Numlock News: March 3, 2021 • Fixed, Feta, Fagradalsfjall

By Walt Hickey

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Ecuador has become the largest exporter of shrimp in the world, moving $3.6 billion worth of shrimp — 676,000 metric tons — last year, beating out India. That’s all the more impressive because Ecuador is a comparatively tiny country of 17.4 million people, but the shrimp biz has popped 86 percent since 2016. Europe and the United States have long been Ecuador’s most prominent trading partners, but China’s share of the country’s exports rose from 3.9 percent in 2015 to 15.8 percent today, and they now buy half their shrimp. This rise has led the Ecuadorians to play a tenuous balancing act of crustacean-based diplomacy, striving to keep their longtime trading partners and the exploding new market in China both happy.

Gideon Long and Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times


Every year Europeans produce 16 kilograms of electrical waste per person, half of which is broken household appliances and only 40 percent of which is recycled. New legislation out of the European Parliament, which went into effect at the beginning of the month, enacted stronger “right to repair” rules, requiring manufacturers to ensure parts to repair consumer electronics are available for up to a decade, repair manuals must be included with new devices and conventional tools — not weird screwdrivers with fantastical polygons as their heads — can dismantle the devices.

Adam Smith, The Independent


Iceland is riding out a little bit of an earthquake swarm, and scientists at the Icelandic Met Office say this means magma is accumulating under Fagradalsfjall mountain and that there is a chance that it could lead to an eruption. Experts said it’s not likely to be particularly dangerous, and is as likely to happen in the next few weeks as it is to happen in a century or two. The swarm began six days ago, and in the past two days about 2,100 earthquakes have occurred on the Reykjanes peninsula, only 100 of which were above a 3.0 on the Richter scale. Did I specifically select this story to give Maureen, our copy editor, a hard time? No, of course not. But keep an eye on Brennisteinsfjöll, Fagradalsfjall, and Trölladyngja, it’s unlikely to be another Eyjafjallajökull, but you never know!

Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir, Iceland Review


Feta cheese is sweeping the nation thanks to a viral pasta recipe spreading across TikTok, which is basically an oven-baked feta pasta that can be made in one pan. The trend started pulling in serious numbers in mid-January, and now the hashtag #fetapasta has over 600 million views. This has translated into huge demand for the cheese across delivery apps and supermarkets; “feta” was the top search term on Instacart in mid-February, Harris Teeter reported demand for feta was up 200 percent, and Narragansett Creamery, which had produced 6,000 pounds per week for New York markets like Eataly and Zabars, has upped production to 10,000 pounds per week. I live in Astoria, Queens, where as I understand it the state bird is a block of feta, and so I welcome everyone to the party, hop in, the briny water is fine.

Rachel Wharton, The New York Times

Wrap It Up

A study assigned 252 people into pairs of strangers and left them to talk about whatever they wanted for anywhere from one to 45 minutes. Then, in the kind of social exercise I would genuinely pay money to watch as a reality television show or even public service, they did a quick exit interview with each participant asking when in reality they would have preferred the conversation to wrap up, and to guess what their partner said. They found only 2 percent of conversations ended at the time both people wanted them to end, and 30 percent finished when one person wanted them to. Half of the time both people wanted the conversation to be shorter, and only 10 percent of the time both wanted it to go longer. The study found people were abysmal at reading the room: when asked to guess when their partner wanted to stop, they on average were off by about 64 percent of the length of the conversation.

Rachel Nuwer, Scientific American

Tony Awards

Broadway has been closed for a year, no shows are playing, the industry is in turmoil, but Tony Award ballots are nevertheless being cast right now. The season up for the Tonys — which ran April 26, 2019 to February 19, 2020 — will be the one cut short; there are three shows up for best musical, and five best play contenders, all of which have closed. The real issue is that there are 778 Tony voters, but they only are allowed to cast ballots when they’ve seen every nominee in a category. As a result, producers think that at most 400 people qualify to vote on best musical, and even fewer for best play. There’s no prize for musical revival because only one opened, and it missed an eligibility date. Aaron Tveit is the only nominee for best actor in a musical, and to win he must get a positive vote from 60 percent of voters who cast a ballot. There’s no ceremony date either, because producers want to use the event to remind people Broadway is back, which it is not yet.

Michael Paulson, The New York Times


Restaurant chains have fallen back in love with drive-throughs, with many establishments that had avoided them now seeking out locations where they can stake out drive-through lanes, and eateries that have relied on them planning bold expansions to their offerings. A restaurant property with a drive-through lane has a 10 to 20 percent higher rent than a comparable one without a lane.

Esther Fung and Heather Haddon, The Wall Street Journal

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