2020 Numlock Sunday Specials Archive

2020 Sunday Editions

I wanted to have a place for all the collected subscriber-only Sunday interviews all in one place. If you’d like to read these and aren’t sure if you want to subscribe, I’ve made it really easy to sign up for a one month free trial to the paid subscription and read whatever you like.

January 2020


I spoke to Dr. Stacy L. Smith and Dr. Katherine Pieper of the Annenberg Inclusion Initative at USC Annenberg. Just this past Thursday, they released an exciting report about progress in Hollywood when it comes to access of opportunity for women who direct films. The AII can be found at their website and on Twitter @Inclusionists.

Tech jobs

I spoke to Andrew Flowers, then an economist at Indeed Hiring Lab and a former colleague of mine at FiveThirtyEight. Andrew is brilliant, we go back a ways, and he’s been coming out with great stories over the past couple of years and I wanted to talk to him about all the work he’s doing on the tech beat. He can be found on Twitter.

Ghost Gear

I spoke to Dani Leviss who wrote “How to Exorcise the Ghosts of Crab Traps Past” for Hakai Magazine. Dani can be found on Twitter at @DaniLeviss and her personal site is here, and as always check out Hakai Magazine


 I spoke to writer Kyle Chayka, the author of the newly released The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism. Kyle's a really great writer whose work has appeared in a number of places I love, and the book is superb. You can check out an excerpt over on LitHub, and Kyle can be found on Twitter. The book is available wherever books are sold, be it your local independent book store or Amazon.

February 2020


I spoke to Josh Kosman who wrote “Casper Sleep IPO slipping over fact it doesn’t make its own mattresses” for The New York Post. Josh can be found at the Post and his book is The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy.


I spoke to writer Jim Ottaviani and artist Maris Wicks, the creators behind the newly released nonfiction graphic novel Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier. Maris can be found on TwitterInstagram and her website, Jim can be found on TwitterFacebook, and his site, and Astronauts can be found wherever books are sold, AmazonIndiebound or anywhere else


I spoke to my good friend Alison Griswold, the writer behind one of my favorite newsletters, Oversharing. This week: we talk about what went wrong with WeWork, and the state of the scooter industry. Alison’s work can be found at Oversharing, and on Twitter


This week, the second half of my interview with Alison Griswold, who’s behind the wonderful newsletter Oversharing, a personal fave. his week, the second half of our conversation, which is all about a controversial new law in California called AB5, and gets at the key question of the sharing economy: what is work, who is a worker, what is owed to workers, and how do we make sure that they get what they deserve?

March 2020

2020 Movies

I spoke to Frank Pallotta, a CNN writer who covers the media and entertainment business and is a regular appearance in the weekday editions of Numlock. This was a huge week in the media business, with longtime CEO of Disney Bob Iger stepping down, plus with fears about coronavirus roiling, the whole industry — like so many others — is trying to figure out what to do. Frank can be found at CNN, on CNN Business, and on Twitter.

Hot Hand

I spoke to Ben Cohen, a sports reporter at The Wall Street Journal and the author of the brand new book The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks. This will be the first in a two-part interview. We talked about where the hot hand idea came from and how it manifested for people ranging for Steph Curry to famous directors. The Hot Hand can be found wherever books are sold starting this Tuesday. Ben can be found on Twitter, and his work in The Wall Street Journal is really great.


my continued conversation with Ben Cohen, a sports reporter at The Wall Street Journal and the author of the brand new book The Hot Hand: The Mystery and Science of Streaks. Ben and I talked about two people — one unappreciated in her time, the other literally Shakespeare — and how streaks worked for them. The Hot Hand can be found wherever books are sold. Ben can be found on Twitter.


I spoke to Aaron Gordon who wrote “Why the US Sucks at Building Public Transit for Motherboard. We spoke about why the U.S. stands out — in a bad way — when it comes to how cities work and how transportation functions and fails to. Aaron can be found at Vice and sometimes updates his erstwhile but excellent NYC Transit newsletter Signal Problems.


I spoke to Shayla Love who wrote “Copper Destroys Viruses and Bacteria. Why Isn’t It Everywhere?” for Vice. We spoke about how copper smelters skirted the worst of cholera outbreaks back in the day, how copper is an old solution to the extremely modern problem of healthcare acquired infections, and why the cost-benefit seems to be good. Shayla can be found at Vice and on Twitter, she’s got a really cool beat.

