1) “A tumor stole every memory I had. This is what happened when it all came back.” (Quartz, 28 minutes, September 2015). In short: Holy cow.
What eventually did happen was something none of the experts ever suggested would be possible. Over time I would lose my memory—almost completely—of things that happened just moments before, and become unable to recall events that happened days and years earlier. To the rest of the world, I would become a young man behaving bizarrely, perhaps drunkenly, and I lacked the ability to acknowledge it, or fully explain what was going on. As it grew, eventually to the size of a small egg, the tumor dug a hole in my consciousness, of ever-increasing depth. I became incapable of living the life I had made for myself.
I’ve now been given my health back. Through persistence, luck, and maybe something more, an incredible medical procedure returned my mind and memories to me almost all at once. I became the man who remembered events I had never experienced, due to my amnesia. The man who forgot which member of his family had died while he was sick, only to have that memory, like hundreds of others, come flooding back. The memories came back out of order, with flashbacks mystically presenting themselves in ways that left me both excited and frightened. With my health back, I was able to live a life again, but it’s not the same life as it was before. The tumor changed me forever. And I am grateful for it.
2) New! Introducing the Now I Know 2016 Desk Calendar!: Yes, that’s right, a desk calendar! My book publisher took many of the facts from my two books and turned it into a great holiday gift. Get it here.
3) “That Time the Internet Sent a SWAT Team to My Mom’s House” (Narratively, 15 minutes, July 2015). An absolutely harrowing account of online harassment.
I opened my inbox and saw an email from a reporter for a New Orleans newspaper. “I came across your name today while researching an article,” he wrote. I assumed he was writing an article about online harassment and had reached out to me because I was a budding researcher in the field and a New Orleans native. I was excited that a local newspaper was interested in the topic, and flattered that the reporter had reached out to me. Then I kept reading:
“….about a fairly unusual incident on [my mother’s street] this weekend. A hoax call about a threat at a home there prompted a large police response,” I recognized this immediately as the harassment tactic known as ‘swatting,’ born out of the online gaming community.
[ . . . ]
My mom had been swatted and it was my fault.
Swatting is a “prank” in which a person places a call to the victim’s local police department, saying a violent crime has occurred, often involving hostages, so the SWAT team will show up and bust down their door. It’s happened to a few female game developers, and a games store in New Jersey during an event.
4) “The Price is Right: What Advertising Does to TV” (The New Yorker, 15 minutes, October 2015). I don’t really buy the argument, but the author’s take is, effectively, that everything you see on TV is basically an advertisement for something; in her words, “there is no art form that doesn’t run a three-legged race with the sponsors that support its production.” (Personally, I don’t feel like Now I Know is in such a race, although I’m sure it’s not entirely pure.)
5) “Putin’s Run for Gold” (Vanity Fair, 16 minutes, February 2014). The subhead tees it up: “At $50 billion and counting, the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, will be the most expensive Olympic Games ever. Intended to showcase the power of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, they may instead highlight its problems: organized crime, state corruption, and the terrorist threat within its borders.” The excerpt below is an example of one of those problems.
Beneath every modern Russian achievement lies a hidden story that may be more telling. In Sochi, the hidden story is about Putin, and about the small circle around him, who have profited handsomely from the construction. The winners are a tight group, with a history going back to early careers in St. Petersburg. Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev was once the C.E.O. of Gazprom, the world’s largest extractor of natural gas and Russia’s biggest company. In the 1990s, he and Alexey Miller, the current C.E.O. of Gazprom, worked in the St. Petersburg city administration, along with the young Vladimir Putin. In St. Petersburg, they met Boris and Arkady Rotenberg. The Rotenberg brothers once instructed Putin in Sambo, a martial art developed in the 1930s to aid Soviet infantrymen in close-quarters combat. The Rotenbergs made their first fortune in the gas-pipeline business, as Gazprom’s principal supplier. They also control the largest thermal-generation company in the world, a Moscow-based firm called TEK Mosenergo, a subsidiary of Gazprom. Mosenergo won the contract to build a new power plant in Adler, meant to feed the electricity needs of the Olympic skating venues. All told, Rotenberg-controlled companies have won Olympics-related contracts worth $7.4 billion. In the last two years, according to a report compiled by Russian political-opposition figures Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk, the Rotenbergs’ personal fortune has increased by $2.5 billion.
6) “Why People Keep Trying to Erase the Hollywood Sign From Google Maps” (Gizmodo, 11 minutes, November 2014). Residents take on tourists in one of the stranger cyber-battles you’ll ever read about.
Have a great weekend!