Numlock News: January 17, 2020 • Fetch, Helicopters, YouTube Apology

By Walt Hickey

Have an excellent weekend. Numlock will be off Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. See you on Tuesday!

Your Overtime Is In Another Castle

The Communications Workers of America is working on a major effort to organize employees of companies that make video games, a grinding task with legendary periods of crunch and often little pay. While global video game spending hit $109 billion in 2019, that wealth hasn’t made its way to workers. The 2019 State of the Industry survey found 47 percent of game developers supported unionization, and hours can get arduous and employment is inconsistent. Video game workers have been hard to unionize, a trend that goes as far back as the tense management vs. labor standoff that ensued when union representatives of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 267 union fought Wario.

Patrick Shanley, The Hollywood Reporter


Biologists at Stockholm University observed several eight-week-old wolf puppies retrieve a ball thrown by an unknown human. I repeat: the wolves have unlocked the technological secrets of fetch. God help us all. After several years of testing, just three of 13 wolf pups have played fetch, which the scientists consider remarkable and I consider enough. No more good can come of this, you’re like a power outage away from a Michael Crichton novel here. The evidence, reported in Science, shows that wolves are not all that different from their dog counterparts, and the capacity for interspecies play plausibly goes as far back as before the domestication of dogs.

James Gorman, The New York Times


YouTubers are prone to screw up, and a new analysis reveals the optimal way to apologize in a video: don’t overdo it on the video cuts and apologize profusely. The analysis encompassed 34 YouTubers with a documented controversy and subsequent apology videos, with offenses that included “made a video about not getting a free refill” or “was racist” or “secretly not really a vegan” or “made North Korean propaganda, accidentally.” Realistically, most of them kept gaining subscribers well after the incident in question, but apologies helped unless they overdid it: Logan Paul led the bunch with 4.6 apologies per minute in his weakly received apology, though Gabriel Zamora acquitted himself best with a more modest if still-excessive 1.16 apologies per minute.

Arjun Kakkar and Russell Goldenberg, The Pudding


The average price of a newly listed condo in New York rose from $1.15 million in 2011 to $3.77 million in 2019, and as it stands about half of the Manhattan luxury condo units that came on to the market in the past five years are as yet unsold. To understand why — in the largest city in the country with skyrocketing wealth, developers are unable to move some footage — you’ve got to understand that this is not actually a market for people to buy homes, so much as an engine by which the global wealthy anchor their fortunes in elevated concrete, with the luxury towers functionally serving as safe deposit boxes for your miscellaneous intercontinental moguls. This is one reason why New York is losing 300 residents per day.

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Air Ambulance

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have rejected a Wyoming plan to treat air ambulances as a public utility. Prices in the state — which has notoriously low population density, and a disproportionate demand for air ambulance services given the long distances between centralized hospitals and where people may be injured or ill — are an obscenity, even by American medical prices. The price of the average air ambulance flight from one of the largest operators in the country was over $49,000. The pitch from Wyoming would have allowed the state to get around the prohibition of states regulating aircraft, allow bids to become the state preferred ambulance company, would give Wyoming control over the number of air ambulance bases, and even expand Medicaid to apply to the whole state for air ambulances. Next, the state could sue, or take a different path to address costs.

Seth Klamann, Casper Star Tribune

This past weekend, the Numlock Sunday was a conversation with my good friend and former FiveThirtyEight colleague Andrew Flowers, talking about his work as an economist at Indeed’s Hiring Lab. It’s a great interview all about tech skills, “unlimited vacation” and so much more. Check it out.

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State Lines

On November 1, the state of Utah started to let grocery stores and convenience stores sell beer with 5 percent alcohol by volume. Since then, it’s been rough to be a border beer seller in Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada and Colorado, where outlets in towns on the state line have seen beer sales fall 20 percent to 30 percent. Beer with more than 5 percent ABV is sold in Utah liquor stores at a 66.5 percent markup, and liquor has an 88 percent markup which still sends thirsty Utahns heading to the border.

Kathy Stephenson, The Salt Lake Tribune


California will consider retooling its recycling program to put the onus on companies that produce canned and bottled beverages to ensure that their containers are adequately recycled, and to expand the types of bottles in the deposit program to include wine and liquor as well. Right now two-thirds of containers are redeemed by consumers in California and 12 percent are redeemed by curbside waste haulers. Adding wine and liquor bottles to the deposit program would increase proceeds by an estimated $100 million per year. The bill could have trouble in the California Assembly but authors are confident it can get through the state Senate.

Don Thompson, Associated Press


Pregnancy denial — a medical condition in which a pregnant person is in denial regarding their pregnancy — is more common than one might believe, affecting about one in 475 pregnancies at the 20-week mark. For the majority of cases, this is entirely cleared up at some point, though it affects about one in 2,500 by delivery as well. A lack of social support systems for pregnant women and new mothers can exacerbate denial and lead to serious complications for both parent and child.

Alex Ronan, Elle

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