Monday, September 29, 2014

A Time-Lapse of Learning to Walk

When my two older children learned to walk, I made videos to document the occasion.

Here is Elliot's...

...and Alice's.

With Lucy, I wanted to try something a bit more ambitious (I figured this was my last chance to document the milestone).

So I set up a camera in the living room and filmed her in the same spot attempting to walk.

Over and over.

This was the result. (As you can surmise from the Christmas tree in the background, it took me a while to edit the video.)

It was a lot of work, but totally worth it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

When U.S. Presidents Could Make Their Names Go Viral

I wrote another Nameberry post, this one on presidential surnames that became baby names. As elucidated earlier this week, presidents like Roosevelt used to be able to persuade legions of parents to adopt their names.

That hasn't been the case for quite some time. Since Kennedy, presidents have rarely exerted much influence on baby-naming choices. (Reagan has become more popular for girls in recent years, but you could argue it's a variant of Regan. My boy Bill Shakespeare did most of the grunt work on making that one a hit.)

Interestingly, our very first president has a surprisingly out-of-favor name. Only 11 babies were named Washington last year. What gives? It seems like it would be more common.

By this measure, Washington is the least popular of the four Mount Rushmore presidents.

Here's how many kids in 2013 (girls and boys) were named after each president on Mount Rushmore:
Lincoln: 4,071
Jefferson: 411
Roosevelt: 49
Washington: 11

You'd think the father of our country (who ironically had no children) would have more allegiance.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Two Classic Cases of Surnames as First Names

We've been watching the Ken Burns documentary "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History." The miniseries is fascinating for many reasons, but it's particularly interesting to me for its depiction of New York in the early 1900s and its cavalcade of names from our family: Elliot, Alice, Lucy, Eleanor — they're all there.

Here's one first name I didn't expect to encounter: Turner.

I wrote last month about how using surnames as first name was more popular a century ago than you might expect, but I neglected to mention the New York Times reporter and editor Turner Catledge. His bylines are featured in the Ken Burns documentary.

Catledge was born in 1901, when the surname-as-first-name trend was still going strong. (It died out by the middle of the 20th century before making a resurgence in modern day.)

Turner was the 555th most popular baby name of 1901. It ranked higher than Jason, Kirk or Jordan.

There's one name that was far more popular, though: Roosevelt itself.

It was 167th that year. Roosevelt peaked in 1905, a testament to the popularity of Teddy Roosevelt. (The name enjoyed a resurgence in the 1930s during the FDR administration, but never reclaimed those highs.)

Currently, Turner is more popular than Roosevelt. It ranks 886th, whereas Roosevelt hasn't appeared in the top 1,000 since 1993.

Maybe the Ken Burns documentary will change that? Time will tell.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Happens When Kids Choose Their Teams by Color

Our 6-year-old has started playing in a city soccer league every Saturday. He's having a great time, but there's a curious thing about the way it's organized.

When they sign up for the program, kids choose the color of their jersey. Then when they arrive on the first day, they're put on a team with players who also picked that color.

This approach has some less-than-optimal consequences. For one, the sizes of the teams vary greatly. Light blue is the most popular, with 16 kids. Elliot's team (yellow) had just seven players on the most recent Saturday.

Worse, the girls aren't evenly distributed. In total, they comprise about 30 percent of the players. But the lavender team is 100 percent girls, while the light and dark blue teams have almost none. On the day I took my informal census, red had no girls either.

Yellow and green come closest to representing the overall population. (There's no pink team, but I can only assume it would have a similar breakdown as lavender.)

I'm all for letting children express themselves, but it might be better to just assign colors.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jerry Seinfeld Laughs at Roosevelt Island Tram in 1977

This is quite a time capsule, courtesy of the Roosevelt Islander blog: Jerry Seinfeld making fun of the Roosevelt Island in 1977 (back when a crime-ravaged New York was close to filing for bankruptcy).

I wonder what he thinks of it now.

Friday, September 19, 2014

East River Roundabout's Lookalike Sculpture in Nashville

After I posted pictures yesterday of the East River Roundabout — now decked out in red paint — I got a message from BuboBlog correspondent Ted, who noted that there's a similar sculpture in Nashville.

Nashville sculpture. Photo courtesy of the Examiner.

It turns out to be something called the Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks and (like the East River Roundabout), it's alongside the water — in this case, the Cumberland River. It was dedicated in 2007.

Like the Roundabout, Ghost Ballet looks like a roller coaster and is bright red.

And it's by the same artist!

Yes, after declaring myself a big fan of Alice Aycock yesterday, I discover that she's been disloyal to her hometown of New York.

She basically created a knockoff of the East River Roundabout. And now that the original sculpture is being painted red, it looks like WE copied Nashville.

...and here in New York.

Luckily, they're both kind of neat to look at.

Alright, fine...all is forgiven.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Roosevelt Island's Color Scheme Spreads Into Manhattan

If you take the Roosevelt Island tram and look down at FDR Drive, you may notice a splash of red that wasn't there before.

