Numlock News: December 13, 2019 • Snakes, Cooks, Cats

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!


A new study found that 401(k) participants are likelier to invest in index funds that are higher in the alphabet. Looking at 6,807 plans — each with about 20 fund options and about $32.5 million in assets — researchers found that the act of moving a plan from the bottom of the list to the top increased the fraction of money thrown in its direction to 11.68 percent, significantly higher than the 9.9 percent average. And given the average asset size, that’s a further $578,500 increased in investment, just because the plan starts with “A” instead of “Z.” In somewhat related news, this newsletter has been renamed AaaaaaNumlock.

Daisy Maxey, The Wall Street Journal


Vegas is trying to phase out the classic parlay card, a type of betting where an individual selects a number of sports outcomes from a card and then places a wager, typically with longer odds. The reason is that the cards have been cracked: they’re printed on Tuesday with the point spreads of that date, and then Saturday morning is the last chance to bet, meaning savvier gamblers — or just awake people with access to an injury report — can oftentimes outsmart them. Since 1992, Nevada sportsbooks had done pretty well on parlay cards, with the house coming out $553 million on top on $1.7 billion wagered. That 30.7 percent margin is far higher than the 4.95 percent they made from football in the same time span, but the volatility is getting too heavy even for Vegas. This past September, 35 cards won on 550-1 odds during a week with a tie, and the Vegas SuperBook had its worst Sunday in years.

David Purdum, ESPN


Every year, 2.7 million people get “envenomed” by snakes, and about 100,000 die. In part that’s because 93 million people live near venomous snakes in rural areas, and many of those killed by snakes live far from treatment centers, in farms or near the forest. In Indonesia, 270 million people live near 70 different species of venomous snakes. Lacking access to medical services, many people lose lives or limbs to snakebites worldwide, just one reason the WHO has listed snakebite envenomation as a neglected tropical disease.

Yao-Hua Law, Mosaic


Right now, neither Robert De Niro nor Willem Dafoe have been nominated for a Golden Globe or a Screen Actors Guild Award, which is typically the end of the road for an Oscar contender. Granted, neither is particularly essential: the Globes are decided by about 90 L.A.-based reporters and SAG is picked by a fraction of a larger union. Over the past 18 years, out of 360 acting Oscar nominations, just 28 received neither a Globe or SAG nomination. Only one actor since then won an Oscar following a Globe and SAG snub: Marcia Gay Harden in 2000 for Pollock. On the other hand, 38 performances were nominated for both a Globe and a SAG and were snubbed by the Academy. So nothing is certain and anything is possible, Willem.

Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter

Every year, I do a spinoff newsletter called the Numlock Awards Supplement all about predicting the Oscar race with stats. It’s very fun and if that’s your interest we’re starting it up again soon.

Back of House

Since the end of the Great Recession, restaurant sales have bounced back to $863 billion in 2019, including 183,350 jobs added from May 2017 to 2018. Altogether, 2.4 million Americans are employed as cooks, but wages for back-of-house staff are quite dismal. The average annual wage for cooks increased to $27,580 in 2018 from $26,440 the previous year, while for head cooks and chefs the average wage increased from $49,650 to $52,160 over the same period. Overall, there are 4.1 percent fewer people working as head cooks and chefs since 2016, and a survey found just 31 percent of 1,253 restaurants polled offer health insurance.

Matthew Sedacca, Eater


IP addresses — specifically IPv4 addresses — are an in-demand resource, as many have already been allocated and at this time an IP can fetch $15 to $25 on an open market. Some people make a bunch of money flipping blocks of IP addresses, but others take IPs without permission and subsequently sell them. In Africa, where IPs can be snatched from former businesses by unscrupulous parties trying to make a quick buck, those with access to the IPs have access to an increasingly scarce resource. An executive at the non-profit tasked with allocating those African IP addresses resigned amid accusations he sold off the valuable digital real estate to paying customers. It’s estimated that IPs worth a collective $50 million were hawked for sale.

Brian Krebs, Krebs on Security


Sure, plenty of people have been waiting their entire lives for a Cats movie, and actuarially speaking the average cat has been waiting 4.5 lives for a Cats movie, but the question remains: how will Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit play do on screen? Cats is estimated to make $15 million to $17 million in its opening weekend, up against indie family drama Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. But Cats may have quite the long tail, with previous musical hits like The Greatest Showman and La La Land and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again recently racking up successful runs at the box office buoyed by repeat viewership.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

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