About Me

Full-time Elixir developer/fanboy since 2015 and team lead since 2019. (Watch my Elixir/Erlang videos or my 2018 EMPEX presentation on the medication service I built at Teladoc.) Proud dad to two wonderful teens. World’s luckiest husband since 1995.

Open “James Lavin: My Skills” slide deck as an interactive slideshow or as a PDF My Skills (downloadable PDF slides) Open my resume as a PDF

Weekends & evenings, I switch from work coding to fun coding. When not hunched over a keyboard (BTW… protect your back with a split keyboard like the Kinesis Freestyle2 with 20" separation!), I’m likely enjoying jazz or audiobooks while doing chores or going on long walks. (Books I’ve recently “read”) I love databases, Kubernetes, decoupling, single-responsibility, functional programming, concurrent programming, event sourcing, Kafka & RabbitMQ Streams, small, well-named functions, and clean code. Absolutely love Phoenix LiveView. Will code in JavaScript with a gun to my head.

Past lives include: professional Rubyist, Economics PhD (Stanford), Chinese studies MA (Stanford), Government Dept award for best thesis on American government (Harvard, magna cum laude), Economics MSc (LSE), author of “Management Secrets of the New England Patriots, Vols 1 & 2”. Fun fact: Won fellowships to two advanced Mandarin programs in China after my PhD and planned to become a professor of Chinese political economy but landed in tech after the US bombed the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia and I decided against studying in China.

Our Amazing Planet

How Earth Evolved and How Humans Are Destroying It In a Geological Eye-Blink

NOVA’s “Ancient Earth” I yesterday discovered a fascinating new NOVA science series, “Ancient Earth,” which presents scientists’ best understanding of our amazing planet’s 4.5 billion-year history. Earth began as a molten, lifeless, hellscape with no atmosphere or oceans and evolved step-by-step over billions of years into the amazing live-rich planet we’re lucky enough to inhabit. This incredible story – which enabled your existence – is told by the scientists themselves and depicted visually with visits to rocks and fossils that informed our understanding of our planet’s evolution and with graphical recreations of ancient Earth. [Read More]

Jazz I Love (2/?)

Second of many?

This is the second installment of my hopefully endless series of jazz/bluegrass/bossa nova/Afro-Cuban/etc. recommendations. (First installment) I can’t explain why jazz isn’t all anyone ever listens to. Hoping to infect you with my excitement by giving you more free samples… Red Rodney, Chris Potter, and Bill Watrous Girl from Ipanema The Phil Collins Big Band Pick Up the Pieces Nils Wogram & Harry Watters Cherokee Emmet Cohen Trio + Patrick Bartley + Fabien Mary Live in France 2022 The Brecker Brothers (Michael & Randy) Sponge T-Bones Brasil Ensemble Chega de Saudade (No More Blues) James Carter, Pierre Manetti, & Lévis Adel-Reinhardt Girl from Ipanema Tuba Skinny Thriller Rag Warren Wolf & Wolfpack Four Too Many Zooz Bedford The Beegie Adair Trio Happy Hour (Part Two) With Beegie George Benson Take Five Lucky Chops (with Leo P) Funkytown The Swingin’ Ladies Jazzwoche Burghausen 1995 Michel Petrucciani, Steve Gadd, & Anthony Jackson Take the A Train Sonny Stitt, Howard McGhee, JJ Johnson, Walter Bishop, Tommy Potter, & Kenny Clarke Buzzy James Carter, Pierre Manetti, & Lévis Adel-Reinhardt (again! [Read More]

Jazz I Love (1/?)

First of many?

You can find additional music videos in this series at: (Jazz I love (2/?)) I love jazz (and its many cousins, including: bluegrass, bossa nova, Afro-Cuban, etc.) and listen to and watch a bazillion performances. I honestly don’t understand why everyone isn’t obsessed with jazz. In the hope you either love jazz and are looking for new artists or have a latent love of jazz you’re about to discover, here are some artists I love, with one performance from each: [Read More]
jazz  music 

Education and Inequality

Fact-filled conversation between Professors Galloway & Chetty

I really enjoyed this fact-filled conversation about education, friendships, community/neighborhoods, inequality, social and geographic mobility, role models, and college admissions between NYU professor Scott Galloway and Harvard professor Raj Chetty: I encourage you to watch the whole conversation, but I’ll highlight one thing Professor Chetty said: “You’re about 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League college if you come from the top 1% relative to the bottom 20% of the income distribution…. [Read More]

Xi Jinping Has Ruined China

He turned an economic miracle into a dystopian, genocidal, racist, nationalist, expansionist dictatorship

Aside from the thousands of Chinese protestors – possibly 10,000 – murdered by the CCP in the Tiananmen Massacre, I long admired post-Deng Xiaoping China and its pragmatic approach to economic growth that lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty. And 28 years ago, I married an amazing woman from China and began seriously studying Mandarin. As I was completing my economics Ph.D., I had a fellowship to study advanced Chinese the following year and was excited to be choosing between The Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies (IUP) at Tsinghua University (China’s MIT) and the Hopkins-Nanjing Center when the U. [Read More]

Income Inequality

Actual >> What We Think It Is >> What We Want It to Be

According to the United States Federal Reserve: The bottom 50% of Americans own 5.9% of America’s wealth The bottom 90% of Americans own 36.1% of America’s wealth The bottom 99% of Americans own 71.7% of America’s wealth The bottom 99.9% of Americans own 88.6% of America’s wealth Equivalently: The top 50% of Americans own 94.1% of America’s wealth The top 10% of Americans own 63.9% of America’s wealth The top 1% of Americans own 28. [Read More]

Robert Reich Demystifies Government and Economics

I majored in government in college, then got my PhD in economics. These subjects fascinate me because government and the economy shape our lives so profoundly. Government and the economy are intertwined. A capitalist economy without government regulation will lead to exploitative monopolies, extreme inequality, labor abuses, unsafe food & medicine, child poverty, a permanent underclass, privatized (or lousy/non-existent) roads/telecoms/police/schools/jails, no help for the homeless, mentally ill, destitute elders, etc., and air/water pollution, environmental degradation, global warming, and many other harmful “externalities” (privatized benefits and socialized harms). [Read More]

Protect Your Passwords With KeePassXC

October 1, 2023 update: PCWorld ran a long article praising KeePassXC: “KeePassXC: The friendlier free offline password manager” My neighborhood held a fun block party last night. While chatting, a neighbor said something like, “God forbid someone gets ahold of my password because I use the same password on every website.” I immediately thought: This is a disaster waiting to happen; I must tell him about KeePassXC; and, There must be MILLIONS of people just like my neighbor who find it too hard to remember or record hundreds of passwords, so they just reuse the same password everywhere (or use a pattern that slightly tweaks their password across websites). [Read More]

Intolerance Intolerance

September 4th note: I began this essay June 30th to rage against our radically right-wing Supreme Court’s absurd and offensive ruling that the US Constitution permits discrimination against LGBTQ people. I didn’t publish till September because their ruling is but a symptom of right-wing hatred and intolerance, which have profoundly dangerous consequences. Legalizing and normalizing hatred and intolerance leads to violence, and America proves week in and week out that hate-fueled violence plus easy access to semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 is deadly. [Read More]

Never Stop Learning... Slowly

Old dog learning new tricks in small, daily steps

[Jerry Seinfeld told me] the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. [Read More]