What I'm currently…
Some notes on what I'm currently listening to, reading, and thinking about.
What I’m reading shouldn’t be considered as recommendations—indeed, I often don’t enjoy them and don’t finish them. However, what I’m listening to definitely can be considered as recommendations.
For what I’m listening to, I typically link to YouTube for the songs—for lack of a better option. I highly suggest using the uBlock Origin browser extension (and the Firefox browser).
There is also a YouTube playlist of all the songs referred to below.
I now work in an open-plan office, which has taken a bit of getting used to — headphones and music have been critical to being able to focus.
Not including the venerable and highly-recommended
musicforprogramming.net, the theme this month is music that I have been listening to at work.
Loscil - Charlie
I’ve mentioned Loscil before, but there are few better musicians when I’m after some enveloping background music to accompany some work. When I recently moved to Melbourne, I was staying temporarily in Yarraville and go for runs down to Williamstown. Along the way was Newport Power Station, which has a chimney that is painted like the cover of the album that this is from (Plume) — I always used to think of Loscil as I was running by. I tend to put the albums Plume, Submers, and Endless Falls to play sequentially. The latter ends with The Making of Grief Point — a great song that introduces some spoken word that marks the end of the sequence.
M83 - Kim & Jessie
Sometimes a bit of spacey bombast gives a good background, and M83 are among the best exponents of that vibe. Their songs can be distractingly great though, such as this one — and other examples like Skin Of The Night and Don’t Save Us From The Flames. They do have some ordinary songs as well, but it comes a bit with the territory they’re operating in.
Explosions In The Sky - Have You Passed Through This Night?
Explosions In The Sky are somewhat unfairly maligned in the “post-rock” genre, but I like them and find their music good to work to when some dynamics are in order. This song is more of an example of a great song of theirs (love the drums) rather than a great working song (e.g., the presence of the sample from The Thin Red Line). I like to put on the album that this song is from, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, and the albums All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone and The Wilderness to play for a few hours. It’s also worth noting their association with the great TV show Friday Night Lights.
- Anthony Summers - Not In Your Lifetime: The Assassination of JFK
- Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
- David Deutsch - The Fabric of Reality
- Running in the Melbourne Marathon in October rather than the planned upcoming Princes Park Marathon — not enough long runs under my belt at this point.
- Improving my Python coding — type checking, proper packaging, testing, and continuous integration (CI).
- Simply The Best (context).
A covers theme this month.
Tool - No Quarter (Led Zeppelin)
Tool should do more covers—based on the strength of this song, at least, which is one of the best tracks in their whole catalogue. I wonder if having the constraints of an existing song might rein in some of their more excessive tendencies. This track is just great.
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings - Abandoned Love (Bob Dylan)
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are among the best exponents of the cover song, with many great renditions—indeed, this song comes from a whole album of covers: All The Good Times (Are Past & Gone). I love the looseness of this song—does Gil not know the words and go with the vibe at points?—and the serendipitous ending of running out of tape. Of course, it is also a great song (though I don’t actually know much about Bob Dylan). Some more examples of their great covers are Hello In There (John Prine), Method Acting / Cortez the Killer (Bright Eyes / Neil Young), The Weight (The Band) (I love how much fun Gil is having in this), I’ll Fly Away (traditional), and Pochahontas (Neil Young).
Nirvana - The Man Who Sold The World (David Bowie)
I think an underappreciated aspect of Nirvana, particularly for those who grew up with them as I did, is how much they used their spotlight to draw attention to other bands through their covers. Indeed, 6 of the 14 songs on their classic MTV Unplugged in New York album (from which this song is drawn) are covers. In addition to this fantastic rendition there are others in the Unplugged session like Oh Me (The Meat Puppets) and Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Leadbelly). Elsewhere, other great covers of theirs are The Money Will Roll Right In (Fang), Love Buzz (Shocking Blue), D-7 (The Wipers), and Turnaround (Devo).
- Richard Moss - Shareware Heroes: The Renegades Who Redefined Gaming At The Dawn Of The Internet
- Nick Gadd - Melbourne Circle: Walking, Memory and Loss
- Ron Chernow - Grant
- Experimenting with an AI-driven running platform, TrainAsONE.
- The best way to have a Linux-like environment on a work-issued Windows computer. I have been pleasantly surprised by Windows Terminal.
daskto work with data that is too big to fit into memory.
In keeping with my recent relocation, the theme this month is musicians from Melbourne (or Victoria at least).
