Numlock News: January 30, 2019

By Walt Hickey

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A new study confirms what all musical theater kids have known for generations, namely that gym class sucks and arouses the worst in middle schoolers, who are old enough to be vicious emotional terrorists and still too young to fully control that urge. Namely, an analysis of a Texas program that would force schools to add 30 minutes of physical education to their curriculum found doing so resulted in a 16 percent increase in the number of disciplinary actions per student and the proportion of misbehaving students rose by 7 percent. Full disclosure, I did so bad on the Presidential Physical Fitness Test that my gym report card was mostly red frowny faces, a letter about how disappointed they were in me, and a bumper sticker saying, “MY CHILD IS STRIVING FOR FITNESS AT PINE TREE ELEMENTARY.” Like do you have any idea how much you need to suck at gym to disappoint pre-Vegan Bill Clinton in the 1990s?

Alia Wong, The Atlantic

Nikola Tesla, Notoriously Great At Money

On March 1, Tesla will owe $920 million to creditors. It’s a convertible note, meaning that Tesla will either have to pay in cash or, if their stock is at a certain level, they can avoid the payment by exchanging the note for a mix of stock and cash. The issue? Tesla needs to be worth $359.87 per share to hit that swap level, and they’d need to jump about 21 percent from their current level to make that possible. It’s possible, but the Tesla stock would need to get real volatile real quick. Tesla can cover the debt — they had $3 billion-ish in cash and equivalents in September and likely have more — but they would probably rather have that cash. I say this because when (not if, when) Elon Musk starts getting in the news saying something surprising, just remember: March 1. $360 or $920 million. That’s why.

Molly Smith, Bloomberg


A 30-second ad spot during the Super Bowl is going for between $5.1 million and $5.3 million. That gets you an ad spot and some digital stuff. That’s a massive 96 percent jump since 2008, when a 30-second spot went for $2.7 million. The real estate is just a fraction of the cost: ads need special effects budgets, must buy popular songs or splurge on top talent lest they be left with some bargain-bin ‘80s sitcom star or taped-up has-been or Kevin Hart shilling for them. With Sam Elliott busy campaigning for an Oscar, I have no idea how the car companies are finding low, gravely, masculine narrators who can portray that folksy honesty with the same Cowboy panache and Western fidelity that an hour in the booth with Elliott gets you. CBS says inventory is 90 percent sold, and these things can come down to the wire, with some ad spots going with only 48 hours to go.

Brian Steinberg, Variety

Project Atlas

Facebook, a snoop masquerading as a company that actually creates technology of value, created a discreet app that circumvented the Apple App Store that would pay users aged 13 to 35 up to $20 per month so they could have root access to spy on their phone. This is absolutely shocking — not just Facebook actually paying users to ruthlessly scrape personal intimate details about their lives rather than merely lifting it for free — but rather the lengths the company went to get their tech on to iPhones despite the active resistance of Apple. Here’s the timeline: Facebook bought Onavo for $120 million in 2014, a VPN that gave Facebook deep analytics about its users’ mobile habits, but that service was booted from the App Store when Apple tried to clamp down on user data dragnets. Since then, Facebook got around that by re-skinning Onavo and paying users (some of whom were underage and unaware of the Facebook connection) through a third party to collect their data. This deliberately circumvents the authorized Apple developer channels to make it happen. And if you think this may arouse federal suspicion, don’t worry: the greatest trick the devil ever played was giving the Senate Minority Leader’s kid a cushy job to guarantee they never suffer consequences for their actions

Josh Constine, TechCrunch

The Kid Who Under Absolutely No Circumstances Will Be King

Kids movies are hard to market — you’ve got to win over the parents and the kids independently — especially in the absence of pre-existing intellectual property to refer to. So contain your shock that The Kid Who Would Be King, a children’s movie about King Arthur, has bombed profoundly, making $7 million from 3,521 theaters last weekend on a $60 million budget. Rivals estimate it could lose $50 million after marketing and production costs, which perhaps will leave a smoking crater large enough to make studio executives learn that nobody cares about King Arthur.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety


In a solid dose of prospective, Boeing is considering spending an estimated $15 billion and a decade on a new jetliner family. I recently solved a similar stakes issue by getting both the nachos and the enchilada entree and hated myself afterwards, so I get the issue. The plane nicknamed the 797 would potentially stave off Airbus and would make mid-range flights more economical, with the possible plane devoting more space to passengers and less to freight with an oval-shaped fuselage, which would make trip costs 40 percent less than current wide-body aircraft. The worry is that rolling out the plane — which would go for between the $60 million an Airbus A321LR fetches and the $100 million the A330-800 fetches — could cannibalize sales of existing aircraft. These bets take decades to resolve, but right now Delta and United will soon need to replace hundreds of 757s and 767s, so a decision must come soon.

Julie Johnsson, Bloomberg

Agent Orange

In a milestone 9-to-2 decision, about 52,000 Vietnam War veterans who were sailors stationed offshore, but exposed to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange nonetheless, will be entitled to benefits previously only available to people who had served in Vietnam proper or patrolled inland rivers. The disputed line concerned whether the disability benefits — which applied to veterans who “during active military, naval, or air service, served in the Republic of Vietnam” — applied to those who had served in Vietnam’s territorial waters.

Ann E. Marlmow, The Washington Post

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