Numlock News: April 3, 2020 • Manatees, Amber, Drones

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!

In flagrante delicto

In a deeply embarrassing situation for all involved, a rock of amber has been found that contains two 41 million-year-old flies frozen in the act of mating. The 14.96 billion night stand is of significant interest to tons of paleontologists, and also presumably several extremely specific perverts. In a paper published in Scientific Reports, researchers detailed how the inordinately rare coupling allows the study of animal lineages heretofore unknown. Their existence also allows paleontologists to draw conclusions about what kinds of environments existed on Australia, where the fossil was found, back in the times after the dinosaurs.

Lucas Joel, The New York Times

Manatees

Coal is being phased out of the energy mix in the United States, and that’s a good thing because the replacement energy generation is considerably better for the environment and climate. There are, however, some serious boosters of coal who will be bummed out by its exit: manatees. Sea cows in Florida absolutely love to hang out near the runoff from the cooling systems of coal plants. Of the 7,500 to 10,300 manatees that live in Florida, approximately half hang out in the vicinity of 10 of Florida’s coal and oil-fired power plants. Four of the 10 plants have closed, and the other plants aren’t too far behind, which may strand the manatees. They didn’t build the plants on manatee homes, they’re just dumping pleasant warm water that the blubbery beasts like to marinate in. I would criticize, but I also understand that’s the primary goal of basically all New Yorkers, so what are you gonna do. Florida’s fish and wildlife service is working on a plan to move the animals or somehow compel the power companies to ensure the survival of the animals.

Mya Frazier, Bloomberg

Wi-Fi

With schools in California shut down, many poorer students who lack access to the internet at home or a dedicated workstation have been falling behind their more affluent peers. Google announced it will donate 4,000 Chromebooks and offer free Wi-Fi to 100,000 rural households for at least three months in order to get kids access to school materials. Only a third of rural Californian households have internet service, substantially behind the 78 percent of households with access in urban areas. Overall, 20 percent of California students can’t get on the internet at home, and this donation could cut that by about half. Los Angeles Unified announced a $100 million investment to deliver laptops to students, and San Francisco Unified has already given 5,200 Chromebooks to students and are trying to give another 5,000 this week for the resumption of distance learning in April.

Sydney Johnson, EdSource

Drones

The hobbyist market for consumer drones is dominated by a single firm, DJI. Its low prices and solid products mean that its U.S. market share — 76.8 percent — is almost 20 times as high as the nearest competitor, Intel with 3.7 percent of the market. Other players in the drone market are even more modest, like Yuneec (3.1 percent), Parrot (2.2 percent) and GoPro (1.8 percent), plus a hodgepodge of other competitors that combine for just over 10 percent of the buzz business.

Blake Schmidt and Ashlee Vance, Bloomberg

Subs

Consumers are soldering the cord, or whatever the opposite of cutting the cord is. Paid subscriptions for streaming TV and video was up 32 percent from the week of March 16 compared to the prior week. That’s not all: subscriptions to online education services are also up 24.1 percent week over week. Beyond those digital services, this has been a period of belt-tightening for some consumers and businesses who have been walking back monthly commitments to movie passes, software-as-a-service companies and sports subscriptions. The monthly box subscriptions are a bit of a tossup, though, and the effect won’t be known there for a little while.

Nat Ives, The Wall Street Journal

Whittier

The town of Whittier, Alaska is a unique one. There are 280 year-round residents in the deep-water port, and they live in two buildings, one of which is a 14-story highrise with about 80 percent of the population. Besides its tactical port access, the only way in and out of Whittier by land is a 2.5 mile tunnel that goes through a mountain, on the other side of which is Anchorage about an hour off. It’s a summer tourist town when there may very well not be summer tourism, but it’s also a critical port for Alaska, specifically the 300,000 people over in Anchorage. About 30 percent of Alaska’s freight arrives through Whittier, and given the remote location, necessity to the state and fairly ridiculous population density, COVID-19 is a major worry.

Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News

Cancellation

Roughly 4 million people work in the garment industry in Bangladesh, where the precursors of global fashion and apparel are created by an enormous supply chain. According to the Bangladeshi and Garment Exporters Association, clothing brands have cancelled £2.4 billion worth of existing orders, and as a result 1 million workers have been laid off or sent home without pay. Of that £2.4 billion, about £1.4 billion was cancelled and £1 billion was suspended. All told, £1.3 billion of the £2.4 billion had been completed or was already in production. The overwhelming majority of the suppliers said that the mostly western clothing brands had offered no recompense for purchased materials.

