Numlock News: January 28, 2019
By Walt Hickey
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Walmart is giving its 8,000 truck drivers a $1,500 annual pay hike in its attempt to retain and recruit a further 900 drivers. A shortage of drivers nationwide means that it’s increasingly necessary to pay up to ensure that Walmart’s 65,000 trailer fleet connecting its 4,700 stores stays in motion. That’s why in February, Walmart will increase their pay an additional one cent per mile to 89 cents per mile to an average $87,500 per year. Median pay for tractor-trailer drivers was $42,000 last year.
The price of a stamp is increasing 10 percent, with the cost of a single letter going up from 50 cents to 55 cents. The price hike takes effect as of yesterday, so, whoops. The USPS experienced a $4 billion loss in 2018, as even though sales from shipping and packages rose 10 percent, the compensation and transportation costs went up more. The notion of the Forever stamp was introduced in 2007 for 41 cents.
It turns out when you parachute a bunch of app-enabled electric scooters into a city and don’t do anything to verify users’ capacity to ride them, many people will use those scooters to injure themselves really badly. A first-of-its-kind study of 249 patients in two Southern California ERs over the course of about a year is the first to illuminate the bold future of stupid scooter-related pain. The average person injured was 34 years old and 58 percent were male, which, yup, sounds about right. All told 40 percent had a head injury (less than 5 percent wore a helmet) and almost 32 percent broke a bone. And what calamity transpired to maim these mostly men? It’s super boring: 80 percent of them just slipped and fell off the scooter.
StarCraft II is a complicated war game that requires hundreds of strategic and operational decisions to command an army to vanquish an adversary. Inexplicably, Google thought it would be a good idea to try to get an AI really good at these skills and use that AI to demonstrate its superiority over a human player. AlphaStar, the AI, beat the pros 10 out of 11 games, a commanding victory. To train, the pros spent a lifetime getting good at a video game, while AlphaStar crammed in 200 years worth of playing StarCraft into about a real-time week.
A University of Chicago study conducted in 2014 estimated half of Americans endorsed at least one conspiracy theory. By November 2018, that same study rose to 61 percent. And while that would be fine, if kooky, if it was one of those run-of-the-mill conspiracy theories — like the rigged 1985 NBA draft lottery, or that new Coke was introduced to make people yearn for old Coke, or DC traffic patterns are badly designed on purpose to make it harder to invade, or that weird Beatles theory that John Lennon is dead, or the one with Neutral Milk Hotel and the time machine, you know what I mean — but typically that growth has really benefited the “heinous and disgraceful” type of conspiracy theory that is more linked to “bullying victims” than “if you fold a dollar this weird way you can see a butt.”
According to 135 pages of unsealed documents related to a lawsuit against Facebook for targeting kids playing games as sources of revenue, the online gaming marketplace for Facebook has serious issues. The gist of the allegations is that Facebook not only knew but encouraged kids to spend their parents’ money and did nothing to stop it. The average charge back rate for a legitimate business is 0.5 percent. A charge back rate of 1 percent is high, and enough for Visa or Mastercard to put a business on probation. The FTC has said that a 2 percent charge back rate is a red flag for deceptive business practices. Based on data Facebook collected, children spent $3.6 million Oct. 12 2010 through Jan 12 2011. But more than 9 percent of the money it made had been clawed back by credit card companies after parents were furious to find Facebook let their kids charge a fortune to the account. It was enough to make the Angry Birds people — the Angry Birds people! — worried that this business may not be a particularly reliable one.
If you’re reading this on a phone, pause and take a second to think about what your neck is doing right now. When your neck is bent 45 degrees forward, you put a weight of about 22 kilograms on the spine. That’s five times the pressure considered normal, and over the course of a year the average smartphone user may rack up an additional 1,000 to 1,400 hours of pressure.
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