An oft-overlooked sculpture called the East River Roundabout has been repainted crimson, giving it a similar look as the tramway and the red buses that circle Roosevelt Island.

I'm not sure if this is a deliberate effort to extend the Roosevelt Island color scheme to more of Manhattan, but it's a welcome change.

The sculpture, which had looked like a dreary, long-abandoned roller coaster, now enlivens the waterfront. 

It's still a bit of an oddball art installation. The work, dedicated in 1995, was meant to turn the roof of a former garbage transfer into an inviting plaza. Alice Aycock designed the 80-foot-long aluminum helix that sits atop the plaza. (You may remember Aycock as the artist behind the beautiful aluminum sculptures featured earlier this year along Park Avenue.) 

The East River Roundabout circa 1995. Photo courtesy of

I'm definitely an Aycock fan, but I'm not sure the original vision for the East River Roundabout ever came to fruition. When we briefly lived in that part of Midtown — not far from Sutton Place in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge — we strolled over to the plaza once. I can't say it was buzzing with people.

Will the new paint make it more of a destination? Hard to say, but it at least makes it less of an eyesore.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

One Step Closer to My Dream

It's been my longstanding ambition to create a restaurant where you can eat everything on the table (including the utensils and napkins). Pending a licensing agreement with Alka-Seltzer, it will be called "I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing."

The idea to serve wraps, bread bowls and other edible items. We'd use pretzel forks and a lettuce leaf for customers wipe their faces (perhaps a nice bibb).

Serving drinks has always been the challenge. I've contemplated having waiters rove around shooting beverages into customers mouths from a nozzle, but this doesn't seem practical. Likewise, lowering the temperature to subfreezing and using glasses made of ice would be difficult.

So I was excited to see this solution: serving drinks inside ice-cream cones. Apparently you can get a latte this way at Alfred Coffee & Kitchen in Los Angeles. (Thanks for the heads up, BuboBlog West Coast correspondent Dave.)

Why didn't I think of this before?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

When Tupperware Made Toys

Kelly was given these vintage toy blocks from a friend, who I think purchased them on eBay. They're a Tupperware creation from 1971 called Busy Blocks.

I have a faint memory of playing with these things as a child, but I don't think our family owned them. Each block opens to reveal a little green figurine — army-men style — that corresponds to the picture on the side of the box.

Who knows, maybe they contain Bisphenol A. But the kids had a great time playing with them.

And the best part about 1970s toys? No princesses anywhere on them.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

A Pirate Party

I've been trying to make a video every time one of my children has a birthday. But with three kids and 18 birthdays until adulthood, I just realized I'm on the hook for more than 50 videos.

My quality may trail off after 30 or 40 of these, but I'm pretty happy with this one.

It helps that it's a cute pirate-themed celebration and not an awkward teenage party. (Stay tuned for that. Only seven to 12 years away.)

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Writer in the Making?

"I been in the lab / with a pen and a pad." —Dr. Dre

Former Senator Bob Dole, who paralyzed his right arm in World War II, liked to carry a pen in his hand to make the injury less obvious. (I wasn't a supporter of his, but this always seemed like a noble gesture — many politicians might prefer to make their war injuries more obvious.)

Anyway, Lucy cuts a similar figure as she totters around the house.

She always seems to be clutching some kind of writing instrument (ideally something harmless like a crayon, but often a crayon, pen or marker).

She'll typically stop to scribble with it, but not always — it's as if the pen itself is conferring power to her as she makes her rounds.

Neither of the other kids did this.

I hope this means she will follow in her parents' footsteps and become a writer or editor.

Otherwise, we're going to have a lot of defaced walls and furniture for no good reason.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Graduating to the Big-Kid Legos

Elliot turns 6 later this week, and that means he's finally old enough to play with real Legos. (Standard Legos — not Duplo — are recommended for ages 6 through 12.)

But in our case, the biggest challenge to playing with Legos is the other kids in our house. We can't have a bunch of tiny pieces floating around when they could be swallowed by a 1-year-old.

This is the conundrum of the oldest child. It doesn't matter if you're old enough to play with a toy; you have to make sure your younger sister can handle it too.

But in order to be fair to Elliot, we've struck a deal. He can play with his big-kid Legos (which he got as a birthday gift) as long as Lucy is asleep.

Elliot and I were assembling a Batman Batcopter set yesterday afternoon (the instructions had 47 steps!) when there was a BANG BANG BANG on the door.

Lucy had woken up from her nap and was prowling the house. We had to scramble to gather up the Legos and put them away.

I realized then that the most terrifying villain in Gotham isn't the Joker or Scarecrow. It's your toddler sister.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Showing California Pride

I've said before that hand-me-down clothes are like a never-ending version of "Who Wore It Best."

In this case, both girls wore this California shirt — but Alice showed a little more reverence (with hand over heart).

Alice wins this round. (In fairness, Lucy has barely ever set foot in California.)