Numlock News: March 2, 2021 • Smolts, Postcards, Hurricanes

By Walt Hickey

Good Condition

A study from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reviewed the $7.8 billion spent on buildings and vehicles in the nation since 2008 and found that only $1.2 billion was used as intended, and a paltry $343.2 million worth of the buildings and vehicles remain maintained in good condition. The billions wasted include both infrastructure lost to attacks and corruption, and just kind of throwing money around without really thinking about it. Often the agencies responsible for building things did not ask if they were wanted or needed, or if they had the ability to maintain them. That $7.8 billion is a wonderful thing to think about next time you hit a pothole or try to find a bike lane.

Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press

Malls

Just in case you thought all the worthless, terrible real estate investments were abroad, the aggregate value of reappraised American malls fell an average of 60 percent in 2020, with 118 retail properties seeing $4 billion in value wiped out over the course of their reappraisals. Of the 1,100 indoor malls in the United States, only about half have a reasonable chance of survival, with the top 300 malls alone accounting for the vast majority of the value locked into the real estate format. It will be a real tragedy when the only place to get a rock solid pretzel is the airport or a Maryland-area I-95 rest stop, but times are changing.

John Gittelsohn, Bloomberg

Smolts

There’s a time in everyone’s life when they must leave the place where they are from, and for salmon this is called “smolt.” The smolt is when salmon make their way downstream towards salt water, and from 2008 to 2018 a group of marine researchers inserted over 100,000 tiny passive transponders into salmon smolts to try to follow their adventures to the Pacific Ocean. Thousands of them never made it, and the researchers wanted to know why, so they investigated seal habitats, otter latrines (that is an official description) and assorted estuaries to little avail. Then they found some heron guano and discovered about 450 tags at one site, and another 1,200 tags in some other heron nesting colonies, with the heron consuming an estimated 3.2 percent of all the tagged smolts.

Larry Pynn, Hakai Magazine

Postcards

In 2019, Canada Post reported that the number of letters sent to peoples homes was down 55 percent since 2006. This year, in an attempt to get people sending nice letters to each other again, the Canada Post will give every household in Canada a free prepaid postcard to mail to someone — 13.5 million postcards bound for every residential address in the country. The postcards are in one of six designs and come affixed already with a stamp, which normally goes for $1.07.

CBC News

Hurricanes

Hurricane season officially runs from June through November, a period of time that includes 97 percent of all tropical activity. That season has changed in the past, and may change in the future. The first officially designated hurricane monitoring period in 1935 involved a special telegraph line connecting weather stations from June 15 to November 15, which was in 1965 changed to June 1 to November 30. Last year, by June 1 the National Hurricane Center had already issued 36 special Tropical Weather Outlooks before the season began, owing in large part to sophisticated satellite imagery and superior computing than presumably existed in 1935. This spring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the World Meteorological Organization may decide to make an official expansion to hurricane season for 2022, having it kick off two weeks earlier on May 15, 2022.

Justine Calma, The Verge

Cows

Australia accounts for 4 percent of global beef production, but is the second largest exporter of beef behind Brazil, supplying China, Japan and South Korea with cows. Right now, the herd isn’t growing. The ratio of slaughtered cattle that are female is an indicator of when herds are restocking. If the number is below 47 percent, the ranchers are looking to build up their numbers, keeping the female cows around and forgoing a quick cash-out in favor of a rebuild. Despite the undersupply of cattle that take years to raise, the current ratio is at 48.2 percent, still north of what is likely necessary to restore the populations.

Sybilla Gross, Bloomberg

Rusted Chrome

A small industry of under-the-radar companies rent access to 10 million Web browsers to help clients obscure their identities, and they accomplish this by paying off the owners of browser extensions that discreetly embed code in their apps. Authors of extensions with over 50,000 users can fetch something like $15 to $45 per month for every 1,000 users to include the code, which then allows the buyer to redirect traffic wherever they want. There are lots and lots of extensions who may be willing to sell out their users: of 150,000 Chrome extensions, 104,133 are pretty much abandoned by their creators and haven’t been updated in at least two years.

Brian Krebs, Krebs On Security

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