth far outpaces anglers’ ability to remove them, and more industrial solutions are needed. Kentucky has been removing carp with rather dramatic electrofishing for years. But what if the invasive species doesn’t bite hooks and electrofishing would harm native species? That’s precisely the issue with lionfish in Florida, which have to be individually hunted. Retired military submariner Scott Cassell has built a submarine designed to laser-designate lionfish for spear-fishers.
Making & Manufacturing.
- In the early days of electric lighting, robust frosted light bulbs were considered impossible and were occasionally assigned to new General Electric engineers as a fool’s errand. Marvin Pipkin didn’t realize this and created the first commercially viable frosted light bulb in 1925. Similarly, in his first year of grad school George Dantzig solved two unsolved statistics problems after arriving late to class and assuming they were homework.
- During the Taiwan Strait Crisis, China dropped about a half million pieces of ordnance on Kinmen Island. The shells provided raw metal for islanders to make tools, hardware, and kitchenware, which blacksmiths still use to this day.
- The US lags in sunscreen technology for a wonky reason: the FDA regulates sun-blocking ingredients as drugs, while the rest of the world regulates them as cosmetics. The stricter regulator regime extends the time-to-market for the active ingredients (UV filters) in sunscreen, and the result is that American sunscreen options tend to be either more oily or more chalky than their European and Asian counterparts.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- The last Blockbuster in the world is still renting videos from its Bend, Oregon location. It still uses the original 90’s era point-of-sale system, which is maintained by one man in Texas.
- There has been a lot of press about the James Webb Space Telescope recently, but something that surprised me was the rate of micrometeorite impact: the telescope has sustained four “consistent with expectations” strikes and one “larger than prediction” strike already. Two things here are impressive to me: that there are so many strikes in “empty” space, and that we can do interferometry from 1.5 million kilometers away to correct for it.
Distribution & Logistics.
- McDonald’s fully exited Russia this year, and the local licensee is reopening the restaurants as Vkusno & tochka ("Tasty - and that's it"). The new chain has run into a supply chain issue: Russia is unable to domestically produce French fries at an industrial scale.
- The US Energy Information Administration published a report that said the US tripled its utility-scale battery storage capacity to 4,631 MW in 2021. At first I thought this was a typo: why would battery capacities be expressed in megawatts (power) and not megawatt-hours (energy)? Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson explains that most of the capacity is in the form of “four-hour” systems designed to discharge over a short period of time (comparable to “peaker” plants), so capacity is measured in power rather than energy.
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- A man attempting an EV conversion of an old BMW discovers that the seemingly simple gear selector is actually incredibly complex to reverse engineer.
- One of my favorite retrocomputing bloggers, @foone, does a detailed teardown of the iconic 3.5” floppy drive and its surprising number of molded and stamped features.
- A detailed analysis of hexalobular (Torx) and square drive (Robertson) screws gets into the nuance of what makes a good screw. Like all engineering questions at scale, the answer is “it’s complicated,” but the book One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw is a good crash course if you’re like me and love rabbit-holing.
- Greg Abandoned is the nom de guerre of a photographer that finds and documents abandoned infrastructure from around the world. I appreciate the code of conduct among urban explorers to minimize vandalism: do not reveal locations.
- You may know Shimano as the largest manufacturer of bicycle drivetrains. The company’s second-largest business unit is actually fishing equipment, which shares economies of scope: making small things that spin and ratchet reliably in outdoor environments.
p.s. - I am trying to track down the manufacturer of the carabiner used for ISS spacewalks. Got a lead?
p.p.s. - We care about inclusivity. Here’s what we’re doing about it.