Weekend Edition: 8-23

Bulletin Board

  • I’ve got some stuff coming up that will make posting even less regular, including the Weekend Edition

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

  • Conversations with the Dead (“I know that on a page somewhere on my shelves, staring down at me now, is the question I’m struggling with today, put into words long ago, perhaps, by someone who could not have known of my existence.”)
  • Witness (“All told, she had seen 278 inmates put to death.”)

Blog Headline of the Week

Lawsuit of the Week

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage


Optimism sounds exhausting.

“Wally,” Dilbert, Aug. 16, 2014

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My puzzling addiction

I blame my parents.

As far back as I remember, every Sunday my parents did the crossword puzzle in the Minneapolis Tribune. Not only that, at some point during the week they bought the previous Sunday’s edition of what memory tells me was the New York Daily News simply to get that crossword.

I’ve done crosswords occasionally in my life, usually in streaks with years in between. I preferred Sunday puzzles probably because of my parents but they also have more opportunities if you’re stumped on a few words. With the New York Times Sunday crossword being the big kahuna, I worked those occasionally but very rarely managed to solve one completely.

Early this year, I was browsing a website of remaindered and other discount books and saw two books of 165 and 50 NYT Sunday crosswords for $2.99 and $1.99 respectively. What the hell, I thought, and added them to my “cart.” I occasionally worked one in bed when I didn’t feel like reading or couldn’t fall asleep. One weekend not that long ago, though, I picked up the larger collection from the bookshelves near my reading chair. I have become fixated, if not addicted. I tend to become spellbound and lose all track of time. To some extent, it’s akin to being totally engaged while reading. In fact, I’ve read a couple books about crosswords in the last month.

I also find following some perhaps quirky “rules.” Even if less than a handful of clues are unsolved, I don’t look at the answers. If I didn’t complete the puzzle I don’t see a purpose in filling it in. (But coming close creates a strong urge to jump right into the next one.) Use of any outside materials or the internet is verboten. What challenge is there in looking things up? And I try to first solve a word in one of the four corners of the puzzle and proceed solely from that point. I can rarely do it but at least want to try before looking at clues for words that don’t feed into the ones I’ve solved already.

With this approach, I solve maybe 1 puzzle out of every 8-10 and that frequently involves plenty of erasing and changing letters or words. I’ve improved as I’ve become familiar with some of the particular traits of Will Shortz-edited puzzles. But it’s hard for me to believe — puzzling you might say — that I’m often putting down a book to do a crossword or picking up the crossword compilation first.


I am a Times puzzle fan. I will solve, in a hotel, a USA Today, but I don’t feel good about myself when I do it.

Jon Stewart, Wordplay

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Weekend Edition: 8-16

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

  • The god effect (“The same mechanism that enhances our creativity – juicing up the right-sided limbic and prefrontal brain regions with dopamine – also opens us up to religious ideas and experience. But if these brain circuits are pushed too far, thinking becomes not merely divergent but outright deviant and psychotic.”)

Blog Headline of the Week

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage


Although your mind’s opaque
Try thinking more if just for your own sake

The Beatles, “Think for Yourself,” Rubber Soul

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Weekend Edition: 8-9

Bulletin Board

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

Blog Headline of the Week

Blog Quote of the Week

Best Court Order Provision of the Week

Mystery of the Week

  • A woman crashed into a firehouse with a python wrapped around her neck and “[p]olice said it isn’t clear whether [her] alleged intoxication or the snake strangling her caused the accident.”

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage


Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.

Chili Davis

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Where I was 40 years ago tonight

I have a horrible memory. My wife and kids talk about stuff we’ve done that doesn’t sound remotely familiar to be. But I can tell you with certainty that on this night 40 years ago I was sitting at the bar at Club 20, a low-point beer establishment on Lake Kampeska. I have that certainty because, with a tap beer in front of me, I was watching and reveling in Tricky Dick Nixon resigning from the presidency. It was, for me, a joyous moment.

Nixon wouldn’t officially leave office until the next morning but I had no doubt this was an event that deserved celebrating. I wasn’t prescient or any more insightful than the next guy. Hell, I wasn’t even old enough to vote (or drink for that matter, but that’s another story). Ever ever since he ran in 1968, to me he epitomized everything that was wrong with America. In fact, I would find no other politician so utterly despicable until Dubya was elected 26 years later.

In retrospect, Nixon’s presidency had a rather significant impact on my life. I was leaving for my first year of college later that month. Rather than being a sports editor somewhere, the last year of Nixon’s presidency pushed me toward being a political reporter. The seed of studying political science as well as journalism had been planted. All this led me to public affairs reporting, including covering the Legislature, Bill Janklow and Congressional races, and, ultimately, to law school.

Still, my core feelings about Nixon were reflected in this scene from Bill Murray’s portrayal of Hunter S. Thompson in the otherwise forgettable Where the Buffalo Roam:

Thompson’s inimitable style and approach in his Rolling Stone obituary of Nixonpiece is an excellent summary of the Nixon I perceived:

He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

Back in the mid-70s, though, I still believed the American Dream and political system had a chance. After all, didn’t Watergate show the system worked? Maybe we could turn things around. So, there is a part of me that looks back on that night 40 years ago somewhat fondly. Of course, that delusion didn’t last forever. My gradual transition from optimism tinged with a heavy dose of skepticism to utter and complete cynicism and disgust became final while Dubya was president. Perhaps just shows how naive we can be when we’re young.


Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man — evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it.

Hunter S. Thompson, “He Was a Crook, “June 16, 1994

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Politics and place

I’ve always known my views on social and political issues place me in a minority in South Dakota. But last week I learned that if I want to leave with South Dakotans who more closely share my views, I need to move — to a reservation.

An outfit called Clarity Campaign does political analytics. Among its public projects is What Town Matches My Politics?. By selecting whether your agreement or disagreement in seven different topics or whether it doesn’t really matter, you can find what towns in each state that match your politics. My results, in order: Marty (Yankton Reservation); Lower Brule (Lower Brule Reservation); and, Okreek, Rosebud and Saint Francis (all on the Rosebud Reservation). I might also point out that the Rosebud Reservation includes all of Todd County, perennially one of the poorest counties in the nation.

I think the results are relatively easy to explain, though. The very first question is whether a person identifies more with Democrats or Republicans. I lean more toward the Democrats and What Town Matches My Politics? indicates there’s an 82% probability a resident of Marty will be a Democrat. As for the prevalence of towns on the Rosebud, Todd County is one of only 17 in the state where Democrats outnumber Republicans. Its registered voters are 69% Democrat and only 16% Republican. Notably, if I express a preference for urban areas, Spearfish is second on the list and Sioux Falls is third although their compatibility comparisons are lower that if I don’t include such a preference.

The politics of reservations shows up in neighboring states. In Nebraska, Macy, the home of the Omaha Tribe, is first and Winnebago, home of the Winnebago Tribe, is fourth. In North Dakota, the top two are on the Standing Rock Reservation and the third is on the Turtle Rock Reservation. In Minnesota, though, it’s Minneapolis across the board. As for more distant locales, it appears I should live in Cambridge, Mass.; Miami; New York City; Portland; or San Francisco.

But if I’m going to base life choices on number crunching, I’ll take Kahului on the island of Maui.


It’s easier to die than to move … at least for the Other Side you don’t need trunks.

Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

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