Numlock News: March 31, 2021 • Billionaires, Blossoms, Blockchains

By Walt Hickey

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Every year, the New York City Parks Department renovates several dozen of the city’s approximately 1,000 playgrounds. Right now, the department is trying to rein in the wildlife: specifically, the hundreds of inexplicable concrete animal sculptures in playgrounds all over the city. It is a design flourish that is the sole result of the eccentric tenure of Commissioner Henry Jordan Stern, who was personally obsessed with animal themes in architecture, a quirk that manifested in the mandatory insertion of animals into any playground he had a chance to renovate during his tenures in office, from 1983 to 1990 and 1994 to 2002. The rules he implemented were reportedly fairly controversial among elected officials helpless to stop Stern from turning New York City into a concrete menagerie. Anyway, new renovations of playgrounds may see the herd thinned, according to Parks Department architects.

Rose Adams, Brooklyn Paper

Cherry Blossoms

The annual cherry blossom bloom peaked in Kyoto on Friday, the earliest recorded bloom over the course of 1,200 years of records and the latest in a reliable trend of blooms appearing earlier and earlier. The March 26 peak bloom this year was a day earlier than the March 27, 1409 previous earliest bloom, according to a record of Kyoto cherry blossom blooms that dates back to 812 A.D. The peak bloom date was stable from 812 to 1800, at which point the industrial revolution began pumping CO2 into the atmosphere at a serious clip, and then the peak bloom dates began to shift earlier.

Jason Samenow, The Washington Post


Lake Ossa is one of the largest lakes in Cameroon, and was once host to a thriving environment of 18 families of fish, African manatee, crocodiles and turtles. However, over the past five years the lake has been beset by Salvinia molesta, a disturbingly named invasive weed that can double in size every 10 days, and has invaded 40 percent of the 4,000 hectare surface, choking out the life beneath and turning the lake into a distressing, viney green. There is hope though: imported from Brazil and being bred in a facility near the lake, the Salvinia weevil feeds almost exclusively on the weed, and will be introduced to begin fighting back against the plants, in a classic “when wintertime rolls around, the gorillas will simply freeze to death” solution to an invasive species.

Nalova Akua, BBC

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Don’t Say It

NBA Top Shot allows fans to buy moments from NBA history digitally, and it’s attracted a total of $357 million in funding. Yes, it is one of those new funky companies messing around in non-fungible tokens and blockchain technology. No, they do not want to really get into it: apparently they found over the course of testing out their onboarding pages that merely eliminating the word “blockchain” from their pitch to new users increased the rate of conversion by 400 percent. That “blockchain” is the fundraising equivalent of catnip but the consumer sales equivalent of a freezing cold cat bath is deeply funny, and is a rhetorical trick I plan to keep in my back pocket for post-pandemic when I forget how to have a face-to-face human conversation and need a strategy to bail.

Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge

Get It And Forget It

The percentage of Americans resistant to getting a COVID-19 vaccine is shrinking quickly, according to a new survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. The latest edition, which surveyed 80,000 adults from March 3 to March 15, found 17 percent of adults indicated they would definitely or probably not get vaccinated, which was down from 22 percent from the same survey taken in January. Reluctance to get the jab fell most precipitously in Louisiana and Missouri, and hesitancy among Black Americans is in speedy decline, down 14 percentage points over the period.

Randy Yeip, The Wall Street Journal


A poll from Vox and Data for Progress found that 72 percent of 1,182 likely voters surveyed thought that it was unfair that the wealthy got richer over the course of the pandemic, and that 65 percent disagreed that billionaires were good role models for the country, compared to just 23 percent who did. Among tech billionaires, Bill Gates — 55 percent had a favorable opinion — had the best reviews, followed by Elon Musk (50 percent favorable, 23 percent unfavorable), Jeff Bezos (36 percent favorable, 38 percent unfavorable) and Mark Zuckerberg, who 54 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of and just 31 percent viewed favorably.

Theodore Schleifer, Recode


Land prices are blowing up, even in fake places where the concept of scarcity is invented and the promise of actual habitation is entirely speculative: the internet. Since the heady days when someone asked “hey, what if you had a Second Life,” the concept of a thriving digital metaverse has intrigued and then, shortly after, fundamentally disappointed. Still, people have nowhere else to go for a little while, so naturally plots of digital land in online worlds like Decentraland are selling for strange sums, with the average price paid per parcel in that particular metaverse at a solid $2,703. In another digital land grab, in the Cryptovoxels metaverse, the average price jumped from $821 per parcel last year to $3,895 in the beginning of 2021. I know the whole thing with real estate investing is “they’re not making more of it!” but it takes a real pessimistic view of the current chip supply chain problems to convince yourself of that on the internet.

Oshrat Carmiel, Bloomberg

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