Numlock News: September 28, 2021 • Squid, Sumo Wrestling, Bees

By Walt Hickey

Dahl

Last week Netflix spent £500 million to acquire the rights to Roald Dahl’s work, which includes Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, several incredibly regrettable opinions revealed later in life, and The BFG. It’s an eye-popping sum for a trove of intellectual property that isn’t exactly a gusher right now: based on the latest accounts from December 2020, the Roald Dahl Story Company brought in £20.7 million ($28.3 million) globally and £4.9 million ($6.7 million) from the U.K. in all of 2020.

K.J. Yossman, Variety

The Elephants and the Bees

Farmers in Kenya have been able to roll out an incredibly successful program to keep elephants, which continue to struggle, from eating crops, which the farmers need to survive. To thread this ecological needle, a program is capitalizing on the long-believed but recently scientifically described aversion that elephants have to bees. They can’t stand ‘em, they’ll avoid them, and they will not go to places they know bees to exist in. Today, some 10,000 beehive fences — that is, a fence composed of several beehives on the perimeter of a property to scare off pachyderms — are installed in sites in 20 African and Asian countries. Each kit contains 12 beehives and 12 dummy beehives — it works! — and the cost is about $1,200 per acre of crops, with each kit lasting an estimated 10 years. It’s a way to both keep elephants and agriculture in balance, and 61 percent of farmers reported the beehives are more effective than other fences, with a 2017 field study at 10 farms finding they deterred elephants 80 percent of the time.

Cari Shane, Scientific American

Sumo

Hakuho, the greatest-of-all-recorded-time of sumo wrestling, is retiring. Since reaching the title of yokozuna — the highest rank in sumo — Hakuho has won at least one of the top six tournaments every year since 2007, having now won a record 45 grand sumo tournament titles. In July, he won the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament with a perfect 15-0 record, and has won or finished second in 49 of 52 tournaments. Hakuho, who is originally from Mongolia, became a Japanese citizen in 2019 and is thus eligible to run his own stable should he so choose, but the current plan is to remain at his current stable and become an instructor.

Scott Neuman, NPR and BBC

Tractors

Cropland values hit a new high this year at $4,420 per acre, and with prices for agricultural products up and American farmers feeling a bit more flush as a result, many are buying up new equipment. The USDA is projecting net farm income will hit $113 billion in 2021, up 20 percent and the highest since 2013, even though federal payments to farmers will drop 39 percent this year. Retail sales volume for new high-horsepower tractors is up 27 percent year-over-year in the first eight months. John Deere, the manufacturer of lots of those, saw its profits from large farm equipment up 50 percent in the most recent quarter.

Jesse Newman and Bob Tita, The Wall Street Journal

Elections

Germany’s election has given power to be a kingmaker to some unexpected parties that skew younger. The center-left Social Democrats and the incumbent center-right Christian Democrats got 25.7 percent and 24.1 percent of the vote, respectively. The other half of the vote went to the progressive environmentalist Greens, the libertarian FDP, the far-right AfD, and others. Interestingly, the FDP (11.5 percent) and the Greens (14.8 percent) are taking the lead here, and are planning to meet with one another to jointly decide which of the two parties they’d consider partnering with jointly.

Rob Schmitz, NPR

Crypto

A hamster named Mr. Goxx’s wheel is connected to a computer that spins through different cryptocurrencies, a computer which then buys and sells crypto investments under the thoughtful, adorable Mr. Goxx. The project started in mid-June with €326, and 95 orders later Mr. Goxx’s “fund” was down 7.3 percent. However, he’s been on a tear lately, with the overall performance of a hamster selecting cryptocoins to invest in up 19.41 percent as of the end of September, beating returns of major stock markets.

David Molloy, BBC News

Calamari

The United States imported $314 million worth of squid in 2019, and China was responsible for about half of it. The origin of that squid is of significant concern, as Chinese trawlers blasting light into the water off the coast of South America have been a rising problem for the countries who are attempting to protect their territorial waters. The number of Chinese-flagged vessels in the south Pacific rose from 54 in 2009 to 557 in 2020, and the catch of squid increased from 70,000 tons to 358,000 tons over the same period. From November 2020 to May 2021, 523 mostly Chinese fishing vessels were detected just beyond the boundary of Argentina’s exclusive economic zone, but what’s really worrying is 42 percent had turned off their location-sharing transponders at least once, which is hypothetically speaking something one would do if one were about to fish illegally in another country’s waters.

