548 Categorized Posts

It’s been a while since I posted something here, making for a rather anticlimactic start to A Patient Cycle 2.0. Generally, pauses on this blog indicate one of three things, all of which are probably partially true at any given point:

  1. Writer’s block is ravaging its author
  2. The author is busy with Life Stuff
  3. The author is painstakingly working his way through a piece of fiction, which is at once the most gratifying, exhausting, and time-consuming form of writing he knows

In this case, I’m pleased(?) to report that #3 is the most prominent of the three. For now, anyway. But tonight, I took a break from hating my writing to take the trip down memory lane that I alluded to in the last post. This is, approximately, the 549th post on this blog. (I am not going to take the time to check my math.) I began a sprawling attempt to categorize them, and aside from frequent distractions to see what my past self thought of certain things, it showed me some interesting trends. Here are the 548 posts preceding this one, categorized and in a table:

Duluth East Hockey106655663249
General HS Hockey History/Commentary511796234148
Travelogues – Present384868340
Duluth City Council15191237
Current Affairs104262416136
Sports – Not HS Hockey51464211134
Duluth News Roundups6972411131
Duluth History & Commentary27245343131
Books, Film, TV44621262128
Duluth Schools121031127
Good Writing411287124
Stages of Life2135332120
HS Hockey Tournament2122333218
Obituaries/In Memoriam14113112216
Programming Notes332212114
Travelogues & Homes Past2261112
General Appreciation/Rants1422312
I apologize to my grad school data visualization professor for my lazy disinterest in aligning the numbers correctly in this table.

Many aspects of this table are not surprising. I knew the first two years, when I was underemployed and still churning out a lot of stray thoughts that hadn’t come out before, would be my most prolific. The demise of the Duluth political writing, first as I went off to grad school and then as I returned to assume a job with some political sensitivity, was entirely predictable. The decline in not-hockey sports makes sense, both because I have less free time for them now and because those were some of the less original writings of those early years and often lack a natural audience even in this sprawling space. The taper in general high school hockey commentary, meanwhile, likely represents my drift toward using my podcast soapbox to say a lot of the things I want to say in considerably less time.

Some other interesting trends emerge. My writing about travel, whether local or cross-country, has grown in tandem with my disposable income, though I made up for the lack of travel in the early years by reminiscing about prior journeys. The “good writing” genre, which existed as an actual feature of this blog in 2018 and 2019, existed in some proto-form in some earlier years. Current affairs goes for a jump in 2020; it’s as if an interesting thing or two may have happened over the course of that year. Duluth history and commentary is about as stable as can be. Likewise with the East hockey commentary outside of the first year, when I did a long series on the Hounds’ history, and the pandemic-shortened past calendar year.

2018 comes across as my adult peak of creative output. In retrospect, I believe that sense is correct. 2018 was a fun and eventful year, whereas I can only write so many posts about sitting and reading in a spare room or going for runs around the same neighborhoods over and over again, which were my primary activities in 2020. The early rush of philosophical musing was probably a sort of dump of thoughts that I haven’t felt the need to rehash too much, though I was a little surprised to see it fade to zero. Perhaps that’s just because I now tend to weave that sort of thing into travel writing, or choose to treat certain themes more obliquely through fiction. It does make me wonder, though, if there aren’t certain themes worth revisiting from some of those early years, especially since the thinking on that level is among the things that can get lost in the rush of a professional life.

That’s my only real takeaway that maybe could affect future content, though. The blog will go on as inspiration strikes me, and slow its pace as those three factors that I listed at the top rare their heads. Onward and upward.


APC 2.0

This blog is now starting its ninth year of existence, and it had gone through its life without much in the way of upgrades. It had stuck with the same old color scheme that I never loved in the first place. The links list on the side was an increasingly dated reflection of my news consumption, and the archives section had grown unwieldy on all but the longest posts. Blogging as a pursuit has changed somewhat since 2013; the golden age is long over, and people have drifted off into new quarters in the changing media environment. Facebook appears to have de-algorithmed me (I guess I need more QAnon content for them to think my stuff is interesting), and my audience, outside of the hockey stuff and the spontaneous WordPress users who stumble upon some of my travel writing, is not growing.

As a result, I’ve decided it’s time for an overhaul. I spent some time considering different approaches to my writing life. I gave a little thought to starting a Substack, but I don’t think I have the time now to scale that up to the point where it would do what I want it to do. I considered spinning things off into their own locations: put the hockey stuff in another place, for example, while leaving this as a more personal sounding board. One of the joys of having varied interests is that they do not always sit comfortably together. For the time being, though, I have decided to stay the course.

