Lizzie

When we left my grandparents’ house on Christmas day, there was only one possible destination. Our family doesn’t readily depart from tradition or routine, and the schedule for Christmas has never involved midday excursions. We don’t go to the movies, we don’t go for walks, we don’t leave on a family vacation. We do write Christmas lists, though, and that year the first entry on mine was a puppy. Still, it didn’t feel real until we pulled onto the farm in Mebane and saw a litter of airedales jumping at the fence. 

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When I’m Depressed, I Don’t Vent — I Heap

“It could well be said that we all live pretty well in one great heap, all of us, differentiated as we otherwise are by the countless and profound variations that have developed over time. All in one heap! Something urgent drives us together, and nothing can prevent us from satisfying its urging. All our laws and institutions, the few I still remember and the countless I have forgotten, go back to the greatest joy that we are capable of, the warmth of togetherness.”

Kafka, Investigations of a Dog

When I’m depressed, it helps me to write things down. While I’m thinking in scattershot, I can take notes, get them on paper, and then rearrange them to make more sense in a better moment. The act of writing brings clarity. It shines light. It provides exposure.

It’s a catch-22, though.

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I went on a run today.

I went on a run today.

I got up and did my seven-minute workout to warm up, and then I walked out to the street and started running.

It was a short loop, just through the neighborhood, around the nearby Catholic school. I closed the loop out with a short stint on the Greenway access right by my apartment. I ran, carrying my keys and my phone.

When I hit the parking lot again, I slowed to a walk and got control of my breathing.

Back in my apartment, I did another seven-minute workout, the one I unlocked that focuses on stretching.

I showered.

It was more of a jog than a run.

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Things Heard While Playing Destiny 2

Destiny 2 Dawnblade Warlock daybreak.jpg

The most important thing to know about Destiny 2 is that, if you play it, you play it with other people. Even if you start out on your own, you will meet others and link up with them on an inexorable journey. If you don’t, you’ll stop playing altogether.

For that reason, Destiny 2 is a game you experience through dialogue. Not with characters (you play as a silent protagonist), but with your companions, whomever they may be.

These are some of the conversations you should expect to have.

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Heap (Politics Edition)

Vote Raleigh Sticker Jedidiah Gant.jpg
Image: Jedidiah Gant / New Raleigh

Early voting ended on Saturday. The election takes place on Tuesday. My mother called me the other day and told me that she went and cast her ballot. These are the circumstances in which I’m finally writing down my thoughts on the election, the campaign, the state of things. You know, stuff I should have written down weeks ago when it meant something.

This is going to be disjointed, but I think that’s the only way to get it done at this point.

Inhale.

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Heap II

I feel fortunate that I don’t have to have long conversations about what I do for work. Whenever someone asks and I tell them “I work at a digital marketing company,” their eyes tend to glaze over and the subject changes shortly thereafter.

The only people I really talk to about work are people at work, and even then, sometimes I have to say, “Guys, we’re at lunch, can we just not for half an hour?” The answer is usually no, but that’s the nature of conversation when standing on a limited amount of common ground.

Some people say that the mark of true politeness is to never talk about yourself, but if that’s true, doesn’t it set up one person to be impolite? I guess the solution is to only talk about other things. Maybe that’s why sports make some of the best small talk.

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Save Scum

XCOM 2 Skyranger loading screen screenshot.jpg

There are two kinds of loading screen in XCOM 2. The first is diegetic, and it appears when loading into or out of a mission. You’re shown an interior view of the dropship carrying the squad you’re sending into battle. When deploying, there’s a mission briefing projected on the wall of the cargo bay, including the code name, objective, and an image representing the terrain of the area of operation. Upon extraction, combat stats are displayed instead, giving you a qualitative indication of how successful your tactics were.

More important than the brief and debrief is the view you get of your troops. Flying out, you can see them shift in their seats, a mix of anticipation and determination on their faces. When returning to base, the mood within the Skyranger will depend on the results of the mission.

This loading screen is necessary to give the game time to load in alien combatants and procedurally generate the battlefield, but it also gives you valuable face-to-face time with the men and women under your command. It endears them to you, and it can give extra weight to any seat that might end up empty.

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Forever Game

Destiny Vault of Glass concept art.jpg

Destiny was a promise. Made by Bungie, a studio known for creating the Halo franchise (a.k.a. the reason to buy the first Xbox) and funded from the deep pockets of Activision, it was supposed to change the way I played video games. And for a while, it did.

They called it a shared-world shooter. They said there would be guns (lots of guns) and space magic and discovery. There were other hooks laid out, too, baited well with tasty tropes. Warring factions. Alien gods. Undead warriors chosen by a mystical force. Whispered lore about the golden age of humanity, and the dark age that followed.

It was the promise of Bungie itself that sold me most of all, though. Halo was a game I experienced in fleeting measures through middle school and high school. Dragged along to a LAN party with my older brother, feeling out of place. Playing all-night on a summer visit to my cousins’ house. Watching Let’s Plays of the main campaign on a dull weekend.

They said that Destiny was the game they had always wanted to make, and I don’t doubt them. To me, it was my chance to own Halo’s rightful successor, to play to my heart’s content.

But contentment is a hard-fought achievement in Destiny, and it is hardly preordained.

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Heap

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.

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