Online bit camps – look into Fullstack’s “Grace Hopper” program

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BBC News: ‘I transitioned and lost my male privilege’

Is amazing that suddenly people think I don’t know the math or the science behind this. I never experienced that as a male, neither have my male peers.

But now as a female, suddenly they make that presumption. Amazing how hard I have to fight for what was just a given before.

I estimate there is a $250,000 tax women have to pay in more prestigious tuition, and additional degrees women must pay, in time and money, just to be *considered* in a level playing field of the average man in tech.

100 Women: ‘I transitioned and lost my male privilege’ – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-41502661

Finding Free Food with Python

https://jamesbvaughan.com/python-twilio-scraping/

— excerpt below —
things james does

Finding Free Food with Python
Mar 6, 2017
If you live in a major city, there’s a good chance you’ve used (or at least heard of) food delivery services like Postmates, GrubHub, or DoorDash. These services are great for times when I’m behind on groceries or when I’m getting some late night studying in before a big midterm or final. The only problem with these is that they’re not cheap. For a single order, the delivery fee and service fee can sometimes double the cost of the order.
Fortunately for me, Postmates regularly does promotions where they offer free food and waive the delivery fee for certain restaurants. The only problem with these promotions is that they’re easy to miss. I generally rely on waiting for a friend to catch one of these promotions by chance and text me about it. I actually have a group message with some friends titled “Free Postmates” that we exclusively use for keeping track of Postmates promotions.
I recently realized that I could make this process much simpler by creating something that would track the Postmates website and notify me of deals. In this post, I’ll describe how I built a tool to do this. It turned out to be a lot simpler than I had expected and has made me a lot more confident to create things like this in the future. If you’re new to the tools I use in this post, I hope that reading it helps you feel comfortable getting started with them!

Choosing a Language
For something like this, the language choice isn’t super critical. My only requirements were that it be a language that is simple for me to use, and has nice libraries for doing the things I need to do (web scraping and notifying my phone). This helped me narrow it down to Javascript and Python. There are plenty of other great choices for something like this, but those are the two that I knew I could work efficiently in, based on my past experience. I ended up choosing Python, mostly because I had slightly less experience with it and wanted to learn more.

Choosing a Web Scraper
This was a fairly easy decision as I had used Beautiful Soup for web scraping in Python before and had a good experience with it. Beautiful Soup isn’t the only option here, (another good one is Scrapy), but it’s the one I knew how to use and I knew that it would make things simple so I went with it.

Choosing a Notifier
The final thing I needed to decide on for this project was some way to notify myself when a promotion was found. I had been wanting to use Twilio for something for a while, so I decided to go with that. In case you haven’t heard of Twilio, it’s a service that provides a way to integrate different kinds of messaging into your program. One of it’s most popular features allows you to send and receive SMS messages. This seemed like a nice method since it wouldn’t require anything special on my phone.

First Steps
When I’m working on something new like this, I like to start with the most basic steps and work my way up from there. For this project, that meant writing two separate super simple scripts: one that fetches the web page to scrape and just prints the whole thing, and one that sends a “Hello World” SMS to my phone.
After brushing up on the Beautiful Soup API, I came up with this:
from bs4 import BeautifulSoup

import requests
url = ‘https://postmates.com/los-angeles’

webpage = requests.get(url)

soup = BeautifulSoup(webpage.text, ‘html.parser’)

print(soup)
Not too impressive yet, but it’s always good to see something working before things get too complicated.
Now that I had the webpage, I wanted to get up and running with a basic “Hello World” through Twilio. They have a great Getting Started guide in their docs and it didn’t take long before I had received my first text from my free Twilio phone number.
from twilio.rest import TwilioRestClient
account_sid = ‘XXX’

auth_token = ‘XXX’

twilio_phone_number = ‘+15558675309’

my_phone_number = ‘+15551234567’
client = TwilioRestClient(account_sid, auth_token)
client.messages.create(

    body=”Hello World!”,

    to=my_phone_number,

    from_=twilio_phone_number

)
After signing up for a free Twilio account and finding my account token, auth token, and registering a Twilio phone number, this worked like a charm!

