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.

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

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]

Books: Absorb the Distilled Wisdom of Experts

Access others' greatest ideas, thoughtfully expressed

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal. …The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn… A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.” – T.S. Eliot, 1920 Most ideas you’ve ever thought, someone else thought them before you. And – as I learned to my dismay as a graduate student searching for prior literature on countless exciting “new” theories I thought up – most of the best ideas you’ll ever have, someone will have already beaten you to them. [Read More]

Stop micromanaging & micromonitoring knowledge workers!

Don't hire rock stars then force them to play classical music!

(2023-09-02 update: I want to recommend three great books I’ve read since posting this: Humanocracy: Creating Organizations As Amazing As the People Inside Them by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value by Melissa Perri, and Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman) (2023-06-13 update: I loved this talk by “Joy, Inc.” author Rich Sheridan. His brief discussion of estimates, deadlines, and commitments brilliantly captures the essence of why fear-driven tech workplaces are so unpleasant and underproductive. [Read More]

Why I Love Elixir

...and Companies Are Crazy Not To Use It

Motorola funded a study which involved rewriting a telecommunication system used by the emergency services from C++ to Erlang, focusing on productivity gains. Depending on how you calculated, the code reduction in the Erlang system achieved a result of 4-20 times less code. The 20 times reduction assumed the OTP libraries to be part of the Erlang standard libraries, which they are. As C++ did not have a generic OTP, the original project had to implement a good part of it. [Read More]

Internet Service Providers and Customer Lock-In

For many years, Optimum.com has held a monopoly over high-speed Internet service in my area, so we’ve been stuck with them. As a monopoly, Optimum has gotten away with providing horrible customer service and jacking up prices to ridiculous levels. Customers had no alternatives, so Optimum got away with it. Luckily, there’s FINALLY – in 2023 – competition in our area! So, a few weeks back, my wife called Optimum to complain about our absurd bill… way more than double what the new competitor in our area, Frontier. [Read More]

Why Are Americans So Rude? Can We Fix This?

Congress has recently considered banning unruly passengers from flying on commercial planes. American Airlines flight attendant Pedro Enriquez laments that this remains just an idea: “It is disappointing to me that a passenger who was arrested for physically assaulting and spitting in a flight attendant’s face can continue to fly on commercial airplanes here in the United States”. Last week, my family took a vacation during our kids’ spring break. My wife, daughter, and I were blessed with wonderful weather while visiting Lake Ontario, the Erie Canal, and two of the Finger Lakes while our son – serving as principal trombone of the All-Eastern Orchestra – was rehearsing for his concert. [Read More]