Numlock News: October 2, 2019 • Dolphins, College, Fan Fiction
By Walt Hickey
The College of New Rochelle, established 1904, declared bankruptcy two weeks ago given $80 million in liabilities. In November, its 15.6 acre campus will be sold at auction, kit and kaboodle, all four dorms, a 200,000 volume library and TV production studio included. The college’s attorney estimated the campus is worth $35 million to $50 million, and the eventual sale price — whether to another college, an Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, a condo development, an eccentric billionaire or maybe a cult, who knows, if the money’s green they’ll hear you out — will be watched closely by many other small colleges careening toward financial difficulties. An underwhelming sale may prompt lenders to consider restructuring debt rather than a yard sale that returns dimes on the dollar.
Seven Year Hitch
More and more people are taking out seven-year auto loans, which are perilous given that they encourage buyers to purchase more car than they necessarily need to and also may still be owed well after the car itself has needed considerable repairs. The median household with a four-year loan, 20 percent down and a car payment with 10 percent of income can afford a car worth $18,390 excluding taxes. The size of the average auto loan has grown to $32,119 for a new car, and to make that manageable people are being offered longer terms: the average loan now stretches 69 months. Dealers are making a killing: ten years ago, dealerships made $837 on average on the sale of a new car, and $516 for the car’s financing. Today, they make an average $381 on the sale of a new car and $982 on its financing and insurance. Americans owe way more on their cars today, holding $1.3 trillion in auto debt in June compared to $740 billion ten years ago.
Eggs are cheap now, with top producer Cal-Maine reporting that egg prices fell to 92 cents per dozen in the most recent quarter. That’s the result of too many birds. The U.S. flock of laying hens hit 331.4 million in September, up 800,000 birds year over year. Those birds produced 65 billion table eggs through August, up 3 percent compared to the same period last year. Sure, there are sensible solutions, but I’d counter that a general amnesty on Gate Night — a.k.a. Mischief Night, Cabbage Night, Devil’s Night, or the night before Halloween where punk kids teepee houses and throw eggs — could go a long way to mitigating the glut.
There were 6,776 home runs in the regular season this past year, which beats the previous regular season record by 671 homers. While there’s no ideal ball so to speak, enormous year-to-year fluctuations in the behavior of the central equipment of the game are more a bug than a feature, and so following the World Series, the MLB may tweak the ball based on a recent study. Still, there’s an entire month of October in the way, and the chances of a game-shifting ball-induced home run in the playoffs may make this postseason a perilous one for management.
India suffered an onion shortage after a drought that was followed by monsoon rains, and as a result onion prices on the subcontinent have tripled in recent months. Inflated food prices have brought down Indian governments before, and as a result they’re not letting onions cross the border. In addition, the government is cracking down on onion hoarding and also onion smuggling, resulting in a kilogram of onions (typically 25 rupees) falling from 70 rupees to 50 rupees, on average. But this has caused even more rampant price inflation in neighboring countries: in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the price of onions has jumped 700 percent over the past several months and — following Modi’s decision to shut down onion exports — doubled in the past week. Nepal, which imported 370 million pounds of onions in 2018, is now importing zero.
Though some drips have cast aspersions at it, fanfiction is in fact an incredibly reliable way for writers to get genuine constructive feedback and valuable experience in the craft of story construction, new research finds. One study from the University of Washington found that young authors writing on fanfiction.net oftentimes got outstanding feedback from participants, as just 1 percent of 4,500 analyzed reviews could be categorized as non-constructive negative reviews. Creative writing in the genre has also helped people learning English grow as writers. The study further analyzed 61.5 billion words of stories and 6 billion words of reviews and found that for every 650 reviews a fanfic writer received, their vocabulary improved as if they had aged a year. If you’ll excuse me, I’m very nearly done with my fic Ocean’s 25, where the crew from Ocean’s Eleven and Thorin’s company from The Hobbit rob a casino.
The Potomoc River, once a national disgrace given the state of its pollution, has been cleaned significantly over the past several decades. Downstream from D.C., there’s a particularly encouraging sign: over the past several years researchers who study bottlenose dolphins have been seriously encouraged by their comeback. In 2015, researchers identified 200 in one section of the river, and now they have counted over 1,000 dolphins in the river.
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