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Scott became a regular visitor to Seattle, a friend of all his Slate colleagues, and a close friend of several, including me. A fitness buff, a master of judo and karate, an experienced scuba diver, he enthusiastically added the local sports of hiking and rafting to his repertoire and shared memorable adventures with several of us. On these outings he would delight in talk and argument as only a writer who ordinarily works alone all day can.
One subject that often came up was that of risk. Scott was an odd combination of macho daredevil and supercautious worrywart. (On one hike he carried a full-sized chair several miles up the side of a mountain, along with a heavy pack—an impressive feat of strength in service of a fastidious desire not to sit on the ground.) He was obsessed with personal security, carried various weapons (not firearms) for self-protection, and loved any opportunity to train women to repel attackers.
But he also was an explicit and adamant believer that experiencing life vividly is worth taking risks. Pending an autopsy, we do not yet know exactly what happened yesterday afternoon. I would be very surprised if this tragic accident were the result of some negligence or failure on Scott's part. At the same time, he was about as realistic as any human being can be—not all that realistic, I suppose, but still ... about the unavoidable dangers of his avocations. He was not a gratuitous risk-taker, but he knew what he was doing and had thought intelligently about the potential cost.
Scott might not have enjoyed growing old. He treasured his good health and mental acuity and would have disliked watching them slip away even more than most of us will. He was in a good place in his life. He loved his job. He brimmed with pride in his daughter, Dale, who graduated from Harvard last year. He looked forward to a new period when he and Debora (who were married for 29 years) could adventure together, unfettered by child-rearing and tuition bills. He certainly wouldn't have chosen a sudden exit yesterday. But all of us who shared Slate editorial meetings with him can well imagine Scott—puckishly, tentatively at first, but perhaps even adamantly as he got swept up in his argument—making the case.
Michael Kinsley is a columnist for the Washington Post and the founding editor of Slate.
Photograph of Scott Shuger courtesy of Michele Botwin.