Numlock News: October 23, 2020 • Barbie, Cannonball, Tadpoles

By Walt Hickey

Have a great weekend!


In 2019, 14 critically endangered Loa water frogs were airlifted 1,500 kilometers from a muddy puddle in Chile’s Atacama desert to the National Zoo, where conservationists strove to nurse them back to health after the only stream they were known to exist in had dried up. Good news came out this week when 200 tadpoles emerged thanks to the assiduous and dedicated work of the scientists and, one would imagine, the froggies. This fortuitous news has been a relief for the herpetologist community, who were very vested in the Telmatobius dankoi getting down.

BBC News

Polling Places

Since 2016, 20,818 polling locations have closed, roughly 20 percent down since 2016 and down 22 percent since 2012. Most states are cutting locations, with 40 states that had physical polling locations in 2016 cutting them since then. All told, just five states — California, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, and Ohio — are responsible for three-quarters of the cuts, with California alone accounting for half of the cuts, though admittedly The Golden State has a robust vote-by-mail system. Moreover, a number of states that forbid most people from voting by mail — Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas — all cut their voting places, some steeply, Indiana by 18 percent and Tennessee by 17 percent.

Cameron Joseph and Rob Arthur, Vice


The Cannonball is a niche stunt event where several idiots who are extremely good at driving make a run from New York City to Los Angeles as fast as they can. By 1983, the record stood at around 32 hours and seven minutes to make the run, and by 2013 a record was set with a time of 28 hours and 50 minutes that stood for years. From 2013 to 2019 there were dozens of attempts to beat the record, but only in November 2019 did someone manage it in 27 hours, 35 minutes. Reminder that to accomplish that you need to sustain an average speed of 103 miles per hour. For a while, that seemed unbeatable, but then a pandemic hit and cleared the roads. What’s happened since is a veritable shelling of Cannonballs: this year, the record’s been beaten five different times, and the 2013 record was beaten seven times.

Alex W. Palmer, GQ


While lots of the early pandemic and quarantine led to speculation about a spike in divorces that would ensue following couples being crammed into close quarters for extended periods, couples are actually doing pretty okay according to the latest edition of the American Family Survey: 58 percent of married men and women aged 18 to 55 said the pandemic made them appreciate their spouse more, while 8 percent said that the pandemic weakened their commitment to one another, 51 percent said it’d deepened it. The numbers bear it out too: five states report divorce stats in real time, and on balance filings are down for 2020. Year-to-date, divorce filings are down 19 percent in Florida, 13 percent in Rhode Island, 12 percent in Oregon and 9 percent in Missouri. Only Arizona, as of now, is up.

W. Bradford Wilcox and Lyman Stone, The Washington Post


Starting in 2006 with the launch of the Emma Maersk, shipping conglomerates began pursuing larger and larger shipping vessels. Those came with unanticipated problems, though, causing significant efficiencies in some places but unintended supply chain difficulties in others. The issue comes where the ships got bigger but discharging and loading the ships took longer, meaning more time in port and more delays. By 2018, 30 percent of ships leaving China left late. This was made worse by other problems, like how the bigger ships capped out at 17 to 18 knots rather than the 24 or 25 knots of their predecessors, and that the land side of the logistical equation had serious issues handling huge quantities of containers disgorged all at once.

Marc Levinson, The Wall Street Journal


Mattel had a remarkably good quarter, and Barbie’s to thank. Sales of the line of dolls and accessories rose 29 percent to $532.2 million, which is the best quarter for Barbie since 2003, a third of Mattel’s overall sales in the quarter of $1.64 billion. All told, Mattel is the beneficiary of a quarter in which kids are being forced to entertain themselves at home, leading Mattel to boost sales by 10 percent last quarter.

Uday Sampath Kumar, Reuters


The Mekong River has been undergoing some significant changes in only the past few years, and that’s been leading to exacerbated flooding and droughts, variously. Natural forces have always acted on the Mekong basin — El Niño years have seen less cumulative rainfall in the river basin, and that’s been continuously observed for 120 years, so that’s not exactly changing. But, climate change and increased damming on the Mekong is making floods and droughts more severe. In 2005, there were 16 dams on the Mekong and its tributaries. At the end of 2018, there were 120, and by the end of 2029, there will be a projected 162 dams with a capacity of 86.9 billion cubic meters of water, up from 40.2 billion at the end of 2018 and merely 13.3 billion in 2005.

Christina Orieschnig, Parametric Press

This past Sunday, I spoke to Julia Alexander, a writer for The Verge who’s appeared regularly in Numlock and who also writes a really interesting newsletter about Disney called Musings on Mouse. We spoke about what’s going on in the Magic Kingdom, you should check out her newsletter I really personally enjoy it very much and it can be found at Musings on Mouse.

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