Numlock News: June 2, 2023 • Etruscans, Stitches, Steaks
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
The knitting scene has been rocked by the collapse of XRX Inc., which has run the biggest American knitting events, Stitches, for the past 30 years. As recently as April and May, XRX was reaching out to shops — mostly small businesses and mostly owned by women — to pony up the $895 fee to register for the coming Minneapolis event in August as well as events through as far as 2025. The company has since ghosted all those stakeholders, the instructors it hires to host Zoom workshops, and vendors, many to the tune of thousands of dollars. The announcement came as a shock on May 15 when the company cancelled all future events and announced its parent company was dissolving, with creditors encouraged to await contact from attorneys. I fear they may not have thought this entirely through, because if there’s one group of people I would not want seeking vengeance upon me, it’s patient people adept at weaving intricate plans and gradually executing them over the course of months, if not years.
The San Diego Padres are due $52 million this year from Diamond Sports Group in return for the right to broadcast their games on their Bally’s regional sports network. This money is one reason that the small market Padres were able to sign a talented group of players with a payroll of $250 million this year in their quest for the playoffs. The issue is, this week Diamond Sports Group declined to make a payment to the Padres, as they’re going through Chapter 11. The missed payment was supposed to be $12 million to $13 million, and the Padres have since terminated its contract with Diamond. The league said it will provide emergency backstop funding to ensure the teams get 80 percent of the contract if Diamond can’t pay up.
Australia has 190,000 poker machines scattered in thousands of clubs and pubs, which cost their users an aggregate A$15 billion ($9.9 billion USD) per year in direct losses. It's one of the most gambling-heavy countries in the world, with 40 percent of Australians gambling weekly, and 1.6 million at risk of a gambling problem. Pubs can have a maximum of 30 machines, but reap an average of A$75,000 per machine per year, significantly more than the A$34,000 per machine per year found in the kind of sports clubs where machines can number into the hundreds. With a new government taking over that intends to take on the industry, the load-up limit per machine is planned to drop from A$5,000 to A$500 per machine.
After the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, when 40 million liters of crude was pumped into Prince William Sound, people have sought to track the coastal recovery. During cleanup, NOAA crews power-washed oil off shorelines, but in doing so also stripped off marine life, so the question became which is better long-term, leaving the oil on or cleaning it off. To answer that, dozens of areas were left oiled, including a rock the size of a car called Mearns Rock, and over the following decades scientists went back and photographed them to see how they recovered — or didn’t — over the years. The NOAA funding dried up in 2012, but volunteers have picked up the slack since, and to this day people continue to add to the photo collection. As a result, we now have 33 images of Mearns Rock over the course of decades, showing that first came rockweed, then mussels a few years later, then barnacles few years after that, and in 2022 rockweed once again. Besides showing how an ecosystem recovers, the collection also shows year-to-year variation in coastal ecology.
It Belongs In A Museum
Italy has recovered 750 artifacts worth €12 million after winning a 17-year legal fight against a British antiquities dealer. The artifacts range from the eighth century B.C. all the way to the medieval period, best known on the peninsula as "il good old days." The artifacts were looted out of central and southern Italy and stemmed from the discovery of 45 crates of stolen Greek, Roman and Etruscan objects squirreled away in the Geneva Freeport in 2016. A further 71 objects located in warehouses in the U.S. will be returned to Italy in coming days, and Greece secured the return of 350 Neolithic and Byzantine objects linked to the antiquities dealer last month.
The beef business is operating on tight margins right now, with the price of ground beef up over 20 percent since 2020 to $5.33 a pound. Not coincidentally, a drought has pushed the price of supplemental feeds like alfalfa and hay up 20 percent year over year, so right now it's ranchers in the wet parts of the country that are doing great while ranchers in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas are getting hosed. In 2022, it cost $698 in operating costs to raise a cow, over $100 more than in 2021, while the profit margin for ranchers is down to a razor-thin $12 per cow. As recently as 2015, that profit margin was nearly $400.
Hurricane season officially started Thursday, and NOAA's forecast for this year is pretty much normal. The federal government forecasted between 12 and 17 named storms, five to nine of which could become hurricanes with one to four of those being category 3, 4 or 5 storms. Even average years can be punishing, with 2022 a great example, as the average hurricane season still drove Category 5 Hurricane Ian into southwest Florida and caused $114 billion in damages, the third-highest on record.
This week in the Sunday edition I was joined by Jan Diehm, who wrote “Country music is powered by women like Carrie Underwood and Maren Morris, but even they are barely played back-to-back” for The Pudding. It reveals a dark truth about the country music radio business, including unwritten and written rules enshrining misogyny in the policies, all told in a brilliant data story. It’s eye-opening and well worth a full read. Diehm can be found at The Pudding, as well as on Twitter and on Instagram.
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