Numlock News: January 4, 2023 • Circus, Chickens, Bank Robberies
By Walt Hickey
The Town Rolled Into Circus
The 80-acre community of Nipton, California, is home to a general store and 25 inhabitants, and was recently bought by Spiegelworld, a Vegas-based theater company, for $2.5 million. It’s not entirely clear how the circus’s adult-themed acrobatic performance skills lend themselves to municipal operations, but they’re giving it a solid go, removing about 250 tons of debris and setting out vague but I must admit intriguing aspirations of a circus village or sculpture park.
Varsity is a multimillion-dollar holding company owned by Bain Capital that dominates the industry surrounding cheerleading, and a key goal of that operation has been to legitimize the activity and juice up interest in professionalizing it through inclusion in events like the Olympics and organizations like the NCAA. To that end, Varsity launched and has pumped millions into the USA Federation for Sport Cheering, or USA Cheer, which oversees many aspects of the competitive sport but which critics allege is a bit of a puppet organization for the private equity-backed Varsity. According to their most recent tax return, Varsity’s loan to USA Cheer is $20,000 higher than the previous year, up to a $4.8 million balance, and USA Cheer reported a $99,000 loss on $1 million in revenue.
That’s Where The Money Isn’t
Denmark ended 2022 without recording a single bank robbery, in no small part because there are only 20 bank branches in the entire country that still bother to carry cash. Cash transactions are nearly obsolete in Denmark, replaced by cards and smartphones, and the number of bank branches period is down from 219 in 1991 to just 56 in 2021. For the past six years, cash withdrawals have shrunk by about three-quarters every year. Even ATM robberies hit zero last year as well.
Modern televisions are far cheaper than any of their forebears, one of the few things that are vastly cheaper today than they were in the year 2000. One reason is that all televisions are smart televisions, which means that their sticker price is subsidized by companies like Roku that want to guarantee their operating system is the one that operates your television and sucks up all the data in the process. Roku made $2.7 billion in 2021, 83 percent of which was “platform revenue” including ads pushed onto home screens. Another reason things got cheaper is a fascinating logistical idiosyncrasy of screen production: Television panels are usually cut out of a 10-by-11-foot sheet of glass called the “mother glass” and manufacturers have become incredibly efficient at using all of that glass over the past several years.
As of the beginning of this year, large trucks and buses made prior to 2010 are no longer allowed to operate on California roads. Diesel vehicles that weigh at least 14,000 pounds are affected, and the California Air Resources Board believes there are an estimated 200,000 vehicles in the state that haven’t yet complied, about 70,000 of which are big rig trucks. The thing is, that’s about 10 percent of the commercial motor vehicles operating in the state according to the trucking lobby, which does admittedly have its own views on the ordinance. The California DMV will, moving forward, deny registration for vehicles out of compliance.
For egg production facilities, the only kinds of chickens of interest are the female hens. To produce all those hens, though, about 7 billion male chicks born to egg-laying hens are killed shortly after birth because they are not economically viable to raise. Egg costs are up 49.1 percent year over year, and the global egg market is projected to grow 7.7 percent annually through 2027, when it will hit $159 billion. Several companies are working to minimize the fundamental cruelty inherent in producing egg-laying hens, and one of them — Huminn — has announced a success in their desire to genetically modify a hen that will produce exclusively female chicks, and one that successfully passed this trait on to those chicks as well. This is a big deal, and not just from the humanitarian side: Hens made to grow 300 eggs a year have to draw on their own bones to get calcium to make that many egg shells, and by improving the ratio of viable chicks from 50 percent to 100 percent some of the issues in the industry are resolved.
The Great Basin of the U.S. covers areas from Oregon to Nevada and California to Idaho, which historically was home to native sagebrush and shrubs. A recent study sought to use Landsat satellite imagery taken every year from 1990 to 2020 over three areas of the Great Basin to figure out how much of that stuff was the bona fide article. It found that several types of exotic grasses — cheatgrass, red brome and medusahead — are expanding at remarkable rates, expanding territory by 2,300 square kilometers a year. The exotic species now account for 77,617 square kilometers of the Great Basin, or something like 19.8 percent of the area historically covered by sagebrush and shrubland.
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