2024-05-24 5 min read

Scope Creep, 2024-05-24.

Scope Creep, 2024-05-24.
In New York City, security cameras often peer out from 2x4 periscopes mounted to the backsides of construction site walls. The construction sites are watching you; are you also watching the construction sites?

It has been delightful to see entries for Il Campionato Mondiale di Umari roll in; little expressions of curiosity and respect, full of astute observations and musings on the nature of manual work. I'm also proud to announce prizes for the championship: tote bags, t-shirts, and jobsite scavenger hunts for the top three entries in all categories, plus a set of compact binoculars for the top notetaking entry (to better capture a jobsite's minute details), a pack of Field Notes Front Page pads + a Kaweco Skyline Sport mechanical pencil for the top open text entry (to better compose poetry and prose), and a CW&T Studio Sketch pad + a Kaweco Skyline Sport mechanical pencil for the top sketch entry (to sketch with precision and grace). I use each of these items myself in my umarelling practice, and am excited to share them with you đź’ž

Scope of Work is supported by our awesome Members, and through support from:

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  • My notes ( ~1500 words) on three books I read recently. Next week the SOW Members' Reading Group chats with author Nick Seaver about Computing Taste, his book on music recommendation algorithms and the people who make them. The following week we'll discuss Brian Eno's 1983 essay The Studio as Compositional Tool; we're currently voting on what book we'll read next. And, you can join us!
  • I wrote here two weeks ago about Huy Fong Foods (iconic makers of sriracha sauce), their dispute with Underwood Ranches (growers of jalapeño peppers), and the Huy Fong shortages (and sriracha Cambrian explosion) that have followed. What I didn't mention was the cause of Huy Fong's currently planned shut-down: The color of the jalapeños isn't right, and as a result the color of their sauce isn't right. I had a hard time visualizing this; the source article I linked to described jalapeños as maturing from green to chocolate to red, and quoted Craig Underwood as suggesting that Huy Fong's new jalapeño supplier probably picked them too late in the season. I'm not sure what color this makes the jalapeños, but thanks to Tarik I now know what color it makes the sauce: a kind of dirty orange, far outside the range I'd expect from a mass-manufactured condiment:
Huy Fong sriracha bottles purchased in New Mexico in March (left) and May (right) 2024. Courtesy Tarik Saleh.
  • You know who probably knows a thing or two about condiment quality control? Tao Huabi, the founder of Laoganma, which claims to make 1.3 million bottles of their chili crisp sauce every day. This profile of Tao credits much of Laoganma's success to the fact that Tao, an "extraordinary average-looking and old Chinese female," is pictured on the front of the sauce's bottle; it also compares Laoganma's output with Huy Fong's, which apparently clocks in at a paltry 55,000 bottles a day.
  • A new Bill Hammack video on the engineering of "duct" tape. If I were making a Top Ten Tapes list, I don't think that "duct" tape would make the list – mostly because it can't be used on the very thing that it's named for. Here's a partial list:
    • 3M VHB ("very high bond") tape would definitely be up there.
    • I've recently gotten some good use out of tesa 51608, which is designed to bundle wiring harnesses in automotive applications.
    • Stretch wrap, which Anna & Kelly wrote about for SOW in 2022, is just so good at what it does; when I need to bundle something, literally nothing else will do.
    • For packaging, reinforced moisture-activated kraft paper tape is superior to polypropylene in every way except portability. The one change I want to make to my setup is to ditch my [brand name redacted] dispenser and get an old Better Pack 333 Plus, like this one, instead.
    • I own a fair amount of waterproof and otherwise technical garments & bags, and have gotten pretty good at repairing them with Gear Aid Tenacious Tape.
    • A few years ago I got an old, manually-operated masking tape dispenser from my grandfather, and put a bright pink roll of Pro Tapes Artist Tape (made of paper and similar to masking tape) into it. It sits right next to my workbench, and gets a ton of use – mostly for labeling little things.
    • Probably more than any other adhesive product, my everyday mobility depends on the tubeless rim tape I use on my bikes. I wrote about this a little bit last year; I use a variety of brands (Stans, Orange Seal, and DT Swiss), and cannot tell the difference between their performance.
    • Maybe a year and a half ago I had a series of ankle and knee injuries, and came to rely on KT tape for lightweight, adaptable support. This "how it works" video explains the stuff reasonably well; I found it easy to apply, comfortable to wear for days on end, and helpful in assisting my recovery.
    • I'm not the biggest fan of Gorilla's adhesives, but I do keep a roll of their waterproof patch & seal tape in my basement. It's kind of annoying to store (the ends of the roll are constantly sticking to whatever they come in contact with), and I've only had to use it once or twice, but it gives me some comfort to know it's there.
  • A partial history of the pizza box, with a selection of patent drawings of both the box itself and its manufacturing processes.
  • A short interview with one of the founders of Retraction Watch, a website devoted to tracking retractions in scientific literature.

Thanks as always to Scope of Work’s Members and Supporters for making this newsletter possible. Thanks also to Jacob, Nick, Tarik, and Joe for helping source links this week.

Love, Spencer.

Spencer Wright
Spencer Wright
Spencer Wright is the (mostly accidental) founder of Scope of Work, which he started writing (as The Prepared) in 2013. Today he serves as its editor-in-chief and chief dilettante.
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