The Weekender, June 1, 2018

1) “A Simple Way to Improve a Billion Lives: Eyeglasses​” (New York Times, 18 minutes, May 2018).

More than a billion people around the world need eyeglasses but don’t have them, researchers say, an affliction long overlooked on lists of public health priorities. Some estimates put that figure closer to 2.5 billion people. They include thousands of nearsighted Nigerian truck drivers who strain to see pedestrians darting across the road and middle-aged coffee farmers in Bolivia whose inability to see objects up close makes it hard to spot ripe beans for harvest.

Then there are the tens of millions of children like Shivam across the world whose families cannot afford an eye exam or the prescription eyeglasses that would help them excel in school.

[ . . . ]

In an era when millions of people still perish from preventable or treatable illness, many major donors devote their largess to combating killers like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. In 2015, only $37 million was spent on delivering eyeglasses to people in the developing world, less than one percent of resources devoted to global health issues, according to EYElliance, a nonprofit group trying to raise money and bring attention to the problem of uncorrected vision.

2) The Now I Know Reader Survey. Take it! It’s fun, anonymous, and I promise to share the results in a future email. Shouldn’t take you more than two or three minutes, four if you really think over the Old MacDonald question.

3) “America has a massive truck driver shortage. Here’s why few want an $80,000 job.” (Washington Post, 10 minutes, May 2018). Truck driving, as one person interviewed notes, “is the easiest money you can get without a college degree.” And yet, there’s a severe shortage of truck drivers. Pay will likely go up somewhat to meet the need, but why are so many people in need of higher-paying jobs not going into the trucking industry? This is a good look at that question. Want more on the topic? In 2016, the Atlantic spoke with a husband and wife couple which took to the road as a driving tandem, and in the December prior, the Wall Street Journal explored the emerging trend of “trucker teams” which could keep a rig rolling basically non-stop.

4) The Now I Know Week in Review:

Monday: Memorial Day. Took the day off.

TuesdayThe Restaurant With A Rotating Grandma On The Menu. Don’t worry, the grandma doesn’t rotate. The menu does!

WednesdayHow the Soviet Union Saved Vulcan. The town which struggles to live long and propser.

ThursdayThe Little TV Accident that Made Miami Golden. It’s not really about Miami Vice, but there’s a lot about Miami Vice in it, for reasons which will be obvious if you read it. But if you read it already and want more Miami Vice content, here’s a great 13-minute read on its cultural impact.


5) “What Makes The Spelling Bee So Hard” (FiveThirtyEight, 11 minutes, May 2018). Last night, Texas teenager Karthik Nemmani won the National Spelling Bee after correctly spelling the word “koinonia.” (The runner-up missed the word “Bewusstseinslage.)

Since 1996, young spellers have attempted to spell over 14,000 words — from abactor to zymurgy. Twenty-five percent of those words, over 3,500, have been misspelled. This year, yet more words will be plucked from 470,000-odd options in Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary. I sifted through all 21 years’ worth of errors, looking for reasons that some of the best spellers in the world stumbled when the stakes were highest. I found a gantlet of potential pitfalls — including capricious vowel sounds and obscure double meanings. To help your own study habits — or make you thankful you never attempted a spelling career — I’ve put together a cheat sheet of eight spelling bee tips. Prepare your flash cards accordingly.

6) “How Everything on the Internet Became Clickbait” (The Outline, TK, May 2018). I think Now I Know is a nice exception, but that’s beside the point. The key takeaway: “News functions kind of like music: some people want to find the best music regardless of popularity for their private consumption (diversion), but most people just want to stay up to date on the latest pop songs so they can sing along when the DJ drops the latest banger, and/or read the news to see who Robert Mueller indicted this week.”

Have a great weekend!