Annie Kelly, The Guardian

Last weekend in the Sunday special I talked to Shayla Love, the writer behind the outstanding story “Copper Destroys Viruses and Bacteria. Why Isn’t It Everywhere?” It’s a great conversation, you should check it out.

I’ve got two really excellent interviews with two great writers in the hopper now. Now’s a great time to subscribe if you’ve been considering it, paid subscribers have gotten nearly 100 Sunday specials since I launched the paid subscriber tier.

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.


Now when you tell a friend to sign up for Numlock, you’ll get some free Numlock stickers and magnets if you go to swag.numlock.news. It’s a great way to reach new readers organically.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! 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.

Want more? Join the Numlock Book Club, or check out the award season supplement.

The very 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.

2020 Sunday special editions:Transit · Shakespeare · Hot Hand · 2020 Movies · AB5 · Sharing · Astronauts · Casper · Minimalism · Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors

2019 Sunday special editions: 2019 · TI-84 · Heated · Hemp · Kylie Cosmetics · Secondhand · Biometrics · Voting Machines · Open Borders ·  WrestleMania ·  Game of Thrones ·  Concussion Snake Oil ·  Skyglow ·  Juul ·  Chris Ingraham ·  Invasive Species ·  The Rat Spill ·  
The Sterling Affairs ·  Snakebites ·  Bees ·  Deep Fakes ·  Artificial Intelligence ·  Marijuana ·  Mussels · 100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner · Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·  Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

Numlock News: April 2, 2020 • Water, Wyoming, Weddings

By Walt Hickey

Seized

The federal government seized $29.6 million worth of illegal drugs — 1,300 pounds of cocaine, 86 pounds of meth, 17 pounds of heroin, 3,000 pounds of marijuana, and two pounds of fentanyl — from a tunnel that smugglers used to traffic drugs from Mexico to San Diego. The 2,000-foot long 31-foot deep tunnel connecting the metropolises, which was sophisticated, with ventilation, an underground rail system, and electrified lighting throughout likely cost the cartel responsible millions, and it’s just one of seventy such tunnels discovered in the San Diego area. The implications of the sophisticated and profitable tunnel project could not be more stark or clear: with Andy Byford stepping down, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo must immediately appoint a Mexican drug cartel to operate the New York City Subway system.

Neil Vigdor, The New York Times

E Cigs

The Federal Trade Commissions will sue Altria, the tobacco company, in an attempt to undo their $12.8 billion investment into Juul. That investment — which valued Juul, whose key innovation was turning one of the most addictive substances on the planet into something sweet, sleek, candy-flavored, and otherwise attractive to teens and children, at $38 billion and gave the tobacco giant a 35 percent stake in the company — went pretty badly, as the nicotine juice company was regulated eventually and has since fallen to a $12 billion valuation. The FTC complaint says that the investment eliminated competition between the companies and violates anti-trust laws.

Stephanie M. Lee, Buzzfeed News

I Don’t

There are 2.2 million weddings performed annually in the U.S. every year, and due to cancellations and statewide lockdowns the $54.4 billion wedding business is in a tailspin and couples are forced to make impossible choices around their special day. According to surveys from Wedding Report, it’s estimated 6.5 percent of couples are cancelling their weddings, 28 percent are trying to move the dates back to the back half of 2020, 22.5 percent are pushing it back to 2021, and 43 percent are not doing anything at this time. The average cost of a wedding in 2020 was estimated at $24,675, so the 5 to 15 percent rebooking fees can be a serious blow.

Matt Gross, Bloomberg

Strategic Reserves

In times of crisis, businesses and nations thrive or fail based on their capacity for planning, their ability to tap into strategic reserves, and the foresight to prepare a rainy-day fund of necessary assets to endure even the most difficult of situations. From this point of view, the most prepared and savvy operators in American commerce are television networks that produce basic cable reality television, who have enough material banked to ride out months of production shutdowns. Discovery’s Deadliest Catch? 26 episodes, in the bank. Exhausted by event cancellations? Guess what people, Shark Week is happening. E! viewership is up 35 percent, Bravo is imminently readying three seasons of Real Housewives for a nation involuntarily turned into real housebound wives, Food Network has more stuff banked up in storage than a hypochondriac with a Costco card (Chopped is good until 2021!) and TLC ratings in the demo are up 111 percent compared to this time last year.

