What Happened to Larry?


As long-time readers know, on Fridays — like, you know, today — I do a week-in-review type of thing.  Today, I’m going to jump right to that. The “Larry” part comes from the Wednesday article, but let’s hit on Monday and Tuesday first.

Oh, one thing before I get there — this Monday is Memorial Day here in the United States, and I’m taking it off. So no newsletter Monday, sorry.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Circle of Life. This story was VERY well received; I can’t begin to tell you how many notes I got back about this one. I’d love to share more inspiring/heartwarming stories like this so if you find them, send them.

That said: it’s very hard to write up these heartwarming stories. There are a lot of great stories of random acts of kindness and even positive karma like the one I wrote about Monday. Take, for example, a story this week about a couple that, as Today reported, “wanted to help new parents who are especially struggling during the pandemic [ . . . ]  so they decided to hide money in essential baby items like formula containers, diaper boxes, baby bottle boxes and breast pump supplies at three of their local Target stores.”

It’s really great and touching — but there’s no oddball trivia angle. Not great for the newsletter. (But definitely worth sharing otherwise.)

Tuesday: The Everyday Superheroes at the Elder Care Facility: In an effort to have another heartwarming story (to a degree), I shared this older Now I Know on Tuesday. 

Wednesday: The Kids Are All Right: A lot of you wrote in to ask me about Larry and this will therefore immediately make sense to you. The rest are very confused right now. So, let me explain.

On Wednesday, I shared this story of Jeremy the Left-Coiling Snail. It’s a good story, if I say so myself, and you should read it. But originally, I accidentally named him Larry in my story… at least for the first few paragraphs. Only as I plugged in some sources did I realize, whoops, he was named Jeremy. The snail is named after Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the Labour Party in the UK, because Corbyn is considered to be a “lefty” politically. Being an American, that didn’t really resonate with me, and I instead started calling Jeremy by the incorrect name, Larry.

The almost good news is that I caught the mistake before too long. I replaced all of the mentions of Larry with Jeremy and continued on. And then, when doing some last-minute revisions, I … somehow called the snail “Larry” again. 

So if you were confused, sorry about that. There is no Larry. Only Jeremy. And the other two that got names, but they’re not naemd Larry either.

Thursday: Refrigerators that Ribbit?: Thanks to reader Rob M., who suggested a FANTASTIC title that I should have used: “Refrogerators.” Also, ever wonder why “fridge” has a D but “refridgerator” doesn’t? I did, so I looked it up, and found this explanation — it’s pretty good.

And some other things you should check out:

[Hi! If you’re reading this, the paragraph you’re about to read in italics — it was what I originally published. But it’s wrong. The Paris Review article cited by what linked to was a parody, and one The Paris Review did an awful job labeling as one. So I don’t blame the Today’s Parent writer. But it’s wrong, so I’m highlighting my error.

First, a short read: “Here’s why Eric Carle didn’t want his hungry caterpillar to get a stomach ache” (Today’s Parent, May 2021). Carle, the author of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and a bunch of other books for young children, died this week at the age of 91. This is a really great anecdote about his commitment to storytelling.

Onward. — Dan]

Also, check out the two times I’ve mentioned Carle in past Now I Know articles{ first, when his co-author’s name caused a kerfuffle, leading Texas to ban their book; and second, a look into what happens to a caterpillar’s memories when it becomes a butterfly.

Finally, here are some non-Eric Carle long reads for the weekend.

1) “Homeless Oaklanders were tired of the housing crisis. So they built a ‘miracle’ village” (The Guardian, 8 minutes, May 2021). This is an uplifting story that shouldn’t be necessary.

2) “How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich” (Eater, 9 minutes, May 2021). Thanks again to John G. (and a happy belated birthday, John!) for sharing. This story piqued my interest because I saw their Instagram post and it made me question how the restaurant accounted for labor costs. Basically, the restaurant industry allocates a percentage of revenue to labor costs on a per-item basis, even though it isn’t necessarily labor-intensive to make $14 sandwich than it is to make a $6 one. The article doesn’t address that, unfortunately.

That isn’t to say the way of accounting for those costs is wrong, by the way — it’s just a good shorthand to help you figure out how to price your product. The important part, though, is that you can raise prices without necessarily having to pay more in labor costs. That may turn away some customers, naturally, but if restaurants like this one are in as dire of situations as described in the article, that’s going to be inevitable.

3) ‘The man who didn’t invent Flamin’ Hot Cheetos” (Los Angeles Times, 23 minutes, May 2021). About a dozen people sent this one to me, and it’s a good thing so many of you did because I had dismissed it as silly originally. A few weeks ago, NPR ran a story about a food executive who claimed, in detail, about how he spearheaded the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, a popular new snack food that I can’t claim to have ever tried. (I’m not a big fan of anything so spicy that it could be called “flamin’ hot” and Cheeto dust grosses me out.) Something seemed amiss so the LA Times went investigating — and found that it was a lie. NPR has since revisited the question and now agrees; there’s a huge editors note at the start of their article now.

Have a great weekend! I’ll be back on Tuesday.