The Avalanches - Since I Left You
It took me a while to get into this album (Since I Left You)—it just seemed too busy, exemplified by Frontier Psychiatrist (which, while obviously great, still feels a bit out of place on the album to me). But it became a favourite once I did come to terms with it, particularly once the coherency of the album emerged (see Electricity, Radio, and Live at Dominoes for additional standouts). I liked their long-awaited follow-up album Wildflower (e.g., Colours, Subways), but I liked their most recent (We Will Always Love You) even more—e.g., The Divine Chord, We Go On, Gold Sky (which also made an appearance last month). I have always pretty strongly associated The Avalanches with Melbourne, maybe because of their link with the starting of the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival.
Dirty Three - Authentic Celestial Music
This is a slow builder (see Deep Waters for a similarly great song—I particularly love the out-of-place ‘beeps’, ?, that come in towards the end) on a slow builder of an album (Ocean Songs)—my favourite of theirs and great all the way through. They also have some excellent rollicking songs (e.g., Sue’s Last Ride) and a couple of particularly great (albeit funereal) last tracks in Ends of the Earth and Lullabye for Christie. They are also excellent live! Their collaboration with Low (who appeared on this page back in July, 2022), In The Fishtank 7, is also great—particularly When I Called Upon Your Seed and their cover of Neil Young’s Down By The River.
The Lucksmiths - A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed)
The Lucksmiths have an extensive catalogue, but I am only really familiar with their last couple of albums—loving both Warmer Corners and First Frost. Some highlights from Warmer Corners are Now I’m Even Further Away, The Chapter In Your Life Entitled San Francisco, and Fiction; from First Frost, Lament of the Chiming Wedgebill, How We Met, and Who Turned On The Lights?.
- Richard Ford - Sorry For Your Trouble
- Cormac McCarthy - Stella Maris
- Susannah Cahalan - The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness
- Registering for the Athletics Victoria winter cross-country running season.
- Getting a Framework laptop.
- Making fun animations.
Alex G - Gretel
I’ve been really into Alex G’s music lately, and this song in particular, in a way that I haven’t been with a band for quite a while. I quite liked the Rocket album and saw them on tour for it at the Lansdowne Hotel in Sydney, but this song is the standout on their subsequent House of Sugar album that stepped things up a notch. It is pretty solid overall and Cow and Walk Away are particularly good. Their album God Save The Animals from last year took me quite a few listens to get into—some of the production and choices are quite modern to my ears. Once I got over that “listener error’, it has become my favourite Alex G album. It is worth listening to as an album, but my standouts are Ain’t It Easy (especially), After All, Runner, Cross the Sea (see what I mean about the production), and Forgive.
But yeah, Gretel is the best.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Turn Into
My favourite song of theirs, off my favourite album of theirs—the very consistent Show Your Bones (see also Phenomena, Warrior). I also like some of their earlier stuff, such as Maps (a classic that is still great, despite its ubiquity), Y Control, and Our Time. There are also some great songs on their more dance-oriented It’s Blitz!, such as Zero, Heads Will Roll, and Skeletons. I think their drummer, Brian Chase, is underrated and one of the best around—listen to the drums in Maps, for example! They are also great live.
The Velvet Underground - Heroin
Released in 1967 on the great The Velvet Underground & Nico album, still sounds amazing (see also I’m Waiting for the Man and All Tomorrow’s Parties). I also really like their later albums The Velvet Underground (e.g., Candy Says, I’m Set Free, After Hours) and Loaded (e.g., Sweet Jane, New Age, I Found a Reason, Oh! Sweet Nuthin’). Their work has also had some excellent covers, such as All Tomorrow’s Parties (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), Sweet Jane (The Cowboy Junkies), New Age (Tori Amos), I Found A Reason (Cat Power)—and I think “Heroin’ is referenced in The Avalanches’ great Gold Sky (
I have made a very big decision). This is all consistent with the great quote, apparently attributed to Brian Eno, that their first album may not have sold very well but that everyone that did buy a copy started a band (incidentally, something analogous has been my aim with my research ‘impact’—albeit unrealised).
- Benjamín Labatut - When We Cease To Understand The World
- Andy Weir - Project Hail Mary
- Raewyn Connell - The Good University
- The upcoming Orange Running Festival half-marathon
- Getting back into compact discs (CDs) as a way of listening to music—vinyl too bulky and expensive, digital too isolated, cassettes too lo-fi and flimsy.
- Loudness, for a (hopefully) upcoming post.
An early–mid 2000’s theme this month.
