Numlock News: May 23, 2023 • Transformers, QR Code, Country Music
By Walt Hickey
China is attempting to address a massive amount of hidden debt taken on by local governments. The amount of on-the-books debts for local governments is 35 trillion yuan as of 2022, according to the IMF, but there’s an ocean of debt in the form of local government financing vehicles — much of which are held by insurance companies and banks — and in public-private partnerships, and other off-the-book debts. The estimates for the off-books debt vary, but China Chengxin International Credit Rating Co. puts it at 52 trillion yuan to 58 trillion yuan, meaning that over 1.5 times as much of the debt isn’t on the books. With land sales — the main way local municipalities make money — in decline, that’s an issue.
Yu Hairong, Cheng Siwei, Zhang Yuzhe and Han Wei, Caixin Global
Most U.S. carriers offer voicemail, but despite the existence of phones with literally hundreds of gigabytes of storage space, inexplicably even the most generous telecoms max out at 40 messages per user. This would seem to fly in the face of innovation, but is a bit of a technical drag to expand for the carriers, as having a large amount of voicemails can degrade performance. In the earliest days of voicemail tech, it could cost 10 cents to store a voicemail for 24 hours. Obviously, the figure today is vastly smaller, but the momentum persists.
Caroline Mimbs Nyce, The Atlantic
A report made to the National Response Center for railroad incidents reports that a railcar full of 60,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate left Wyoming on April 12 and, after a two-week journey, arrived to California empty. This is not great, as ammonium nitrate, primarily used as a fertilizer, is also a key component in improvised bombs that have been used in attacks before, so 30 tons of it going missing is not really an ideal situation. Given that the seals were still intact upon arrival in Saltdale, the initial assessment is that there was a leak in the bottom gate of the rail car.
Julianne McShane and Andrew Blankstein, NBC News
Songs by women account for just 11 percent of total plays on country music radio in 2022, but what’s odd is that it’s incredibly rare to hear two songs back to back that are sung by women on country music radio. Even at 11 percent of the spins, over the course of a day you’d still expect to have 30 to 40 back-to-back songs by women. In fact, over the course of one analysis of 19 dates of country radio, that averaged out to closer to three, with just 64 out of 6,474 songs (0.99 percent) back-to-back songs by women.
Jan Diehm, Jada Watson and Sara Stoudt, The Pudding
QR code menus are going out of style in restaurants, with the menu management software MustHaveMenus reporting that from April 1 to May 16, the total number of menu scans is down 27 percent compared to the same period of 2021. Roughly 75 percent of the existing QR codes are dormant, getting less than 90 views per year, and half of the QR menus get less than five clicks a year. The one area of QR menus that is not on the decline are the dynamic menus that let diners order and pay directly from their phone, which according to Menu Tiger grew 37.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Amelia Nierenberg, The New York Times
More Than Meets The Eye
The United States imports 35 percent of its electrical transformers, the equipment that is utterly necessary for repairing, improving and expanding the electrical grid. When it comes to the large power transformers that are essential to the grid, you’re talking 80 percent. There’s a shortage of the equipment, with some wait times for transformers that once took weeks to procure now up to over a year, with prices also up; one Tennessee utility reported that transformers that used to cost $2,400 are now up to $24,000.
Alexander C. Kaufman, HuffPost
The Oakland A’s are terrible this year, losing 38 of their first 48 games. This is very nearly the pace that the 1962 New York Mets, the worst team of baseball’s modern era, were on when they dropped 36 of their first 48 games and eventually went on to lose 120 games with a .250 winning percentage. This poises the A’s for an ignominious place in history if the year continues apace. An analysis simulating 50 million seasons of the rest of the year projects that Oakland has a 5.2 percent chance of losing at least 120 games, and furthermore has a 2.5 percent chance of landing at a .250 winning percentage. That may seem low, but the models don’t factor in the trade deadline and the possibility that the A’s will unload their more competent players and make their roster even worse.
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