The Weekender, August 7, 2020


The storm that hit my area on Tuesday was, according to the local power company, the most devastating (in terms of down trees and power outages) since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. My family and I are perfectly safe, so don’t worry about that. But it’s really made it impossible to write newsletters this week, hence the two re-runs (and, as of now, a third on Monday).

It’s always been my goal, since the beginnings of Now I Know a decade ago, to publish every day. In part, that’s because I want reading this to become part of your routine; in part, it’s because I need this to be part of my routine in order to keep up with writing it. In general, that’s not been an issue, but nature has a way of throwing things for a loop, as evidenced by this week. (The only comparable time was Sandy or Hurricane Irene in 2011 — I don’t actually remember.) But I’m a big tech nerd so I have a home setup that allows me to compensate to an extent.

For power, we have a generator — it was one of the things we budgeted for when we moved from the city to the suburbs. (One of the advantages of moving after Sandy is that we did so with events like this fresh in our mind.) For Internet access, I have a phone and an iPad with a grandfathered-in data plan, and can use either as a hotspot. The phone’s data is barely working right now but the iPad is fine, which is weird because they use the same network. So right now, I’m typing this on a laptop, powered by a generator, connected to the Internet through my iPad’s data plan. 

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The TV That Needed Help. SOS-TV.

Tuesday: The Horseless Headsman. The case for really, really, really large hood ornaments?

Wednesday: The Wicked Bible: I originally titled this “Untying the Not” which is a really great pun, if I say so myself. But I went with the more straightforward title for the re-run.

Thursday: The Friendliest of Fire. As an aside, Neil Armstrong should really have received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and for a moment, I considered starting a petition to get that done.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “The Battle to Invent the Automatic Rice Cooker” (Atlas Obscura, 8 minutes, July 2020). I’ve owned rice cookers before — well, one, at least — and I think I used it once. Like a pasta maker or ice cream machine, it seems too narrow to care about. But others, apparently, have a different experience. 

2) “The Anonymous Professor Who Wasn’t” (New York Times, 10 minutes, August 2020). This could have been a regular Now I Know but I don’t think I could do the story justice. 

3) “The collectors who spend thousands on rare Hot Wheels” (The Hustle, 8 minutes, August 2020). Thanks again to reader John G. for sharing a great Weekender long-read option. And thanks to my recently-Hot Wheels-obsessed nephew who made this resonate personally with me. (In his defense, he’s four years old and has only spent thousands of cents, some of which were recently mine.)

Have a great weekend!