Andy Gainey


Welcome to my daunting lists of favorites. If you're looking to get an idea of who I am and what I'm into, the following will serve as one kind of lens into my personality. If you already find my tastes interesting and are hoping to find some new stuff that you could enjoy also, I hope the following serves you well.

I have discovered over the years that ordering and organizing one's favorites is very tricky and changes over time. Thus, instead of attempting to determine once and for all my first, second, third favorite items in any given category, I have found it easier to loosely place things within multiple tiers of favorites. The first tier is the cream of the crop, the things that I unquestionably love, deeply appreciate, or otherwise derive great value from. The second tier I still consider really good, but fails for whatever reason to hold a uniquely privileged place in my hierarchy of preferences. The third tier includes things that I believe deserve mention, as they still fill in some of the details of where my interests roam, and can also offer opportunities of great discoveries for people who have similar but not identical interests to my own; something I consider good could end up becoming one of your first tier favorites.

Here are the categories within which I have organized many of my favorite things (very much a work in progress):

Music (see all...)

I love music. I would love composing music, because I love the creation process so much for nearly any medium, but that is made substantially easier when one can perform music well, a skill I have not yet been motivated enough to develop to a sufficient level. But I can still participate deeply in the consumption of music.

Although I do have my favorite genres, in particular progressive metal, I prefer to maintain a wide diversity of musical interests. On the heavier side, I also enjoy power, symphonic, and industrial metal. Lots of electronica of various styles, heavy and light. World music, especially from musicians who experiment with fusions of music from different regions, and fusions of modern and traditional. Classical (broadly speaking), with an emphasis on the piano and the cello. A good amount of indie and alternative rock is included, as well as some jazz and blues, especially in the form of an influence on some of the above genres. And finally, there are a number of excellent movie soundtracks that gain added value from the movies and scenes for which they were made.

Somewhere along my journey to rank my favorite music, I developed the following filter: If I had to be stuck with music from just a limited number of musicians/​bands/​composers, which would I pick? If I could only pick two, it would be the following two. I do not think I could comfortably narrow it to one, and if I had a third option, I'm not currently sure what I'd pick from those listed further down. Maybe Chopin, for variety if nothing else, but I'm not ready to commit to putting him in my top tier over all the other second tier entries.

Dream Theater

I first got into Dream Theater through the album Systematic Chaos (bookended by the two-part song In the Presence of Enemies). That expanded to the album Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory, including the song Home, which I discovered I was already familiar thanks to a friend during college. (If only I had further explored the band at that earlier time!) From there, I've eagerly sought out and consumed all their other studio albums (aside from their first album When Dream and Day Unite and fourth album Falling into Infinity, reportedly produced with significant pressure to make something more radio-friendly; I've listened to them a few times and just can't get into it).

I love elaborate and intricate music, and Dream Theater is definitely that. I also throughly appreciate the frequent mix of heavy and light that they utilize. Their lyrics often either explore subjects relevant to the human experience that don't get much attention within the wider musical arena, or tell stories, frequently of an epic nature.

They Might Be Giants

My discovery of They Might Be Giants began with their classic albums Flood and Apollo 18, including songs such as Istanbul, Particle Man, Mammal, and the eclectic mix of shorts collectively known as Fingertips.

TMBG is a prolific pair of musicians. So much music. Ironically, their third song on their first studio album claims "There's only two songs in me, and I just wrote the third." And seriously, check the list of songs categorized on This Might Be a Wiki. So many songs.

Their style is fun, diverse, and often goofy. Their lyrics are every manner of clever conceivable, and very frequently reveal deep insights in the process. (Peruse the many themes explored, such as Oxymorons, Paradoxes, and Contradictory Statements, Funny but Sad, or Science.) I have also observed a substantial amount of overlap between their lyrics and my neurodivergent life experiences which makes their music all the more deeply relatable for me.


Movies and Shows (see all...)

If it weren't for my friends, I'd probably watch far fewer movies and television shows, or at least would watch them long after they were first released. Nonetheless, I have been substantially influenced, enriched, and entertained by numerous films and shows over the years, and thus I have lots to choose from when selecting my favorites in this category.

Of course, there are so many movies and shows already in existence, and more being created all the time. There's no way an ordinary person could get anywhere close to watching most of them in a single lifetime, so I expect there will be huge gaps in my favorites. Further, it usually takes me at least two viewings, sometimes more, before I have a clear sense of my appreciation of a particular movie or show, so there are plenty more than are on this list that I have seen, might really like, but I simply haven't made up my mind on yet. As a result, these lists represent only things that I like, and the absence of some item here does not necessarily imply that I appreciate it less than the items listed.

Due to personal sense of purpose in life, I limit my top tier in this category to works that have had a substantial influence on my perspectives and attitudes, that have contributed in notable ways to my personality and beliefs. As a result, entertainment has proven to be an insufficient attribute for inclusion in this top tier, no matter how thoroughly entertaining I find something to be.

American Beauty
Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight
Donnie Darko
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Fight Club
The Fountain
Little Miss Sunshine
Lost in Translation
Punch Drunk Love
The Truman Show
Up in the Air

Digital Games (see all...)

Alpha Centauri
Civilization II, IV
Europa Univeralis III, IV
Fantasy General
Jagged Alliance, Jagged Alliance 2
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Shogun, Medieval: Total War
SimCity (SNES), SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4
Warlords 2

Non-Digital Games (see all...)

Cards Against Humanity
Magic: The Gathering

Literature, Fiction (see all...)

Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson
The Culture series, by Iain M. Banks
Earthsea series, by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams

Literature, Non-Fiction (see all...)

The Art of Game Design, by Jesse Schell
Consciousness Explained, by Daniel C. Dennett
Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, by Richard Rorty
Darwin's Dangerous Idea, by Daniel C. Dennett
Finite and Infinite Games, by James P. Carse
I Am a Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter
A New Kind of Science, by Stephen Wolfram
Peace Is Every Step, by Thích Nhất Hạnh
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, by Richard Rorty
Self-Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins

Philosophy (see all...)

Richard Rorty
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Dewey
Marcus Aurelius

Software Engineering Tools (see all...)

Lua and LuaJIT

Foods and Beverages (see all...)

Earl Grey Tea (with cream and sugar!)
Hot Apple Juice with Mulling Spices

Everything Else (see all...)

Rain and Thunder