Numlock News: October 4, 2018

By Walt Hickey

Christmas Movies

AMC is diversifying its offerings from “basically zombie content exclusively” to “zombies and Christmas.” The network poached the rights to three films — Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and The Polar Express — from Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas promotion. December is massive for networks with a share of the holiday content: Nielsen estimated 150 million people watched some of the Freeform Christmas season special. This year AMC will air 600 hours of holiday content, having also scored 12 of the 18 Rankin/Bass specials and other, lesser films.

Josef Adalian, Vulture


Orchids are the most valuable potted plants in the United States, having edged out poinsettias for the distinction over the past decade. In 2015, the latest year we have Department of Agricultural data, sales were worth $288 million. The plants have long been an enigma: it took 400 years to figure out how the damned things actually grew from seed to plant, and it wasn’t until the 1920s that they were actually able to be cultivated. A notorious pain in the butt to grow, after years of research: now you can score the plants for $12.99 at Trader Joe’s.

Sarah Laskow, Atlas Obscura

Won’t Somebody Please Monetize The Children

ChuChu TV, a YouTube company that makes videos for toddlers, now rivals traditional competitors in the kids’ TV space. Sesame Street has 5 billion views on YouTube and 4 million subscribers; ChuChu’s channel has over 19 billion views and 19 million subscribers. Approximately 20 million times every day, someone plays a ChuChu video for a kid, mostly in the U.S. and India. YouTube has become the most popular babysitter on the planet, with compilations of songs lasting for 30 or more minutes now being all the rage. Boy, I sure hope that an algorithm optimizing engagement time for young children has no negative effects and never sets up some sort of perverse incentive system that causes distressing side effects for an entire generation of users. That sucked when it happened to my age cohort.

Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic


Robots do not come pre-loaded with a gender, but because humans are weird we automatically make assumptions about it by looking at them. In one study, participants presented with a robot with a straight torso used a male pronoun 90 percent of the time, and robots who had a more pronounced waist were more likely to be called feminine. So in case you were the person in high school French who declared “Jeez, it’s super dumb that they decide to apply a random gender to inanimate objects,” just know that in several generations confused robotics students are going to say the same exact thing about us.

Matt Simon, Wired

Japan’s Government

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has rolled out his new cabinet, shaking up more than a dozen positions in the 19-member group. Despite a broad push from Abe’s administration to advance the role of women in society, the government of one of the largest and most important economies on the planet now has one woman in it and nobody under the age of 52. The average age of the cabinet is 63 years old.

Isabel Reynolds, Bloomberg

Truce To Navigation, Take Another Station

Piracy is on the rise, at least the kind of piracy where a person goes on the internet to obtain a movie that they did not pay for. In 2011, BitTorrent — a popular file transfer protocol — accounted for 52.01 percent of upstream traffic on North American broadband networks. By 2015, that figure fell to 26.83 percent, but outside of the Americas piracy is on the march: now 32 percent of upstream traffic in the Middle East, Europe and Africa is BitTorrent.

Kyle Bode, Motherboard

Unprofitable Business

In the first three months of 2018, 83 percent of initial public offerings — that is, when a company goes public — were companies that lost money in the 12 months leading up to the IPO. That is the highest level in the history of the stat, which started in 1980. The previous high water mark was in 2000, when 81 percent of companies entering the stock market were unprofitable. Still, there are advantages of taking that bet: stocks of money losing companies were up 36 percent on average from their IPO price.

Corrie Driebusch and Maureen Farrell, The Wall Street Journal

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