what I’m doing now | virtual book

what I'm doing now

#journal

Snowboarding, walking, Vieux Farka Touré, hoverboxes, and more.

Life

My weight loss progress has stalled. I’m 15lbs lighter than I was in June of last year but the red needle on my bathroom scale has been trembling at the same position for weeks. I’m playing soccer twice a week now, but going on fewer walks. I am mindful about what I eat, but I don’t track it. I said in my

last update

what I'm doing now

#journal Mentioned in what I'm doing now

Soccer, hockey, Muze Radio, Cormac McCarthy, David Lynch, The Wire, True Detective, and more.

Life

My weight loss progress has slowed. I’m going to be patient and keep working on small, daily habits that have worked so far. Playing soccer, going for walks, eating vegetables, eating more slowly and mindfully, and not finishing my serving just because it’s served.

After a month of not playing soccer, I was excited to get back on the pitch. At my first game back, there was a middle-aged man

recording the game

from the sidelines with a camera mounted on a tall tripod. Only a few weeks ago I was wishing I had videos of my matches from years past. Since watching this recent one, I’ve been working on moving off the ball better. Adjust my position in anticipation of where the ball will be next.

I still haven’t gone snowboarding this season, but I went with Z, Z’s mom, and Z’s stepdad to

Harrison Hot Springs

. The Vancouver area is stunning after a good snow. The hills speckled with evergreen and white, and the snow-capped mountains beyond. We stopped at Bridal Veil Falls on the way back. They were frozen solid, it was a sight.

Z won tickets for Canucks vs Blackhawks from a raffle at work, so we went to our first ever

Canucks game

. It was novel for me. The only sport I watch regularly is soccer. I’ve been watching all of Arsenal’s games. It’s been really interesting to observe Mikel Arteta build and develop his team. His tactics and strategies are pretty complex and they evolve constantly. There’s a hilarious moment in an interview from a few months ago in which a reporter asks him about the new formation he is using and he replies that his team used “36 different structures” in the game and he had no idea which formation the reporter meant. So far, his system has been working and adapting well.

Work

Took a few weeks to get back into the groove. My mind started running wild. What if I went to grad school? I got my calm back when I got more interesting tasks to do. I’ve been almost two years working on Loop and I can see myself continuing for another year at least. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.

Coding

I revamped the design of my app Muze Radio. Still waiting to hear back from Spotify regarding my request for an extended quota, which would allow any Spotify Premium user to use my app. I submitted it back on January 9th and the expected turnaround time of six weeks has now elapsed. Hopefully they’ll get back to me this week.

I started working on hoverbox previews for this site. I want them to look like the previews on Wikipedia or Andy Matuschak’s notes. I’m excited.

Reading

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I have about a dozen books on the go.

I sped through

Stella Maris

in a few days and now I’m reading

The Passenger

. Cormac McCarthy’s last two novels. A lot of what Alicia says in Stella Maris Cormac himself says in this interview, e.g. the subsconscious is “a machine for operating an animal.”

I’m two thirds into The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I’m taking my time, letting the ideas sink in, and observing their relevance to Seattle and Vancouver.

In the background, I’m reading a couple books that lend themselves to slow incremental consumption.

The Relationship Handbook

and Italo Calvino’s Mr. Palomar. I was ready to ditch the latter but on a whim I gave it another shot and loved chapter five, The blackbird’s whistle. I intend to post about it on this site at some point.

Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to David Lynch’s biography-memoir Room to Dream and Mary Norris’s memoir about working at the New Yorker.

Flirting with starting Circe, one of Z’s favorite books. I’ve put Infinite Jest on probation. I feel neither compelled to commit nor ready to ditch.

Also reading New Yorker articles here and there. What the Doomsayers Get Wrong About Deepfakes makes a good point: new technology rarely aligns with our panicked predictions of catastrophe but often inflicts harm more insidiously and narrowly. This article about tipping – originally “To Insure Promptitude” – was really interesting. And this one about polyamory’s popularity. Finally, this one about the “philosophical-counselling movement.”

A guy from my high school posted an insightful mini-essay about how social media robs us of precious “idle time.” Reminds me of the concept of “ambient thought” and the ideas in

this mini-essay

that I posted on this site.

I’ve also spent more time reading articles published on smaller profile websites. Some really good pieces about software: An App Can Be A Home-Cooked Meal, about programming as a practical skill for use in personal life. The Rise of “Worse is Better”, about a counterintuitive yet effective approach to buidling software. Reminds me of Skateboard, Bike, Car, which I’ve mentioned before. Finally, Situated Software, about another counterintuitive software development philosophy: built to not scale.

Writing

Book

and

movie

reviews,

vign

ettes

,

notes

, and a couple of

mini-essays

, including

how to use restraint

, which I plan to revise because I lost sight of my point towards the end.

TV

The Wire, seasons one and two, some of the third. A reminder of several depressing facts of American life: police brutality, perverted hierarchical bureacracies (“Chain of command!”), the ravage of drugs in poor communities. One of the great things about this show is its multitude of characters and lack of a permanent protagonist. Another is the show’s vividness. The shipyard and its workers in the second season feel so real.

Season one of True Detective. Really interesting character foil. I think Lynch would adore the concept of The Taxman, the detective that carries around a surprisingly large notebook and bears his duties like a holy burden. Does not believe in Christ but hangs a crucifix in his apartment to contemplate “that moment in the garden.” The Taxman is at the center of an aesthetically breathtaking action scene in Episode four. Not surprised to see a lot of talk about it online, e.g. Breaking Down the Best Scene in True Detective.

Rewatching Arrested Development, again. Still catching some jokes for the first time. Also watching the new season of The Eric Andre Show.

Movies

Anatomy of a Fall was fantastic. Two and a half hours long but engaging all the way through. A lot of dialogue. Beautiful to look at.

Talk to Me was also very good. It’s now one of my favorite horror movies. Reminds me of Insidious for obvious reasons and Hereditary for more subtle ones.


What’s next?

Work.

Keep playing soccer, going on walks, resume bike riding. Go snowboarding!

Keep reading, keep writing.

Continue working on Muze Radio. Implement hoverbox previews on this site.

Plan this year’s trips with Z.

Going to an improv class for the first time. Z signed us up after doing one with friends recently. She thinks I’m going to love it.

Continue nurturing my social life in Vancouver. Play chess and watch Lynch movies with friends.

Keep watching Arsenal games. It will be thrilling to see how the rest of the season plays out. It’s so tight at the top. Hopefully Arsenal will still be up there next time I write a personal update.

Super excited to see Ethiopian keyboardist Hailu Mergia in Seattle with my friend, who is also Ethiopian. I might go to a couple other live shows, too.

I’m looking forward to it all. Things are good and spring is coming.

that I would try not finishing my serving just because it’s served, but even with the goal in mind I find it very difficult to do. Years ago I saw an ad for a habit-focused weight loss app called Noom that said that finishing your plate is often an impulse ingrained in childhood. I think that’s true for me. In any case, I suspect my biggest hurdle to further weight loss is snacking before bedtime. I’d still like to lose another 25lbs, but I think I’m going to put it on the backburner for now. Cruise until I catch a second wind.

Like I mentioned, I’m playing soccer twice a week. 7v7 games, mostly. My cardio is not amazing, but definitely much better than it was at the start of the year.

I’ve gone snowboarding twice. Finally! Once at Cypress Mountain on a weekday evening and once at Mt Seymour on a weekend afternoon. Both are within a thirty minute drive from Vancouver, which is incredible. From Cypress there are stunning views of the city, the inlet, and the nearby islands. The season is coming to an end but I’m hoping to go to Grouse Mountain soon, which is less than twenty minutes away from Vancouver. Access to ski resorts in Vancouver is astounding.

