Numlock News: April 23, 2021 • Space Station, Oscars, Barbie

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend! Enjoy the Oscars, check out the Numlock Awards Supplement if you want predictions from the model.


Apple is being sued in federal court over whether its customers actually buy things in what’s now a putative class action suit. The issue is what precisely happens when you pay $19.99 to buy a movie in the iTunes Store. David Andino, the lead plaintiff, argues that since Apple has the right to terminate access to purchased things, Apple is falsely advertising because it’s not actually selling the customer the product and they don’t end up owning it. Apple argues, and this is a quote, that no “reasonable consumer would believe” an item purchased from the iTunes Store would remain available indefinitely, which is weird because in most other situations when things are bought you keep them indefinitely. On Tuesday, a judge in the Eastern District of California rejected Apple’s motion to dismiss, so it’s on.

Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter

Revolving Door

A bank employee in Taiwan had a remarkable number of weeks, getting married on April 6, 2020, then divorced on April 16, then re-married on April 17, divorced again on the 28th, and then married a third time on April 29. He divorced again on May 11, and then re-married a fourth time again on May 12. All of this was with the same person. According to the man’s employer, this was an incredibly clever stratagem to utilize the mandatory eight days of leave that couples receive after a wedding, but hey man, last spring was a rough time for a lot of couples, maybe we should hear them out. The bank refused to approve the paid time off application, the man complained, and the bank was fined $700 in October, a penalty appealed in February, and last week the fine was revoked. It is unclear why the man is in trouble, and was not immediately placed atop the compliance division of the bank he works for. Between this and the March incident where a bunch of people legally changed their names to salmon to get free sushi, I absolutely admire the reckless spirit of interpretive legal innovations going on in Taiwan right now.

Tiffany May and Amy Chang Chien, The New York Times

International Space Slumber Party

There are seven permanent sleeping pods aboard the International Space Station, and there are currently seven astronauts on board. Four new crew members are on the way up, which means that the whole station is a bit overbooked right about now and people will be making due: two are going to sleep in the docked SpaceX capsules, and two will be bedless, but that is apparently not all that much of a problem in space given the low-gravity situation revoking the vestigial terrestrial necessity of beds. The good news is the space-station-as-crash-pad will not need to last all that long, as four astronauts are due back next week. This is, if anything, a return to form for the ISS, which often hosted visitors when the shuttle was around, and the acceleration of commercial space flight means more travelers staying the [theoretical] night.

Brendan Byrne, NPR


The median police recruit in the United States receives 58 hours of training in firearms, but only eight hours of de-escalation training according to the Police Executive Research Forum. That initial emphasis on firearms does not end up translating to additional training in how to use them; in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, pistol requalification happens just three times a year, a vastly lower rate than the previous policy of once every 30 days. A 2016 Department of Justice study found that training also lets down future cops when it comes to confronting the rigors of the work: while they get an average of 25 hours of training in report writing, they only get six hours of training on stress management.

Olga Khazan, The Atlantic


Sales of dolls at Mattel were up 69 percent worldwide in the first quarter of this year, fueled by resurgent Barbie and American Girl doll sales. Overall, revenue was up 47 percent at the toymaker to hit $874 million, crushing the expectations of $684.8 million and logging the fastest growth in 25 years. A year ago, the closure of stores and factories slammed Mattel, but over the course of the last year, the response to the pandemic and relentless global need to give children objects to get them to play quietly over the course of a 30-minute teleconference led to a pop in sales for the toymaker.

Kelly Gilblom, Bloomberg


Oscar speeches are more and more often including pleas for representation in the industry, with 31 percent of Academy Award speeches in the 2010s containing at least one word about representation. This isn’t to say pushes from winners to improve the industry are strictly new. That’s actually a bit of a misconception: 22 percent of speeches from the 2000s, 19 percent from the ‘90s, 16 percent from the ‘80s and even 10 percent of speeches from the 1970s included some kind of rhetoric about representation. The Best Actress winners were most likely to speak up: 31 percent of Best Actress speeches from 1939 to 2019 contained a word about representation, compared to 24 percent of Best Actor winners.

Sarah Shevenock, Morning Consult


Streaming services, having established a strong foothold in the United States, are rapidly expanding around the world. About 38 percent of the content on Netflix as of mid-March was non-English language, and roughly half of the new content the streamer is developing is productions outside the U.S. It’s similar at Disney: about 24 percent of its new content in development is overseas, while right now just 3 percent of the material on Disney+ came from outside the U.S.

R.T. Watson, The Wall Street Journal

Last Sunday I spoke to to FairVote’s executive director Rob Richie, who has been working on Instant Runoff Voting since the ‘90s, to talk all about the Oscars. You can actually read the whole interview for free over at the Numlock Awards Supplement, where I write about the Academy Awards. This interview goes into why upsets have become more likely in Best Picture, what that has to do with ranked choice and why that’s exactly what the people who run the Academy seemed to hope for with the change.

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