My goal is to get you everything you need to know to have intelligent conversations with the folks you encounter throughout the day. I make Richmond's news interesting and give you an easy way to collect your thoughts on what's happening around town. Plus, there are jokes!
Good morning, RVA! It's 54 °F, and, today, summerish temperatures return! Expect highs in the 80s this afternoon and for them to stretch on through next week. Are these record highs? Probably! Am I recovering from a fall cold? Yes! Will I still try to get out into the forest on my bicycle despite probably needing to rest? We'll see! Water cooler Remember last year when the Governor wanted to create permanent tax cuts for the wealthy but didn't have the votes and settled instead for one-time rebates, $200 for individuals and $400 for families? Well, the Department of Taxation has set up a website to check if you're eligible for those rebates (you gotta create an account first), and says the checks should hit your mailbox before December. The Cynical Part of Me raises an eyebrow at the near-election timing of this launch. The Regular Part of Me knows that the General Assembly just passed its budget a hot second ago and casual-sounding things like “setting up a website to check if you're eligible” are actually huge projects for already overworked teams. Looking ahead, and given all the press releases I get from Youngkin's team about the Commonwealth's surging revenue, I'd guess those permanent tax cuts for the wealthy will make a return in this coming year's budget, too. Just another reason why the November 7th election—in just 12 days!—is so very important. Make sure you've got a plan to vote, OK? In other state government news, Ben Paviour at VPM reports on the ongoing mess at the Department of Elections and their decision to remove thousands of folks from the voter rolls. It's hard to tell what's actually going on here, and I'd argue that's probably part of the point. Skip the confusion, and tap straight on through to the Department of Elections website to check your voter registration status right now. Also at VPM, Jahd Khalil writes about Republicans' plans to ban abortion should they win control of the General Assembly next month (see above about voting!). Khalil links to this recent survey by CNU's Wason Center, which asked potential voters a bunch of questions about their Top Issues heading into this election. Tap through and dig into the data, because it's fascinating. While folks support a handful of liberal issues—like keeping abortion legal, teaching kids about racism in public schools, retail marijuana sales, and not banning books—they're basically split on whether they'll vote for a Democrat or a Republican. Pulitzer Prize Winner Michael Paul Williams has more on the survey results, including this bit: “When likely voters were asked who they trusted most to make the right decisions for children in K-12 public schools, 81% of respondents trusted teachers “somewhat” or “a lot” — more so than school administrators (67%), local school boards (59%) and state government (55%). That's right: teachers were deemed more trustworthy than the school boards micromanaging education.” Standard caveats apply about how do surveys even work in a world where no one answers their phone, but still, fascinating! It's not all just state-level elections popping up on ballots, some of us get to vote for local candidates, too. If you're a Henrico resident cast your web browsers back over to the RTD where Sean Jones has put together a nice overview of the 10 candidates running for the Board of Supervisors. Eileen Mellon at Richmond Magazine sat down with Nathan Hughes, a real estate agent who's worked with local restauranteurs for decades, to talk about cursed restaurant spots. Hughes tries to explain that actual things—like location, foot traffic, and layout—probably contribute more to a restaurant's success than fake things like curses. Likely story, Hughes! Reminder: Breakaway RVA will host their final chill, informative, and fun group bike ride tonight. Meet at Scuffletown Park at 5:45 PM, wheels up at 6:00 PM! Tonight, at 6:00 PM, the YWCA host the 27th annual Remember My Name memorial at Cedar Street Baptist Church (2301 Cedar Street). This memorial gives friends, family, and community members a chance to commemorate those who have lost their lives due to domestic violence and intimate partner violence. According to the YWCA, “nearly one-third of all homicides in Virginia are attributed to domestic or intimate partner violence.” You can learn more and register (to help with the headcount) over on the website. This morning's longread Naked beneath Our Clothes I loved this essay on nakedness and bodies and how we're so weird about both. Everyone's got a body, and we've done a lot of really gross societal work to make sure we've all got thoughts on those bodies—the ones that belong to other people, sure, but mostly the one that belongs to us. Seeing other naked bodies, though, did not make me feel disrespectful. It was wondrous. The shared ease made being human more palatable. And I soon realized there is nothing exhibitionist about being naked. People look you in the eye; nobody stares at the rest of you. Nothing is new, shocking, revelatory. All the lumps and bumps, moles and birthmarks, scars and stretch marks are on display, and the need to conceal your own drops away. Nakedness, done right, has no ego. There are problems with exposing the body, of course, but there are also problems in cultures that conceal. The more artfully we cover our bodies, the more mystique there is. But the more mystique there is, the greater the desire to own, steal, guard, or violate that alluring, luring, concealed body. The paradox is built in. If you'd like to suggest a longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol' Patreon. Picture of the Day These mushrooms understand dense housing.