Z and I have been

exploring the neighborhoods

going for a walk

#journal #cities #vancouver #books Mentioned in what I'm doing now, what is this site? #2, nyc trip, what I'm doing now

As I walk through cities nowadays I try to look through a Jane Jacobian lens at the diversity of enterprise and use about. By use, Jacobs literally means the uses buildings provide: living, working, commerce, diversion, to name some of the main ones. Nowadays it’s easy to take for granted mixed-use buildings, but they exist because the city planning orthodoxy of today – which Jacobs influenced through her writing and activism – makes space for them.

Mixing of uses is only one of the ingredients that Jacobs argues districts must employ to generate lively and diverse city life. Another one is short blocks, to allow foot traffic from adjacent streets. On a recent walk, I noticed how much was packed onto one side of a short city block on one of the lively stretches of East Hastings in East Vancouver. A gym offering luxury fight goods and apparel, a plant shop, a laundry service business, a kitchen renovation business, a small counterservice cafe offering “Italian street food”, a nail studio, a print shop, a beauty salon, a travel agency, an importer’s office, a Vietnamese restaurant, and a hip diner. Most of these on the ground level of a three-storey residential building occupying much of the block. On the corner past the diner a vacant lot recently bulldozed in preparation for a four-storey mixed-use residential building.

A fifteen minute walk away begins the vibrant stretch of Commercial Drive, one of the liveliest areas of East Vancouver. Near its north tip, for example, there’s a gallery, a secondhand clothing shop, a shop for local art, and a coworking space, all in the same building and all apparently run by the same collective, which hosts events including stand up comedy nights and craft workshops in the gallery and coworking space.

Diversity is possible in cities, Jane Jacobs explains, because they bring together people in quantities so great that critical mass can be reached for projects and enterprises that can’t survive in sparser and less diverse communities. But for diversity to flourish and thrive, cities must create and maintain four key conditions: mixing of use, short blocks, buildings of varying age, and population density.

around us and loving it. Occasionally I go for a long nighttime walk on my own, as I have done for years, and a recent one resulted in Z and I getting tickets to see

Vieux Farka Touré

Vieux Farka Touré

#journal #concerts #live-music Mentioned in concerts, what I'm doing now, what is this site? #2

Walking on a late evening on my own I passed a theatre I knew nothing about. I looked up what shows they had coming up and saw that Vieux Farka Touré was playing that week. I confirmed that he was the artist who had released a collaborative album with Khruangbin and mulled over buying tickets before realizing it was sold out.

While working the next day I listened to his KEXP live studio performance. It sounded great. On the day of the show, I called the theatre a couple times and managed to snag a couple tickets. Z and I went, and it was amazing. His band was the same as in the KEXP live performance: a bassist, a percussionist, and Vieux Farka Touré on guitar and vocals. All the instruments sounded great, especially the percussion and the guitar, but best of all was Vieux Farka Touré’s voice. I’ve since returned to Ali, his album with Khruangbin, and confirmed that it doesn’t do his voice justice. Live it was spellbinding.

. It turned out to be one of the live music performances I’ve most enjoyed attending.

Z and I did a five week improv course in Vancouver. We met some nice people and had a novel and interesting experience. We think we might take standup comedy classes next. Z is initiating these activities, but I’m happy to follow along.

Travel

Z and I are going to Tofino for my mom’s birthday in May and then to NYC a week later.

We recently stayed at an Airbnb on Lake Cavanaugh with friends. We jumped in the water and it was freezing. I’m very happy I did it though.

Work

A couple weeks ago I silently celebrated my two year anniversary working on Microsoft Loop. It’s the longest I’ve worked on a single product or team and by far the one I’ve enjoyed the most. The problems are interesting, the work is in line with my career interests, the product is exciting, the people are great, the work life balance is stellar.

Although I had a dip in motivation several weeks ago, I’ve been quite motivated recently. Managing one’s motivation is a nonobvious and little discussed but essential skill. Over the years I’ve recognized it as such and tried to improve at it.

Tomorrow I’m giving a talk about rewriting history in Git. I’m looking forward to it!

Coding

I implemented hoverboxes on this site! If you’re on a computer, hover over

this link

what I'm doing now

#journal Mentioned in what I'm doing now

Soccer, hockey, Muze Radio, Cormac McCarthy, David Lynch, The Wire, True Detective, and more.

Life

My weight loss progress has slowed. I’m going to be patient and keep working on small, daily habits that have worked so far. Playing soccer, going for walks, eating vegetables, eating more slowly and mindfully, and not finishing my serving just because it’s served.

After a month of not playing soccer, I was excited to get back on the pitch. At my first game back, there was a middle-aged man

recording the game

from the sidelines with a camera mounted on a tall tripod. Only a few weeks ago I was wishing I had videos of my matches from years past. Since watching this recent one, I’ve been working on moving off the ball better. Adjust my position in anticipation of where the ball will be next.

I still haven’t gone snowboarding this season, but I went with Z, Z’s mom, and Z’s stepdad to

Harrison Hot Springs

. The Vancouver area is stunning after a good snow. The hills speckled with evergreen and white, and the snow-capped mountains beyond. We stopped at Bridal Veil Falls on the way back. They were frozen solid, it was a sight.

Z won tickets for Canucks vs Blackhawks from a raffle at work, so we went to our first ever

Canucks game

. It was novel for me. The only sport I watch regularly is soccer. I’ve been watching all of Arsenal’s games. It’s been really interesting to observe Mikel Arteta build and develop his team. His tactics and strategies are pretty complex and they evolve constantly. There’s a hilarious moment in an interview from a few months ago in which a reporter asks him about the new formation he is using and he replies that his team used “36 different structures” in the game and he had no idea which formation the reporter meant. So far, his system has been working and adapting well.

Work

Took a few weeks to get back into the groove. My mind started running wild. What if I went to grad school? I got my calm back when I got more interesting tasks to do. I’ve been almost two years working on Loop and I can see myself continuing for another year at least. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.

Coding

I revamped the design of my app Muze Radio. Still waiting to hear back from Spotify regarding my request for an extended quota, which would allow any Spotify Premium user to use my app. I submitted it back on January 9th and the expected turnaround time of six weeks has now elapsed. Hopefully they’ll get back to me this week.

I started working on hoverbox previews for this site. I want them to look like the previews on Wikipedia or Andy Matuschak’s notes. I’m excited.

Reading

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I have about a dozen books on the go.

I sped through

Stella Maris

in a few days and now I’m reading

The Passenger

. Cormac McCarthy’s last two novels. A lot of what Alicia says in Stella Maris Cormac himself says in this interview, e.g. the subsconscious is “a machine for operating an animal.”

I’m two thirds into The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I’m taking my time, letting the ideas sink in, and observing their relevance to Seattle and Vancouver.

In the background, I’m reading a couple books that lend themselves to slow incremental consumption.

The Relationship Handbook

and Italo Calvino’s Mr. Palomar. I was ready to ditch the latter but on a whim I gave it another shot and loved chapter five, The blackbird’s whistle. I intend to post about it on this site at some point.

Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to David Lynch’s biography-memoir Room to Dream and Mary Norris’s memoir about working at the New Yorker.

Flirting with starting Circe, one of Z’s favorite books. I’ve put Infinite Jest on probation. I feel neither compelled to commit nor ready to ditch.

