An Actual Week in Review


As long-time readers know, on Fridays — like, you know, today — I do a week-in-review type of thing. Sometimes, though, I talk about random other things. Today, I don’t have a lot of random other things to share, so let’s do a deeper-than-usual dive into the last four stories. 

(Also, thank you to everyone who wrote in with advice about what to do with books I no longer want. I’m working on a recap of your suggestions for a later date.)

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Toddler Truce: This is about how the BBC changed its programming schedule to help parents get their kids to bed. This story didn’t get a lot of responses, but the few of you who did all shared tricks of the trade when it comes to getting little kids to bed.  My kids are older so I’ve already tried most of them — but without great results! I’ll therefore refrain from sharing and advice here.

Tuesday: The Accidental Pet Feeding Hero of 2016: Most of the time, I write a story no more than a day or so before sending it. In this case, I started writing it a few weeks ago, got a few sentences in (with almost all of the research done) and then stopped, for two reasons.

First, there was the timing. I started writing it and some sort of weather-related disaster hit (I don’t remember which), and it felt a little insensitive to talk about a weather-related disaster as a result. That was somewhat avoidable by waiting until this week, although I’m sure somewhere, there’s something bad happening.

The second was more difficult. I’m not a pet person myself and never really have been — we’ve had fish and some hermit crabs, but those barely count.  So I can’t really empathize strongly with those who have to abandone pets during a mandated evacuation. I wanted to be sensitive to that, but at the same time, what the “hero” did here was incredibly reckless and put other people in danger. If you read about the firest central to this story, you’ll discover that a water treatment plant for the region was in this area, and the people working there were asked to stay put and continue going to work. Why? Because the water they were in charge of was being used by the firefighters to put out the fires.

There are only so many rescue workers to go around, and when people like our “hero” here stay put, they’re making it harder on the system. It’s really great that the guy used his time as a non-evacuee to save people’s pets; he deserves a ton of credit for that. But he also shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and I think it’s hard to reconcile those two points. I hope I did a decent job in the original story; if not, I hope I did so here.

Wednesday: The Unforgiving Tyranny of the Red Pen: This was this week’s re-run. I selected it basically at random (I have a “random article” button I used, this popped up, I said “why not?”). 

The number of replies I got from this one is amazing, given the topic. One person shared a story about how she tought “basic skills” to adults, many of whom were high school dropouts; she quickly learned to use a green pen instead of a red one, because the red ink seemed to trigger the students to the point where they would “tear up or leave the class.”  And many, many others wrote in to share that they still can’t use red pens to this day.

Thursday: The Non-Profit That Gives Drivers Sticker Shock. An under-the-hood story for this one (pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist). When I went to write this, I was intending to make the bonus fact into the main story. I think I could have — there’s definitely enough there (and in fact, I had to turn the bonus fact into a two paragraph ordeal). But while reading up on it, I learned about the Russian stickering thing. That seemed to be a better story, so I went with it.

Had I made the bonus fact the main story, I probably would have talked a lot more about criminal sentences that are alternatives to jail time. The sidewalk driver absolutely could have been sentenced to some time behind bars; it’s incredibly reckless to do what she did. But this solution — public shaming — may be more effective at changing behavior. We really don’t know, but it’s an interesting idea.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “It’s time to create an alternative path into a journalism career” (Nieman Lab, 18 minutes, October 2021). I’m not a journalist nor wilL I ever claim to be. I don’t have any interest in being one, either. But I never realized how hard it was to break into the industry, especially from a financial debt perspective. 

2) “Would I Lie to Monty Hall?” (Tedium, 12 minutes, October 2021). This is a very very very niche article. If you don’t know what the Monty Hall problem is (I did), or what a British panel show is (I didn’t beforehand, but the examples are funny), you will afterward. 

3) “The true story of the fake US embassy in Ghana” (The Guardian, 19 minutes, November 2017). This has been in my “write this one up” pile for so long… I think it’s time to give it up. The reporting does it more justice than I could ever do.

Have a great weekend!