Joshua Goodman, The Associated Press

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Numlock News: September 27, 2021 • James Bond, Catalogs, Feral Hogs

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Shang-Chi

Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings surpassed Black Widow to become the domestic highest-grossing film of the pandemic, with last weekend’s $13.3 million bringing it to a total of $196.5 million in the United States and Canada. Globally, the movie’s made $363 million. Debuting this week was Dear Evan Hansen, an adaptation of a Broadway musical that made a disappointing $7.5 million, south of the $10 million it had been projected to bring in. The musical cost a reasonable $28 million to produce, so it’s not as apocalyptically bad like Cats was with a $6.5 million opening on a $100 million budget.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Toilet Paper

The toilet paper industry is worth $26 billion globally, with the average American using 140 rolls per year. While toilet paper — the ultimate one-time use paper product — would seem to be an ideal use for recycled paper, the reality is toilet paper is predominantly first-use timber. Alternatives made with recycled content have an aesthetic issue, namely that for toilet tissue to be made from recycled paper it’s tough to get that lily-white color that consumers demand, for now.

Anne Quito, Quartz

No Time To Wait

Demand for the forthcoming James Bond film No Time To Die in the United Kingdom is approaching Avengers: Endgame levels, according to exhibitors, and the film is seen to be Britain’s big chance to revive its box office. The movie is expected to appear on 700 screens across the U.K. and many exhibitors will be playing Bond on every screen they’ve got: Cineworld O2 in London plans 50 showings a day, Vue Cinemas in west London plans 25 showings a day, and many exhibitors are planning for one screening every 15 minutes.

Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter

Do You Remember

September by Earth, Wind & Fire mentions the date of September 21, and after years of Demi Adejuyigbe videos and the magic the internet works with memetic dates, the most recent observation of September 21 saw the song log 1.5 million streams on the date, up from 377,000 a week prior — the song usually ballparks 350,000 to 450,000 streams a day — and up 200,000 streams from September 21, 2020. Despite coming out in 1978, September sold 2,500 copies on September 21, 2021, up from the typical average of 300 per day. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do a Sufjan-style “write a song about every single date of the year” challenge in the hopes of scoring a song that still moves 300 copies a day in six decades.

Augusta Saraiva, Bloomberg

Tony

Congratulations to Aaron Tveit, who won a Tony Award last night for his role in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Tveit was the sole nominee in a typically stacked category for best actor in a leading role in a musical, a pandemic-era nomination fluke related to the seriously limited number of eligible productions for the 2019-20 season, which was honored at the ceremony. All was not assured for Tveit, who still had to secure 60 percent of the vote to actually win the Tony.

Kimberly Nordyke, The Hollywood Reporter

Catalogs

Lots of North American paper mills converted from printing and writing paper to cardboard. This was done to meet the explosive pandemic-era demand for ecommerce, but it’s had consequences that are now rippling through the printing business. Some 2.5 million metric tons of capacity that previously went to paper, one-fifth of 2019’s levels, are offline since the start of last year. Making things worse is there’s little help coming from abroad, with imports of paper and paperboard down 9.7 percent last year. As a result, some 100 million catalogs will not be printed this year in time for the holidays. This is a disaster because if not for undesired William Sonoma catalogs how the heck am I supposed to kill flies, alumni magazines? Cable bills? Good Housekeeping?

Marcy Nicholson and Amelia Pollard, Bloomberg

XXX-L Feral Hogs Within III-V Mins

Italy’s main agricultural lobby estimates there are over 2 million wild boars in Italy, creatures that have lately been caught sacking Rome. There’s an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 of them in city parks in the region of Lazio, which surrounds Rome, and lots of them do a Visigoth Special and march on the streets of the Eternal City to the dismay of the Romans. The head of Lazio’s parks wants to up the annual cull of the boars from 700 every two years to 1,000 a year to bring things under control, which is pretty much the best news in prosciutto since the development of salt.

Trisha Thomas, The Associated Press

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Numlock News: September 24, 2021 • Conjuring, Trash, Kirk/Spock Fanfiction

By Walt Hickey

Have an excellent weekend!

Conjuring

A Rhode Island home, whose purported history of paranormal infestation made it the inspiration for the film The Conjuring, has hit the market for $1.2 million, proving that, good god, the American housing market is really running hot. The three-bedroom, 3,100 square foot, multiple ghost home is currently a hot rental property, with bookings through 2022. The home first became notorious in the 1970s when a family experienced a series of spooks later documented in a series of books, and the home is currently owned by two paranormal investigators. After discussions with my accountant, I, for one, am going to keep my powder dry and will continue holding out until the house that inspired Parasite hits the market.

