Numlock News: October 17, 2023 • Oranges, Romance Novels, 12-Foot Home Depot Giant-Sized Skeleton
By Walt Hickey
We’re now just one week away from my book release. I’m so grateful for everyone who has preordered, it really means the world to me. If you haven’t preordered yet, if you like this newsletter you’re going to love this book, preorder it today! If you have, make sure you claim your free print, and consider telling a friend who digs pop culture or data about it. Thanks for reading and supporting my work, you’re really going to enjoy this book.
Also, San Francisco readers, I hope I see you tonight!
This year the national retail federation expects Americans to spend $12.2 billion on Halloween, up from $10.6 billion last year. A remarkably solid chunk of that — $3.9 billion — is projected to go toward home decorations, well above the $2.7 billion spent on decorations in 2019, the year before the pandemic. That’s in no small part because the sheer scale of Halloween decorations that can be had have gotten particularly rowdy, whether you’re talking the $299 12-foot Home Depot Giant-Sized Skeleton with LCD Eyes, the 13.5-foot Oogie Boogie archway, the 12.5-foot wide predator of the night, the 13-foot Jack Skellington, the 8-foot animated smoldering reaper of souls, the 8-foot giant spider, the 8-foot stack of skulls, or just keeping things traditional and classic with a 12-foot towering ghost.
It’s a moment that demands innovation and cleverness for Florida’s citrus business, as after waves of destructive weather, freezes that can devastate crops, and a plague of greening ripping through orchards, the orange groves of the Sunshine State have happened upon an audacious new strategy: giving up. Just, like, stop growing oranges. It sucks and it’s not easy anymore so they’re just stopping doing it. Sell the land to developers, cash out, make a fortune, get out of the godforsaken business and just move on. The area of Florida devoted to cultivating oranges is down to 303,300 acres, down from 658,400 acres back in 1998, as people realize that the dude who got fleeced by Walt Disney when he sold the guy all those orange groves to make a theme park may have been the lucky one. Commercial real estate brokers have maintained a brisk business flipping orange groves in compelling climates over to developers.
The platform X, in better days known as Twitter, has been following through on a policy to slow down links to websites that it considers rivals, which originally included places like Instagram, Bluesky, Facebook, and Substack. Now, a new analysis has found other sites that are wholesale being throttled by an average of 2.5 seconds, sites that include Messenger links, WhatsApp, and somewhat startlingly Patreon, which is a website that allows fans to directly support some 200,000 artists and creators.
The Nokia Trap
Denmark has struck it big in pharmaceuticals, with Novo Nordisk producing two blockbuster new drugs, Ozempic and Wegovy, which alone have banked $5.7 billion in profit in the first half of this year, and that’s doing some interesting stuff to Denmark’s economy. Novo Nordisk is now by far the biggest taxpayer in Denmark — they paid 9 billion krone ($1.3 billion) last year — and this year that number is going to be way higher. In the first quarter of the year, pharmaceuticals alone accounted for 89 percent of the economic growth of Denmark. That is great, but also presents a bit of an issue in what economists call the Nokia Trap, named after the end of the era when a fifth of Finland’s exports were Nokias, and the ensuing collapse of Nokia’s business caused a decade of slow economic growth for Finland.
A new analysis of romance covers finds that the state of our bodacious hunks is in serious peril, as the percentage of romance novel covers with a raunchy chunk of beefcake portrayed has fallen from a recent high in 2012 of 30 percent featuring a partially unclothed man all the way down to a distressing and demoralizing 3 percent of covers in this year. Replacing the cliched stud on the cover of a romance novel is increasingly an eye-popping illustration, which has risen from 7 percent of the market in 2011 all the way up to 72 percent of the novels in 2023 featuring a brightly colored pop art style.
A team of researchers installed speaker systems at 21 watering holes in Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa, and occasionally played different sounds when animals approached. Turns out, animals really hate human voices, and almost all species will run away more often and do so faster even compared to sounds like lions or gunshots. Across 4,000 interactions, animals were twice as likely to run away upon hearing a human voice compared to other sounds, and ran away 40 percent faster.
The Inflation Reduction Act puts $9.05 billion toward heat pumps and provides an additional tax credit of $2,000 per year for heat pumps, a significant push toward an estimated 7.2 million homes that will be able to get a retrofit. Now, there’s a bit of a problem on the horizon here. Mainly, the only reason that everyone in the HVAC business doesn’t just jack up the price of a heat pump by $2,000 is that the HVAC industry is made up of lots of different small- to medium-sized businesses that all compete with one another. But on the other hand, a new paper from the American Economic Liberties Project argues that concentration in the field and private equity companies like Bernhard Capital Partners and Blackstone are rolling up these companies, which is leading some manufacturers to increase prices by 30 percent or more.