Putting it all Together
Now that I had the basic pieces working, I just had to find a way to extract the promotions from the web page and connect it all up!
Fortunately for me, this turned out to be fairly simple as well. After browsing the source for the front page of Postmates in my developer console, I found out that whenever there is a free promotion, the <div> containing the restaurant’s title also contained the word “Free”.1 This meant that all I needed to do was find the elements containing the string “Free” and send their inner text to my phone! This is what I ended up with:
from bs4 import BeautifulSoup

import requests

from twilio.rest import TwilioRestClient
url = ‘https://postmates.com/los-angeles&#8217;

account_sid = ‘XXX’

auth_token = ‘XXX’

twilio_phone_number = ‘+15558675309’

my_phone_number = ‘+15551234567’
webpage = requests.get(url)

soup = BeautifulSoup(webpage.text, ‘html.parser’)
free_food = [s for s in soup.body.stripped_strings if ‘free’ in s.lower()]
if free_food:

    body = ‘Free Postmates!\n\n’ + ‘\n’.join(free_food)

    client = TwilioRestClient(account_sid, auth_token)

    client.messages.create(

        body=body,

        to=my_phone_number,

        from_=twilio_phone_number

    )
And that’s it! The only thing left to do was to make this script run regularly enough to catch all the deals. This is the kind of thing that Cron is perfect for, but I had been reading a bit about Systemd Timers and how they can be used as an alternative to Cron jobs, so I chose to go with those. I won’t go into the details of setting up a Systemd Timer in this post, but I have some slides on it that provide a quick introduction in this post.
Thanks for reading this! I hope it helped provide insight into the way I approach creating something like this, and maybe even inspired you to make something similar. Feel free to comment if you have any questions about it, or if you notice anything that I could have done better.
edit: Since a few people have asked about this, I should point out that this script does end up sending the same text a lot if you have it running frequently. This was pretty annoying at first, so I ended up adding a way for it to log the current deals. I omitted it from this post for the sake of simplicity, but you can see the actual script that I am using here.
    This has been the case with every free promotion I’ve seen so far, but it’s very possible that I’ve missed some if they follow a different format. ↩
Discuss this post here on Hacker News or here on Reddit

things james does
    James Vaughan

    james@jamesbvaughan.com
    jamesbvaughan

    jamesontheline
a blog about computers and some of the things I do with them

A Beautiful Mind | The Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/19/a-beautiful-mind_n_1773468.html

 

