By Walt Hickey
Amazon Game Studios has announced a video game based on a challenging package delivery that required complicated logistics to complete. The Lord of the Rings massively multiplayer online game is untitled as yet, but will take place in Middle Earth and, though Amazon is also making a Lord of the Rings television series, is unrelated and being developed separately. More interesting is the nugget here that the whole J.R.R. Tolkien franchise is worth upward of an estimated $15 billion, a figure that was probably higher before they made those Hobbit movies. The former Tolkien Enterprises — now renamed Middle-Earth Enterprises, in a fairly blunt illustration of the literary concept of Death of the Author —is also developing a game, but one centered on Gollum, because that guy always screamed “likable protagonist.”
A manager of a chain of hotels spent 1.2 million yen, or roughly $11,000, for 24 grapes, and while I thought that was ridiculous once I got a look at those grapes I got a sense of what was up. Expensive, specialty-grown fruit of unique appearance or intense taste is a reliable trend in Japan, used as gifts, or in this case for promotional purposes with guests able to nosh on one of the grapes for $460. The specific variety — Ruby Red — first came to market in 2008, and about 26,000 will be sold this year, for vastly cheaper prices than that. The expensive, but perfectly unblemished and flavorful fruit is one way that small farms are able to compete against the more scaled agricultural companies that prove not-absurdly priced food.
American Airlines canceled 4 percent of its flights in June due to a vicious combination of a labor dispute and rough weather. That’s about 7,500 domestic and international flights. Frontier and Southwest also suffered weather-related difficulties, but even they managed to only cancel 2.56 percent and 2.02 percent of flights. American’s cancellation of one out of every 25 of its offerings is staggering compared to, say, Delta, which only cancelled 0.22 percent of flights. Dallas is a hub for American and had severe thunderstorms on three consecutive Sundays, and on-time arrival rate was a rough 70 percent. The problems with mechanics also mean American’s fleet is out of whack, as the average 61 aircraft unscheduled out of service during June mornings is way up from the 42 in the same period in the previous two years.
France derives 72 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy, and the utility Electricite de France SA — no idea how to translate that one — is laying the groundwork to ensure that the nation’s 58 nuclear reactors are resilient against rising temperatures linked to climate change. Sustained high temperatures can damage equipment and back-up generators, and new equipment designed to improve the performance of water cooling towers will aid French reactors in the hotter times to come. In 2003, heat waves caused shut downs that cut production by 1.7 percent; last year, the loss due to heat shutdowns was only 0.7 percent.
According to government surveys, American’s summer thermostats truly run the gamut. In the summer, 19.4 percent of homes set the thermostat to 69 degrees or lower, compared to 18 percent who set it to 77 degrees or above. The most typical range is 74 degrees to 76 degrees, the temperature maintained by 25.6 percent of households. Despite the guilt induced by conditioning the air, winter heating still accounts for considerably higher BTUs consumed compared to summer cooling, with about 4 quadrillion BTUs spent on heating in 2015 compared to about three quarters of a quadrillion spent on cooling. Based on my analysis of these key facts, there does not exist a moral high ground in this situation for those of us of the Yankee persuasion.
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The American swimwear business is worth an estimated $47 million, making it the largest such market in the world. As anyone who has an Instagram account will assure you, that sector is positively flush with cash, as legions of firms hawking bikinis flood the service with advertisements for direct-to-consumer beachwear. Part of that is the cheap costs and instantaneous testing, part of that is a service predicated on attractive photos serves as an ideal marketplace for myriad -kinis available to humanity. Thanks to an international tourism boom, the global swimwear economy will be worth $20 billion by the end of the year.
Despite a high-profile breakup last year between Amazon and Long Island City, the big tech footprint in New York is proceeding unabated, with Google just last week closing a deal to lease 1.3 million square feet in lower Manhattan. Despite the HQ2 kerfuffle, several major companies have seriously upped their big apple presence in the past five years. As of the first quarter of 2019, Google occupied 1.517 million square feet, up from 795,000 square feet in 2014; Facebook occupied 1.065 million square feet, up from 316,000; Microsoft had 565,000 square feet, up from 393,000; and even Amazon, hardly the spurned tenant, has 757,000 square feet up from 354,000 in 2014.
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