Numlock News: October 6, 2023 • Casino Heist, Gusts, Drumsticks
By Walt Hickey
Thanks to everyone who got in a preorder already, sales have been really encouraging. The single best thing you can do for me right now is to get in a preorder for You Are What You Watch, it’s critical to getting books into stores and on shelves. Next week, a sneak preview of what’s in the book!
Have a great weekend!
MGM Resorts has disclosed that a cybersecurity attack that struck its casinos on the Las Vegas Strip cost them $100 million, but because the house really does always win MGM said that it has enough cybersecurity insurance to cover the financial losses and it shouldn’t have a material impact on the overall performance. Also disclosed was that MGM declined to pay a ransom to the hackers, unlike rival Caesars Entertainment, which rendered unto hackers that which is hackers’ and paid half of a $30 million ransom demand to end a cybersecurity incident earlier this summer. The MGM decision I have to imagine is obviously in line with Bellagio policy, given that it’s the same decision fatefully made by magnate Terry Benedict during the famed incident in which a team of 11 people, among them Danny Ocean, successfully struck three casinos on a fight night, if memory serves.
This week Alaskans will each get their $1,312 check from the state’s oil fund, which since 1982 has directed the cash proceeds of oil and gas drilling in Alaska to the state’s citizens. The program is the kind of sacred cows that make other sacred cows jealous, as it’s incredibly popular and arguments over the precise size of the checks send the state’s legislature into an annual tizzy. On one hand, Alaska is a very expensive place to live, with household staples like gasoline or milk often costing double or triple or even more than one would find in the Lower 48. The average check over the course of the four decades has been $1,200.
Typhoon Koinu has hit Taiwan, and when it crossed the outer Lanyu Island a weather station operated by the Central Weather Administration reported that wind gusts were measured up to 342.7 kilometers per hour, which is the third-highest record recorded globally, with the top two being the 408 km/h measurement from Barrow Island in Australia measured in 1996 and a 372 km/h gust on Mount Washington in New Hampshire in 1934. The actual peak speed of the gust in Taiwan may, indeed, have been stronger, as the anenometer was simply destroyed by the wind after the measurement. Koinu, somewhat hilariously, means “puppy” in Japanese.
Diamond Sports owns 19 regional sports networks in the United States operating under the Bally Sports branding, essentially the local networks that baseball and hockey air on in many regions. One week before the puck drops on the regular NHL season, Diamond has told a court it’s pulling out of its television contract with the Arizona Coyotes. This would just be yet another blip in a difficult sports rights space if not for the fact that this is insult to a series of injuries for the Coyotes, which have in recent years had some of the worst records in the NHL, been forced out of their arena, forced to play in a local college’s arena (the smallest of any pro North American sports franchise), and literally had the entire municipality of Tempe vote against actually building them a new arena just earlier this past spring. They’ve made a quick arrangement with Scripps to air the local games for now.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Airlines go through tremendous amounts of fuel — United Airlines alone will burn 4 billion gallons of jet fuel this year, adding 40 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, double the amount of every car in Illinois — and many airlines have cited sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, as the future. SAF is made from cooking oils, animal fats and agricultural waste. This all sounds nice, but it’s an incredibly niche product: It’s made by a handful of companies, costs twice as much, and now accounts for 0.1 percent of the world supply of jet fuel. United has promised to hit 10 percent SAF by 2030, but as of 2022 SAF is just 0.08 percent of its jet fuel usage, and that leads its competitors American (0.07 percent SAF) and Delta (0.05 percent SAF). Indeed, despite lots of ambitious talk about it, the leading SAF user among airlines — DHL, which used 9.1 million gallons in 2022 — uses SAF for just 1.27 percent of its fuel.
Chicken prices are up in the U.S. after chicken producers slightly dialed back production to increase profitability, with drumstick prices up 10 percent since February and profit margins at their highest. One reason for that is on the demand side, U.S. consumption of chicken has never been higher: As beef consumption is projected to decline to the lowest level since 2018 and pork consumption drops to the lowest level since 2015, the nation’s stomachs are looking to the birds. For the first time ever, the USDA is projecting that U.S. consumption of chicken is expected to be higher than 100 pounds per person, a new milestone.
In the United States, $212 billion worth of online purchases were returned in 2022, a level that has pushed many retailers to reconsider the free returns dogma that many online merchants pursued. A report from earlier this year estimated that retailers spent $33 per return, after aggregating postage (as much as $7 per return), packaging, depreciation, labor and missed sales. As a result, many retailers are considering phasing out their return programs, which they think are being abused by savvy customers who might buy an item to wear once and return, or who might buy an item in multiple sizes to return all but one of the best-fitting items.
This weekend was such a fun Sunday interview, I’ve unlocked it so anyone can read it, it’s an interview with documentary filmmaker Kevin Perjurer, who you may know from the Defunctland channel, all about his new podcast Where We Parked. It’s a great talk about theme parks and what they mean for society:
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