Numlock News: February 14, 2023 • Stick Shift, Fake Eggs, Weed Stores
By Walt Hickey
The Hong Kong license plate that just reads “R” sold at auction for HK$25.5 million ($3.25 million) after 60 rounds of bidding at auction, which started at the lowly price of HK$5,000. It was one of 49 plates up for grabs at an annual Transport Department auction held during Lunar New Year. It’s the second-highest price paid for a plate, behind just the “W” plate that sold for HK$26 million in March of 2021. Most of the plates sold carried the digit “8” which is considered to be lucky. The sale of personalized vehicle registrations has brought in HK$600 million to the government since 2006.
With egg prices spiking and volatile most of last year, it’s been a pretty good time to be a plant-based egg substitute. Just Egg’s once long shot goal of reaching cost parity with traditional chicken eggs was fulfilled in no small part because chicken eggs have become really expensive, and the pourable bottle of Just Egg ($4.40) was significantly less than the warehouse price of eggs the first week of January ($5.38). Over the course of 2022, the plant-based substitute saw 17 percent sales growth, and they’ve had to increase manufacturing output by 25 percent since December to keep pace with recent demand. A recent ad campaign touted “Plants don’t get the flu,” which I must say sounds neat but while I don’t know enough about plants to dispute that I also am not going to be taking any chances after the past couple of years, you know?
Many market forces are bringing an end to the manual transmission, but there are a few last-ditch holdouts keeping the stick shift alive. One is Porsche, which saw an 80 percent take rate for their six-speed manual transmission in the 911 GT3, a sign that at the high end people still demand manual transmissions. However, several other cars — the Subaru BRZ, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Honda Civic Si and Toyota GR86 — are still selling to customers who want a stick shift, with Subaru saying 71 percent of buyers of the BRZ opted for a six-speed manual transmission, and Mazda saying half of Miata sales are stick.
Despite all allegations to the contrary, video has failed to kill the radio star, with 83 percent of Americans listening to terrestrial radio in a given week as of 2020. That’s down, but only slightly, and still very high. In 2022, 47 percent of Americans got their news from radio at least sometimes, though the medium is rarely the top preferred source of news as just 7 percent of U.S. adults prefer radio over other platforms. It’s particularly useful among local news consumers, with 79 percent of respondents in 2018 using it at least occasionally to get local news, more than the 68 percent who relied on daily newspapers at least occasionally.
Manhattan is facing a reckoning that will be followed closely by other megalopolises like London and Tokyo when it comes to the fate of downtowns. Manhattan workers are spending an estimated $12.4 billion less per year given 30 percent fewer days spent in the office, according to data from the WFH Research Group at Stanford. The average worker is spending $4,661 less annually on meals, booze and shopping in New York, more than the $3,040 in S.F. and $2,387 in Chicago, and that $12.4 billion hole will leave some kind of mark on the city.
Innovative Retail Environments
On the other side of the coin in Manhattan, there has been a renaissance of nimble innovation, of daring retail experimentation, of cavalier and swashbuckling capitalism among the approximately 1,200 unlicensed weed stores to pop up shop in New York City — a third of which in poor, struggling, economically despondent Manhattan — that obviously the mayor wants to kill. Since legalization in March of 2021, the slow and indecisive process of actually greenlighting legal cannabis retail in New York has meant that the city has become a cradle of experimentation in the form of hundreds of wildcat unauthorized weed shops. No enforcement mechanism was written into the legalization statutes, so right now the DA is asking landlords very nicely to please kill the thriving businesses that opened up in their otherwise pandemic-doomed storefronts, and presumably hope that a Spirit Halloween or an escape room will want to open up shop instead. The city’s chief narcs have sent letters to 400 shops in Manhattan warning them that the city is urging landlords to begin the eviction process, because if there’s anything that New York elected officials love doing it’s pathetically asking the city’s indifferent landlords to help them achieve unachievable policy goals. The New York City Sheriff, a hilarious position that inexplicably exists in 2023, at best has been confiscating marijuana, vapes and untaxed cigarettes.
A new study out of Duke University contacted 37 data brokers inquiring about purchasing mental health data about Americans. Of those initially contacted, 26 wrote back, and at the end of the day 11 of the brokers were willing to sell that kind of data. One company offered 10,000 people’s mental health care records for $0.20, with more savings as the buy gets larger. There are minimal restrictions on how the data is used. Brokers offered further information on people’s insurance plans, DNA testing history, the ability to pay for healthcare, and usage of various antidepressants.
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