Theory: The better you know someone, the fewer manners are required to engage with them.

Here “manners” are defined as the rules and customs your parents taught you so that you wouldn’t embarrass them in front of their parents and friends (Your parents were taught manners by your grandparents for the exact same reason).

Corollary: Presenting the above theory to family, no matter how well you know them, will not be accepted as an excuse for lack of manners.

Praxis: When I sneeze in public and a stranger says “Bless you,” I say “Thank you.” When I sneeze in the company of friends and someone says “Bless you,” I say nothing. My soul is not leaving my body, and I don’t have the plague. There.

Another: a haircut is not worth commenting on unless it fundamentally changes a person’s appearance. If someone gets a haircut merely to trim back or shorten their existing hair style, nothing needs to be said. This kind of haircut is upkeep, basically an act of hygiene. We don’t routinely compliment people for taking a shower or clipping their toenails.

Tenebrous Tunnels (Black Garden)

Destiny is a game that I will absolutely write about in more depth at some point. I’ve put a bit more than a year into it now, which is long enough that I feel required to write something.

Fortunately, I think it’s the kind of game that gives a unique experience to everyone who picks it up. The trouble for me is setting it aside long enough to get some words down.

Undertale is another game I would like to talk about. Here’s something I’ll say in brief: it’s my favorite game that I’ve played this year.

A problem I have with content writing as a job is that any topic can be more interesting than what I’m supposed to be writing about, but I can’t just drop what I’m doing and go write about the other thing instead.

We’ve run out of words to use in response to gun violence. In the years since Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, in the months since Charleston and Roanoke, in the days since Umpqua we have exhausted those few words that can adequately communicate our collective grief and disbelief.

There’s a literal million words to pick from in English alone, but we don’t have any left.

“Tragedy” – too tired.

“Massacre” – minimized in meaning.

“Politicize” – a plea for progress, or lack thereof.

News outlets have started recycling their headlines, and it doesn’t take much work to update their graphics. Just add a new dot to the map, a new tally to the total fatalities for this year.

Thom Tillis has been a US Senator for less than a year, but I wonder how many times his office has sent out a version of this email:

Email from Thom Tillis on 2nd Amendment Rights and Gun Control in the wake of Umpqua Community College shooting
Click to zoom.

(Richard Burr and George Holding did not respond to me.)

Perhaps we can adopt a ubiquitous facial expression, too, a recognized response that will carry across cultures. Smiley face. Frowny face. Just-heard-about-the-latest-mass-shooting face.

Sad will still be it’s own look because we’re sort of beyond sad, aren’t we? When we’re fortunate enough to not know the victims (or the shooter), we aren’t sad. It’s more of an “Oh” moment. We shrug it off as quickly as we can. The clock resets while we wait for the next one. Some people hear the news and get a little bit more afraid because really it can happen anywhere, right?

Since we’re out of words, we might as well reread the most potent ones strung together on this subject. They’re by Adam Gopnik from The New Yorker, published on December 19, 2012, titled “The Simple Truth About Gun Control.” Go read that.

Gopnik wrote some other words, too, five years before that in response to VT, but you need a subscription to read the archive. Luckily, Vox shared the paragraph you should really read, so I hope that means I can, too:

The cell phones in the pockets of the dead students were still ringing when we were told that it was wrong to ask why. As the police cleared the bodies from the Virginia Tech engineering building, the cell phones rang, in the eccentric varieties of ring tones, as parents kept trying to see if their children were OK. To imagine the feelings of the police as they carried the bodies and heard the ringing is heartrending; to imagine the feelings of the parents who were calling — dread, desperate hope for a sudden answer and the bliss of reassurance, dawning grief — is unbearable. But the parents, and the rest of us, were told that it was not the right moment to ask how the shooting had happened — specifically, why an obviously disturbed student, with a history of mental illness, was able to buy guns whose essential purpose is to kill people — and why it happens over and over again in America. At a press conference, Virginia’s governor, Tim Kaine, said, “People who want to … make it their political hobby horse to ride, I’ve got nothing but loathing for them. … At this point, what it’s about is comforting family members … and helping this community heal. And so to those who want to try to make this into some little crusade, I say take that elsewhere.”

[This section was written prior to the Friday when three school shootings were reported within hours of each other. It was also written prior to the shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs.]

I recently bought dinner from Chick-fil-a for the first time in about three years. I’d been debating about doing so for a while now. Finally, my desire to add yet another type of chicken sandwich back into the rotation of my fast food condition beat out my desire to keep my money away from an organization run by Dan Cathy. This is some kind of economics equation, I think. You could graph these urges, assess the value I derive from each one, and see now that I’ve moved past that equilibrium point.

It comes down to convenience and utility and whimsy. Chick-fil-a is two minutes from where I live. Bojangles’ is also two minutes from where I live, but that Bojangles’ (the one on Atlantic Avenue) has been going downhill for a while, and their Cajun Filet Biscuit just isn’t what it used to be.

Chick-fil-a also has fantastic service. This is a known quantity. I don’t know how they make their employees smile, but they do.

I was in there on Thursday and an older gentleman was in line in front of me. He ordered a chicken sandwich and a vanilla ice cream cone, and he finished his order by saying “But take the calories out.” The three staff members that served him all laughed, and they continued to riff on his old man joke for the next three minutes that he was a part of their lives. You don’t really see that elsewhere.

The other thing that I feel must be addressed, and which I have probably failed to acknowledge for the better part of these past three years, is that Dan Cathy, while undoubtedly still a jackass, is not a relevant jackass. The totality of his irrelevance, and the irrelevance of others like him, was proven in June by the Supreme Court. I have deprived myself of chicken sandwiches and waffle fries because I was too blind to see this beforehand. Lesson learned.