April 2020


I spoke to Olga Khazan, an outstanding writer at The Atlantic whose book, Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World came out that week. The book’s great, and is out this Tuesday. It can be found or preordered wherever books are sold — from your local bookstore through Bookshop.org, on KindleBarnes & Noble is still delivering, wherever.


I spoke to technology journalist Sarah Frier who wrote No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram which came out that week. It covers the story of Instagram, one of the most important mobile apps on the market that started as an upstart competitor, was bought for a then-ridiculous $715 million, and by 2019 was responsible for $20 billion in revenue. No Filter can be found at independent bookstoresIndieboundBarnes & Noble, on Amazon’s Kindle,Audiobooks and more.

Esoteric Political History

I spoke to Nicole Hemmer a historian and the host of a new Radiotopia podcast called This Day In Esoteric Political History. The podcast can be found wherever podcasts can be downloaded, at their Twitter account, and at their website. Nicole ca be found on Twitter and at Columbia University.


I spoke to the excellent Dave Gershgorn who wrote “Our Government Runs on a 60-Year-Old Coding Language, and Now It’s Falling Apart” for OneZero. I loved this because it’s got all the markers of an outstanding, relevant tech story. It’s of critical need right now and tells a larger story about how technology works and how the government works and I just loved it. Dave can be found at OneZero and on Twitter.

May 2020


I spoke to Dan Kopf who wrote “How music streaming and TikTok are fueling the rise of the Track 1 hit” for Quartz. We spoke about what goes into the top 40 today, how TikTok’s changed the top of the charts, and how streaming’s payment system makes songs shorter. Dan can be found at Quartz and on Twitter. He’s also got a data-driven newsletter about the Bay Area worth checking out called The Golden Stats Warrior.

Comics History

I spoke to John Jackson Miller, the author and archivist behind one of my favorite data resources, Comichron. We covered how an industry grinds to a halt, the fascinating story of why comics get made the way they do, and what’s changed. John can be found at Comichron  I love his blog — and on Twitter. He’s also an author, with several official Star Wars novels under his belt and the forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery - Die Standing out on June 14, see all his books here.

Comics Future

Part two of my conversation with John Jackson Miller, the author and archivist behind one of my favorite data resources, Comichron. Today, we’re looking forward — DC breaks from Diamond in an unprecedented pandemic play, and what that means now — but also back, as there’s some pretty significant news going down in uncovering the history of the comics world.

Burmese Pythons

I spoke to Rebecca Renner who wrote “The Misunderstood Python Hunters Saving the Everglades” for Outside Online. We spoke about how to catch a python, what’s surprising about python hunters, how bad this problem has become and why Florida is just so compelling to write about. Rebecca can be found at Rebecca-Renner.com, and is on TwitterFacebookMediumGoodreads & Instagram.

The Pudding

I spoke to Matt Daniels who wrote Identifying Generational Gaps in Music for The Pudding. Besides this one great story, we spoke about the interactive work done at his site, The Pudding, what’s going on beneath the hood of this project, and what else they’re cooking up. Matt can be found at The Pudding, which is now on Patreon as well, and he’s on Twitter.

June 2020

Vaccine Development

I spoke to my friend Max Nisen of Bloomberg Opinion who covers the business of medicine and drugs. He’s been really ahead of the curve on this stuff, writing “Deadly Viruses Aren't Pharma's Top Priority. Why Not?” as early as January. You should follow him on Bloomberg Opinion and on Twitter.

Facial Recognition

I spoke to Karen Hao who writes about AI for MIT Technology Review. I wanted to talk to Karen because this was a big week for AI, including major changes to what kind of facial recognition systems companies will now allow police to use, not to mention a reckoning with the intersection of police work and cameras to begin with. Karen writes the newsletter The Algorithm and can be found at MIT Technology Review and on Twitter.


I spoke to Julie Halpert who wrote “Why We Aren’t Using UV to Disinfect Everything—Yet” for OneZero. We spoke about what UV light is, what kind of applications it has as a disinfectant in hospitals and in the general public, and the promise of tech to make aging easier in America. Julie can be found on Twitter and at her website. Her work appears in The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe 74and more.

Blue Skies

I spoke to Ethan Klapper who wrote “September struggle? A trifecta of issues could make September one of the most difficult months yet for airlines” for his newsletter Bluer Skies. We spoke about what the immediate future of the airline industry looks like, what’s at stake this September, why the air in a plane may be cleaner than the air in your home, and what the immediate future of flight looks like in the U.S.Ethan can be found on Twitter and at Bluer Skies.

