Numlock News: July 12, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Middle Children

The American middle child is an endangered species, as about two-thirds of U.S. mothers aged 40 to 44 years old now have only one or two children. That’s an enormous shift from an earlier era: In 1976, 40 percent of mothers aged 40 to 44 had four or more children, 25 percent had three kids, and a combined 35 percent had only one or two kids and thus no middle child. This means the rate of middle childless-ness has nearly doubled. I am an oldest child writing a newsletter copy edited by a youngest child. That means I can frame this as “America is working toward a cure to middle child syndrome, congratulations everyone!” and it will make it to print.

Adam Sternbergh, The Cut

How Do You Win The World Cup?

First, don’t ask England. Second, even after years of sports analytics attempting to understand how precisely to build a perfect national team, the small sample sizes and fundamental flukiness of international soccer mean we have not figured out a consistent and repeatable way to build a World Cup-winning team. A 2007 study found there really isn’t any statistically significant difference between teams that win and teams that lose in the knockout rounds. It’s not even as simple as “add more good players.” A 2014 study found diminishing returns from adding stars to a team: after 60 percent of the team comes from the richest club teams in the world, adding additional talent actually becomes a negative. Third, don’t bother asking America, either.

Kevin Clark, The Ringer

Back To School

It always feels like back-to-school season starts earlier and earlier every year, and to be honest I’m having trouble getting into the back-to-school spirit. Yes, we all sing our favorite back-to-school carols, but it just feels like we forget the true meaning of back-to-school. After all, it is getting more commercialized, what with the projected $27.6 billion in back-to-school spending. The biggest time for back-to-school is the first two weeks of August when a projected $9.9 billion will be spent, followed by the last two weeks of July with $8.1 billion. Some crazy deal-hunters leave home right after the Flag Day turkey, with $1.3 billion spent earlier than July. But me? I’m a big night-before shopper, one of the people spending $800 million in September.

Rodney R. Sides, Deloitte


Activision has inked a multi-year deal with Walt Disney to broadcast the playoffs and finals of the Overwatch League, a professional sports league based on the team-based video game. The postseason began last night, and saw two of the six playoff teams — the Philadelphia Fusion and the Boston Uprising — compete for their chunk of a $1.7 million prize pool. Goldman Sachs has predicted that esports will grow to 276 million viewers worldwide by 2022, roughly on the same tier as the NFL. Last year revenues were $655 million and could reach $3 billion in four years.

Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg

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This summer has been a financially solid one for documentaries. One film about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg grossed $12 million, another about children’s television icon Fred Rogers has racked up $12.7 million and a movie about Whitney Houston opened to $1.2 million in a limited release. Two weeks in, the documentary “Three Identical Strangers” is doing really well when it comes to per-screen average. These movies are unique, as the financial juggernauts of the documentary genre tend to be of the political polemic or concert recording variety.

David Sims, The Atlantic

New York City Trash

In New York City, commercial trash is hauled out by private carting companies, not the municipal Department of Sanitation’s trucks. Every night, over 200 private companies collect 12,000 tons of trash from 108,000 customers. Most of the market for hauling commercial refuse — 85 percent — is controlled by the top 20 companies, leaving lots of tinier companies with a thinner slice of the market. A New York City commercial trash worker can pick up 30 tons of garbage in a single night,. All that means that while nationwide, trash collection is the fifth most dangerous job, New York’s commercial sanitation workers face unique dangers.

Rebecca Baird-Remba, Commercial Observer

Algorithmic Traitors

Facebook algorithmically identified 65,000 Russians as “interested in treason,” a hell of a label to slap on someone just to potentially grind out a dollar advertising to subversives. A spokesperson told The Guardian that the identifier was included as a category “given its historical significance,” which is a uniquely terrible excuse for algorithmically surfacing dissidents in an autocratic regime. I’m sure they’re all totally okay and not already poisoned with iridium.

Alex Hern, The Guardian

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