Numlock News: September 17, 2020 • Coffee, Chuck E. Cheese, Military Surplus

By Walt Hickey

Tickets

The parent company of Chuck E. Cheese has asked the court handling their bankruptcy filing to destroy 7 billion paper prize tickets that accumulated in the restaurant’s supply chain because of the pandemic, an amount of redeemable tickets that would fill 65 cargo shipping containers, and I assume is finally enough to redeem the skateboard that they keep really high up in the prize pool (MSRP: $49.99). The company said that it will cost $2.28 million to destroy the tickets, which would save them a million dollars compared to the alternative where they have to hold on to them and cycle them through the chain. I applaud Mr. Cheese for his thrift but am disappointed in his lack of guile: 7 billion tickets is enough to obtain 233 million of those parachuting army guys, a mercenary force that would allow Chuck E. Cheese to blot out the very sun itself and redeem not just a prize but mankind itself, ruling not as a king but a god.

Leslie A. Pappas, Bloomberg

Gear

As of the second quarter of 2020, approximately $1.68 billion worth of used or surplus military gear had been sold from the federal government to local law enforcement, up from $1.12 billion worth of gear held by the local cops at the beginning of 2015. That’s a significant increase in the armaments available to local police departments, and following a summer where the use of force against people has been scrutinized by the general public, legislators are considering new accountability measures to rein it in. While an effort in July to restrict some equipment sales failed in the Senate, they did pass one to ban the sale of bayonets, which, wait, we were selling bayonets to cops? Why were we selling bayonets to cops?

Andrea Fuller, The Wall Street Journal

Standardized Testing

The demise of the SAT may have been overrated: even though over a thousand schools have made the SAT and the ACT optional for applicants, the number of kids who take the tests has still been increasing at a steady clip: the combined number of students sitting for the exams rose from 1.9 million taking an ACT and 1.7 million taking the SAT in 2015 to 1.8 million ACT takers and 2.2 million SAT takers in 2019.

Jeffrey Selingo, The Atlantic

Solar

Scientists have been tracking numbered solar cycles since 1755, the process by which the sun increases and decreases in intensity over a period of approximately 11 years. Researchers now confirm that Solar Cycle 24 ended in December 2019, and a new one has begun as the number of sun spots are steadily increasing in what is now Solar Cycle 25. The last cycle happened to be the fourth smallest cycle on record and the weakest cycle in 100 years. The next one is projected to reach solar maximum in July 2025, so stock up on sunscreen.

Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR

Never Going Back

A Gallup survey conducted for Wells Fargo found 42 percent of the 1,094 workers it surveyed looked favorably on working remotely compared to just 14 percent who viewed it negatively. Other surveys conducted for large employers have found similar interest in at least partial work-from-home moving forward. When a management consultancy asked 1,000 people in June what they were looking forward to when returning to the office, literally 20 percent said “nothing at all.” So, I’m getting a vibe about a fifth of the workforce is going to be very keen on keeping up the work from home situation well past the pandemic conditions forcing offices closed.

Suzanne Woolley, Bloomberg

Rust

Coffee rust is a terrible fungus that arrived in the Americas about a decade ago, and it’s putting the livelihoods of millions of people in jeopardy. The fungus kills the leaves of the coffee plants, which means they can’t grow or survive, and then spreads after the plant dies as dust to other plants. Some areas of Central America have seen half their coffee acreage cease production, and from 2012 to 2017, the rust caused $3 billion in damage and forced 2 million farmers from their land. Worldwide, 100 million people make income growing coffee, among the world’s most traded agriculture products, and its future is in peril.

Maryn McKenna, The Atlantic

PlayStation

Sony cut the estimated number of PlayStation 5 units it would produce this year by 4 million units, bringing production down to 11 million units according to reports. The reduction is related to production issues stemming from a custom chip on the console, according to reports, though the company denies the report. Still, lots of people are worried about the company’s ability to churn out the consoles ahead of the holiday season and the time thereafter, particularly as Sony gears up for a fight with rival Microsoft releasing the new Xbox at the same time.

Takashi Mochizuki and Debby Wu, Bloomberg

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