The Weekender, November 15, 2019


Before we start, I have a favor to ask. It’s a simple one:

If you’ve read my newest book, The Soviets Invaded Wisconsin?!, can you please leave a review on Amazon? Just click here.

(I mean, if you’ve read it and if you’ve liked it.)

Reviews are the most important part of the online book-selling game (and yes, a lot of it is a game). So, please take a few minutes and help me out? Thanks.

Watch my mind play tricks on me.” 

Tuesday’s Now I Know was supposed to be about something called Molyneux’s problem, a question first posed in the late 1600s by an Irish philosopher named William Molyneux. I began to write about it and, after giving some thought about how to tee it up, went with another common thought-starter: “if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

And — bam — it hit me that I referenced the tree/forest thing before. So I searched my archives, and yep, I had used that lede before — in an article about Molyneux’s problem.


I try very, very hard to make sure I don’t write the same story twice. I’ve taken some bonus facts and turned them into main stories a few times, and as far as I can remember, only once by accident. I’ve also done one re-rewrite which started out unintentionally but I caught it, realized the re-write was a lot better (and more accurate) and kept going. As far as I know, I’ve never actually sent the same story twice, re-runs aside.

But on Tuesday, I came close. I had totally forgotten that I had written about Molyneux’s problem, to the point that I didn’t even double-check to make sure I hadn’t. (I usually do.) But my brain did something really neat — the hook I used the first time, I also used the second time. And I vaguely remembered using the tree/forest thing again. Crisis (well, minor mistake) averted.

(The Molyneux’s problem story is here if you want to read it.) 

The Now I Know Week in Review

MondayThe British Ban on Clapping — This is from my first book, which reminds me: Earlier in the week, Buzzfeed put together a list of “25 Fantastic Gifts For People Who Love Learning New Things” and guess what came in at #22? My first book! Pretty cool, right?

Tuesday: The Man Who Won a Trip to Mars. Speaking of interstellar travel, The Mandalorian — the Star Wars show on Disney+ — is pretty good. Well, the first episode was; the second one, as of this writing, isn’t out yet.

WednesdayThe Woman Who Sniffed Out Parkinson’s — I talked about a “stablizing” spoon but said “stables” instead, which implies that it has to do with e.g. horses; that was a mistake. Horses do not have opposable thumbs and would struggle to use even the most high-tech spoon. 

Thursday: A Boy Named Sue — This references a Guinness World Record. Coincidentally, yesterday was also Guinness World Record Day, according to them.

And some other things you should check out:

Here are some long reads for the weekend. If you sent in a link, I apologize — I accidentally deleted the file that has who sent in what, so I can’t thank you this week. But I really, really appreciate all the suggestions.

1) “Inside the World of Guide Dog Dropouts” (Mel Magazine, 7 minutes, November 2019). What happens to would-be guide dogs who don’t graduate from guide-dog school? This.

2) “Is the Supreme Court’s Fate in Elena Kagan’s Hands?” (New Yorker, 48 minute read or 1h 15m listen, November 2019). This is a rather apolitical look at one of the least-mentioned Supreme Court justices. I only read the first half and really liked it, but time isn’t on my side so I’ll have to get to the rest over the weekend myself.

3) “How to Sell Drugs and Influence Everyone on Instagram” (Boston Magazine, November 2019). Social media is my bread and butter, and yet, I rarely post on Instagram myself. Perhaps it’s because I have little interest in being a drug dealer?

Have a great weekend!