By Walt Hickey
Hey, New York area readers! I’m hosting a show at Caveat in NYC on December 15th. It’s a live play of the TTRPG game I designed for Insider’s “Red, White and Gray” project and it should be a ton of fun. We’ve got some excellent guests lined up; buy tickets here, I would love to see you there! There’s also a livestream option for out of town folks.
A pair of men’s jeans found in the wreckage of the SS Central America after it sank in a hurricane in September 1857 have sold at auction for $95,000. The jeans were found in a trunk of a San Francisco merchant, and while the Levi’s signature brand elements weren’t quite nailed down until 1873, the jeans bear a distinct resemblance to the kind of gear the company started hawking to miners in 1853. I, for one, want to know what the raw denim crowd makes of them, given that a century and a half in seawater has to be one of the most compelling weird strategies to break in some raw denim I’ve ever heard.
Just weeks after millions of Taylor Swift fans were screwed by long wait times and lockouts on an online ticketing platform, yet another passionate fandom has been infuriated by a ticketing fiasco. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game hunting tag sale was a major mess, with the 29,000 tags up for grabs — $351.75 for deer and $651.75 for elk — plagued by technical issues. The state’s vendor for handling Go Outdoors Idaho is Brandt Information Systems, and hunters are furious that almost all the tags were sold out by the end of the day, with many ardent fans of shooting animals for sport lamenting massive, buggy queues standing between them and their tags. Overall, Idaho made $14.8 million selling nonresident tags and licenses on that day, up from $12.7 million a year ago.
Soccer analytics demonstrate that substitutions are a good strategy, with the argument from the stats crowd being that the substitutes can run further, take more shots, play better defense and in the event their team is down, better aid the comeback. That said, it appears that teams are underusing their subs in the World Cup: Through the round of 16, just 29 percent of games have seen a team use one of their now-available halftime substitutes. Sub usage is up, but it could be higher; coaches have left two substitutes unused in 10.6 percent of games, and one substitute unused in 35.4 percent of games.
The direct impact that TikTok has for most music is a bit of a wash, but it’s pretty good at the top. TikTok’s most popular track of the year was Yung Lean’s “Ginseng Strip 2002,” which came out in 2013 and became popular because of a trend of TikToks where people sang along and then kissed at the end. It was used 11 million times, and in this case actually made it a hit on streaming, where the money tends to be better than on TikTok. The song was streamed 71 million times in 2022 through December 1, up 1,070 percent compared to the same period of 2021. Estimating from streams, that’s a payout of $350,000 to the rights holders.
The Cow Whisperer
A new study tried to find out how good people are at differentiating sounds made by different farm animals as positive vocalizations or negative. The sounds of several animals — whinnies of horses, grunts of pigs, bleats of goats, moos of cattle, grunts of wild boars, whinnies of Przewalski’s Horse, and meaningless speech sounds of humans in various emotional states — were played to 1,024 participants from 48 countries and then they were asked if the sound was a positive indication or a negative one. Humans were better than chance at figuring out if the sound was positive or negative; among horses, people understood the horse and got it right 64 percent of the time, among pigs 58 percent and wild boars 61 percent, though among cows it was just 47 percent, hardly a great showing. For perspective on how impressive that horse number is, they guessed the human grunt’s valence right just 68 percent of the time.
The Way of Water
Avatar: The Way of Water is about to hit cinemas, and after some stellar critical buzz James Cameron once again has the world wondering just how this sucker’s going to do at the box office. Biggest of all for the film’s prospects is that it will get a theatrical release in China. The first Avatar made $202.6 million in China, which was a massive achievement in 2010, when China had 5,690 movie screens. Today, that number is up to 82,000 screens, and when they rescreened Avatar in China in March 2021 it made a solid $58 million. An estimated 46 percent of cinemas are operating at full capacity, so it’s a bit of a mystery at how that’s going to translate financially.
In 2020 the amount spent on robots in the logistics industry was about $2.6 billion. That figure is expected to rise at a rate of compound annual growth of 22.94 percent, which would put it at $10.97 billion by 2027. This winter already there’s a huge demand for leasing package-handling robots for the seasonal rush, a bustling subsector of the logistics business that means that warehouses can get on-demand access to bots during the busy times. Some in the industry call them “surge bots,” which is a ridiculously dumb name when what we’re talking about are literally robot mercenaries.
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