Numlock News: April 27, 2023 • Storms, Titans, Rockets
A very special announcement! You'll want to read this!
By Walt Hickey
Before we get going, I have an incredibly exciting announcement I’ve wanted to share for a long time. I wrote a book. You’re going to love it. It’s called You Are What You Watch and it’s published by Workman Publishing. It’s about how pop culture changes us and the world around us, and it’s full of awesome stories and eye-popping data visualizations. It’s out in October. You all are the very first to know. And finally, you can preorder it today.
I will be talking a lot about this book over the next couple of months. Save your receipts, the early preorders get a special gift. Barnes & Noble is doing a 25 percent off preorder sale today and tomorrow with code PREORDER25, but it’s available wherever books are sold. On to the stories.
After presumably exhausting all other options, Nashville and the Tennessee Titans have decided to settle and just continue the directionless, unrewarding relationship the municipality and the NFL franchise have been locked in for decades. The relationship formed abruptly after the Titans cheated on their former municipality several decades ago, the city of Houston, which also remains ringless despite also recently settling. Beset by financial difficulties, rumor has it that the Titans announced plans to blow $2.1 billion on a top-of-the-line domed stadium where their terrible football team can blow off steam every other Sunday. Looks like they got in a little over their heads, because I heard that they had to crawl back to Nashville practically begging for money. And the saddest thing is Nashville, just like it always does, caved in a 26-12 city council vote, with the city of Nashville and Davidson County agreeing to kick in $760 million via revenue bonds, even calling in the state for another $500 million in a one-time contribution, god, it’s so humiliating. In exchange, the Titans have only promised to stick around a little while longer, but let’s be real, they’re not getting a ring anytime soon.
The hot new trend in apparel, sheets and baby gear is material touted as “bamboo,” often priced at a markup because if it’s from plants it must be good. In reality, this is merely a new batch of marketing: It’s just rayon, basic rayon. Rayon, the cheap plant-based semi-synthetic material made out of cellulose; it’s just rayon. It used to be made out of wood, but now it’s also made out of bamboo, so instead of selling you rayon garments they call it bamboo garments. It’s enough of an issue that last year the FTC fined Kohl’s $2.5 million and Walmart $3 million over marketing bamboo sheets and towels and rugs as bamboo when they were, in fact, rayon.
The Federal Railroad Administration has maintained a public database of complaints about parked trains blocking intersections since 2019, and it’s a remarkably common occurrence. Last year alone there were over 28,000 reports of stopped trains, including thousands of reports of pedestrians — some schoolchildren attempting to get between school and their homes — having to cross under or over trains. It’s shocked rail administrators, and experts point the finger squarely at the increasing length of trains.
Industrial consolidation is a serious problem, especially when it comes to the companies that supply arms to the Pentagon. The number of major arms suppliers is down to just five, the number of fixed-wing aircraft suppliers has fallen from eight to three since the end of the Cold War, major shipbuilders are down from eight to two, three companies make 90 percent of the missiles, and the overall defense industrial base fell from 69,000 vendors in 2016 to 55,000 vendors as of 2021. This can cause bottlenecks; take, for instance, the only domestic source of black powder, a factory in Louisiana. Black powder is needed in small amounts for 300 kinds of munitions to detonate larger explosives, which is a problem, because that factory exploded in June of 2021, eliminating the sole supplier. That’s an issue if, for example, you’ve hypothetically got a land war in Europe. The Pentagon spent $3.5 million to help upgrade and fix it up, with the mill eventually being sold to Estes, the model rocket company, one of its largest customers, and shipments should resume this summer.
A new study of melatonin gummy products found that 22 out of 25 products studied were inaccurately labeled when it came to the indicated dosage of the drugs, meaning that 88 percent of the time there was significantly more or less of the drug actually in the gummy than the consumer would have thought. The wide disparities in dosage are a serious issue: Calls to poison control centers about children who consumed melatonin jumped 530 percent from 2012 to 2021 and were linked to 27,795 emergency room visits and 4,097 hospitalizations over the period. A related 2017 study looked at 31 melatonin supplements and found similar variability in actual dosage.
Earlier in April, the app Apple Weather stopped providing data on a number of occasions, with both Apple Weather and their API WeatherKit crashing repeatedly. This has been just the rapid influx of warm, humid air that rival apps were hoping for, and it’s led to chaos in the weather app space. During the week of the outages, downloads of five prominent weather apps increased an average of 170 percent, with weekly active users up 9 percent.
The total box office in the first quarter is down 23 percent compared to the average of 2017 to 2019, and one big reason for that is that the number of movies that are actually hitting cinemas is still down; the number of wide releases is down 32 percent over the same period. Not to get too technical here, but movies can’t make money if they don’t actually exist, and this year there’s currently projected to be 100 nationwide releases, down from 112 logged in 2019. To be clear, that’s still a big bump from last year, when 71 movies got a nationwide release, and the year-over-year data is great, with 19 movies released in Q1, up 19 percent over last year and delivering 28 percent more revenue as a result. If you screen it, they will come.
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