The Now I Know Gift Guide That Doesn’t Exist

Hi! Another Friday, another Now I Know Weekender edition! As long-time readers know, I use Fridays to share something a bit different than usual. Today, I want to ask you all for some ideas.

The title of today’s email is a bit misleading. To give some context, a few years ago, I created a website called AwesomeClaus, where I curated Secret Santa gifts priced at under $20. I created it on a lark. Basically, Christmastime was approaching and I wanted to do something that Now I Know readers would find valuable, and also, something that would entertain me. I really enjoyed finding the items and writing the descriptions of the items. But the site got hit by some malware a few years ago and it was too expensive to clean up. So AwesomeClaus is gone. (If you want to check it out still, it’s archived on the Internet Archive; here’s a version from early 2019.)

A couple of days ago, I considered rebooting the site. I didn’t because it’s pretty late in the holiday season to do so and, more importantly, I couldn’t find a good (and cheap) platform to build it on. The original one is on WordPress and that’s not the right solution. So, my first question for you all: If I wanted to restart AwesomeClaus, what platform should I use? I’m looking for something that lets me easily curate gift ideas, but I’m not actually selling them — so I don’t need a payment processor or any sort of checkout. If you have suggestions, let me know.

But the bigger question is: what else should I be doing with Now I Know and all of you? There are tens of thousands of you who read this each day, and I’m sure the vast, vast majority don’t want anything more than that daily email — that’s fine and expected. But for those who want more, what does “more” mean to you? I’ve tinkered with a few things — the books, of course, but also a YouTube channel, the aforementioned curated gift site, and even ran a Secret Santa gift swap one year. A podcast may happen at some point but who knows. I’ve considered running some sort of online course, but I don’t know what I’d teach. 

So, if you have ideas for any of the above, hit reply and let me know. Thanks! 

Now, let’s take a look at this week’s newsletters and some weekend long-reads.

The Now I Know Week in Review

MondayIt’s Better to Be Afraid than Embarrassed?: I don’t like horror movies so, for me, the answer would have been “neither.”

Tuesday: The Road With a Toad-Away Zone: Congrats to all who caught the (not-so) hidden Back to the Future reference. Also, a reader points in (in regard to the bonus fact) that in Serbian, the words for grandmother and frog are pronounced baba and djaba, so the saying rhymes.

Wednesday: Why Our Fingers Wrinkle When Wet: The mystery of pruny pinkies.

Thursday: The Stinging Feeling of Expertise: In the bonus item, I originally said that drones die when they sting humans. But that’s wrong. Drone bees don’t have stingers; worker beers do. I’ve made the correction at that link. Thanks to all of you who wrote in to correct me!

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “Birds Aren’t Real, or Are They? Inside a Gen Z Conspiracy Theory.” (New York Times, 7 minutes, December 2021). The good news is that the conspiracy theory is intended to be a joke. The bad news is that more than a few people probably didn’t realize that. 

2) “Another Night to Remember” (Vanity Fair, 24 minutes, May 2012). The title doesn’t tell you much, so here’s the subhead: “When the Costa Concordia, a floating pleasure palace carrying 4,200 people, hit a rock off the Italian coast on January 13, it became the largest passenger ship ever wrecked, supplanting the Titanic in maritime history. From the moments when the captain made the first in a series of incredible blunders, through a harrowing night of mindless panic and deadly peril, in which rescuers and passengers improvised a massive evacuation and ordinary men emerged as heroes,”

3)  “Bros., Lecce: We Eat at The Worst Michelin Starred Restaurant, Ever” (The Everywhereist, 9 minutes, December 2021). This is both hysterical and shocking. My favorite line: “Another course – a citrus foam – was served in a plaster cast of the chef’s mouth. Absent utensils, we were told to lick it out of the chef’s mouth in a scene that I’m pretty sure was stolen from an eastern European horror film. For reasons that could fill an entire volume of TimeLife Mysteries of the Unknown, THIS ITEM IS AVAILABLE FOR SALE AT THEIR GIFTSHOP. In case you want to have a restraining order filed against you this holiday season.” (The price of the chef’s mouth mold? About $50.)

Have a great weekend!