The Now I Know Weekender, April 29, 2022


I actually don’t have much to talk about today — my house is still fighting a cold (and starting to win, so I guess that’s good?). So let’s just go right to the actual “Week in Review” part of the Friday emails? Great.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Man Who Dropped Candy from the Skies: This is the story about  Gail “Hal” Halvorsen, a military pilot known as the “Candy Bomber” because of the pretty cool deed he undertook.  Halvorsen passed away earlier this year so I wanted to re-share this story, and I’m very glad I did. One reader, Megan M., shared with me this video about Halvorsen — it’s his story, narrated by Tom Brokaw during the 2012 Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert. It’s a beautifully told story featuring archival footage of Halvorsen’s actions. It’s definitely worth watching/listening for its 13+ minute run-time. 

Tuesday: Why Nearly Ten Minutes of Silence Was Once Worth 99 Cents: If you haven’t read the linked story, this isn’t a non-sequitir, I promise. When I was in middle school, the school ran a fundraiser — kids went around selling magazine subscriptions. My parents bought a few and my dad decided to sign up as “AADan AALewis” (or maybe he used his first name instead of the “Dan” part). The idea, at first, was to get the first wave of the magazine’s print-and-send run — even though we had little reason to think that magazines came out in staggered releases, there wasn’t any meaningful downside to doing this. 

What happened instead, though, was we created an accidental tracking system. We started getting junkmail to AADan AALewis, and we knew right away where they got our name and mailing address. So the next year, we turned it into a game; the addressee became AADan ABLewis. More junk mail from even more sources. The magazine program was more of a lead generation business than a magazine distribution one. 

I don’t think there’s a big life lesson here, for what it’s worth, although I will have to ask my parents if they still get mail for anyone in the AALewis or ABLewis household.

Wednesday: The Mystery of the Missing Internet, Rural Wales Edition: I was nearly 100% sure that I had written about this before until I started writing about it. I searched my archives, double-checked my books, double-checked my archives again, and nope. Nothing. (The nice thing about this story is that it involves a specific rural village, so I could search everywhere for the proper noun name of the village. Nothing turned up.) I did once write a kind of similar-ish story, here, but again, I could have sworn I wrote about this. And it turns out, I’m not alone! Reader Brendan M. wrote in to say that he’s been sharing this story with others for months and has been crediting me for telling him about it — which, again, I didn’t. (At least not until Wednesday.) Thanks, Brendan, for making me remember that I’m not the only one whose memory isn’t perfect!! 

Thursday: NASA-L: This is the story about the guy who sniffs stuff before it goes into spacecrafts or to the International Space Station. It’s a really weird job that aims to solve a really weird problem — when you’re sealed in a tin can far above the world, whatever smells you bring with you simply don’t go away. In deciding to share it yesterday, I didn’t realize that I — fighting a cold — am very nasal; that’s probably my subconcious being funny.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known” (Kevin Kelly, 10 minutes, earlier this week). A few years back, Kevin Kelly wrote an essay titled “1,000 True Fans” which, to a large degree, helped inspire me to originally create Now I Know. (As an aside, and I guess as a subtle ask, if you define “true fans” of Now I Know as “people who give at least $1/month to support it, I’m about 60% of the way to 1,000.) He turned 70 earlier this week and published this list of 103 things he wishes he knew before his 70th birthday. There’s a lot of good advice in there (although I don’t think it’s a great idea to throw candy out a moving car window) and I suggest you read it, maybe even twice. And, apropos of one of the bullets, thanks, Kevin, for the teachings.

2) “The surprising afterlife of used hotel soap” (The Hustle, 8 minutes, April 2022). The subhead: “Hotel guests leave behind millions of half-used bars of soap every day. A nonprofit is on a mission to repurpose them.” The story takes an odd turn when the nonprofit has to deal with COVID; I’ll not spoil the twist. Thanks to reader Ken S. for sharing. 

3) “Bellucci vs. Bellucci” (Grub Street, 9 minutes, April 2022). A pizza place named Bellucci opens in New York. One of the owners, the one actually named Bellucci, doesn’t like what the other one is doing, so he starts a new pizza place — named Bellucci. And this isn’t all that strange of a situation. This is another chapter in the long, long tale of New York pizza wars.

Have a great weekend!