Kate Aurthur, Variety

Share Numlock News

Sauced

According to Nielsen, U.S. sales of alcohol are up 55 percent in the week ending March 21, with spirits up 75 percent, wine sales up 66 percent and beer sales up 42 percent. Most interestingly is that online sales absolutely exploded. Typically, online sales of liquor are only for desperate journalists in Astoria, Queens who ran out of whiskey, and are just trying to do a night in, and they don’t feel like getting up because this season of Top Chef just got to the Restaurant Wars week and the stores close in an hour. But now everyone’s muscling in on it, with Nielsen reporting online alcohol sales were up 243 percent.

The Associated Press

Water

Google has spent years attempting to make its data centers more energy efficient, but that comes with a trade-off. Computer room air conditioners are intense consumers of energy, but an alternative strategy — evaporative cooling — evaporates water to cool the air around processing units, which is not only cheaper than running an air conditioner, but also more energy efficient. The problem comes in areas where water is scarce, because the data centers need a lot of it and since it evaporates it’s not coming back directly. Google has 21 data centers right now — it spent $13 billion on offices and data centers in 2019 and will spend another $10 billion this year — and in 2019, in three states alone Google requested or was granted 2.3 billion gallons of water for its data centers. For its new data center in Red Oak, Texas, Google wants 1.46 billion gallons of water a year, but that entire county will use 15 billion gallons this year.

Nikitha Sattiraju, Bloomberg

Wyoming

When dreaming up a perfect possible state to capitalize on wind energy, Wyoming — with serious gusts over the prairie, wide open spaces with little habitation, proximity to energy-hungry states like Nevada and California, and a historical reputation as an exporter of energy — really couldn’t be a better fit. That is until their government got involved. Coal accounts for about 24 percent of energy consumed in the United States, and specifically Wyoming’s coal is responsible for 11 percent of United States energy consumption. That’s been a pretty good business for the state until recently when coal costs — $66 to $152 per megawatt hour — rose above natural gas ($44 to $68) and wind ($28 to $54). Wind development in Wyoming was stymied by a rare $1-per-megawatt-hour tax on wind generation specifically, an exception in a country otherwise giving credits to wind development. So while wind investment was massive in other states, nobody set up shop in Wyoming. That will change soon: PacifiCorp is adding 2,000 megawatts of wind in Wyoming by 2024, and Power Company of Wyoming is installing 896 turbines starting sometime around 2022.

Chris Outcalt, Wired

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.

Correction: An earlier version of this misstated the proportions of a tunnel, it is 31 feet deep not 31 feet wide.


Now when you tell a friend to sign up for Numlock, you’ll get some free Numlock stickers and magnets if you go to swag.numlock.news. It’s a great way to reach new readers organically.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! 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.

Want more? Join the Numlock Book Club, or check out the award season supplement.

The very 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.

2020 Sunday special editions:Transit · Shakespeare · Hot Hand · 2020 Movies · AB5 · Sharing · Astronauts · Casper · Minimalism · Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors

2019 Sunday special editions: 2019 · TI-84 · Heated · Hemp · Kylie Cosmetics · Secondhand · Biometrics · Voting Machines · Open Borders ·  WrestleMania ·  Game of Thrones ·  Concussion Snake Oil ·  Skyglow ·  Juul ·  Chris Ingraham ·  Invasive Species ·  The Rat Spill ·  
The Sterling Affairs ·  Snakebites ·  Bees ·  Deep Fakes ·  Artificial Intelligence ·  Marijuana ·  Mussels · 100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner · Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·  Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

Numlock News: April 1, 2020 • Turtles, Yeast, Crimes

By Walt Hickey

Public service announcement: because of the date, the internet might be extremely stupid today, so do exercise some extra caution. All these have been vetted for credibility, but be careful out there!

Avast!

