Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
7 things I've meant to share
I mean, I have these “gift links” and all… why not use them?
Folks, I haven’t eaten my lunch in a random parking lot in a little while, and so I don’t have another quote on a signpost to opine upon for Friday.
But, I do have a very full "7 other things” running list, and some of the items deserve more attention than they might get at the bottom of a normal newsletter. Thus, for the weekend, I thought I’d step back and share a few additional links you might not have seen this week.
These should all be paywall-free—or else, there is a paywall, but I’m using “gift links” from my subscriptions to let you bypass them.
Also—and I’ll reiterate this at the bottom—you’re invited to share a link in the comments to something you read this week that you think other people ought to check out. Thanks for expanding my repertoire!
A nuclear reactor was melting down. Jimmy Carter came to the rescue.
First off, we saw this week that former President Carter has decided to spend his final days in hospice care at home. That news was the impetus for quite a few "things you might not have known about President Carter" to emerge or reemerge, including the story of how in 1952, then-Navy Lt. Carter and two dozen of his men were sent to Chalk River, Ontario, Canada, to risk their lives by removing the damaged core of a partially melted down nuclear reactor.
At the time, Carter was part of a team developing the U.S. Navy's first nuclear submarines, and thus he was "one of the few people on the planet authorized to go inside a nuclear reactor" when the accident happened.
Their mission was successful. The damaged core was removed. Within two years, it had been rebuilt and was back up and running. But, in one minute and 29 seconds, Carter had absorbed the maximum amount of radiation a human can withstand in a year. (Of course, let’s remember that he’s lived to be 98, now.)
“They let us get probably a thousand times more radiation than they would now,” he later told a biographer. “It was in the early stages, and they didn’t know.” (Washington Post, gift link)
A U-2 spy plane pilot took a selfie with the Chinese spy balloon
Speaking of things from the 1950s, the U.S. military, and foreign adventures, the pilot of a U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane tasked with surveilling the Chinese spy balloon that traversed the continental United States earlier this month managed to snap a selfie with the balloon from the cockpit of the aircraft.
The photo shows the Chinese spy balloon as seen through the cockpit window of a U-2, with the shadow of the aircraft silhouetted on the side of the balloon’s envelope. The curve of the U-2 pilot’s “space suit” helmet appears on the right side of the shot, although their face is obscured.
I'm using the selfie as the main photo for today, above. Turn on images if you can't see it. (Task & Purpose)
How Bruce Willis went from last-ditch casting to action icon in ‘Die Hard’
Last week, the family of actor Bruce Willis, 67, announced that the actor has frontotemporal dementia, the most common form of dementia for people under age 60. There are no treatments for the disease. I suppose similarly to the stories about President Carter, this announcement triggered more retrospectives; one of my favorites was this article about how Willis was a third choice at best to play the lead in the movie Die Hard back in 1987, but how the role turned him into a movie star.
Did you know that Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, and even Frank Sinatra turned down the role? Bonus: a 25-year-old New York Times article on Willis's success, which compares him to Eddie Murphy. (The AFTD, Washington Post gift link, NYT gift link)
How Strong Are Your Relationships?
This relates to the story I wrote this week about the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which leads to the conclusion that people with healthy relationships wind up happy, and people without them, don’t.
The NYT published 13 relationship questions, designed in partnership with Dr. Robert Waldinger, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (and leader of the study), to help assess your relationships. It’s part of a 7-Day Happiness Challenge they’ve put together.
As you submit answers for each question, a visual representation of your dynamic social world appears. It’s kind of neat—but don’t worry, in case your relationships aren’t all what you wish they were (and whose are?), it’s also gentle. (NYT, gift link)
Kid YouTube stars make sugary junk food look good — to millions of young viewers
Blonde and charismatic, 9-year-old Nastya, as she's known on YouTube, has a big grin and an even bigger social media presence—along with more than 100 million subscribers on YouTube, where she posts videos that show her engaged in activities like singing, imaginative role playing with friends or unboxing.
That's nice. But, a study published this month in the journal Obesity finds that the YouTube videos these young influencers create frequently showcase junk food, which raises concerns that they are actually influencing kids' food choices in an unhealthy direction.
I know that sounds like parents in the 1970s getting upset about kids chowing down on Frosted Flakes, Sugar Crisp and Coca-Cola.
But, spend just a minute of your life watching this Nastya video—which has 23 million views and is basically "a wordless battle" by two charismatic young kids "over who can bring the least healthy, most sugar-laden lunch," and maybe you'll wonder what our kids are watching. (NPR, Obesity, YouTube)
10 years after he finished a book, his daughter’s TikTok made it a bestseller
The number-4 book on Amazon right now is a thriller called Stone Maidens by Lloyd Devereux Richards, 74, about an FBI agent following a killer in Indiana.
What's newsworthy about that? It's a decade-old novel that languished with few sales since 2011, until the author's daughter, Marguerite Richards, 40, made a TikTok bragging about her father’s thriller that racked up millions of views and spurred what I'm pretty sure is a life-changing number of sales.
(The book was ranked 1,452nd among mystery, thriller and suspense novels on Amazon at the time of her video.)
Fascinating to me is that the TikTok video tells you almost nothing about the book; it's literally just Marguerite Richards talking about how her dad poured 14 years into writing it, and she hoped she could get some sales for him. (WashPost, gift link)
Help! The Law Says Lufthansa Owes Me Money, but I Can’t Collect
A while back here, I wrote about how I once missed the three-year deadline to apply for compensation for a delayed flight in Europe by a single day, which meant my wife and I did not get $1,400 in compensation to which we otherwise might have been entitled.
The silver lining for me is that I've written about and shared that story many times in many different contexts, and while I missed out on getting compensation from the airline, I'll bet I've probably earned more than $1,400 from writing about the fact that I didn't get the original $1,400.
It's sort of like how I quit my new job after a single day at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs back in 2009, and have undoubtedly spent a lot more time writing and talking about the experience in places like Inc.com, Business Insider, on CBS Sunday Morning, and of course this newsletter, than I actually spent working there.
Anyway with that context, here's a roughly 1,500-word column from the New York Times from its travel columnist, on his attempt to secure similarly (allegedly) required compensation for five American and Canadian travelers whose Lufhansa flights were delayed.
Short version: "If I had a nickel for every time someone wrote me saying they’d been stiffed by a major European airline, I’d be rich—unless I had to collect the money from a major European airline, in which case I’d probably still be waiting." (NYT, gift link)
To be honest I could go on and on, but for tradition’s sake I’ll stop at 7. Did you read something this week that should be shared with your fellow subscribers (and me)? Let us know in the comments.
Thanks for reading. Photo: U.S. government work. Have a great weekend, see you in the comments.