Numlock News: August 11, 2023 • Himalayas, Gallium, Dog Man
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend! Read ahead for an unlocked Sunday edition you’re going to love.
In an unmitigated global crisis, a spiraling fiasco that has plunged the planet into a state of rolling and accelerating oil disaster, a consortium of the world’s grandmothers and southern European friends have broken the news that the price of olive oil has hit an all-time high, reaching $8,445 per metric ton wholesale in Spain last week, shattering the $6,200 per ton record set in the dark days of 1996 and more than double the $4,065 per ton of last August. Inventories have cratered: The stocks-to-use ratio is at 12.1 percent, the second-lowest reading in the past 50 years. Fueling the issue is the weather, with Europe’s olive trees seeing abnormally high temperatures.
Tilray Brands, the Canada-based international marijuana conglomerate, has bought into the American beer industry by buying seven craft beer breweries off of Anheuser-Busch Inbev for the price of $85 million, including Shock Top, Blue Point and Redhook Brewery. As far as industry M&A goes, it’s not especially huge — Tilray is a $2 billion company, and AB Inbev makes more than that in a single day — but it is a fascinating look at what a cool-down looks like for an increasingly mature and not especially growing craft beer industry that is happening at the same time that pot is becoming a bona fide industry. The maker of Bud Light has plenty of exposure there — after the sale, they still own 11 craft breweries — while the rest of Tilray’s growing business of adulterants is still in a holding pattern until there’s federal approval.
The single most important ongoing graphic novel series in the world right now is, based on sales, Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man, which is published by Scholastic and has sold over 60 million copies of 11 books in 45 different languages. The franchise, intended for kids, has also spawned a spinoff, Cat Kid Comic Club, as well as a film that’s in the works from DreamWorks Animation, a stage musical called Dog Man: The Musical that is now touring Australia and will soon return to the U.S. As of right now, Dog Man: Twenty Thousand Fleas Under The Sea is the bestselling book for children in the U.S. Yesterday, Scholastic announced that book 12 in the franchise, Dog Man: The Scarlet Shredder, will drop next year.
The wholesale price of low-quality gallium — a metal which is liquid at slightly higher than room temperature — goes for $250 to $300 per kilogram, and the United States imports 18 tons of it a year. More important is gallium arsenide, of which the U.S. imports 550 tons to the tune of $220 million, which is necessary to make microchips. The issue for the U.S. is that there hasn’t been any gallium refined here since 1987, as it’s only economically viable to produce as a byproduct of aluminum production, and as of the end of 2022 there were only 2.8 tons of high quality gallium in the U.S., which would certainly be a problem if, say, there was a serious escalation in trade conflict, given that three-quarters of the gallium in the U.S. is used for defense purposes.
Pot of Greed
Fanatics, which acquired Topps, and Panini, the other big manufacturer of trading cards, are suing each other in a high-stakes fight over the lucrative but cutthroat business of collectible trading cards. At key issue in each case is GC Packaging, a printing and packaging company that is responsible for a huge share of actually producing cards, and which Fanatics invested in last year. GCP makes 90 percent of Panini’s cards and 40 percent of Fanatics’ cards, and Panini alleges that since their rival invested in the printer they’ve been undermining their business, delivering jobs late. Fanatics says that’s crap, that GCP’s production is up to 400 million packs a year, and that Panini’s share of that is up to 61 percent from less than half a few years back.
Clear Lake in California is responsible for 60 percent of the drinking water of Lake County, but many fear to drink the water due to explosions of blooms of dangerous and toxic algae. After one bad bloom in 2014, the Big Valley Band and Elem Indian Colony of Pomo Indians began a water testing program because the county wouldn’t, and found 17,000 micrograms of microcystins per liter, vastly higher than the allowed 8 micrograms per liter. A 2022 study found that 58 percent of homes that got water from the lake had higher-than-allowed levels of microcystins, and now the region is trying to repair the lake. Efforts include diverting runoff, injecting oxygen into the lake bottom, restoring the tule plant to the lake’s edges, and killing the invasive carp that kick up sediment.
Takakia is a type of moss that lives in the Himalayas, but it in fact was there first. Takakia split off from its ancestors 390 million years ago, and the oldest known fossil of it goes back 165 million years. This is especially neat, because the Himalayan mountains are literally only 50 million years old. However, this consummate survivor is in serious trouble owing to climate change, with teams finding that Takakia populations in the region are down 1.6 percent per year every year since 2010.
I’ll be straightforward, I think this Numlock Sunday conversation with Ryan Broderick of the newsletter is my favorite from this year, we got a great response to it and it’s unlocked if you’d like to check it out. Ryan’s not only responsible for one of the most reliably entertaining things I read on the internet, but his new project is an audacious attempt to monitor and quantify what’s actually doing well on social media. It is incredibly revealing about what’s actually going on with major platforms, and he was kind enough to offer the July edition of Garbage Intelligence to all Numlock readers. Definitely check out the interview, and
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