The Weekender: September 27, 2019


When I first started Now I Know in June of 2010, I wanted to make it personal — something from me as an individual, not a publication you read. That’s why, for example, I have that little message on the top of each email. But I think I’ve kind of lost that aspect along the way. So, I’m trying something new. Welcome to the new Now I Know Weekender! 

This is going to be more of a “letter to the readers” type of thing, at least for this week. (If you all hate it, let me know. If you like it, also let me know!) I’ll still share longreads and the links to the week in review at the bottom of this email. I’m also writing a lot of this before/while and as I write the weekly emails, so we’ll see how it turns out. 

Before we get started, though, a reminder: I’m off Monday and Tuesday for Rosh Hashanah.

OK! Onward.

I have absolutely no idea what happens if you put a wallet into a mailbox.” 

On Wednesday, I shared a story about lost wallets (and kindness, really). I didn’t intend to write that story when I started. I was investigating another thing: What happens if you put a lost wallet in a mailbox? There are a handful of articles out there which assert that, if you find a wallet in the U.S., you can drop it into a U.S. Postal Service collection box (you know, one of these) and the USPS will deliver it to the rightful owner free of charge.

That was going to be the story. But when I tried to write it up, I couldn’t verify that it’s true. Some sources point to Section 507 (“Mailer Services”) of the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual, but I tried to read it and got a headache. There is a reddit thread and a Quora post about it, but I don’t really trust either. So, it didn’t turn into a story — absent putting my own driver’s license into a mailbox (nope!), I don’t have confidence that it’s true enough to share.

It did, however, pay dividends. In my fruitless search to track down that fact, I came across the NPR article that acted as the basis for Wednesday’s newsletter.  And it also led me to a New York Times article I wanted to share titled “Mailboxes Yield Some Secrets, Many Wallets.” It’s a two-minute read about the random stuff NYC postal workers have found in mailboxes and what gets reunited with its owners. (And yes, it says that “if a wallet contains the owner’s address, it is returned. The Postal Service pays the postage for all but the largest wallets.” But it’s from 1996 so I don’t know if that’s still the rule, so I still didn’t write about it.) I hope you enjoy the Times article — there are some really weird things that get sent through the mail.

The Now I Know Week in Review

I think this section is still pretty valuable, right? Let’s keep it.

MondayWhy We Give 21-Gun Salutes — This is a pretty straightforward one and I’m going to make you click that link if you want the explanation (in part because I make a fun Lord of the Rings reference). 

Tuesday: How Baseball Closed Its Tiny Loophole — As many of you know, I’m a huge baseball fan (and in particular, a Mets fan, but that’s neither here nor there). I try to limit the baseball trivia here because a lot of the stories require some basis of knowledge about the game. For those of you who know baseball, though; there’s a little easter egg in there for you. In his only plate appearance, Eddie Gaedel draws a walk, right? Well, I managed to tell his story without ever using the word “walk.” (That wasn’t intentional at first, but as I noticed it was happening, I kept at it.)

WednesdayThe Kind of Amazing Thing That Happens When You Lose $13. See above!

Thursday: Where Old English Cats Go to Retire — I couldn’t find a good pun which mixes “retirement home” and something cat-related. “Meowtel” was the best I could do.

And some other things you should check out:

Here are three (or four?) long reads for the weekend.

1) “The Unsolved Case of the Most Mysterious Song on the Internet” (Rolling Stone, 10 minutes, September 2019). The subhead: “Twelve years ago, a catchy New Wave anthem appeared on the internet with no information about who wrote or recorded it. Amateur detectives have spent thousands of hours since trying to figure out where it came from — with little luck. Inside the question that’s been driving the internet crazy for years.” 

2) “My Family’s Slave” (The Atlantic, 35 minutes, June 2017). There’s a chance I linked to this a while back. If so, sorry about that!  The subhead: “She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was.”.

3) “The Octopus: An Alien Among Us” (Literary Hub, 11 minutes, September 2019). About 2,000 words on how octopuses think. And, as a bonus, from Merriam-Webster, an analysis of what the correct plural form of “octopus” is

Let me know if you like this format more? (Or less?) Thanks. Either way, have a great weekend!