Numlock News: February 4, 2019

By Walt Hickey

Good morning!


In exchange for that languid Super Bowl last night, Hollywood basically had to punt on an entire weekend at the box office, with only a single wide release coming out and the weekend stacking up as the worst Super Bowl weekend in 19 year. Indeed, the $68 million to $70 million weekend is among the 20 worst for any time of year since 1997. I mean, we’re in the part of the year where Aquaman is still somehow in fourth at the box office, so a movie release today has about the same chance of succeeding right now as a Spirit Halloween store does.

Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter


Amazon, when you look at the numbers, is basically just a server company that has a fun little online store side business. Amazon’s cloud-computing business made $7.43 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter, up 45.3 percent year over year. For all of 2018, Amazon Web Services accounted for $25.7 billion in revenue. That’s nearly all the revenue made by Macy’s in the entirety of 2017, and is far more revenue than McDonald’s made last year.

Alison Griswold, Quartz

Coffee Has Nutrients Right?

Despite popular belief, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day and may not be important, period. A review of 13 randomized controlled trials found no evidence to support the idea that having breakfast promotes weight loss, nor do they suggest that skipping breakfast leads to weight gain, and moreover the people who ate breakfast consumed, on average, 260 more calories per day. As we all know, the most important meals of the day are supper, elevensies and second breakfast.

Julia Belluz, Vox


Many developed countries have banned paying people for their blood, but America has no such compunctions. This means America has plasma to sell to other countries who can’t get it on their own and it’s a strikingly large industry: blood products were literally 1.9 percent of all American exports in 2016, greater than soybeans or computers. Blood products are a component of a number of crucial medicines and can’t be manufactured. Healthy people can donate plasma up to 104 times per year, and in exchange for a few hours and the better part of a liter of plasma, people can make a small amount of money. Still, a $30 plasma donation yields $300 of wholesale immunoglobuin, so maybe we should talk about forming a co-op.

Zoe Greenberg, The New York Times


CAPTCHA tests — those weird “prove you’re a human” examinations that take up far too much of my time online — are getting harder, it’s not just you. The tests (which stand for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) essentially are tools of their own demise: people identify a storefront, a computer analyzes those results to itself get better identifying storefronts, then those computers can beat CAPTCHA tests and a new CAPTCHA is needed. In 2014, Google threw a machine learning algorithm against humans solving distorted text CAPTCHAs, and the computers got 99.8 percent of them to the humans’ 33 percent.

Josh Dzieza, The Verge

Eat Your Heart Out, Maps App

A referendum held in northwestern Germany found that voters in Hilgermissen have rejected a plan to name their streets, with 60 percent opposed to having street names. This is an outstanding troll and I’m obsessed with it: the 2,200-person municipality was formed out of several villages in the 1970s, and addresses are now a house number and a name of a former village. This is becoming unmanageable as more buildings are added. The referendum is binding for two years. I look forward to the logical conclusion of this, when I move into a new building at 1,289,387,227 Hoya/Weser.

The Associated Press

Hey, Have You Heard of Game of Thrones?

Last night there was a Super Bowl ad where a Game of Thrones dragon murdered the Bud Knight, which is absolutely the realization of George R.R. Martin’s vision for the A Song of Ice and Fire franchise. It’s part of a marketing campaign for the final season of Game of Thrones that is projected to cost $20 million. I look forward to the forthcoming spin-off novel, A Brash of Brews, which tells the sordid story of how one of the dragons of Daenerys Targaryen murdered a thing that said Dilly Dilly, which will definitely be released before The Winds of Winter.

Suzanne Vranica, The Wall Street Journal


A cryptocurrency exchange in Canada lost control of $137 million of customer money because the guy who knew how to access the currency died. The $180 million (Canadian dollars) wallet was stored on an encrypted computer and the password died with the company’s founder, so now the money just doesn’t exist. Weird how this doesn’t happen at actual financial institutions.

Dan Goodin, Ars Technica

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

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