Modest Mouse - Third Planet
The first track off their great The Moon & Antarctica album, which is well-worth listening to in its entirety (a couple of other standouts are Tiny Cities Made of Ashes and Life Like Weeds). Their previous album, The Lonesome Crowded West, is nearly as good (sometimes I think it is even better); e.g., Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine, Trailer Trash. They have lots of great songs on their other albums too, such as Float On (despite its over-exposure), Dramamine, Spitting Venom. Excellent travelling music.
Joanna Newsom - Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie
The closing track from her excellent first album, The Milk-Eyed Mender. Her later albums would get more expansive, refined, and sprawling (in track length and number), but I particularly like her simpler early stuff—see also Sadie, Peach, Plum, Pear, Bridges & Balloons. There are great songs on her later albums too, though; e.g., Sawdust & Diamonds, Does Not Suffice, Sapokanikan. I have seen her perform live three times, each one great and memorable: in 2005 on tour with Smog, in 2007 in The Famous Spiegeltent as part of the Sydney Festival, and in 2016 at the Sydney Opera House.
The Microphones - I Want Wind To Blow
The album The Glow Pt. 2, which this track opens, is best listened to in its entirety (and through headphones)—it feels especially wrong to separate it from the album-title-sharing next track. Other stand-out tracks are Headless Horseman, I Want To Be Cold, I Felt Your Shape. From their next album, Mount Eerie, I really like Solar System (careful of the loud static at the start!)—particularly this live sing-along version (
I know you’re out there).
- Clayton Purdom (Ed.) - cokemachineglow: Writing Around Music 2005–2015
- Cormac McCarthy - The Passenger
- Andrew Ramsay - The Basis of Everything: Rutherford, Oliphant and the Coming of the Atomic Bomb
- World Athletics Cross-Country Championships - Bathurst, February 17–19, 2023.
Multidimensional representations of data and
How great it is when software has excellent documentation—for example,
An Icelandic music theme, as this month will be 20 years since I left Reykjavík after spending a semester as an exchange student at the University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands).
Sigur Rós - Untitled 1 (Vaka)
This is a great live version of one of the best songs on their very consistent () album (which was released while I was in Iceland—a great winter album). I also really like their previous album Ágætis byrjun (e.g., Viðrar vel til loftárása), which was one of the main things that made me interested in studying in Iceland. A lot of their subsequent music is great too (e.g., Hoppípolla, Gobbledigook). I’ve also seen them live a few times, and they have always been excellent.
Björk - Army of Me
This is the opening track on the Post album, which is my favourite of hers (see also Hyperballad, Enjoy). The album actually reminds me a bit of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine from last month—this was released a few years earlier. The subsequent album, Homogenic, is also great—e.g., Bachelorette, Pluto. I also quite liked the next album Vespertine (e.g., Pagan Poetry), but haven’t been able to get into her more recent releases. I saw her in concert in the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House, which was amazing.
Múm - Green Grass Of Tunnel
This is from their great Finally We Are No One album (see also The Land Between Solar Systems for a great epic). It’s also worth listening to the version in Icelandic, Grasi Vaxin Göng. Their previous album Yesterday Was Dramatic - Today Is OK is also good (e.g., I’m 9 Today).
- Liu Cixin - The Three-Body Problem
- Shelby Van Pelt - Remarkably Bright Creatures
- Kazuo Ishiguro - Klara and the Sun
- I popped a tyre while driving over the holidays; I wish I either knew more about cars or did not need to drive them.
A review of an enjoyable year of running in 2022:
- Total distance: 1934km
- Run locations: Bathurst, NSW (215); Little Bay, NSW (16); Wangaratta, VIC (8); Jindabyne, NSW (3); Lithgow, NSW (3); Forster, NSW (2); Albury, NSW (1); Carcoar, NSW (1); Firefly, NSW (1); Orange, NSW (1); Valentine, NSW (1); Warners Bay, NSW (1).
Another mid-to-late 90’s theme—with a different vibe.
Massive Attack - Group Four
Although I liked their albums Blue Lines (particularly Unfinished Sympathy) and Protection (particularly the title track), I really loved (and still love) their album Mezzanine. This song is my favourite (also see this great live version), but the whole album is great. Other highlights include Angel (which I remember giving the bass boost functionality on my walkman a workout), Teardrop (which might be overplayed now but is still great), Inertia Creeps, and Dissolved Girl. But yeah, just listen to the whole album. I was fortunate to spend six weeks or so in their hometown of Bristol, England, a while back, and I thought about them a lot while I was there.