According to the cruise industry, British Columbia alone generated $2.21 billion in economic activity from cruises in 2016, about 70 percent of the total for Canada. That’s a staggering number — and one in jeopardy because of the collapse of the business — but the key phrase is “according to the cruise industry,” and lots aren’t buying that. Victoria was poised for 800,000 cruise visitors in 2020, and clearly will miss a lot of that, but the cruise business lacks the employment footprint of other transportation industries in trouble, like the airlines. The airlines employ over 740,000 full and part-time workers in the U.S. alone. By comparison, in 2018 Carnival had 12,000 corporate employees and 88,000 crew members, of whom just 4.4 percent were from North America or Central America. Ross Klein, a sociologist who studies the cruise industry, estimated those economic impact figures are overstated by 25 percent to 33 percent, at least.

Brian Payton, Hakai Magazine / The Tyee

Dough

Everyone is baking during their self-containment, and we have the receipts to prove it. According to Nielsen, sales of yeast grew 647 percent in the week ending March 21 compared to the same week of 2019, a degree of sales leavening unseen by any other product in the grocery store tracked by the company in that period. I understand the impulse to stock up on it, but I have to ask, consumers know that you can just make more yeast by feeding it, right? Also, yeast is free, it’s just in the air and on stuff, I know we try not to think about it, but that’s the deal. It’s like how “feral” was a word invented by the government so they could charge you money for cats, the stuff is just out there if you want to harvest it.

Hayley Peterson, Business Insider

Sports

From March 8 to 22, video game streaming hub Twitch saw viewership increase 31 percent, and passed the milestone of 43 million hours of streamed content watched daily. Without proper sports, our competition-craving lizard brains are increasingly turning to the best available, which in this case is gifted teenagers playing iRacing Pro Series or Overwatch. We’re not at the point where I’m staring intently at raindrops on my window to see which one wins the race, but I will say if I see two pigeons outside my window scrapping over a forlorn everything bagel, I’m not gonna look away.

Patrick Shanley, The Hollywood Reporter

Crime

Crime appears to be down considerably in some big cities: as of March 22, crime was down in San Francisco 42 percent compared to the previous week, down 22 percent week over week in Detroit, down 19 percent week over week in Los Angeles and down 13 percent in Chicago. On Friday, the NYPD said they saw a 24 percent decrease in major crimes the week ending March 22, which was just the first day of the stay at home order. Turns out telling everyone to stay in their apartments has a compelling crime reduction link. Listen, we all have to agree on this, under no circumstances can we allow Batman to learn about this information.

Simone Weichselbaum and Weihua Li, The Marshall Project

Want A Satellite?

Just last week, a Soyuz with 34 satellites was launched into orbit on behalf of OneWeb, which was trying to build a constellation of 720 such communications satellites in order to beam internet down to people on earth without a landed connection. On Friday, they announced they’d filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, laying off most of its workforce. The company had $2.1 billion in liabilities and $1.7 billion in financing, owing money to 1,000 to 5,000 creditors. They do, however, have a compelling bargaining chip: 74 satellites in orbit, and the rights to a chunk of global spectrum that those satellites can use. Right now, 74 satellites is too small a count to operate any kind of telecom service or make any meaningful money off of, but the hope is that there’s probably some starry-eyed billionaire who’s read enough Neal Stephenson to get interested in plopping down some money for a half-constructed orbital grid.

Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

Airplanes

Sure, domestic travel in the United States has taken a complete nosedive, but it’s worth noting it’s absolutely not zero quite yet. Transatlantic travel is down seriously, but domestically it’s down around 40 percent. Thousands of aircraft are still functioning — at 10 a.m. eastern, at the beginning of March there were approximately 7,800 flights over the United States, according to Flightradar24, but at the end of the month it stood at 2,800 flights at the same time of day. Commercial flights were down 55 percent in the final week of March compared to the same week of 2019. No state has forbidden air travel, though Puerto Rico has mandated incoming aircraft land at an airport where passengers will have a health screening. And while they haven’t forbidden anything, La Guardia in New York has been encouraging consumers not to fly there for effectively its entire existance.

