Numlock News: November 18, 2022 • Pirates, Railroads, Walt Disney World
By Walt Hickey
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Disney announced that the price of magic is poised to increase nearly 20 percent owing to difficulties in the magic supply chain as well as a substantial quantity of magic being held up in the Port of Los Angeles, in addition to magic-producing regions seeing higher costs amid pandemic-related lockdowns and rising costs of miners for the raw magical components. Wait, sorry, I just fell into supply chain story autopilot there: Disney is just jacking up the price of tickets to their theme parks because they feel like it. Prices for the priciest tickets at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios will jump from $159 to $189 and the Park Hopper option, which currently costs $65 per person, will now vary in cost by day based on demand. The annual pass — the Incredi-Pass — will also now cost $1,399 instead of $1,299.
The FAA has brought civil charges against illegal charter flight companies in 24 cases since 2018, 15 of which have happened since 2021, which has led to the agency seeking over $21 million in fines. By comparison, the agency only brought four cases worth $427,700 in fines from 2015 to 2017. They’re targeting private plane companies that offer charter flights but aren’t actually legally operating as charter operators. There are some 2,000 charter operators in the U.S., and 4,400 of their aircraft are jets or turboprops. Meanwhile, there are an additional 25,000 jets or turboprops owned privately in the United States, and some of those operators will fly under-the-table charter flights for customers. These operators can undercut the prices of legit operators by avoiding the 7.5 percent excise tax on charter flights and by skirting safety standards for charter operators.
Two men were arrested in Argentina at the request of the U.S. government over allegations they operated Z-Library, an e-book piracy site that became particularly infamous over the vast trove of textbooks they maintained. The site had 11 million e-books on it, and the government seized some 249 web domains to spike access to the service. While it’s still available on the dark web, the move effectively kills the service for many users who have not already illegally pirated the epubs of Principles of Dark Web Economics and O’Reilly: Learning Tor, 5th Edition. One reason for the crackdown is that the site blew up on TikTok, with the #zlibrary hashtag accumulating some 19 million views.
The two largest rail unions in the United States — which represent 60,000 engineers and train conductors — are voting now on a deal to avoid a strike. The deal as it stands gives workers a 24 percent raise over five years, an additional personal day and some modifications to attendance policies, but many rail workers think that falls far short of what they want, which includes such basics as paid sick days and health care premium cost controls. There are 12 unions that have to approve the deal, and if any one doesn’t and moves to strike all of them will follow suit. The strike or lockout could come as early as December 9. Right now seven of the unions ratified it, while three others have voted it down. Results are expected for the unions currently voting next week.
Ticketmaster, arguably the least popular monopoly in the United States with some 70 percent of the ticket market, invited the ire of a legion of Swifties this week by botching the rollout of the sale for Taylor Swift’s “The Eras” tour. During Wednesday’s presale, Ticketmaster claimed that 15 percent of interactions on their site experienced issues, and at the end of the day Swift sold 2 million tickets, a record. This process happened to the consternation of the artist’s devoted fans, and followed a Tuesday fiasco where the site crashed repeatedly, forcing a delay of the sale by a day. Ticketmaster followed this cock-up by announcing Thursday that they would cancel the rest of the sale, alienating a fanbase so devoted even K-pop armies fear to cross them. Ticketmaster said 3.5 million people pre-registered for the sale, of whom 2 million were waitlisted and now likely screwed. Given the unique manner in which Swifties handle grudges and beefs, good luck to this extremely doomed firm.
The Asian longhorned tick was first discovered in the United States in 2017, and with it comes theileria, a malaria relative that is affecting livestock all around the world. In Australia, the disease has spread since 2012 and affects a quarter of the cattle there, costing the beef industry an estimated $19.6 million a year. Japan and Korea experience a combined loss of $100 million annually. While New Zealand has avoided the worst of it because their cows calve in the spring, in the U.S. where they calve all year round the disease could cause serious problems. The tick has been found in 17 states in the U.S., vaccines are years away, and tracking it is costly, as a blood test costs $50, while the intention is to get that down to $5 to $10.
Cement making contributes 8 percent to global CO2 emissions, and the hope is to get that down to zero. About 40 percent of those emissions come from the heat necessary to produce the chemical reaction that turns limestone into quicklime clinker, which needs to peak at 1,450 degrees Celsius. The most compelling contender for that is hydrogen, which burns at over 2,000 degrees Celsius, or other strategies like plasma torches. The especially difficult part is the other 60 percent, which is CO2 that’s released by the limestone as it becomes quicklime. One strategy to cut those emissions by 10 percent is to add in unbaked limestone to the final product, while another reuses fly ash from coal-fired plants to cut emissions down 15 percent to 20 percent, but the real target is to develop new recipes for alternative cements that cut down on the calcium carbonate to begin with.
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