Good News About Good News


Last Friday, I asked you all for a favor — help me find uplifting stories that could make for good Now I Know newsletters. And I’m overwhelmed by the response. I mean, literally overwhelmed. I’ve saved so many stories or avenues to find stories that I haven’t had a chance to go through more than a dozen of them.

The initial results, while based on a small sample size, are promising. Many of the stories were heartening but nothing extraordinary — people raising money for their neighbors struck by tragedy, adults teaching kids the importance of empathy through practical means, etc. But there were definitely a couple that I need to explore further. Look for those in the upcoming weeks.

The feedback itself, though, was inspiring. Tuesday’s story, the one about the Los Angeles Dodgers former player who keeps getting re-signed to a contract so he can have health insurance, was one I was on the fence about sharing. First, as a big baseball fan personally, I find baseball stories hard to share — everything about baseball interests me, and my ability to determine whether the story is objectively interesting to a typical person is clouded. Second, it’s a very similar story to another one (shared in the “From the Archives” link on Tuesday). And finally, while the story was well-received based on all your feedback, at the end of the day, the Dodgers are a team that just committed to $1 billion in player salaries; certainly, they can afford the health insurance for one of their former players (who would likely still be a Major League player but for the mental illness).

But I’m glad I shared it. Again, the feedback I got was great, and it really helped me better understand what type of stories I should be sharing in the future. Which brings me to another ask:

Reply to these emails more often, OK?

I read every email you send, and while I don’t have the bandwidth to reply, each note not only inspires me to keep writing (yes, even the complaints), but also helps me figure out how to improve Now I Know. So keep on sending replies, and I’ll keep on reading.

Let’s jump to the week in review!

The Now I Know Week In Review

Monday: Superman Versus the Klan: I think this probably qualifies as a feel-good story, too.

Tuesday: The $0 Baseball Player With the Priceless Contract: A quick note on this one, unrelated to the above — if you clicked the link to read this on the web on Tuesday, it didn’t work. And I have no idea why. I went to the backend of my archives to check yesterday and it just said “scheduling failed,” which is — well, nothing I’ve seen before. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t happen again.

Wednesday: How to Measure the Bug Population (Without Even Trying): This story started with me writing about a cool, innovative way to measure the insect population, and it turned into a story about the bug population itself. I wasn’t expecting that to happen as I was writing it, but it did.

Thursday: Beard Dough: I probably should have titled this “stache tax.”

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads (and a binge-watch) for the weekend:

1) “The Hotel Guest Who Wouldn’t Leave” (New York Times, 18 minutes, March 2024). Thanks to Stanley H. for sharing. This is a gift link, so it should get you around the paywall. Here’s how it opens:

On a June afternoon in 2018, a man named Mickey Barreto checked into the New Yorker Hotel. He was assigned Room 2565, a double-bed accommodation with a view of Midtown Manhattan almost entirely obscured by an exterior wall. For a one-night stay, he paid $200.57.

But he did not check out the next morning. Instead, he made the once-grand hotel his full-time residence for the next five years, without ever paying another cent.

2) “The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping” (Netflix, three episodes of roughly an hour each, 2024). This is a documentary about an institution billed as a boarding school for troubled teenagers, but it turns out to only barely be a school at all — with a system that feels more like torture and brainwashing than anything educational. The documentarian was a student at the school for more than a year, and she gains access to evidence that is rather telling.

3) “The tyranny of the algorithm: why every coffee shop looks the same” (The Guardian, January 2024, 17 minutes). The coffee shop aesthetic that you can probably picture in your head is, apparently, common at coffee shops everywhere. Here’s a deep-dive into why.

Have a great weekend!