Good morning, RVA! It's 51 °F, and today is our last stunning day for awhile. You should do whatever you can to take advantage of the sunshine and the highs in the mid 70s, because clouds, cooler temperatures, and rain move in tomorrow. Looking ahead, and it might be a minute before we have an entirely bright and cheery day again. Water cooler Lots of GRTC announcements this week! First, free Transit Royale membership on the excellent Transit app, and now the news that the GRTC Board has approved a north-south Bus Rapid Transit route. The gist is, from north to south: Down Chamberlayne, over to the Downtown Transfer Station, across the Manchester Bridge, out Hull Street for a bit, and then up to Midlothian for the rest of its run. I couldn't find a more detailed route map, but maybe that's the point, as approval of the route “sends GRTC on to more detailed traffic planning, route design, and environmental impact study.” It's an interesting route, for sure, handling the question of which major corridor to use for the southern end by splitting time on both Hull Street and Midlothian. I look forward to more details, PDFs, studies, and chances to get involved! Wyatt Gordon reports on a recent “walking audit” of Chamberlayne Avenue—a sort of first-hand tour of bad and unsafe infrastructure. Unmentioned: These incredibly intense bollards that protect some sort of green electrical box in the middle of a street crossing. I think these bollards are most effective infrastructure on the entire corridor, and it's not lost on me the lengths we'll go to protect a green metal box but not actual human people. Anyway, I hope that by prioritizing the bus for an eventual Bus Rapid Transit route, we'll see slower vehicle speeds along with investments in infrastructure for people (not boxes), and, as a result, we'll end up with a much safer Chamberlayne. Eileen Mellon at Richmond Magazine has a full bucket of Rapphannock Oyster news, but what excites me the most is the return of Rapp Sessions. The tiny bar that sat next to the full Rappahannock restaurant had just the most perfect, cozy vibes. Mellon reports that the (also exceedingly cozy) holiday-themed takeover will return as well. Great news for people whose offices may or may not be near Grace Street! This Saturday at 2:00 PM, STAY RVA will host their first STAY Chat of the school year. To quote from their mission, “STAY RVA is a movement comprised of parents and neighbors who want to help Richmond's local public schools thrive. We are a positive-minded, solution-oriented, action-based organization. We want you to be a part of STAY… STAY in the city, STAY committed, STAY open-minded.” Basically, if you and yours have endless, fretful conversations about schools, what to do about schools, school zones, public schools, private schools—or even anticipate having those sorts of conversations in the coming years—I recommend stopping by this Saturday and meeting some like-minded folks. Reminder: The Richmond Folk Festival kicks off tonight at 6:30 PM down by the river! Before barreling straight into this weekend's festivities, make sure you check out the intense schedule and the map of road closures. Remember that Brown's Island and the surrounding areas are pretty easy to get to by both bus and bike. OK! Now get out there and enjoy three straight days of music surrounded by thousands of your favorite Richmonders! This morning's longread In Shipping, a Push to Slash Emissions by Harnessing the Wind I link to this piece in the New York Times about wind-powered and wind-assisted cargo ships because this very thing is mentioned in Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future—a book I'm never not thinking about. If you're going to read just a single climate book, this one, which is both horrifying and hopeful, is the one I recommend! Research has found that shipping emissions could be cut by up to 47 percent by 2030 through a combination of wind propulsion, new fuels and reduced speeds. Slowing down could also cut underwater noise and risks to whales. An estimated 20,000 whales are killed each year by ships, according to Friend of the Sea, which certifies fisheries and aquaculture for sustainability. Dozens of other wind-ships are in development, many in European countries like Britain, France, Norway and the Netherlands. Almost all are highly automated and equipped with sensors, with designs that include sails, rotors and parts that resemble vertical airplane wings. If you'd like to suggest a longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol' Patreon. Picture of the Day Winter interest, baby!