TECH 08/13/2012 02:42 pm ET | Updated Oct 19, 2012A Beautiful MindBy Bianca Bosker160“Let’s see if I can get us killed,” Sebastian Thrun advises me in a Germanic baritone as we shoot south onto the 101 in his silver Nissan Leaf. Thrun, who pioneered the self-driving car, cuts across two lanes of traffic, then jerks into a third, threading the car into a sliver of space between an eighteen-wheeler and a sedan. Thrun seems determined to halve the normally eleven minute commute from the Palo Alto headquarters of Udacity, the online university he oversees, to Google X, the secretive Google research lab he co-founded and leads.He’s also keen to demonstrate the urgency of replacing human drivers with the autonomous automobiles he’s engineered.“Would a self-driving car let us do this?” I ask, as mounting G-forces press me back into my seat.“No,” Thrun answers. “A self-driving car would be much more careful.”Thrun, 45, is tall, tanned and toned from weekends biking and skiing at his Lake Tahoe home. More surfer than scientist, he smiles frequently and radiates serenity—until he slams on his brakes at the sight of a cop idling in a speed trap at the side of the highway. Something heavy thumps against the seat behind us and when Thrun opens the trunk moments later, he discovers that three sheets of glass he’s been shuttling around have shattered.Once we reach Google X, he regains his stride, leaving me trotting by his side as he racewalks to his office. Motion is a constant in his life. A pair of black roller skates sit by his desk. Twelve years ago, he borrowed his wife’s sneakers to run the Pittsburg marathon, without bothering to train for the race. He got his son on skis before most other kids his age got out of diapers.When Thrun finds something he wants to do or, better yet, something that is “broken,” it drives him “nuts” and, he says, he becomes “obsessed” with fixing it.Over the last 17 years, Thrun has been the author of, or a pivotal force behind, a list of solutions to a entire roster of “broken” things, making him a folk hero of sorts among Silicon Valley innovators, though hardly a household name elsewhere. While he’s in a hurry in almost every other aspect of his life, he embraces a slow-cooking approach to invention and product-building that sets him apart from many of the create-it-fund-it-and-flip-it whiz kids and veterans who populate the Valley.Thrun’s resume is populated with seismic efforts, either those already set in motion or others just around the corner. There are various robotic self-navigating vehicles that guide tourists through museums, explore abandoned mines, and assist the elderly. There is the utopian self-driving car that promises to relieve humanity from the tedium of commuting while helping reduce emissions, gridlock, and deaths caused by driver error. There are the “magic” Google Glasses that allow wearers to instantly share what they see, as they are seeing it, with anyone anywhere in the world—with the blink of an eye. And there is the free online university Udacity, a potentially game-changing educational effort that, if Thrun has his way, will level the playing field for learners of all stripes.“While everyone is running around saying ‘I’m going to do a better mobile photo thing so I can defeat Facebook and suck out more of their market cap to me,’ Sebastian is going around saying, ‘I think driving is totally screwed up and there should be autonomous cars,’” says venture capitalist George Zachary, an investor in Udacity. “He thinks much more boldly about the problems.”Other observers say all of this is firmly in the tradition of the best sort of innovators.“What’s unique about Sebastian, and all innovators, perhaps, is that they don’t start with the current situation and try to make incrementally better based on what’s been done in the past. They look out and say, ‘Given the current state of technology, what can I do radically differently to make a discontinuity—not an incremental change, but put us in a different place?’” says Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. “He is a true innovator…And he has a fantastic vision.”Many Silicon Valley standouts have succeeded by making radical improvements to products that already exist. Facebook, for example, did social networking better than any of its predecessors. Smartphones were around well before the iPhone, but Apple came up with a gadget far slicker than the competition.Thrun likes creating new things from scratch and invents for a world that should be, for an audience that may not yet be out there, for conditions that may never be met. “I have a strong disrespect for authority and for rules,” he says. “Including gravity. Gravity sucks.”To that end, and for all of his bravado, Thrun also says that he distrusts even his own beliefs and theories, calling them “traps” that might ensnare him in a solution based more on his own ego than logic.“Every time I act on a fear, I feel disappointed in myself.  I have a lot of fear.  If I c

Source: A Beautiful Mind | The Huffington Post

 

— excerpt  —

TECH

08/13/2012 02:42 pm ET | Updated Oct 19, 2012

A Beautiful Mind

2012-08-17-photo11.PNG

“Let’s see if I can get us killed,” Sebastian Thrun advises me in a Germanic baritone as we shoot south onto the 101 in his silver Nissan Leaf.

Thrun, who pioneered the self-driving car, cuts across two lanes of traffic, then jerks into a third, threading the car into a sliver of space between an eighteen-wheeler and a sedan. Thrun seems determined to halve the normally eleven minute commute from the Palo Alto headquarters of Udacity, the online university he oversees, to Google X, the secretive Google research lab he co-founded and leads.

He’s also keen to demonstrate the urgency of replacing human drivers with the autonomous automobiles he’s engineered.

“Would a self-driving car let us do this?” I ask, as mounting G-forces press me back into my seat.

“No,” Thrun answers. “A self-driving car would be much more careful.”

Thrun, 45, is tall, tanned and toned from weekends biking and skiing at his Lake Tahoe home. More surfer than scientist, he smiles frequently and radiates serenity—until he slams on his brakes at the sight of a cop idling in a speed trap at the side of the highway. Something heavy thumps against the seat behind us and when Thrun opens the trunk moments later, he discovers that three sheets of glass he’s been shuttling around have shattered.

