Numlock News: July 12, 2021 • Black Widow, Guacamole, Fight Scenes
By Walt Hickey
Pre-made refrigerated guacamole dips totaled $585 million in sales in the United States last year, and if you’re like me, you’ve always wondered about the preservative alchemy necessary to obtain an avocado dip that doesn’t brown in a few hours, let alone weeks on end. Wonder no more: it’s either high pressure processing, where the guac is placed in a high-pressure water bath that kills any bacteria and makes it shelf-stable, or it is a local vendor making it the very day before it hits store shelves and being a little extra generous with the lemon. The alternative entails an avocado undergoing a necromancy ritual to become a lich, but that’s just liable to attract a nearby party anyway.
It was a huge, record-setting weekend for Black Widow, which opened to $80 million domestically at the box office, $78.8 million overseas, and additionally $60 million from the Disney+ Premier Access, which charged $30 to watch. That puts the Marvel movie to launch with $218.8 million. That last stat — the amount made on simultaneous digital release — is especially interesting, as so far studios have been rather quiet — and possibly deeply ashamed — of their releases’ performance on direct-to-VOD. It was a stellar opening that beat expectations, though one thing potentially holding Widow back was that families have not returned to cinemas en masse, likely owing to the vaccination status of kids. Marvel movies usually see a Saturday increase in box office, with families seeing it midday, but Saturday was actually down 40 percent in this case.
North America’s got a deer problem. Having killed or removed pretty much all of their natural predators, white-tailed deer in the Eastern U.S. have exploded in population. Prior to European settlement, there were about two to four deer per square kilometer. Once that density passes eight deer per square kilometer, they eat everything, and that significantly harms the ecosystem, with songbird populations declining and native plant species in free fall. In some developed parts of the U.S., there are 50 to 114 deer per square kilometer.
A series of shipping issues have put a spotlight on an unregulated area of animal welfare, the shipping of livestock internationally. Cross-border live animal trade amounts to $18 billion, and 2 billion animals are exported annually. The conditions of the carriers that move them from port to port can be terrible, and transports fall out of regulations for animal welfare standards. The demand is in places like Indonesia, Vietnam and China, where rising affluence and rising demand for meat has increased demand for breedstock. Livestock carriers are some of the oldest ships afloat on average; while the average Container Ship is 13 years old, the average livestock carrier is 38. The European Union, which is responsible for about 75 percent of the trade in live animals, is weighing banning or overhauling it entirely.
When places entered into stay-at-home mode last year, it also served as a natural experiment for researchers studying the contributing factors to asthma. There are about 1.6 million emergency room visits due to asthma in the United States, and doctors were worried that keeping people at home would lead to a flare-up in attacks owing to the pollutants often found in homes. Surprisingly, it didn’t: the pandemic reduced asthma attacks. One study of 1,201 patients with asthma, which coincidentally began right as the pandemic did, found that asthma attacks suffered at home fell by 40 percent after the onset of the pandemic. Next, researchers want to find out why, if doctors may have been looking at the wrong things in the past, and possible utility for mask-wearing for some groups following the pandemic.
An analysis of the new crop of Marvel series and movies — Wandavision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki and Black Widow — found that the average television show was about 15.6 percent action over the course of its season, while the film, Widow, had 34 percent of its screen time devoted to action. Leading the crop of television shows was Falcon with 22.1 percent action, followed by WandaVision with 13.8 percent, and lastly Loki with 11 percent through episode five. Evidently, the calculation doesn’t count as “action” all the time I spent arguing that someone I watched it with should really read the Gillen run on Journey Into Mystery, otherwise Loki would make Avengers: Endgame look like Avengers: Calmly Talking Through Our Disputes.
Indie Meat Processing
The USDA will put $500 million in new grants towards small and medium-sized meat processors around the country in an attempt to build up independent capacity following supply chain issues revealed over the course of the pandemic, as well as to bolster competition among processors buying from farmers. A small meat processing plant can cost $1 million, though one facility currently under construction that will be able to handle 40 head of cattle per week and 80 hogs is running around $8 million. Right now, the bulk of U.S. meat processing is done by a handful of companies, and recent cyberattacks and lawsuits regarding anti-competitive practices have demonstrated some risks in having consolidation in the middlemen of the food business.
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