It's a Sin

At the beginning of this month, I binge-watched the show It's a Sin, a 5-episode miniseries on HBO. It's about a group of friends in London coming of age in the 1980s against the backdrop of the rising AIDS pandemic. It's semi-autobiographical by Russel T. Davies, who you might know from Dr Who and Queer as Folk.

It's a great show! I was expecting it to be heavy and morose, maybe akin to Angels in America. It does have moments that are deeply sad and tragic, and also infuriating as it demonstrates how the spread of this awful disease was made far worse by ignorance and prejudice in the medical and political establishment. But overall the show is lively and funny and even celebratory, not to mention having plenty of great new-wave classics on the soundtrack. Check it out if you get a chance.

After I finished the last episode, I glanced up at the wall behind my TV to see this self-portrait of my uncle, Dennis Orleans. He died in 1998, at age 43, of AIDS-related pneumonia. At the time, I was 27, and 43 didn't seem all that young, but looking backwards now from 50 it seems far, far too young! I don't know how long he had been living with HIV, but near the end I know it was affecting his mental health in ways not too dissimilar to how it was portrayed in one of the characters on It's a Sin.

Thankfully, when I think of Dennis, I don't usually think about how he died. My memories are about his life: his love of photography, and horticulture, and Fimo clay art projects; his dog Stosh, his little VW car (or Fiat?), the H.A. Winston's restaurant where he sometimes worked and where I think he also painted a wall mural? When I was a kid he'd sometimes put me on his shoulders, which was a little scary because he was 6'4"! But I know he relished being avuncular to me and his other nephews and nieces, and I'm glad we grew up knowing him.

Anyway, watching that show seems like a fitting way to have honored his memory for Pride Month. 🏳️‍🌈

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nowhere, sea

Tulsa Race Massacre centennial

100 years ago, a white mob burned down 35 blocks of a wealthy Black neighborhood in Tulsa, OK and murdered dozens or hundreds of Black citizens. I was never taught about the Tulsa Race Massacre in school, and in fact I never heard of it until 2019 when it was portrayed in the Watchmen show on HBO. It was also portrayed in last year's Lovecraft Country (also on HBO) and it's heavily alluded to in the recent Amazon Prime series The Underground Railroad. I highly recommend all three shows, with their nuanced depiction of atrocity and resilience.

Amazingly, there are three survivors who are still alive today! Viola Fletcher, Lessie Benningfield Randle, and Hughes Van Ellis: inspiring centenarians.

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Best Picture thoughts, 2020+ edition

In theory, it should have been easier to have seen the Oscar Best Picture nominees than in previous years, thanks to the two month extension/delay and the ubiquity of streaming in pandemic times. In practice, I had only seen two of the eight nominees when they were announced, and it took me until three days before the awards ceremony to have seen them all. But here we are! And I've now seen 21 of the 56 films nominated for at least one Oscar, and I may try to knock off a few of the short films before tonight.

This year, the only one of the eight that really impressed me was The Father. I would be happy to see Minari win, though, and the apparent favorite, Nomadland, wouldn't upset me. I didn't outright hate anything, but I'm definitely rooting against Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Following tradition, I'll visit them in the order I saw them. There are some mild spoilers below, so you should probably just watch them all before reading!

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Here are my actual top ten favorites of the year:
  1. The White Tiger
  2. Let Them All Talk
  3. Palm Springs
  4. I'm Thinking of Ending Things
  5. The Father
  6. Bill and Ted Face the Music
  7. One Night in Miami
  8. Malcolm and Marie
  9. The Forty-Year-Old Version
  10. Another Round

See also last year's thoughts.

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math, numbers

Best music of 2019

In 2019, I kept track of all the music I listened to, and I planned to make a best-of list and post it sometime early in 2020. But as I was about to start thinking about the list, I realized that I just wasn't familiar enough with a lot of the things I'd listened to, most of them only once, so I decided to listen to everything one more time before making a list.

Well, that turned out to take longer than I thought it would. Back before I quit my job at the end of 2019, I mostly listened to music while I was in the office, when I needed to put on headphones to concentrate on writing code in an open-office plan. But in 2020, I basically stopped writing code, and I spent most of my media-consumption time listening to podcasts and watching TV. I did some amount of reading, mostly for an online non-fiction book club I've been a part of for the last couple years, and that's when I did most of my music listening too. But, I spent much of that time keeping up with two college-radio-show podcasts: Jon Bernhardt's Friday Breakfast of Champions show, and the biweekly Sunrise Ocean Bender show (both highly recommended, by the way). So that took up an average of 3 hours a week of my already small amout of music-listening time.

