By Walt Hickey
Have a wonderful weekend!
Mud Industrial Complex
When a major league pitcher receives a new baseball that baseball has a shine on it and the texture is just a bit wrong. That’s fixed by rubbing some mud on it, but, no, just any mud: a very specific type of mud collected from an undisclosed location on a tributary of the Delaware River, a unique composition of clay-rich dirt and brackish water that has been the product of one family serving the whole league since the 1950s. All 240,000 major league balls get a mud treatment before going to the field. Each team in the multi-billion dollar league pays Jim Blintliff for four cans of the mud each season at the rate of $100 per can. Rawlings tried to make a ball that did not require the extremely specific mud, but pitchers hated it, so they’re just going to stick to the “pay that New Jersey mud guy for some mud” thing. As far a side hustles go, it’s certainly one of the coolest.
The dating site 3Fun, which is designed for people who want to coordinate group dates with other open-minded or kinky people has suffered a data breach, with the information of over 1.5 million users being exposed through a vulnerability on the app. The app was contacted by researchers on July 1 and reportedly took weeks to repair the leaky bit of code, which exposed location, sexual preferences, age, usernames, their partner’s username, and full resolution photographs. According to privacy experts, this is easily the fourth, maybe fifth worst thing that can happen as a result of a couple pursuing a threesome.
With marijuana now legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia, those marijuana businesses need marijuana salespeople and farmers, and thus they also need a marijuana human resources department, who in turn needs to find a staff who’s down to both sell marijuana and also fill out the requisite IRS forms to appropriately claim the income they receive from doing so. Needless to say, marijuana job postings are up almost fourfold and the number of people looking to break into the business is up about sixfold on the job hunting service Indeed. Marijuana companies are becoming a serious component of our thriving economy: in May 2016, for every million jobs posted on Indeed, 231 were in the cannabis business. In May 2019, that was 915 pot jobs for every million jobs posted. California accounts for 28 percent of those job positions, but first-mover Colorado accounts for 11 percent.
Major cities across America are reducing speed limits with the somewhat counterintuitive goal of making traffic flow smoother and safer. In New York, interior roads in residential areas are being tested with a 20 mile per hour speed limit, and some cities are eyeing an entire European-style slow speed area designed for more mixed, non-auto traffic. And while that’s frustrating for some drivers, the difference isn’t all that bad when you look at the data. The average car in Midtown Manhattan goes 4.7 miles per hour. One also doesn’t even need to go all that fast to make some serious distance in such compact cities, as the speedier subway only averages 17 miles per hour, and electric bikes and scooters max at about 10 miles per hour. Slower, smoother traffic also means fewer red lights, as dynamically managing traffic flows is easier when everything is flowing smoother.
Google is getting into the podcast game, with the objective of making it easier to find and listen to podcasts in search results. It’s also indexing 2 million podcasts across the internet, a herculean task if there ever were one, and one that may entail learning way, way more about bad movies, the opinions of Joe Rogan, or perhaps episodes of Westworld than Google originally realized it was down for. That Google was a bit behind the times on the podcast zeitgeist does put it at an ever so slight disadvantage: while Apple Podcasts accounted for 63 percent of all listening as of February 2019, Google’s rival product Google Podcasts accounted for 0.9 percent. Apple has 750,000 shows registered in iTunes with 24 million episodes.
This past week’s Sunday paid subscriber special was the second part of my interview with Karen Hao, an AI reporter with the MIT Technology Review who has a great newsletter called The Algorithm. We talked about the fascinating backstory behind deepfake tech and the wild things going on in the frontiers of AI. Check it out, and if you’re not already a paid subscriber consider upgrading today.
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Sure, streaming services snag all the headlines, but after the annual television upfronts process — an event where networks present their forthcoming shows to advertisers to encourage them to commit to purchasing large blocks of advertisements well in advance of broadcasts — it’s been a fairly stellar year for traditional networks. They hauled in somewhere between $9.6 billion and $10.8 billion for primetime, which is somewhere between 5.5 percent to 7.4 percent of the volume secured last year. It’s the fourth consecutive year of growth, and part of it has to do with major advertisers getting burned by digital media. I mean, say what you will about the dire state of ABC’s Thursday drama block, but at least Procter & Gamble knows the lead-in to Kimmel isn’t going to be some influencer tearfully apologizing for inventing a catchy new slur during a DIY vaping tutorial for children.
Apples to Apples
Despite a national rush into probiotics or dietary supplements designed to guarantee a healthy gut biome in the pursuit of superior dietary health, it’s worth considering that a thousand generations of our ancestors survived with a thriving gut biome without the aid of a GNC. How did the ancient ones do it? What’s the secret to guarantee healthy bacteria manage to succeed in our digestive tract? The answer, I regret to report, is “eating fruits and vegetables.” It turns out that a single apple contains an average of 100 million bacteria on the inside, the good kind that humans need to keep everything a-ok in the abdomen, as most are innocuous or beneficial! Most of those probiotics (90 percent, according to the July study) are in the core, which is fibrous and full of good stuff. I cannot believe they were actually on to something with that “apple a day thing.” I’m in fact quite mad.
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