Of course, if it’s anything like it used to be, I still won’t end up eating at Chick-fil-a that often because I’ll only ever want it on Sundays.

[Since writing this section, I think I’ve had Chick-fil-a at minimum once a week. Oops.]

I don’t think I’m very good at having conversations where strong opinions are involved. Often if I try to say something, the words don’t come together correctly. I’m inarticulate when I don’t have time to think. Writing is better for that. It’s easier for me to listen and respond later.

Speaking as someone who writes about cars every day, I get excited about big changes to the automotive industry as we know it. Alex Roy has some of the best foretellings of this impending golden age published on Jalopnik. Here’s one of his better articles on the subject.

I talk myself into forming silly habits sometimes, habits that persist long enough for me to forget how that initial internal conversation went.

For a year now, I’ve been listening to songs on my iPod in alphabetical order during my commute. I started at A and I have only recently arrived at G. I am roughly a third of the way through the contents of the device.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I did it once back in high school, too, and it only took me a couple of months to get through my entire library.

I think my motivation could have been something as dumb as wanting there to be at least a 1 in the Play Count column next to every song in my iTunes, and I saw fit to sacrifice choice and discernment to accomplish that. It’s no doubt limited the amount of new music I’ve heard this year, too.

The exception was after Ghost’s Meliora came out. I put that on and listened to it on repeat for about two weeks. It’s my album of the year, for what it’s worth.

Meliora is about Satan and the end of the world and hope, and I love it for reasons that I can’t explain without sounding like I’m wearing a fedora. You should listen to it.

I had written a long section about Bernie Sanders, but then Matt Taibbi came along and wrote a column that does a much better job of expressing how I feel about him, so I’m just going to link that instead.

I got a free Bernie Sanders bumper sticker a while back from his campaign, but I haven’t decided where to put it yet. I know where it’s supposed to go, but I can’t help but feel that parking lots and freeways aren’t the proper setting for political discourse, unless we’re talking about infrastructure.

Fuck Martin Shkreli.

I’m a member of that crowd who thinks BoJack Horseman is the best show on Netflix, simply because it exists there. Shut up, I don’t want to watch Narcos, I want to watch the show with all the visual gags and animal puns and melancholy. Comedy that connects with me is pretty rare, but that Raphael Bob-Waksberg guy knows how to tickle with a knife. He wrote this short story, too, which I enjoyed.

Whenever I was watching BoJack, I felt like writing. I didn’t do any, but it’s still an important feeling for me to have.

Jessica Jones is also well worth a weekend binge. It’s better than Daredevil, and Daredevil was pretty good.


 No one will tell you to get a nose hair trimmer until it’s too late.

With Thanksgiving over, we can now move on to the time of year when I get anxious about the fact that the gifts I give others never measure up to the gifts I am given.


In August, I visited friends in Manchester. As far as vacations go, it was a categorical success, as I had a lovely time. It was the first time I’d met people who I previously knew only through the internet, and while I wasn’t nervous at all about being harmed, I was anxious about representing myself without a medium in the middle. It only took a few hours to dispel these concerns, so overall it was a very enjoyable week.

In the mornings, we would go out and do some sort of cultural thing, whether it was visiting the John Rylands Library or Manchester Cathedral, or touring the Museum of Science and Industry, or just stopping on our way through Castlefield to admire the Roman ruins (what little the Victorians decided to leave standing). The trip was supposed to be for social purposes rather than tourism, however, so I enjoyed our afternoons and evenings when we would find a place for a drink or sit down for games or Netflix.

My friends had a lot to say about their city, and while I took in every word of it, I often found myself thinking back to Raleigh, wondering if I could portray the same sort of authority as a host. I struggle to think of what I would say in particular beyond pointing out obvious sites like the Capitol Building, the Legislature, the construction site, the construction site, the construction site…

Joel Lane in the rain

“There’s the Joel Lane house, oldest standing structure in Raleigh. It predates the city. We spent a day talking about it in my 12th grade Theory of Knowledge class for some reason. I’ve never been inside.”

“Down there is Haywood Hall. It’s another old house. I once spent a weekend cleaning out the shed there as part of someone’s Eagle project. Yeah pretty much you can do anything to get your Eagle as long as it demonstrates leadership somehow.”

“That’s the No Hand King. He’s kinda the man.”

“This is the Boylan Bridge Brew Pub. The food is awful, the beer is ok, but they’ve got this great view as long as you don’t focus on the foreground. There’s no reason to come here sober.”

“This is Hillsborough Street. There’s a Zaxby’s and a Waffle House and a few other places to eat, but not much else.”

“Here is where I used to work. It’s in a part of town that new Raleigh people call the Warehouse District because there’s one big warehouse and a few smaller ones that have been converted into businesses. No, no, I know, it’s not like Manchester where nine out of ten stores, restaurants, and flats are a converted warehouse. It’s pretty fraudulent, I agree. Hey they’re building us a legit train station, though, so that’s progress, right?”

“Yes we have trolley pubs here. I guess some asshole went to Munich and thought that would be a cool thing to bring home to America. There are probably people throughout history who have been more incorrect, but as far as mistakes that have been made in this decade that has to be in the top ten.”

Sidebar: This city is going great places, but nobody seems to care about it. Thirteen percent (13%) of registered voters showed up in October for the city council elections. I guess those DrunkTown™ ads failed to sufficiently rile anyone on either side.

I’m hoping Tomasulo isn’t too discouraged to make another run in 2017. Without any great upheaval on the council in the meantime, here’s hoping they can maintain our general upward trend.

Do I know anyone in Raleigh who needs a roommate?