Numlock News: August 4, 2020 • Pickup Trucks, Dwayne Johnson, Wind Farms
By Walt Hickey
This year the XFL, the alternative football league founded by WWE CEO Vince McMahon, went bankrupt and folded after just a few games. Clearly there were some prevailing global headwinds against founding a new sports league in 2020, however, this is the second time the football league has called it quits. The assets of the brand were destined to hit the auction block next week if it hadn’t been for Dwayne Johnson, off the top rope, jumping in with $15 million to purchase the league. Assuming the bankruptcy judge gives everything the okay, who knows, perhaps come 2022 you’ll turn on your television and find the Memphis Scorpion Kings down 14-3 to the San Francisco San Andreases. Personally, I’m a fan of the Empire State Empire States, but I’m mainly watching to see the Philly Tooth Fairies lose.
From 1990 to 2019, the average pickup truck has gained 1,142 pounds, 730 pounds of which were added since 2000 alone. This is a problem because between 1990 and 2019, the average human did not gain 1,142 pounds, Newton’s Third Law of Motion as it relates to the conservation of momentum did not change, and trucks still sometimes hit people. Bulkier cars have fatal consequences: looking at SUVs that have seen a similar growth, fatal single-vehicle crashes with SUVs and pedestrians were up 81 percent from 2009 to 2016. Trucks and SUVs account for 70 percent of new vehicles sold in the United States, and there are more on the street than ever thanks to a number of incentives, governmental and otherwise. Even so, light duty pickups are getting bulkier, and looking closer to what only a few years ago was described as a heavy-duty pickup.
Spending online in June hit $73.2 billion in the United States, which is up 76 percent year over year according to Adobe Analytics. Incidentally, this is around the time that retailers start shoring up their warehouse situation in advance of the holidays, and this year they’re basically planning for the apocalypse. From April to June, e-commerce sucked up 31 million square feet of industrial leasing, and logistics and distribution businesses needed 15.3 million, both of which were up significantly from the first quarter, when e-commerce needed 24.9 million square feet to operate and distribution needed 11 million. Now, the rush is on: between the inevitable retail maelstrom to come this fall and the combination of the reliance on online shopping that accompanies a pandemic with the inexorable approach of Christmas, everyone wants to hammer down that warehouse space.
A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research that analyzed metadata from the emails and meetings of 3 million people found that as a result of lockdowns, the number of meetings that the average person goes to per day is up 13 percent. The good news is the length of the average meeting is down 20 percent, meaning that on balance people are spending 12 percent less time in meetings per day. Unfortunately, the average workday is up 50 minutes, so it’s pretty much a gigantic mess top to bottom.
China’s National Radio and Television Administration maintains a quota of about 40 foreign films that see distribution in China every year. Many Chinese cinephiles want to see more than that, but without direct access to the market for the films, they resort to piracy. Given the absence of an official channel though, legions of movie fans must work together to translate and produce subtitles for the films and television shows that are brought in through the internet, and there’s a thriving culture — particularly among LGBTIQ movie fans in China, who are needless to say underserved by the imported films — of fan subtitle generation. QAFONE (Queer as Folk), which has existed since 2008, coordinates teams of volunteers to translate over a thousand movies and television series into Mandarin for the 700,000 registered users of the site. On one hand, piracy is bad, on the other hand, listen, if these are teenagers trying to watch The Kids Are All Right, maybe we just let them have this one.
There’s a neat thermodynamic effect that wind turbines have on the surrounding area, one that’s long been exploited by farmers. Now that turbines are coming into vogue — last year, the U.S. generated 300 billion kilowatt-hours from its 60,000 turbines, and about 3,000 are being added per year — there are chances to pair them with farms to exploit that. By reducing wind speed and adding turbulence, they redistribute heat in the lower atmosphere — not adding or subtracting, just mixing — which means that at night surface temperatures get a little higher than they normally would. Farmers of avocado, citrus and apples have put airplane-like propellers on towers since at least the 1940s to protect from frost damage, but now we can get energy from that too. According to observations from NASA’s Landsat 8, the estimated nighttime warming effect on a Texas wind farm was 0.3 °C warmer that the surrounding area.
Last weekend, both department store Lord & Taylor and Tailored Brands Inc., the owner of Men’s Wearhouse and JoS. A. Bank, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This year, at least 25 major retailers have filed for bankruptcy, 10 of which were in the past five weeks alone. The year as a whole looks to be a retail bloodbath — 25,000 stores are expected to close — which naturally follows 2017’s retail-pocalypse, 2018’s retail-mageddon, 2019’s rag-tail-narok.
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