Archive for May, 2007


Why Babies Born in 1994 Will Need to Watch the TV Show Friends

May 19, 2007

I was bored at work yesterday so I was reading the latest blog entry from ESPN’s the Sports Guy. He is always amusing. Anyway, he posted a link to the Social Security’s website with the most popular baby names for 2006. I was intrigued so I went to investigate.

I looked to see where Nicholas was in the rankings for this year (17th most popular male name). I then wondered where it was in 1982 when I was born (22nd most popular male name). I then wondered if I knew personally a lot of the top twenty girls and boys names in 1982 – since they would be in my same educational cohort for nearly twenty years. And without much surprise, I recognized the leaders in the list for 1982: Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Jennifer, Jessica and Amanda – I know so many people named these names.

I then scrolled to the bottom rankings. And you have what you would expect – misspelled versions of popular names (Kennith, Jermey, Chadd, Cristen, Natosha, etc. But what caught my eye in 1982 was the name ranked at 943rd for males – Chandler.

And with that, I began a journey of nerdom that eventually led to the creation of the graph that you find below. I was curious to see if the release of NBC’s TV show Friends had any impact on the name Chandler a year after it aired. With friends premiering in 1994, I looked at the 1995 and to no surprise Chandler ranked 177th. This still didn’t answer my question of if Friends had an impact on the name of Chandler – maybe the name was trending to be more popular over the years. Therefore, to remove any statistical bias questions, I would have to investigate the popularity of Chandler over time and compare the difference in change from one year to the next. Click on the image to open it larger.

As you can see from the above graph (formatted based on popularity, for example, the name Rachel has been very popular over the last 20 years and is near the top.), the name Chandler was in fact gaining in popularity from 1982 to 2006. But the biggest gain from one year to the next, immediately happened after the premiere of Friends. In fact, the greatest gain of popularity in Chandler over two years happened during the first two seasons of Friends, which coincided with the most watched episode in 1996 after the Superbowl.

Why did Chandler gain in popularity? My theory on the rise of Chandler – he is a real-life relatable character. He works for a huge organization and feel under appreciated – who doesn’t feel unappreciated at work? He is generally insecure about his confidence in life and in relationships – again, I think everyone can relate. He is flawed – he smokes from time to time and he always says that he is weak – come on, he dated Janice. I think we all can see flaws in our own lives. And he is caring, tries to do the right thing and stands by his friends. We all see ourselves in Chandler and we truly want to be his friend. We want him to succeed and we find him endearing and aren’t those the same qualities we want for our children? Thus the rise in Chandler.

However, the graph shows something more peculiar. Something not explained as easily. The rise in popularity in Phoebe. In 1988, Phoebe wasn’t even in the top 1000 most popular baby names. When Friends premiered in 1994, it was the 818th most popular baby name. To show you how unpopular Phoebe was, here are some names ahead of it in popularity in 1994: Zana, Stormy, Magdalen, Essence, and my personal favorite, Lizette. But after Friends premiered, Phoebe jumped 234 spots. By the most watched episode, it had jumped a total of 276 spots and at the peak of popularity of Phoebe in 2001, it ranked 388th most popular – jumping 430 spots in seven years. Names around Phoebe in 2001 include Georgia, Virginia, Renee, and Heidi. This is a lot better company than Zana and Stormy.

The thick yellow line in the middle of the graph shows the trend of viewers watching friends. Like most shows, Friends, started from the gate strong and began to lose viewers. The graph also shows another interesting point. When Chandler and Monica first hooked up in London in 1999, the name Chandler began to decline in popularity. I think it is because Chandler became less relatable when he got together with Monica. How often do you hear that of a person that marries your best friend’s sister? Chandler grew up and became successful and we still wanted six 30 somethings struggling to make it in the real world.

I think the funniest statistic from this graph is the effect Ross has had on baby names. While it is clear the name Ross been trending downward since 1982, the trend clearly increases when Friends premiered. Who wants to name their child after a character that had three divorces, one child because of a drunken night, has a Ph D. in Paleontology, is overly awkward and was afraid to ask Rachel out for two seasons? Thus the decline of Ross.

Have I spent more time on this project than I should have? Yes. Am I a big nerd? Yes. But come on, I did get a masters degree in public administration. We love graphs and looking at information that explains society. Kids named Chandler and Phoebe will most likely never know the cultural influence that caused their names. They will never know about the comedy on Thursday nights that gripped America with questions like will Ross and Rachel ever work it out, will Phoebe marry Mike and will Joey’s spin-off be successful? I wonder what the effect today’s TV shows will have on baby names in the future. Will names like Meredith, Sawyer, Susan or Bree gain in popularity? I guess time will tell and I will be ready with an excel graph in hand.


