Numlock News: September 27, 2023 • Guinea Pigs, Formula, Notifications
By Walt Hickey
Ticket resale prices are getting completely out of control, as legions of scalpers and profiteering middlemen have made a routine live event experience into an utter fiasco. Take, for instance, the latest case, where a set of tickets for section D, seats 41 and 42 — that’s right, the front of the upper level — of a D.C.-area production recently sold for $262,500 at auction. Good for one night only, people are forced to pay out the nose for tickets to see shows like Our American Cousin, specifically shelling out hundreds of dollars to see it on one night in particular, April 14, 1865. Now I get it, that’s a big night for the show — the final appearance of Laura Keene in the role of Florence Trenchard, a major milestone for the star — and there were apparently some VIPs showing up to Ford’s Theater, but the tyranny of these ticket flippers must end.
A clever way to game the charts these days is to produce albums with lots and lots of tracks, which means that artists get a much bigger numerical boost on streaming when their fans play one of their albums. Indeed, producing country albums longer than the traditional 10 to 12 songs is not only working really well — all but two of the Billboard Top Country No. 1 albums of this year have more than 12 songs — but it’s also causing a logistical nightmare in Nashville, the epicenter of country music production. Studio time is increasingly hard to come by in the town, as new records stretch longer and longer, trying to imitate the 36-track One Thing at a Time, the 30-track Dangerous: The Double Album, the 17-track The Mockingbird & the Crow or the 16-track Zach Bryan.
The number of U.S. households with a pet is down 4 percent this year to 86.9 million, but that decline is not being seen among households with small pets. Indeed, the percentage of households with gerbils, hamsters, lizards and other small animals is up 7 percent to 12.7 million, while at the same time the percentage of households with a dog is down 5.6 percent. That means it’s a boom time for sales of small pet swag, whether it’s faux leather couches for a lizard — a bestseller at PetSmart — or a castle that doubles as a chew post for guinea pigs, or just the kind of cosmetic care and treats that small pet owners had typically not had all that much of a selection of in the past.
A new study analyzed the phone notifications of 203 young people aged 11 through 17, with the subjects installing an app on their phone for a nine-day period that allowed researchers to track their cell phone use. Less interesting than how kids used their phones was how the phones used the kids: These things incessantly flagged notifications, often well into the night. The study found that the median number of notifications per day came in at 237 notifications, 25 percent of which were during the school day and 5 percent of which chimed in at night.
The FDA warned three companies that manufacture baby formula that they’re worried about practices for handling contamination in product, the exact same issue that led to a massive, nationwide shortage of baby formula. This has some skittish that another crisis may be developing as only four companies — including Mead Johnson and Perrigo, which were among the companies warned — have 90 percent of the U.S. baby formula market. One issue with the resolution to last year’s baby formula shortage is that basically the government didn’t actually solve anything long-term to prevent that from happening again, not the least of which would be addressing the 27 percent tariff on imports of foreign formula, which all but guarantees that the entire American formula market relies on just a handful of domestic factories which could be shut down at any time.
Significantly more Americans support the United Auto Workers strike than oppose it, with 53 percent of U.S. adults — as well as 51 percent of people not in a union and a whopping 70 percent of those in a union — backing the UAW strike, and just 22 percent opposed. In general, Americans are pretty sympathetic to Labor’s arguments: 62 percent agree that worker pay should increase when CEO pay increases, and 61 percent agree that companies should provide strong protections for workers even if that means higher costs for eventual end consumers.
Loneliness is a serious problem in the United States, as the percentage of time that people spend alone — particularly young people, who otherwise have historically spent more of their time with others than older people — has shot up. Social isolation has been linked to some serious health problems, and socially isolated people are 50 percent more likely to die prematurely. In general, people who reported themselves as feeling more fulfilled or the closest to living their best life are the ones who spend more time with friends and family than the ones who reported feeling less content.
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