The Weekender, May 27, 2022

Hi! 

Like last week, I don’t have a lot to share today other than the Week in Review and the longreads. I’m taking Monday off for Memorial Day here in the U.S., so this will be the last Now I Know until next Tuesday.

More importantly, please take a moment to help the people in Uvalde, Texas. The Texas Tribune has put together a number of ways to do so, here.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Eye Shield That Keeps the Grumps Away: There’s a chapter in my first book that basically boils down to this: when you’re happy, you smile. But if you’re not happy, and you force yourself to smile, you’ll get happier. That doesn’t really make sense — our brains shoudl be able to tell the difference between cause and effect. This is a story of a similar case of cause-and-effect reversal that starts with our faces.

Tuesday: Until Death Do Us Reunite: This re-run is a touching story, despite the title and subject matter.

Wednesday: I Guess You Could Say He Was Too Sharp: I don’t want to spoil this one for you so if you haven’t read it yet, do so before reading the next few sentences. As some of you know,  I’m a lawyer by training — I don’t practice any longer and haven’t for well over a decade — and as a result, I know just enough to get myself into trouble. (When writing, I mean; I’m not a criminal.) This story threw me for a loop. The protagonist is charged with a crime that, per all accounts, doesn’t violate any written law. And that shouldn’t be possible. In 1812, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that if you want to charge someone with a criminal offense, there needs to be a law enacted previously that the person’s actions violate. That doesn’t appear to be true in this matter, which happened after 1812. Maybe that 1812 case didn’t apply to state governments at the time, I’m not sure, but I’m digging into it. 

Thursday: When North Dakota (Briefly) Tried to Secede From the United States: Look back 150 or so years and politics, by modern standards, are absolutely bonkers. (Today’s politics are also screwed up but but in a totally different way.) This is one of those stories. 

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “Daniel Taylor Was Innocent. He Spent Decades in Prison Trying to Fix the State‚Äôs Mistake.” (ProPublica, 9 minuets, May 2022). The first sentence of the subhead sounds impossible, but it’s not: “He was in police custody at the time of the murders, but a dubious confession led to his wrongful conviction while Chicago police and prosecutors turned a blind eye to inconvenient facts that eventually exonerated him.” Yes, he was literally in jail when the murders happened — that’s quite the alibi! — but it didn’t seem to matter.

2) “The Almighty Squabble Over Who Gets to Name Microbes” (Wired, 10 minutes, May 2022). I don’t have a good summary for this because the title basically sums it up — there’s a big argument in the science community over who gets to name newly discovered microbes (or if the microbes even deserve being named). I can’t really tell if this is colossally silly or actually a serious issue, but I’m leaning toward “probably a bit of both.”

3) “Apple shipped us a 79-pound iPhone repair kit to fix a 1.1-ounce battery” (The Verge, 9 minutes, May 2022). Want to change our iPhone’s battery? Until recently, you couldn’t, at least not on your own. But now, Apple is being pressured to let you do so. This is a story about malicious compliance, I think. 

Have a great weekend! See you Tuesday.

Dan