Once we reach Google X, he regains his stride, leaving me trotting by his side as he racewalks to his office. Motion is a constant in his life. A pair of black roller skates sit by his desk. Twelve years ago, he borrowed his wife’s sneakers to run the Pittsburg marathon, without bothering to train for the race. He got his son on skis before most other kids his age got out of diapers.

When Thrun finds something he wants to do or, better yet, something that is “broken,” it drives him “nuts” and, he says, he becomes “obsessed” with fixing it.

Over the last 17 years, Thrun has been the author of, or a pivotal force behind, a list of solutions to a entire roster of “broken” things, making him a folk hero of sorts among Silicon Valley innovators, though hardly a household name elsewhere. While he’s in a hurry in almost every other aspect of his life, he embraces a slow-cooking approach to invention and product-building that sets him apart from many of the create-it-fund-it-and-flip-it whiz kids and veterans who populate the Valley.

Thrun’s resume is populated with seismic efforts, either those already set in motion or others just around the corner. There are various robotic self-navigating vehicles that guide tourists through museums, explore abandoned mines, and assist the elderly. There is the utopian self-driving car that promises to relieve humanity from the tedium of commuting while helping reduce emissions, gridlock, and deaths caused by driver error. There are the “magic” Google Glasses that allow wearers to instantly share what they see, as they are seeing it, with anyone anywhere in the world—with the blink of an eye. And there is the free online university Udacity, a potentially game-changing educational effort that, if Thrun has his way, will level the playing field for learners of all stripes.

“While everyone is running around saying ‘I’m going to do a better mobile photo thing so I can defeat Facebook and suck out more of their market cap to me,’ Sebastian is going around saying, ‘I think driving is totally screwed up and there should be autonomous cars,’” says venture capitalist George Zachary, an investor in Udacity. “He thinks much more boldly about the problems.”

Other observers say all of this is firmly in the tradition of the best sort of innovators.

“What’s unique about Sebastian, and all innovators, perhaps, is that they don’t start with the current situation and try to make incrementally better based on what’s been done in the past. They look out and say, ‘Given the current state of technology, what can I do radically differently to make a discontinuity—not an incremental change, but put us in a different place?’” says Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. “He is a true innovator…And he has a fantastic vision.”

Many Silicon Valley standouts have succeeded by making radical improvements to products that already exist. Facebook, for example, did social networking better than any of its predecessors. Smartphones were around well before the iPhone, but Apple came up with a gadget far slicker than the competition.

Thrun likes creating new things from scratch and invents for a world that should be, for an audience that may not yet be out there, for conditions that may never be met. “I have a strong disrespect for authority and for rules,” he says. “Including gravity. Gravity sucks.”

To that end, and for all of his bravado, Thrun also says that he distrusts even his own beliefs and theories, calling them “traps” that might ensnare him in a solution based more on his own ego than logic.

“Every time I act on a fear, I feel disappointed in myself.  I have a lot of fear.  If I can quit all fear in my life and all guilt, then I tend to be much, much more living up to my standards,” Thrun says. “I’ve never seen a person fail if they didn’t fear failure.”

Thrun imagines a future where cars fly, news articles are tailored to the time you have to read them, and teachers are as famous and well-paid as Hollywood celebrities. He grouses that we don’t wear devices to monitor our health twenty-four-seven instead of relying on symptoms to diagnose what ails us. He can spot inefficiencies everywhere he turns, and in most cases, sees technology as the magic bullet.

When he talks about his mission to “look for areas that are just intolerably broken where even small amounts of technology can yield a fundamental sea change,” Thrun makes it clear that his goal isn’t to make us high-tech, but to make us high-human.

“I have a really deep belief that we create technologies to empower ourselves. We’ve invented a lot of technology that just makes us all faster and better and I’m generally a big fan of this,” Thrun says. “I just want to make sure that this technology stays subservient to people. People are the number one entity there is on this planet.”

