The Weekender, March 20, 2020

Hi! Thank you, again, for joining me for another week of Now I Know.

Now I Know’s tenth birthday is approaching in June, so by definition, I have a lot of very old articles. On Wednesday, I re-ran one of those older articles, one from 2011. Old articles have a problem called “link rot.” Basically, over time, webpages often disappear from the Internet. Maybe it’s because the publication went through a redesign and broke their old URLs. Maybe they deleted some old content. Or maybe they went out of business. There are lots of reasons, but they all lead to the same place — a headache for me. Especially when I screw up.

That’s what happened this week. Wednesday’s re-run was supposed to have a link in it that went to this story about a weather station on Hans Island from a publication called SIKU News. Unfortunately, SIKU News — which used to have “daily coverage of the top stories around the circumpolar world” — went out of business a few months after I wrote my article. At some point in the subsequent eight-plus years, someone else set up a website at their old web address. So the article I meant to link went to something else — something not at all related to small Canadian islands, and something not at all appropriate for many readers. (Thankfully, there were no pictures of note.)

So first of all, sorry about that. I usually check old links but I somehow missed that one. Second, I wanted to let you know about a great non-profit which helps address the problem of link rot: the Internet Archive and their Wayback Machine. They create archived versions of millions of old piece of the Internet, including many, many news articles which would have otherwise been lost.

It’s been an invaluable tool for Now I Know; there are few things more frustrating than finding a source for an article only to discover that it has otherwise disappeared off the Internet. The Wayback Machine has helped me find copies of countless such stories. I hope you also get a chance to use it.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: How Postage Almost Started a War. If you think about it, this was a pretty stupid design for a stamp.

Tuesday: Harry Potter and the Need for Fewer Casts. I’m re-reading Harry Potter in my increasingly limited free time. I’m currently in Book 4, right before the Dark Mark appears.

Wednesday: Capture the Flag. Now with a link to the Wayback Macihne’s version of the article I cited.

Thursday: To Boldly Go Where You’re Really Not Allowed To Go. Star Trek accidentally (?) dabbles in Earth politics of the late 20th century. 

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “The Accusations Were Lies. But Could We Prove It?” (New York Times Magazine, 37 minutes, March 2020). This would make for a good movie, except that it’s very much a bureaucratic failure as much as anything else. 

2) “The Strange and Dangerous World of America’s Big Cat People” (Longreads, 28 minutes, March 2020). Yes, there are people who own tigers. As pets (kind of). If you think that sounds like a bad idea, you’re probably right.

3) “Guy Walks Into a Bar” (The New Yorker, 5 minutes, November 2013). Warning #1: This is R-rated. Warning #2: I’ve shared it before, perhaps twice before even. But it’s a really, really brilliant take on a classic joke, so I’m sharing it again. You know, because we all need a laugh. (And yes, I double-checked to make sure the link still works.)

Have a safe, healthy, and calm weekend!