Numlock News: July 19, 2023 • Taco Tuesday, Sea Turtles, Sumitomo
By Walt Hickey
Taco John’s, which holds the trademark for the phrase “Taco Tuesday” in every state but New Jersey, has capitulated to the forces of Taco Bell owner Yum Brands Incorporated and will give up defending the trademark. The shop, with 400 restaurants in over 20 states, ceded after it became clear that the legal expenses required to go toe-to-toe with Taco Bell would be unrealistic and could cost them $1 million. Taco John’s will instead donate $40,000 that would have gone toward contesting the suit to a nonprofit group that supports people in the restaurant industry. While the rest of the country falls to the legal machinations of fast food mega corporations, New Jersey’s Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar, which has the trademark for Taco Tuesday in New Jersey, still stands defiant.
Green sea turtles in the Mediterranean tend to visit the same areas of sea grass every year, often with extreme specificity. Sometimes sea turtles will visit the same patch of grass no larger than 50 square meters in order to feed, a deliberate locational choice. A new study found that this kind of tradition goes back millennia; researchers collected sea turtle bones found at Bronze and Iron Age sites that ranged from 4,700 to 2,700 years old, identified the species, and found that the turtles of today graze in the very same seagrass meadows that those turtles did. It’s a charming story, unless you’re a sea grass — in that case, it’s a terrifying story of an unrelenting fleet of armored gods who for thousands of years has systematically and specifically journeyed to your home to Feast.
Three years ago, a Swedish state-owned company started taking a closer look at some rare-earth deposits that had been known to exist since the ‘60s. Rare earths are a hot commodity right now as the elements are integral for electronic systems, weapons, and many green technologies, and China controls essentially the entire market for them. The lead turned out to be a literal bonanza: an estimated 1.3 million metric tons of rare earths outside of Kiruna, Sweden, a motherlode 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle and the largest known deposit in Europe. It comes at a critical time, as many Western companies seek to diversify their supply chains out of Russia and China amid increasing geopolitical hostilities.
Surat is a city in India about 150 miles north of Mumbai, known around the world predominantly for the reason that 90 percent of the world’s diamonds are cut there after being mined in Russia or Africa. This led to the construction of a colossal office complex, the newly opened Surat Diamond Bourse, which is home to 65,000 diamond cutters, polishers and traders in 4,700 office spaces in an interconnected 15-story complex across 35 acres. According to the architects it’s got 7.1 million square feet of floor space, which would mean it surpasses the Pentagon as the largest office building in the world.
My Time To Fly
Every day, Amazon Connect handles around 10 million calls a day on behalf of a wide-ranging number of companies — airlines, banks and more — who operate their call centers through the service, and every day many of those people listen to a jazzy number called “My Time To Fly.” Originally released on the eponymous 2011 album by Harriet Goldberg with lyrics but eventually rerecorded without words, in 2017 Amazon selected it for Amazon Connect in exchange for a one-time buyout licensing agreement for perpetuity in exchange for a four-figure flat fee. Beyond that, though, the song has accumulated some fans, and is apparently actually rather big in Japan.
Researchers from Vanderbilt University teamed up with the state Department of Transportation to install 294 high-resolution cameras in groups of six elevated 110 feet off the ground along a four-mile stretch of Interstate 24, with the goal of getting an unprecedented look at traffic dynamics on the stretch of road. Of particular interest is the concept of the “phantom traffic jam,” the observed phenomenon where traffic slows considerably for absolutely no discernible reason beyond the group dynamics of drivers on the road. That area of I-24 gets 150,000 vehicles a day, and will produce millions of vehicle-miles’ worth of data with a precision never before accomplished. They’ll have plenty of data: Over a three-hour period in the morning, 20 such phantom traffic jam waves hit the stretch.
Japan’s workforce is aging, and some companies have taken the step of hiking up their retirement ages. Sumitomo Chemical, one of Japan’s massive corporations, announced that starting next April it will gradually hike its retirement age to 65 from the current age of 60, which is standard in Japan. Right now, Sumitomo allows employees 60 and over to reapply for their jobs, and if they got it they’d be hired back at 40 percent to 50 percent of their previous salary. As such, only about 3 percent of Sumitomo Chemical employees are 60 or older, a level projected to rise to 17 percent within a decade.
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