I Actually Like the Internet (and Kickball)


As long-time readers know, on Fridays — like, you know, today — I do a week-in-review type of thing. Today, I’m going to do just that.

This was a weird week for Now I Know because, for just the second time in over 11 years (but also for the second time in the last few months), I failed to send a newsletter. That happened on Tuesday, when I accidentally scheduled the email to send at 11:30 PM. By the time I noticed, it was way too late to send it, so I moved it to Wednesday. 

No one really seemed to mind. Or, rather, no one seemed viscerally upset, at least based on the emails I got back. 

I wasn’t really surprised by that — almost all of the emails you send back to me are very nice and helpful. And I wanted to share that because unfortunately, the Internet can be a toxic place, where people spend more time screaming at strangers than they do trying to be kind. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of that myself in many contexts. But the Now I Know community has been a shining example of how great the Internet can be. Combined with the reaction to my call to action last week, asking you to help turn a child’s cancer diagnosis into a more hopeful future, I’m really happy and proud to have you all here.
The Now I Know Week in Review

MondayHow Horses Created Firehouse Poles: Indirectloy, of course.

Tuesday: See above.

WednesdayWhy Spaceships Need a Foot Bath: That’s not smoke. It’s steam. Okay, techinically it’s water vapor, but you get the idea.

ThursdayMaybe Adults Shouldn’t Play Kickball: The truth is that I really like kickball. I would love to play kickball all the time. I wouldn’t be good at it at this point in my life — I’m a station to station runner — but it’d be a blast.

Oh, also, matball should be more popular. It’s a really great game. We played it a ton in elementary school and reading that Wikipedia entry is really a blast of nostaglic fun. Two lines that jumped out at me:

1) “Hitting certain parts of the gym, such as balconies or upper levels, may be designated a home run.” Yep. My elementary school gym (or was it middle school? I can’t remember) had a horzontal line on the walls, about 2/3rds of the way up to the ceiling. If you kicked the ball over the wall, it was a home run. 

2) “To avoid damage, hitting certain elements of the gym, such as a scoreboard, may be designated as an automatic out.” This was absolutely the case one year. Our school got a brand new scoreboard and hitting it was not only an out, but the end of the inning. It happened once. It was a great moment.
And some other things you should check out:
Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “Inside the Secretive, Semi-Illicit, High Stakes World of WhatsApp Mango Importing” (Eater, 25 minutes, August 2021). This is a fun one.

2) “Why People Who Brush Still Get Cavities” (FiveThirtyEight, 7 minutes, August 2021). To be honest, I really didn’t want to think about this. 

3) “Good Luck, Morons” (The Bitter Southerner, 22 minutes, July 2021 I think). This is the story of Lazarus Lake, the creator of the world’s craziest footrace. (I’ve highlighted a story about the race before; it’s a great read, and really, you should read that story first.) Anyway, the subhead for this one: “Thirty years ago, an East Tennessee guy with the unlikely name of Lazarus started the most demanding footrace in the world. The Barkley Marathons were already famous among extreme athletes, and then, a 2014 documentary film brought the wider world’s attention. The story of the race is great. The story of the man behind it is even better. That is, if Lazarus Lake really exists.”

Have a great weekend!