The Now I Know Week in Review, February 24, 2023


This Friday’s email is going to be a short one — first, Monday was a holiday, so I took it off (well, with a re-run), and second, a not-so-fun stomach bug has struck my household (but not me personally . . . yet?) and I haven’t dealt with much of anything else. So this is a short Friday email. The good news: the issue I had with the ads last week seems to be solved — so, stomach bug or not, I’m calling this week a win.

Let’s get right to this week’s stories.

Monday: The Case of George Washington Versus Pinocchio — The cherry tree and the wooden boy are both parables about lying, at least to some degree. Which is more effective?

TuesdayThe Crows Didn’t Mind Dick Cheney, Though: I sent this under the wrong title originally — this is the right one. This is a fun one (and really has very little to do with Dick Cheney).

WednesdayWhen Bees Get Too Buzzed: They don’t get to go home and they can’t stay near. (Okay, maybe they can stay near, but that’d ruin the parody lyric I’m trying to make there.)

ThursdayThe Physics Behind Planes With Flying Advertising Banners: This is one of the first Now I Knows I wrote, and by that, I mean probably number 300 or so. It’s one of those things that, even now, I don’t really believe it’s so difficult to pull off — I mean, it’s just a banner, how hard could it be for an airplane to pull it around?

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend:

1) “ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web” (The New Yorker, 13 minutes, February 2023). In early December of last year, I wrote about ChatGPT, an AI chatbot. This story, via reader Aaron E., takes a somewhat-critical look at ChatGPT and its current state, insofar as how reliable it is. I think it’s a fair critique and a thoughtful one, although I’ll caution that I think all new technologies are like that; the early internet was similarly patchy.

2) “How A Phony Fed Fooled A Small Town” (60 Minutes, less than 60 minutes, November 2008). This is the written companion of a segment from the TV show 60 Minutes, and I’m sure the video is better than the written story. But the written piece is pretty good. Here’s a blurb from the top:

Like many small towns across the country, Gerald, Mo. was struggling with a tiny police force and a big drug problem. Then a man, known as “Sgt. Bill,” showed up.

Bill Jakob flashed a badge and announced his credentials: an undercover federal agent sent to clean up the town in a county with one of the highest number of methamphetamine labs in the country.

He quickly helped police round up dozens of suspects and was welcomed like a conquering hero. As Katie Couric first reported last November, it all seemed just a little too good to be true.

3) “Why are nurses quitting? Ask the nurse no hospital will hire.” (Washington Post, 14 minutes, February 2023). The nursing sector has been uniquely impacted by the pandemic, and the perceived lack of empathy for those in those roles has led many to quit. This is a first-hand look by someone who experienced that herself and made it her mission to change her profession, hopefully for the better.

Have a great weekend!