Today’s Word: whelm (verb) – To whelm (HWELM) is to submerge, engulf, overcome completely. As used by Dante Alighieri in Paradise, Canto 27: “That canst not lift thy head above the waves / Which whelm and sink thee down!”

Did You Know?: The last course in a traditional Chinese meal is soup, so that the earlier courses can “swim” toward the stomach for digestion.

Worth Quoting: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard

What I’m Reading Now: South and West: From a Notebook, by Joan Didion. Not a novel. Not a memoir exactly. More a series of notes about a trip she took with her husband through the South and some notes she made during the Patty Hearst trial that turned out to be about privileged young women growing up in California. The thesis of the book, if there is one, is that the culture of the South, however backwards we feel it is, is steeped in history and likely to endure, while that may not be true of California’s very different culture. It is really well written. Sparse and precise and at times poetic.

Didion was a very attractive young woman who grew up wealthy and connected. But her writing is undeniably good – and that is a fact that cannot be diminished by her various advantages.

Watch This: Every time I go to San Francisco its streets are dirtier and more depressing. It’s sad to see one of America’s great cities decline so steadily. There is always hope — New York is now a much cleaner and safer city than it was 30 years ago. It took the intervention of an administration or two that recognized the fact that a city’s survival is based on its ability to attract and keep good businesses.

This video — though a bit preachy — is funny and depressingly accurate