Numlock News: October 31, 2022 • Pumpkins, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Midnights
By Walt Hickey
While Black Adam won the weekend at the domestic box office with a $27.7 million second week and a cumulative $250 million globally so far, a really interesting subplot at the box office has been Ticket to Paradise, which has made $119.4 million globally over the past 10 days. Historically, studios have avoided opening any event movie that isn’t a horror flick in the Halloween corridor, but the George Clooney and Julia Roberts rom-com is doing great. This bucks a recent trend — just like The Lost City did earlier this year — where romantic comedies are considered DOA at the box office and should be slated for streaming.
The ability of humans to grow jaw-droppingly large pumpkins has vastly improved over the past several decades. As long as mankind has known pumpkins, the urge to grow the gourds to be as large as possible has awakened the competitive human spirit: In 1900, the heaviest pumpkin on record came in at a respectable 400 pounds. By the 1990s, selective breeding and new insight into the nature of pumpkins brought the record north of 1,000 in 1996, and the first 2,000-pounder dropped in 2012. The current record of 2,702 pounds was notched in 2021, and those crazy fools who dare to push the limits of what a gourd can become believe that the first 3,000-pound pumpkin may soon be within our grasp. The superlative squashmonger knows that the key to a pumpkin of tonnage is water, as the 90 percent water pumpkins can at peak suck up 150 gallons to 200 gallons a day. While many vegetable cells have a limited time after pollination to expand — a cucumber cell stops expanding about 20 days after pollination — pumpkin cells can expand 50 to 60 days after pollination, a much longer window to pump the pumpkins with water.
We may have a new world record holder in a bar-tailed godwit, a migratory bird that was tagged as a hatchling in Alaska this past summer with a GPS chip. It underwent the first annual migration of its species at an age of about five months, leaving the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta on October 13, and 11 days later it made it to Ansons Bay in Tasmania, some 13,560 kilometers (8,435 miles) away, all without stopping. Researchers are still trying to figure out if this bird was acting normally and its species just does that, or if this little guy got really lost and kind of overdid it because it lacked a peer group to compare notes with.
Lumber producers in North America have historically been concentrated in places like British Columbia, Quebec, Oregon and Washington, and while that hierarchy hasn’t entirely changed there’s increasing interest that the real growth in the lumber business is in the South. The capacity of lumber mills in B.C. and the American West has on balance declined since 2021, while the capacity in the U.S. South has exploded, adding some 4.39 million board feet in capacity since 2021 on net. The reason is that forests in the South can replenish stock much faster, at a rate of every 20 or 30 years, while the Douglas Fir that has been the staple of lumber production in existing areas just takes longer.
The final numbers are in, and Taylor Swift’s Midnights sold 1.578 million equivalent album units in the United States in its first week, the biggest week for an album in seven years, since Adele’s 25 sold 3.482 million units in December 2015. Midnights is now definitively the single-week bestselling vinyl record of the modern post-1991 era, with 575,000 LPs sold, beating out the previous record made by Harry’s House. It’s also the best week for CD sales of an album since reputation by Taylor Swift.
The Russian car industry had been nearly wiped out by sanctions following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, with car production in May 2022 down 97 percent year over year. Over the ensuing months, several plants have opened under local management, but their output has been lacking. Lacking, specifically, air bags, anti-lock braking systems, stability control tech, basically anything that had been made outside of the country and then imported. In February, Russia produced 108,000 cars, which fell to 3,700 by May, which has since bounced to 24,700 vehicles in August. It’s not the only place where Russian industry is hurting: Washing machine production dropped from 600,000 units per month in December to 100,000 in May and now 190,000 in August.
Something like 10 percent of the childcare workforce left the industry during the pandemic, and the volatility in the business has meant that the largest players in the space — many of which are owned by well-heeled private equity businesses — have had a chance to gobble up more market share. The top 11 chains serve 12 percent of the kids in center-based childcare, who number about 7.5 million. From 2020 to 2021, the largest chains grew by 8 percent, and the roll-up of independent and nonprofit centers is continuing unabated.
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