Numlock News: October 28, 2019 • Dogs, Fuel Cells, Parking Violations

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Marketing

When companies want to market a product to consumers, they’ll conduct an ad test, which is when they rustle up a bunch of consumers and ask them how they feel about the messaging. This process is also a look at what demographic the brands perceive their consumers to be, and historically that answer has been “give me the most sexist possible sample ya got.” As recently as 2012, women made up 100 percent of the participants for household cleaner ad tests and laundry products, but just 37 percent of the test group for vehicles and 46 percent for drinks. That’s important, because those ad tests are a key reason why some ads sound like “Choosy moms choose Numlock for their families” and other ads sound like “Dudes, there’s nothing better between your last beer and your first shave than Numlock.” I now feel disgusting. Very, very recently brands have begun to slightly diversify their test audiences: in 2018, women were “just” 87 percent of the test audience for household cleaners and 93 percent for laundry products, and are “up” to 43 percent of the vehicular audience and 48 percent for drinks.

Lara O’Reilly, The Wall Street Journal

they’re good dogs, Brent

New studies published in the journal Circulation suggest that dog ownership does wonders for cardiovascular health. The ownership of a dog was linked to a 21 percent decrease in the risk of death over a 12-year period studied among people with heart disease. The signal appears causal as well, and researchers are coming to believe that dogs improve health, though a randomized trial — where half a group gets dogs and half gets stuffed animals — is not exactly feasible. Dogs push owners to spend more time outdoors and have a proven effect on depression and anxiety, though 21 percent is doubtless mildly juiced by healthier people being likelier to possess pups. It’s unclear how many lives were saved thanks to the presence of a dog who was able to alert local authorities that a person with cardiovascular disease fell down a well, though a previous drug trial indicated that dogs are an effective treatment for diphtheria in remote, northern Alaska provided they are dragging diphtheria vaccines behind them.

Angus Chen, NPR

Delivery

UPS and FedEx racked up 471,000 parking violations in New York City in 2018, up 34 percent from 2013. The 515,000 summonses for those two companies plus Peapod and FreshDirect totaled $27 million. The delivery vehicles are increasingly cited as a reason why traffic in the city has moved to a crawl — traffic in the busiest parts of Manhattan is 7 miles per hour, down 23 percent since 2010 — as the double-parked delivery vehicles can block lanes of traffic. Packages get into New York predominantly through the George Washington Bridge — the tunnels can’t take the huge trucks — and the entrance to the bridge is the most congested interchange in America, with trucks entering at an average 23 miles per hour now down from 30 miles per hour five years ago. Truck traffic at New York toll crossings is up 9.4 percent between 2013 and 2018. In 2017 there were 1.1 million daily deliveries in New York City every day, triple the level of 2009. The answer is simple here: everybody else who isn’t me needs to order less stuff, I need my stuff, so I can’t order less. I’m sorry.

Matthew Haag and Winnie Hu, The New York Times

Talking About My Generation

For Californians the rolling blackouts and statewide conflagrations may seem like a dismaying look at the lamentable state of shareholder-focused corporate utility interests, but for generator companies it’s an opportunity to brag about in print. Generac, a Wisconsin-based generator company, will see $100 million to $200 million in annual revenue as soon as 2022 as a direct result of California’s power troubles, and will invest $1 million of its $10 million infomercial budget on California. The $2 billion generator company has 6,000 electricians around the country, but mostly in weather-volatile places, and only had 100 in California, which climatically is heaven on earth.

Brian Eckhouse and Nic Querolo, Bloomberg

Tuition

The amount spent by states on higher education dropped $6.6 billion this past decade, and that money doesn’t just evaporate, it gets shifted on to students who go to those public two- and four-year universities. This isn’t a recession problem, either: 27 states spent less in 2018 than they did in 2017. In 27 states, the tuition at public state colleges exceeds the amount the state spends on the colleges, undermining the entire conceit behind “state” schools. Overall, tuition rates at four-year public colleges is up 37 percent — $2,708 — from 2008 to 2018. Next time you wonder about why college is more expensive, you don’t need to look much further than the statehouse. Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, and Hawaii have each notched tuition increases greater than 60 percent in the past decade.

Andrea Noble, Route Fifty

Painting

A masterpiece attributed to a 13th-century Italian painter Cimabue fetched $26.6 million at auction on Sunday to an anonymous buyer, a record for a pre-1500 work. The painting previously was in the home of an elderly French woman between her kitchen and dining room, and was spotted by an auctioneer in June. The painting had only been expected to go for $4.4 million to $6.6 million. Just throwing this out there, if there’s a great Italian artist behind a mirror advertisement for gin from a bar I worked at in college, or a travel poster for Gotham City, or a thrift store painting of a clown, let me know. The holidays are coming up and I could use some extra scratch.

Thomas Anderson, The Associated Press

Fuel Cells

There are 3,000 fuel-cell buses and trucks around the world out of 10,000 such vehicles total, and a quarter of European cities are expected to deploy the buses by 2025. Fuel cell powered cars have just 5,000 hours of durability, while there are buses in the field that have run for 35,000 hours. That’s one reason that Ballard — which has 70 percent to 80 percent of the market share for fuel cell buses — is bullish on the long-promised but under-delivered propulsion system, particularly because the price of a fuel cell bus in Europe has fallen from €1 million five years ago to €375,000 today.

Natalie Obiko Pearson, Bloomberg

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