Numlock News: November 29, 2021 • Mascots, Maple Syrup, Sneakernet
By Walt Hickey
Last week saw two milestones on the music charts. The first is that “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100, and at 10 minutes and 13 seconds became the longest song to ever top the list. It displaces “American Pie,” the Don McLean hit that topped the charts 49 years ago, and beat it by over a minute. Both songs tell a story about a popular performer that was admired by the singer in their youth, and the disappointments endured by the singer following the ten years they’ve been on their own. The other milestone was The Weeknd’s “Blinding Light” becoming the most popular song in the history of the chart after staying in the Hot 100 for 90 weeks and the top 40 for 86 of those weeks, beating out Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.”
Cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point botched an operation to kidnap the mascot of the Naval Academy, prompting a kerfuffle between the branches. Bill the goat is the 37th in the line of goats to serve as Navy’s mascot. Over the past seventy years, Army has stolen Bill at least 10 times beginning in 1953. Navy’s got Army’s mule mascot once. Officially, mascot-stealing is forbidden following a 1992 agreement after Navy took the whole prank thing a little too far and cut phone lines and zip-tied six Army employees, but naturally, despite the official condemnation, pranks are considered decent fun. This most recent operation involved an assault on the farm in Annapolis where the 37th Bill resides along with a number of other goats; the cadets goofed, and kidnapped one of his predecessors, Bill the 34th, according to a joint statement. At press time I assume the newly-created Space Force is just begging any of the other services to acknowledge them and try to steal their mascot, Kessler The Exploding Satellite.
China’s latest statistical yearbook claims the government undercounted the number of children born in the country from 2000 to 2010 by 11.6 million, which for perspective is approximately one Belgium. In the 2010 census China reported 160.9 million children born over that period, while the latest edition revised that figure up to 172.5 million. About 57 percent of the children registered later were girls, evidence that the difference may be because of underreported births related to the one-child policy. In 2016, China allowed couples to have a second child, and today while the cap is now three children per family, there aren’t consequences for exceeding it. Despite the revisions to the policy, the number of births is expected to decline in China owing to overall demographic trends, and it’s possible the population actually begins to shrink this year.
Quebec produces 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup, but production this year wasn’t able to keep up with a 21 percent spike in maple syrup global demand, so the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers group announced they will be releasing 50 million pounds from its strategic reserve. That’s roughly half of the stockpile. The shortfall is due to a short and warm spring, which meant low yields. In order to replenish the reserves, the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers will tap an additional 7 million trees in the near future. This will prevent cascading supply chain reverberations throughout the global economy, because as we all know the favorite breakfast of Taiwanese chip manufacturers, Los Angeles longshoremen, OPEC executives and holiday retailers is flapjacks with maple syrup, so we really dodged a bullet here.
Prior to the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan was home to a thriving sneakernet. Basically, when access to the internet is spotty, it becomes more cost-effective just to load a bunch of digital media onto a hard drive and transport it physically to the person who wants that digital media. And while there are 23 million mobile phone users in a country of 39 million, as of early 2021 there were less than 9 million internet users. Locally known as “computer kars,” people who sell digital content by hand had been a staple of the local digital economy, distributing Hollywood and Bollywood films throughout the country. One kar would send a 4-terabyte hard drive to Jalalabad, have it loaded up with Indian movies and Turkish television dramas, and haul it back for somewhere between 800 and 1,000 afghanis ($8.75 to $11). That data is then sold locally, with 5 gigabytes of data flipping for around 100 afghanis, or $1.09. Business is bad, in no small part because of declining incomes and crackdowns on people who import content that the religious hardliners don’t approve of.
A spinoff of Panasonic has rolled out a $410 steam cooker that is explicitly designed to make staples like fried chicken soft enough that they can be cut apart with a potato chip without sacrificing the desired shape and form of the dish. That’s really important, as Japan has the highest proportion of people over the age of 65, and as shredded and blended foods have become necessary for lots of seniors, the new device is designed to make life easier for seniors who otherwise have to rely on nursing-care food or limited diets. The market for food for Japan’s elderly was ¥152.8 billion in 2016 and rose to ¥169.1 billion in 2019; it’s projected to beat ¥181.4 billion this year, and eclipse ¥200 billion ($1.7 billion) by 2025.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza debuted in four theaters this past weekend — two in New York and two in Los Angeles — and made $335,000 in total. That gives the new PTA movie a per-theater average (PTA) of $83,852, the highest PTA of any film in two years. The previous per-theater average king of the pandemic era was C’mon C’mon, which made $26,889 per location, beating Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, whose $1.3 million from 52 theaters meant $25,000 per location. Of moviegoers to Licorice Pizza, 72 percent were aged 18 to 34. It’s Anderson’s first film since Phantom Thread and returns to the San Fernando Valley area that Anderson previously set Magnolia and Boogie Nights.
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