Numlock News: September 7, 2023 • Models, Tennis, Wildfire
By Walt Hickey
Washington, D.C., I am thrilled to announce that I am having a book release party in your city, and you are invited. It’s at East City Books on November 14, and you should come, I would love to see you there.
An investigation revealed that a hot new AI startup called Kaedim, which converts 2D images into 3D files, does not in fact rely on artificial intelligence for its key product, but rather a massive roster of freelancers from the developing world for rock-bottom wages. The firm markets itself to developers and game designers, and sells a starter plan for $150 per month for 10 models, $300 per month for 20 credits, and more, compiled by AI from image-based sources. According to 404 Media, though, much of that is merely routed to 3D artists around the world, who are paid $1 to $4 per model completed, with a potential bonus paid for accepting a job quickly.
The western United States has hundreds of fire lookouts, an old-fashioned but nevertheless effective way to spot and track fires in public lands. As it stands, the Forest Service maintains and staffs 71 lookouts in Washington and Oregon, 59 lookouts in California, and 52 in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Across the whole country, you’re talking slightly north of 300 forest lookouts in service across federal, state and local services, and as new ways of spotting and tracking fire emerge — whether it’s satellites (which can confuse rocks for flames) or cameras — this is an occupation that is facing oblivion. That all said, everyone is always trying to cut federal spending on fire watchers, but just you wait, you’ll be wishing you paid these guys when all of a sudden the beacon of Amon Dîn is lit on Eilenach, followed by Nardol, Erelas, Min-Rimmon, Calenhad, and Amon Anwar on Halifirien on the Rohan border, at which point you’ll kick yourself if Gondor calls for aid.
The United States Coast Guard stopped a 44-year-old marathon runner from attempting to run across the Atlantic Ocean in a vessel that resembled a particularly buoyant hamster wheel. This is the fourth such attempt foiled by the Coasties; the man was found approximately 70 miles off the coast of Georgia in late August, and was brought into custody after a multi-day standoff. The man was attempting to run to London.
Every year, about 330 million tennis balls are produced. The vast if not overwhelming majority end up in landfills, where they’re anticipated to take centuries to decompose. The Grand Slam events burn through these balls, with the U.S. Open going through on the order of 100,000 balls over the course of the tournament. The issue is, tennis balls in their ideal competitive state are indestructible, which somewhat countermands the ability to eventually rot. Some attempt to recycle them, in turn producing materials that end up making tennis courts, but when you take a step back that’s a bit of a Ponzi scheme. One thought beyond recycling: Instead of the ITF requiring a new tennis ball every seven games, maybe we dial that up to 11 or 13.
A new analysis of the performance of streaming shows found that nailing the release is a massive concern with brutal consequences, and shows that fail to reach an audience in the first days of release generally fail to build a viewership in the ensuing weeks. If a show fails to make the Nielsen charts in its first two weeks, a mere 1.96 percent of the time does it ever manage to crawl onto those rankings later down the line. Even looking at shows released weekly, that stands at a mere 14 percent chance of eventually rising to the top charts. The rare show that has actually pulled this off — Dopesick, The Peripheral, National Treasure: Edge of History, Daisy Jones & the Six and Hijack — aren’t exactly paragons of series health either, underscoring that streaming inherently is based on a big launch, and has little tolerance for legs.
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A new study from Mozilla found that 92 percent of automakers don’t give drivers control over their data, that 84 percent share data with outside parties and often data brokers, and 76 percent retain the right to sell that data. Typically, it used to be that car manufacturers retained limited data about their users — at best BMW could know that their buyers were unable to use a blinker — but now that’s advanced, and arguably invasive data is the very foundation of an automaker’s business model.
The ascent of pickleball — which saw participation jump 85.7 percent in 2022, and which is projected to increase 158.6 percent over the following three years — is fueling sales in its bitter rival, tennis. Since 2020, sales of tennis apparel is up 41 percent, with sales over $340 million in the year ending June 2020. Some companies are attempting to specifically retool their tennis wares for the pickleball space. As of June 2023, $303.7 million was spent on pickleball paddles and balls, up from $50.8 million in the same year of 2020, and above the $284.8 million spent on tennis rackets and balls.
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