Numlock News: July 23, 2019 • Chocolate, Ticket Fees, Ice Buckets
By Walt Hickey
“Old Town Road” has hit 16 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, meaning that Lil Nas X has successfully tied the current record. “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men and “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi currently share the record. Thus far the song has been resilient against many threats, including two songs from Taylor Swift, two songs from Shawn Mendez, and a song by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, all of which debuted at number two on the chart. Swift has a reputation as a streak slayer, personally ending the “Despacito” hegemony of 2017 with her single “Look What You Made Me Do.”
There were 14,613 golf courses in the United States in 2018, down from 16,052 in the heyday of 2005. That might be an issue for the golfers, but, in fact, their number has declined 20 percent since 2003, so this is a situation where supply is meeting demand. There are still some who see this as a real double bogey, namely the people who bought homes or condos on the sides of active golf courses and kind of expected it to stay that way. When a golf course tanks, besides a zoning angel getting its wings, property values can fall 25 percent around the course, and up to 40 percent if it hits the courts. The legal courts that is, not the squash ones next to the old clubhouse.
Nestle has created a new 70 percent dark chocolate that has 40 percent less sugar than equivalent bars. That’s actually secondary to the original goal of the special bar, which uses leftover material from cocoa plants — specifically the white pulp that surrounds the cocoa beans — to extract the natural sugar existing in the plant itself. A KitKat made out of the new formulation will be sold in Japan this fall. Typically the non-bean cocoa content is tossed, but with this new formulation the pulp can go to the common people.
Metallica and LiveNation have been linked to a ticket-reselling scheme where a portion of the band’s tickets on a tour — some VIP, some harder to sell — were allocated to the ticket resale market rather than going directly to consumers through a sale. The 4,400 tickets per show over 20 dates didn’t actually end up leading to an enormous profit, but nevertheless indicate that every complaint you have about the ticket resale market is grounded, at least somewhat in reality. A Government Accountability Office study found the average ticket fee constitutes 27 percent of a ticket’s face value, which is pretty much a disgrace.
Equifax, a company that leaked an enormous amount of data from people who had no desire to give them data in the first place, will pay at minimum $700 million to settle a number of lawsuits over the 2017 data breach that exposed half of American’s Social Security numbers. They’ll pay $425 million in relief directly to “customers” — a term the company liberally throws around to describe those it non-consensually built dossiers on for the purposes of credit allocation — and a $100 million civil penalty. If all 147 million victims sign up for credit monitoring, Equifax could owe up to $2 billion more, so don’t hesitate to treat yourself to a little extra peace of mind on their dime.
Game development is unstable at this point, with a current industry paradigm that’s causing serious problems for developers and an uncertain future ahead. For a state of play, consider that between EA, Ubisoft and Activision, the release slate has slimmed down from 98 combined games released in 2008 compared to just 28 in 2018. Sure, downloadable content is adding money on top of that initial sale, but the margins are thin and flops are now corporate catastrophes rather that black eyes. The future is also hard: even as gaming moves to the cloud, the energy involved has costs of its own. A federal estimate has data centers in the U.S. consuming 1.8 percent of all energy used, with smaller data centers consuming 60 percent of that.
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Several years ago, the virality genie emerged from its bottle and decided that the ALS Association would get $115 million because of an ice bucket challenge. As with any lotto winner, that kind of nearly instantaneous good fortune can be perilous for any charity, but a new report looking at how precisely they used the funds shows that it wasn’t a cursed chalice, just a regular one. About $80 million went to finding research regarding ALS, an affliction that destroys neurons related to movement, though it’s not particularly clear that will translate to a sustained investment. Still, the good news is the challenge put them on the map, giving-wise: the number of mid-level and major donors is up 40 percent since 2014.
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