Numlock News: June 21, 2021 • Canadian Belugas, Cheap Wine, Urban Gulls
By Walt Hickey
Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
The film The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, which I imagine was named by someone who hated the film and desired it to fail, made $11.6 million at the domestic box office this weekend. This will present problems for a film that cost $70 million to make and was released a week before a new Fast and Furious movie will crash into cinemas and properly kick off the summer box office season. The musical In the Heights didn’t sustain as much as hoped for a musical, falling to No. 6 with $4.3 million, down 62 percent from its opening.
The Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut recently acquired five beluga whales from Canada, and it’ll cost around $5 million a year to care for them, including $250,000 per year in food and veterinary care. The whales came down from Marineland in Niagara Falls in a C-130 cargo plane to the tune of several million, which is one reason the aquarium announced they will be auctioning off the rights to name the whales. They hope to raise $4 million at the auction, so congratulations to the inevitable cetacean named Whaley McWhaleface.
Two astronauts successfully installed and unfurled a 63-foot solar panel at the International Space Station over the course of a six and a half hour spacewalk. The solar wing is the first of five that will go to the station, with the goal of not only replacing the oldest solar wings on the ISS — 20 years of continuous operation means that they’re degrading a bit — but also to give the station a new boost in power. If the ISS is to remain in operation over the next decade as hoped, the science being done there and space tourism will require more power than before.
Traffic on the freeways of Los Angeles is slowing down, a sign that the city is returning to a sense of normalcy for better of for worse. On the northbound 5 freeway in June 2019 at 10 a.m., the average travel speed was 43 miles per hour. During the pandemic in June 2020, the reduction in congestion brought that average speed up to 61 miles per hour; today, the speeds are back down to around 40 miles per hour.
E. & J. Gallo Winery makes lots of cheap wine, and while many winemakers have struggled to compete in the box wine and Two Buck Chuck segment of the market, Gallo has done rather well for itself. Gallo sales grew 2.1 percent to $4.8 billion in 2018, and the company recently announced it would invest $423 million in a new production facility in South Carolina to grow its footprint on the East Coast. Earlier this year Gallo bought over 30 wine brands priced $11 and below — Arbor Mist, Black Box, Manischewitz and more — from Constellation Brands at the cost of $1.1 billion. Last March, wine sales spiked 60 percent, but that’s not projected to continue.
Nielsen has served as a third-party arbiter of what people watch for years, and with the shift to streaming, the analyst was forced to change the ways it measured screen time. Previously, the company scored streaming performance based on an audio-recognition tracker, and that was rebuked by the major streamers. Now, the company has begun to release data from a tracker it’s calling The Gauge, which is in 14,000 households and monitors incoming internet traffic. This has been more satisfactory for streamers, which have come to agree it’s more rigorous. The results are also pretty good for them: Nielsen reported Thursday that 64 percent of the time that people watched their television sets this past May was on network and cable television, while streaming services were about 26 percent of screen time. That would be up from 20 percent last year and 14 percent in 2019.
Gulls, which historically trawl the seas for food and are found at beaches and shorelines, have been steadily moving inland over the past several decades, with mounting evidence that gulls are becoming a species firmly lodged in urban ecosystems around the world. For instance, in Bristol in the U.K., the first gulls were recorded nesting in 1972, and by 1980 there were an estimated 100 breeding pairs in the city. Today, there are now an estimated 2,500 breeding pairs, with another 2,900 in Gloucester and 3,200 in Cardiff. The percentage of urban sites in Britain with over 100 nests of gulls increased 4 percent every decade from 1939 to 2000 when an estimated 15 percent of herring gull sites in the U.K. were in urban areas. The cause? Diminished food supply for the gulls in the sea and accumulations of garbage inland allowing the birds to eat better inland than they can in their ancestral domains.
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