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.
There is also a YouTube playlist of all the songs referred to below.
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
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
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
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
No Age - Cruise Control
An underrated band, with many great songs and albums.
- Nina Nastasia & Jim White - Late Night
- 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”.