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There are a lot of pious, chest-thumping definitions of journalism, but mine is pretty simple: Journalism is curiosity guided by a sense of mission. It’s about getting the facts, yes, but it’s also about seeing how those facts line up, where they point. Sometimes, though, it’s fun, interesting and instructive to make it even simpler — to forget the road signs for a while, let curiosity take the wheel and get utterly, giddily lost.

That pure curiosity is the engine powering our feature, “We just had to ask,” a mix of interviews with everyone from Strip concierges to prison wardens to Zen wise men. What did we talk about? Indulge me as I deploy caps lock for a sec: EVERYTHING. In these wide-ranging Q&As that begin on page 41, we ask big questions — about the proper way to live, about justice, death, karma —  and small questions too: Are window-washers scared of heights? How do you make vegan chocolate taste good? Do casino card dealers like math? How do you drive a Zamboni? (Okay, maybe those are big questions, too.) No softball celebrity fluff: The stars here are the everyday — but hardly ordinary — people who make Southern Nevada such a fascinating place to live.

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And with election season behind us (are you still having attack-ad nightmares with phantom-floating newspaper headlines and grainy, sinister-looking candidate mugshots? Me too!), we survey the politiscape with two special interviews: Political columnist Jon Ralston sits down with freshman Congressman Steve Horsford, who discusses his plans to represent Nevada in Washington; and veteran journalist Steve Friess quizzes Shelley Berkley on life after politics. Horsford is Nevada’s first African-American congressman and, just as significantly, he’s joining a Congress that is the most diverse in history. Berkley’s loss to Sen. Dean Heller in a high-profile senate race inspired gales and gusts of analysis by pundits and politicos; now you can hear her own take.

Meanwhile, it’s a new year and — did you notice? — happily, none of us have been swallowed by some yawning transdimensional vortex spinning out of the Yucatan. If a bit of spiritual housekeeping or self-improvement is among your New Year’s resolutions, consider achieving it by improving your community — by getting directly involved with the schools in your neighborhood. Our “Be True to Your School” feature is a hand-picked guide to some of the valley’s best educational causes, from helping teachers supply kids with notebooks and backpacks to support groups that ensure at-risk high-schoolers graduate. The 2013 Legislature is on the horizon, and we’re surely in for another season of stormy talk about the importance of education; here’s hoping it’s not all lightning and no heat. Don’t forget there’s a time-tested way to make our schools better: by lending a hand yourself. Find out how on page 26.

Finally, we’re curious about one more thing — lemme hit caps lock again: YOU. Take our Best of the City Readers’ Poll online at and give us the dish on your bests, from pizza to parks to places to hike. You’ll be entered to win gift certificates to some great restaurants. But best of all, as a savvy, engaged Desert Companion reader, you’ll be sharing your insider tips with others hungry for quality experiences. Don’t wait — the poll closes Jan. 12. We’ll publish results in our February Best of the City issue. Sound good? Sounds best.

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