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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math, numbers


Twenty years ago this month (August), I moved to Boston. I had been working in Silicon Valley for a few years after college, then started graduate school at Northeastern University. I put all my stuff in boxes in my mom's garage, packed a few boxes of clothes and CDs into my Honda Civic, and drove across the country. Along the way, I visited my uncle Dick in Colorado, my cousin Cathy in Iowa (she had already started grad school herself, chiropractic), and friends in Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Toronto. I remember coming off the Mass Turnpike in Back Bay and driving down Columbus Ave looking for my friends' apartment, where I crashed on their couch for a few days until I found an apartment of my own: a tiny ground-floor studio a block from campus (rent was around $600/month). I remember opening my checking account at BayBank on Huntington, which became BankBoston, then Fleet Bank, and is now Bank of America. And I remember going to Lechmere (the store) to buy an air conditioner, even though I only needed it for another month or so—I definitely needed it!

Ten years ago this month, I defended my thesis and got my PhD in Computer Science. I was living in Somerville, a few blocks from where I live today. I had already started working full-time in January, commuting to Burlington every day and writing up my dissertation on nights and weekends. The thesis defense was in a conference room in the newly built glass tower building on Huntington across from the Museum of Fine Arts; it holds the CS department and is also a residence hall. The building's name is "West Village H", which as I understood it was meant to be temporary until a donor bought the naming rights, but it's still named that today! The defense went smoothly and was a little anticlimactic, since I had already incorporated all the feedback from my committee into the dissertation and gotten their final approval. The last step was to print off a copy at Kinko's on acid-free paper and deposit it at the school library. I don't think I bothered printing out a copy for myself—it's on Sourceforge, and I figured that was good enough.

When I moved from New Jersey to California in 1984, I never expected to come back to the East Coast, though I remember liking Boston when I visited it a few times growing up: it felt academic and technological, without being big and dirty like NYC. And when I got my degree I don't think I expected to stay in Boston for another ten years. But, it wasn't like I had a concrete plan to leave; I just figured I'd go wherever the jobs were. In 1995, my career goal was to work at a research center, like Xerox PARC or IBM TJ Watson, and those sorts of places required PhDs, which was my main reason to go to grad school (I was never interested in academia). But by 2005, doing research at a research center didn't seem to be as much of a thing anymore: innovation, particularly in programming languages and frameworks, seemed to happen more in open-source communities populated by hobbyists and people working at startups who had the freedom to stay at the cutting edge. I think I had also become a bit disillusioned with the idea of doing CS research, and wanted more to work on making things that people used. This is partly what led me to become a web developer, and I'm still pretty happy in that niche. And there are more than enough opportunities for that in Boston for the forseeable future.

On the other hand, remote working is on the rise, so in theory I could live wherever I wanted. I sometimes fantasize about moving somewhere out in the boonies where I could afford a nice big house. I've also always thought I would like to live in the Pacific Northwest. I suppose now would be the best time to think seriously about moving, with lots of free time and no job holding me down.

But, really, I'm comfortable here in Boston. Inertia is strong! In another five years I'll have been here half my life. Maybe I'll even start to think of myself as being from Boston...

A society of dependables

Apparently the theme on my Tumblr doesn't handle extended quotes very well, so I'll post this here, an insightful excerpt from siderea's essay "Considering an Artifact of Military Culture":

The US military, and probably all militaries ever, have a really quite low tolerance for fuckups. When somebody isn't dependable, when somebody doesn't exercise adequate restraint in their conduct, they get marginalized so they can't do too much damage, or simply gotten rid of.

All these youngsters join up, and have it drummed into them that they have these huge responsibilities to their fellow warriors and their nation, and they must do their jobs right. It's not just that they have to cover their squad mates in fire-fights, but things like, "If you don't clean this surface correctly, the guy who is going to try to land a plane on this deck will die and maybe take a bunch of us with it." And they discover, yes, they have it in them to do their jobs that well, that dependably. They are somebody who pulls his weight and can be counted on.

And furthermore, they discover they are in a whole society of people who are equally determined to be dependable, to pull their weight and be somebody who can be counted on. That can be a down-right rapturous experience; I know, because there's other ways to have at least some of that experience, such as through the performing arts, and having tasted it, I can attest it's positively intoxicating. It's like falling in love. Or maybe it is falling in love: this probably is more the basis of that intense camaraderie shared by veterans who served together than common adversity or common purpose.

Civilian society, as a whole, is, in contrast, replete with fuckups. People who can't get out of their own way enough to be depended on, people who don't take commitments seriously, people who are exploitative, who phone it in, to try to get away with minimal contributions, who don't care about those who rely on their work, who don't want to be relied upon, people who don't want to have self-restraint. We don't get to throw those people out of society, so there they are, being part of civilian society, fucking up, and their fucking up being tolerated.

People in the military, who subscribe to the discipline of speech and courtesy described above, are way, way, way, way, way too polite to actually come out and say, "We're different from civilians because we're not used to putting up with fuckups," but that is what it sounds like is lurking between the lines. It feels like they're trying to apologetically and politely say something that more bluntly put might sound like, "See, among us, fucking up is not okay; being a fuck up is not okay. We have these values and stuff which say it's not okay. And we totally get that that's okay in civilian life, where if you want to be a fuckup, that's your free choice. In our culture, the military culture, we see that as not a legitimate choice. We see that as bad – and comport ourselves accordingly."
math, numbers

Things to do

Sometimes people ask me what I'm going to do with all this free time during my funemployment. Let's count:

Gmail inbox: 638
Gmail Tasks: 32
Saved for later in Feedly: ~1000
Pushbullet: 53
Instapaper: 68
Open tabs in Chrome: 9
Dropbox/TODO: 32
AK Notepad "Todo": 21
AK Notepad "Music to check out": 25
AK Notepad "IF game ideas": 3
Other notes in AK Notepad: 3
Open issues in Bitbucket IF Comp '11 project: 35
Open issues in Github Wordsearch project: 7
Other unfinished projects in Github: 8
Netflix My List: 81
HBO Watchlist: 6
Youtube Watch Later: 9
Goodreads to-read shelf: 26
IMDb Top 250: 96
IFDB Wish List: 36
Boardgamegeek Want To Play: 159
Amazon Wishlist: 399
Bandcamp Wishlist: 35 Upcoming Events: 24
Geocaching To Do List: 11
Steam Wishlist: 15
Google Play wishlist: 12

It feels like a full-time job just to keep these numbers from increasing!

Also, I should really consolidate some of these lists. Now, which list should I add that task to...