Numlock News: January 2, 2019
Happy New Year!
By Walt Hickey
The TSA announced that it will swap out dogs with pointy ears and replace them with dogs with floppy ears when interacting with air travelers. The TSA is the second-largest employer of doggies in the federal government, and about 80 percent of the 1,200 canines TSA uses have flippity floppity wittle ears, according to government statistics. This means that the German Shepards and Belgian Malinois will likely work back-of-the-house inspections while the Labrador Retrievers, German Short-haired Pointers, Wirehaired Pointers, Vizslas and Golden Retrievers will be the front-of-the-house working dogs. The switch is because TSA believes the public is more at ease with floppy-eared dogs. In other news, TSA is also considering putting googly eyes on the millimeter wave full-body scanner to make the privacy invasion more fun.
There was a bottleneck at book printers at the end of the year, due in part to a particularly robust 2018 in reading, and also due to closures and consolidation in the printing businesses. The end result was lots of books were out of stock right before the holidays, which really sucked. Capacity is tight right now and some publishers are pushing back January release dates because the books simply have not found their way on to paper. Print has been stellar lately: hardcover sale revenue was up 3.5 percent in the first 10 months of last year, while digital book revenue fell 3 percent.
Times Square New Years
Every year a bunch of saps get conned into schlepping to Times Square so they can serve as a living background for Anderson Cooper and his friends. But the reality is that the numbers that have been touted lately are essentially bunk: no, 1 to 2 million people are not in Times’ Square on New Years. There are likely fewer than 100,000. Crowd size estimates can be boosted for political or funding reasons and that compounds over time. Times Square can only hold 51,000 people if you pack ‘em in at 3 per square meter, and could only reach 120,000 if you really crammed them in 7-train style into 7 people per square meter.
The egg business is way deadlier than it may appear on the outside. Every year the egg industry alone kills 4 billion to 6 billion male chicks because, due to their gender infirmity, they cannot lay eggs and don’t grow fast enough to be raised for meat. This means that billions of chicks are killed industrially right after birth. A new test developed in Germany can determine the sex of a chick before it even hatches, which would allow producers to process the eggs into other products before they even crack open. So it’s either that, the Jurassic Park model, or someone’s gotta open a trendy restaurant that serves exclusively male chickens and pretends they taste better.
An estimated 50 percent of China’s housing stock is of such poor quality it will need to be demolished, according to government estimates. That includes everything built before 1999. This is a major issue for other infrastructure, like China’s airports, which really need to have lifespans more than 20 to 30 years to become cost effective. While lots of American airports are awful, they are rather durable: JFK International has been in use since 1948, and LAX opened in 1930. Meanwhile, Shenzen Bao’an International opened in 1991, and in 2013 all the original terminals were scrapped.
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Cobalt originally had a nasty reputation as an unwanted metal that produced either worthless powder or toxic gas. Today though it’s a hot commodity: it surged 300 percent from 2016 to 2018 to nearly $100,000 per ton, particularly given its usage in batteries that don’t explode. This has attracted the attention of thieves, particularly in one expertly choreographed heist of $10 million worth of cobalt— 112 tons — last year in Rotterdam. Incidentally, the victims made a profit off the heist in the end, as the insurer paid back the price for the cobalt when it was stolen, not the price it would have been sold at, which was down 20 percent.
Markets got ultra weird while Numlock was off, with a correction then a rally all around the Christmas holiday. It’s been all sorts of odd, but Dec. 26 marked a historic day, when more than 500 stocks in the S&P 500 finished positive. That’s not an error: there are 505 stocks in the S&P 500, and 99.8 percent of them were up on Dec. 26. This is the first time that’s ever happened since data began in 1990. The one single company that dropped last Wednesday was the Newmont Mining Corporation. Get it together Newmont Mining Corp., you’re embarrassing yourself.
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