Bill Chappell, NPR

Research

Researchers do lots and lots of testing and research on animals, and forced isolation really complicates that. The answer to “what should the laboratory do with the 100 incubating eggs from critically endangered turtles” actually turned out to be converting a garage into a serviceable nursery. Nationwide researchers are making brutal choices as to how to proceed with research that’s contingent on keeping lots of organisms alive when any form of human congregation is forbidden. Some are trying to press cryogenic pause: The Jackson Laboratory is a biomedical research institute in Maine that sells millions of research mice per year, and they’ve reported a jump in requests to freeze mouse embryos or sperm in order to rebuild experiment pools, and have sent trucks around the country to collect mice for preservation so that the research that’s being interrupted isn’t a total loss.

Anna Nowogrodzki, Nature

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, it’s just five bucks a month.


Now when you tell a friend to sign up for Numlock, you’ll get some free Numlock stickers and magnets if you go to swag.numlock.news. It’s a great way to reach new readers organically.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! 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.

Want more? Join the Numlock Book Club, or check out the award season supplement.

The very 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.

2020 Sunday special editions:Transit · Shakespeare · Hot Hand · 2020 Movies · AB5 · Sharing · Astronauts · Casper · Minimalism · Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors

2019 Sunday special editions: 2019 · TI-84 · Heated · Hemp · Kylie Cosmetics · Secondhand · Biometrics · Voting Machines · Open Borders ·  WrestleMania ·  Game of Thrones ·  Concussion Snake Oil ·  Skyglow ·  Juul ·  Chris Ingraham ·  Invasive Species ·  The Rat Spill ·  
The Sterling Affairs ·  Snakebites ·  Bees ·  Deep Fakes ·  Artificial Intelligence ·  Marijuana ·  Mussels · 100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner · Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·  Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

Numlock News: March 31, 2020 • Meteors, Documentary, Propaganda

By Walt Hickey

Propaganda

The Pentagon made a deal with The Leonie Group for a $120 million contract to produce television, radio and billboard advertisements in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2015 to promote the United States. A whistleblower complaint from the company’s former president led into a suit alleging that this was not actually done, and that its work was never verified as actually being seen by the people of Afghanistan. Once the company started monitoring the program in 2014, less than 75 percent of its television ads and less than 45 percent of its radio ads actually aired. The former president of the company alleged he was fired after refusing to submit an invoice that he claimed double billed the government, hence this all spilling out into the open. I’m going to wait until this is settled to cast judgement here, but I tell you what, a whole lot of stuff about the complicated perception of Americans in Afghanistan is starting to make sense now.

J.P. Lawrence, Stars and Stripes

Sports

Sports: there are none! We’re scraping the bottom of the sports barrel right now, and no one is trying harder to keep the conversation going than ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in a field that is not actually occurring at this time. The last full week that ESPN had live sports, an average 1.04 million viewers in prime time tuned in. Then, the NBA suspended its season and the network averaged 647,000 prime time viewers, and then the week of March 16, ESPN averaged 550,000 prime time viewers. Honestly, that’s a genuinely impressive number! Would a half-million people watch a cop show where no crimes happened, or Jeopardy! with no money? ESPN has been airing lots of its film content, and who could have ever guessed that the unexpected loser of earth cancelling all sports was O.J. Simpson, who has had a searing Oscar-winning documentary about him re-airing as often as they can play it.

Sahil Patel, The Wall Street Journal

Korean Air

The best kind of business drama is Korean chaebol business drama, as the founders of colossal family-controlled conglomerates are beginning to retire or die and their kids get to fight each other and all the other shareholders for control of the companies. It’s like Succession, but in every single industry in their entire economy, and it is gripping. Korean Air was the most recent familial war, as Cho Hyun-ah lost a bid to oust her younger brother, Cho Won-tae, from chairmanship of the company. To maximize the intrigue, the structure of a chaebol involves spreading out stock to the whole family. Cho Hyun-ah and her activist investor allies were unable to remove her brother, who was backed by enough of the family and also Delta Air Lines, and won 56.67 percent of shareholder support. Korean Air has lost $1.4 billion in the past six years and also has a debt load of 862 percent of equity.

William Pesek, Nikkei Asian Review, and Agence France-Presse

Books

It’s a tough time to launch a book, with the physical bookstore shutdown eliminating any chance of an in-person book tour. Sales have taken a dip — in the week ending March 14, sales were down 10 percent compared to the previous week — but are hardly in freefall as the following week saw book sales roughly even. Kids books are a bright spot, with sales of children’s nonfiction popping 70 percent that week. There’s a chance online sales can stop some of the bleeding: Bookshop, a website that lets people buy direct from independent stores, saw sales jump to $380,000 this week up from $28,000 per week on average in February.

