Numlock News: November 29, 2023 • Whisky, Geothermal, Dollhouses
By Walt Hickey
Hey, here’s a really fun interview I did about the book for Author Talks.
Everyone was delighted when a painting that was bought for $4 in a thrift store turned out to be a valuable illustration by N.C. Wyeth, one that immediately sent a tizzy through the art market and sold at a Bonhams auction for $191,000 in September. Except it didn’t; it turns out the buyer bailed. The bidding opened at $150,000 for the painting, and someone with paddle 6073 bid on it immediately. Then, nobody else bid on it, and the painting was sold for the opening bid, which after buyers premium sent the price to $191,000. The buyer had 35 days to pay up, and did not, and declined to pay. When Bonhams offered to put the work up for a private sale, the sellers bailed, so the painting technically remains valued at $4 still.
A new geothermal energy project executed by Fervo and funded by Google is operational in Nevada. Globally, data centers account for 1 percent of global electricity consumption, and Google’s got lots of them, so it wants to get that energy from clean sources and geothermal has a great deal of promise. The project has the capacity to generate 3.5 MW of power, and will supply electricity to Google’s data centers near Vegas and Reno. The project involved drilling two horizontal wells, pumping cold water through fractures in the rock, and then generating steam up at the surface, a closed-loop which is rather handy in the desert.
Is it Whiskey?
A trustee at Blair Castle in Scotland found 40 bottles of whisky stowed away behind some Christmas decorations in 2022, with placards claiming the whisky was distilled in 1833, bottled in 1841 and rebottled in 1932. The roughly 40 bottles are now up for auction at Whisky Auctioneer, and they’re the subject of no end of speculation and controversy. It’s extremely difficult to actually date the liquid inside the bottles, so the original claim that the booze was from 1833 on the money has since been softened to “if the whisky was distilled in the 1830s” and the claim that it’s the oldest Scotch is now a “potentially” situation. Carbon dating is a bit too crude to put an exact date on it, and while Blair Castle is pretty good about recordkeeping, the alcohol is just unlabeled. We do know it is, indeed, whisky: The good people at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute assessed that it’s got a good probability of being produced in the manner of the good stuff. I am rather distressed, though, that an independent assessment from the Numlock Institute of Advanced Whiskey Exploration has not been procured.
The country of Sri Lanka is home to about 300 IT companies, and they’re a big component of the economy. That economy has been seriously volatile, and the economic crisis has devalued the currency substantially. The Sri Lankan rupee declined 45 percent compared to the dollar between February and May of 2022 alone. As a result, a perk many of those IT companies are offering is to fully or partially pay their employees in foreign currencies, particularly U.S. dollars, which is possible because in many cases lots of their customers are overseas businesses paying in dollars or euros anyway. According to a local jobs database, at least 192 of those tech companies now offer to pay in foreign currencies.
Over the past year, federal investment into clean energy has been ramping up thanks to the infrastructure bill and Inflation Reduction Act, and some areas are getting disproportionate shares of that investment. For instance, while 38 percent of people in the country as a whole live in low-income communities, those communities are getting 41 percent of the investment so far, slightly higher than what we’d anticipate. But one of the areas getting the most investment to install and expand clean energy is former coal, oil and gas communities: While just 18.6 percent of the country lives in former carbon country, 36 percent of the investment has gone there, including 56 percent of investments in wind power and 42 percent of investments in solar.
The dollhouse hobby saw a surge in interest during the pandemic that has not stopped since, with the construction, decoration and maintenance of models apparently being one of the COVID-era hobbies that has real staying power. For some it’s a creative outlet, for others an opportunity to fantasize what it would have been like to be one of those millennials that got a 2.6 percent fixed rate 30-year mortgage, but nevertheless interest is up: On Etsy, which touts a half-million listings for dollhouses and accessories, searches for dollhouse kits are up 29 percent from a year ago, and searches for miniature furniture are up 22 percent.
Lots of companies are trying to figure out ways to trap carbon at scale, all so that they can sell that sequestered carbon to companies like airlines so that the airlines don’t have to actually bother cutting emissions. The carbon credits are valuable, and there are lots of different angles. Some are large fans that suck in air, separate out carbon, and push it into the ground. That’ll cost around $675 per metric ton. One alternative being tried out comes from a company called Graphyte, which is going to charge American Airlines $100 per ton to sequester away 10,000 metric tons of carbon. They plan to do it by collecting carbon-heavy waste from timber mills and rice milling operations and then making them into bricks of biomass that are then buried in the ground. It’s aiming to make 140 pallets of blocks per day, good for 50,000 metric tons of carbon per year, by July. While that’s about the equivalent of 10,000 gas-powered cars, American emitted 35 million metric tons of carbon last year.
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