Simple and Streamlined

Though Thrun says his adult life revolves around trying to find ways that technology can help people, his childhood and adolescence were mainly about self-help.

The youngest of three children, Thrun was born in 1967 in Solingen, Germany. His parents, devout Catholics, told him he was an unplanned baby. Thrun recalls having little contact with his parents, and especially his father. His siblings “required a lot of attention and there was almost no attention left for me,” he says.

His father was a construction company executive and more often than not his first order of business was disciplining Sebastian or his one of siblings with a beating, at the request of his wife. Thrun says his stay-at-home mom was “heavy into punishing people and sins and all that stuff.”

Thrun responded by retreating into a solo world of calculators, computers and code.

“I reacted a lot by just insulating myself from this and so mentally, emotionally I wasn’t that connected,” he says. “I learned to basically pull my own weight, just do my own thing. I spent a lot of time alone and I loved it. It was actually really great because to the present day I love spending time alone. I go bicycling alone, go climbing alone and I just love being with myself and observing myself and learning something.”

Thrun befriended an inventor in his neighborhood who gave him spare parts and a soldering iron, then let him tinker. As an eight-year-old, he’d come home from school, shut himself up in his room, turn on Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Mozart, or Bach, and spend hours sitting on his bed programming his Texas Instruments TI-57 calculator to solve math problems and play games (These days you can find him blasting a mix of classical concertos and Rihanna).

The calculator had no memory, of course, so every time he switched it off, he lost all his code. Eventually, he graduated from his calculator to a display model computer at the local department store, but basically, he was still dealing with the same problem: after four or five hours building games on the store machine, he’d be kicked out and all his work vanished. He took this inconvenience as a challenge to perfect his code so that he could re-enter it in the fewest possible steps. This fastidious dedication to simple, streamlined programming stayed with him, and he would later require his students to write straightforward, elegant code.

When not sitting at a screen, Thrun sang in a five-person choir with Petra Dierkes, a girl two years his junior who would become his girlfriend when he was 18, and, eventually, his wife and colleague at Stanford University. He also played the piano, improvising his own songs as a way to study and express his emotions.

Thrun was a gifted student and terrible pupil with a self-imposed homework ban that lasted from seventh grade through high school graduation. In college, the unprecedented freedom to choose his own coursework sparked a newfound passion for his academic work. He combined a major in computer science with an unorthodox double minor in medicine and economics, a combination that would eventually help him design a “nursebot” to assist elderly patients. When he graduated from the University of Bonn with a Ph. D. in computer science and statistics in 1995, he leaped at the chance to join the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University—what then seemed like “paradise” to Thrun—and spent eight years there before moving to Stanford, where he was computer science guru.

Out in the Valley, Thrun struck up an acquaintanceship with Google co-founder Larry Page, who asked him to see a robot Page had built in his spare time. The two men met for dinner at a casual Japanese restaurant in Palo Alto and Thrun returned to Page’s house to see his creation. The robot’s hardware was in decent shape, but Page “got stuck on the software side of it,” according to Thrun’s diagnosis. He borrowed the robot, flew in a few friends, and returned Page’s bot within a day after giving it the ability to localize itself. After another two or three days of work, the robot could navigate. Thrun said Page was “blown away.”

In 2005, Thrun’s engineering team at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory built a driverless car, a blue Volkswagen Touareg SUV named Stanley, that managed to navigate 132 miles of desert terrain on its own, becoming the first self-driving car in history to win the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge — a race through the sands of Nevada organized by the United States Department of Defense. The previous year, not a single one of the 15 entries from some of the most powerful robotics engineers in the world had managed to complete more than eight miles of the course. Thrun won the first year he competed, just 15 months after deciding to enter the race.

Page, who professes self-driving cars have “been a passion of mine for years,” watched Stanley’s triumph in the Mojave desert. Soon after, Google hired Thrun to sire the sons of Stanley. In 2010, Thrun helped Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s other co-founder, launch Google X, a top-secret and closely-guarded lab that the search giant tasked with making the impossible possible. The following year, Thrun relinquished his tenure at Stanford.

