The Weekender, November 30, 2018

1) Now I Know on YouTube: The Kickstarter Campaign! Thanks again to everyone who already pledged their support. The YouTube channel itself is at more than 1,000 subscribers, which is amazing. And the Kickstarter is going great, too — I have less than $1,500 to go to hit the goal!

If you haven’t backed it yet, please consider doing so. If I don’t hit that $8,750 goal, no one’s credit card gets charged and the project doesn’t move forward.

The campaign ends two weeks from today, so yeah, I’ll probably remind you a couple times between now and then. But first — here’s the next video!

2) “The Strange History of February 30th” (The Now I Know YouTube Channel, just under 4 minutes). Today is November 30th, a date which happens every year. There won’t be a February 30th ever, but there was one, once, but only in Sweden. Here’s why.

(If you want to read the story this is based on instead, click here. But please also consider subscribing to the YouTube channel, here.)

3)  “The 40 Greatest Family Games” (Slate, 27 minutes, November 2018). I have a lot of thoughts about this list and about board games etc. in general. More on that after this pull-quote:

The past two decades have seen a renaissance in family-friendly tabletop gaming, with new games taking the best elements of the classics, then reimagining and improving them. Some of the more popular modern games have become franchises, spawning expansion packs, special variant editions, and mobile apps. There’s no reason why any parent these days should wish for a fun family gathering and then come back from the store with Scrabble, Battleship, or Clue. There are so many better options out there: games that are more fair, more exciting, and more likely to provoke memorable conversations afterward about the choices everyone made.

This is a very good list that Slate put together; I particularly like the fact that Rummikub made the cut. Backgammon really should, though — it’s better than a lot of the games on the list. But I’ll give a full-throated endorsement to Ticket to Ride and, while not nearly as strategy-laden, Sushi Go Party!, both of which are winners at my house.

Slate also published a list of ten of the worst family games. I tweeted my response, here. Big takeaways: I really don’t like Monopoly. But Risk is worse.

4) The Now I Know Week in Review:

Monday: The Nefarious Downside of Christmas Music. See the “also” item, below.

Tuesday: The International Dispute That Slowed Down Time. Well, clocks.

Wednesday: The Space Capsule That Crashed in Oklahoma. A reader pointed out that the crash site’s proximity to Houston isn’t all that important because we don’t actually launch anytihng from Houston. Good point.

Thursday: How the Tooth Fairy Helped Change Nuclear Weapons Testing. Bonus: you get to say the words “strontium-90” if you read this one out loud.

Also, related somewhat to Monday’s email: Tomorrow starts Whamageddon. It’s a game you play by yourself and share when you lose. It’s all on the honor system. Your goal: Avoid hearing the song “Last Christmas” by Wham!.until Christmas Day. (All other Christmas songs are okay. All other Wham! songs are safe, too. Any covers of “Last Christmas” by a band other than Wham! are, similarly, safe.) The full rules are here. Good luck!


5) “A True-Crime Documentary About the Con That Shook the World of Wine ” (The New Yorker, 7 minutes, October 2016).

Rudy Kurniawan was a rich twenty-something with a naïve fondness for wine when he first started rubbing elbows with the high rollers at wine auctions, in the early two-thousands—“Just a geeky kid drinking Merlot,” as one veteran collector recalls. But he quickly developed a taste for Burgundy, a far more complex realm of connoisseurship, and was soon spending a million dollars every month on wine, much of it at boozy dinners with luminaries like the wine critic Robert Parker, who found Kurniawan to be a “very sweet and generous man.” Like other wealthy collectors, Kurniawan also sold treasures from his cellar. In 2006, the auction house Acker Merrall & Condit broke records selling off thirty-five million dollars’ worth of his wines. Two years later, at the Manhattan restaurant Cru, Acker held a sale proffering more of Kurniawan’s “rare gems,” promising that they had been authenticated by “some of Burgundy’s most discerning (and difficult) connoisseurs.” The lots included bottles of the coveted Domaine Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis, from the years 1945, 1949, and 1966. The only problem, as the proprietor of the estate pointed out, was that Domaine Ponsot did not start producing that particular wine until 1982.

6) “Field of dreams: heartbreak and heroics at the World Ploughing Championships” (The Guardian, 22 minutes, October 2018). I apologize to whoever suggested this — I can’t seem to remember who it was. But thank you if it was you. This is a really deep look into the people who competitively plow (as an American, that’s how I spell it) fields for fun and for glory.

Have a great weekend!