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.

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]

America's Half Century of Rising Industry Concentration, Market Power, and Corporate Profitability

(Source: Robert Reich, The Biggest Economic Lies We’re Told) There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning. – Warren Buffett (Source: Jon Schwarz, The Murder of the U.S. Middle Class Began 40 Years Ago This Week, The Intercept) A major reason Donald Trump narrowly won the presidency in 2016 was his skill at tapping into the very real and legitimate frustration and anger many Americans feel toward the rich and powerful, who seem to have hogged all the economic gains of the past fifty years for themselves. [Read More]

TV Series I've Enjoyed Recently

9/4/23 update: I loved (despite its gore) Utopia. (The original 2013-14 BBC version, NOT the Prime Video remake, which has much worse viewer ratings.) I enjoyed Night Sky. Fabulous acting by Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons! I wanted to see the next season of both shows and am embittered that neither was green-lit for another season. 6/9/23 update: I’ve been loving these two series: Silo Battlestar Galactica (the 2004-2009 version) I watch far less television than most, but I’ve binge-watched some series in recent years that I enjoyed and recommend. [Read More]
TV  sci-fi 

My Blog Is Back... Thanks to Elon!

We can't entrust our 'free speech' to corporations

I enjoyed blogging till I fell hard for Twitter, circa 2010. I enjoyed many wonderful years on Twitter, learning a ton by following fascinating people and mostly re-sharing their great Tweets. Alas, in 2022, Elon Musk’s arrogant incompetence destroyed Twitter overnight, and now I’m back to blogging! I’m horrified the beautiful knowledge-sharing town square Twitter once was could so easily be bought and contorted into a corrupted shell of its former greatness. [Read More]

Corporations & Complexity Blocking Internet Innovation

Why hasn't the Internet unleashed an explosion of innovation? It's too hard! Example: My greedy ISP blocks the port needed to share content on the Internet

Wasn’t The Internet Supposed to Unleash an Innovation Explosion? “One of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. [Read More]

Critical Habits

Habits essential for long-term health & happiness

Essential Habits Sleep enough Exercise regularly Generally eat healthy foods Keep your weight down Avoid burnout Connect socially with other people Sufficient sleep You should wake up feeling fresh. Your body and mind require a good night’s sleep. If you deprive yourself sufficient sleep, you will suffer for it in both the short and long term: Why Do We Need Sleep?. Many of us aren’t getting enough sleep: 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep (US Centers for Disease Control) [Read More]