Also reading New Yorker articles here and there. What the Doomsayers Get Wrong About Deepfakes makes a good point: new technology rarely aligns with our panicked predictions of catastrophe but often inflicts harm more insidiously and narrowly. This article about tipping – originally “To Insure Promptitude” – was really interesting. And this one about polyamory’s popularity. Finally, this one about the “philosophical-counselling movement.”

A guy from my high school posted an insightful mini-essay about how social media robs us of precious “idle time.” Reminds me of the concept of “ambient thought” and the ideas in

this mini-essay

that I posted on this site.

I’ve also spent more time reading articles published on smaller profile websites. Some really good pieces about software: An App Can Be A Home-Cooked Meal, about programming as a practical skill for use in personal life. The Rise of “Worse is Better”, about a counterintuitive yet effective approach to buidling software. Reminds me of Skateboard, Bike, Car, which I’ve mentioned before. Finally, Situated Software, about another counterintuitive software development philosophy: built to not scale.

Writing

Book

and

movie

reviews,

vign

ettes

,

notes

, and a couple of

mini-essays

, including

how to use restraint

, which I plan to revise because I lost sight of my point towards the end.

TV

The Wire, seasons one and two, some of the third. A reminder of several depressing facts of American life: police brutality, perverted hierarchical bureacracies (“Chain of command!”), the ravage of drugs in poor communities. One of the great things about this show is its multitude of characters and lack of a permanent protagonist. Another is the show’s vividness. The shipyard and its workers in the second season feel so real.

Season one of True Detective. Really interesting character foil. I think Lynch would adore the concept of The Taxman, the detective that carries around a surprisingly large notebook and bears his duties like a holy burden. Does not believe in Christ but hangs a crucifix in his apartment to contemplate “that moment in the garden.” The Taxman is at the center of an aesthetically breathtaking action scene in Episode four. Not surprised to see a lot of talk about it online, e.g. Breaking Down the Best Scene in True Detective.

Rewatching Arrested Development, again. Still catching some jokes for the first time. Also watching the new season of The Eric Andre Show.

Movies

Anatomy of a Fall was fantastic. Two and a half hours long but engaging all the way through. A lot of dialogue. Beautiful to look at.

Talk to Me was also very good. It’s now one of my favorite horror movies. Reminds me of Insidious for obvious reasons and Hereditary for more subtle ones.


What’s next?

Work.

Keep playing soccer, going on walks, resume bike riding. Go snowboarding!

Keep reading, keep writing.

Continue working on Muze Radio. Implement hoverbox previews on this site.

Plan this year’s trips with Z.

Going to an improv class for the first time. Z signed us up after doing one with friends recently. She thinks I’m going to love it.

Continue nurturing my social life in Vancouver. Play chess and watch Lynch movies with friends.

Keep watching Arsenal games. It will be thrilling to see how the rest of the season plays out. It’s so tight at the top. Hopefully Arsenal will still be up there next time I write a personal update.

Super excited to see Ethiopian keyboardist Hailu Mergia in Seattle with my friend, who is also Ethiopian. I might go to a couple other live shows, too.

I’m looking forward to it all. Things are good and spring is coming.

and you’ll see a preview of my previous ‘now’ update. It was nontrivial but educational to implement. I’ve always liked the idea of doing DIY. Does this count?

I haven’t worked on my app Muze Radio for a couple months. Spotify denied my request for an extended quota, which would allow anyone with Spotify Premium to use it. I addressed their silly reason and resubmitted the request. That was well over six weeks ago, which is their expected turnaround time. On the Spotify Dashboard, I see a message banner stating that The review is taking longer than expected. Yeah, I know. I suppose I can’t be too annoyed though. It’s free. Once they accept my request, I’ll probably have motivation to resume work on it.

Reading

Listened to a good deal of Mary Norris’s Between Me and You: Confessions of a Comma Queen. I enjoyed the first bit, including the part about Ben Webster and the dictionary, which I found really interesting. But my interest in the book began falling sharply with Norris’s rants about the gender of pronouns and such. I just didn’t care. According to her, ‘they’ doesn’t work as a gender neutral pronoun because it’s plural. Silliness.

Room to Dream, David Lynch’s autiobiography-memoir. A great read, especially as companion material to

his

The Elephant Man (1980)

#reviews #movies #trauma #abuse #disease Mentioned in what I'm doing now, Wild at Heart (1990), what I'm doing now

John Hurt’s performance resonated with me like wine lingers in your gut. There is such a tenderness in the way he speaks to the few who are kind to him. The prosthetics are impressive, and Hurt’s acting brings them to life.

The movie has its flaws. It moves slowly and rather sloppily ends the story of the devious night porter. Apart from the last one, however, the sequences with the porter are brilliantly written. For much of the movie, he is an anonymous, unpredictable figure that pays cruel visits to the Elephant Man at night. No hospital staff is ever there to witness it and the Elephant Man never says a word about it. Is he is a projection of the Elephant Man’s terror? It’s a chilling effect and one not reversed by the revelation that the nightmarish figure is a hospital employee. No doubt there are demons haunting the Elephant Man that can’t be defeated with a silly bonk on the head.

movies

Wild at Heart (1990)

#reviews #movies Mentioned in what I'm doing now

The Elephant Man

bears Lynch’s touch lightly but this movie has his fingerprints all over. He has a gift for making scenes not only look but feel surreal. Sometimes dreamy, often nightmarish.

The movie is beautifully shot. The shot of the old man sitting outside the gas station as Lula (Laura Dern) and Sailor (Nicholas Cage) pull away. The mirrored shot of Lula looking at Bobby Peru (Willem Dafoe) standing in the doorway of the bathroom. The color and composition of the scenes where the meddling mother, Marietta Fortune (Dianne Ladd), agonizes over Lula’s relationship with Sailor.

Good acting all around, but Dafoe’s and Ladd’s performances were my favorite. The scene where Marietta paints her whole face in lipstick is amazing.

The scenes where Lula is assaulted are disturbing, though they are not the most graphic in the film. In his biography-memoir Room to Dream, Lynch tells the story of having to remove a very gruesome moment from the original cut of the film following more than one “mass exodus” during test screenings, including one when the test audience had been otherwise on the edge of their seats.

Another aspect of Lynch’s work that some will find offputting is its disregard for reality. Scenes move at a surprisingly slow pace. Dialogue can feel stilted. Characters pose in unnatural positions. These oddities are not a result of incompetence, they’re deliberate choices. Early in the movie, Sailor interrupts a metal band midsong to confront a guy coming onto Lula, and, after he overpowers him and forces an apology, he accepts the microphone from the band’s singer and starts crooning like Elvis. The band backs him wth flawless vocal harmonies.

Lynch doesn’t try to depict reality with his movies. He’ll use cars from the 50s, outfits from the 80s, and hairstyles from the 90s at same time if he wants to. What matters is that he captures the right mood, the right feel, and that he stays true to the ideas that

come to him

.

. I found it inspirational. Not only is David Lynch an important artist, but also a good person.

The Passenger

The Passenger (2022)

by Cormac McCarthy

#reviews #books #fiction #literature Mentioned in Stella Maris (2022), what I'm doing now, how to write like Cormac McCarthy, what I'm doing now, what I'm doing now

This novel is like a long, restless dream about a man paralyzed by his guilt and his grief. Along one plotline tension builds, but then neither resolves nor dissipates completely. It remains an anonymous threat hanging over the protagonist’s head, a darkling mystery suspended, never precipitating. It’s a confounding book, and one that I would be thrilled to see adapted into film by David Lynch.

