The Weekender, April 6, 2018

1) “The Real Story of the Hawaiian Missile Crisis” (GQ, 28 minutes, April 2018). Earlier this year, the Hawaiian government accidentally issued an alert — missiles were incoming, take cover. It was a mistake, but that didn’t matter (immediately, at least) to the hundreds of thousands of people who thought their world was about to end. This is some of their stories.

Kathleen French is holding her phone, switching Pandora stations to something she wants to listen to at the gym. The ringer is off, so there is no alert sound: A white box suddenly overrides Pandora, takes over the screen.

I’m going to die. Kathleen believes this, immediately and viscerally. Or she will survive and suffer horribly. She does not, in that moment, weigh the relative merits of either outcome.

She does not hear any sirens, which she finds odd because she always hears the tsunami warnings, even in her apartment 25 floors above the Ala Wai Canal. But is that any odder than getting tweeted into a nuclear war? She believes that has happened, too. There had been reports all last week that Donald Trump wanted to attack North Korea. There had been no threat of fire and fury, like last summer, but jabbering about a limited strike, a “bloody nose” assault, as if the nuclear-armed world was a middle-school playground.

This is what it comes to, Kathleen thinks. It’s not a fully coherent thought, more of an instinctual recognition, utterly confusing yet perfectly rational. Fire and fury to bloody nose to whatever got tweeted overnight.

She’s trying not to panic. Think. She has to call Jeff Judd, her husband. He’s gone for a run, down along the canal, exposed. He never takes his phone. She dials his number anyway.

2) Help me hit 500 Supporters on Patreon: As many of you know, I’ve been using Patreon as a way to help keep Now I Know financially sustainable. As I announced that week, my goal for April is to get to 500 patrons. I’m now at 475 — thank you for getting me almost there!

A $5 a month pledge comes out to about 25 cents per email I send; a $1 a month pledge is roughly a nickel.  And really, those nickels add up. So:

Please consider supporting Now I Know through Patreon by clicking here.

It’s entirely optional and you’re under no obligation to do so, so don’t feel bad if you can’t or don’t want to. But if you do, thanks! I greatly appreciate your support.

3) The Now I Know Week in Review:

Monday: The Sound of World War II Planes — The reason behind the screaming descent.

TuesdayHow Overdue Parking Tickets Took Over an Innocent Person’s Life — Don’t try this at home.

Wednesday: The Man of Many Thank Yous — Meet the guy who gets thanked in a lot of movie credits.

Thursday:  A Sinister Hamburger — A good hamburger joke.

4) “What Makes a Tree a Tree?” (Knowable Magazine, 7 minutes, March 2018). The subhead: “Despite numerous studies and 30-plus genomes under their belts, scientists are still struggling to nail down the defining traits of these tall, long-lived, woody plants.” Thanks to Keith L. for the suggestion.


5) “The Money Fixers” (NPR/Planet Money, 17 minutes, July 2017). This is a radio segment, so you have to listen, not read. But here’s the description from that page.

When your life savings gets torched in a house fire or put through a shredder, there is a roomful of people who may be able to help: a team of specialists with the legal authority and technical skills to say whether messed up money lives or dies. They are the people of the Mutilated Currency Division.

On this episode, we go inside the Mutilated Currency Division. We find stories of a cow with an appetite for currency, a hundred thousand dollars stuffed into a mailbox, and a court battle between the government and millions of dollars in mutilated money

6) “I am a ‘MasterChef’ Survivor” (Salon, 17 minutes, February 2016). The subhead: “Have you ever wondered what kind of person auditions for reality TV? Here’s my story, and what I saw.” It’s the story of high stress, fake reality, and an egg frittata with California asparagus and goat butter Hollandaise.

Have a great weekend!