July 2020

Climate Solutions

I spoke to Akshat Rathi who wrote “Norway’s $2.6 Billion Green Bet Could Help the Whole Planet” for Bloomberg Green. We spoke about what makes Norway unique, what this tech can do, what carbon pricing does and his forthcoming book highlighting the young activists driving the climate conversation. Rathi can be found on Twitter,at Bloomberg Green, and the book is available for preorder now, you should check it out.

Wildlife Crime

I spoke to Dina Fine Maron, who is the senior National Geographic Society wildlife trade investigative reporter. Maron reports on wildlife crime and exploitation for Wildlife Watch, and wrote Pandemic-induced poaching surges in Uganda. Dina Fine Maron can be found on Twitter and on National Geographic’s Wildlife Watch investigative unit.


I spoke to Frank Pallotta, a CNN writer who covers the media and entertainment business and is a regular appearance in the weekday editions of Numlock. This week saw Netflix release stellar quarterly numbers as well as the unleashing of Peacock, Universal’s streaming service. We’re also playing box office chicken between Disney’s Mulan and Warner Bros.’ Tenet as to who has to be the first to put a movie in a cinema, and watching whatever Quibi is try to get off the ground. Frank can be found at CNN, on CNN Business, and on Twitter.

Larger Than Life

I spoke to Maria Sherman, author of the brand new book Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS. Any boy band is fascinating in its own right — five years of cultural hegemony is a wild thing to do to any group of teenagers — and Larger Than Life really gives this form of music the scrutiny and affection it’s deserving of. Larger Than Life can be found wherever books are sold.

August 2020

Worst Quarter

I spoke to Ben Casselman, who wrote the front page story about last week’s GDP numbers for The New York Times. We spoke about what was so unique about this GDP number, what the challenge is in covering economic data during a pandemic, what lies ahead and what’s actually going on in the economy. Ben can be found at The New York Times and on Twitter at @bencasselman.

Rest of World

I spoke to Anup Kaphle, the executive editor of Rest of World. Rest of World takes a really cool angle, focusing on the places that don’t get mainstream coverage and the stories that don’t typically get told. I’m a big fan. Anup Kaphle can be found at Rest of Worldand they have a great newsletter you should check out.

Working in Public

I spoke to Nadia Eghbal, the author of the new book Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software. The book can be found wherever books are sold and Nadia is on twitter at @nayafia.

Bodies of Work

I spoke to Erin Davis, who wrote The Physical Traits that Define Men and Women in Literature for The Pudding. We spoke about how this story came to be, we chatted about the process and how it can be pretty circuitous, and also a little about some of her other cool visualizations about music and cities. Her website is erdavis.com and on social media she is at @erindataviz.

Seams of the Grid

I spoke to Peter Fairley who wrote “How a Plan to Save the Power System Disappeared” for The Atlantic and InvestigateWest. We spoke about what’s wrong with the North American power grid — or, more importantly, grids — what happened when some Department of Energy researchers discovered a key way to improve it, and the way that political intervention can stomp out promising science that doesn’t advance its goals. Peter can be found at his website Fairley.ca and on Twitter at @pfairley. The InvestigateWest version of the story has some direct documents used in reporting it out, if you’re interested definitely check that out.

September 2020


 I spoke to Kelsey McKinney, a sports and culture writer who is one of the founders of a new sports site being launched by a number of Ex-Deadspin writers and editors called Defector Media. McKinney can be found at Defector, which launches this September. I am a subscriber and if you liked what the old Deadspin was doing you should give them a look. Kelsey can be found on Twitter as well as her newsletter.

One Billion Americans

I spoke to Matt Yglesias, author of the new book One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. We spoke about why the United States made it to the top of the world order, why that position is less certain moving forward, and why Yglesias thinks the best way to contend with that issue is expansion. The book can be found wherever books are soldon Amazon and as an audiobook, and Matt can be found on Twitter and Vox.


I spoke to Lenika Cruz, a culture editor at The Atlantic, who wrote BTS’s ‘Dynamite’ Could Upend the Music Industry. Cruz’s story was a deeply interesting take about what it takes to succeed on the American music charts and why that’s different than succeeding in music, a situation where what’s measured and the measurement is disjointed. Lenika can be found at The Atlantic and on Twitter.

Streaming Summer

I spoke to Sarah Shevenock, who wrote a whole suite of great stories this summer covering entertainment for Morning Consult. We spoke about movie theaters, streaming, theme parks and more. Sarah can be found at Morning Consulton Twitter and at her newsletter.

