Numlock News: December 18, 2018

By Walt Hickey

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


As much as Amazon wants you to think it’s just days away from launching a fleet of drones to deliver your crap, the company is actually dependent on contracting with small companies to run its last mile for delivery. Mom-and-pop delivery startups, starting with as little as $10,000 up front, can elbow into the challenging-but-rewarding work of delivering packages for a conglomerate. The vans deliver 250 packages a day and make about $1,000 per van per month. And the cash-out can be wild, as evidenced by companies that own FedEx routes: the price for FedEx routes has climbed from 2 times cash earnings to 3.3 times cash earnings in five years. A route typically earns $25,000 before taxes, and a bundle of 10 routes sells for about $1 million.

Spencer Soper and Thomas Black, Bloomberg


Despite my best efforts, the American cheese stockpile is at an all-time high, with 1.4 billion pounds of American, cheddar, and more stocked in cold-storage warehouses awaiting more favorable market conditions. Cheese is less valuable after spending weeks in cold storage, a fact that I learn the hard way roughly once per month. Still, the American palate isn’t helping: despite the average American eating 37 pounds of cheese last year, tastes tend to the foreign variety, which leaves those enormous stockpiles of cheddar to age away.

Heather Haddon, The Wall Street Journal

Vicious Fight For The Throne

The National Zoo's naked mole-rat colony’s civil war has come to a close, with a new queen ascendant after conflict claimed the lives of a fifth of the adult population. Naked mole-rats are the rare mammal that lives in a colony like bees or ants, allowing only a single queen to reproduce— and she exercises total social hegemony. On Sunday, after months of conflict, the Favourite finally birthed two babies, thus cementing her position in the monarchy. The battle was bloody, however. While the colony was made up of 17 mole rats this summer, only 13 adults survived The Great Naked Mole-Rat Civil War of 2018.

Natalie Delgadillo, DCist


Since 2000, 284 people have fallen off cruise ships and a further 41 have fallen off large ferries. That’s an average of 3 people falling off ships every two months. Man-overboard incidents pose a quandary for the cruise business, which is predicated on the concept that getting hammered while sailing through international waters is a great idea. Last year, 26.7 million people went on cruises, resulting in 9 overboard incidents. Statistically, one to two people go overboard every month, and between 17 percent and 25 percent are rescued.

Rosie Spinks, Quartz


Streaming isn’t actually taking that big a bite out of cinema revenues, according to a new study commissioned by skittish theaters. Half of people who skipped the cinema over the past 12 months also didn’t watch any streaming content, and a mere 18 percent of those would-be gallon-of-Cherry-Coke consumers could be classified as heavy streamers (those who watch more than eight hours of content per week). Respondents aged 13 to 17 went to an average of 7.3 movies over the past 12 months and watched 9.2 hours of streamed content per week, while those aged 18 to 37 went to 6 movies and streamed 8.6 hours per week.

Brent Lang, Variety

Spirit Airlines Is Good

While their company does provide an incredibly unpleasant experience, Spirit Airlines at least has the decency to minimize the amount of time that one spends enduring that unpleasant experience. The budget airline is the most on-time carrier in the country, showing up 89 percent on time in October and beating out punctuality mainstays like Delta and Hawaiian. That’s a big change, given that, in 2016, Spirit came in dead last for on-time flights for 11 consecutive months. What gives? The airline’s robust presence in the South, where the weather is a little more consistent, doesn’t hurt. Nor does its complete and utter disregard for travelers’ needs— except, of course, a pressurized seat that’s headed in the right direction.

Aditi Shrikant, Vox

Bug Bites

Coyote Peterson has built a media empire by subjecting himself to insect bites on the internet. He now has been bitten by enough bugs on YouTube that Animal Planet has decided to give him a television show. Of course, breaking into that business came with a fair share of scrapes. Take, for instance, a Peterson’s encounter with a bullet ant, an animal so named because the bite feels like getting shot. That “tsunami of pain” got him 40 million YouTube views, a figure that analysts say could haul in something between $20,000 and $161,000. The channel as a whole has 2.3 billion views and 13 million subscribers, figures that probably take the sting out of the whole experience of doing “The Prestige but with venom.”

Joseph Bernstein, BuzzFeed

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.

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