Numlock News: December 17, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Liking Numlock? Forward today’s email to a friend you think may enjoy it and might subscribe.

A Pitbull Cover of “The Downeaster Alexa” by Billy Joel

The red tide in Southwest Florida has proven devastating to the stone crab fishermen, with crabbers seeing awful yields as their prey is choked by the algae bloom. Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach is a Miami staple and crabbers supply the restaurant with over 1,000 pounds of stone crab per day, something like 20 percent of the market. Last season boats averaged 300 to 400 pounds per day, with a top catch just shy of 1,000 pounds. Anything below 100 pounds and the captain is in the red; the largest catch this season was only 470 pounds.

Patricia Mazzei, The New York Times

Box Office Bomb

This weekend was dominated by Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which notched $35.4 million to become the top December animated release ever. But don’t let that vibrant and exciting film distract you from the fact that Mortal Engines has imploded, pulling in $7.5 million across 3,103 venues. The film cost over $100 million to make, and the impossible task of marketing “steampunk movie where mechanical cities fight” cost tens of millions of dollars globally. Rival studios think it could lose $100 million. I mean, municipalities engineered to prey on non-residents to remain staggeringly wealthy isn’t inherently interesting. Nobody is going to make a $100 million Delaware franchise any time soon.

Brent Lang and Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Bulls Are Awful Competitors

While the main trend in professional sports over the past decade has been a focus on mitigating injury and stopping head trauma that can lead to both concussions, as well as long-term brain damage, bull riding is just keeping on doing its thing. A bull rider is 10 times as likely to be seriously injured as a football player, which makes sense, because while a linebacker who isn’t on the Bengals will stop if they hear 33 facial bones shatter, bulls won’t. The danger inherent in rodeo sports is impossible to disentangle from the appeal and while players born after 1994 must use helmets in Professional Bull Riding, the constellation of small-time rodeos have no such stipulations and payouts for riders can be significant.

Kelsey McKinney, Medium

Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.


A meadow of seagrass along the Great Barrier Reef is capturing carbon compounds from the atmosphere. The lawn may be the size of New Jersey. Those ocean ecosystems can store 10 times as much carbon compared to a similarly sized forest or land system and remove carbon at four times the rate. Pollution threatens these ecosystems: seagrasses are vanishing at an annual rate of 1.5 percent every year. Should we address the pollution threat, seagrass cultivation may end up aiding the fight to slow or stop climate change.

Emma Bowman and Michel Martin, NPR


Nightlife in Washington D.C. generates $3.8 billion per year, a value that prompted the city’s government to create the Office of Nightlife and Culture. Sometimes (but inaccurately) called the “night mayor,” the position is tasked with aiding local business owners between dusk and last call liaise with the municipal government. New York’s got one, as does Pittsburgh and Orlando. I’d love to meet the Night Head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, but I just assume the position is already filled by that gigantic gleaming sculpture of a middle finger I wrote about last week.

Linda Poon, CityLab

Oil Money

The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund invests the nation’s oil and gas windfall worldwide, a $1 trillion pot of money that allows the nation of 5.3 million to own 1.4 percent of global stocks. This, naturally, is exactly the kind of pitch that executives hunting for the next big sitcom apparently wanted to hear. The Oil Fund, a comedy, will air on Discovery Inc.’s TV Norge in January.

Mikael Holter, Bloomberg

Federal Revenues

An annual report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — the group that researches the fiscal impact of policy proposals — highlighted that a theoretical 0.1 percent tax on the value of each financial securities trade would increase revenues by $777 billion between 2019 and 2028. That’s a figure so insignificant that the typical investor in routine stocks would barely perceive it, but also one that would have a side effect of cutting down on high-frequency trading, which disproportionately benefits financial firms with direct links to the market rather than everyday investors. Such a 0.1 percent tax would effectively fund the entire federal food stamps program.

Hamilton Nolan, Splinter News

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! 

Previous Sunday special editions: Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores

Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at