It is never clear who is after the protagonist, Bobby, or why. It seems at first related to his presence at a suspicious scene in a sunken airplane, which he encountered while working as a salvage diver. Later, it seems that anonymous authorities are after his father’s old papers. Mysterious men pay periodic visits and ask questions. Some of Bobby’s belongings are stolen. His cat disappears. His car get confiscated. The persecution seems operated through the US government, but it’s carried out obliquely and underhandedly.

Regardless, Bobby lives his life as if in penance. He is stuck in limbo, confined by his apparent ambivalence towards life, which has him constantly approaching and evading danger, all the while awaiting his death. He camps out for a while in a shed near a deserted beach. When his stalkers seem to be closing in, he flees from New Orleans to Idaho and squats in a derelict house in the freezing cold. In the end, he settles in the southern coast of Spain, holed up in a windmill with a crumbling roof. In the quiet of these exiles, without the comfort of shared food, drink, and conversation, the pitch of his grief reaches shrieking, hallucinatory levels, setting the stage for quasi-spiritual moments of revelation.

The most potent aspect of this book is probably its mood, which reflects the hopeless remorse that Bobby feels. Remorse for the unholy devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that his father and mother helped engineer. Regret for his helplessness before the great mysteries of mathematics and physical science. In these Bobby seems to bear the burden not just for himself and his family, but for all of humanity. Principally, however, Bobby’s remorse and grief are for his inability to prevent his sister’s suicide and their inability to enact the deep, incestuous love between them.

Throughout the book, Cormac depicts Bobby’s agonizing internal conflict regarding his feelings for his sister. Here, from page 184, is one of the most memorable:

In his dreams of her she wore at times a smile he tried to remember and she would say to him almost in a chant words he could scarcely follow. He knew that her lovely face would soon exist nowhere save in his memories and in his dreams and soon after that nowhere at all. She came in half nude trailing sarsenet or perhaps just her Grecian sheeting crossing a stone stage in the smoking footlamps or she would push back the cowl of her robe and her blonde hair would fall about her face as she bent to him where he lay in the damp and clammy sheets and whisper to him I’d have been your shadowlane, the keeper of that house alone wherein your soul is safe. And all the while a clangor like the labor of a foundry and dark figures in silhouette about the alchemic fires, the ash and the smoke. The floor lay littered with the stillborn forms of their efforts and still they labored on, the raw halfsentient mud quivering red in the autoclave. In that dusky penetralium they press about the crucible shoving and gibbering while the deep heresiarch dark in his folded cloak urges them on in their efforts. And then what thing unspeakable is this raised dripping up through crust and calyx from what hellish marinade. He woke sweating and switched on the bedlamp and swung his feet to the floor and sat with his face in his hands. Dont be afraid for me, she had written. When has death ever harmed anyone?

The prose is a major reason I keep picking up books written by McCarthy. Who else writes like this?

Here, from pages 115 and 116, is another striking example of McCarthy’s prose – a description of the scenes following the dropping of the atomic bombs in Japan:

There were people who escaped from Hiroshima and rushed to Nagasaki to see that their loved ones were safe. Arriving just in time to be incinerated. He went there after the war with a team of scientists. My father. He said that everything was rusty. Everything looked covered with rust. There were burnt-out shells of trolleycars standing in the streets. The glass melted out of the sashes and pooled on the bricks. Seated on the blackened springs the charred skeletons of the passengers with their clothes and hair gone and their bones hung with blackened strips of flesh. Their eyes boiled from their sockets. Lips and noses burned away. Sitting in their seats laughing. The living walked about but there was no place to go. They waded by the thousands into the river and died there. They were like insects in that no one direction was preferable to another. Burning people crawled among the corpses like some horror in a vast crematorium. They simply thought that the world had ended. It hardly even occurred to them that it had anything to do with the war. They carried their skin bundled up in their arms before them like wash that it not drag in the rubble and ash and they passed one another mindlessly on their mindless journeyings over the smoking afterground, the sighted no better served than the blind. Those who survived would often remember these horrors with a certain aesthetic to them. In that mycoidal phantom blooming in the dawn like an evil lotus and in the melting of solid not heretofore known to do so stood a truth that would silence poetry a thousand years. Like an immense bladder, they would say. Like some sea thing. Wobbling slightly on the near horizon. Then the unspeakable noise. They saw birds in the dawn sky ignite and explode soundlessly and fall in long arcs earthward like burning party favors.

McCarthy doesn’t make it clear what “truth” the mushroom cloud embodied, but it is certainly not a comforting one.

Later, on pages 175 and 176, he describes a factory where uranium was prepared for the bombs:

His mother was nineteen when she went to work at Y-12, the electromagnetic separation plant. One of the three processes for the separation of the uranium 235 isotope. The workers were driven out to the compound in buses, bumping over the rough graded road, through dust or mud given the weather. Talking was not allowed. The barbed wire fencing ran for miles and the buildings were of solid concrete, massive things, monolithic and for the most part windowless. They sat in a great selvage of raw mud beyond which lay a perimeter of the wrecked and twisted trees that had been bulldozed from the site. She said it looked as if they had just somehow emerged out of the ground. The buildings. There was no accounting for them. She looked at the other women on the bus but they seemed to have abandoned themselves and she thought that she might be the only one of them that while she did not know what this was about knew all too well that it was Godless and that while it had poisoned back to elemental mud all living things upon that ground yet it was far from being done. It was just the beginning.

The buildings held over one thousand miles of pipe and a quarter million valves. The women sat on stools and monitored the dials in front of them while uranium atoms raced the tracks in the calutrons. Measuring them a hundred thousand times each second. The magnets that propelled them were seven feet in diameter and the windings were of solid silver fabricated from fiteen thousands tons of it borrowed from the US Treasury because all the copper had already gone into the war effort. An older woman told her that the first day with the women all at their stations and having no least notion what any of this was about the engineers had thrown the consecutive switches and an enormous dynamo hum filled the hall and hairpins in their hundreds shot from the women’s heads and crossed the room like hornets.

That last sentence is exquisitely crafted. A tremendously vivid scene realized in fifty eight words assembled fluidly without any interrupting punctuation.

, which I read out of interest after reading

Stella Maris

Stella Maris (2022)

by Cormac McCarthy

#reviews #books #fiction #literature #philosophy #mathematics #science #subconscious #mortality Mentioned in what I'm doing now, what I'm doing now, what I'm doing now

I’m 120 pages into this book and so far it has consisted purely of dialogue between a psychiatrist and a patient who has voluntarily checked herself in. Dialogue between these two I expect will fill the rest of the book. It’s an exciting endeavor to witness Cormac attempt.

He published this book alongside

The Passenger

in 2022 as a “companion novel” known also as The Passenger #2. I tried this one first though because among its topics are math and philosophy. It is set chronologically after The Passenger, but my impression, assembled from fragments of scantily skimmed book summaries, is that reading them in either order is fine.

(Even more than novel summaries I avoid movie trailers. They reveal far too much. I’d be happy to watch them if instead of crudely summarizing the story and undermining its telling they showed a short sample of the movie. A scene at most and no more.)

This book is clearly a product of the years Cormac spent at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) in conversation with scientists and researchers discussing consciousness, mathematics, physics, language, and philosophy. Much of what the protagonist Alicia says – about the unconscious, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, mathematics – Cormac himself says in conversation with SFI’s President David Krakauer in this interview from 2017. The interview is good companion material to the companion novel.

