Numlock News: October 1, 2021 • Mermaids, Disasters, Trackers

By Walt Hickey

Nomen-clash-ure

Dollar Tree announced that it would no longer sell items for exactly $1 and $1 only, instead upping the price of some items to $1.25 or $1.50. They are the latest in a string of brands that had to make a serious revision to their business after their original schtick was no longer tenable. Family Dollar gave up the $1 ruse ages ago, the 99 Cents Only Store chain no longer bothers hitting the 99 cent number on the money, Five Below sells all sorts of items above $6 at its new Five Beyond subsection. It’s more than just money: The Burlington Coat Factory became Burlington Stores in 2009, a wise choice given that as of January coats were just 5 percent of the $5.8 billion it logged in revenue annually, Dunkin’ dropped the Donuts because the balance sheet revealed they’re mostly hawking liquids these days, and Christmas Tree Shops diversified well beyond the December season from the get-go. Why, even this very newsletter, founded as the iconic Numlock Asbestos and Electric Mail Corporation in 1924, had to keep up with the times.

Sarah Nassauer and Suzanne Kapner, The Wall Street Journal

Disasters

A new poll asking Americans to reflect on the last five years and consider the severity of storms and disasters found that 61 percent said that they had been getting more severe, compared to just 2 percent who thought they’ve gotten less severe and 30 percent who said things were about the same. A majority, 55 percent, expected wildfires, hurricanes, floods and droughts to get worse over the next five years while about a third of people think nah, it’s all good. That majority holds across the country, at 55 percent in the hurricane-beaten South, 53 percent in the flood-stricken Midwest, 60 percent in the on-fire West and 63 percent in the Northeast, where we get the potpourri of climate change omnishambles.

Lisa Martine Jenkins, Morning Consult

Bears Invade Village

The Chicago Bears are eyeing a move to a 326-acre site in the village of Arlington Heights, Illinois. This week Churchill Downs announced it sold the property, now home to the Arlington International Racecourse, to the Bears for $197.2 million, so unless they’re weighing a distant and expensive patch of parking it seems like the Bears are retreating out of Chicago. It could be a big financial gain for the franchise, given that Soldier Field where they now play has the smallest seating capacity in the NFL at 61,500, is the oldest active stadium in the NFL and is a bit of a schlep to get to via both transit and with limited convenient parking. Still, the Bears have a lease at Soldier through 2033, and pay about $6.5 million to the park district annually, so it’s not clear they’ll depart imminently.

Brian Chappatta, Bloomberg

Fishy

In August, Ben Tomkunas caught a 21.3-pound catfish in Connecticut, a monstrously large beastie that appeared to be a white catfish. That would be good for the world record, with the state record standing at 12.7 pounds and the International Game Fish Association logging the record at 19.3 pounds. The issue is that Connecticut Fish and Wildlife on Monday announced that since they could not examine the fish in the flesh — it was eaten, whoops — they couldn’t decisively rule that it was a white catfish and not a channel catfish, and so the previous records would stand.

The Associated Press

Monumental

A new study of 50,000 monuments in the United States sculpts a fascinating frieze of who Americans care to cast in bronze, and, listen, some of this isn’t exactly rad. For instance, there are 22 statues of mermaids in the United States compared to just two statues of congresswomen, which, no disrespect to mermaids, feel like we could do a little better on that one. Topping the list is Abraham Lincoln, followed closely by George Washington and, in a distant third, Christopher Columbus. There are unexpected twists that make sense when you think of why a community might throw up a statue, like how Polish Revolutionary war cavalry officer Casimir Pulaski beats out Thomas Jefferson 51 memorials to 36. Among the top 50 commemorated people, half owned slaves, there were four Confederate leaders for every three women, and all but six were white guys.

Andrew Lawler, National Geographic

Oil!

There are approximately 130 oil refineries in the United States, and they’re all old. The youngest one which could handle 100,000 barrels a day is from 1977, and most of them will have to be decommissioned over the coming decades to abide by climate pledges. One refinery in Philadelphia — the one that exploded in 2019 and then went up for sale — is an early one to be dismantled, with 100 buildings, 950 miles of filthy pipeline and 3,000 tanks needing to be safely disposed of. The refinery alone was responsible for 16 percent of Philly’s emissions. If any city can manage to destroy a fetid, disgusting site full of awful memories and legendary levels of toxicity, it’s the city that bulldozed Veterans Stadium, former home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Josh Saul, Bloomberg

Location Location Location

Companies that sell access to your phone’s location history constitute an estimated $12 billion industry composed of collectors, aggregators and marketplaces. The company Near boasts data from 1.6 billion people in 44 countries, Mobilewalla offers 1.9 billion devices, X-Mode has 25 percent of the U.S. adult population it claims. One analysis of 47 companies found six who claimed over a billion devices in their data, though a perplexing four claimed to have the most accurate data in the business. At this time, there are no rules as to who can buy your data.

Jon Keegan and Alfred Ng, The Markup

Last Sunday, I spoke to the wonderful Ed Zitron, who wrote “Say Goodbye To Your Manager” in The Atlantic, we talked about how the discipline of management has mutated into something altogether different. I liked it so much I dropped the paywall for a bit, go check it out. His newsletter has been chock full of hard data and numbers illustrating how the return-to-office decisions aren’t actually being made on productivity data, more just the aesthetic of office culture, and he’s written some searing stuff challenging accepted norms of the current organization of plenty of businesses. Ed can be found at his newsletter, ez.substack.com, and on Twitter @EdZitron.

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