That meant that we were at least in line for a cosmetic upgrade. I’ve simplified the design: just a good, old-fashioned serif font that puts all the focus on the text, not on any noise on the sides or the background. Black and white simplicity it is. Under the menu button, I’ve started putting in some links to posts with some of my more frequently used tags. My tagging practices over the years have been spotty, so it may take a while to get it in the sort of shape I want it. It’s hardly a priority.

What does this mean for content? Probably nothing that wasn’t part of this blog’s natural drift already. Hockey during the season and when newsworthy, travelogues when I venture outward, markers for other life events. Fiction when those lurching, months-in-the-making entries reach a point where I do not viscerally hate the idea of other humans reading them. Very, very occasional political commentary, offered in a detached and halfhearted tone; a tone not offered because I do not care, but because I believe that understanding requires that level of distance. And the occasional inane offering, too.

For now, at least, that’s where I am. It could all change next week, but inertia remains a powerful force, and this blog, for good or ill, has a fair amount of that behind it now. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Yes, This Blog Talks About Things Other Than Hockey Sometimes

Hockey coverage completely hijacked this blog over the past couple months. This change stemmed from a combination of obligation to that ever-enjoyable commitment, life developments that limit my willingness to comment on certain topics, and a good old-fashioned case of writer’s block. (More on that in the next post.) For now, though, I’ll get back into the swing of things by bringing back the feature in which I collect interesting articles and share them.

The news topic du jour is the college admissions scandal that has nailed a number of rich people behaving badly in their efforts to get their undeserving children into certain institutions of higher education, including my own alma mater. This is so terrible on so many levels that I almost left it alone; I try to avoid shooting fish in barrels on this blog. It’s a shameful indictment of the parents, the culture that makes them think they need to do this, and, well…instead of trailing on, I’ll let Claire Cain Miller and Jonah Engel Bromwich in the New York Times do it for me. Snowplow parenting is very real, and while I can’t say I knew any non-tennis-playing tennis scholarship kids in my Georgetown days, I’ve certainly seen no shortage of overzealous parents trying to do the heavy lifting for their kids, and not just on the East Coast. It’s a disease, and does no one any good in the long run.

In American Affairs, Jacob Siegel dives into California’s stunning homelessness problem. He explores poverty in Los Angeles in lurid detail, and touches on the factors that drive it, from housing policy to NIMBYism to the role of nonprofits to the decline of mental institutions. The piece also brushes on the perils of a technology-centered economy and a belief that said technology will somehow solve everything. It’s a sobering account of the growing class divides in America’s wealthiest cities, and makes one wonder if the rest of us aren’t that far behind.

A little old now, but excellent: Derek Thompson explores the American culture of “workism” in the Atlantic. Somehow, we’ve developed a cult of work that has made the well-off even more obsessed with results and the bottom line than they were before. The piece spends some time with college-educated millennials, who have been told to chase our passions instead of money or free time, which it turns out is a rather brilliant strategy by our superiors to turn us into workoholics. (I had the good fortune to fall under the spell of several iconoclasts who fought this vision in my Georgetown days, and Duluth, being somewhat out of the way of the march of history, also helped buffer me from it. But even with those influences I’ve felt the push, and given slightly different circumstances I have no doubt I would have been a total victim of this culture of work.) Work can develop meaning and should not be hell, but it is a means, not an end.

Oh, you thought you were going to escape hockey entirely? Nah. The New Yorker has a piece on the ten-year run of Minnesota hockey hair videos created by John King. The videos were a delight every year, though I don’t blame King for bringing it to an end now that his kids are out of high school. The whole thing went a bit overboard in the later years, with kids blatantly pandering to the video instead of just rocking luscious locks. I’m guessing someone, or several someones, will try to pick up the slack, but it’ll be hard to top King’s deadpan delivery and amusing interludes. And if it’s going to end, it might as well be with a Greyhound on top.

Hounds Hockey History I: Introduction

Lest my hockey-writing development lapse while other hockey writers work hard on their craft in summer training programs, I’ve decided to launch a series on the history of Duluth East high school hockey. I will still have non-hockey content; this will just be a weekly feature. This project is quite some time in the making, and there are still a number of holes in the record books (especially in the early years) that I still hope and plan to fill. Research for this project draws from a variety of sources, including:

-My own memory, for roughly the past ten years.