Life After Marisa

May 18, 2007

A week and half ago I had crepes with Marisa. She emailed me and told me she had a coupon to this crepe place up on 65th. I had remembered that I went to a crepe place on 65th with P and K almost two years ago and it was good. I walked through the small entryway and scanned the empty restaurant for Marisa. She waved from a table next to a window.

We had a great dinner and great conversation. We talked about our dating lives and our experiences. Our ups and downs. And for the first time I could see us as friends. And I was happy for that. The next day Kelli asked me what my feelings were and I told her that I was disappointed that it didn’t work out, but I was glad that it ended this way.

Life after Marisa has been good. I have been on three dates so far and I have some more lined up tomorrow and next week. I am very excited about the possibilities and the opportunities that lie ahead.


Why Do They Wear Those Hats?

May 6, 2007

Going into the Kentucky Derby yesterday, the only horse I had ever heard of in this year’s field was Street Sense. And that was because of a segment on Letterman on Friday. Paul is really into horseracing. And for the last couple of years, we have been watching the three major races, the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont.

This year we added a new element to our horseracing watching – online betting. As Paul was lining up his bets for the Derby yesterday on the computer, I queried him about the legality of online betting in the U.S., and he responded that is it banned but they exempted horseracing – you gotta love lobbyists.

In 2005, we were all rooting for a horse named Afleet Alex. The owners of Afleet Alex learned about a girl named Alex Scott who had an aggressive childhood cancer. At the age of four, Alex set up a lemonade stand to pay for her treatment. With the help of Afleet Alex’s owners, she raised over $114,000 from that lemonade stand. But a horse named Giacomo won with odds 96 to 1. In 2006, Barbaro won with a commanding lead at the Derby but as we all know, hurt himself during the Preakness two weeks later.

With an hour to the race, I decided that I would bet $20. As I didn’t know, there are many different combinations you can bet on in horseracing. You choose the top three horses. You can bet on the winner. You can bet on if the horse will place in the top three. And there are more and more exotic bets that pay huge amounts. I decided that I would only bet for winners. First, I wanted to bet on a long shot with a lot of buzz. So I put $10 on Zanjero (36 to 1). Second, I wanted to put a modest bet on a contender, $4 on Street Sense (9 to 2). Third, another modest bet on a long shot, $4 on Imawildandcrazyguy and to finish it out, $2 on a long shot contender, Circular Quay (11 to 1).

For that hour before the race, I began to think about if Zanjero actually won; I would have $360 – not too shabby.

Minutes before the start, all the bets were in and we had bets on all of the horses in the field but three. Paul could have been the biggest winner of the day with $50 on Curlin and some other bets that involved Curlin winning it all.

We all gathered around the TV and between the nine of us in the room, we had $250 in on various bets. As the gates opened, out of pure excitement for the race, we all yell incoherently during the start. As all the horses dashed out of the gates, it was clear within seconds why some horses had odds 36 to 1. Within twenty seconds, I knew that Zanjero was going to lose. He was in 16th place and was losing ground. Street Sense was in 19th coming around the first bend. And my other two horses were not going anywhere. I was in trouble.

Then something happened.

Street Sense was riding the inside rail and things began to open up. He got some lucky breaks and as they came around the final bend, Street Sense passed the leaders and pulled ahead 2.25 links to win it all. I was shocked.

With my $20 investment, I won $23.60. That is with Churchill Downs and the website taking their cuts. Claudia had the biggest investment gain. A $2 bet on Street Sense paid her $11.80. With the $250 in on various horses, we won a total of $35.40. It is clear that horseracing is not going to be a viable future for us. Instead of my $360 payout, I won $3.60 – not quite as good. But with money on the line, it truly added a cool new element to the fastest two minutes in sports.


Car Crash Photos

May 1, 2007

Here are the photos I promised in my original blog entry about my car crash. There was $11,000 dollars in damage. It doesn’t look that bad but I couldn’t open any doors on the left hand side and the main body frames were bent all the way to the front wheels.

Photo of my old, poor, destroyed toyota. Photo taken on March 21, 2007.

Photo of my old, poor, destroyed toyota. Photo taken on March 21, 2007.

Here is another angle of my car crash. Photo taken on March 21, 2007.

Here is another angle of my car crash. Photo taken on March 21, 2007.