By Walt Hickey
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Despite being fundamentally linked to the region, Old Bay is no longer the preferred crab seasoning in the Baltimore region. 18 out of 30 crab houses use J.O. No. 2 seasoning, six use Harbor Spice and only one used Old Bay, which is owned by spice conglomerate McCormick’s. Price is part of it — two pounds of Harbor Spice Co.’s 1394 goes for $7.50, two pounds of J.O. goes for $9.25 and the same amount of Old Bay would set you back $18 at a local supermarket. J.O.’s dominance is spelled out in the numbers: they distribute to 900 crab and seafood houses in the middle Atlantic and move 3.5 million to 5 million pounds of crab seasoning annually.
Last year, people spent 8.9 billion hours watching video game streaming content on Twitch, which was up from 6.3 billion hours the year before in 2017. With that many eyeballs watching independent streamers, big-budget video game launches increasingly come with a budget to pay those streamers to get into their game. Those elite streamers who can maintain real-time audiences of 15,000 at a time can make between $25,000 and $35,000 per hour during the big launches, with the top tier getting in the ballpark of $50,000 per hour.
A new study of where Americans live found that 23 percent live within walking distance of shops, restaurants or entertainment venues, 44 percent live within a short car trip and 33 percent live in low-amenity communities. Interestingly this actually has some impact on attitudes and even happiness: people who live in high-amenity places are almost twice as likely to say they trust their local government — 39 percent — compared to those who live in areas without those things (22 percent). If hanging out at the local bar makes you trust municipal government more, I’m like one weekly trivia night away from being Leslie Knope.
Noncompete clauses were originally implemented to guarantee that current employees didn’t divulge corporate secrets to competitors after leaving the company. They’ve since become a cudgel wielded by companies to deprive competitors of talent and hamstring their own employee’s ability to negotiate for higher wages. Traditionally, a clause for higher-income workers, today some 15 percent of workers earning between $20,000 and $40,000 per year are under a noncompete, as well as 13 percent of workers who earn $0 to $20,000 per year. While 20 percent of workers who haven’t completed high school are under a noncompete. When Hawaii banned noncompete agreements for tech jobs, a study later found the ban increased worker mobility by 11 percent and wages for new hires by 4 percent.
New data released by the IRS found that due to shrunken budgets and staffing cuts the audit rate for families that make adjusted gross incomes of $10 million or more was 6.66 percent, half the rate it was last year. Among those making $5 million to $9.9 million, the audit rate was down to 4.2 percent from 8 percent last year. So, either the richest people on earth got a lot more honest, or a decade of staffing cuts and technological morass has finally accomplished the very goals of those who seek to stymie the IRS's ability to investigate the wealthiest.
Sony has cut a massive deal with Microsoft, and the future of video games hangs in the balance. The market for video game consoles is $38 billion, and faster internet speeds are opening up the possibility of cloud gaming, where the computing work of playing a game is done on some server rather than on the box in the home. PlayStation and Xbox are jeopardized by this development, and the huge news is that Sony’s decided to collaborate with Microsoft (which has the second largest cloud service) rather than try to compete, with plans to host some PlayStation online services on Azure. Cloud gaming is projected to be only 2 percent of industry revenue by 2023, so not only are consoles still kicking, but there’s also a new generation dropping next year.
The iconic granite El Capitan in Yosemite is the site of rockfalls originating from “flakes.” These are effectively sheets of rock that are anchored to the main edifice by slowly shrinking connections. Using infrared tech to look behind two of the largest sheets — Boot Flake and Texas Flake — presents a worrying picture at what exactly is fastening them to the rock. By measuring how heat moves through the granite, the bridge connecting Boot Flake to El Capitan is about 55 square feet, or 6.8 percent of the total area. Oh, I definitely should have mentioned that Boot Flake is a sheet of granite a third of the size of a tennis court. Texas Flake, is connected by a paltry 16 square feet of area, 0.8 percent of the area. Boot Flake is stable for the time being, but the geologists are keen to keep a closer eye on Texas Flake.
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