Numlock News: August 21, 2020 • Liquor, Ice, Pumpkin Spice Flavoring

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!

Pumpkin Spice

Starbucks announced that its pumpkin-spice phalanx of products would arrive to participating locations as early as Wednesday of this week, rolling out sometime towards the end of August. I remember participating in other locations once, but that was so long ago. Anyway, a new poll finds that late August is perceived to be too early by a majority of Americans, who I assume hate the happiness of others. Only 19 percent of respondents said seasonal products coming out in August was just right while 61 percent said it was too early. By early September, 34 percent are ready for the PSL, rising to 47 percent by the middle of the month, and finally 70 percent by early October, when the Pumpkin Spice is perceived to be perfectly ripe. Listen, if I can’t drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte during Shark Week the very foundations of the American experiment are in peril.

Alyssa Meyers, Morning Consult

That’s A Dealbreaker

Even pre-pandemic, the state of dating was miserable: a new analysis of survey data collected in October found that 67 percent of daters said that their dating life was going not well, and 75 percent found it difficult to find people to date in the past year. Naturally, things, er, got worse. The good people at Pew also asked what made people more and less desirable to date. Long distance was discovered to be the wrong distance, with 51 percent saying they would not date someone who lived far away compared to 49 percent who would, which was a larger encumbrance than having a significant amount of debt (49 percent would not), or having a decade age difference (38 percent). How to go about ending it is still controversial: 97 percent said it was always or sometimes acceptable to do so in person, 51 percent said by a call, and 14 percent by a text message or an email.

Anna Brown, Pew Research Center

Grid

The U.S. power grid is not really one grid, but rather an enormous Eastern grid, a Western grid, and a Texas grid. While the Eastern and Western grids have 950 gigawatts of power generation across thousands of plants total, just one gigawatt can go from one to the other because there are just seven ancient power stations that coordinate the flow between them. This makes it hard to respond to broad energy needs because the grids can’t collaborate and lend slack during times of need. A $1.6 million study figured out how to engineer that to a better position and the possible outcomes, especially with a carbon pricing policy: exchanging power over the Rockies would eliminate 35 megatons of CO2 emissions annually by 2038, or approximately the annual emissions of natural gas production and distribution in America. For every $1 invested, doing so would return $2.50 in benefits.

Peter Fairley, The Atlantic

Eyes

In Botswana, farmers don’t like it when lions kill their cattle, and can retributively hunt the big cats. Conservationists wanted to defuse this situation — keep the cattle alive and keep the lions alive — and a new study details a low-tech, highly successful strategy to ward off predators, namely by stenciling eyes on the butts of cows. The study painted 14 herds with 2,061 head of cattle with either a set of eyes on the backs of cows, a set of crosses, or nothing at all. Of 835 unpainted cows, 15 were killed by lions over the course of four years, of 543 cross-painted cows just four were killed, and none of the 683 cows with eyes on their butts were killed.

Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica

Water

The numbers are in, and in summer 2019 Greenland lost 586 billion tons of ice to melting, the highest on record, or approximately 140 trillion gallons of water. That’s up from the yearly average of 259 billion tons since 2003, and north of the previous record of 511 billion tons in 2012. This would cover the state of California in four feet of water, but please don’t do that. They’re going through a lot right now, and four feet of water covering every inch of the state is pretty much the last thing they need right about now.

Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press

Distillery

Craft distilleries were a $1.8 billion business in 2019, employing 15,000 people and selling at retail $3.2 billion worth of small batch booze. It’s been a rough year for the distillers, and about $700 million — 41 percent of sales — evaporated with the closures of the bars and restaurants that can serve as springboards for them and also the on-site sales and tours that keep them afloat.

Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press

Foot

Starting in 1893, the U.S. used the foot as a measure of length, and then later on in 1959, a newer, slightly more exact foot was introduced, one that is 0.12672 inches shorter than the original survey foot per mile. That measurement is only of note for people who use the foot to measure long distances — scientists use the metric system — as it adds up to two extra feet every million feet. Mainly, those who use the 1893 foot are surveyors, hence it’s the U.S. survey foot. This is incredibly annoying, and having two different, but nearly identical units of measure is a laughable situation, so on January 1, 2023 the old foot will be obsolete according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Anyway, I’ll probably still be using the old foot on my checks for a year to come.

Alanna Mitchell, The New York Times

This week’s Sunday subscriber special was an interview with Nadia Eghbal, the author of Working in Public, which is all about open source. You should check it out, and consider becoming a paid subscriber to Numlock.

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