DJ Shadow - Midnight in a Perfect World
The Endtroducing..... album, on which this track appears, is great and worth listening to in its entirety (see Stem / Long Stem for another great track). It was my main introduction to sample-based music, and I had fun using software like Pro Tools and AudioMulch. The subsequent album, The Private Press, is a bit more uneven but still has some great songs—including what I think is my favourite song of his, You Can’t Go Home Again. The singles collection Preemptive Strike is also worth a listen—particularly the epic four-parter What Does Your Soul Look Like and the fun Organ Donor.
Air - La Femme D’Argent
Continuing the theme, the whole Moon Safari album is worth a listen. They have a different, spacey, oddly retro and futuristic vibe to them—and great bass. A couple of other highlights are All I Need and Talisman. I didn’t follow them too much after Moon Safari, but they have a few other great songs—such as Alone in Kyoto.
- Susanna Clarke - Piranesi
- Aubrey Clayton - Bernoulli’s Fallacy: Statistical Illogic and the Crisis of Modern Science
- Tom Lee - Coach Fitz
- Advent of Code
- Potential running events to enter in 2023.
- The World Cup.
A mid-to-late-90’s theme.
Tool - Reflection
A very important band for me at the time and one that I enjoy re-visiting. Their great musicianship, esoteric themes, and interesting video clips were right up my alley—the crudeness and edginess not so much, but that was easily ignored. Lateralus is my favourite album of theirs (e.g., the title track), and I also like Undertow (e.g., Flood) and Ænima (e.g., Pushit). I could never get into 10,000 Days, but there are some songs on their latest album (Fear Inoculum) that I quite like (e.g., Descending). A great live band, too, that I have seen a few times (four times, I think).
Faith No More - Caffeine
My second-ever concert, at the Hordern Pavillion in Sydney in 1997. Just a great band with a great and diverse sound, from early stuff like From Out Of Nowhere and The Real Thing to mid-career stuff like Digging the Grave and Just A Man. They were also an entry-point into the universe of Mike Patton—particularly Mr. Bungle, who I am also a fan of (e.g., The Air-Conditioned Nightmare). The cover art for the King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime album also introduced me to the artist Eric Drooker, whose graphic novel Flood! was a big influence on me (and who I remember emailing back in around 1997—and receiving a reply!).
Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight, Tonight
My first-ever concert! Again at the Hordern Pavillion in Sydney, this time in 1996. I was majorly into their Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Siamese Dream albums at the time—and still greatly enjoy them. The voice of Billy Corgan and the guitar tone are probably the most recognisable aspects to the sound, but I have come to realise that Jimmy Chamberlin’s drumming is critical—one of the best around. I’ve also grown to like the second disc on Mellon Collie (yes, I still think of it as two CDs) much more than I did back then (e.g., Bodies and Thru The Eyes Of Ruby). Perhaps oddly, I also really like the instrumental title track. Siamese Dream is great all the way through—e.g., Disarm, Mayonaise, and Geek U.S.A. (see what I mean about the drumming!).
- James R. Chiles - Inviting Disaster: Lessons From the Edge of Technology
- Cormac McCarthy - Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West
- Martha Wells - All Systems Red
An early-90’s theme.
Nirvana - Aneurysm
In the midst of the hype and legacy, it can be easy to forget that Nirvana is a great band. This song is from their essential Live at Reading performance (see Cokemachineglow for a wonderfully-written review that I keep coming back to). All their albums are great, including their MTV Unplugged session—particularly the covers, such as The Man Who Sold The World. Their posthumous You Know You’re Right is one of their best; a great surprise when it came out.
Alice in Chains - Them Bones
I love that this is the first song on their great Dirt album—just launching straight into it! I like their different approach on their Jar of Flies album just as much, if not more (see Don’t Follow and Rotten Apple, for example). Their MTV Unplugged session is also fantastic; see Nutshell, for example (it’s cool how they enter and start playing separately—and I think the bass sound here would be up there with the best I’ve ever heard).
Jane’s Addiction - Stop!
Their two albums from this period, Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual (the latter in particular), are great all the way through. Their bass player, Eric Avery, is one of my favourites—I don’t have the music knowledge or vocabulary to explain why, but I love his playing in their epic Three Days (their best song) in particular (e.g., how his playing changes from fluid at about 5:30 to just the essentials at about 5:55 as it build up).
- Neal Stephenson - Anathem
- Don DeLillo - The Names
- Jon Gertner - The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
Grandaddy - He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot
Their sound and tech-relatedness resonate greatly with me; their Sumday album, in particular, is worth listening to in its entirety, but they are all excellent. In addition to being a great song, Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground) has a great video based around an old Apple computer. Also, their cover of the Beach Boy’s In My Room was a COVID-19 lockdown anthem of mine.