Erika Mailman, The Wall Street Journal

Garbage

San Francisco is years into an extremely expensive process of buying new garbage cans, with July seeing the Board of Supervisors vote to spend $427,500 on 15 prototypes for the three possible models of new trash can, with a per-trashcan price tag of $12,000 to $20,000 each. At the end of the day, San Francisco plans to buy 3,300 of the cans, and while the initial goal was to buy $1,000 cans, it’s looking like they might end up paying $5,000 a can. All told, the city will have to spend $6.6 million to $16.5 million on the misbegotten project, the brainchild of a disgraced former city official facing charges of fraud and lying to a federal agent. What’s wild is there are plenty of off-the-shelf models they could have gone with, from the $3,900 Bigbelly to New York’s $632 can, Los Angeles’ $449.51 can, D.C.’s $987 can or even Portland’s $1,851 can.

Lydia Chavez, Mission Local

Wires

The typical European Union resident owns at least three chargers and uses two of them regularly. The 420 million mobile phones and portable electronic devices sold in the bloc last year are a major contributor of e-waste, particularly of the vestigial chargers that continue to hide in drawers and underfoot. That’s one reason the European Commission proposed legislation that would mandate that all smartphones sold adopt the universal charging standard of USB-C, a move that would mostly affect Apple devices that use their proprietary Lightning charging port. The E.U. estimates it would save consumers €250 million a year.

Kevin Chan, Associated Press

The Archive

A team is attempting to migrate the Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive, a historically significant stockpile of smut, from the existing digital archive system based on the vestigial eFiction platform to the Archive Of Our Own (AO3) platform. The Kirk/Spock Archive was formed in 2004 and hosts thousands of fan-created works that predominantly focus on the Star Trek characters James T. Kirk and Spock, originally designed as a digital location for the scattered fan creations to live. In 2019, the Archive crashed after the technology on which it was built finally broke down, but AO3 has begun the work of migrating about 6,000 works to their own stable platform. There are about 200 authors who have not yet replied to the administrators’ requests to migrate their work, so if you were into the slash scene back in the day, you’re urged to check your inbox.

Jay Castello, Polygon

Somewhat Pyramidal In Shape

The trade group that represents multi-level marketing schemes — which are direct selling companies that some criticize as exploitative or resembling the business models of pyramid schemes — is coming off a banner year, with as of late July, 60 percent of companies reporting the pandemic had a positive impact on their domestic and global revenue. The Direct Selling Association estimated business grew 13.4 percent to $40.1 billion in retail sales in 2020, with 7.7 million people working as direct sellers. However, just because things are looking good for the brass absolutely doesn’t mean things are good for most sellers: one 2011 report estimated that 99 percent of people who participated in multi-level marketing schemes lost money.

Emily Stewart, The Goods

Microdrip

Around the world, 85 percent of irrigation is done the ancient way, by releasing a large amount of water across a field in a flood. It’s a cheap way to irrigate, but it’s seriously resource-intensive, with 70 percent of the water going to waste and excess fertilizer blasted away in the flow to eventually contaminate streams and water bodies. Microdrip irrigation, first developed in the 1930s, is vastly more efficient — water drips out of lines slowly, and is more effectively delivered to crops — but somewhat more expensive, which is why it’s applied to just 5 percent of irrigated areas. Setups cost about $2,000 an acre, so it’s mostly used for almonds, wine grapes and tomatoes, but new tech that brings that cost down to $400 an acre could open it up to more crops.

Elizabeth G Dunn, Bloomberg

HFCs

A new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency will decrease U.S. production of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, by 85 percent over the next 15 years. HFCs are used in refrigerators and air conditioners, and they’re atmospherically gnarly, causing greenhouse effects thousands of times more severe than carbon dioxide. A 2016 global agreement pledged to slash HFCs by 2036, and the rule will reduce emissions by the equivalent of 4.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050.

The Associated Press

Last week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to Ariana Case of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative about their groundbreaking new study about the underrepresentation of Hispanics and Latinos in Hollywood, “Hispanic and Latino Representation in Film: Erasure On Screen & Behind the Camera Across 1,300 Popular Movies.” I’m a huge fan of the AII and this latest study is a real shocker, check it out.

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Numlock News: September 23, 2021 • Gilgamesh, Micronesia, Scams

By Walt Hickey

Tablet

The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet — a 3,500-year-old clay tablet looted from Iraq 30 years ago, hawked to a London antiquities dealer in 2001 — sold to Hobby Lobby in 2014 and seized by U.S. authorities in 2019 is going home. The tablet, which essentially tells part of the story of the first buddy cop franchise, is one of 17,000 looted items that the U.S. is sending back to Iraq after a first delivery back in July. The tablet is related to a 2017 case in which Hobby Lobby, whose owners also founded the Museum of the Bible, agreed to pay a $3 million fine and return thousands of items that had been stolen and purchased to include in the museum.

