The Weekender, April 5, 2019

1) “This Guy Tastes Ice Cream for a Living” (The Now I Know YouTube Channel, 3:44 April 2019). Thanks to your support, the Now I Know YouTube channel is back! The newest episode, again hosted by the inimitable Matt Silverman, is the story of the man with the golden tongue. No, wait, golden spoon, $1 million tongue. (That’s not an exaggeration, either.) He uses it to eat ice cream.

2) “Why There’s So Little Left of the Early Internet” (BBC, 8 minutes, March 2019). We think of the Internet as “forever” but it really isn’t. All this digital stuff exists somewhere, as ones and zeros, and if that “somewhere” goes away, so does the content. It’s a problem which I run up against a lot when looking at old sources — you’d be amazed at how often newspapers update their website and break all of their old links (if not outright remove the old articles). That’s a microcosm, though, of the bigger picture here.

3) The Now I Know Week in Review:

Monday: How Jupiter and Pluto Teamed Up to Make People Feel Silly. An April Fool’s joke gone wrong. Or gone right?

Tuesday: The 11-Inch Foot. The story of a ridiculous lawsuit.

Wednesday: Koreikashakai Prisoners. The story behind a Japanese crime wave (kind of). A lot of people wrote it to ask “what’s going on in 1966?” because the graph on that article suggests something strange happened that year. It did! And if you have my first book, you’d know why. (Or you can Google it.)

Thursday: The Postal Bureacats. Not a typo but also not my favorite title. And apparently, cats can play fetch after all. Oh well.

4) “The Cult of Homework” (The Atlantic, 9 minutes, March 2019). I have a lot of thoughts on homework and education more generally, but they’re based on gut and anecdote so I’ll keep them to myself. This, however, makes a point I agree with and backs it up — kids simply have too much homework.

5) “You Have to Pay the Right Person” (Bloomberg Businessweek, 17 minutes, March 2019). A really interesting way of thinking about the recent college admissions scandal. The article starts on a riff about insider trading for some reason (hence the reference in the quote below) but quickly gets into the college mess.

The law is pretty good at protecting property interests, but not so good at protecting fairness. If there’s a thing, and someone owns it, and you take it, the law can deal with that: It’s relatively straightforward to figure out what happened and explain why it was wrong and identify the victim and assign blame to the perpetrator and so forth. Fairness is a much harder concept to pin down and enforce; my “unfair advantage” might be your “deserved reward for hard work and innate skill.” What’s odd is not that insider trading law is about theft; what’s odd is that it almost looks like it might be about fairness, and that people think it is.

[ . . . ]

There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, except for the extremely well-known one where you donate a building in exchange for getting your kid in! “Lol just donate a building like a real rich person,” the U.S. Attorney almost said.

6) “The Surprisingly Little-Known History of White Rice in Korea” (Food52, 6 minutes, March 2019). The title is rather descriptive. It’s a good article.

Have a great weekend!