The Weekender, March 27, 2020


I’m sure for many of you — if not most of you — the last week or so has been surreal. I’m definitely in that camp, and I have to admit, it seems very strange to be sharing random trivia when the world is focused on, almost single-mindedly, on one single topic and one global conversation around it. A few weeks back, I used the Weekender space to talk about how Now I Know is, intentionally, not about current events, and I maintain that’s the right approach. But it’s still strange. Not difficult, just strange.

The Weekender — what you’re reading right now — has been the most strange experience, though. This section of the email and, to a lesser degree the longreads suggestions at the bottom, it’s tricky. I usually use this space to give a behind-the-scenes look into how the newsletter gets made, or to share some passing random thoughts that don’t make for a good Monday through Thursday story. But given how everything in the world is in a surreal disarray, the rather normal schedule I’ve put together to produce Now I Know is, well, rather normal. I find something interesting, I write about it, I share it, repeat. There’s not much to talk about here, and while I have a half-written essay on why I don’t like Monopoly, it’s probably not the right thing to share right now.

Longread selections are impacted by a different set of changes. First, my non-Now I Know routine is gone — I’m not reading on the train because I’m not on the train, for example. Second, almost all of the recent longreads are about the coronavirus or related issues (e.g. providing context for the massive spike in unemployment claims). And while I have a backlist of some good options, many of them don’t seem like something you (or I, for that matter) would want to read given that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. 

I’m not writing any of this to complain, just to be clear — if anything, the week has been easier (save for the longreads) and a nice bit of escapism for myself, as I get to think about something other than work, a new normal at home, and an invisible threat everywhere else. So again, this isn’t a complaint; it is just my on-going effort to be more transparent about what happens behind the scenes at Now I Know. 

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: Neither Rain Nor Sleet Nor Crazy Address Will Prevent The Mail Delivery. A story about my brother mailing me a bagel. Really! And then something even crazier, and not involving my brother (I think).

Tuesday: The Grass With … Less Gas?. How fish food may help cows help us slow climate change.

Wednesday: Easier than Pi: Why Pi was almost 3.2. But only in part of the world.

Thursday: Why Does It Feel So Weird To Walk on a Stopped Escalator?: Seriously, why does this happen? Aren’t broken elevators just stairs? 

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “A Year In Space” (Netflix, 12 episodes of about 15 minutes each, 2015). I’m only halfway through this — we’re watching as a family so I can’t binge it in one sitting. It’s been fun, informative, and comes in bite-sized episodes. And it’s about space, which is usually a big plus anyway.

2) “Slot-machine science” (Vox, 19 minutes, March 2015). How casinos get you to spend more money, without you even thinking about it. It’s like a Jedi mind trick only with tacky carpeting — and that the carpeting is part of the trick.

3) “Michael Moschen performs the Triangle” (YouTube, 6 minutes, November 2007). The best juggling performance you’ll ever see. Easily. 

Have a great weekend!