Numlock News: March 15, 2019

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!

The Bird

It’s a bright new day in America, can you feel it? In a 3-0 decision on Wednesday, a federal appeals court in Michigan upheld an American’s unalienable right to throw up a middle finger when the situation calls for it, a landmark win for the First Amendment, as well as countless New Yorkers who would otherwise be rendered mute. A Michigan woman gave the middle finger to a police officer after receiving a ticket. In light of that god-given articulation of speech, the officer pulled her over again and upgraded the ticket to a worse offense. The free speech martyr, Debra Cruise-Gulyas, will see her suit proceed.

The Associated Press


The recent arrests of parents who allegedly bribed their kids way into college has stirred the constantly-brewing stew of resentment and class distaste that is the college admissions system. One reason money helps so much in the application process is that in the U.S. on average guidance counselors work with 482 students per year, so those who can afford private coaching inherently have an advantage. So it should come as little shock that 29 percent of Harvard’s incoming class in 2017 was 29 percent legacy students, or that 38 colleges have more students from the top 1 percent than bottom 60 percent.

Gaby Del Valle, Vox

Quick heads up, a piece featured in yesterday’s edition was subsequently corrected: there were 11 fatalities per trillion miles of commercial flight compared to 7,863 fatalities per trillion miles of highway travel, not million, I apologize for not catching that error!


In a turn of events absolutely nobody could have possibly seen coming, Tumblr’s decision to ban adult content and — with the flip of a poorly-engineered switch — eliminate almost all nudity on the website has led to a catastrophic dip in traffic. Visits to Tumblr fell from 521 million in December, when it still allowed salacious imagery, to an estimated 437 million visits in January, when it transitioned into the revamped puritanical wasteland. I assume at least half of those people are still there to read smut even if they can’t look at it anymore.

Anthony Cuthbertson, The Independent


With the Boeing 737 Max grounded, airlines are scrambling to accommodate the thousands of passengers left without a flight. There were 2,100 flights nationwide cancelled on Thursday, but that was mainly due to a winter storm in the center of the country. There are only 72 Boeing jets in the U.S. passenger airline fleet, but nonetheless an estimated 50,000 passengers can be ticketed on the 737 Max planes each day. The three domestic airlines that operate the 737 Max — American has 24 planes working 85 flights per day, Southwest has 34 doing a total 160 daily flights and United has 14 on about 40 flights — should be able to bring on other planes or rebook passengers around the disruption. Air Canada is in a bit of a bind, using the 737 Max to fly 9,000 to 12,000 passengers per day.

David Schaper, NPR

Exiled To Cleveland For Hooking Up With One Net

The New York Giants, a vestigial group of morons who operate out of a nearby New Jersey swamp, to some notoriety traded away the primary source of excitement the team has had to Cleveland on Tuesday. Odell Beckham Jr. will become a member of the Browns. In exchange, New York, a notoriously analytics-averse organization, got a safety and some loose draft picks found in the Browns’ couch cushions. If you want to know just how badly New York got fleeced here, the package of picks and Jabril Peppers are estimated to add 1.85 wins above replacement over the next four years. By comparison, Beckham alone was worth 1.95 wins above replacement in 2018 alone. Great job, guys.

Josh Hermsmeyer, FiveThirtyEight

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Last Sunday, I had a great conversation with Alison Griswold of the Oversharing newsletter Alison was the one who crunched the numbers on scooters and flagged that — based on how quickly they were breaking down — there’s no way the scooter companies can be making profit per ride. We talked all about her work covering the sharing economy and all the wild things coming up this year. Be sure to check out Oversharing.

Wandering Earth

The Wandering Earth has made $679 million at the Chinese box office, making it the second-highest grossing Chinese film in their domestic market. While China’s already got Liu Cixin, a Hugo-award winning science fiction great (whose short story inspired the film), this could prompt larger investments in science fiction fare. The film tells a story about people coming together to save the world from an assured apocalypse with China contributing greatly to the unified international effort, so you know, the opposite of the global response to climate change.

Rebecca Davis, Variety


California is 100 percent drought free for the first time since 2011, thanks to a wet winter that added something like 580 billion gallons of water to the state’s reservoirs. As of Thursday, 93 percent of the state was in normal conditions, with the rest “abnormally dry” but not, at the end of the day, in drought. Last year, 11 percent of the state was having normal conditions and 88.9 percent was abnormally dry, so this is a marked improvement.

Alejandra Reyes-Velarde, The Los Angeles Times

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

2018 Sunday Editions: 2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores