The Weekender, December 18, 2020


As we approach the end of the year, I figured this is a great chance to give you a look into the stories I didn’t write. Before I get there though, a quick note about Tuesday’s email: a lot of you didn’t get it.

And it wasn’t my fault!

For the first time in… really, as long as I can remember, Gmail had a massive, massive problem. In the morning, you couldn’t access it at all. And when it came back, Gmail addresses still weren’t receiving email. In the very rare case when that happens, the email almost always eventually gets to you. But in this case, it bounced back as undelivered. So if you’re a Gmail user, you probably didn’t get that email. It’s linked in the “Week in Review” section below, though.

Onto the main item for the day:

Three Things I Didn’t Write About (and Why)

I’ve done something like this before and it turned out nicely. So, let’s do it again.

The Nine Grandmothers and Their Secret Bakery 

This is one of the stranger stories.

The story itself isn’t strange at all — it’s actually very nice and uplifting. The short version: a group of nine women in Tennessee secretly stayed up very late to bake pound cakes. Then, they (also secretly) get them to people in their communities who were down on their luck. It’s a beautiful story, and one I noticed about a year ago and flagged to revisit later.

But when I went back to write it? Everything was gone.

I don’t remember how I found the story originally, but this Huffington Post article from 2012 seems to be the source everyone else links to. And if you click that link to read the story, you’ll see it’s not there. Vanished. That happens a lot online, as websites are refreshed, etc., but in almost all cases, the article is just somewhere else on the website; you just have to find it. In this case, though, it’s vanished without a trace. 

My next steps were two-fold: First, I did a Google search on “9 Nanas,” which is the name the group of clandestine bakers went by. Also, I went to read the article via the Internet Archive. That worked, as you’ll see here. (That’s the original Huffington Post story, as best as I can tell.) 

The Google search yielded almost nothing. The only major publication to cover the 9 Nanas was the Daily Mail, and the Daily Mail is not at all reliable and I almost never use it as a source anymore. (I did for the first few years.) It’s so unreliable that Wikipedia’s editors won’t allow it as a primary source. As no other publication seemed to cover the story, I began to wonder if I had been duped. And my other path suggests that yes, maybe I have.

If you look at the archived version of the HuffPo article, it links to a story on But is also gone, and has been down for years. And it also links to, which, you guessed it, is also down. What gives? Why would a story like this disappear from the Internet?

I really have no idea. If you look at from 2016, it sounds like the nonet leveraged their 15 minutes of fame to turn the bakery into a legitimate but still good-focused operation after the news story hit in 2012. And then, for reasons unclear, they shut it down in 2018 or so. But there’s just not a lot of info out there, and the info that’s trustworthy is gone, so, this is the best I can do.

DWI Barbie

This one, on the other hand, has a ton of sources. And photos! There’s really no question what happened here. A college student was pulled over after a concert, on suspicion that she was driving drunk. When asked to take a Breathalyzer test, she refused. As a result, she had her driver’s license suspended. 

So she bought herself a kid-sized Barbie car and used that to drive herself around town and campus.

Here’s the story from Mashable if you want to read it. It’s creative, it’s funny, and it’s easy to write. But it’s also callous. And it’s basically impossible to tell the story without also making drunk driving seem like a victimless crime. I love a good loophole, probably moreso than most. And had a judge sentenced her to 30 days driving a Barbie car as a scarlet letter of sorts, I’d have written this one up. But glorifying her ingenuity isn’t what I’m hoping to do.

The Beavers and Their Satellite Dishes

First off: I don’t think I’ve ever spelled “satellite” correctly the first time. 

Anyway, here’s the picture you need to see:

That comes from a CBC article titled “Have you spotted a satellite dish on a beaver lodge? Here’s why it’s happening.” Apparently, there are lots of examples of this. And boy, was I excited to find out what was going on here! Think of the possibilities! Beavers figuring out ways to watch TV was unlikely, but I was hoping for something where they climb on roofs to plunder electronic equipment to keep them warm. Or maybe something like they thought that this was how other animals marked their territory, so they went to do the same. Or… well, I didn’t speculate for that long because the CBC was going to tell me!

The answer, though, sucks: “It seems [that] along the outskirts of the Canadian wilderness, placing items such as satellite dishes and Canadian flags on beaver lodges has become a quintessential Canadian prank.”

It’s a good prank but it’s not a good Now I Know. 

Oh well.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Medical Version of a Rolling Stone: Rollercoasters and kidney stones. A good combination if you’re in the right category.

Tuesday: Why Your Ice Cubes are White: The one you missed if you’re on Gmail.

Wednesday: Why Wearing a Tie May Be Bad Business: They don’t wear ties on Star Trek. This may be the reason why. (Okay, probably not.)

Thursday: The Wright Place at the Wright Time: The story of the iconic Wright Brothers flight picture.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “Texas Wedding Photographers Have Seen Some $#!+” (Texas Monthly, 7 minutes, December 2020). What’s it like to be a wedding photographer during a pandemic? This article answers that question. I have a lot to say about this article and I am going to keep it all to myself. If you want a lighthearted take on how to pull off a wedding during a pandemic, my friend’s book (49 reviews, 4.9-star average!) is a better choice. 

2) “Seeing at the Speed of Sound” (Stanford Magazine, 15 minutes, March/April 2013). The subhead: “Lipreading, which makes one sense do the work of another, is a skill daunting to describe. Rachel Kolb, [Stanford class of 2012], deaf since birth, shares its mysteries.”

3) “We Asked: Why Does Oreo Keep Releasing New Flavors?” (New York Times, 6 minutes, December 2020). Admit it, you wondered this too.

Have a great weekend!