Chanda Prescod-Weinstein discussing ‘The Disordered Cosmos’ on NPR’s Short Wave

Buy the book!

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a theoretical physicist at the University of New Hampshire, specializing in questions about the earliest parts of the universe. As a physicist, it’s her job to ask deep questions about how we — and the rest of the universe — got to this moment.

Her new book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred does exactly that. It’s an examination of the science that underpins our universe and how the researchers seeking to understand the universe shaping us, in turn shape the science.

(via NPR)

Blacker Than Black Times Infinity

Is your podcast subscription list exceptionally monochromatic? Are you suffering from the ill effects of society forcing you to view geek culture through a white lens? We have a cure for that! One weekly dose of Blacker Than Black Times Infinity, will cure both of these maladies!

Hosted by Cthulhu’s Prodigy, Kr0nus, Stitch, Blue and Old Ninja, Blacker Than Black Times Infinity, is a wickedly funny and uncompromisingly black weekly slice of audio goodness. Entertaining and insightful in equal measure; the hosts regularly dissect various facets of geek culture, such as: anime, video games and comic books; with biting humour and at times, negligible amounts of chill.

Blacker Than Black Times Infinity is available in both audio and video form across Youtube, Soundcloud and iTunes.

Interview: Jer’Maine Jones, Jr.

To mark DatCode’s first birthday, we caught up with the founder: Jer’Maine Jones, Jr. and discussed his origins as a coder, his thoughts on diversity in Silicon Valley and what gave him the impetus to start a community for black coders.

Logicface: Tell us how your coding journey began.

Jer’Maine Jones, Jr.: It actually began in college, to be honest with you. I don’t have a super awe-inspiring story about why I started to code; I actually thought I was gonna be an illustrator or concept artist on video games. But, and I’m sure others can relate, when people who love you tell you “hey, maybe you should do this because it pays,” for whatever reason (which typically boils down to money) you tend to take that advice. And it’s not always a bad thing ‘cause I did end up liking being an engineer, and my first programming class while in college solidified that for me. I get to use just as much creative energy as I would with the arts.

LF: What do you use as your primary computer? What is your operating system of choice?

JJ: Lately, doing web development, I’ve been working more on macOS since the tooling you would need is much more robust than on, say, Windows, which usually catered to their web technologies more. I don’t really have a preference: I look at them as tools and picking the best one for the job, and I’m savvy enough so I can figure out what to do when shit goes left. So, no biggie.

LF: Every developer has their preferred tools of the trade. Do you have a favourite IDE and/or text editor?

JJ: When I’m doing web design I swear by Adobe’s Brackets text editor. They have a Live View feature built in that basically creates a web server on your box, and will live update your webpage as you work on it.

Another one I’m fond of (and lots of other people are) is GitHub’s Atom. It’s built on their Electron platform which means it’s a desktop app that’s built using HTML/CSS and JavaScript, making it really hackable and customizable. Very robust community with tons of extensions and add-ons for your personal dev environment.

LF: Are you familiar with Linux? If so, what distributions have you used?

JJ: RedHat is what we used in college. I’m most familiar with using CLI (command line interface) but haven’t really been interested to look at the different flavors outside of that and Ubuntu. CLI is all I ever need and not looking for a fully functional OS with a GUI (graphical user interface), or any other idiosyncrasies between.

LF: Imagine that you are given the power to instantly learn and permanently retain the knowledge of one programming/scripting language. Which language do you choose? Why have you chosen this language?

JJ: Python. Obviously.

Python’s very versatile and has great tooling and developer community. But really I just wanna be a hacker like my boy Elliot Alderson.

LF: “Diversity” seems to have become a hollow buzzword amongst a still largely monochromatic Silicon Valley. What does the term mean to you? Do you think that the Valley will ever truly sort out its diversity problem?

JJ: It’s probably gonna stay hollow because they don’t actually care; they just put on so that their brand that they’ve worked so so hard to build will look better.

More importantly, it’d be nice if we (read: marginalized people) could move away from why it’s not diverse already and what they can do to fix it, and really just focus on what is we’re trying to build. We’ve given them numerous talk time and screen time telling them what needs to be done, and they still don’t do it. So that’s why with DatCode, we’re going to make sure we lift up those who have been out here building and being tech laureates outside of the view of Silicon Valley, on top of making sure those who want to join in on it have the appropriate resources and pipelines available so they can get paid.

LF: For some reason that defies all logic, Ajit Pai seems hell bent on repealing Title II, thus ensuring there will be virtually no legal enforcement of Net Neutrality. On what side do you fall in the Net Neutrality debate? What are your thoughts on the way in which the current leadership of the FCC is handling the issue of Net Neutrality?

JJ: Internet should be a utility. Full stop. As much as we rely on internet-connected tech in our day-to-day, it’s surprising that it hasn’t been done already.

Actually, it’s not that surprising: it’s capitalism. The internet service providers want to maximize profit while avoiding making the necessary infrastructure upgrades to handle our ever-increasing internet usage. That’s sounds pretty bonkers, that what was essentially the beginning of the new industrial age has just completely stopped innovating because of capitalism, when they tell you it’s supposed to be the opposite effect.

