Archive for May, 2014

Why Not Name Your Baby After a Preakness Winner?

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

On May 27, 1878, a horse named Duke of Magenta won the Preakness.

Why haven’t more families named their children “Duke of Magenta”? It’s a strong name, a lively name, a regal name that endows its bearer with standards and expectations. Come to think of it, nearly any winner of the Preakness would look stunning on a birth certificate!

Expectant parents! Don’t name your offspring after some relative twice-removed or the take the suggestion of the baby naming sites everyone knows about.

Didn’t you pity your classmates who had to stick an initial after their name (poor Michelle C. and Michelle R.) or the ones who were distinguished by some personal characteristic (poor Soccer David and David Who Let the Class Hamster Eat Plaster)?

Your kid will never know this indignity if you look to the Preakness winners:

Culpepper (1874)
Knight of Ellerslie (1884)
Bryn Mawr (1904)
Layminster (1910)
Dr. Freeland (1929)
Burgoo King (1932)
Whirlaway (1941)
Hasty Road (1954)
Royal Orbit (1959)
Bee Bee Bee (1972)
Tabasco Cat (1994)
I’ll Have Another (2011)

When you gaze lovingly into the bright, trusting eyes of baby Rhine Maiden or little Broomspun, be sure to whisper, “You are my favorite, by a length.”


Sir Barton was surprisingly not a very popular name for children born in 1919.

Smartass Response to a Philosopher #22

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

“What is rational is actual and what is actual is rational” – G. W. F. Hegel

What is a tautology is a tautology.

May 20th – Happy John Stuart Mill’s Birthday!

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Today is the birthday of the great British economist, philosopher, and radical political thinker John Stuart Mill.


Here are some utilitarian facts about JSM:

He may or may not have shared authorship with his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill, for “On Liberty.”

He may or may not have shared with his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill, a case of consumption.

He was for women’s rights before that was cool, before that was conventional, before that could get you a date.

When he suffered a nervous breakdown at age 21, he consoled himself with Wordsworth’s poetry… maybe not with “thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”

He was greatly influenced by Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher whose auto-icon (mummified body, excluding his soft head, which had to be replaced – long story) resides at University College London.

May 13th: Happy Dull Knife is More Dainty Than a Sharp One Day!

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Since the dawn of time, humanity’s progress has depended on the invention of stronger, sharper, deadlier knives.

Then, on May 13, 1637 Cardinal Richelieu of France intentionally invented a knife that was duller and less useful than any knife that had gone before.

It was none other than patron of the arts and etiquette stickler Armand Jean du Plessis, cardinal-duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac who got the credit for inventing a blunt-ended table knife. Why would a powerful Catholic cardinal and chief minister to the King leave off matters of church and state to devise tableware? Allegedly to foil those boorish dining companions who insist on picking their teeth with the pointed end of their knives. Many of us have fantasized about putting an end to soup-slurping and audible chewing but have we gone so far as to invent cutlery to put an end to coarse and ill-mannered table behavior? Alas, no!

Richelieu was a man of contradictions. He pitilessly had his enemies executed – yet he was a passionate patron of the arts and supporter of literature and the theater! He brutally suppressed political debate – but he would not stand for bad table manners! He cultivated court intrigue and sneaky espionage networks to ferret out his enemies – but would have no truck with tooth-picking! He crushed freedom of the press – yup, he really crushed it!

Here’s to the invention of the table knife – or couteau de table, as the Red Eminence, himself, might have called it with all his fancy tooth-sucking French cardinal manners.


Did Mazarin invent anything? I don’t think so.

Happy Birthday to Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dalí de Pubol a/k/a Salvador Dalí and Rebecca Basar!

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

Today is Salvador Dalí’s birthday!

Today is also Rebecca Basar’s birthday!

Salvador Dalí was an artist and a noted surrealist!

Rebecca is also an artist and a noted surrealist!

In 1944, Dalí wrote a “pure novel” called Hidden Faces.

A few months ago, Rebecca wrote us an email about our Salvador Dalí finger puppet and let us know she shares a birthday with the great puppet artist!


110 years ago today, Dalí was born in Figueres, Spain.

Rebecca was born much more recently!

Today UPG celebrates the birth of the artists Dalí and Basar!

Here’s to Salvador, Rebecca, surrealism, art, lovely emails, AND SO MUCH CAKE!


Works by Basar and Dali. Can you tell which is which?

May 6th: Happy Refrigerator Day!

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

On the 6th of May in 1851, Dr. John Gorrie was granted Patent No. 8080 for his Improved Process for the Artificial Production of Ice.

While we primarily use this technology to chill beer, keep ice cream, and make ourselves more comfortable in warm weather, Dr. Gorrie’s invention sprang from his medical practice in Florida. In the midst of his study and treatment of tropical diseases, he advocated the draining of swampland and the use of mosquito netting. To cool the rooms of his yellow fever patients, he used quantities of ice which had to be brought from the North, so he began to experiment with machinery to manufacture ice artificially.

Eventually, Dr. Gorrie quit medicine altogether in order to free up his time to perfect refrigeration. Unfortunately, he ran into some extremely bad luck: business partner died, finances gave out, and his own health failed. These misfortunes meant he was unable to manufacture his invention, although his hard work and insight continue to benefit us today.

Dr. Gorrie’s marble statue stands in Washington, DC. Why don’t you visit him the next time you’re in the Capitol Building’s National Statuary Hall? That would be cool.