The Weekender, October 23, 2020


I made a few mistakes in Tuesday’s email. Understandable ones, though. While talking about crows — which come from a family of birds called “corvids” — I twice used the word “covid” instead. Here’s what I wrote, typos included and bolded to make them even more obvious:

Don’t worry if crows eat a lot of Cheetos — apparently, their bodies can handle it. In 2019, the Covid Research Blog (yes, there’s a covid research blog) reported on a study of the relative cholesterol levels of city crows versus rural crows…

More than a few of you wrote to point out my mistake here. And I can’t help but laugh. I think it’s an understandable error on my part — we all have the virus on our mind to some degree. 

And when it comes to typos, long-time readers know that I tend to have a few a week. (Okay, sometimes a few a day.) It’s the downside of a high-volume, solo project. I write a lot and I don’t have a lot of time to do so; I edit as best as I can given the circumstances, and I’ve come to live with that. (Please, please, please do not offer to copy edit for me. Many people have, and my turnaround time and schedules just don’t permit it. Very often, I am making changes to emails just minutes before I send it. While I appreciate the offer, I’m going to decline.) The corvid/covid error prompted a few of you to ask a question: 

What has been my worst typo to date?

That, unfortunately, is an easy one.

In July of 2010, I wrote this story about Thomas the Tank Engine’s unlikely narrator. It’s a decent story, not one of my best, although even if it were a top five story, the typo would be horrible anyway. Here’s what it says now; if you want to know what it said before, let’s just say that the letter “b” isn’t just a flipped and reversed “b,” especially when you’re talking about “pitching” a story.

There is an episode of Sex and the City in which Carrie, the narrator/protagonist — a sex columnist for a fictional New York City tabloid — finds herself pitching a book concept to a publisher. 


(I promise that’s not a muscle memory issue, either; I almost never use, or type, that word. At least not intentionally!)

The Now I Know Week in Review

MondayWhy Penguins Are a Laughing Matter. A reader asked if penguins are always laughing. I have no idea, but now I can’t help but think about laughing penguins.

Tuesday: The Cheetos Challenge. About corvids, aka crows, not covids, aka purgagory.

Wednesday: Children of the Box: Finland’s fascinating program for the littlest Finns.

Thursday: When Abraham Lincoln Lost New Jersey (and Won Anyway): I spent months thinking about how to write this one. There are at least a half-dozen different approaches I could have taken; this was probably the way to go, though.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads etc. for the weekend.

0) “A User’s Guide to Democracy” (ProPublica). Yesterday’s email had something new — I ran a PSA, or “public service announcement.” The ad in the email was an unpaid one; the agency I use to help find sponsors has partnered with ProPublica to help develop this guide. I’m running it again, unasked and again for free (obviously, as it’s unasked!), because it’s important. If you’re a U.S. voter, please consider signing up for this.

1) “The Town That Went Feral” (The New Republic, 13 minutes, October 2020). I went back and forth on sharing this because it’s moderately political, but the opening paragraph is so simultaneously serious and silly (and non-political) that I figured it’s a must-share. Here’s that paragraph.

In its public education campaigns, the U.S. National Park Service stresses an important distinction: If you find yourself being attacked by a brown or grizzly bear, YES, DO PLAY DEAD. Spread your arms and legs and cling to the ground with all your might, facing downward; after a few attempts to flip you over (no one said this would be easy), the bear will, most likely, leave. By contrast, if you find yourself being attacked by a black bear, NO, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. You must either flee or, if that’s not an option, fight it off, curved claws and 700 psi-jaws and all.


2) “The Longform Podcast: Latif Nassir” (Longform, 54 minutes, October 2020). I know Latif personally — it’s a fun story I’ll share one day (in fact, I think I’ve written a first pass on it already). You should be listening to or watching everything he makes. He’s as curious as I am, for sure, and probably a better storyteller. Here’s a good chance to get to know the voice you’ll hopefully be hearing a lot of over the next few years.

3) “The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League–Obsessed Parents” (The Atlantic, 27 minutes, November 2020). Squash isn’t just a gourd.

Have a great weekend!