Numlock News: August 31, 2023 • Whopper, Whopper, Whopper, Whopper
By Walt Hickey
The backbone of many NASA missions is the Deep Space Network, which is composed of several antennas scattered across the world, from Australia to Spain, that facilitate communication between the people on the ground and 40 missions in space. Over the next decade, another 40 missions will join those, and NASA is sounding the alarm that that may be keeping the DSN too busy to function properly. During the recent Artemis I mission, which also carried 10 CubeSat payloads hitching a ride, the Artemis I craft demanded 903 hours of communications time and the CubeSats demanded 871 hours, and given the finite number of antenna-hours available, those came at the expense of other missions — including 184 hours that the James Webb Space Telescope mission gave up — and deferred maintenance. An upgrade plan is in motion, but five years behind schedule, and the DSN budget has been cut from $250 million a year in 2010 to $200 million today. It’d take another $45 million per year to bolster the infrastructure.
Lots of companies, in an attempt to rein in employees ability to sue them in the event of a dispute, require employees to agree to an arbitration process. This was, for some time, considered a rather clever sidestepping of the courts, and reduced the risk of an unexpected massive judgement. However, many companies have found themselves in an arbitration boondoggle, as one proviso of these mandatory arbitration clauses is that the company will pick up the bulk of the fees, which are reasonable in individual cases but if, say, you tick off thousands of employees, you’re looking at some serious dough you’re on the hook for. The latest company to learn about this is X Corp., which was previously known as Twitter, and which is now facing 2,200 arbitration cases with ex-employees. The filing fees alone that the company is on the hook for could hit $3.5 million, given that the company must cover $1,600 of the $2,000 filing fee.
A new study published in Nutrients found that just 12 percent of Americans are responsible for consuming half of all the beef in America on a given day. Of beef consumed in the aggregate, about a third is in the form of steaks and brisket, which are obviously rather tough to swap out with an alternative, but many of the other main avenues of beef consumption — burritos, meat sauces, even burgers — increasingly have cheaper and less environmentally intensive alternatives, like chicken or pork, that could pretty directly replace consumption in the event the 12 percent can be moved.
The right to repair advocacy group iFixit has set their minds to understanding the American McFlurry crisis. As of Tuesday, 14 percent of McFlurry machines in McDonald’s restaurants across the United States were identified as broken, with my New York having a 34 percent broken rate. One issue is that franchisees have their hands tied when it comes to servicing the machines, and iFixit and the interest group Public Knowledge are asking the U.S. Copyright Office for an exemption that would allow people to fix the Taylor ice cream machines. Taylor, the company that produces the Taylor C709 Soft Serve Freezer, makes 25 percent of profit from service calls, and charges $350 per 15 minutes of service.
The Kingdom and the Power
A revolution has sprung up to overthrow the king, with a champion calling out to the masses to protest. Action has occurred; a class may answer. Yes, alleging that the promises of the monarchy have failed to meet the necessity of the people, claiming that the vicissitudes between the covenant of the crown and the clamor of the common are so disparate as to render them void, alleging that the perfidy bestriding the vassal and the sovereign has gone too far, someone is suing Burger King because allegedly they make the Whopper look 35 percent bigger in ads than it is in reality.
New York City, which has legalized marijuana but failed to quickly implement a regulatory regime following that legalization, is awash in marijuana stores that are selling a legal product but without the requisite permits to operate. As of April, the city estimated there were 2,500 such shops even though there were just nine with actual legal licenses to sell weed. One idiosyncrasy is that these storefronts do need to report taxable income, so many of them have also started offering high-end imported snacks from other countries, like pocky, or the weird potato chip flavors other countries make. The unregulated smoke shops can face fines of up to $10,000 a day for selling marijuana without a license, but there are only 150 people who work for the Sheriff’s Office that enforces it, and the shops can make $2,000 to $3,000 a day in profit, so you can do the math.
Firefighters who work in wildlands to extinguish wildfires face unique risks from particulate matter, with recent research finding that those firefighters are 43 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 30 percent more likely to die from lung cancer. As fires become more common, many lack the proper equipment to keep particulates out. Small respirators like the N95 or P100 can exacerbate an already difficult situation when it comes to water and exertion. The ideal is a self-contained breathing apparatus, but SCBAs weigh 30 pounds and require a firefighter to carry canisters around, and in the wild that kind of SCBA is untenable.
This week in the Sunday Edition, I spoke to Ellyn Briggs, who wrote “U.S. Enthusiasm for 4-Day Work Week Dips Without Remote Work Option” for Morning Consult. The idea that in today’s economy companies can scale back the time commitment for certain types of jobs without undermining the actual ability to deliver on those is a potentially massive shift in how this economy works, and there’s a lot of potential in shaving off the eight hours of the week that have the most diminishing returns and giving them back to workers. Briggs can be found at Morning Consult and their Brands newsletter.
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