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.



Status update: I'm coming out of retirement! I accepted a job offer from Wellist as a senior software engineer, starting Monday June 25. Wellist helps hospitals connect patients with support services like transportation or meal delivery. They've been expanding into new markets and just received a series A round of funding. I'll be working with my former co-workers Bill and Dave, doing much the same thing we did together at PayPal: full-stack web development in Ruby on Rails. It should be fun!

Are encores dead?

I've been going to rock club concerts for 25+ years, and they practically always follow the same script: the headlining band plays for 60-90 minutes, they go offstage, the crowd claps for a few minutes, then the band comes back and plays a few more songs for an encore. (The Feelies typically play at least 4 encores!) I always imagined that this was a rare occurrence in the 1960s, where the norm was that the end of the set was the end of the performance, and only an extraordinarily insistent crowd would call the band out again for an encore, and the band would be thankful but they'd have to scramble to figure out another song to play because they hadn't planned to keep playing. But by the time I started going to shows, this had ossified into a mandatory ritual at nearly every show, hardly ever questioned or even thought about. Occasionally the club will turn on the house music right after the band leaves the stage, signaling that there will be no encore, presumably due to curfew requirements or whatever. Once in a blue moon the band themselves will apologize and say they hadn't rehearsed any more songs (e.g. if they have new members who don't know the band's whole back catalogue), or the band will simply announce ahead of time that they agree that the ritual is silly so they'll just play their encore songs as part of the main set and we can all just leave when it's over.

Last night at the Windhand concert at ONCE Somerville, though, something happened that I don't think I've ever experienced before: the crowd, which was not sell-out sized but respectably sizable (maybe 100-200 people), applauded enthusiastically after each song, but after the last song, they clapped for less than a minute and then just... stopped. And so after a minute of relative silence, the house music came on, the band didn't do an encore, and everyone went home. It was weird! Sometimes I don't bother clapping, because everyone else is clapping enough for the ritual to play out properly. This time, was everyone a free rider expecting other people to clap? Or were they genuinely not into the idea of hearing another song or two? (For the record, I thought it was a great show and would have been happy with another hour of it.) I felt bad for the band... Were they expecting to play an encore like they always do? And then it turned out the crowd just wasn't that into them? Or is this just something that happens regularly now, and it's no longer actually an automatic expectation? I'd be relieved, if so, because it's always felt silly and artificial. But I'd just hope that bands start playing longer sets to compensate.

Best Picture thoughts

One of the perks of having weekdays free is that I can see matinee movies: they're cheaper and less crowded. I haven't really been taking full advantage of this, but recently I realized I had seen two of the Best Picture Oscar nominees, so I decided to see the other six. Here are some thoughts about them (in the order I saw them). [tl;dr: my faves were Room, The Martian, and The Revenant; the others weren't bad, but I'd be disappointed to see them win.]

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nowhere, sea

Fall Like a Flower - Autumn 2015 mix

I went to a lot of concerts in Autumn 2015 in the Boston area. Here's a mix of songs from (most of) the artists I saw, in the order that I saw them. Mostly I picked songs from their most recent release, but in a couple cases I couldn't resist picking a slightly older song.

Fall Like a Flower - Autumn 2015 mix

Since 8tracks is weirdly coy about showing the playlist until you listen to it, here's the full list (20 tracks, 1:31:24):

The Feelies - Should Be Gone 3:30 (Here Before, 2011)
The Besnard Lakes - Golden Lion 3:46 (Golden Lion, 2015)
Ride - Black Nite Crash 2:33 (Tarantula, 1996)
Grooms - Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair 3:52 (Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair, 2015)
A Place to Bury Strangers - We've Come So Far 5:07 (Transfixiation, 2015)
Quilt - Mary Mountain 4:59 (Held in Splendor, 2014)
Dungen - En Gång Om Året 4:32 (Allas Sak, 2015)
Boom Said Thunder - Summer Twin 5:36 (Summer Twin, 2015)
Major Stars - Blank Slate 5:57 (Decibels of Gratitude, 2013)
Ghost Box Orchestra - Sound of (Eternal Now) 5:08 (Sound of (Eternal Now), 2015)
Magic Shoppe - Trip Inside This House 4:03 (Triangulum Australe, 2014)
Ringo Deathstarr - Chainsaw Morning 3:55 (God's Dream, 2014)
Tasseomancy - Healthy Hands (Will Mourn You) 3:27 (Ulalume, 2011)
Braids - Miniskirt 4:54 (Deep in the Iris, 2015)
Kinski - I Fell Like a Fucking Flower 4:29 (7 (or 8), 2015)
Debo Band - Ney Ney Weleba 5:30 (Debo Band, 2012)
The Ex & Brass Unbound - Theme From Konono No. 2 7:10 (Enormous Door, 2013)
Acid King - Coming Down From Outer Space 5:47 (Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere, 2015)
Lera Lynn - My Least Favorite Life 3:29 (True Detective (Music from the HBO Series), 2015)
Wand - Reaper Invert 3:41 (Golem, 2015)

If 8tracks doesn't work for you for some reason, I also made a playlist on Google Play Music, but I think this might only work if you're a subscriber. And even then, I had to make two substitutions for songs they don't have in their library:

Ghost Box Orchestra - Into the Light 5:06 (Vanished, 2013)
The Ex - Theme From Konono 8:25 (Turn, 2004)

(I've been using Google Play Music for a while now, since it lets me upload my own mp3s and listen to them from any device. And I recently decided to pay the $10/month for a subscription, since it also includes YouTube Red, i.e. no more ads!)

I made a Spotify playlist too, but they also don't have all the tracks, so I made the above substitutions plus one more:

Acid King - Into the Ground 4:33 (III, 2005)

Likewise, I made a YouTube playlist, which has the advantage that some of them have actual music videos, but I also had to make some substitutions there (because I'm too lazy to figure out how to turn my mp3s into videos to upload to YouTube):

Major Stars - Black Road 2:45 (Syntoptikon, 2006)
Ghost Box Orchestra - Into the Light 5:06 (Vanished, 2013)

If none of these work for you, or e.g. you'd prefer to download the tracks, let me know and I'll do what I did for my previous mix and just host it all on my server.

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