The Weekender, July 10, 2020


When I first started Now I Know a bit more than ten years ago, I decided that I was going to read and reply to everyone who emailed back. If you’re willing to read what I send you, I should do the same, right? 

That was a decade ago and as anyone who has emailed me in the last year knows, I don’t reply to everything I get. It’s just way, way too much. But I still do read everything. Unfortunately, until recently, I didn’t actually give up on replying to everyone, and as a result, I have over 1,400 emails which are marked “unread” even though I’ve read all of them to some degree. That has to change, so, it is.

A few weeks ago, I bought a subscription to a new email service called Hey. It’s a very different approach to email, as you’ll see through that link. I like it but I’m not here to recommend it to you — it’s not free (it’s $99/year) and may solve a problem you’re not dealing with. But for me, it works really nicely for a few reasons. The big one: there’s a “read together” option. I click that link and I can scroll through my entire unread inbox at once, putting some aside for a later reply and otherwise marking the rest as read. I haven’t done that for the last couple of days yet, but that’s all I have pending — that and nine emails I hope to reply to this weekend. 

So if you want to email me, just reply to this or any other Now I Know. It goes to my Hey inbox automatically. While I may be replying to marginally fewer emails, I promise I’ll be reading almost all of them.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The One Thing You Can’t Do in IKEA: Unless they don’t catch you.

Tuesday: The Job That’s a Riot: The weird (and kind of disturbing) history behind how sitcoms’ studio audiences come together.

Wednesday: A Run on the Runs: America’s first TP shortage.

Thursday: The Sweet Mistake: I have so much to say about this one. (Read it first before you read the below, if you haven’t already.)

Late Wednesday afternoon, my home Internet/cable TV went out. It remained out until yesterday afternoon. I didn’t have a Now I Know written and we’re in the middle of a global pandemic so I couldn’t e.g. go to the library to write. And it wasn’t just my house that was affected by the outage; the entire neighborhood was down. Because I ran a re-run on Wednesday, I wanted something new for Thursday, though, so I used my phone as a hotspot and tried to put something together quickly. 

I was going to simply write about the Jolly Ranchers but as I looked into the story more, I wondered how such a thing could happen. The sources I looked at said the police had done a field test on the candy and it came up positive for methamphetamines. How is that possible? And I ended up in this rabbit hole of similar cases, with lots of browser tabs open and my phone struggling to provide the needed bandwidth. 

I came very close to just publishing a re-run, but I think I got enough background info into it, and I’m happy with how the story ultimately turned out. 

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “When Milky Got His Money” (Esquire, 21 minutes, May 2018). The subhead summarizes this better than the headline: “A bank glitch gave a 24-year old, down-on-his-luck Australian man access to unlimited funds. Then he did exactly what you think he did with it.” The lead is even better:

You overdraw from your savings account. The bank doesn’t notice. You do it again. Same. And again. Same. What do you do? (A) Stop doing it. (B) Tell the bank about the glitch. (C) Live the life you’ve always dreamed of.

This is the true story of the man who chose C—thanks to more than 1.5 million bucks in “free” cash.

2) “The Raisin Situation” (New York Times, 15 minutes, April 2019). The subhead: “One man wanted to change the raisin industry for the better. He got more than he bargained for.” A few readers share a tip if you’re unable to get past the Times’ paywall — check your local library, even online. Many have subscriptions to the Times that you can use.

3) “This Is How You Create a Backyard Movie Theater” (Lifewire, 6 minutes, July 2020). It’s expensive, you’ll end up attracting bugs and bugging your neighbors, but it’s something to dream about anyway. Or do, if you have the means and the will. 

Have a great weekend!