Numlock News: October 13, 2022 • Secret Menu, 35mm, Orange Juice Futures
By Walt Hickey
The people behind Topgolf — the golf driving range game — have raised $150 million this year for Puttshack, which is designed to make mini golf upscale and techy. There are currently locations in the U.K., Atlanta and Chicago, with locations in Boston, Miami and St. Louis forthcoming. It’s another concept that takes the bowling concept — what if you played a game but also there was a bar nearby? — and seeks to upscale it for the affluent millennial. It’s not alone: TOCA Football raised $100 million to make a soccer-based concept with locations in London and Dallas, and there are already pickleball bars in places like Boston.
For years, the idea of a “secret menu” made for fun conversations around fast food locations, maybe a little bit of rumor or gossip, and perhaps you accidentally would show up at the right time and see if they really would serve you a Mc10:35 or take a stab and order a Cheesarito at Taco Bell on a particularly stoned night. Now, though, thanks to social media and particularly TikTok, a fun trick or a clever order can spread across the country like wildfire and cause misery for the baristas and short-order cooks of the world. The trick to get a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte for $2.45 by ordering an iced espresso with some modifications rather than just ordering a pumpkin spice latte for $6 messes with the order flow at a location. Tricks like the $4 burrito at Chipotle — you order a $3 taco, a 40-cent tortilla, and get toppings on the side and build it at home — can lead the company to actually changing its app. For workers, it’s also a lot of stress and anxiety from concocting TikTok-envisioned monstrosities.
The music industry is beginning to panic, because it’s increasingly difficult for a new act to make it into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. In 2021, only 13 new acts broke into the top 10, down from 15 new acts in 2019 and down from more than 30 acts two decades ago. Part of the concern is that there’s simply more new music than ever before, and if there are 80,000 new tracks a day being uploaded to streamers, there’s going to be some dilution. Also, historical kingmakers like late-night TV and radio have been in decline.
While the shipping bottleneck on the Mississippi River near Stack Island has since gotten better, the river system’s troubles aren’t over. The Ohio River is responsible for 60 percent of the water in the Lower Mississippi, and it’s closed at many locations because of low water level and groundings. That’s a problem because it’s a critical thoroughfare, with 184 million tons of cargo moving down the river a year and the aluminum industry particularly relying on it. Freight rates for shipments originating from St. Louis are up 218 percent compared to a year ago.
Eastman Kodak is one of the last companies manufacturing color film, and as its competitors have mostly died out over the course of digital photography and film, as interest in analog photography increases, Kodak’s actually hiring. Driving it is an increase in demand for 35mm film. Their film finishing area increased from a single shift running five days per week to a three-shift, 24/7 operation, and their VP of film manufacturing said they’ve hired over 300 people to make film and process chemicals.
The Tibetan Plateau has over 100 species of snakes, but only one — Thermophis baileyi, or the Tibetan hot-spring snake — lives above 4,500 meters in altitude. A new genetic analysis of 58 of the reptiles from 15 different locations over 500 kilometers found that there are actually three distinct populations of the snakes, which can’t venture far from the warm springs that make their cold-blooded existence possible. One genetic group, in the west, was estimated to have broken off from the rest of the species 500,000 to 750,000 years ago when an ice age isolated the groups near their hot springs. That group also has a few genetic difference for processing selenium and metabolizing sulfur that could be related to the chemistry of their specific springs.
After the devastation of Hurricane Ian, Florida’s orange crop is poised to come in at the worst level since 1943. The USDA projects Florida will produce 28 million boxes weighing 90 pounds each this season, which is down 32 percent from last year. Orange juice futures, best known as the only comedic plot device you can actually invest in, are up 55 percent over the past 12 months.
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