October 2020

Factory Farms

I spoke to Dylan Matthews, the Senior Correspondent who runs the Future Perfect section on Vox and hosts a podcast of the same name that launched its brand new season. This third season of the podcast approaches factory farms, why this is a system that is responsible for a lot of human pain and suffering despite not one meat eater explicitly preferring their food to come from a factory farm. Dylan can be found at Future Perfect and the podcast is available wherever you listen, they had an outstanding first two seasons which are now complete and this eight episode series is now on episode number threeHe’s also on Twitter.

Subprime Attention Crisis

I spoke to Tim Hwang, author of the book Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet, which is out this week. Hwang’s book was the subject of a piece by Gilad Edelman in Wired. The book can be found wherever books are sold, from Amazon to your local book store, and Tim’s on Twitter @timhwang.

The Mouse

I spoke to Julia Alexander, a writer for The Verge who’s appeared regularly in Numlock and who also writes a really interesting newsletter about Disney called Musings on Mouse. We spoke about what’s going on in the Magic Kingdom, how a gigantic cultural force got bigger than ever, and what’s happening with streaming, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. Julia can be found at The Verge and Musings on Mouse.

Parametric Press

I spoke to Halden Lin and Aatish Bhatia who wrote stories for Parametric Press’s issue 02 that were featured in Numlock. Halden and his coauthors Aishwarya NirmalShobhit Hathi and Lilian Liang wrote The Hidden Cost of Digital Consumption and Aatish wrote Your Personal Carbon History. Halden can be found on Twitter and at his website, Aatish can be found at his siteon Twitter and he has a cool newsletter about climate called Rate of Change that is worth checking out, and Parametric Press can be found at their website and on Twitter.

November 2020

Fumble Dimension

I mixed it up and reached out to one of my absolute favorite internet creators, Kofie Yeboah of SB Nation, to talk about his work. His team at SB Nation recently became Secret Base, and it’s absolutely worth following as they expand beyond video. Kofie can be found at Secret Base, on TwitterInstagram and the stuff on his personal channel is pretty great too. He also has a newsletter with weekly music recommendations, I subscribe.


I spoke to Priyanka Runwal who wrote “Climate Change Hits Rock and Roll as Prized Guitar Wood Shortage Looms” for Scientific American. I loved this story because there’s so much going on in it — guitars! rivers! climate change! supply chains! beetles! — but it’s so well told and so fascinating when you get the big picture understanding of what’s going down in the south Mississippi. Priyanka can be found on Twitter.


I spoke to Lev Akabas who wrote “Name, Image, Likeness Rights Supported by College Football Fans” for Sportico.  loved this story because the rights of college athletes has been a slow-boiling issue for decades, but right now, and in the immediate future, the amateur athletes are poised to gain a significant financial windfall, the ability to make money from their name and their image. Lev Akabas can be found at Sportico and on Twitter.

Prop 22

I spoke to Alison Griswold, the writer of Oversharing, a newsletter about the sharing economy. The plebicite’s passage in California will have global reverberations, and now that the dust has settled I wanted to talk about how these companies have used political might in the past and what their success on 22 means for the state of labor moving forward. Alison can be found at Oversharing and on Twitter.

December 2020

Bleak Friday

I spoke to Kim Bhasin, recurring Numlock guest who is the luxury reporter at Bloomberg. Last Friday, Kim braved the conditions on the ground to cover an incredibly unique Black Friday, one where retailers were actively hoping the normal crowds would stay home and shop some other time or online. Kim can be found at Bloomberg News, in Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine, and Bloomberg TV. He’s on Twitter at @KimBhasin.


I spoke to Michelle McGhee who wrote “Who’s In The Crossword?” for The Pudding. I loved this story because it’s a seriously clever approach that puts hard data to an otherwise difficult-to-quantify problem. The findings are not only unambiguous, but also turned up someone doing some really, really cool work to address the problem, demonstrating directly how clear the route is to a solution. Michelle can be found on Twitter and on her website.

Sibling Rivalries

I spoke to Tim Wigmore, who wrote The Best: How Elite Athletes Are Made, an excerpt of which was featured on the popular blog FiveThirtyEight. We spoke about why younger siblings are often better at sports than elder siblings, how birth order impacts athletic opportunities, and how where people are from can impact athletic development in surprising ways. The book is available right now and can be found wherever books are sold.


I continued the longstanding Numlock tradition of closing the year out talking to senior editor Joanna Piacenza from pollster Morning Consult. I love talking to Joanna about the work they do over at Morning Consult — you can check out the 2018 and 2019 editions of this, we were all so innocent then! — and this year was no different. Joanna can be found at Morning Consult’s news vertical, and on Twitter.