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 a PDF My Skills (downloadable PDF slides)

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 department award for best thesis on American government (Harvard), 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.

Science advances when scientists are proven wrong

When scientists are baffled by facts that contradict their strongest theories, science is likely on the cusp of new insights. That’s why I was saddened when scientists discovered the Higgs boson – or “god particle.” It meant CERN’s $20 quadrillion (or whatever) Large Hadron Collider did not uncover new facts that would force physicists to re-think their theories and provide clues how they might bend those theories closer to reality. It merely provided greater support for what physicists already believed. [Read More]

Programming advice from Ancient Rome: "Festina lente"

Studying Latin in high school, I was perplexed by the phrase festina lente (“hurry up slowly”). On its face, it’s an oxymoron, but it became an aphorism – and has stuck in my head for a quarter century – because it expresses a profound truth. We should aspire to achieve our goals quickly but without moving so fast that we trip ourselves or drift off in the wrong direction. We must regularly adjust our course and run slowly enough that we don’t run off a cliff or twist an ankle stepping in a rabbit hole. [Read More]

'Atari founder: "I [ignored] grades... I interviewed them strictly on their hobbies"'

The founder of Atari has interesting thoughts on how to improve education and prepare students for the future: Nolan Bushnell once almost destroyed his family’s garage. As a youngster in Utah, he went tooling around with a liquid-fuel rocket on a roller skate and things went awry. He (and the garage) survived, and Bushnell went on to be a lifelong innovator — from Pong to Chuck E. Cheese’s…. “If you look at [Steve] Jobs and [Steve] Wozniak, they were makers,” Bushnell said in a phone interview with Wired. [Read More]

Cowards and heroes

I’m awed by the heroism of “the Fukushima fifty” – the brave men (and women?) working to prevent nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima Dai-Ichi. Their efforts may well prove too little, too late, but that’s no fault of the heroes who fought on, despite the high probability that doing so would kill them: “Five are believed to have already died and 15 are injured while others have said they know the radiation will kill them. [Read More]

The evolutionary origins of human fatherhood

A week ago, I attended a lecture on fatherhood with other fathers at my son’s school. The lecturer has been an educator for decades and run school systems and Greenwich Country Day School. He was quite interested in and well read on issues of genetics, nurture (family & parenting), and culture (social influences) as they relate to child development. But he opened the Father’s Workshop by saying males are not biologically inclined to raise children, except perhaps in the earliest months. [Read More]

Why hasn't even a single banker been jailed for fraud?

In an article full of shocking examples, [Matt Taibbi writes](http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-isnt-wall- street-in-jail-20110216?print=true), “Financial crooks brought down the world’s economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them.” He explains that no one on Wall Street (aside from Madoff) has gone to jail because Wall Street owns our government and the agencies that exist to regulate Wall Street and punish financial crimes: A former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer. [Read More]