James Doubek, NPR

Fliers

A team of engineers out of Northwestern University have developed small little airborne electronic sensors that glide gently though air and could be used for future environmental monitoring. Riffing on the structures of wind-enabled seeds from nature, the fliers range in size from 0.4 millimeters to 40 millimeters and are optimized to have the most hang time. The best one of them moves at a languid maximum speed of 28 centimeters per second, which is really good when you consider the terminal velocity of a snowflake is 250 centimeters per second, and the fluttery helicoptering seeds of the ant tree fall at 75 centimeters per second.

James Vincent, The Verge

Books

A new study from Pew Research Center found 23 percent of Americans said they hadn’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, including print, digital and audiobooks. The non-readers have a few things in common: 26 percent of men versus 21 percent of women haven’t read a book in the past year, and whether or not someone went to college has a big impact, as does where they live: 18 percent of urbanites versus 25 percent of suburbanites versus 29 percent of rural residents didn’t read any books. An interesting component is that younger adults —with their dang TikTok and their internet and their distractions and avocado toast and their awful attention spans — were in fact considerably more likely to have read one book than older respondents, with 28 percent of those 50 and up forgoing books compared to just 19 percent of those 18 to 49. Overall, 23 percent didn’t read a book, 5 percent read one, 25 percent read two to five books, 15 percent read six to 10 books, 11 percent read 11 to 20 books and 18 percent of people said they read more than 20 books, which is the highest that figure has been since Pew first polled it in 2011.

Risa Gelles-Watnick and Andrew Perrin, Pew Research Center

Fraud

Facebook’s Marketplace has become a hotbed of scammers, in part because scammers flock to any online marketplace and Facebook’s is now the big one. Back in 2019, 6 percent of respondents to a survey said they’d made a purchase on Marketplace, a figure that by 2021 has hit 14 percent. By comparison, that figure was 6 percent in 2021 for Craigslist, previously the home of peer-to-peer online goods exchange. Facebook has 400 workers employed by Accenture monitoring the service to back up the AI system that they use to identify and thwart scammers. To get a sense of how that’s going, those workers reportedly have to handle about 600 complaints per day each.

Craig Silverman, A.C. Thompson and Peter Elkind, ProPublica

Shifting Sands

Two studies looking at how islands in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Gilbert Islands have changed amid sea level rise found that among 175 sparsely populated or uninhabited islands, while lots of them have shrunk, lots of them have also expanded since the 1940s. Micronesia increased its land area by approximately 3 percent since the ‘40s and the Gilberts are 2.45 percent larger. It clarifies the simplistic idea that all islands are all just going to be sucked under amid sea level rise, which is true in many cases but misses the reality that the complex relationship between tides and waves and surges makes things more complicated to forecast than water go up, island sinks down.

J. Besl, Hakai Magazine

Diagnoses

A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services identified two tricks used by insurance companies that led to some $9.2 billion in federal payments in the course of a year. The billing strategies — one where insurers review charts for diagnoses that doctors didn’t actually flag, another involving vendor-administered health risk assessments — are controversial, but both are allowed under Medicare. The main thing is the report identified a few insurers who seem to be really milking them: just 20 companies that represent 31 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollment accounted for 54 percent of that $9.2 billion, while the 142 companies that cover the other 69 percent got the rest. Indeed, one company alone — unnamed — generated 58 percent of the payments drawn from health-risk assessments.

Anna Wilde Mathews, The Wall Street Journal

Alaska

About 80 percent of Alaska’s communities can’t be accessed by road, and planes are an essential part of daily life for many. This is one reason Alaska is a comparatively dangerous place to fly, accounting for 42 percent of the country’s fatalities in commuter, air taxi and charter flights since 2016. One study identified Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast systems (ADS-B) as a solution after testing them on 388 aircraft from 1999 to 2006 and seeing a decline in crash rates, but they’re not cheap, and they’re not required in most of Alaska. A full ADS-B unit from Garmin goes for $5,395, and a partial unit that only broadcasts location goes for $1,795.

Zoë Sobel, KUCB, and Agnel Philip, ProPublica

Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.


The best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.

Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at walt@numlock.news. Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at copy@numlock.news.

Check out the Numlock Book Club and Numlock award season supplement.

2021 Sunday subscriber editions: Latinos · Vapes · Smoke · Jeopardy! · Mangoes · BBLs · Summer Box Office · Time Use · Shampoo Bars · Wikipedia · Thriving · Comic Rebound · Return of Travel · Sticky Stuff · For-profit Med School ·

A Good Day · Press Reset · Perverse Incentives · Demon Slayer · Carbon Credits · Money in Politics · Local News · Oscar Upsets · Sneakers · Post-pandemic Cities ·
Facebook AI · Fireflies · Vehicle Safety · Climate Codes · Figure Skating · True Believer · Apprentices · Sports Polls · Pipeline · Wattpad · The Nib · Driven
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