Numlock News: November 5, 2021 • Starbucks Monstrosities, Avocados, CoComelon
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
UPS has a unionized workforce, and FedEx does not. That’s actually been a huge boon for UPS during the labor force disruptions seen this year, even though they pay the unionized drivers the most in the industry. The labor shortage hasn’t had much if any effect on UPS, while FedEx has already racked up $450 million in extra costs due to labor shortages. It’s made UPS more reliable than FedEx: UPS delivered 95 percent of express and ground packages on time, while FedEx sunk to 85 percent.
New TikTok trends have encouraged users to treat Starbucks like it’s a buffet and create ever new and exciting and horrifying combinations of beverages, wreaking general havoc on the innocent baristas just trying to get through their morning without having to grind out a “Venti cold brew with caramel syrup and vanilla sweet cream cold foam, apple brown sugar syrup, apple in the foam and cinnamon dolce on top” or a “cold brew with caramel syrup, vanilla sweet cold foam blended with dark caramel and caramel drizzle.” Starbucks claims that there are 170,000-plus ways to customize a beverage, a claim that withers under even the most simple analysis. There are way more. I went to their online ordering website, and given the 12 syrups, six sauces, seven toppings, three drizzles, one powder, one cream, four cold foams, two kinds of malt powder and additional shots of espresso that can go into a single customized latte, even capping ourselves at between one, two, or three pumps or shots and limiting ourselves to 10 customizations, it’s closer to 51,540,966,982,791 possible combinations.
Every 10 years, a committee of American astronomers releases a list of their priorities for the next decade. It’s a list that caused huge investments in technology like the Hubble, and this one wants NASA to make several additional space-based observatories; topping the list is a telescope deliberately designed to look at exoplanets, or planets orbiting distant stars. The number of known exoplanets is now north of 4,500, and 160 of them have been determined to be rocky worlds like Earth. The goal of the new telescope would be to observe planets that are 10 billion times fainter than their star.
Professional women’s hockey in North America has returned, with six franchises previously known as the National Women’s Hockey League reconstituting as the Premier Hockey Federation. The franchises are now under a new governance and ownership structure, the new organization being the first ever to have each of its franchises owned by a private owner. They’ve got a television deal with ESPN and Dunkin’ and Discover as partners, and the salary cap will double for each franchise from $150,000 to $300,000.
Australia, allegedly the origin of avocado toast, is in the midst of a brutal avocado glut as weakening demand and a surge in production — up 65 percent this year alone — create a perfect storm of low pricing. The supermarket price of an avocado is now around 60 cents, and orchard owners are weighing their options as to whether this is just a brief glut of guac or if the fundamentals of the market have this as more of a guacageddon.
Moonbug Entertainment, which is the entity responsible for unleashing CoComelon upon the earth, has sold for a reported $2.75 billion, a figure that could rise to $3 billion given earn-out incentives. The buyer is a private equity-backed group headed by a former Disney executive that’s also snapped up Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine. CoComelon, besides being the second-largest YouTube channel with 120 million subscribers, creates kids content in 27 languages across 100 different platforms including HBO, Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. Given that they’re an animation studio that has built its business on adapting public domain songs into incredibly lucrative shorts, I’m sure the former Disney guy sees the appeal.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation oversaw the planting of 1,500 trees across five farms in plots of 120 each as part of an experiment into if silvopasture — the ancient practice of letting livestock eat in wooded areas rather than clear-cut pastures — has a meaningful impact on the health of the Chesapeake watershed. The theory is that the mix will send less runoff into the Bay, improve the health of the grass and even make for healthier trees given the manure from the cows. The initial grant of $80,000 from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is enough to analyze five smaller farms over the next three years.
This past Sunday I spoke to Casey Crownhart, who wrote “How two new supercomputers will improve weather forecasts” for MIT Technology Review. The computational side of weather forecasting has been seriously interesting as a direct usage case for supercomputing, and I found the pretty direct relationship between computing power and material improvements in forecasts to be deeply cool. Casey can be found at MIT Technology Review, which you should subscribe to, and on Twitter.
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