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    This is TMAP — good design

    On fragility

    At first glance I believed the site The Philosophers' Mail to be a satire of some kind. I've been reading it every once in a while, and I still can't be sure. But it doesn't matter if it is. It's filled with insight, and it describe the unregistered connections we have in our brains. I love reading it. It's convenient to finally find an article that is on-topic for TMAP.

    This particular article extolls fragility. The way I write and the things I focus on can certainly give the impression that I hate fragile things. This is not at all true.

    In fact, the main thing I value is success. I describe it often as "doing its job well". In the case of a fine glass, it could do no better than to be delicate. The scene where that glass performs is the play of self-control. Its job is to give you the tactile reminder that you have to focus on what you're doing, or you will make a fool of yourself.


    A hori hori prototype

    About a year ago I discovered the magic of a tool called the hori hori. In Japanese it means "dig dig". By now you should be able to infer that it is an Ancient Canadian papyrus calligraphy tool.

    But it can also be used for gardening. It can tear up soil, slice through roots, and the concave side is great for scooping, like a spade. It's extremely versatile and remarkably simple.

    Soon after I discovered its existence, my friend Aaron told me how he had fallen in love with his, and we talked about it for a while. Because the design is so simple, I said I'd make one for him. I've seen several in stores, usually selling for around $35. Most appear to be pressed steel with a crude edge ground into them and a plain wooden handle. You really don't need much to make a good hori hori. But I want to make the perfect one.

    The one in the pictures, doing its job, is the prototype, and the hands belong to Aaron. The tool is made out of 1/8" stainless steel. I spent a while grinding out the backside and grinding down the blade edges. I was surprised to find that the heat generated by grinding was enough to dramatically warp the steel. I put it in the forge and knocked it flat, then let it air cool, believing that the stainless steel would remain hard through this process.

    I was wrong. In fact, this blade is now very soft. The handle is on it, and it's kind of too late to quench harden it. The tool is far from perfect here, but it's good enough to use. This is a huge success because I learned a lot of lessons. For my next attempt, I will:

    • Consider using a high carbon steel.
    • Deliberately harden and temper it according to the type of steel I use.
    • Use slightly deeper scallops.
    • Add 1" to the handle and remove the bumps on the end.
    • Subtract 1/2" from the blade, because an additional inch on this tool would be too much!
    • Use a thicker material for the handle.
    • Add a large lanyard/wall hanging hole.

    Prototyping is an invaluable process. So many things come up when you attempt to finalize a design. No amount of design speculation can make up for testing a finished prototype.

    And yes, once I perfect a hori hori, I will be selling it through TMAP. Let me know if you're interested, and I'll push it down the pipeline a little faster. Expect a price point in the $60 - $100 range, depending on the features I include, and how many steps I can streamline or remove from fabrication.


    How Bicycles Are Made

    More from the excellent internet series called There Is No Such Thing As Magic, this short film covers the manufacture of an English bicycle as done a few decades ago. Some of the technology is outdated - for example, no one uses cotter pin cranks anymore, except for cursing at, and very few wheels are made of steel anymore.



    The TMAP mission

    On a recent trip to Argentina I was reading through Inc. Magazine. It's a pretty amazing source of information for the entrepreneur. I was genuinely surprised by the breadth and applicability. I had been sure it would be a moderately useful Business-Bro publication. In fact I read it cover to cover. That could mean I'm a business-bro, but I doubt it.

    While my brain was on fire with ideas, I did some work on narrowing down what drives the TMAP brand. Asimov was an inspiration.

    We seek to carry products that satisfy these rules. The first two are inflexible requirements except in the complexity of their evaluation. The rest are merely goals to seek.



    1. Ethical
    Although we understand the question of ethics is hazy, we stand against injustice. We sell products that do not unduly strain the world or the minds in it. This is the most important measure of work, and we need to hold each other accountable to this.

    2. Effective

    Products, like professionals, should do the jobs they set out to do. This is the second most important measure of work.



    3. Lasting

    A product that lasts your lifetime often increases in value as time passes, and its cost per use falls. Longevity is a very attractive feature for a useful product, and should be a priority, so long as it does not interfere with a product's effectiveness.

    4. Maintainable

    A product that can be maintained over its lifetime serves its owner in many ways. Every time that product is repaired it is improved, like the callus that improves your hand. A scar on a good product reveals the story of that product, educates you, and establishes a relationship with it.

    5. Repeatable

    To sell a one-off, like an antique, undermines the idea of being a retailer.

    6. Beautiful

    The lowest priority, except when one of the problems being solved by the product is an aesthetic one.

    Cell phones probably aren't ruining us.

    Cell phones probably aren't ruining us, but worrying about them is a good thing to do.

    Here's an article from FastCompany chastising Apple for a recent ad they made.

    From the article:

    "In what should be a warm, humanizing montage, people are constantly directing their attention away from one another and the real, panoramic world to soak in pixels. They’re choosing the experience of their products over the experience of other people several times in quick succession. And Apple has a warm voice in the background, goading us on."

    Where I agree with this article is at its core. We're definitely seeing more times and experiences getting overtaken my these devices. Apple, in doing a perfectly reasonable thing for their business, is either intentionally or unintentionally "consecrating the behavior". That makes me a little uneasy too. All of this technology is still new, and we're still working on developing social etiquette around it. We don't have a "normal" or an "appropriate" established yet, and it's not helping to have Apple tell us that it's normal to have their products in bed with us and our cute children.

    But, in Apple's (maybe I mean "in American culture's") defense, cell phones, which are very sophisticated tools, still spend most of their time in pockets, because most people are still just using them as tools. The ability to easily and quickly catalog beautiful things and wonderful moments in our lives is one of the most amazing things that cell phone cameras have done for us, and because this is an ad for those products, it makes sense to show videos of people using Apple products during those moments.

    It can, of course, be a problem when the ability to catalog becomes a compulsion to catalog, or when it interferes with a person's actual participation in reality. I'm sure there are thousands of hours of home camcorder footage of someone saying "put the camera down". I think this is the underlying fear informing this article's disparaging message. It doesn't trust anyone to not be the person viewing the world filtered through the pinhole lens of a device. It's incredibly frustrating to watch the people around you uploading their presences to the internet, but most of the people I know are still good at being people, and setting good boundaries, so I'm not inherently afraid of people using their silly little cameras to snap a shot of some trifle they wish their siblings could see. I'll speak up only when I worry about them failing to experience where they are.

    So, it is okay to act like the people in these ads sometimes - to have these products present in our most beautiful moments - but only when they disappear into the number of times that we are too distracted by our experiences to think about cataloging them.