This book reminds me of another, which I intend to return to when I finish this one: A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality, in which a philosopher lying on her deathbed argues with her friend against the likelihood of an afterlife. In Stella Maris death also looms – not just over the protagonist but also its author. Cormac died six months after this final publication.

and because I love

how Cormac writes

how to write like Cormac McCarthy

#notes #writing #literature Mentioned in what I'm doing now, The Passenger (2022)

The main reason I read Cormac McCarthy is to experience and learn from his writing craft.

Here is his description of two salvage divers investigating a sunken airplane at the beginning of his penultimate novel,

The Passenger

:

Oiler had cut away the latching mechanism and the door stood open. He was just inside the plane crouched against the bulkhead. He gestured with his head and Western pulled up in the door and Oiler shone his light down the aircraft aisle. The people sitting in their seats, their hair floating. Their mouths open, their eyes devoid of speculation. The workbasket was sitting on the floor inside the door and Western reached and got the other divelight and pulled himself into the plane.

He kicked his way slowly down the aisle above the seats, his tanks dragging overhead. The faces of the dead inches away. Everything that could float was against the ceiling. Pencils, cushions, styrofoam coffeecups. Sheets of paper with the ink draining off into hieroglyphic smears. A tightening claustrophobia. He doubled under and got himself turned around and made his way back.

This excerpt alone contains a few hallmarks of Cormac’s style. A great trust in periods, a sparing use of commas. Trust in the word and to string together a sequence of actions.

In bulkhead there is a hint of his preference for describing objects and parts of things with a vocabulary so precise that it often delves into the technical.

Perhaps in workbasket and certainly in coffeecups there is evidence of his distrust of dashes and all other weird little marks that blot the page up.

When describing a scene, he often drops the predicate from sentences that don’t need it. He simply names what is in the scene.

Sheets of paper with the ink draining off into hieroglyphic smears.

Instead of:

There were sheets of paper with the ink draining off into hieroglyphic smears.

Which adds needless clutter at the start of the sentence.

He could tweak the phrase to give it official Sentence status, but this comes at the cost of giving undue focus to a contrived subject:

From sheets of paper, ink drained off into hieroglyphic smears.

Or:

Hieroglyphic smears formed from the ink draining off sheets of paper.

Cormac bypasses the problem altogether by asserting that writing in complete sentences is not necessary. These phrases don’t need subjects, so they don’t need to be sentences.

.

Some New Yorker articles, including one on Female Violence.

I sampled Temple Grandin’s book about Visual Thinking, but I didn’t have appetite for it.

I continue reading The Death and Life of Great American Cities, without haste. I am trying to digest and

apply

going for a walk

#journal #cities #vancouver #books Mentioned in what I'm doing now, what is this site? #2, nyc trip, what I'm doing now

As I walk through cities nowadays I try to look through a Jane Jacobian lens at the diversity of enterprise and use about. By use, Jacobs literally means the uses buildings provide: living, working, commerce, diversion, to name some of the main ones. Nowadays it’s easy to take for granted mixed-use buildings, but they exist because the city planning orthodoxy of today – which Jacobs influenced through her writing and activism – makes space for them.

Mixing of uses is only one of the ingredients that Jacobs argues districts must employ to generate lively and diverse city life. Another one is short blocks, to allow foot traffic from adjacent streets. On a recent walk, I noticed how much was packed onto one side of a short city block on one of the lively stretches of East Hastings in East Vancouver. A gym offering luxury fight goods and apparel, a plant shop, a laundry service business, a kitchen renovation business, a small counterservice cafe offering “Italian street food”, a nail studio, a print shop, a beauty salon, a travel agency, an importer’s office, a Vietnamese restaurant, and a hip diner. Most of these on the ground level of a three-storey residential building occupying much of the block. On the corner past the diner a vacant lot recently bulldozed in preparation for a four-storey mixed-use residential building.

A fifteen minute walk away begins the vibrant stretch of Commercial Drive, one of the liveliest areas of East Vancouver. Near its north tip, for example, there’s a gallery, a secondhand clothing shop, a shop for local art, and a coworking space, all in the same building and all apparently run by the same collective, which hosts events including stand up comedy nights and craft workshops in the gallery and coworking space.

Diversity is possible in cities, Jane Jacobs explains, because they bring together people in quantities so great that critical mass can be reached for projects and enterprises that can’t survive in sparser and less diverse communities. But for diversity to flourish and thrive, cities must create and maintain four key conditions: mixing of use, short blocks, buildings of varying age, and population density.

its ideas.

Writing

I’ve been writing with some regularity. Mostly, but not exclusively, reviews and journal entries. I wrote

part #2

my career #2

#journal #career #work #software Mentioned in what I'm doing now

My path into software engineering,

continued

.

Year 2: Getting my foot in the door – 2015-2016 (cont’d)

The deal we had with the Computer Science & Engineering Co-op Office was that they collected co-op/intern job openings and, if you landed one, you paid them a few hundred dollars per four-month term. Not cheap. And for each term you had to write a paper about something you’d learned. Homework outside of school. These were the requirements if you wanted the co-op to count towards graduating “with Co-op”.

Co-op was required for students in Software Engineering, but not for those of us in Computer Science. They also had to take a load of courses – physics, natural science, electrical engineering – that we didn’t. We had electives and throughout my major I took a variety: History of Jazz, Hip Hop Writing, Philosophy of Knowledge, Healthy Sexuality, Elementary Number Theory, Intro to Abstract Algebra. And I got to pick the specific Computer Science and Softare Engineering courses that interested me. The downside is that, in Canada, Computer Science majors are not technically Engineers. Thankfully, I don’t think that bureaucratic detail will make a difference. The demand for programmers is too high.

So, with my 2-page resume, I submitted about twenty-five job applications through the Co-op portal. And, on February 2nd of 2016, I got my first interview with a tech company. Change.org, a company from California with an office in Victoria. The interview was in the Engineering and Computer Science building on campus. I came in a blue blazer that I got on an ample employee discount from Tommy Hilfiger, where I was still working part-time. Two friendly dads interviewed me, thirty minutes each. The first one asked me to rate my JavaScript skills from one to ten. I said it was hard to put it in a number. I didn’t want to reveal that my only experience with JavaScript had been learning it outside of school, on CodeAcademy and such. He pushed gently for a number. Like.. three? he offered. Developing, I said.

The second friendly dad asked me about my SoundCloud. He made music too. The second page of my resume was paying off! I talked enthusiastically about making beats and playing guitar. Walking out of the interview, I felt good. I might actually get it. A couple days later I sent a follow-up email and a week after that, I got a reply:

Hi Juan Carlos!

Thanks for the note.

Regarding the summer co-op position, I wanted to let you know that we had a lot of great candidates apply for that, and we’ve filled all the slots we had available for this summer. However, I also want to stress that [we both] really enjoyed meeting you, and we think you’d probably be a great fit for the team here. So please stay in touch, and do apply again with us for your next work term.

Looking back, I appreciate how nice and encouraging this message was. But, at the time, I was gutted. It was already mid-February and I wasn’t sure I’d get any more interviews.

A week later, I went to the Victoria Conference Centre for Discover Tectoria, a “showcase of the Greater Victoria Tech Sector.” Our UVic Web Dev club had a booth there, so I came by to say hi, but also ended up chatting with some people from local companies, including Flytographer, a site for travelers to hire local photographers. After the weekend, I sent a follow-up email to the engineer I had chatted with, the only one in the tiny company, and set up an interview for March 2nd. A day before that interview, I got an email inviting me to another, with the CHISEL group, a Computer Human Interaction & Software Engineering Research Lab at UVic that I had applied to a month prior. When it rains it pours.