LF: What motivated you to start DatCode? Why did you choose Slack as the platform to host the community?

JJ: There was a moment back in June last year where I really thought about what I could do, at that point in my life, to give back. I didn’t know exactly what it would be, but it stuck in my mind for a bit after that.

How it actually came together was really just happenstance: I just made up a hashtag. I wanted to engage with more people on twitter about coding so I started using #DatCode (the “Dat” stuff was popular around that time, forgive me), and Ann Daramola suggested “hey, let’s make a Slack group,” which I thought was a wonderful idea. And being so determined to Do The Most, I said “alright, let’s go all-in”: I got to working on some branding, a quick one-page website so people could join the Slack group, and it just took off from there. My mind went a mile a minute about what I thought we could do with it, and it boiled down to sharing knowledge, conversing with other Black and Brown developers, and at any given point we could link up and collaborate on a project.

As far as the choice of Slack, I think it’s ‘cause we’d already been a part of other communities that have used Slack in the same way. Its feature set is really cool and works just as well for general community usage as it does for work environments. What I think has been something exciting that we’ve recently come around to is the ability to create your own apps, for your Slack group or for Slack-at-large through their apps marketplace. There were a lot of apps we had installed like Dropbox and Trello, and since we’re on the free tier there’s a limited amount of things we can add. At one point I wrote a slash command to post resources we share to our Buffer account, which then posts to our social media. When we had to remove it ‘cause we needed something else I thought, “why don’t we just make our own app and add as many services as we want?” And that’s how we came to think of Slack as not just a host, but the hub of DatCode. Everything we do is funnelled through Slack already, so adding little services to our app allows us to more effectively use all of that information passing through it as much as we can. For instance, since we’re on a free tier with no access to the archive, Mark Henderson came up with an idea to save those resource links we share to a database that we maintain. That opens us up to reuse those resources, which will pretty much continuously update, and say, give it a spot on our website to point to and say “here’s the knowledge coming through this Slack. Use what you need.” So it’s things like that, that have made Slack really the perfect platform for a community mostly built on our exchange of knowledge and learning resources to people who need it.

LF: DatCode has recently branched out, into the excellent talkdatcode podcast. How did the idea to start a podcast come about? When can we expect more episodes? 

JJ: Let me first say on behalf of the podcast regulars, we are so so glad you enjoy it because we absolutely love talking. Our episodes have run anywhere from an hour to a little over two hours, so that you stuck it out and listened is a joy to hear.

I’d always wanted to do a podcast, as did others in the Slack. Early on we would do weekly stand-up meetings via Hangouts, and open it up for people to join in and hear about what we were working on. When that didn’t seem like the way to go, we went back to the drawing board and thought maybe something a bit more casual and relaxed, while still talking about the tech topics that were important to us, would work. And it did! We’d have a list of topics but we could talk on and on about ‘em which meant, as mentioned, it ran a little long. So now we’ve taken another approach with it and are starting to record what we call “Bytes.” We like that our Slack group covers a range of topics from design to politics to music, and not just code. Bringing that out of Slack into our podcast we think is a great idea, and slicing our chats up into Bytes covering each topic for about thirty minutes at the most makes it more digestible for everyone; and you can pick and choose what you wanna hear us blabber on about.

New episodes are gonna come when I get my personal life together. Sorry y’all have been waiting! 🙂

LF: For those who may be interested in joining DatCode or listening to the talkdatcode podcast, where can they be found? Do you have any social media pages?

JJ: The podcast is on iTunes and Google Play, and they’re hosted on SoundCloud so you can find them there, too.

You can find DatCode at: http://www.datcode.io, which is also where you can sign up for the Slack group. If you’re on Twitter, you can give us a follow: @talkdatcode (and use the hashtag #DatCode to share what you know!)

LF: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview!

JJ: Thank you for interviewing me! I’m extremely humbled, and I hope DatCode has been a great resource for you and others.

The DatCode Podcast

DatCode is a community of Black coders serving as a place to share knowledge, collaborate, and meet new people.

Both myself and Ashton are part of it and it’s an amazing hub of education and fun. They also do a podcast on everything from movies to music, culture, and, of course, technology.

DATCODE is a vibrant, inclusive community of Black technologists* sharing knowledge, meeting new people, and doing the most. Spread out all around the world, we come together with our whole selves and geek out.

*Everyone is welcome. The main requirement is loving Blackness.

EP 007 is the most recent episode online but all 7 are hilarious and insightful.

Stream them all below and check out the main site at datcode.io.

Interview: David Majors

David Majors is the producer/host of Anime Podcast of Some Sort, It’s In Season and Two Nerdy Black Guys; three delectably nerdy podcasts that are essential listening for any self-professed blerd or otaku. Topics of conversation included: Diversity in Comic Books, the anime that he’d watch on a voyage through the cosmos and the technology that he uses to record and mix his podcasts.

