Numlock News: February 4, 2022 • Ugly Shoes, Trojan Asteroids, Private Island
By Walt Hickey
A private island in Connecticut has gone on the market for $100 million after an initial 2016 listing for $175 million failed to sell. Great Island is a 60-acre estate in Long Island Sound now owned by the heirs of William Ziegler, the famous baking powder magnate who ruled the late 1800s leavening market with a flaky, bicarbonate fist. The island is home to an equestrian facility, a cavernous wine cellar, a deep-water dock, and is accessible by one causeway, making it absolutely perfect for an aspiring Nutmeg state supervillain.
Combined sales for bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey hit $4.6 billion in 2021, up $288 million from the year before, with domestic cases shipped up 4.5 percent to 29.7 million cases. Sales of spirits were up, with the alcohol segment hitting $35.8 billion in sales, up 12 percent year over year and moving 291.1 million cases shipped. The biggest driver of the revenue sales was tequila, which was responsible for around a third of the overall revenue increase in the spirits business, a figure which goes a long way to explain why the only thing Dwayne Johnson seems to do on Instagram anymore is comment that he wants to be having a tequila together.
We Made A Friend
Researchers have confirmed the existence of a second Earth Trojan asteroid, an object called 2020 XL5 that is hanging around in the L4 Lagrange point of gravitational equilibrium in Earth’s orbital wake. It’s believed to be a C-type asteroid, dark and high in carbon, measuring about 0.73 miles across, which would make it about three times larger than the other asteroid at L4, which is called 2010 TK7 and is 0.25 miles wide. The asteroid was calculated to stay at the point for the next 3,500 to 4,000 years, just hanging out in a gravitationally convenient area where the tug of the sun and the Earth cancel one another out, after which point it will leave. Trojan asteroids are common in the solar system, just not on Earth; Jupiter’s got over 10,000 of them at its L4 and L5 points.
Check fraud is back: A new analysis from the Cybersecurity Research Group at Georgia State found an average of 1,325 stolen checks up for sale on the darknet every week of October, double the rate of September, which saw an average of 635 checks for sale each week, and triple the average of 409 in August. That’s also across 60 different darknet markets, a fraction of the thousands in operation. The face value of all the checks found in October was $11.6 million. Check fraud is as old as checks, but stealing them in large quantities and selling them on the dark web is a new twist.
What Are Those?
Ugly shoes are big business, with Crocs projecting $5 billion in revenue this year, Birkenstock getting acquired for $4.9 billion, and Deckers Outdoor Corp — which has quietly become a colossus in the business of hideous footwear through mainstay Ugg boots and the Teva sandals — projecting $3 billion in net sales this year. Decker’s recent hit, a dadcore running sneaker called Hoka, is the fastest-growing of their businesses, with revenue up 47 percent last quarter year over year. Goofy kicks are trendy in their own way, with the ruthless business of fashion meaning if you can’t be popular you better find a way to be interesting. That’s one reason they made a combination Ugg-Teva in 2016, just to see what would happen. It’s effective: Teva saw sales spike 66 percent last summer, and has recently pushed sandals-and-socks pairings to keep the look fresh.
It’s a great time to be a semiconductor manufacturer. To be clear, it’s a terrible time — demand wildly outpaces supply and it’s an incredibly complicated and stressful time geopolitically — but that exact market strain has American governments cutting big fat checks to bring manufacturing not only to the United States, but in particular their state. And they are wildly overpaying for that. Intel is getting over $2 billion from Ohio taxpayers through a $600 million grant, $691 million in infrastructure and $650 million in income tax breaks for 30 years. For only 3,000 permanent jobs, that will come out to over $650,000 to $1 million per job created. It’s the latest in a long line of such deals, like Samsung’s $1.9 billion from Texas and TSMC’s hundreds of millions out of Arizona. One thing jacking up the costs is that so many states want those deals, one in particular being upstate New York, which sunk enormous amounts of money into two sites at White Pine Commerce Park in Onondaga County and the STAMP site in Genesee County for potential semiconductor plants that no semiconductor company has actually taken, because the other states offered more free money.
Japan’s aid agency estimates that by 2040 the country will need 6.74 million foreign workers, which is four times the amount it has today. That assumes that Japan aggressively automates, and if they don’t they’ll need an estimated 21 million foreign workers in 2040. In Tokyo, the share of foreign workers among working age populations is projected to hit 18 percent. Currently Japan is home to 1.72 million foreign workers, of which 350,000 are in a training program and 330,000 are part-time workers who are predominantly students. About 28 percent of the foreign workers are projected to come from Vietnam, with others coming from Myanmar, Cambodia and Bangladesh.
This week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to Cecilia D'Anastasio, who wrote “The Gritty, Underground Network Bringing Japan’s Arcades to the US” for Wired. I was so excited to talk to Cecilia about her quest to get MUSECA, an arcade game, into her home. D'Anastasio can be found on Twitter, and earlier this week started her new job at Bloomberg.
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