So, at 1pm on March 2nd, I interviewed with Flytographer in downtown Victoria at an office space they shared with other local startups. I showed up in my blue blazer and answered some basic programming questions and, oddly, questions about vim commands. I suspect the engineer did not have much experience interviewing programmers. Then, the founder interviewed me. She was very friendly and encouraging. Calm, sunny disposition. She said the engineer was a genius, had finished high school at fifteen years old. I met the other two employees afterwards and they were very friendly as well.

An hour or so later, I was back at the Engineering & Computer Science building on UVic campus for my interview with the research lab. I met with the professor who ran the lab and then a couple of the senior researchers quizzed me with a basic programming exercise: reversing a word. They looked pleased when I said strings were immutable. I left feeling like I had it in the bag. But I was more excited about Flytographer. I wanted to work for a tech company.

Sure enough, the next day I got an offer to be a Co-op Research Programmer at the research lab:

Hello Juan:

Thanks for meeting with us yesterday. We’d like to offer you a co-op position with our group. I’ve attached our official offer letter.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

I had done it. I’d gotten a co-op offer. I would earn $2.5K CDN per month, which worked out to $17-$18 per hour. It was a big jump from my $10.50 at Tommy Hilfiger and, more importantly, an opportunity to get relevant work experience. But I wasn’t ready to say yes. I wanted to hear back from Flytographer.

I consulted a professor who I was friendly with and would later TA for. Take the research lab, he said. But that wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. I went around the corner to ask the same question to someone at the co-op office. I chatted with a Placement Coordinator and she offered to reach out to Flytographer on my behalf. Then, she looked me up on her system and said Oh, you got an interview with AbeBooks. I hadn’t seen the email yet. I couldn’t believe it. I had applied several weeks before but felt like I was reaching. AbeBooks was owned by Amazon and their posted salary was $3.5K CDN per month, $1K more than what the research lab was offering and more than most of the others I’d seen on the Co-op portal. I’d assumed AbeBooks had filled their co-op positions because the job postings had disappeared. Sometimes they re-open it, the Placement Coordinator explained, if they don’t find the right person. They don’t just take the ones who interviewed the best.

My confidence was the highest it had been throughout the process. Too high, maybe.

Later that day, the Placement Coordinator forwarded a message from Flytographer:

We really liked him. He’s the front runner for sure. I would like to see a couple of candidates though, hopefully Juan Carlos can wait to decide until next week?

Not promising. And yet – to my current indignation – I took the gamble. I emailed CHISEL:

Thank you so much for offering me the co-op position with CHISEL. After careful deliberation and with the approaching application deadline for the NSERC research grant in mind, I regret that I must decline. I am sure that working [at CHISEL] would be greatly rewarding, but I believe that another opportunity aligns more closely with the goals I have determined for my summer work term.

(to be continued / work-in-progress)

of

my career

my career

#journal #career #work #software Mentioned in my career #2, what I'm doing now

My path into software engineering.

Choosing a major – summer 2014

After graduating high school, I started at UVic as a Computer Science and Music combined major. I didn’t know anything about Computer Science, and it sounded eye-dryingly boring. My plan was to learn to record music so I could start posting more than beats on SoundCloud.

Year 1: Learning to program – 2014-2015

Fundamentals of Programming 1 seemed like it was going to be very tedious. I had to install something called Java on my laptop. For some reason, I couldn’t just use my iPad.

For our first assignment, we had to print out an ASCII picture of a cow.

 _____________________
/ Mooooooo            \
\ Welcome to CSC 110! /
 ---------------------
        \   ^__^
         \  (oo)\_______
            (__)\       )\/\
                ||----w |
                ||     ||

Not particularly inspiring. But somewhere between the second and third assignment, it started getting interesting. Two of my favorite subjects in high school had been English and Math, and programming was like writing and doing algebra at the same time. Plus, you could make the computer do stuff. It got even more intriguing when I started learning about algorithms and data structures in Fundamentals of Programming 2.

By the end of the year, I was hooked. I switched from the combined major into Computer Science.

Year 2: Getting my foot in the door – 2015-2016

Looking ahead to my second year, I had one goal: get a co-op job. If I got a co-op, not only could I write code for good wage, but finally stop working in retail and food service.

The most obvious place to start was web development. So I spent time in the evenings learning the basics of HTML and CSS on CodeAcademy, reading Eloquent Javascript, and attending meetings of the UVic Web Dev club.

There was a good chance I’d be able to find a co-op without leaving the city for the summer. Despite its size, Victoria, BC has a strong tech industry. My first encounter with the local startup scene had been in high school, when I found out a fellow twelfth grader was working for Metalab, a local company. At the time, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what programming was, nor did it interest me. A couple years later, however, I was very interested.

It turned out that one of the students who started the UVic Web Dev club was the brother-in-law of Metalab’s founder, Andrew Wilkinson. Andrew posted on the web dev club’s Facebook page about a free tech event happening in the city:

Hey guys. We’re hosting the folks from Webflow (www.webflow.com) who are coming up to demo their product. Event is on Thursday afternoon. Details here if you want to join. Should be awesome.

If Metalab hired high school students, surely they’d hire university co-ops. I tried registering for the event, but it didn’t work. So I emailed Andrew and he got VIATEC to open the event registration because “a bunch of kids from UVIC” wanted to join. At the end of the event, I introduced myself to Andrew and told him I was looking for co-ops in the summer. He was very nice and told me he would put me in contact with People Ops.

I went home and sent a follow-up email:

Hi Andrew,

I wanted to say thanks again for today, I really enjoyed the demo and simply being in a room full of professionals who love building good-looking products; now looking forward to MetaLab’s React workshop in January!

Additionally, I would be happy to further speak about possible co-op opportunities, whether it is with you or Elexa or Tim (I think those are the name you mentioned).

Looking forward to speaking again,

Juan Carlos Gallegos

He referred me to People Ops as promised. It was all going according to plan.

But then I got this email from them:

Hey Juan Carlos,

Nice to meet you! Do you have any code samples or a Github account you could send our way to check out?

Thanks

Gulp.

I’d been warned about this. Companies wanted to see “personal projects.” Proof that you could write code. I didn’t have much proof.

I do have a GitHub account: https://github.com/okjuan. Currently its content is limited, but I will be uploading more work in the next month or so, particularly when I am done with this semester’s final exams.

Attached is my resume, in which I give a brief overview of my current skills and others I am working on developing (e.g. JavaScript, HTML & CSS, Git). Please let me know if you have any questions; I’ll make sure to send you an email after I’ve uploaded more code samples in the near future.

Currently its content is limited. Bless my heart.

It was still too daunting to start my own programming project. Where to begin? I posed this question to a peer of mine who I’d seen showing off his iOS app at the job fair. He said nothing and showed me his laptop, on which he typed “how to build an app” into Google search.

I asked a similar question at a meeting of the UVic Game Development club and the guy leading the meeting explained that you should start with sketches of what the game would look like and go from there. I was too embarrassed to clarify what my question actually meant.

So I directed my energies into my resume. Since I had no personal projects to include, I wrote a section describing my traits:

Personal Attributes

Problem-solver at heart

  • With the support of my creativity, interpersonal skills & technical abilities, I engage with challenges proactively; I value neatness, reusability, and rigour in my solutions.

Passionate

  • I am driven by my aspiration to develop practical solutions that elevate the user’s performance.

Team-centered

  • The essence of my professional experience is in collaborating with coworkers in a dynamic environment to provide high quality, personalized customer service.

Multi-cultural background

  • Born and raised in Mexico City, I have since lived in NY, USA (’07 – ‘10) & BC, Canada (’10 – present): native proficiency in English & Spanish, conversational French.