*****

Logicface: For those who may not be familiar with you, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

David Majors: I’m David Majors. First and foremost, I could best be described as the head honcho of Delta Juliet Mike Media, which is home to a number of podcasts I host and produce. Podcaster, producer, progressive rock aficionado, Detroiter, upstanding gent.

LF: What does the term “blerd” mean to you? Do you self identify as a blerd?

DM: It’s a term I don’t run away from. One of my podcasts is called “Two Nerdy Black Guys”. The name was NOT my idea. The term ‘blerd’ didn’t exist when I was growing up, but I’m glad it does now, because so many of us struggled for so long with our own identity. We are a oft-ignored segment within a minority. A sub-genre of a greater genre that is too often passed by.  You can call me a blerd.

LF: What are your thoughts on the current state of diversity within comic books? Do you think that Marvel’s recent efforts to diversify their their portfolio has contributed to the tangible dropoff in sales of their titles?

DM: Here’s an ugly truth, we are seeing that there is a lot of antipathy towards diversity in nerd culture. The stereotypical comic book guy who has felt himself ostracised for so long now sees his safe space being invaded by others. Women, racial and ethnic minorities, people outside of the gender spectrum, etc. They also want to ensure that their voices are heard. Now, not to get into the socio-economics of it all, yes I think that drop off in sales is due to what CNN’s Van Jones called a “whitelash”. I also think that comic books are generally incomprehensible and  usually not worth investing in long-term. So much fractured storytelling is also a factor.

LF: You are put in charge of anime studio and tasked with creating a faithful adaptation of a media property (manga, videogame or light novel) that will air in the next season. What do you adapt and how would you go about adapting it?

DM: I would say that I wouldn’t do it, unless it’s a TV show or a TV mini-series. Film adaptations of anime, especially anime series, are enormously difficult. When you have an anime property that has two decades of source material and fan expectations, fitting all of those into a 2-hour film is a fool’s errand. Point blank, no.  I would call Christopher Nolan to help me get my own screenplay into theatres before attempting to adapt an anime.  I’ve never written a screenplay.

You let me do a TV mini-series to adapt Kino’s Journey, and we’re having a conversation. 10 episodes, the SyFy channel.  It’s an atmospheric show that is episodic for some and tells a narrative later. It has action, a little light-heartedness, and the kind of protagonist that people would appreciate over time in Kino.

LF: Imagine that you are asked to join the crew of the Outlaw Star for a voyage to a newly discovered star system. You can take up to 5 anime Blu-Ray boxsets with you. What do you take and why?

DM: GiTS: Stand Alone Complex, because I believe it is the hallmark gateway “I don’t like anime” anime for everyone. Ergo Proxy, because this question bears a striking resemblance to the story of how Earth ended up the way that it did. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, because it is a healthy mix of war, emotion, cool robots. Show the aliens, see what they can do to give me a mech. Bobobo Bo-Bobobo. It’s funny. That’s it. The entire Dragon Ball Saga, because somewhere out there in the universe, the aliens will need to see that my taste in anime isn’t the norm.

LF: Are you a podcast junkie? If so, what podcasts can you be found listening to?

DM: I recently started the Bernie Sanders Show. In my normal rotation is We Have Concerns, the Daily Tech News Show, NPR’s How to do Everything, and Current Geek. I also keep tabs on the other anime podcasts out there.

LF: What gave you the impetus to start producing your own podcasts?

DM: I’ve always been a not-so-low-key radio/broadcast/TV nerd. Growing up, my dream was to be on TechTV. When that folded and I discovered how many former TechTV people were doing podcasts, I figured I’d give it a shot. My first podcast was called “Super No Vacancy”, about covering the weeklies in the world of pro wrestling. My podcasts are based on my interests, and because my 2NBG co-host Brandon Cooper was coaxed into asking me to do a podcast with him.

LF: How do you go about mixing your podcasts? What software do you use? Are there any specific plugins that you utilise to help shape the final mixes?

DM: With full disclaimer, this is my method and my method only. I do not proclaim to be an “expert”.  For Skype recordings, I use Audacity and Virtual Audio Cable. It allows me to record everything live with multiple tracks, with tons of room in the mix for editing. Virtual Audio Cable sets up…virtual cables, so the Delta Juliet Mike Mothership (My desktop PC) sees a mixing board with multiple inputs, when it’s really all internal.  I have an Audio Technica AT2020 USB microphone, and most of my other cohosts have something similar. After the recording, I take the raw audio and put it into CN Levelator, to ensure everyone is on an even playing field for ears. That audio goes back into Audacity for the final cleaning (noise removal, pops, clicks, etc) and i export the mp3 at 96kbps.  Again, this is only me and me alone.

LF: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview!

DM: Thank you for taking the time to reach out! It’s a pleasure and a privilege. Two Nerdy Black GuysAnime Podcast of Some Sort and It’s In Season can be found on iTunes, Stitcher and all the other podcatchers out there. You can also listen on the web and the super-well-designed deltajulietmike.com!