The Weekender, March 6, 2020


If you’re new to Now I Know, you may be somewhat surprised that I didn’t mention the U.S. Presidential election, the coronavirus, or other current events in any of the stories this week. That’s kind of by design, but only kind of.

When I started the newsletter — well, probably when I had been writing it for a year already — I had the opportunity to speak with a few people who had already built successful, well-known websites. One of them advised me to pick a theme for each day of the week, like stories about wisdom on Wednesday and something fun and light for Fridays. I tried that for about a day and I realized that it was just way too hard — too much planning and trying to force stories into buckets. I’m the only person writing this and I’m writing something new three or four times a week, minimum, and there’s simply no way I can force inspiration like that.

Current events have the same basic problem, plus another one: you can’t really plan for them. Some newsworthy or zeitgeist-relevant topics are predictable, especially those around holidays, but most aren’t. Trying to tie this newsletter into the news of the day doesn’t seem to be a workable plan. 

And I also wonder if it would be the right plan anyway. I think we all have many, many places to learn more about whatever’s in the news — more than we need, perhaps. I like being able to think about something else. I hope you do, too.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Color of Flying Calmly. It’s blue. 

Tuesday: The Tampons That Fought Back By Adding a Spine. The title is a play on words. Books have spines. Get it? 

Wednesday: Invisible Pink. An unexpected form of camoflauge. 

Thursday: How Much is a Buttload, Exactly? It’s a lot more than you’d think. And it has nothing to do with a “boatload.”

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “The Chaos of the Dice” (New Yorker, 27 minutes, May 2013). Earlier this week, one of the world’s best backgammon players, Matvey Natanzon (better known as Falafel), passed away. A few years back, the New Yorker profiled him. Here’s that story. 

2) “There’s an Entire Industry Dedicated to Making Foods Crispy, and It Is WILD” (Bon Appetit, 17 minutes, February 2020). The science of crunchy potato chips.

3) “For Decades, Cartographers Have Been Hiding Covert Illustrations Inside of Switzerland’s Official Maps” (AIEG Eye on design, 8 minutes, February 20, 2002.) I don’t have much to say here other than if I ever draw a map, I will definitely try to hide things in it.

Have a great weekend!