Alexandra Alter, The New York Times

Vacate

According to an analysis by ForwardKeys, international air travel bookings to travel destinations in the Western Hemisphere are down 26.8 percent compared to last year. June bookings are down 31.4 percent, July is down 24.6 percent and August is down 23.3 percent. Were there to be containment, this could rebound — 53 percent of bookings for the summer get made between May and August, at the last minute — but that’s contingent on a lot of progress.

Robert Silk, Travel Weekly

Reality TV

Streamers have commissioned about 500 scripted television drama projects, per Ampere Analysis, but reality television (or “documentary”) isn’t that far behind, with 350 titles in the making. From December 2018 to December 2019, across 160 streamers the percentage of documentary projects in development rose from 24 percent to 51 percent. Meanwhile, linear television like cable and network saw the percentage of their developing shows that were unscripted dip from 44 percent to 41 percent. If you or a loved one owns an exotic animal farm and is currently being investigated by the FBI for attempting to call a hit on a rival exotic pet owner, please pick up the phone and call the Netflix corporation immediately. And also knock it off, that’s not cool.

Manori Ravindran, Variety

Meteor

A meteor behind a fireball seen in the Australian sky in July 2017 did not disintegrate or crash into earth, as many other meteors do, but rather bugged out of Earth’s atmosphere and carried on. Grazing fireballs are rare, and result when an object comes at earth’s atmosphere at a low angle and basically skims it before going on its way. The rock was estimated to weigh 130 pounds, moved at about 10 miles per second, and grazed earth at closest a distance of 36 miles above the surface. This object is actually bound for Jupiter, which it will encounter in 2025, after which it’s likely going to be spun off into interstellar space. Pfft, tourists.

Joshua Sokol, The New York Times

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.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the speed of the meteor, it was ten miles per second, not ten miles per minute.


Now when you tell a friend to sign up for Numlock, you’ll get some free Numlock stickers and magnets if you go to swag.numlock.news. It’s a great way to reach new readers organically.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! 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.

Want more? Join the Numlock Book Club, or check out the award season supplement.

The very 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.

2020 Sunday special editions: Transit · Shakespeare · Hot Hand · 2020 Movies · AB5 · Sharing · Astronauts · Casper · Minimalism · Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors

2019 Sunday special editions: 2019 · TI-84 · Heated · Hemp · Kylie Cosmetics · Secondhand · Biometrics · Voting Machines · Open Borders ·  WrestleMania ·  Game of Thrones ·  Concussion Snake Oil ·  Skyglow ·  Juul ·  Chris Ingraham ·  Invasive Species ·  The Rat Spill ·  
The Sterling Affairs ·  Snakebites ·  Bees ·  Deep Fakes ·  Artificial Intelligence ·  Marijuana ·  Mussels · 100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner · Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·  Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

Numlock News: March 30, 2020 • Puzzles, Pilots, Podcasts

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Pilot

The timing of the pandemic may permanently change how scripted television gets made. Pilot season is the experimental period of television production, with networks ordering dozens of pilots in February and March, the creatives spending the next six weeks making them, and then afterward the networks deciding whether to go with them or not around May. This process injects an estimated $500 million into the entertainment economy, especially for small firms who sign on to roll the dice on a possible picked up show. This year, the networks ordered 56 pilots, and only one of them — B Positive — finished shooting before the production shutdown, meaning the other 55 are in limbo. And while broadcasters had already been cutting back — last year broadcast orders were down 12 percent — this could be the inflection point, and perhaps even the end of the September-to-May programming schedule altogether.

Meg James, The Los Angeles Times

Easy Breezy

A new report from the Global Wind Energy Council noted that 2019 was the second-best year on record for the industry, with 60.4 gigawatts of generation installed in 2019, 19 percent higher than the 2018 information. The U.S. and China were the drivers: China installed 24 gigawatts last year, bringing its total to 230 gigawatts of generation, while the U.S. extended a tax credit and saw a further 9.1 gigawatts installed last year, for the first time ending with 100 gigawatts of wind generation capacity. Offshore wind is now 5 percent of the global capacity.