Doing my best to make my work experience relevant:

The essence of my work experience is in collaborating with coworkers in a dynamic environment.

Probably referring to my time working in the drive-through at Tim Hortons. Dynamic indeed.

Despite my lack of relevant work experience – or because of it – I filled one and a half pages, doing what I could to sell myself. At the end of my resume, I had a section about my hobbies:

Personal Interests

Soccer

  • Playing a team-based sport competitively for the last 15+ years has stimulated my development as a disciplined team member with strong communication skills.
  • Currently playing for JDF U21 Graduate team.

Music

  • An avid listener, I also like to play guitar, sing, & make beats during my free time. (Please feel free to check out some of my music! see: https://soundcloud.com/baba-guano)
  • I am formally trained in theory and musicianship; in fact, during my first year at UVic, I was in the Computer Science & Music Combined Major program, before I decided to focus on Computer Science.

Continued

here

.

, a project I’m excited to continue.

TV

I keep watching Arsenal games and they keep winning. Arteta is undeniably effective. His decisions are questionable sometimes, but so far he has managed to produce answers for them. Arsenal still has a chance at winning the English Premier League, but it isn’t entirely up to them. Everyone is thrilled to have three title contenders with only a handful of games left and nobody can predict who will win it.

I’ve also been working on the decor of our apartment. I put up small floating shelves in our bedroom, which was intimidating because I had never before drilled holes for wall anchors. Bought a rubber plant and a wall mirror for the plant corner in our living room. Continually propagating my pothos snippings and planting them in nursery pots. In addition to Never Too Small, which I’ve been watching for years now, I’ve started watching videos by Noah Daniel, a small new YouTuber who is an interior designer with a passion for modern architecture and design. It’s been interesting.

True Detective season 4, which had my attention at first, but then lost it.

The Curse. Have only watched a couple episodes but I think it’s so good. Can’t wait to keep watching.

Veep. So funny. Reminds me a lot of Arrested Development and Peep Show, other shows about pathetic characters written with scathing comedy wit. The Other Two is similar. I’ve been catching episodes of it here and there while Z watches it.

The Office continues to be a go-to comfort show for me. I have that strange but apparently common capacity to rewatch it endlessly. I do the same with the Ricky Gervais Show, even though I think Ricky is a prat and his standup comedy unimaginative crap.

Movies

Wild at Heart

Dune: Part Two (2024)

#reviews #movies #mediums #writing Mentioned in what I'm doing now

When I have kids I will definitely show them this movie. Stunning visuals and audio. Really moody. I really liked Zendaya’s performance.

Was the shot of the ear crawling with bugs a nod to Lynch? I hope so.

Definitely not perfect. The main problem is that the story doesn’t fit into the movie format. It deserves to be a high budget TV series. Hell, they could have done both: one compressed movie (this one) and an expanded version consisting of multiple episodes. Movie theatres could show both. I wonder if they’ve considered that.

I was also disappointed to see Stilgar flattened into a caricature. He was funny because of it but I’m not sure the chuckles were worth underusing Javier Bardem.

I guess I should hush up and read the books.

, which was a worthy Lynch work.

The Zone of Interest, which was stellar.

Dune Part 2

Dune: Part Two (2024)

#reviews #movies #mediums #writing Mentioned in what I'm doing now

When I have kids I will definitely show them this movie. Stunning visuals and audio. Really moody. I really liked Zendaya’s performance.

Was the shot of the ear crawling with bugs a nod to Lynch? I hope so.

Definitely not perfect. The main problem is that the story doesn’t fit into the movie format. It deserves to be a high budget TV series. Hell, they could have done both: one compressed movie (this one) and an expanded version consisting of multiple episodes. Movie theatres could show both. I wonder if they’ve considered that.

I was also disappointed to see Stilgar flattened into a caricature. He was funny because of it but I’m not sure the chuckles were worth underusing Javier Bardem.

I guess I should hush up and read the books.

which was pretty much as good as a megablockbuster gets.


What’s next?

I have some interesting tasks at work right now. Looking forward to seeing how those progress.

I’m looking forward to visiting Tofino and NYC. Also looking forward to doing more outdoor activities with friends, like paddleboarding and playing volleyball.

I have tickets to see Nate Smith, Carrtoons, and Kiefer in Seattle in May. Excited for it. I’ll update

my concert log

concerts

#journal #music #live-music Mentioned in what I'm doing now

Log of concerts I’ve attended.

★ ★ ★ = Wanna see them again!

★ ★ = Worth seeing

★ = Ok

☆ = Disappointing

2024

Rating Artist City Country Venue Date
★ ★ Terrace Martin with James Fauntleroy

New York City USA Blue Note 05/23/2024
★ ★ Kurt Rosenwinkel New York City USA Village Vanguard 05/18/2024
★ ★ Nate Smith, Kiefer (3rd), & Carrtoons Seattle, WA USA Nectar Lounge 05/16/2024
Hailu Mergia

Seattle, WA USA Tractor Tavern 03/01/2024
★ ★ ★ Vieux Farka Touré

Vancouver, BC Canada York Theatre 02/23/2024

2023

Rating Artist City Country Venue Date
★ ★ ★ The Go Rounds Mexico City Mexico Frëims 11/01/2023
★ ★ King Krule (2nd), with Slauson Malone 1 Seattle, WA USA Paramount Theatre 09/20/2023
★ ★ Kaytranada & Aminé Troutdale, OR USA McMenamins Edgefield 09/09/2023
Perry Porter, with Jarv Dee Seattle, WA USA Nectar Lounge 05/21/2023
★ ★ Knitting / 3x tuk / Guests / Hurry Up Snufkin Seattle, WA USA Drongo HQ 03/26/2023
★ ★ Tank and the Bangas Seattle, WA USA Neumos 03/19/2023

2022

Rating Artist City Country Venue Date
★ ★ DOMi & JD BECK Seattle, WA USA Nectar Lounge 11/07/2022
Stereolab ★ ★ Fievel is Glaque ★ ★ ★ Stereolab (2nd), with Fievel is Glaque Seattle, WA USA Showbox 09/25/2022
★ ★ Loving, with Sam Burton Seattle, WA USA Madame Lou’s 08/06/2022
★ ★ Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, Julien Baker Redmond, WA USA Marymoor Park 08/03/2022
★ ★ Kamasi Washington Seattle, WA USA Showbox 07/31/2022
Tyler, the Creator, with Kali Uchis (2nd), Vince Staples, and Teezo Touchdown Seattle, WA USA Climate Pledge Arena 04/08/2022
★ ★ Jacob Collier Seattle, WA USA Showbox SODO 04/06/2022

2021

Rating Artist City Country Venue Date
★ ★ Injury Reserve, with Slauson Malone 1 (recounted on fattystrap) Seattle, WA USA Neumos 11/07/2021
★ ★ ★ Kiefer (2nd) Seattle, WA USA Neumos 10/05/2021
★ ★ ★ Herbie Hancock Seattle, WA USA Paramount Theatre 09/21/2021

2020

Rating Artist City Country Venue Date
Raphael Saadiq, with Jamila Woods Seattle, WA USA Neptune Theatre 02/25/2020

