Numlock News: August 3, 2022 • Dum Dums, Solar System, Batgirl
By Walt Hickey
The family-owned Spangler Candy Co. is at the center of a swirling issue about drop-shipping its iconic lollipop Dum Dums. The company sells a 400-pack of Dum Dums on Amazon for roughly $26. It also has a deal with the members-only Sam’s Club, where it sells a specially steeply discounted alternate version with 500 Dum Dums for $15. It’s pretty easy to see the arbitrage opportunity here, especially because of the process of drop-shipping, where a seller on Amazon sells a pack of Dum Dums for $25, then buys the Sam’s Club version, has it directly shipped to their Amazon customer, and hopes they don’t mind the extra 100 Dum Dums. They pocket about $6 after Amazon fees, but it does directly undercut the actual business that makes the lollipops attempting to sell their wares on the internet.
A Deal With God
The chart success of the 1985 Kate Bush single “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” continues, the viral streaming success of the song now becoming actual radio play. The song, which was featured in a now-iconic moment of the most recent season of Stranger Things, blew up on streaming charts to become an unexpected hit reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart within the week. For context, in the middle of the ‘80s the song only peaked at No. 30. While the streams are ebbing, the radio is playing: The song is now No. 7 on the Billboard Radio Songs listing, with 48.4 million radio impressions. The song is also No. 3 on the Alternative Airplay chart and No. 8 on the Pop Airplay chart.
California’s drought is very, very bad, with the ongoing 22-year dry period in the Southwest right now the longest such dry period in over 1,200 years. This year alone, 660 wells have gone dry in the state of California, which has forced the state and affected counties to deliver water to the affected regions. The overall reserves for the state are bad as well: Lake Oroville is the largest state-managed reservoir and was just 41 percent full yesterday, while the federally-managed Lake Shasta was 37 percent full, down from the historical average of 54 percent full for this time of year.
A confidential document prepared for the federal government about the state of the group that coordinates organ transplants in the country says that the system relies on out-of-date technology that crashes and which has never been reviewed for security weaknesses by the feds. The recommendation is to break up the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit that has run the system for the past 36 years. In the U.S., 21.3 percent of kidneys that were procured for transplant were never actually used in 2020, a uniquely high rate; the French discard rate was just 9.1 percent from 2004–14, the U.K.’s rate is typically 10 to 12 percent, and Eurotransplant had an 8 percent discard rate. The UNOS has resisted audits and attempts to force it to modernize, much to the chagrin of transplant doctors: The UNOS argues its code is a trade secret and that the government would need to buy it for $55 million if they ever gave anyone else the contract.
From 2015 to 2019, the number of U.S. births at home was typically around 38,500 per year, give or take around 300 births. In 2020, though, the data shows that thousands more births were at home than normal: The number jumped from 38,506 home births in 2019 to 45,646 in 2020, a 19 percent year over year increase. In general any place that was not a hospital saw births rise in 2020; the number of deliveries in birthing centers increased slightly as well, from 20,043 in 2019 to 21,884 the following year.
Warner Bros. announced that it will not release the film Batgirl, a film with a $75 million budget that rose to reportedly around $90 million due to overages, a somewhat shocking decision given that the film has already been shot months ago, been in post-production, and was already in test screenings. This is needless to say a somewhat shocking decision, shelving a completed film, and while it’s entirely speculative at this point, most analysis assumes it’s about the money. It’d cost another $30 million to $50 million to market it domestically for a theatrical rollout, and much more globally. While the studio could just dump it off on HBO Max, it seems that the accountants have spoken up and articulated the point of view that it’s likely financially better just to shelve the movie, never release it in any capacity, and take a tax write-down on both it and the also canned Scoob! sequel rather than add it to HBO Max and forfeit the write-down. Show business!
In the 1977, NASA launched two probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, that eventually made their way on an outward journey to exit our solar system. Right now, Voyager 1 is 156 astronomical units (the distance from Earth to the Sun) away and Voyager 2 is 130 AU away. As they’ve passed out of the heliosphere and toward interstellar space, they’ve been sending back scientific signals that many astronomers are interested in. A proposed $3.1 billion mission would send an Interstellar Probe on a more direct and speedy pass to the believed fringes of the solar system which if launched in 2036 could arrive there by 2052, in less than half the time it took Voyager.
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