The Weekender, September 18, 2020


Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins tonight. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be taking Monday off as a result — Rosh Hashanah runs until Sunday night, so it’ll be tricky for me to write something beforehand. It’s also a good moment to take stock on some of my goals for Now I Know this year, so let’s do that now.

In January, I listed four such goals. To recap, briefly, they are:

  1. Fix the malware issue on the site’s archives.
  2. Make Patreon more effective, and/or offer a way for people to support the newsletter with one-time donations.
  3. Find a home for the video content on the YouTube page.
  4. Use the newsletter to be a force for good more often.

I’m, to my surprise, doing better than I expected.

The Malware Issue
I think it’s solved! The truth is I had given up — it was such a huge problem I had no idea how to tackle it, other than a refresh reinstall and a lot of copy/pasting. A reader, Chris R., saved the day. Chris sent me a message (through Facebook of all places) suggesting that I look into Wordfence, a company that specializes in this. Wordfence’s free solutions were not adequate for my needs but their premium one did the job. 

The only downside is that my site ended up suffering some weird design changes as I updated some aspects; my new goals will include redesigning the site.

Reader Support
Two weeks ago, I asked for your support, financially. And I’m thrilled by the response. The cost to fix the malware issue is covered, there’s a good chance I can (ultimately) find someone to redesign the site. 

On the other hand, I’m still not delivering much additional value for supporters (beyond the ad blocking). That’ll stay on my list of goals.

Now I Know, the Video Series
It was fun, but it’s over. I tried to get someone to take it over because I believe it’s a good way to engage with more and more of the curious people out there, but no dice. I’m moving on.

Being a Force for Good
In January, I said that “I’m thrilled that we collectively raised more than $6,000 for charity:water — we beat my goal by more than 50%! (And if you still want to donate, you can. I wouldn’t mind breaking $10,000!)”

We broke $10,000. We collectively raised $11,634, enough to get clean water to an estimated 290 people. Amazing!

I also said that “I also don’t want to only ask you to make donations — there should be other ways to leverage my community to help people,” and I haven’t done nearly as good of a job there. If you have suggestions, please share.

I’ll have more goals and more updates in the future, but we’re definitely on the right track.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: A Whopper of an Underdog Story: For the record, yes, I know that the Whopper is not a McDonald’s product. But it made for a good inclusion in the title. A Filet-o-Fish of an Underdog Story is not a good title.

Also, a lot of you wrote in about the Burger King/Hungry Jacks tiff in Australia, suggesting that as a future story. It’s actually the bonus fact on the “from the archives” link in this story. :-)

Tuesday: The Last Confederate POW: Spoiler alert: It’s a flag.

Wednesday: Cursed Turns: The economics of swearing. Or something.

Thursday: Frank Sinatra’s Last Dollar: Why Old Blue Eyes had a lot of dimes.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “Gained a Daughter But Nearly Lost My Mind: How I Planned a Backyard Wedding During a Pandemic” (Your phone or Kindle, 2 hours or so, and it’ll cost you $5.99). In May, I made a reference to my neighbor’s blog. At the same time, she was planning her son’s wedding — or, rather, re-planning it, as the wedding was all set to go before the world turned upside down. She very transparently cataloged the experience on her blog, and hilariously so. For good reason, she turned it into a book, which came out earlier this week via Kindle. (A print version is forthcoming.) You’ll love it, and when she mentions her nice neighbors, there’s a good chance that’s a reference to me and my family. (The not-nice neighbors aren’t us. No, just kidding, we don’t have not-nice neighbors.)

2) “Pasco’s sheriff created a futuristic program to stop crime before it happens. It monitors and harasses families across the county.” (Tampa Bay Times, 31 minutes, September 2020). I think the actual title is “Targeted” but I honestly can’t tell. Anyway, this is Minority Report but less scifi, more … well, more bad stuff.

3) “The Funniest Video Game I’ve Ever Played” (SB Nation, 7 minutes, September 2020). I actually am really curious about the video game now.

Have a great weekend, and a shana tova to those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah. See you all on Tuesday.