Built To Spill - Goin’ Against Your Mind
Lots of candidates for my favourite song of theirs, but I think this (just) comes out on top. Some other possibilities are Broken Chairs, All Our Songs, Untrustable / Part 2 (About Someone Else), and Tomorrow (yeah, I love their epics!).
Cat Power - Metal Heart
The entire Moon Pix album, on which this song appears, is great (and also features two of the Dirty Three); What Would The Community Think (e.g., In This Hole) and You Are Free (e.g., Good Woman—featuring the third member of the Dirty Three) are also excellent. I also really like the epic Willie Deadwilder. I’ve seen Cat Power in concert twice; once was very slick and professional but not all that great, and once was pretty ramshackle but excellent.
- Edward Snowden - Permanent Record
- Jeff Hawkins - A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence
- Don DeLillo - End Zone
- Signing up for another trail running race, after I enjoyed completing my first one recently (the Ridgy Didge 22km in Lithgow, NSW).
- Levels of measurement
- Getting into TypeScript.
A bit of a country-ish theme this month…
Songs: Ohia - Just Be Simple (
thanks for letting me win)Jason Molina created so much wonderful music. Here are just a few of my other favourites of his: The Black Crow (
it’s fading!), Being In Love, Didn’t It Rain, Hold On Magnolia (
I think it’s almost time), Whip-poor-will (demo version), Hammer Down (
I saw the light), I Can Not Have Seen The Light (
do I have to be alright all of the time), Long Desert Train (
never be … enough), O! Grace.
My Morning Jacket - Welcome Home
I had mostly liked their earlier albums At Dawn (e.g., the title track) and It Still Moves (e.g., Steam Engine), but this album that this song is from took me by surprise by how much I enjoyed it. It was released during COVID-19 lockdowns, and was a comfort.
Gillian Welch - Time (The Revelator)
A longtime favourite—her and David Rawlings at the Roxy Theatre in Parramatta in 2004 is one of the best concerts I have been to (and at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in 2010!). She has many great songs, but a selection of one from each of her albums is Orphan Girl, My Morphine, Wrecking Ball, and Hard Times.
- Akiko Busch - How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency
- Mark Z. Danielewski - House of Leaves
- James Gleick - Time Travel: A History
- Intelligent tutoring systems.
- The design and implementation of experiment control platforms.
- Light fields.
Low - Nothing But Heart
A great winter band, from Duluth, Minnesota. They have many great songs, but this might be my favourite. See also their Silver Rider (used in an episode of the great TV show Rectify) for a similar style.
No Age - Cruise Control
An underrated band, with many great songs and albums.
Nina Nastasia & Jim White - Late Night
I like a lot of Nina Nastasia’s music, but I think this album (You Follow Me)—a collaboration with the great Jim White of the Dirty Three—is her best. See also the great review on cokemachineglow (a sorely-missed music website with lots of excellent writing).
- Being a student again.
- Looking more into NixOS.
- Starting to use type checking in Python code.
Eleanor Friedberger - My Mistakes
I really like all of Eleanor Friedberger’s solo music, and this was the first single from her first solo album. It reminds me of Minneapolis / St. Paul, where I was living at the time it came out.
The Flaming Lips - The Gash
The Flaming Lips played the last concert that I went to before the COVID-19 restrictions began. It was a great concert, at the Sydney Opera House—one of the best sounding gigs that I’ve been to. This song is off the great The Soft Bulletin album.
Tori Amos - Putting the Damage On
This song has only recently made it into my ranking of top-tier Tori Amos songs. Maybe it is the odd intro, but it hadn’t stood out to me until the past year (the same thing happened with “Hey Jupiter”—it wasn’t until I saw it played live that it became a favourite). There is also a great live version of this song.
- Mistakes in research programming and strategies for their avoidance and tolerance (see the resulting post).
- Where to start with gardening, now that I have a few areas of soil to tend to.
- Playing through Portal 2 again. I still think the first Portal is quite a bit better.
- Kim Stanley Robinson - Red Mars
- Kent Haruf - Plainsong
- A. Scott Berg - Max Perkins: Editor of Genius
- How to present all the details of a statistical model in a manuscript without distracting or alienating readers.
- The best strategy for staying warm through the upcoming Bathurst winter (my first serious winter since Minneapolis, USA, in 2012–2013).
- The writing, scenes, and characters in Don DeLillo’s “Underworld”.