Numlock News: October 18, 2022 • Pelješac, Mountain Goats, Sushi
By Walt Hickey
Japan’s conveyer belt sushi restaurant industry is dominated by four massive chains: Sushiro, Kura Sushi, Hama Sushi and Kappa Sushi. The market grew 60 percent from 2011 to 2021, and grew to a 740 billion yen ($5.1 billion) business. The number of outlets from the top five companies are up 63 percent, and competition is cutthroat. Indeed, this month the president of Kappa Sushi was arrested by Tokyo police amid allegations he obtained data on a competitor illegally, and earlier in June the Consumer Affairs Agency reprimanded Sushiro for promoting a sea urchin sushi most of their outlets didn’t actually carry.
As of Monday, Americans can now buy hearing aids directly at stores rather than having to obtain a prescription from an audiologist and then shelling out thousands of dollars. The over-the-counter hearing aids are vastly cheaper than their prescription counterparts, and the law was changed to accommodate those who wanted to address hearing loss that had not yet risen to the level of needing such expensive products. Prescription devices cost $2,000 to $8,000, while Sony will sell an over-the-counter hearing aid for $999, Walmart is carrying hearing aids that can cost $199 or $299 from hearX, and Walgreens is selling a Lexie Lumen for $799. Over 37 million adults have hearing trouble, but only a quarter of people who might benefit from a hearing aid have used one.
New York City, a teeming subterranean ecosystem of rats that also maintains a mostly decorative metropolis for us humans topside, has rolled out new policies that will doubtless upset the fragile peace that has been forged between the world of the rodents and the world of man. Mayor Eric Adams has announced that the time when households can take trash out to the sidewalk is being pushed back from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Rat sightings are up 71 percent since 2020, and the 24 million pounds of trash that sit on the sidewalk every day is probably a concern. My issue is different, as we’ve spent the last 51 years teaching the dominant species of our city that dinner starts at 4 p.m., a Pavlovian training that spans something like 300 generations of rats, a pact for the rodentia equivalent of 7,000 human years, and by April we’re going to change this and we’re just assuming that this unilateral decision will not upset the delicate balance? The forces one casually trifles with are ancient and existential for one species in this conflict, and it’s not the humans.
Hoof In Unlovable Hoof
A new study explores the interspecies conflict between groups of bighorn sheep and mountain goats as their environment changes. The study, published in Frontiers of Ecology and Evolution, found that the animals compete over mineral deposits and salt licks that are being revealed as glaciers melt away in the Rocky Mountains, and they suggest that more such conflicts are bound to emerge. They observed over 120 encounters between goats and sheep in three alpine sites and found that the mountain goats started every encounter and that they won 98 percent of the time.
While butter is about 25 percent more expensive than it was in January 2020, that’s mostly due to a decline in milk production and labor shortages. However, that’s nothing compared to what’s going on in the price of margarine: Over the same period, margarine prices are up 56 percent, and while consumption has been declining for decades it’s vastly outpacing both the price of food as well as the price of its more established rival. The spike in price for margarine came in spring of this year amid the onset of the war in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia. Each country exports a bunch of sunflower oil that was thereafter removed from the global market, and as a result vegetable oil — the main precursor of margarine — got more expensive the world over.
The cocaine available in the United States and Europe has significantly decreased in quality, with the founder of DanceSafe estimating that American cocaine is anywhere from 40 percent to 60 percent pure, and a European analysis finding retail-level purity anywhere from 31 percent to 80 percent. That’s a marked change in the market for a popular drug; prior to 2007, academic literature puts the purity at 65 percent to 70 percent, with peaks in the late 1980s. That kind of volatility is a problem when 6.4 million people are using the drug in North America as of 2020. The direct export of cocaine from Colombia to the rest of the world now goes through many intermediaries, and that’s reducing quality and adding adulterants. In Ohio, crime lab testing found that the rate of drug samples containing a combination of both cocaine and fentanyl rose from less than 1 percent in 2014 to 14 percent last year.
Croatia, the coastal country on the Adriatic sea, is split in half by the city of Neum in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which means that in order to drive from the more populated north of the country to the more recreational and touristic south one had to drive through an entirely different country. As Croatia integrates more with the European Union, this has become an issue, as Bosnia and Herzegovina is not in the E.U. and as a result you’d have to go through customs, drive 5.6 miles, then if you get out for any reason you’d have to go through customs again. This motivated the construction of the Pelješac Bridge, which connects Croatia to Croatia and bypasses Neum. The European Commission funded about 85 percent of the project, which will better integrate Croatia into the Schengen zone of 26 countries without border controls. The bridge opened in July, and the number of vehicles driving the Neum corridor from July 19 to September 30 was down an estimated 75 percent compared to the same period in 2019. That said, tourism’s fine in both countries: Croatia’s doing great, and even overnight stays in Bosnia are up 46 percent in the first half of the year compared to last year.
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