Numlock News: July 11, 2022 • Vegas, Avgas, Cheatgrass
By Walt Hickey
Thor: Love and Thunder, a film in which the god of hammers takes on an extremely motivated atheist, opened to $143 million domestically and another $159 million overseas to log a global opening weekend of $302 million. This continues the trend in which the Thor films have progressively grown their opening weekend box office, with Thor making $65.7 million in 2011, Thor: The Dark World making $85.7 million in 2013, and Thor: Ragnarok making $122.7 million in 2017.
While most lead was removed from gasoline several decades ago in the United States, it’s still a component in avgas, which is the fuel used for propeller planes. However, at small airports around the country, neighbors are beginning to oppose the availability of leaded fuel, and as a result some counties are beginning to ban it. In general, consumption of avgas — which is different than the jet fuel used in commercial aviation, which doesn’t have lead — is on the downturn, slipping to 12,000 barrels a day down from a recent high of 32,000 barrels a day in 1986. That’s mostly due to fading interest in general aviation, or just flying for individual purposes.
Ulster County in New York is holding its second annual design competition for the countywide voting sticker that will be given out to voters in the November 8, 2022, General Election. Eight finalists from the county aged 13 to 18 have submitted their designs for a sticker, and in their infinite wisdom Ulster has decided to make this an internet vote. That means that, as of last night, the leading entry with some 153,800 votes and a landslide majority of the share is a completely deranged and maniacal grinning spider with a human head and bloodshot eyes screeching “I VOTED” submitted by a 14-year-old from Marbletown. It’s magnificent.
Baby formula is still scarce in some states, with the latest nationwide in-stock figure for baby formula hitting around 70 percent, down from 90 percent in February before the closure of the Abbott Laboratories factory. The shortage is especially acute in Alaska, which has a 51 percent in-stock rate, and Utah and Wyoming, which each have about a 57 percent in-stock rate. The situation is best in New York, where supply is at 81 percent. Powdered formula, which is 80 percent of the $5 billion baby formula market, is specifically affected by the shortages.
One factor exacerbating the wildfire situation in the American West is the spread of cheatgrass, a non-native species of grass that when it becomes dominant can double the risk of fire. The native flora of the West — bunch grasses and shrubs — slow the spread of fire, as they’re separated from their peers, while cheatgrass essentially sets up a continuous field of flammable vegetation that burns indefinitely. One solution that managers have pursued is to lure in cows with tanks of protein supplements, and in initial testing one study found it’s pretty effective: In areas where grazers came in in Nevada, cheatgrass was reduced by over 60 percent.
Jimmy Buffett has successfully transitioned from musician to successful lifestyle brand, with the current state of the Margaritaville slate of hotels and resorts now hitting 33 open facilities, as well as 150 bars and restaurants in a business that in 2019 generated something like $1.5 billion in sales. Yes, the singer responsible for constructing a lyrical aesthetic of chilling out and calming down has also orchestrated the construction of an unparalleled hospitality empire the likes of which the industry has rarely seen, a modern-day Conrad Hilton in flip flops. Indeed, it’s become a bit of a model for other artists with dedicated fandoms attempting to tap into a third-act in the travel business, which I mention only so you’re not shocked when you hear about, and I’m just spitballing here, The Hotel California, Sam’s Town Resort and Casino, Old Town Road-house and Grille, or my favorite, the Best Ever Death Metal Club Out Of Denton.
Late in May the Licensing Expo was held in Las Vegas, which is where the sausage gets made in the intellectual property licensing business, where the rights to both fictional characters as well as the likenesses of actual people are bought by and sold to people who make toys, bobbleheads, slot machines, anything that you can stamp a face on and make a couple extra bucks. In 2019 branded products were a $292.8 billion business worldwide, up 4.5 percent year over year. Branded products command a premium, with one study finding that the average licensed item is 32.9 percent more expensive than an equivalent without a Minion or Elvis or Iron Man or Tyrion Lannister or Shrek stamped on the front. Even things like frozen food — the TGI Fridays appetizers sold in supermarkets are actually made by Kraft Heinz and the TGI Fridays name is just licensed — is in on the action. To illustrate how significant slapping Wheel of Fortune or Crazy Rich Asians on a slot machine can be, one slot machine company manager said the I.P. branded slots could generate 10 times as much as the unbranded machines on a given day.
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