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Thought experiment

Happy new year! Not to kick off this baby-fresh 2015 wringing hands over last year’s spilled milk or anything, but I’d have to be blind not to note the irony of putting together a Big Ideas feature package in the flaming wake of the defeat of the Education Initiative. Awk. Waaard. I’ll spare us any didactic screed, but instead scrawl this on the chalkboard and leave it at that: Ideas = (education + creativity + inspiration) x grit. That’s the formula I imagine drives many of the people we feature in our “ Big ideas” profile suite  — from a UNLV scientist deploying big data to fight HIV to an iconoclastic artist shaking up our ideas about art (and our ideas about ideas about art (!)) to an activist whose school gardens are inspiring a farm-to-classroom movement. Education isn’t the sole ingredient in this stew of brilliance, but it’s a vital one. So, let’s brightside this: Perhaps it’s fitting that this feature is appearing at the start of 2015 — consider it part of a new year’s resolution to embrace a higher vision of ourselves.

Of course, the Vegas version of a big idea is its own unique species, and we consider that in this issue as well — big dreams that never came true, pie-in-the-sky plans that fell flat. (Remember Minami Tower, or the other 417 crazy rides proposed for the Stratosphere?) And we play out a handful of thought experiments on Las Vegas: What if we established a red light district? What if we desalinated water? What if we broke up the school district but merged the city with North Las Vegas?

But the big ideas easily overflow the transoms of that feature space. One area where Vegas has always thought big is in its architecture, from our gleaming showroom monoliths of the Strip to our historic pockets of hep, space-age homes. In the “ Our favorite buildings” feature, we reflect on the spaces in the valley that excite us with their beauty, anchor us with a sense of place or deliver a heady frisson of guilty pleasure. In a town often knocked for its matchbox suburbs and strip malls, we boast a surprising amount of urban beauty; consider our story a friendly introduction (or re-introduction) to the spaces in your neighborhood. Also, we’ve got a piece, “ Learn, baby, learn,” that might inspire a few big ideas of your own, highlighting lifelong learning classes that teach everything from how to use social media to caring for fruit trees to surviving in the desert. I only hope there’s a civics class for the new Legislature — and you may hope so, too, after reading our legislative preview by political luminaries Jon Ralston and Steve Sebelius on p. 34.

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Finally, it wouldn’t be a New Year’s issue without a dining feature on eating light — but don’t worry, we’re not going to push a bunch of tofu up in your grill. These healthy eats don’t try to be something else — no soy lunchmeat or cryptic wheat protein here (okay, there is a walk-on cameo by “cashew cheese.”) Rather, the dishes in “ Light year ahead” are identifiably delicious — in some cases, even decadent — and yet they may just be the springboard to a new diet in the new year. And with this issue in hand, you’ll definitely appreciate the brain food.

As a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada, native Las Vegan Andrew Kiraly has served as a reporter covering topics as diverse as health, sports, politics, the gaming industry and conservation. He joined Desert Companion in 2010, where he has helped steward the magazine to become a vibrant monthly publication that has won numerous honors for its journalism, photography and design, including several Maggie Awards.