2019

Rating Artist City Country Venue Date
★ ★ ★ Ezra Collective Seattle, WA USA Barboza 12/13/2019
★ ★ ★ Brittany Howard Seattle, WA USA Moore Theatre 11/18/2019
Moonchild ★ Kiefer ★ ★ ★ Moonchild, with Kiefer (1st) Seattle, WA USA Neumos 11/09/2019
★ ★ ★ Jordan Rakei Seattle, WA USA Neumos 10/24/2019
R.A.P. Ferreira Seattle, WA USA Chop Suey 10/10/2019
Ross from Friends Seattle, WA USA Neumos 09/26/2019
★ ★ JPEGMAFIA Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 06/01/2019
★ ★ James Blake Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 06/01/2019
★ ★ Tierra Whack Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 06/01/2019
★ ★ Solange Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 06/01/2019
★ ★ ★ Rosalia Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 06/01/2019
Kali Uchis (1st) Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 06/01/2019
★ ★ ★ Robyn Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 06/01/2019
★ ★ Tame Impala Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 06/01/2019
★ ★ Julia Holter (2nd) Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 06/~01/2019
★ ★ ★ Stereolab (1st) Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 06/~01/2019
Nas Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 05/~31/2019
★ ★ FKA Twigs Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 05/31/2019
★ ★ Janelle Monáe (2nd) Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 05/31/2019
★ ★ ★ Sons of Kemet Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 05/31/2019
★ ★ Snail Mail Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 05/31/2019
★ ★ ★ Erykah Badu Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 05/~31/2019
★ ★ Midori Takada Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound Festival 05/31/2019
Earl Sweatshirt Vancouver, BC Canada Commodore Ballroom 04/15/2019
Noname Vancouver, BC Canada Commodore Ballroom 03/12/2019
★ ★ Julia Holter (1st) Vancouver, BC Canada Imperial Vancouver 03/04/2019

2018

Rating Artist City Country Venue Date
★ ★ ★ Allen Stone Victoria, BC Canada Capitol Ballroom 12/13/2018
★ ★ Childish Gambino Vancouver, BC Canada Rogers Arena 12/08/2018
Leon Bridges ★ ★ Khruangbin ★ ★ ★ Leon Bridges, with Khruangbin Vancouver, BC Canada PNE Ampitheatre 09/16/2018
★ ★ Lauryn Hill Vancouver, BC Canada Deer Lake Park 09/14/2018
★ ★ Father John Misty Seattle, WA USA Capitol Hill Block Party 07/22/2018
★ ★ Unknown Mortal Orchestra Seattle, WA USA Capitol Hill Block Party 07/22/2018
★ ★ Brockhampton Seattle, WA USA Capitol Hill Block Party 07/21/2018
★ ★ Janelle Monáe (1st) Redmond, WA USA Marymoor Park 06/11/2018
★ ★ Joey Bada$$ Seattle, WA USA Showbox 05/13/2018

2017

Rating Artist City Country Venue Date
Shabazz Palaces Victoria, BC Canada Upstairs 12/02/2017
★ ★ Daniel Caesar Victoria, BC Canada Capitol Ballroom 11/11/2017
★ ★ ★ King Krule (1st), with Standing on the Corner Vancouver, BC Canada Vogue Theatre 11/05/2017
Bonobo Victoria, BC Canada Royal Athletic Park (Rifflandia) 09/~16/2017
★ ★ ★ Five Alarm Funk Victoria, BC Canada Capitol Ballroom (Rifflandia) 09/~15/2017
★ ★ Charlotte Day Wilson Victoria, BC Canada Royal Athletic Park (Rifflandia) 09/~15/2017

afterward, like I did for

Hailu Mergia

technical difficulties at Hailu Mergia

#journal #seattle #live-music #music Mentioned in concerts, what I'm doing now

I first read about Hailu Mergia in Pitchfork’s The 200 Best Albums of the 2010s, which listed his 2018 album Lala Belu at 185th. But my favorite Hailu album quickly became and has remained his 1978 album, Wede Harer Guzo. It’s that rare and precious kind of music that’s somehow nostalgic on first listen. I adore even the album cover, which is a scan of the original tape cover art set against a solid magenta background. Late

2019

and early

2020

was a fertile time of music discovery for me.

It’s been five years and I still listen to Hailu routinely, and so does my friend Isaac, who was my roommate at the time and is Ethiopian like Hailu. So, in January, when Isaac got a Spotify notification that Hailu was playing a concert in Seattle in March, we bought tickets instantly. Soon afterwards, it sold out.

We showed up close to scheduled showtime, but Hailu and his bandmates didn’t for another hour, almost two. On “Habesha Time,” as Isaac anticipated of his fellow Ethiopians. Nonetheless, the crowd roared as the band came on stage.

From the first song, I thought the music sounded spare, like an instrument was missing. So much so, that by the end of the second song, I felt let down. It wasn’t sounding like I expected. And yet the rest of the crowd was thrilled. I wondered if we should move away from the stage to a place in the venue where the speakers translated better. Maybe our position under them was deceiving us.

But by the third or fourth song, Isaac and I realized we were thinking the same thing. Something was wrong. In the middle of a song we saw Hailu turn a keyboard knob left and right with a puzzled look like one would if the volume wasn’t working. The other two band members, the bassist and the drummer, seemed to sense something too. The three of them exchanged looks but did not betray much worry. When the song ended, the crowd clapped and whooed enthusiastically. I waited for Hailu to say something to someone about the keyboard. He didn’t. They went on to the next song.

We were standing a few feet to Hailu’s left, in the perfect position to watch his left hand play mute accompaniment. We could hear every note he played with his right hand on the upper keyboard, and even some of the notes he played on the right half of the faulty keyboard, but almost nothing from the left hand as it pressed futile chords into the left half.

After the fifth or sixth song, I approached an employee standing security next to the stage to tell him. He leaned in and listened to me and nodded without looking up. I stepped back to my spot and waited. He leaned and said something to the other employee standing by the stage. Neither seemed bothered. When the song ended, they just stood there and clapped.

Then I noticed a guy in front of me and Isaac shifting and glancing restlessly at the two employees and conferring with his friends about something. I figured he must have noticed too. At the end of the next song, I leaned forward and asked him, trying to speak over the noise of the crowd. It’s ridiculous! he said to me immediately. After a moment I realized he was talking about the huge fan at the end of the corridor blowing air into the venue from outside. He was just cold.

Isaac needed to go to the bathroom and I still held out hope that the music would sound better farther from the stage, so we waded diagonally through the crowd towards the bar, listening as we went. We agreed. No difference.

Isaac went to the bathroom and I went to the merch table to see what albums they had. I commented to the woman working there about our suspicion that half of Hailu’s keyboard wasn’t working. She reacted with concern, but then said that her boyfriend was in charge of the sound and that he was a pro. I dropped the subject.

They were selling Lala Belu on vinyl but didn’t accept debit, credit, cash, or Venmo, so I spent the next several minutes downloading PayPal and trying to set it up. I stood aside and the woman continued selling copies of the record to people that came up. While I battled with multifactor authentication and her confusing instructions – no, you can’t do it that way because of the currency exchange – people kept coming up and buying records until there was only one left. Another guy came up wanting to buy the record. The woman looked between us, apologized, and said that whoever paid for it first could have it. I was on the brink of giving up but then I tried again, this time ignoring her instructions. It worked, finally.

With my new record in hand, I went with Isaac to the back of the venue to listen from a third vantage point, to see if the chords were audible from there. Nope. Still nothing.

.

Excited but nervous about the last several EPL games. It’s going to be a huge disappointment if Arsenal don’t win the title after such a fantastic season.

Z and I are developing new friendships in Vancouver. Looking forward to forming a dynamic with a group of people like we have in Seattle.

As I write, I don’t have substantial reading or writing goals. At this point, I have developed both habits, so I expect them to carry me on for the next several weeks, at least.