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MinnPost Picks: on the insidiousness of hobbies, America’s last great subway and a statistical analysis of the NYT’s Spelling Bee

Our weekly roundup of great stories from around the web, as recommended by MinnPost’s staff and contributing journalists.

Photo by Jasmin Schreiber on Unsplash

How hobbies infiltrated American Life, The Atlantic

During the pandemic, Americans who found themselves with extra free time took up baking, crafting, exercising and other activities. This article makes an interesting assertion that the compulsion to spend our leisure time in pursuit of productive hobbies is an American one. “The Protestant work ethic that is foundational to American culture positions labor as morally good in and of itself, whether you’re working hard at a desk, on a farm, or teaching yourself the guitar tabs to ‘Wonderwall.’ Conversely, any time not spent productively is wasted.”
—Greta Kaul, data reporter

Lessons from Washington Metro, America’s Last Great Subway System, Governing

This Governing Magazine interview with George Mason University Prof. Zachary Schrag tells the story of the D.C. Metro that the magazine calls “America’s Last Great Subway” and that Schrag’s book title describes as “The Great Society Subway.” At the time it wouldn’t have been common to think it wouldn’t be repeated, as it came while Atlanta’s MARTA and San Francisco’s BART were being planned and built. But both of those are stunted in their development and what has come since — after a long gap in between — are mostly surface light rail systems.
—Peter Callaghan, state government reporter

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NYT Spelling Bee: 2021 In Review

Laura LindsayAt risk of revealing how big of a nerd I am, I encourage you to check out this piece if you’re even a little bit into the New York Times game Spelling Bee. Or if you’re actively obsessed, like me. For the best experience, view this detailed analysis of every puzzle from the last year on desktop, not your phone. The funniest part to me are the flip-flops, which have made me feel like I’m crazy. (“I swear this word counted last time!”) I also felt validated in seeing that mollycoddled was a pangram twice in 2021, which I noticed and wondered about/was annoyed by. (There are so many other seven-letter words! Why repeat?) But I’m no Sam Ezersky hater; he’s one of my favorite Twitter follows. Enjoy this nerdy data and keep up your quest for Queen Bee. 👑🐝
—Laura Lindsay, membership manager

They Call Me Groover Boy, Outside

I recently got a collection of classic Outside stories, and a particularly excellent one from 2008 details the life of a Grand Canyon river guide whose main job is to paddle a boat carrying the boxes tourists use to poop in during the voyage. A hilarious account of a humbling experience for an Outside writer who quit his job to join a river outfitter, only to be assigned to the, erm, crappiest role on the team. Great reporting on the challenges of managing human waste in the wilderness.
—Walker Orenstein, Greater Minnesota reporter