Numlock News: January 29, 2019

By Walt Hickey

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

“Moving Ahead”

Nobody likes performance reviews. Somewhere between 60 to 90 percent of employees, which includes managers, don’t like performance review season, and yet here we stand with 90 percent of companies holding them annually. They take lots of time: Deloitte estimated its employees and managers spent 2 million hours on performance reviews annually, time which is probably better spent planting trees or meditating or knocking off early to see loved ones. The problem is that most people tend to think everyone does a fine job: in most organizations, 80 percent are above average — which sounds impossible, but you’re actually thinking of the median, Derek — and it’s all just an exercise in nit picking to cram valuable if unobjectionable employees into an arbitrary bell curve.

Katie Heaney, The Cut


The U.S. once sent about 400,000 metric tons of chicken paws to China annually. Obviously chickens don’t have paws, they have feet, but that’s just the industry term for the part of the chicken that Americans don’t usually touch but China adores. This was a fairly positive arrangement for all parties, and one of those anecdotal market efficiencies you read about in whatever version of Chicken Soup For the Junior Executive’s Soul is riding the New York Times bestseller list this week. But then it all came crumbling down after 2009, when 80 percent of imported chicken feet in China came from the U.S. Then came a series of tariffs, trade disputes, WTO rulings, bird flu and more. Now China will import 375,000 metric tons of all American chicken products in 2019, compared to the 400,000 tons of paws alone imported before the trouble began in 2009. Now most American chicken paws go into animal feed. But who can say what comes next?

Kristi Allen, Atlas Obscura

Long Term Parking

Uh, to the owner of the McDonnell Douglas MD87 parked at Adolfo Suárez-Madrid Barajas airport, please move your vehicle, it’s in a tow zone. The plane — registration number EC KRV — has been parked on the tarmac for years, and the airport administrators are trying to get it declared as “abandoned” so they can be rid of it in three months time. It’s similar to a case where three Boeing 747 cargo planes were abandoned at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia in 2015, an event which is regrettably only the third-weirdest aviation mystery associated with that airport.

Jack Guy, CNN

Shark Attacks

There were 66 unprovoked shark bites in 2018, down from the five-year rolling average of 84 incidents per year. The U.S. — a global leader and trendsetter in people getting bit by sharks — led the world with 32 bites, down from 53 in 2017. It’s an anomaly, which might be caused by better beach safety, declining shark populations, or just plain-old good luck. The risks of getting bit by a shark are ridiculously low, but somehow Floridians managed to get bitten 16 times, half of all the U.S. shark incidents. In all of 2018 there were only four fatal shark attacks.

Natalie van Hoose, Florida Program for Shark Research

Front and Center

An AP analysis found that the center position in football — the most indispensable player on the roster, the one who snaps the ball each play and calls the shot for the offensive line — is in a state of tectonic change. In 2009, the average NFL center had six years of experience, compared to four years this past season. Over the past five years there were 38 centers drafted, 16 of whom were taken in the first three rounds, yet none have made the Pro Bowl. The dip in player experience in the position since the new collective bargaining agreement has been dramatic and not mimicked in any other position.

Mark Long, The Associated Press

White Castle

Every year, thousands of couples reserve a Valentine’s Day sit-down dinner at White Castle, a trash restaurant known for garbage sliders. One day a year, the restaurant recruits waitstaff and dims the lights to make a culinary experience normally tolerable only at the extremes of inebriation into a downright romantic evening. The event began 28 years ago in St. Louis and Minneapolis and today all White Castles take reservations. Last year they had 30,000 bookings. This year, three weeks ahead of Valentine’s Day — which, good reminder if you yourself haven’t booked a table — they’ve already booked 70 percent of the reservations they did last time around, 7 percent more than this time last year.

Aditi Shrikant, Vox


China’s growth rate was 6.6 percent in 2018, a 28-year low. In order to keep their foot on the gas, the Chinese government is planning to inject 2.5 trillion yuan ($370 billion) into the economy through a mix of tax cuts and infrastructure spending. The goal is to get banks, who are a little wary about the Chinese economy at the moments, to invest and extend more credit. That value amounts to about 3 percent of GDP. China’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 253 percent as of last year, up from 144 percent in 2007.

Issaku Harada, Nikkei

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! 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

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

2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  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