Numlock News: February 8, 2021 • Sushi, Vanilla, Melee

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!


Over 100 proposed class-action lawsuits in federal courts are honing in on one of the most common and pernicious frauds perpetrated on the American public, an ongoing travesty the likes of which is rarely seen: vanilla isn’t actually vanilla. Pure vanilla extract ranged from $100 to $200 per gallon in the past year, while its most common alternative — stuff typically billed as “natural vanilla flavor with other natural flavors” on ingredients labels — went for $50 per gallon, and a gallon goes further due to a higher concentration. Guess which one is used more in “vanilla” foods. Lots of foodstuffs are billed as vanilla-flavored, when in actuality they are “natural vanilla flavor with other natural flavor”-flavored, and the engines of consumer protection lawsuits have begun firing up.

Corinne Ramey, The Wall Street Journal

Cyberpunk 2021

Nevada is considering a new law that will allow corporations who own sufficient land and have money to invest in it to create corporate-controlled municipalities. The proposed legislation would allow companies to form separate local governments in Nevada with the same authority as counties, imposing taxes and running school districts, courts and providing government services. The option to found their very own cyberpunk dystopia will be offered to companies owning 50,000 acres of undeveloped land outside a city or town, with a plan to invest $1 billion over 10 years into whatever Blade Runner-esque hellscape they’ve got in mind.

Colton Lochhead, Las Vegas Review-Journal


At the end of the 2001 game Super Smash Bros. Melee, the credits sequence rolls 190 names that you can then zap before they disappear. For two decades, nobody on record had ever hit all 190 of them — the best on record was in 2007, when someone nabbed 182. Earlier this year, presumably driven mad by quarantine, someone offered a $3,000 bounty if anyone pulled it off, and within a week Martin Zarate was successful after 50 hours of attempts and practice.

Patricia Hernandez, Polygon


For the first time ever over 9,000 people will be eligible to vote on the Oscars, with the number of total voting members now up to 9,362 compared to 8,469 last year. The reason for the jump is twofold: in addition to the 819 professionals invited to join the Academy last year, last June the board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also moved to give agents the vote. Previously, film agents were invited into the Academy only in a non-voting associate capacity; now they’re upgraded to members-at-large, with that branch growing by 166 members in part due to the shift in agent classification.

Steve Pond, The Wrap


New cars have something like 100 microprocessors in them, but there’s an issue: globally, we’re all a bit short on chips right now. When computer and device sales exploded last year, it ate up a lot of the supply of available chips, and when sales of cars crashed last spring lots of manufacturers decided to pull back on their orders and have now come to regret doing that. Because of the delays in getting chips to carmakers, the automotive industry is projected to lose $64 billion worth of sales due to delayed output. The industry is consolidated in just two countries, with Taiwan and South Korea combined accounting for 83 percent of global processor chip production and 70 percent of memory chips, so a problem somewhere can lead to a problem everywhere.

Leo Kelion, BBC News


Everyone is on a bit of a sushi kick right now. Restaurants are coming off an objectively terrible year, but there are a few categories expanding according to an analysis of Yelp data. The number of sushi restaurants open in the United States is up 4.8 percent since March 1, 2020, the number of Thai restaurants is up 2 percent, as is the number of burger joints. Sushi sales in supermarkets in the four weeks ending January 23, 2021 were up 23.2 percent year-over-year, outpacing overall grocery sales growth of 12.5 percent.

Heather Haddon and Jaewon Kang, Wall Street Journal


The Super Bowl is one of the few remaining bastions of Roman numeral usage in everyday life, a dwindling field that following the decline of the Godfather and Rocky franchises is basically down to Super Bowls, heirs, watches for rich guys, the Windsor monarchs and the skippable portions of books. However, styling the Super Bowl in its proper fashion — like yesterday’s Super Bowl LV — is in decline predominantly because of Google. As of 5 p.m. January 28, there were 855 million searches for “2021 Super Bowl,” 804 million for “Super Bowl 2021,” 240 million for “Super Bowl 55” and just 84 million for the correct “Super Bowl LV.”

Jacob Feldman, Sportico

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.

The best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends. Go to to claim some free merch when you invite someone.

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

Check out the Numlock Book Club and Numlock award season supplement.

2021 Sunday subscriber editions: Pipeline · Wattpad · The Nib · Driven

2020 Sunday editions: 2020 · Sibling Rivalries · Crosswords · Bleak Friday · Prop 22 · NCAA · Guitars

Fumble Dimension · Parametric Press · The Mouse · Subprime Attention Crisis · Factory Farms · Streaming Summer · Dynamite · One Billion Americans · Defector · Seams of the Grid · Bodies of Work · Working in Public · Rest of World
Worst Quarter ·Larger Than Life · Streaming · Wildlife Crime · Climate Solutions · Blue Skies · UV
2020 Sunday Edition Archive
2019 Sunday Edition Archive
2018 Sunday Edition Archive