Rocket Science: Brent Watson
Brent is a developer, author, speaker, cobbler, and organizer of the New York City Kotlin Meetup.
What game makes you the most competitive?
I’m not much of a video gamer, but I do like board gaming quite a bit. I enjoy the new-style board games like Puerto Rico and Carcassonne. Those are the two we’re playing the most right now, where I try my best to dominate.
They’re fun to play, and they’re really well-balanced, unlike the board games we grew up with like Monopoly or Risk. In those games you can easily get knocked out, then you’re sitting around watching people play for hours.
These new-style games are great because everybody plays until the end. Even if you’re in the lead, you usually have some type of disadvantage. Players can’t easily take over from the start of the game and dominate to the end.
What technology do you need to upgrade in your home?
I have a Google Home, I love it, and want more of them. They are so reasonably-priced now, but this is really just me being lazy because I’d like to put one upstairs and one in the kitchen so I can set alarms from the bedroom, look at recipe conversion metrics … stuff like that.
What’s your favorite scene from a Star Wars movie?
I am rapidly going through more and more in my head, and each is sort of one-upping the next. I feel like I can’t pick a single one.
The scene that stuck out for me as a kid is when Han Solo gets frozen in carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back. When you watch this the first time you’re not sure what will happen next. Is he alive, is he dead? And you don’t actually get to find out until The Return of the Jedi.
What’s one of your favorite outdoor spaces?
I really like Prospect Park. That’s probably my favorite outdoor space in New York. I like it because I feel it’s easier to get lost there.
In Central Park, for instance, you have the skyline buildings acting as markers of where you are. All the street lights in Central Park have numbers on them, and the numbers correspond to the street you’d be on if you hit the edge of the park. You always know how far north or south you are on the grid.
Prospect Park is not a rectangle, it’s in a weird shape, and has all these little winding paths. For the most part, there’s no skyline to look at, so if you’re inclined you can sort of forget about where you are.
What’s your go-to snack food?
Every day, I eat some dark chocolate. I definitely have a dark chocolate addiction. Mostly I’ll try and find some type of fair trade-sourced dark chocolate I’ve never had before. But if anything comes in the flavor of chocolate, I will always choose it. Gelato, ice cream, pudding … you name it.
Are you really a cobbler?
Yes I am. If you go my website you’ll see a project I did where I made my own wingtips. The project took me about eight or nine months to complete.
I started by buying a last, which is the wooden form you build the shoe on. I then read a lot of books and watched a lot of videos about the process. I sourced a bunch of leather materials and special tools. It’s a verylong, very detailed process.
Like a lot of things in my life, I get something in my head like writing a book, building an app, starting a meetup. I always try and forget about it … I try and tell myself I’m not going to do it. If it keeps coming back, then I know I have to do it. And if I start it, I’m definitely going to get it finished.
How would you characterize New York City’s development community?
The development community here is very strong, and that’s because of two things. First, we simply just have a lot of developers. Second, we have a lot of great companies here with big tech departments who hire senior talent from across the country.
So, there’s a large developer base to pull from. The interesting thing, though, is that if you’re in the tech community, it still feels small because probably less than 1% of people come out to tech events.
In the meetups there’s a lot of overlap in the attendees. The question we struggle with is how do you get somebody who has never been to a meetup to realize there is value in coming out for the night, instead of going home after the work day is finished.
What are you listening to right now?
I’m listening to some ’90s grunge, which is one of my go-to genres.
On Spotify, I’m listening to Radiohead’s In Rainbows album, which is actually probably my favorite album of theirs because it starts with 15 Step, which is just a fantastic song. And it ends with Videotape which is probably my favorite song. It’s a perfect album.
If you took over NASA tomorrow, what would be your first priority?
First priority in NASA … that’s difficult, because the more you look into NASA, the more you get surprised about the amount of stuff they do. It’s fantastic.
They have a very simple website that shows a new picture of Earth every day at really great resolution. You’ll just stumble across that, or discover an open source software they released a couple years ago.
They already surprise me regularly … I don’t think I would know how to do something better than what they’re already doing. That said, anything related to Mars right now I think is one, very exciting, and two, very important. So, I would make sure enough researching, funding, and time go towards Mars.