I appreciate serious toaster research

Thank you, Wirecutter. I read the whole thing.

“Michael Sheafe, who specializes in vintage toaster repair, provided us with several used (but still-operational) toasters dating from about 1918 through the 1930s. We sent those, along with the Cuisinart CPT-122 Compact Plastic Toaster and the Breville BTA720XL Bit More Toaster (two picks from our guide to the best toaster), to students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University. To help us determine exactly why slot toasters aren’t what they used to be, the students (under the guidance of associate professor Elvin Beach) broke apart each toaster for comparative analysis.”

Baby name update: Next year isn’t our year

In 2020, Patrick held steady in the Social Security baby name rankings… at its worst position ever historically. The name came in at 205 after falling to 207 the year prior. No great comeback. I had high hopes after the Super Bowl win of Patrick Mahomes in early 2020, but here we are.

Via the NYT Parenting newsletter this morning, Nameberry also reports Patrick is not likely to trend in 2022. Actually, Patrick doesn’t come up. Nameberry lists 100 names likely to trend for various reasons. We need more Super Bowl wins.

The child’s first baseball game (2018)


“Washington pounced for five runs in the first inning against Rays “opener” left-hander Jonny Venters to cruise to an 11-2 victory Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park. Anthony Rendon, who turned 28 on Wednesday, collected four hits, and Michael A. Taylor had three as they drove in three runs apiece. Rookie Juan Soto reached base three times and scored a pair of runs.”

AP via ESPN:

“Roark (3-6), coming off a loss in relief on Sunday in Atlanta, allowed two runs and six hits in six innings.”

Washington Post:

“Eight Nationals — every starter but Pedro Severino — combined to spray 15 hits to all fields without any landing over the wall for a club leading the NL in home runs.”

‘Buy a record. Help stamp out TV.’

True Taxi Tales by Quentin Heyne is really something. A 1963 memoir of gimlet-eyed ancedotes from a long-time D.C. cab driver. Samples:

A truck I passed on Constitution Avenue carried a banner on the side: “Buy a record. Help stamp out TV.” Not bad.


A real unrealistic sight is to see the pigeons congregating and roosting on the statue of General Scott at Scott Circle. The general is astride his charger and is in command of 14th Street plus Massachusetts Avenue until the pigeons take command of him, roosting on every inch of him and his horse’s body.


I delivered a passenger to one of our leading universities, and on the way out of the grounds, I said to the policeman on duty at the gate: “Well, what do you know worth talking about?” He replied: “Nothing.” I said: “What, nothing? With the vast stores of knowledge in those buildings?” He gave me: “All I see around here is a bunch of idiots.” We both chuckled at this.


A lady got out at 23rd and M and headed for U.S. News and World Report building. Before I could get rolling, she came back to open the cab door and said: “I am looking for my umbrella, don’t see it in your cab, I must have left it somewhere.” I told her: “Lady, look at your left arm, there is an umbrella strapped there.”

Poems, excavation

Helena Fitzgerald in her “I Hope She Sees This Bro” essay, via Lindsay:

I know there are poems other than love poems. I really do. But I also know, if I’m honest with myself, that I will always try to read every poem as a love poem, turning it upside down and sideways to see if there is some way the light hits it that would show it to be about how people love each other or fail to do so, that would seem to make it a whisper from just one person to just one other, something cut out from the bottom of a heart and sealed in a box and mailed to a single address. A lot of poems are about love even when they don’t seem to be and even, or especially, when they are full of rage, or full of the larger bleakness of the world.

Pyramid Scheme” by Hera Lindsay Bird, mentioned in the above essay:

the other day i was thinking about the term pyramid scheme, and why they called it pyramid scheme and not triangle scheme
and i asked you what you thought
you thought it added a certain gravitas, and linked the idea of 
economic prosperity
with some of history’s greatest architectural achievements

The Morning after Woe” by Emily Dickinson:

As Nature did not care—
And piled her Blossoms on—
And further to parade a Joy
Her Victim stared upon—

Things I almost blogged

Lucy Dacus’ cover of Dancing in the Dark.

Video of how they made the roars in The Lion King.

NPR’s “old-school roséwave soundtrack.”

On cities and prayer:

“City life is troubling in the same way the rest of life is troubling; it presents you with people who have a real moral claim on you, with whom you are linked by various dependencies, and then leaves you to navigate these things on your own.”

Video of actor and alum David Costabile giving my high school’s Father-Son Breakfast talk back in 2016, and hearing his love for our shared late Latin teacher Doc Warman, whose influence, in retrospect, is happily visible in Costabile’s Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul character.

Also related to Gonzaga, the story of a man whom many of us there in the ’90s were lucky to meet, Joseph “Shabaka” Brown.

He belongs to an exclusive club, one of 138 citizens since 1973 who were convicted of capital murder, but after years and years of caged torment on death row were freed on grounds of innocence or dropped charges.

Enjoyed this story of a tour of old New York church catacombs. Glad the tour is still hanging in there (proof of vax required).

Philip Glass old-school Sesame Street music and art:

Adrienne Rich’s “What Kind of Times Are These.”

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

One complete, one alive

For the first time at least since the pandemic began, but probably several months prior, I finished an issue of Poetry. Not proud of this. But things are what they are. Reading felt good. Making my way from one end to the other felt good. The evenings after work, dinner and toddler bedtime have been too short and tired. Maybe sleep has been better recently? Or to-do lists are just more done? I was interested to see how the magazine had changed since its summer replacement of leadership. And was profoundly impressed. The December issue is one alive and awake and urgent.

In the back of the issue, one learns about the annual awarding of a large prize for young poets in the United States. “Poems by many of the fellows and finalists in this issue and more will be published in January.” For a magazine that often notes from the jump when an issue will be special or thematic, to wait in offering the explanation is a subtly important measure.

Yes, the issue is special, thematic to youth. But to delay the declaration gives a reader the impression of normalcy, that the voices are simply the voices of the present. On every page, subsequently, powerfully, necessarily, those voices demand the busting of normalization, which is a wonderful way for normalcy to be.

Just a few:

Patrick crosses the 200 line, backwards

My yearly update on baby names. Patrick continues its historic free-fall, dropping 17 spots in 2019 to the 206th among boys. Crossing the 200 line! The Mendoza line, but in reverse, but still bad.

Just to refresh you on the trend line:

Not sure when they did this, but I’ve noticed the Social Security Administration has added raw birth counts: 1,870 Patricks born in 2019. Bigger than a 9:30 Club, smaller than The Anthem. Meanwhile, a whole Capital One Arena of Liams led the list: 20.502.

Names more popular than Patrick in 2019 included Oscar, Messiah, Adriel, Thiago, and Legend. Cooper continued to stay strong as well, at spot 80.

Meanwhile, looking ahead, Patrick also did not make Nameberry’s list of 2020 biggest-viewership-increase boy names. The company sees such searches as a leading indicator, and why not. Cash and Ash make the list, along with Acacius.

According to New York Times reporting, hopeful names, quickly picked names, mythological names and family names are rising, trend-wise. For any parent-to-be in need of a good name fast, I have a suggestion for you.