About a year ago, I sent an email asking you for money. Many of you rose to the occasion, so I’m back again to do the same. To be clear, though: (a) there’s no obligation for you to say yes and (b) you shouldn’t feel guilty (okay, a twinge is fine) if you ignore me or say no.
My goal is for Now I Know to earn, in total from all revenue sources, $5,000 a month net. Ads and current supporters are getting me a bit more than halfway there already, but I need your help to get me the rest of the way. If 450 more of you contribute $5+ a month today, I’ll hit the goal.
* To become a monthly supporter via Patreon or to increase your contribution amount, click here.
* To become a one-time supporter via PayPal, click here.
Thanks! I appreciate it. Now, to explain why I’m asking.
As I said in October 2022, I would love for Now I Know to be my full-time job but, realistically, it’s never going to happen. It simply doesn’t make me enough money and, as a result, it’s a luxury for me to run. It takes me a lot of work — about 20 hours a week. My much more realistic goal — both then and now — is to bring in $5,000 a month, which I think is reasonable given the out-of-pocket costs and the amount of time I put into this.
Last year, I said that financially, Now I Know was going backward. The good news is that this year, I’m basically flat. If you check out last year’s appeal, you’ll see that I had 556 backers via Patreon; now, I’m at 595, which is great. And the average donation is up from about $2.50 to about $2.61 per month, which is also pretty good! And that doesn’t include a lot of you who decided to make one-time gifts via Venmo or PayPal. In total, that came out to just under $200/month, which puts me at about $1,700/month from your support alone — a good way toward that $5,000 goal. Thanks to all who have supported me thus far! My goal last year was 500 new supporters at $5/each — I’ve been able to reduce that to 450 as a result of your generosity!
The rest of Now I Know’s finances, though, haven’t been that great over the last 12 months. As I mentioned last year, in May of 2020, “Mailchimp was charging me $0 to send the emails, as part of a small business grant. [As of October 2022], they charge me about $850 a month.” Now, Mailchimp is up to $1,000+ each month. The ad revenue I’ve been able to generate from my pre-2023 sources has been down as well, mostly because ad revenue has been down across the board since last fall. I’ve made up a bit by recommending other email newsletters, allowing me to make up for some of that.
The end result? It’s basically the same as last year. If you back into my hourly rate, it’s pretty close to the same $18/hour I was at when I wrote this in 2022.
So I’m asking for your support in the amount of $5 a month. If you can do less, that’s fine, and if you can do more, that’s great. I send you about 20 stories each month, so the $5 level comes out to about 25 cents per story — I hope I’m delivering at least that much value to you each weekday.
Again, here’s how to help:
1) If you’re not a Patreon supporter, please consider becoming one.
2) If you already are one, thanks! Please consider upping your pledge a buck or two.
And if you’re not comfortable with recurring support, I get that — I provided the PayPal and Venmo links above as alternatives.
What will you get for your support? Nothing tangible, sorry! You’ll get the great feeling of knowing that you’re supporting a project that, I hope, you really like. It’s like NPR, basically: your support helps keep this thing going. (If you support me on a recurring basis via Patreon — at any dollar amount — you’ll get an ad-free version of the newsletter, too.)
Thanks in advance! Onto the week in review.
The Now I Know Week in Review
Monday: Yom Kippur — no Now I Know.
Tuesday: A Star Spangled Snafu: This one took me longer to write than most, all because of one sentence: “That changed in late 2022.” None of the news reports I relied on had that date, or for that matter, any other date. I dug through Archive.org’s database to see when the switch happened, and as best I can tell, it was early December 2022. It took me a half hour or so to determine that — and I couldn’t nail down that date with any certainty, so I went with “late 2022.”
Wednesday: The Big Lie: The title is a little lie, because it’s a pun on the word “lie.”
Thursday: How Potatoes Changed the Outcome of a World War II Naval Battle: When in doubt, throw food… I guess?
And some other things you should check out:
Some long reads for the weekend.
1) “The Dungeons & Dragons Players of Death Row” (New York Times, 19 minutes, August 2023). I had a hard time finding a great quote here, not because there weren’t many, but because there are a ton. Here’s a long one — and I’ll share a shorter one right after.
When [inmate Tony] Ford first overheard the men on the old Huntsville death row playing D.&D., they were engaged in a fast, high-octane version. The gamers were members of the Mexican Mafia, an insular crew that let Ford into their circle after they realized he could draw. The gang’s leader, Spider, pulled some strings, Ford recalls, and got him moved to a neighboring cell to serve as his personal artist. Ford earned some money drawing intricate Aztec designs in ink. He also began to join their D.&D. sessions, eventually becoming a Dungeon Master and running games all over the row.
Playing Dungeons & Dragons is more difficult in prison than almost anywhere else. Just as in the free world, each gaming session can last for hours and is part of a larger campaign that often stretches on for months or years. But in prison, players can’t just look up the game rules online. The hard-bound manuals that detail settings, characters and spells are expensive and can be difficult to get past mailroom censors. Some states ban books about the game altogether, while others prohibit anything with a hard cover. Books with maps are generally forbidden, and dice are often considered contraband, because they can be used for gambling. Prisoners frequently replace them with game spinners crafted out of paper and typewriter parts.
The article is superb, and the author deserves a ton of credit. She notes that “to report this article, I spent several years exchanging letters with men on death row in Texas. Phone calls with reporters aren’t permitted, and I could only conduct monitored, in-person, one-hour interviews with specific individuals every three months.” It’s worth her effort.
2) “The World’s Best Bounty Hunter Is 4’11”. Here’s How She Hunts” (Wired, 23 minutes, December 2013). Back in 2019, reader Nicholas J. sent this to me and I meant to share it that week — and forgot. The story still holds up. Here’s a pull-quote:
Staying on the run from the FBI is no easy feat. Neither is evading three professional investigators dispatched by some of the country’s biggest debt recovery agencies. [Fugitive Ryan Eugene] Mullen had clearly figured out something—some technique for covering his tracks or otherwise keeping ahead of his pursuers—that put him well above the average con. [Bounty hunter Michelle] Gomez wanted the case.
The link I’ve provided should get you past the paywall, but if it doesn’t, sorry about that. Thanks again to Nicholas for the suggestion!
3) “‘You’re Invisible, But I’ll Eat You Anyway.’ Secrets Of Snow-Diving Foxes” (NPR, 5 minutes, January 2014). At five minutes (maybe less), this isn’t a long read exactly. I’ve long considered turning this into a regular Monday through Thursday Now I Know story, but this is better than anything I could have written. Watch the embedded video, too — it perfectly sets up the seemingly magical abilities of the fox.
Have a great weekend! And, again, thank you for reading — and supporting — Now I Know.