Let’s Update Some Stories!


First off, a happy Veterans Day! To those who served, thank you for your service.

Today, I want to take a moment to share some updates on two stories I wrote a while ago. Let’s get right to it.

1) May 20, 2014: “Mister Beer Belly

This is a story about a guy who has a condition called auto-brewery syndrome, or ABS. Basically, he has a bacteria in his gut called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is more commonly known as “brewer’s yeast.” Brewer’s yeast is used by makers of beer to convert the sugars into alcohol, and — except for the “too much alcohol is bad for you” — is harmless to humans. But in this case, the brewer’s yeast didn’t pass through his body. As a result, whenever he eats starches like bread or pasta, he gets drunk. That’s, obviously, bad.

This week, I learned of another ABS story, and one that is worse. A Connecticut woman named Sara Lefebvre gave up drinking entirely when she was younger because she got dangerously drunk one night — but despite this, she kept getting drunk. It’s ABS, and in this case, the self-made booze has wrecked her liver. In 2021, she needed a transplant in order to survive, but couldn’t get one because the supply of livers is limited and she was likely to get self-drunk again. The good news is that an anti-fungal should work here, so hopefully, she’s OK (but I can’t find a story either way). In any event, I didn’t realize that ABS could be this serious when I wrote about it initially, and I should have reflected that possible outcome in the original story.

On a more fun note, I also found an additional bonus fact for this one. Oregon has a lot of microbreweries, and in 2013, decided to make brewer’s yeast the official state microbe. It’s the only state with a state microbe.

2) April 11, 2019: “Why a Canadian Court Has to Decide if a License Plate is Offensive

Here’s a picture that tells half the story.

That license plate is pretty obviously not okay, right? Well, the man above has an excuse: “Grabher” is his last name. (His first name is Lorne.) He acquired the vanity plate in or around 1990, as a gift for his father who has since passed away. He took the plate for himself afterward, without issue, but in 2016, Nova Scotia canceled it. So he sued. Here’s how I ended the story:

He’ll find out whether those arguments work soon enough — the court is expected to hear arguments in Grabher v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles at the end of the month, ending this three-year saga.

Well, Mr. Grabher has had his day in court, and it didn’t go well for him. He lost and appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. In March of this year, the Court declined to hear his appeal.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Ultimate Fortune Teller?: Meet the man who used to write almost all (okay, half) of the fortune cookie fortunes in the United States. 

Tuesday: The Tiny Lie in Your Pantry: The true story behind Heinz and its 57 varieties. 

Wednesday: The Tale of Monkey Island: No video games were harmed in making this one. (If you don’t get that joke, you also didn’t get the Guybrush Threepwood in my header message on this one, but I’m not going to explain it. That’s a very Google-able name!)

Thursday: The Florida City Fueled by Soda: Have a Coke and a smile (and a lot of money, too).

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “Meet the Obsessive Role-Players Who Live Inside the World of Grand Theft Auto” (Narratively, 12 minutes, November 2021). The subhead: “Renegade developers co-opted this controversial video game’s source code to build a complex alternate universe where breaking character is the cardinal sin. Millions tune in to watch.”

2) “The Desperado” (Atavist, 40 minutes, January 2020.) The subhead here is “In April 2018, a blind man with one foot robbed a bank in Austin, Texas. This is a heist story—but unlike any you’ve ever read.” It’s doesn’t really do the story justice, through. I can’t tell you more without ruining it. Thanks to reader Michael G. for the suggestion!

3) “The Original Tiger Kings” (The Atlantic, 30 minutes, November 2022). The other headline I saw this under sums it up better: “The Improbable Rise and Savage Fall of Siegfried & Roy”.

Have a great weekend!