John Timmer, Ars Technica

Price Changes

The global supply chains of many industries are in flux at this time, and issues with China’s exports of benzylfentanyl, norfentanyl and 4-anilinopiperidine are making it really hard for importers to ensure a steady supply and consistent pricing mechanism for heroin, meth and fentanyl. It’s not just the blue chips wrestling with supply problems: the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel can’t get their hands on the precursor chemicals to manufacture drugs because China produces over 80 percent of the chemicals. I would do anything to be a fly on the wall for that quarterly earnings call.

Isabel Vincent, The New York Post

Like, Rate, Review, Subscribe

There’s never been a better time to start a podcast, but there’s also never been a worse time to listen to one. According to Podtrac, downloads of podcasts are down 10 percent since the start of March, and total unique listeners are down 20 percent over the same timeframe. The dip was most significant after March 9, and last week the entire U.S. audience for podcasts fell 8 percent compared to the previous week. No commuting means no time to knock out two episodes per day, and not all genres were affected equally: news saw a dip of just 10 percent, while true crime has fallen 30 percent since early March, the biggest drop. Comedy podcast listening was down 15 percent and culture podcasts were down 17 percent.

Kali Hays, Women’s Wear Daily

Puzzling

Turns out locking lots of society in their apartments for a few weeks means that it’s boom times for the puzzle business. Ravensburger is the largest seller of jigsaw puzzles in the world, moving about $600 million product a year, some assembly required. The company’s North American puzzle sales over the past two weeks are up 370 percent compared to the same period of 2019, and on March 26 alone — right about when the boredom set in — sales were ten times the size of March 26, 2019. Of the top ten items searched for on Amazon last Tuesday, ranked seventh was puzzles. On March 3, they were the 1,435th most-searched item.

Michael M. Phillips, The Wall Street Journal

Share Numlock News

Olympics

Postponing the Tokyo Olympic Games that had been scheduled for this summer is not just a major undertaking for the Games’ planners, but it’s also having difficult downstream effects for the organizations that support the various sports. An Associated Press analysis of 43 of the 50 U.S. governing bodies that oversee the individual sports found that they projected losses of over $121 million in revenue between February and June. Those governing bodies generally see about 80 percent of their budget dedicated to supporting the athletes who may at some time compete for the U.S. at the Olympic Games. Setting aside the outlier U.S. Tennis Association, the governing bodies bring in about $685 million, and about half of them are quite small, with less than $5 million in annual revenue. Without the payout from NBC, the shortfall for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is about $200 million, which has forecasted the losses across all of American sports to be between $600 million and $800 million.

Associated Press

Ads

Rideshare companies are working on further ways to get more money out of having cars on the road, but one angle — installing screens on the tops of Ubers and Lyfts to broadcast advertisements — is proving controversial in some cities who don’t want more visual clutter. One company, Firefly, exists entirely to swim in Uber and Lyft’s wake, paying the independent drivers to install systems that turn their 2017 Hyundai Elantras into roving billboards. Uber itself is paying drivers $300 to get the screen installed and $100 per week if they hit hourly driving minimums. New York bans the practice, but the companies are trying to get those laws changed, coming off a successful drive in Los Angeles to squelch a law that would have banned the ads.

Emma Johanningsmeier, Protocol

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.


Now when you tell a friend to sign up for Numlock, you’ll get some free Numlock stickers and magnets if you go to swag.numlock.news. It’s a great way to reach new readers organically.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! 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.

Want more? Join the Numlock Book Club, or check out the award season supplement.

The very 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.

2020 Sunday special editions:Transit · Shakespeare · Hot Hand · 2020 Movies · AB5 · Sharing · Astronauts · Casper · Minimalism · Ghost Gear · Tech jobs · Directors

2019 Sunday special editions: 2019 · TI-84 · Heated · Hemp · Kylie Cosmetics · Secondhand · Biometrics · Voting Machines · Open Borders ·  WrestleMania ·  Game of Thrones ·  Concussion Snake Oil ·  Skyglow ·  Juul ·  Chris Ingraham ·  Invasive Species ·  The Rat Spill ·  
The Sterling Affairs ·  Snakebites ·  Bees ·  Deep Fakes ·  Artificial Intelligence ·  Marijuana ·  Mussels · 100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner · Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·  Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

Loading more posts…