Numlock News: October 7, 2022 • Pawpaw, Bjorka, Feiseanna
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in late 2020, the virus was detected at some mink farms in Denmark. The fur business is really big there, yet after the discovery of the virus among the mink population and amid fears that it could mutate the virus into a variety that was deadlier or could evade vaccines, the government made the controversial decision to cull 17 million mink. This has spiraled for the administration. There wasn’t a legal basis for the initial cull, so eventually parliament passed one, but the destruction of the animals was carried out in a manner that could have contaminated water supplies. Then a 19 billion kroner ($2.5 billion) bailout of the 3,000 mink farmers wasn’t near enough to make up for the reverberations of the cull, and the largest auction house for furs in the world — Kopenhagen Fur — has liquidated its assets. Now, the fiasco is severe enough that a party that had backed the government yanked support, forcing an early election set for November 1.
There’s been a string of high-profile hacks of databases in Indonesia, many by a hacker going by the name Bjorka. One in August hacked Indihome of 26 million records including browsing history and location, another in September hit the General Elections Commission for 105 million records including national ID numbers and home addresses, and a third in August hit Kominfo and the Ministry of Home Affairs for a genuinely shocking 1.3 billion records including national ID numbers, phone numbers and telecoms. Weirdly, after all the hacks, some are increasingly seeing Bjorka as a sympathetic figure revealing widespread inadequacies in government information security.
The league-wide MLB batting average is down to .243, the lowest level since 1968. There have only been five seasons with a lower batting average than this year: 1967 and 1968, and then the dead ball eras of 1884, 1888 and 1908. Several things are believed to be causing this, including higher velocity of pitches — there were 3,356 pitches that came in over 100 miles per hour, up from 1,829 in 2021 and 1,056 in 2019 — and more defensive shifts, coming in at 66,961 defensive shifts this year, up from 59,063 in 2021, itself up enormously from the 2,349 shifts in 2011.
An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha, which is the global governing body of Irish dancing, has been roiled by allegations of widespread cheating. Screenshots of text messages of 12 Irish dance teachers conspiring to fix competitions have reportedly been handed over to the CLRG this summer, and the Irish Independent has seen screenshots of text conversations that allegedly implicate an additional six Irish dance teachers. The teachers were asking for and offering to fix feiseanna, and it’s gotten so bad that the governing body has hired a former Court of Appeal judge to oversee an investigation.
The water level of the Mississippi is abnormally low owing to a lack of rain in the Midwest and the Plains states, and it’s jeopardizing the most important conduit for agriculture in the country. The river is closed near Stack Island, Mississippi, which has led to a backup of 117 vessels and 2,048 barges. About 92 percent of American agricultural exports come from the Mississippi river basin, traveling on barges. Those barges are massive: Each carries 1,750 tons of dry cargo, enough to fill 70 trucks, and a tow hauling 15 barges can move 900,000 bushels of grain. The low river level is sending prices up to ship, and the timing could not be worse.
The Biden administration announced federal pardons for approximately 6,500 people who had a prior federal offense of simple marijuana possession. More significantly, the administration has encouraged state governors to do the same, which would have a substantial effect in a country where most violations of drug laws are enforced at the state rather than federal level. There are currently no people in federal prison for simple marijuana possession convictions alone. The administration is also reportedly looking into rescheduling marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.
Pawpaws are an American fruit that tastes something like a blend between a mango and a banana, and they are really hard to get your hands on. People love them, but they just can’t get them reliably enough to become a staple ingredient or flavor. There’s a short window from August to October when they’re in season, the main way people get them is foraging rather than cultivation, and they must be consumed within three to five days of being plucked, after which they oxidize quickly. They go for $3 to $8 a pound. It’s hardly unheard of for an obscure fruit to go mainstream with a little effort — avocados, blueberries and kale all managed to make the leap — and researchers at Kentucky State University are trying to develop a more durable, commercially viable pawpaw.
This week in the (unlocked!) Sunday Edition, I spoke to Charlie Hall, who wrote “The high price of Disney Lorcana cards is a good sign for fans of collectible card games” for Polygon. I love the coverage of tabletop games and trading card games at Polygon; they do really phenomenal work in the space and are so full of big ideas about a type of gaming that has often flown under the radar. Hall can be found at Polygon and on Twitter.
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