Numlock News: November 22, 2021 • Uncrustables, Christmas Trees, Oysters

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Jason Reitman’s relatable story of a group of heirs claiming their inheritance from people who were famous in the eighties, made $44 million in North America, beating expectations. That’s a really encouraging sign for the movie business as kids in the U.S. gained access to vaccines: understandably, families have avoided movie theaters compared to adults without kids, and it’s been havoc for the box office. On Saturday, 33 percent of audiences saw the movie before 4 p.m., which is evidence that parents and kids have begun to venture back to the cinema.

Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter

Uncrustables

J.M. Smucker’s Uncrustables — a sealed, crustless sandwich originally designed to replace the complicated, dangerous, and onerous process of making a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich — has become a fairly colossal operation, with the company revealing $365 million sales in the year ending April 2020, and the company hitting a target of a half billion in sales this past year. They’re so popular that they’re building a new $1.1 billion plant in Alabama to churn out more of the sandwiches, which they project to bring in $1 billion a year in sandwich sales sometime in the next five years. Presumably, Alabama’s regulatory environment also makes it simple to dispose of what I assume is the hundreds of tonnes of cut-off crusts created as part of some kind of sophisticated decrustification process.

Christopher Doering, Food Dive

Trees

This year consumers can expect the prices for Christmas trees to increase about 10 percent to 30 percent. The reason is actually different from the rest of the problems beguiling the global supply chain: it takes 10 years to grow a tree to the right size, and 10 years ago Christmas tree farms were reeling from the recession and slashed plantings. This problem — literally, reaping what we sowed — is compounded because demand for Christmas trees has been up over the past several years. Of course, the readers of the Numlock For Kids Edition know that the actual reason trees are more expensive is the ATmega328P microchip installed in trees to report back to Santa have been waylaid by persistent port issues in Kaohsiung.

The Associated Press

Nebraska

Nebraska’s unemployment rate last month hit 1.9 percent, the lowest of any state since records were kept starting in 1976. The state’s unemployment rate is typically a few points below the national rate owing to the large number of agriculture and food-processing jobs that are essential and not really going anywhere anytime soon. Nebraska also benefits from a high graduation rate compared to peer states. States with large rural populations are doing well across the board — Utah’s jobless rate is 2.2 percent as of October, and Idaho, South Dakota and Oklahoma all have sub-3 percent unemployment rates.

Sarah Chaney Cambon, The Wall Street Journal

Clickbait Farms

Facebook’s disinformation problems are also enormously profitable, despite exacerbating racial and ethnic tensions across the global south. According to Facebook’s own data, 60 percent of the domains in its Instant Articles program used the classic spammy writing tactics synonymous with clickbait farms. That meant that Facebook was, in some cases, directly funding false news stories that plagued its platform. Worse still, that has particularly bad impacts in places like Myanmar, where police and military have used sensationalized news stories and ensuing public rage to crack down on the Rohingya, a group of ethnic minorities that have been killed and displaced. In 2015, six out of the 10 most-trafficked websites in Myanmar on Facebook were legitimate media and news sources. A year later, just two legit news sources appeared in the top 10 most trafficked on Facebook in Myanmar, and by 2018 that fell to zero.

Karen Hao, MIT Technology Review

Mobile

Complications in the housing market are a positive sign for manufactured homes, shipments of which have been steadily rising since the 2009 recession. Manufactured houses saw their heyday in the late 1990s, peaking with 390,000 shipments in January of 1999 before falling quickly over the course of the 2000s to a nadir of 40,000 shipments in December of 2010. That’s been recovering gradually, and as of this past September there were 104,000 manufactured homes shipped. The houses — which are constructed efficiently in a factory and then trucked out to the actual location — are seen as a potential solution to the growing housing affordability crisis. Excluding the cost of land, the average site-built home cost $308,597 in 2020, compared to $87,000 for manufactured.

Ben Eisen and Nicole Friedman, The Wall Street Journal

Oysters

Oyster reefs once covered 220,000 acres of New York’s coastline, only to be wiped out by overharvesting. At the turn of the 20th century, commercial operations were dredging a billion oysters a year. Then industrial pollution happened — not even the bravest bivalve connoisseur would dare sample a Gowanus oyster — and the last oyster beds closed in the twenties. This caused serious problems, because it turns out the oysters were really important for holding sediment back that now washes up on land during major storms, so a new effort is attempting to re-seed the city’s harbor with oysters. To grow, oyster larvae need to grow on the shells of other oysters. Today, oyster shells are collected from 45 restaurants — 1.8 million pounds since 2014 — cleaned, and then set with oyster larvae, and put in bags and sunk into the harbor.

Julia Hotz, Bloomberg

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