, you intriguing mystery

The folks at reached out to me the other day. Was I familiar with the site? No, I was not. But I gave it a try and liked it — with one hesitation.

Positives from the Patrick page:

  • Hearing a British child pronounce my name
  • Finding my name peaked in the United States in 1964
  • “From 1880 to 2015, the Social Security Administration has recorded 670,580 babies born with the first name Patrick in the United States. That’s more than enough people named Patrick to occupy the country of Montenegro….”


  • Here’s my hesitation: The data sourcing is pretty vague, as is the proprietorship of the site at large. It’s possible this site is doing an amazing job with the Social Security Administration’s trove of birth data, but it’s hard to tell for sure.
  • Seeing my name’s years of decline

Other fascinating things about the site, should the data be accurate?

  • The most popular baby names of all-time. Put aside your fancy yearly data. This chart takes all the yearly data since 1879, adds it up and determines who comes out on top. Five million Jameses and Johns! Four million Marys! This is a page where I’d really like more sourcing, though. As much as I love my brother and mother, I’m skeptical about Robert coming in third all-time for men and Patricia third all-time for women. Both benefit from huge middle-of-the-century numbers. Could those be accurate?
  • The fastest yearly rises of all-time. This chart is wild. Could read all day about the people and events who led to these spikes. Douglas Fairbanks is obvious, but who were the others?

Poems that stop for you

I haven’t been able to read lines recently as much as I would like. To the extent that I have, I haven’t been able to stop and smell them properly. I can tell my eyes are moving too quickly across the words. But the following have come into my life here and there the last few months, fortunately.

From an April New Yorker story, where I didn’t know the subject of the story but liked the line (and its implied encouragement): “Poetry trains us to look past the advertised reality, or, better, to see surface commotion as a manifestation of inner turbulence.”

Twilight” by Rae Armantrout. “Where there’s smoke / there are mirrors / and a dry ice machine, / industrial quality fans. / If I’ve learned anything / about the present moment….”

Planetarium” by Adrienne Rich. “I am an instrument in the shape / of a woman trying to translate pulsations / into images for the relief of the body / and the reconstruction of the mind.”

In the Museum of Lost Objects” by Rebecca Lindenberg. “I hope you don’t mind, but I have kept / a few of your pieces / for my private collection. I think / you know the ones I mean.”

Colors passing through us” by Marge Piercy. Via Lori, who read this at the wedding of friends Alice and Brian this June. Among its color stanzas: “Purple as tulips in May, mauve / into lush velvet, purple / as the stain blackberries leave / on the lips, on the hands, / the purple of ripe grapes / sunlit and warm as flesh.”

Postscript” by Seamus Heaney. Via Lori, whom this poem reminded of our ocean visit in County Clare. “And some time make the time to drive out west / Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore, / In September or October, when the wind / And the light are working off each other….”

Read Me” by Naomi Shihab Nye. “Watch us humans / as we enter our rooms, / remove our shoes and watches….”

Spring Song” by Lucille Clifton. “the green of Jesus / is breaking the ground / and the sweet / smell of delicious Jesus / is opening the house and….”

The Voice of God” by Mary Karr. “The voice of God does not pander, / offers no five year plan, no long-term / solution, nary an edict. It is small & fond & local.”

I guess it’s birthday horoscopes or nothing

This sad milestone was a long time coming, but June was the first month since March 2002 where I didn’t post anything at all in this blog. Life has been wildly busy. We bought a house and moved! We spent a few weeks in the Pacific Northwest and then North Carolina. In the meantime, work for both of us has been in more hectic periods.

But I read this poem called “How to Spend a Birthday” the other day and thought, “If you can’t blog about birthday horoscopes, what good is this blog?” Tough but fair. “Let the drunken mariachis blaze their way, / streaking like crazed hyena / over a brown hill, just underneath / a perfect birthday moon.”

So, onto the birthday horoscopes for June 25, 2017.

Holiday Mathis: “You get fantastic results as a leader who asks people to do their best. You’re not looking for perfection, just for honesty and solid efforts. You’ll be overjoyed with the spoils in August. Make a tidy arrangement in November; more rewards come in February. Diversify your interests and change up your crew in 2018. Capricorn and Virgo adore you. Your lucky numbers are: 9, 16, 5, 40 and 28.”

Eugenia Last: “Share your thoughts and feelings. Know what you are up against and remain moderate when asked to pitch in, donate or take on too much. Indulgence and overreacting will hold you back. Take small but manageable steps forward and you will reach your destination with fewer delays and more rewards. Offer peace and love, not discord and excess. Your numbers are 3, 14, 22, 25, 29, 36, 41.”

Georgia Nichols: “You have the courage of your own convictions. You love to travel and experience different lifestyles. This year will bring excitement, adventure and more freedom than you have experienced in recent years. It’s a time to move away from old routines and feel loose and free! For many, a major change will occur, perhaps as significant as what occurred around 2008. It’s time to test your future!”

Jacqueline Bigar: “This year you often want to relate to others more openly and with greater sensitivity. Your inclination to want to fix situations and help people emerges. Be careful, as your ‘fix’ might not be what the person in question wants. If you are single, you could meet someone who fulfills many of your fantasies. Though this relationship might not be forever, you will experience a lot of passion. If you are attached, the two of you often spend hours laughing together. Curb a tendency to spend a lot and break the budget. LEO gets uncomfortable around you, as you seem to see right through him or her.”

Sally Brompton: “A Mars-Jupiter link on your birthday will boost both your energy and your enthusiasm – and therefore your chances of success – but it will also make you more reckless than you need to be. If you look before you leap you’ll be okay. If not…”

Love that ellipsis. I’m excited for the year ahead.

638 Patrick Coopers

Today’s Sunday Longread email has led me to Julie Beck’s story “All the Other Julie Becks and Me: What a quest for my namesakes taught me about the meaning of names in the internet age,” which in turn led me to a site called The site uses 1990 and 2000 Census data to estimate how many people in the United States share your first and last name, something for which I am the target audience. According to these estimates, there are 636,847 first-named Patricks, 325,325 last-named Coopers, and 638 people in the United States named Patrick Cooper.

This is cool. But my wife wins. According to the site, there are 402,903 people with the first name Lori, 8,186 people with the last name Grisham, and only 10 — 10! — people named Lori Grisham.

Meanwhile, Julie Beck’s story gets into who has the top Google ranking, what conversations are like with other Julie Becks, how a name feels to the brain, the desire to be found or not found online, and so on. I love it.

Last but not least, while we’re on the topic, where does Patrick stand in Social Security’s baby-name popularity rankings? Awful. In the 2016 data, Patrick fell to 170th place among boys and secured the name’s worst showing ever, surpassing 1919’s previous record of 166th place.

‘Like the purpose of hunger’

Both from the Sunday Longreads email yesterday. First, “What Happened When I Tried to Cut the Negative People Out of My Life” and, wonderfully, spoiler-alert, it turns out people aren’t the thing you need to cut out of your life. Second, “How Loneliness Begets Loneliness” and how to break the cycle.

Says a University of Chicago psychologist who’s written a book on loneliness: “The purpose of loneliness is like the purpose of hunger. Hunger takes care of your physical body. Loneliness takes care of your social body, which you also need to survive and prosper. We’re a social species.”