So many end-of-the year lists detail something trivial. But sometimes those lists can help us appreciate something obvious.
BabyCenter.com has just released their list of the most popular names for American babies in 2011.
The most popular girl's names: Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia, and Ava, which sound like they could be lifted, letter by letter, from 1960s movie marquees. The most popular boy's names: Aiden, Jackson, Mason, Liam and Jacob, which could be the name of a Boston or Chicago law firm.
The U.S. unemployment rate took a big tumble in November, from 9 percent to 8.6 percent, according to the government's monthly jobs data. Still, it's probably too soon pop the champagne corks. A combination of forces caused the big drop, some good and some bad.
Getting a big fall in the unemployment rate is always good news in the White House, but President Obama was careful not to gloat at an appearance Friday in Washington.
"This morning we learned that our economy added another 140,000 private sector jobs in November. The unemployment rate went down," he said.
"Robert Spiegel's passion for Russian literature, the New York Mets, ethnic cooking and beagles endeared him to generations of students and colleagues at Central Connecticut State University," The Associated Press says. "Now, through the power of social media, the 77-year-old former English professor's obituary is charming strangers, as well."
Everybody knows that Ron Paul is a doctor from Texas. Born in Pittsburgh in 1935, he graduated from Gettysburg College and Duke University's medical school. He was a flight surgeon in the Air Force. His wife's name is Carol. He has served as a Republican congressman for years and years.
Everybody knows that Paul has made bids for the presidency three times — as a Libertarian in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008 and this time around. And everybody knows he lost the first two.
If you're walking or biking around New York City this weekend you might look up at a busy intersection and see signs like these:
Traffic warning street signs written as haiku are appearing on poles around the five boroughs, posted by the New York City Department of Transportation. The poems and accompanying artwork were created by artist John Morse. There are 12 designs in all, 10 in English and two in Spanish.
An artist with an idyllic childhood might be as rare as a house with walls made of air, but both play a part in the story of architect John Lautner.
Lautner's homes have appeared in Hollywood movies, but the architect himself wasn't particularly well-known when he died in 1994. Still, in 2011 — the centennial year of Lautner's birth — his hometown of Marquette, Mich., has honored him with two exhibitions: one at Northern Michigan University's DeVos Art Museum and one at the Marquette Regional History Center.
As he prepares for the midday rush, Mustafa Baljan puts the finishing touches on the kebabs, salads and stews that make up many a working Turk's lunch. As the steam carries the scent of lamb and garlic into the street, the 37-year-old restaurant owner considers a popular question: With European economies on the ropes, should Turkey still be seeking to join the European Union?
"Are you kidding? Of course I don't want to join," Baljan says. "Countries are going bankrupt. Why would we want to join a union like that?"
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
Under fire for losing track of weapons that turned up at crime scenes along the Southwest border, the Justice Department has taken the extraordinary step of formally withdrawing an inaccurate letter about the episode that it sent to Congress earlier this year.