Numlock News: November 4, 2021 • Nintendo, St. Louis Rams, Whale Diets
By Walt Hickey
Come Fly With Me
With kids as young as 5 now approved for a Covid-19 vaccine in the United States, one of the final factors holding back the rebound of the travel and aviation sector will soon fall away for many parents. According to the most recent U.S. Family Travel Survey, 44 percent of respondents took a trip in 2020, which was far less than the 70 percent of families in 2019, and 36 percent of them chose a destination they could drive to rather than braving the skies. With kids scheduled for shots, holiday travel by air and cross-country trips will be back on the menu, and providers are excited. Never thought I’d see the day when a kid having a meltdown on a plane is downright music to my ears, but here we are.
Nintendo will produce about 24 million units of the Switch this fiscal year through March, an expectation that’s 20 percent lower than the original plan for the company. The company had at one point planned to produce 30 million of the Switch units, especially given that the console was a huge hit in 2020. In September, however, the supply crunch led to a 37 percent decline in Switch sales, with just 214,000 units shipped. The company is no stranger to economic and supply chain issues: the colossal flop of Tom Nook’s iBuying homes business, the rampant coin inflation caused by Mario Party’s “Happening Star,” when Mario sold all the Karts at the height of the pandemic and now has to deal with the used kart market, Luigi’s mansion being significantly underwater on its mortgage — all of this has been endured.
Google uses at least 2.3 billion gallons of water, but the number could very well be higher because of a lack of transparency about how much water in counties where their data centers are based is used for cooling. In The Dalles, Oregon, the city council will soon vote on a plan for the water usage for one of their new facilities, but neither they nor Google will divulge the dent, and the councilors will be bound by a nondisclosure agreement. One study found that a fifth of data centers are located in places where their water comes from moderately to highly stressed watershed.
In 2017, St. Louis’s city and county governments sued the NFL and its franchises over what they said was Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s failure to negotiate in good faith and remain in St. Louis rather than up and moving the team to Los Angeles. Next January, that trial begins, and the surprising thing is a new report that Kroenke might not honor the indemnification deal he has with the league, where he’d personally foot the bill for the legal expenses of the league and teams. A loss in court might result in $1 billion civil judgement, citing a $550 million relocation fee and the additional profits the Rams reaped by getting the heck out of Dodge for the green pastures of Californ-i-a.
The Federal Trade Commission sent $60 million to 140,000 Amazon drivers who were bilked out of the funds from 2016 to 2019, when the FTC says Amazon Flex secretly kept drivers’ tips. The business practice only stopped after the FTC investigated, but the funds were slow to get to drivers. The FTC is sending 139,507 checks and 1,621 PayPal payments to the ripped-off drivers; the average amount per driver is $422 in stolen tips, but one poor driver got ripped off to the tune of $28,000. There were 19,980 drivers ripped off at least $600.
The Maw of the Sea
A new study drastically ups our understanding of the diet of whales. The whales could not be a more important part of the ecosystem: in addition to eating a ton of organic matter, when they excrete it they spread nutrients throughout the whole marine ecosystem, sort of the Robin Hoods of underwater nutrients. A researcher tagged 321 baleen whales from 2010 to 2019 and found that a blue whale in the North Pacific eats 10 to 22 tonnes of krill a day, a figure delightfully related to 71,000 Big Macs. Baleen whales were found to eat around three times as much as previously understood, which is just another argument for restoring populations to pre-industrial whaling levels to benefit their ecosystems.
Public health labs were among the most essential scientific sites throughout the pandemic, and in California the state is losing an entire class of staffers to retirement, harassment and exhaustion. These are the labs that test food safety, test for infectious diseases like tuberculosis and HIV, and cover a host of specific tests it’s not feasible for a commercial lab to field. With starting pay at $19 per hour and a doctorate requirement for public lab directors, the conditions are less feasible than before the pandemic. Before the 2008 recession, California had 40 public health labs and today they’re down to 29, and many of those are operating without senior leadership.
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