Numlock News: August 30, 2022 • Sage, Spice, Seals
By Walt Hickey
A New Season
The world has changed. I see it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it: Starbucks is relaunching the Pumpkin Spice Latte today but now it costs 4 percent more. A grande PSL will now cost between $5.45 and $5.95 depending on location. Starbucks, a popular milkshake company that occasionally dabbles in coffee, has moved 600 million PSLs since launching the beverage in 2003. This is also a later launch compared to rivals: Krispy Kreme had the audacity to roll out its pumpkin spice offering on the eighth of August, while Dunkin’ had the decency to wait until August 18 to bring back its pumpkin-flavored beverages.
Seals are smart, and they’re smart enough to know when massive numbers of salmon are returning to rivers to spawn. The problem is that while the seals are as voracious as ever, salmon populations have been struggling thanks to decades of habitat destruction and overfishing, and so now it’s up to humans to try to throw off the seals as they make their way toward the river. Scientists have tried everything, from giving seals fish laced with bad flavors to small bombs to make loud noise and spook them off. The newest tech is Targeted Acoustic Startle Technology, or TAST, which uses sound with a frequency of 500 to 2,000 hertz to scare seals while remaining outside the hearing ranges of salmon and whales. In experiments, it dropped fish predation by seals by 97 percent.
Quiet. Too Quiet.
The Atlantic has seen three named storms develop this hurricane season, with the most recent one, Colin, forming in July. This means that August has not seen a single named storm, and if that holds through the end of the day it’ll be only the third time in decades of record-keeping that there were no storms in August. The previous times were in 1961 and 1997. There are currently four thunderstorms that the National Hurricane Center is monitoring that could become named storms, with one system having an 80 percent chance of developing by Friday. The statistical peak of hurricane season is historically around September 10, with the bulk of the season running August 20 to October 1.
Big Bang Theory
When the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory was released in China, it was lousy with plot holes and cut jokes. A new analysis of the first 100 episodes of the show released after state censorship on Youku found that 77 episodes had at least one edit, with the overall number of cuts hitting 206 removed scenes accounting for about an hour of content on the censors’ cutting room floor. Of those, scenes involving the topic of sexuality accounted for 139 of the cuts and 43.1 minutes. Again, this is a TV-14 show that ran on CBS, so we’re talking mild stuff at best. The remainder of the cut stuff either alluded to the existence of LGBT people, or are scenes that mentioned North Korea, China or Russia.
The percentage of Americans who told Gallup that they recently smoked a tobacco cigarette has been on the decline for decades, dropping from over 40 percent from the ‘40s through mid-‘70s and then gradually declining. In the most recent version of that survey as of July, only 11 percent of respondents said they had recently smoked tobacco. This is remarkable for many public health reasons and is clearly the result of decades of dedicated efforts at smoking cessation, but this survey result was especially remarkable: For the first time ever, more Americans reported smoking marijuana recently (16 percent) than tobacco.
A regional trade deal has sent consumption of durian in China spiking, as it’s now easy for the country to import fresh fruits from neighbors in Southeast Asia. In 2021, fresh durian imports were up 42.7 percent year over year, hitting 821,600 tons, with the value of those durian imports rising 82.4 percent to $4.205 billion. Durians are trendy, and the countries that produce them are noticing, with Thailand producing 1.29 million tons of the fruit in 2021, up 30 percent from two years prior. While China has tried to get a domestic durian industry going, climate issues have prevented it from taking hold, but the new demand has some exporters fretting their main customer may soon become a rival producer.
Demand for white sage is up, with its aroma often used to clear the air, or to make a tea for sinuses. An important group of sage users are Native Americans in Southern California and Baja California, who are the earliest users of the plant. The issue is that California white sage is now a desirable global commodity among the New Age types, and it’s being poached from public and tribal lands by the ton. Workers can get $30 for a duffel bag’s worth, which are sold to poachers who actually make the real money fencing it into the market of people trying to clear out bad vibes from a house or whatever. One native plant expert estimated that some 90 percent of sage that’s on the market in stores or online is likely poached. Tribal groups want help protecting the plant.
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