Once upon a time I ran a news site, now I just have opinions on the news. 

Good morning, RVA: Cigarette tax action, ICA opening, and school walkout

Good morning, RVA! It's 40 °F, and highs today won’t get much above 60 °F. None of that intense wind, though! Temperatures will gradually warm up throughout the weekend.

Water cooler

Parker Agelasto’s cigarette tax ordinance, ORD. 2018-031, made it out of the Finance and Economic Development Committee yesterday with “no recommendation” on a 3-1-1 vote : YES—Agelasto, Jones, Larson; NO—Gray; ABSTAIN—Newbille. City Council proper should take up this paper on Monday’s meeting! Now’s the time to rev your email clients and phones—especially those of you living in the 1st District, 3rd District, 6th District, or 7th District—and let your Councilfolk know you support levying a cigarette tax in support of school facility maintenance. You don’t need to write a passionate plea, or a savvy legal defense. Just a quick “Hey, I’m your constituent, and I would like you to vote YES for the cigarette tax.” will do. Here you’ll find each councilmember’s contact information (make sure you copy their liaison, too). If you must, Garet Prior at Richmond Forward has lots and lots of information with which you can construct a cogent argument. Speaking of, if you’re a radio person (or a podcast person later in the day), you can listen to Garet talking about the cigarette tax with Jason Roop on WRVA’s Richmond’s Morning News at 9:18 AM (that’s 1140 AM, 96.1 FM, or on their website). If you pop on a bit earlier, you might get to hear Roop talk to newly-minted Pulitzer-winning photographer Ryan Kelly.

Michael Paul Williams muses possible J.E.B. Stuart Elementary name replacements. I’m in full support of his final suggestion!

Belmont Pizzeria is unquestionably delicious. So I’m excited to hear that Melinda Guevara and her husband (who co-owns Belmont) are opening up a new pizza joint in the old Halligan Bar and Grill spot adjacent to the 17th Street Farmers’ Market. I wish Melinda Guevara would have had some more agency in this article, especially since the new business will mostly be handled by her. She’s not quoted a single time, and the piece opens with “One of the founders of a beloved pizza joint in the Fan is branching out with a concept of his own...”

Reminder: The National School Walkout Protest takes place today (the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine), beginning on Brown’s Island at 12:00 PM and ending up on the Capitol grounds later in the afternoon. If you’re in the area expect street closures, bus detours, police presence, and thousands of angry and sad people who want to end gun violence.

On Saturday, we’ve got the Institute for Contemporary Art’s grand opening and block party. If you’re planning on stopping by this weekend, you’ll need to reserve a free ticket, after that, though, you can just wander in off the street. One note about the ICA’s opening exhibition, Declaration: If you’ve got kids, you may want to check out the exhibit before bringing them. 2018 is going to be a pretty great Year of Stuff Opening, and we’re only getting started!

Two additional events this weekend that you should note: the RVA Earth Day Festival and the Taste of Brookland Park. At the first you’ll find food, beer, and The Mighty Joshua, one of my favorite local musicians. At the second, you’ll find more of the same, but get to do it on the awesome Brookland Park Boulevard. Spring has really started to impacted my calendar.


  • Squirrels lost to Bowie, 1-6, but begin a new series with Altoona tonight at 6:00 PM.
  • Nats and the Dodgers kick things off (pitch things off?) tonight at 10:10 PM.

This morning's longread

SkyKnit: When knitters teamed up with a neural network

I love weird artificial intelligence projects, and this one has tangible results!

And so, we embarked upon Operation Hilarious Knitting Disaster. The knitters helped me crowdsource a dataset of 500 knitting patterns, ranging from hats to squids to unmentionables. JC Briar exported another 4728 patterns from the site stitch-maps.com. I gave the knitting patterns to a couple of neural networks that I collectively named “SkyKnit”. Then, not knowing if they had produced anything remotely knittable, I started posting the patterns. Here’s an early example.

If you’d like your longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol’ Patreon.

Good morning, RVA: A City Hall feast, violin Olympics, and international films

Good morning, RVA: Health insurance help, big bus news, and nominate a student