Numlock News: January 25, 2021 • B-52s, Lagoons, Loon
By Walt Hickey
According to a new survey from J.D. Power, Americans were spending an average of $47 per month on video subscription services as of December, up from $38 per month as of April. That 24 percent bump is attributable to a host of factors, including a surge in streaming during the pandemic plus the arrival of new services like HBO Max, Peacock, and Quibi. Obviously, I can’t really imagine that Quibi had an enviable slice of that $47 per month, nor do the good people at J.D. Power mention it anywhere in their report, and obviously Quibi’s complete self-immolation and subsequent fire sale to Roku precludes them from further discussion, but for one brief shining moment they existed and that rounding error of a mobile application merits at least a brief footnote in the “casualties and losses” section of The Streaming Wars.
SpaceX launched a record 143 small satellites into orbit on Sunday, the most ever on a single rocket. The launch was the first mission where SpaceX ferried lots of satellites up rideshare-style along with 10 of its own Starlink internet satellites. In 2019, the company announced that at various points in the year smaller satellites could hitch a ride at launch for $1 million a pop. Among the payload was a South Korean military communications satellite, two Taiwanese satellites which will improve navigation, a payload called Celestis 17 containing cremated human remains, three Hawk 2 radio satellites and a cargo capsule for the space station. The team successfully recovered the Falcon 9’s first stage in the Atlantic, which was the 73rd recovery of a booster for the company.
After decades of work, scientists have successfully restored 3,600 hectares of eelgrass across the coastal lagoons of Virginia. Eelgrass, like lots of coastal flora, can sustain entire maritime ecosystems, and the eelgrass in Virginia died out in a nearly comical sequence: First, companies mowed down the stalks to make home insulation and men’s hats, weakening the ecosystem such that in the 1930s when a slime mold disease struck contemporaneously with a hurricane pretty much all of it died. In 1997, a resident discovered a remnant patch in South Bay, but the seagrass was unable to spread its seeds to the rest of coastal Virginia because it was so isolated. Since 2001, researchers have harvested shoots from South Bay and transplanted them across other nearby lagoons until eventually the eelgrass became self-sustaining. The water has become clearer, and wildlife has returned in force.
Organic produce sales were up 14.2 percent in 2020, a sales increase of $1 billion to $8.5 billion. This was a great year for organic even in light of an overall sales bump in produce, where conventional produce sales were up 10.7 percent. From 2010 to 2016, the average annual growth rate in organic food sales was 10 percent, and things had actually cooled off since then. The stay-at-home-and-cook-for-your-self era has had an enduring effect on sales, as even in the last quarter of 2020, organic produce sales were up 14.4 percent compared to 7.9 percent for conventional veggies and fruits. Finally, people learn the secrets of restaurant food: fresh ingredients, a disconcerting amount of butter, shallots, and more salt than you think.
Google parent company Alphabet will pull the plug on Loon, a project designed to offer an internet connection to remote areas through the use of cell phone towers suspended by enormous helium balloons. The project had some serious wins, delivering internet connectivity to 200,000 people in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and partnering with telecoms in Kenya and Peru. The balloons could stay afloat for 300 days, would fly 20 kilometers above Earth to get peak range and at the peak of the project Google was chucking 250 balloons into the sky per month. Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to be repeatedly refreshing eBay for “discounted aftermarket balloons,” and if you ever stop receiving Numlock just assume I scored one and I am achieving my lifelong dream of pulling a Phileas Fogg.
Point In Time
The annual Point In Time count is an effort mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development each year where communities spend a night counting up the number of people experiencing homelessness across the country. For instance, last year’s count found 568,000 homeless people in the Point In Time, but this year the count will be fundamentally different, so much so that many are questioning if there aren’t methodologically superior ways to assess experiences of homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless has long held the counts miss people in supportive housing, a figure that in 2017 was 503,000 people. This year, about 45 percent of the Continuums of Care, which are local bodies that coordinate services for people experiencing homelessness, asked permission to postpone or cancel the Point In Time count, including Seattle and Los Angeles.
The Air Force’s current plans have 76 of the B-52 bombers remaining in service until 2050 at least, when the youngest of the Cold War-era bombers will be almost 90 years old. The plane is just really, really good, and has been adaptable throughout its history, moving from an initial mission of nuclear deterrence, to dropping conventional bombs during the Vietnam War, then to air-launched cruise missiles during the Persian Gulf War, and eventually to guided bombing runs in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. Looking forward, the B-52s, B-2s and B-1Bs will be key in the Pentagon’s plans to project U.S. power in the newest strategic shift, which mostly entails countering China and Russia.
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