Numlock News: November 8, 2021 • Hydropower, Eternals, Flamingos
By Walt Hickey
In the first six months of 2021, $400 million worth of e-bikes have been sold in the United States, well above the $237 million worth of electronic bikes sold in all of 2019. This value being thrown on the road is vulnerable to theft — a great e-bike might go for north of $2,000 — and with many police departments disinterested in investigating grand larceny, the owners are turning to vigilantes and private security operations of their own. Thefts are up, with 113,200 reported e-bike thefts through October, compared to 96,500 thefts in all of 2020 and 77,900 in all of 2019. VanMoof, one company that sells e-bikes, rolled out a $398 anti-theft service that promises to find or replace a lost bike within three years of purchase, employing 25 bike hunters in its eight cities of operation.
The new movie from Marvel and Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao, Eternals, made $71 million domestically this past weekend, which was on the lower side of expectations. It still made $90.7 million overseas, which combines to the second-best global opening of the pandemic era. The film tells the timeless story of a media company that owns a bunch of heady Jack Kirby comics from the mid 1970s and, not really knowing what the hell to do with the kind of characters where the sentence “Yeah Neil Gaiman’s interpretation really brought them down to Earth” actually applies, tosses them to a promising young director just to see what can happen. A global cume of $161.7 million, evidently.
Florida is weighing removing the mockingbird as its official state bird, owing to the fact that the state is home to a panoply of unique avians and the mockingbird is pretty common throughout the country. Four birds emerge as the main contenders: the Florida scrub jay, the flamingo, the osprey and the roseate spoonbill. The scrub jay is the only bird found solely in the state of Florida, there are around 4,000 of them in central Florida and the Feds consider the species threatened. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants the osprey, as did 77,000 school kids in 2009. The flamingo, though linked with the state, has a complicated history in that for a long time the bird was believed to be non-native, though lately researchers have argued flamingos were once native to Florida but were wiped out in the early 20th century only to rebound from captive stocks. The spoonbill is also a large, pink wading bird, but is more widespread than the flamingo. Given that it’s Florida, I’m sure this debate and subsequent vote will go seamlessly.
According to a study released this summer, the United States has just 8 public toilets for every 100,000 people, a rate that ties the country with Botswana in terms of access to facilities. Iceland leads the rating with 56 toilets per 100,000 residents. Public washrooms rolled out across the country during the Progressive Era as public health measures, but stalled out after World War I. In the 1970s there were 50,000 coin-operated public restrooms in the U.S., but those disappeared by 1980 and public facilities didn’t replace them. In the 80s, the restrooms in the New York Subway’s 472 stations were locked, and after 9/11 a wave of public restrooms closed because of the obvious, clear, direct links then uncovered between “people being able to use the bathroom while outside” and “the global success of al-Qaeda.”
The acreage devoted to almond farming continues to grow in California, as farmers try to grow more almonds with less water. There were 1.6 million acres of almond groves in California last year, up 5.3 percent from 2019, and of those, there were 1.25 million acres actually producing almonds last year, a figure projected to rise to 1.33 million acres this year. The 2.8 billion pounds of almonds projected to be grown this year is just shy of the record 3-billion-pound crop from last year. A mature almond orchard the size of a football field uses four acre feet of water per year, roughly on par with pistachios and cashews and just a few acre inches more than citrus trees, which have evaded the water-intensive rap that almonds have to carry. There are just three places in the world with the right climate for commercially-grown almonds — Australia, Spain, and California — and California produces 78 percent of the world supply of the nut.
New York City is in line to get some Canadian hydropower thanks to two new projects that will send power generated in Quebec down to a converter station in Queens. Transmissions Developers Inc. will build a 339-mile transmission line running under Lake Champlain and the Hudson and Harlem rivers, providing some 1,400 jobs with operation planned to begin in 2025. New York City gets 85 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels, and the plan will slash that figure considerably: the investments will bring 18 million megawatt hours per year of renewable energy to the city, roughly a third of the annual electricity usage, with the hydropower part alone supporting one million homes’ worth of electricity.
Actors are increasingly turning to anabolic steroids in order to attain the figures necessary for movies today. While it’s not legal in the United States to use steroids or performance-enhancing drugs without a prescription, in the movie business it’s not considered cheating the same way it is in sports and obviously isn’t tested for. It’s part of a larger trend, too: testosterone prescribed to American men tripled from 2001 to 2011, and while it decreased from 2013 to 2016 following renewed warnings from the FDA about risks, it’s impossible to study the underground market and HGH is one of the most common drugs to go missing between manufacture and shipping. The long-term health effects of steroids are still little understood, but they’re not looking good: One recent long-term study of steroid-using weightlifters found that of 86 steroid users, three had a heart attack before 45, compared to none of the 54 comparison lifters.
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