Good morning, RVA! It's 59 °F, and today we've got more of the same—which is not so bad. Expect highs right around 70 °F and more of those cloudy skies. Temperatures will start to creep up tomorrow, and the sun has tentative plans to return this weekend. As of right now, next week looks stunning. Water cooler Yesterday, I got my mail-in ballot for this coming November's election, which is, of course, very exciting. I really enjoy voting by mail: Filling out the piece of paper, carefully following all the instructions—you don't get to join your fellow citizens in the corporate moment of Election Day, but, to me, it still feels like an important ceremony. It's nice, and if you'd like to join me in voting by mail (separately, from our own homes), you have until October 27th to request your ballot from the Virginia Department of Elections. But voting is just one part of participating in democracy! We need good, progressive candidates to vote for, too (preferably ones that constantly think about zoning and rezoning and love nothing more than a good public work survey). That candidate could be you! Yes, literally you! Every great candidate was, at some point, a person standing in their kitchen shouting about some issue and wondering aloud, “Fine, maybe I should just run!” A couple weeks ago I got this really lovely email from Traci Fanssen, candidate for the Chesterfield School Board, Matoaca District: “Heads up that Chesterfield has School Board elections THIS year—and I answered your question ‘should I run for school board' with a YES, because there is a Moms For Liberty candidate in my district that I did NOT want to let run unopposed. I tried to talk a few other people into it, but they had other obligations, and so, here I am! Long-time public education advocate putting my name on the line to defend the freedoms to learn, teach, and parent—without letting only the loudest voices in the room dictate what all children have access to in their public schools. School board candidates don't get the ad-spending headlines, but we are on the front lines of standing against the censorship of vulnerable communities. And if anyone is considering running next year in Richmond, I have some tips for them to get started.” How awesome is this?? Follow Traci's example! If you, a regular person, can't stop shouting to your friends and family about an issue—transportation, parks, education, child care, whatever—maybe it's time to get serious about it. Considering running for something in Richmond's 2024 elections, and take Traci up on her offer—but probably wait until after the election so she has a minute to breathe. A new north-south bus rapid transit survey just dropped, and this one asks you some questions about the specific route a north-south BRT should run. I'm fascinated that they've included Lombardy Street in a couple of the options. Lombardy is pretty narrow, and I'm not sure where they'd cram some of the infrastructure needed to support true bus rapid transit. Like...would it just run in mixed traffic the length of Lombardy? That does not seem very BRT-like. I'd like to learn more! City Council's Governmental Operations committee meets today and has two interesting items on their agenda. First, RES. 2023-R011, which would take some steps toward the City acquiring Evergreen and East End cemeteries from the now defunct EnRichmond Foundation. Second, they'll hear a presentation recapping the recommended changes to the City's charter. If you zoned out during that entire process, this helpful summary document will do a good job of catching you up. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Em Holter reports on yesterday's Casino 2.0 job hubbub: “The developers of the Richmond Grand Resort and Casino have added another promise to its growing list: the prospect of hundreds of union construction jobs.” Union jobs are good, casinos are bad. Both can be true! This morning's longread The End of Privacy is a Taylor Swift Fan TikTok Account Armed with Facial Recognition Tech Ten-years-ago me would have absolutely zero hope of understanding the collection of words that make up this article's title. Today-me sort of understands that this seems really bad and kind of wants to just stay inside forever. The 90,000 follower-strong account typically picks targets who appeared in other viral videos, or people suggested to the account in the comments. Many of the account's videos show the process: screenshotting the video of the target, cropping images of the face, running those photos through facial recognition software, and then revealing the person's full name, social media profile, and sometimes employer to millions of people who have liked the videos. There's an entire branch of content on TikTok in which creators show off their OSINT doxing skills—OSINT being open source intelligence, or information that is openly available online. But the vast majority of them do it with the explicit consent of the target. This account is doing the same, without the consent of the people they choose to dox. As a bizarre aside, the account appears to be run by a Taylor Swift fan, with many of the doxing videos including Swift's music, and including videos of people at the Eras Tour. If you'd like to suggest a longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol' Patreon. Picture of the Day I saw this amazing machine on the road the other day, and then learned about the “Smash My Trash” business model of compacting trash in other companies' haul-away dumpsters. Fascinating! Also, how much do I want to operate a trash smasher??