-The Duluth-News Tribune online archives, which date to 1995.

-Several other stray articles written in the past 10-15 years, most prominently a series of columns by former Star Tribune writer and Duluthian John Gilbert.

-Video of East section finals and State Tournaments since 1991. (Yes, I own just about all of them; no, I am not making copies; I have given some thought to getting them onto Youtube, though that is not a priority right now.)

-Archives of historical data provided by Lee at MinnHock, the Hill-Murray website, and the 2000 book Let’s Play Hockey Presents a Complete History of the Minnesota Boys and Girls High School Hockey Tournament, 1945-2000.

-Duluth East yearbooks, though I was unable to get my hands on copies from 1951, 1962, 1963, and 1964.

Since I have no memory of most seasons and am constructing this history backwards, there are bound to be plenty of holes, assumptions, and selective readings of history. That’s the only way to make this work. I welcome any information that might fill in some of the gaps, and different perspectives that I might not be aware of. That said, the purpose of this project isn’t a data dump, but an attempt to build my own narrative through 64 years of hockey history. At this point I’m envisioning a series of nine parts or so, with most of the emphasis on the past twenty years, which offer the most source material, the juiciest storylines, and probably the greatest reader interest, too. I’ll devote the remainder of this post to the origins of East hockey.

One quick note: rather than write out every season as two years (e.g. “2012-2013”), I abbreviate it by using simply the half of the season in which the playoffs are held. That is, if I say talk about the Hounds’ achievements in 2013, I’m talking about the 2012-2013 season, not 2013-2014, or the calendar year of 2013.

The story of one of Minnesota’s most prominent high school hockey programs begins some five years after the birth of the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament in 1945. With the city’s population on the upswing, Duluth East Junior High became a high school in the fall of 1949, and put together a hockey team in its first year. Teacher Frank Hart took the helm as the head coach, and his team’s first game was against Floodwood, a tiny town west of Duluth that no longer fields a hockey team. The Hounds won, 6-0, and followed that up with a 9-3 win over Duluth Cathedral (now Marshall) and a 19-1 win over Hermantown. (Some fans might be surprised to learn that Hermantown, now a State Tournament regular, was a complete doormat until the late 1990s.) They wound up with a 7-1 record at the end of their regular season, though they appear not to have participated in the playoffs. The sole loss was an 8-1 pasting at the hands of Duluth Denfeld.

The Hounds’ most common opponents in those early days were the teams that went on to become members of the now-defunct Big Ten Conference of northeastern Minnesota. If these Proctor baseball historians are to be believed, the conference officially formed in 1959 as the Big Nine, and eventually evolved into the still-existing Lake Superior Conference. Members appear to include the four Duluth public high schools (East, Central, Denfeld, and Morgan Park); the city’s western neighbors of Cloquet, Proctor, and Hermantown (eventually—I think they were the team that turned the Big Nine into the Big Ten in 1963); and two towns on the north shore of Lake Superior, Silver Bay and Two Harbors. Duluth Cathedral also appears to have been a conference member; however, as a private school, they had their own playoffs prior to 1975. Otherwise, the conference seemed to line up with District 26, which fed its top four finishers in its district tournament into Region 7. In the eight-team Region 7 Tournament, the Duluth-area schools competed against (and were often slaughtered by) teams from the Iron Range and the far reaches of northeastern Minnesota in search of a State Tournament berth.

Records are spotty for the next few years, and East lurched through a couple of middling seasons. All I have for 1951 is a 4-6-1 record, and the 1952 yearbook suggests the listed 4-2 regular season record is incomplete. The Hounds did make their first regional tournament in that year, and promptly lost to eventual state champion Hibbing in the first round. From 1952 on I have rosters for every season but 1963 and 1965, but with these early teams, it’s hard to find much evidence of post-high school careers, unless the player in question is particularly famous or a certain college has its own database. At any rate, the 3-4 result under coach Alvin Ness in 1953 was the last losing season on record, meaning the Hounds wrapped up their 60th consecutive winning season in 2013. While the results of those first few seasons weren’t awful, there wasn’t much to suggest the Hounds could become a state powerhouse, either. First, two key people would need to leave their mark on the program.

Up next week: a post on East’s fourteen years under coach Glenn Rolle, who guided the Hounds to their first brush with glory.