19 December 2012

Philip Cohen on Naming Trends

Philip Cohen Article on Name Trends


"In the tradition of treating statistical trends as horse races, I imagine that there is one person named Mary, who is constantly falling behind: first behind Linda, then Lisa, Jennifer, Ashley, Jessica, and so on, all the way to Isabella and now Sophia.
But that's not how it happens—it just looks that way because of the amazing regularity in human behavior, which produces an orderly succession of names. Incredibly, out of 1.7 million girls' names recorded by the SSA in 2011, I was able to predict to within 87 how many would be named Mary. By simply taking the number born in 2010 and subtracting the 5-year average decline, I predicted 2,584 would be born; the actual number was 2,671 (an error of 3.3 percent).
Somehow, out of the millions of individual decisions parents make, they produce steady trends like this."

23 January 2011

By the Numbers excerpt

Say that I showed him heavily
how I saw him
from above: no wanderer but a map, unmoving
though a man thinks he can hide in changes.

-James Richardson, _By the Numbers_

01 June 2010

Angie Estes' poem Dark Spots

Dark Spots

In the late nineteenth century, some photographers
claimed not only to capture images
of loved ones from beyond
the grave, but to be able to photograph memories
of the deceased, their auras still glowing
around the bereaved,
as if to capture light reflected off a body could preserve
that body over time as Beatrice explains
the presence of the dark
spots on the moon to Dante in Paradiso, how
the brightness of a celestial body
reveals the angelic
gladness that quickens the body, letizia that shines as joy
shines through an eye. Visit Fort
Courage—Take Pictures
of the Past, the billboards across Arizona advised,
and at the base of the mountain in
New Mexico, a note taped
to the gasoline pump read, Hold tight to your money—the wind
will carry it away.
In the snapshot of
my grandmother in her
casket, wearing the Elizabethan collar and perm'd
curls she never wore, my mother
gazes through her
to a planet she always knew existed but which, without
the darkness, she could never see
before. They call
some bruises shiners like the violet stars of the Rose of Sharon
that come out in the morning and shine
all day in their leaf-black
shade, shade carved into the yard like fish scales covering
the sarcophagus in Sant'Apollinare in
Classe near Ravenna
or the stiff, veined hands of the sycamore stretched wide
in applause, the Italian gesture
of mourning.

Poetry Daily poem of the day June 1, 2010