Numlock News: September 25, 2018
By Walt Hickey
The popular board game Scrabble has added 300 new entries to the list of playable words, the first addition in four years. The words include “OK,” “ew,” “bizjet,” “yowza,” “puggle,” “sheeple” and “twerk.” Now that “ok” is an acceptable word in Scrabble, for the first time I know how the stern and traditional city fathers — seeing the rule of law threatened by rock-and-roll music, pool halls or communism, worried about the perverted and blasphemous societal shifts tempting their once god-fearing sons and daughters — felt, because that is a load of crap, sheeple.
Many, Many Reservations
OpenTable dominates the online reservation landscape. They work with 47,000 restaurants and seat 26 million diners per month. They charge restaurants $249 per month, plus $1 for every seat booked on OpenTable and $0.25 for every booking through the company’s own website. This scaled pricing has opened it to new competitors in the increasingly competitive reservation business: one rival is Resy, that does a flat fee pricing — $189 to $899 per month — and seats 1.5 million diners per week at 2,000 restaurants. In the restaurant business — where razor-thin margins are the name of the game — these fees can have big impacts, which is something to think about the next time you pay $16 for a cheeseburger.
While the early bird might get the worm, the second mouse gets the cheese: streaming internet radio pioneer Pandora has sold to Sirius XM Holdings for $10.14 per share, which is 37 percent below its $16 per share IPO seven years ago and a quarter of the $39.43 peak share price in in March, 2014. Pandora bled cash for its entire existence and missed the boat on broad changes in the streaming music industry later capitalized on by the likes of Spotify, Google Play and Apple Music. The weird way that music licensing works coupled with the company’s decision to focus on selling ads rather than gathering paid subscribers meant it had difficulty finding a sustainable business model.
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Little Free Libraries
There are over 75,000 little libraries officially registered with the Little Free Library non-profit just eight years after the formation of the organization in Madison, Wisconsin. The delightful program — you have possibly seen those outdoor protected shelves where people can donate books and take free ones — is now in 85 countries as well. That figure doesn’t even encompass all the unregistered such libraries, which in Madison alone would double the count. I always wondered why they never took off in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, especially with that brilliant good Samaritan stuffing them full of well-written self-insertion Kingdom Hearts fan fiction.
Next year employers plan on budgeting only 15.2 percent on pay, down from 15.5 percent this year and 15.7 percent in 2017. While traditionally companies give out bonuses during boom times, which I’m told is now, cuts to bonuses are fueling that contraction in compensation.
The average monthly payments to people who worked for a transportation app like Uber or Lyft fell from $1,469 in 2013 to $783 in 2017, a 53 percent decline, according to a study from JPMorgan Chase looking at checking accounts. Meanwhile, the average monthly payments for people who rent out their assets — cars, homes, parking spaces — on apps like Airbnb, Turo and Parklee were up 69 percent. Who could have ever foreseen that landlords would benefit more than workers in an economic situation?
The latest figures from the FBI show that only 61.6 percent of murders were solved — that is, cleared by arrest or other means — in 2017. Other crimes have far worse closure rates — 53.3 percent of aggravated assaults, 19.2 percent of larceny thefts, or 13.7 percent of motor vehicle thefts. Still, the fact that 40 percent of murderers get away with it is staggering, and actually goes pretty far to explain why there is that weird enormous explosion of true-crime murder investigation podcasts out there.
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