Anyway, on this the last day of 2020, I've finally finished re-listening to, and sorting, all the music I was interested in that came out in 2019! Here's the list of my top 20 favorites:

Swervedriver - Future Ruins
Zip-Tie Handcuffs - Warm Shadows
Chris Forsyth - All Time Present
Tropical Fuck Storm - Brain Drops
Dommengang - No Keys
Versus - Ex Nihilo EP
Ulaan Kohl - Collapsing Hymns
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Infest the Rats' Nest
Garcia Peoples - Natural Facts
The Chemical Brothers - No Geography
Julia Kent - Temporal
The Claypool Lennon Delirium - South of Reality
Vivian Girls - Memory
Elkhorn - Sun Cycle / Elk Jam
The Hair and Skin Trading Company - I Don't Know Where You Get Those Funny Ideas From
Ladytron - Ladytron
Khana Bierbood - Strangers from the Far East
In Gowan Ring - Moonlit Missives Compendium
Major Stars - Roots of Confusion Seeds of Joy
Wand - Laughing Matter

Here's all the other stuff I liked:
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Here's all the other stuff I listened to but was more ambivalent about:
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I realize that a big flat list without comments may not be all that compelling, but I don't want to delay this post any further by trying to write up specific thoughts about each of my favorites. But if there's something about which you're particularly interested in hearing what I think, feel free to let me know in the comments.

...But I will say one general thing: Yes, I realize this is a painfully Gen-X list. I'm still struggling to discover more music I like that's made by people under 40. Let me know if you have any tips about that! This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Migrated from LiveJournal to Dreamwidth

Hey everybody! I finally got around to migrating my LiveJournal to Dreamwidth!! I will probably continue cross-posting to LiveJournal indefinitely, but, really, you should follow me on Dreamwidth instead. And don't forget to update your RSS subscription. (Yes, I'm saying that with a straight face in 2020!)

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Best Picture thoughts, 2019 edition

For the last few years, I've managed to see all of the Best Picture nominees before the Academy Awards ceremony. Looks like I didn't bother writing anything about them last year, but I did two years ago and four years ago, so let's do it again this year!

Quick summary: my favorites were Little Women and Parasite, but I wouldn't be disappointed if any of them won, except for Jojo Rabbit and Ford v Ferrari.

As usual, I'll go in the order I saw them:

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For the record, my favorites from 2018 were Black Panther, The Favourite, and Roma, but I didn't hate Green Book—it got kind of a bad rap.



Status update: earlier this month I put in my notice at Wellist; tomorrow is my last day. After a year and half working there, it's time to move on, and I'm looking forward to working on my own things for a while. No solid plans yet, but my main goal is to have a finished project on my Github profile rather than the hodgepodge of undercooked things that are there now... I'd also like to contribute more to open source projects and participate more in that community. I am very fortunate to have the resources to take time off from working, and I think that would be a good use of those resources. Stay tuned!


2019 music so far

For many years, at the end of the year I would make a list of my favorite new music released that year. In fact, from 1995 to 2003 I ran the end-of-year poll for a private indie music discussion forum. Eventually I fell out of the habit, but this year I decided to at least keep track of the new music I listened to. And now that the year is half over I figured I might as well share, because maybe you might be looking for some new music to listen to?

To be honest I can't unreservedly endorse everything on this list, because a lot of it is stuff I only listened to once and haven't gotten back to yet. But they're all things I liked enough to want to listen to them again someday.

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math, numbers

A year of different lunch places

I started working at Wellist just shy of a year ago. The office overlooks City Hall Plaza in the middle of downtown Boston. I like to get out of the office to get lunch, and there are tons of options nearby, so for fun I decided to get lunch from a different place every day and see how long I could go without repeating. I figured maybe a few months, to last me until winter, when the snow would probably make me want to stick with the Subway one floor down from our office.

This past Friday, on the summer solstice, I decided to end my streak at the 200th different lunch place, Ruth's Chris Steak House at the Old City Hall.

