Numlock News: May 28, 2021 • Sea Cucumbers, Cage-Free, Wayne Gretzky

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend. Numlock is off Monday in observation of Memorial Day. Free readers can expect an email tomorrow with a few Sunday specials unlocked for the long weekend. See you all Tuesday.

The Great One

A Gem Mint 10 condition 1979 Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $3.75 million, annihilating the record for highest priced hockey card and giving a clearly record-starved Gretzky a lace in the record books. The previous record-setter was a $1.29 million sale last December of, believe it or not, a Gem Mint 10 condition 1979 Wayne Gretzky rookie card, so as usual Gretzky was simply beating his own record here. Best known as the brother of iconic NHL legend Brent Gretzky, the pair of cards depicting Wayne are the only known remaining O-Pee-Chee versions of the cards rated at Gem Mint 10, with another 89 being rated at a 9. For those only familiar with more conventional trading cards like Magic The Gathering or Pokémon, Gretzky was generally considered the Black Lotus or 1999 First Edition Shadowless Holographic Charizard of the sport of hockey, which is a popular wintertime sport played at the highest level in places like Florida and North Carolina.

Tom VanHaaren, ESPN

The Subway

Researchers have turned the world’s subway systems into a literal petri dish, sampling microorganisms from 60 different cities to determine the microbial ecosystem inhabiting our urban cores from 2015 to 2017. The researchers then sequenced the DNA of the sampled ecosystems, and found 4,246 known species of microorganisms, about two-thirds of which were bacteria with the rest being fungi, viruses, or other microbial life. Turns out that cities are home to the frontiers of microbiology, as 10,928 viruses and 748 kinds of bacteria never before documented were also discovered over the course of the sampling, most of which are likely not pathogens, or are relatively innocuous.

Emily Anthes, The New York Times

From G To Gritty

With Cruella coming out this weekend, a franchise that has heretofore existed only in the MPAA rating of G has moved into the realm of the PG-13 movie. That’s part of a larger trend of G-rated films going out of style across the board, mostly because of a reputation that G movies tend to get crushed at the box office by their PG and PG-13 brethren. From 2000 to 2009, there were 110 G-rated movie releases according to Comscore, but from 2010 to 2019 that fell to only 71 G-rated titles. From 2010 to 2019, PG-13 movies made an aggregate $54.6 billion, with PG movies making $24.3 billion and G rated films making only $2.7 billion.

Ellen Gamerman, The Wall Street Journal

Sea Cucumbers

Palau has always been home to lots of sea cucumbers, and they have long been gathered by women and families for food while men tended to pursue reef fishing. In 2011, broader market forces made their way to Palau, when demand from China, Korea and Taiwan meant that Palau’s sea cucumbers could fetch an enormous amount of money on the global food export market. This led to an inversion, with men who normally would reef fish instead turning their attention to the sea cucumbers. They exported 1.1 million kilograms of sea cucumbers for $1.3 million before the government shut it down, but by that point the sea cucumber population had been nearly wiped out, with an 88 percent decline in populations and a recovery still yet to happen.

Kimberly Riskas, Hakai Magazine

The Grind

The economy relies on the ability of workers to find affordable childcare, and right now that does not really exist. While restaurant staff shortages have been stubborn, a line cook doesn’t need certifications or to sustain a mandatory child-to-adult ratio, so the shortage is bad and not getting better. The obvious solution — public funding of child care worker wages — isn’t done in most places, despite the clear advantages. A Louisiana study found that 44 percent of teachers in private child care programs leave every year and mostly exit the profession, vastly higher than the 16 percent K-12 teacher turnover (with half just moving schools). That turnover was considerably lower at better-paying public preschools and Head Start programs.

Elliot Haspel, The Washington Post


The $6.1 billion egg industry has managed to get consumers to pay substantial premiums for organic eggs or eggs where the chicken that produces them have tolerable living conditions. Right now, such specialty eggs are about a third of the egg business, but the market share of more humane eggs is increasing rapidly: cage-free sales volumes were up 12 percent and organic was up 7 percent in the year ending April 10. Within the next five years, the specialty egg business is projected to reach 70 percent of the overall egg market. There is a newer type of specialty eggs on the block now too: eggs, going for $8 per dozen, labeled as coming from birds raised on farms with regenerative agriculture that are being marketed as fighting climate change.

Leslie Patton and Kim Chipman, Bloomberg


Since 2016, the city of Flint, Michigan has inspected 26,819 service lines and replaced 9,941 lead and galvanized pipes, a laborious and expensive process designed to rip out a water system that began to poison its residents following a water source shift. The proposed infrastructure bill sets aside funding for a national, preemptive version of the emergency infrastructure repair being carried out in Flint, but even the billions poised to be thrown at the problem might not be enough. It’s estimated that there are between 8 and 10 million lead and galvanized pipes in the U.S. that need to be replaced. The current proposal invests $45 billion in that, to the tune of $5,000 per service line. The American Water Works Association estimated the overall cost of ripping out America’s lead pipes at $60 billion.

Steve Carmody, Michigan Radio

I’ve had some fun interviews over the past two weeks!

Two Sundays ago, I spoke to Ana Diaz of Polygon, who wrote “Demon Slayer has biggest US foreign-language box office debut ever.” We talked all about the record-smashing movie and how it may be setting the stage for a new popularity of anime adaptations at the global box office. Ana can be found at Polygon and on Twitter at @Pokachee.

Last Sunday, I talked to Pat Garofalo, writer of the newsletter Boondoggle, all about the latest spate of corporate tax incentive stories happening all over the country. You can read that here, or listen to the podcast version of it on Spotify or Apple.

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