The Almanac


Easter basket

April 4: Easter. This year, judging from recent buying patterns, the nation's children, and probably some adults, will receive more than 600 million "Peeps" (marshmallows shaped like chicks) -- a record-breaking number. Peeps have been made for more than 50 years, and though they were out of vogue in the 1970s and 1980s, sales have risen dramatically in recent years, tripling since 1994. Industry observers offer two explanations: Peeps, though loaded with sugar, are fat-free; and they are benefiting from nostalgic Baby Boomers' interest in so-called retro food. Other foods that have recently come back into favor after a long hiatus include fondue (fondue pots, for many years almost impossible to find, are now sold at upscale stores), and meatloaf and pineapple upside-down cake (recipes for both abound on the Internet).


Baseball contracts

April 4: Baseball season opens today. Fans can be relatively sure of a strike-free season, owing to the passage last year of the Curt Flood Act, which revokes part of a 1922 Supreme Court decision exempting baseball owners from antitrust laws. The exemption, based on the idea that baseball was not a business, prevented players from suing owners over anti-competitive practices; many have blamed it for the eight major-league strikes since 1972. The new act allows players to sue owners, but only over contract negotiations, and only if the players' union first disbands. It allows no suits pertaining to relocation or league expansion -- and yet it is named for a player who sued the league, unsuccessfully, in 1970 because he wanted the right to refuse a trade.


April begins the peak season for the generation of scrap tires, as many vehicle owners buy new tires in preparation for heavier driving during the summer or to replace snow tires. The number of tires discarded in a year has risen steadily along with the number of cars and trucks and the miles driven; it now stands at about 270 million. The development of potentially longer-lasting tires has done little to stem the increase, largely because many drivers neglect to follow basic maintenance procedures such as rotating and balancing tires and checking the pressure. Disregard for such measures is thought to be especially prevalent among those who lease their cars -- a group whose number is sharply rising. Some good news can be found in another recent trend: the growth of secondary markets for old tires. The rubber from more than 70 percent of this year's scrap tires will be put to new uses -- for example, as fuel for cement kilns and paper-mill boilers.

Arts & Letters

April is National Poetry Month, and the American Poetry & Literacy Project will be handing out free volumes of poetry, including 60,000 copies of a new anthology of travel and adventure poems titled Songs for the Open Road. Some 40,000 copies will be placed in the glove compartments of new Volkswagens -- the largest single effort in the APLP's history. Others will be given away on Amtrak trains, at airports and other travel-related sites, and to Peace Corps volunteers. The APLP was founded in 1993 by the late Joseph Brodsky, the 1991 U.S. poet laureate, and Andrew Carroll, a college student who sought out Brodsky after the latter spoke about the need to make poetry more widely available. It has since given away at least 250,000 books of poetry. This year, as in the past, the group will also give books -- not necessarily Songs -- to people in hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, hotels, subways, and, on April 15 (tax day), post offices.

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