By Walt Hickey
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Mighty Captain Marvel
Captain Marvel had a smashing opening weekend, pulling in $153 million in North America and $455 million globally, a serious success domestically on what was projected to be a $130 million opener. The film grabbed the sixth-best worldwide opening ever and eradicated thorny conventional wisdom that suggested that film properties that feature women in lead roles don’t travel well. Internationally, the film is pulling in more money than any superhero origin ever.
The green thumb is making a comeback, with 6 million Americans taking up gardening in 2016, of whom 5 million were Millennials. It’s a $47 billion industry in the United States and the average gardening household spends $503 on plants and materials annually. And whether they got into the fun of it through the conventional channels of wanting cleaner air (that’s a myth), the realization that Tinder dates will be less disgusted with their living habits if they managed to keep a succulent alive, or if they just want to grow some pot in their closet, now 77 percent of households are getting in on gardening.
Despite what you may have concluded from Moneyball, scouts are doing pretty fine in Major League Baseball. While teams have absolutely invested in analytics, think of that revolution as a "rising tide lifts all ships” situation, where the real conclusion isn’t stats are better than scouts but rather information is good and teams that invest in lots of sources of information tend to succeed. The average ball club in 2019 employs 54.6 scouts, up from 51.3 in 2016 and 41.5 in 2009. That means that the average team employs 32 percent more scouts than it did a decade ago, coupled with considerable increases to research and development and player development departments as well.
Right now chicken companies can raise a 6.27 pound bird in 47 days, which is double the weight in the 1940s. It’s also led to some abnormalities, and while those abnormalities aren’t unsafe, they are not necessarily ideal with names like “spaghetti meat” and “woody breast.” The cost to identify breast fillets that are undesirable and divert them out is adding something like $200 million in expenses annually. Spaghetti meat shows up in 4 percent to 5 percent of samples, woody breast shows up in 10 percent of samples, and white striping is in about 30 percent of samples. While severity can vary wildly, that’s not great. The industry has been researching ways around that. Hopefully the cure can be found, and also for other rare poultry plagues like jiggle meat, cloaca rot, chicken run, drumstick snap, gibblet growth, boneless wing, or the dreaded flappy bird.
To some notoriety, you can’t drink seawater. There are ways around that, specifically desalination, and they’re making drinkable water in seaside areas without good access to freshwater. By 2015, there were about 18,000 desalination plants making about 86.55 million cubic meters of water per day, which is about 1 percent of the world’s need. A further 2,000 plants have been built since, and annually governments and companies spend $14 billion per year to desalinate ocean and brackish water. The cost of producing a cubic meter of desalinated water is between 50 cents and 90 cents.
America’s voluntary compliance rate for paying taxes is really high, with between 81 and 84 percent of Americans paying their share without prodding or pushing from the government. In Europe, due to a number of cultural factors, that rate is considerably lower. Germany’s the top EU economy when it comes to paying taxes voluntarily, but even they had a VCR of 68 percent. Italy’s down at 62 percent, and in Greece economists have been unable to even calculate a VCR.
Leaf blowers were banned in Washington D.C., a sentence which seems more and more like a good idea the more you learn about leaf blowers. The average car in America is 200 percent more efficient than in 1950 and smog emissions are down 99 percent. The two-stroke engine that fuels most lawn care equipment, which was gradually phased out of scooters and other automobiles, is still a mechanical dinosaur, with VOC emissions on average 124 times higher from an idling two-stroke scooter than an idling car. These dirty engines are also what blow leaves around. But that adds up: the California Air Resources Board estimates that by 2020, gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other two-stroke equipment will produce more ozone pollution than every car in California combined. That’s as much a credit to how clean cars have gotten as it’s a reason to reconsider not just raking the leaves.
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