The Plane Truth — Let’s Break for the Year!


This is going to be the last Now I Know for 2023. Don’t worry — I’ll be back in 2024!

In a few days, I’m doing something I haven’t done in almost five years: I’m getting on a plane. My family and I are going away for the week to a place a lot warmer and a little bit sunnier than our regular corner of the world outside New York City. That, combined with the fact that many, many of you don’t bother to check your email over the Christmas to New Year’s week, means I’m not going to send anything next week. In years past, I’ve shared re-runs or something similar, but (a) that actually takes more effort from me than you’d think and (b) if you’re not reading, coming back to a half-dozen emails from me in January kind of sucks. So, for the first time since I started the newsletter, I’m going totally dark for a week — well, a bit more than that. The next Now I Know will hit your inboxes on Wednesday, January 3rd.

Thank you so much for reading Now I Know this year. I published 131 new newsletters this year — Weekenders included, but not including re-runs — and if you’ve read even half of them, that’s a lot of reading! I appreciate every minute you have spent with me this year and am looking forward to the next. 

The Now I Know Week In Review

MondayThe Smutty History of the Pixar Logo’s Older Cousin: Let there be light — but not that kind of light.

TuesdayThe Town That Raged Against Rage Against the Machine: People are funny sometimes. 

Wednesday: When Boston Banned Christmas: It was a long time ago, to be fair.

ThursdayWhy Would You Name a Snowman “Parson Brown”?: The mystery character in the song “Winter Wonderland,” demystified.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend:

1) “Why Do We Build Houses in the Same Way That We Did 125 Years Ago?” (New York Times, 8 minutes, December 2023). From the article: “Last year, only 2 percent of new single-family homes in the United States were built in factories. Two decades into the 21st century, nearly all U.S. homes are still built the old-fashioned way: one at a time, by hand. Completing a house took an average of 8.3 months in 2022, a month longer than it took to build a house of the same size back in 1971.” Why is this still the case? Is it a good thing? The article addresses all of this. 

2) “Why Bill Watterson Vanished” (The American Conservative, 14 minutes August 2023). In 1995, Bill Watterson stopped publishing Calvin and Hobbes, the comic strip he had been creating for over a decade. And then, for about 28 years, he all but exited the public sphere. He came back in 2023, but as the subhead of this story notes, “the mystery is why he disappeared in the first place.” 

3) “Guy Walks into a Bar” (New Yorker, 8 minutes, November 2013. I’ve shared this a bunch of times. It’s a funny, vulgar, but sophisticated take on a punny and vulgar joke about a 12-inch pianist that you’re probably already familiar with. It’s still funny every time I read it.

A Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and a Happy New Year to all! See you in 2024.