As the streak went on, I developed some ground rules:

  1. Going out to lunch with the team for some occasion (e.g. to welcome a new hire) didn't count. I didn't want to be in the position of saying "sorry, can't join you because I've already been there".
  2. When the company orders food in, that doesn't count. We usually order pizza from the same place, and it seemed silly to avoid lunch if it's right in front of me. Same goes for eating leftovers.
  3. There are multiple locations of a chain within walking distance, e.g. Sweetgreen, Zo Greek, Dunkin', Starbucks. I counted each different location as a different lunch spot. (Yes, I got sandwiches from three different Starbuckses, because I had to spend a $25 gift card and I don't drink coffee...)
  4. Boston Public Market and Quincy Market have many different food stands inside. Each of those counted as a different location.
  5. Lunch trucks definitely count. I probably wouldn't have gone to the same lunch truck in different locations, but that didn't come up; lunch trucks generally get assigned to the same location all season. I probably would have counted a lunch truck separate from its stationary location, but it seems that none of the trucks downtown also have brick-and-mortar locations downtown. I also counted a few street carts.
  6. A couple months ago, I discovered a Fooda had opened up nearby, inside 75 State Street (with an entrance on Kilby St). They have a different pop-up restaurant every day, with some repeats (e.g. every Thursday is Chick-fil-A, although I never went there then because of Chick-fil-A's odious politics). I counted each different pop-up as a different lunch spot, on the theory that it's basically like a food truck.

I still have another dozen or so places on my to-do list, and I could easily expand that-- for example, I only went to one place inside the Corner Mall food court (in Downtown Crossing). But that already seemed a bit too far to walk for lunch. My rough rule of thumb was that I didn't want to walk farther than back to the Park St T stop, since I usually walk from there to work every morning anyway. But I did break this rule a few times: I went to the North End a few times, and once to Chinatown to meet Jasper, and I even walked over the Longfellow Bridge to have lunch with Kristin in Kendall Square (she works at the NERD Center).

Anyway, 200 is a nice round number, and it happened to coincide with the solstice, on a Friday, two days before my 1-year anniversary. So it seemed like a good time to have a ceremonial end to the streak.

For the record, here's my full list, in chronological order, in case you're ever looking for a different place to get lunch in downtown Boston:

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Please vote on Tuesday!

Hey MA friends! If you're considering sitting out the election this Tuesday, because it's a mid-term and Senator Warren and most incumbent Representatives are well ahead in their races (or uncontested), please reconsider. There are three propositions on the ballot, but more importantly, the Republican Governor has a challenger. Please vote!

I'm planning to vote YES on all three propositions; I'm happy to discuss them more in the comments if you're interested.

I have had a hard time staying in touch with MA state politics; I know next to nothing about Governor Charlie Baker, except that he's a Republican who is somehow very popular in a very Democratic state. As far as I can tell, he hasn't done anything controversial or partisan, but he hasn't done much of anything at all. I've followed Jay Gonzalez since before the primary, and I'm confident that he will be a great governor. But even without knowing anything about him, I would almost automatically vote for any Democrat over a Republican governor.

Governor Baker supports Geoff Diehl, the Republican challenger to Elizabeth Warren's Senate seat (who was Trump's MA campaign co-chair in 2016). Democrats absolutely can't afford to lose ground in the Senate. While MA has special elections to fill absent seats, the Governor can appoint an interim Senator in the meantime: in 2009 after Senator Ted Kennedy died, Governor Patrick appointed Paul Kirk, who served for four months until Scott Brown took office after the special election. It's not out of the question that if Senator Warren or Senator Markey were to leave office for whatever reason, Governor Baker could appoint a Republican Senator for a few months.

More alarmingly, Baker has appointed 5 of the 7 justices currently serving on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and because of mandatory retirement at age 70, Baker will be able to appoint a 6th justice in 2020. In 2003, the MA SJC was the first in the country to rule (4-3) that same-sex marriage licenses were legal. Do you think a Baker-appointed supermajority would have ruled the same way?

There have been three gubernatorial debates; you can watch them here, here, and here.

If you are a Charlie Baker supporter, and especially if you're one of the 48% of Democrats who say they'll vote for Baker, please let me know why in the comments! I honestly don't understand why anyone who is voting for Elizabeth Warren would also vote against Jay Gonzalez.