Quite a few years ago, I offered to print the names of Slice readers with January birthdays. The idea was to salute those whose birthdays sometimes get lost in the shuffle after the holidays.
Before it was all over, I had something like 600 names and devoted several columns to listing just some of them.
I guess those whose names appeared in those columns got a minor kick out of it. But I heard from a number of other readers who resented seeing The Slice temporarily turned into something about as a readable as a phonebook page.
Looking back, I can't blame them. It was a mistake.
Maybe I had been influenced by a story the journalist Russell Baker told in one of his books. Back when he was a young reporter at The Sun in Baltimore, there was an editor on the city desk who never tired of exhorting reporters to get a lot of names in their copy. So one day, a reporter turned in a fake story that began "Baltimoreans include..." and then consisted of several paragraphs of names drawn from the phone directory.
Here's the first installment of my 1998 week of names. Would you have read this?