New York Times profiles Foxconn factory worker

Yuan Yandong is a worker at Foxconn, a major manufacturer of consumer electronics for companies like Apple. The New York Times profiles Yuan and explores conditions inside the Chinese manufacturer:

Mr. Yuan (pronounced yu-wen) wakes at 6:10 p.m. at his small apartment, a 20-minute walk from Foxconn’s campus. He arrives at the factory at 6:50 for a quick free meal at the canteen, then starts work at 7:30.

His task is to help complete 1,600 hard drives — his workshop’s daily quota — and to make sure every one is perfect. Seated in the middle of the assembly line in his black Foxconn sports shirt, cotton slacks and company-mandated white plastic slippers, he waits for the conveyor belt to deliver a partly assembled rectangular hard drive to his station. He places two plastic chips inside the drive’s casing, inserts a device that redirects light in the drive and then fastens four screws with an electric screwdriver before sending the drive down the line. He has exactly one minute to complete the multistep task.

Working at a company known for its precision manufacturing and military-style regimentation is not easy. Mr. Yuan can take his cellphone to work, as long as it doesn’t have a camera, but no MP3 players are allowed. He can chat with other line workers, but on the line there are no wasted movements; they have been analyzed and tested with a stopwatch, he said.

“If you do the same thing all day long you can become numb,” he said. “But I’ve gotten used to doing this type of work.”

Ecto blogging software for Mac OSX

I’m looking at tools that can streamline my WordPress publishing process. I’m always looking for the easiest way to send content to my blogs.

For quick text posts like this one, logging onto WordPress and formatting and adding tags can be a bit more troublesome than it’s worth.

This evening I’m trying Ecto, which works very much like a simple text editor.

Features include:

  • Flickr integration
  • Tagging and categorizing
  • Extremely lightweight

I really like Ecto’s ability to tag content and quickly post. It’s available for a 21-day free trial, then it’s $19.95. A little bit steep, but worth it if it stands up to the test.

The rookie card that all dreams were made of

I was 12 years old when Upper Deck released its inaugural set of baseball cards in 1989. The anchor of that set was card #1, Ken Griffey Jr. That card helped turn the hobby of sports card collecting into a serious business, and contributed to the rise — and eventual fall — of the industry.

Slate offers a terrific article on the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffer Jr. card, and explains how it broke the hearts of 12-year olds in more ways than one:

When Griffey welcomed collectors to the very first Upper Deck set, investment was just about to trump fun in the card world. Kids had started putting their collections in plastic sheets and hard cases rather than bicycle spokes and shoe boxes, and investors would cross-check every card picked from a pack against the latest issue of Beckett’s price guide. It was in this environment that Upper Deck launched in 1989 as the first premium baseball card, protected from the threat of counterfeiting with a hologram on each card, protected from the stain of the wax pack thanks to its unprecedented foil wrappers. There was no gum included, and packs cost an industry-high $1. Baseball cards were serious business.

From the very beginning, card buffs saw the Upper Deck No. 1 as not just a collectible, but as an investment. Baseball card fans, who had once traded away duplicate cards in a quest to compile a complete set, started hoarding as many Griffeys as they could. Collectors’ hands would shake when they saw Griffey’s face in their pack, confident that this card would be the key to financing a college education.

Read the full article.

BP’s worst-case scenario: Oil at Christmas

What else could go wrong?

Hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season starts this week, and a big storm would at least temporarily derail relief efforts.

So, what if the relief wells fail?

If BP drillers just miss the main well, they can try again. In an undersea gusher off Australia last year, it took five attempts to connect with the main well, 10 weeks after the spill erupted. In this spill, “the worst-case scenario is Christmas time,” says energy analyst Dan Pickering. “This process is teaching us to be skeptical of deadlines.” At the current rate, 4 million barrels would spill into the Gulf by New Year's Day.

via New BP spill worst-case scenario: Oil till Christmas? – The Week.