Xtreme engineering

Google X’s engineers are housed in a low structure covered in squares of dark, mirrored glass that offer a mercury-tinted reflection of the parking lot, bikes and trees that surround it. There are jails less secure than this research lab. Employees need a key card to unlock the entrance, and then are admitted to a small waiting area furnished with two chairs and a foosball table. From there, employees must swipe their badges again to enter any of the labs within, each door plastered with signs warning Googlers to stay vigilant of “tailgaters.”

For a visitor, it’s like stepping into the labs of a mad, hipster scientist. Floors are made of concrete, wires hang from ceiling, tubing covered in foil gleams from the rafters and row after row of black metal desks fill the wide-open space. Thrun’s desk stands in the center of a vast space, at the end of a long row of identical workstations. His is tidy and spare, save for a nametag, an unopened cardboard box, a DVD about the DARPA Grand Challenge, a white Japanese humanoid robot and The Idea Factory, Jon Gertner’s history of Bell Labs—AT&T’s legendary innovations incubator that won seven Nobel prizes and helped usher in the information age.

Thrun says he rarely reads books (they’re “too long”), but Gertner’s tome is particularly fitting in a place that aspires to be the heir to the Bell Labs throne. Its mission, according to Thrun, is to work on areas of innovation that have “hard scientific challenges” and “can influence society in a massive way.” Thrun had considered working with the government to deploy self-driving technology to help soldiers in the field, but the military’s stipulation that he not publish his results killed the collaboration. He instead brought his autonomous vehicles to Google, where they provided the inspiration for Google X and, in Thrun’s view, would get the support they needed to “impact large, large numbers of people.”

Thrun crouches down to strap on his roller skates, but is distracted by a Google X-branded skateboard produced by a colleague. He grabs the board and starts wheeling around the room.

“Sergey fell on this? Awesome,” Thrun remarks with a smile on his second lap. The cavernous area, nearly empty at 9 a.m., echoes with his chirps — “Aah!” “Whee!”— as he loops the room, narrowly missing the edges of the desks, bookcases and fridges stocked with free food.

“Don’t fall, we need you,” a Googler shouts at Thrun.

A fascination with images as facilitator for human relationships infused Thrun’s work on Google Street View, which allows people to digitally meander the streets of Mumbai, trace a nature hike in Yosemite, or tour New York’s Times Square—all from the comfort of their homes. In 2007, Google acquired mapping technology which Thrun’s team at Stanford had developed to train Stanley—technology Thrun nearly used to start his own company, Vutool.

Page tasked Thrun with applying the software to scaling Google Street View as quickly as possible.
“I always felt that if countries knew each other better, there would be less war,” says Thrun. “Often conflict goes with demonizing other countries and cultures. I figured if we could bridge the gap between cultures with images, that would not be a bad thing to do.”

Two years ago, Thrun assembled a team of Google X engineers and tasked them with another assignment, one also rooted in the future: to reinvent the computer.

The result is Project Glass, a.k.a. Google Glasses, an endeavor Thrun makes a point of asking me to note is now being led by his colleague Babak Parviz. Thrun hands me a pair of the “glasses,” which will be available for $1500 to a limited group of tech industry insiders in early 2013. Worn like a pair of lens-less spectacles, the device suspends a glass cube around half an inch wide just far enough to the right of my retina that I can still make direct eye contact with Thrun, who all but hovers with excitement in the chair across from mine.

A video of fireworks begins to play on the cube and the screen glows purple, pink and blue, both from my vantage point and Thrun’s. A faint soundtrack of the explosions hums from a speaker just above my ear. The image on the glass shifts as I tilt my chin and move my gaze, and without realizing it, I snap a picture of Thrun. A small row of icons appears with the option to share it.

Google Glasses’ creators have taken pains to design a device that won’t isolate people from their surroundings. For example, the speaker sits above the wearer’s ear, not in it, and the cube rests above the eye, not in front of it. The suspended square of glass lights up from both sides, so a person speaking to someone wearing Google Glasses can tell if the wearer has the device switched on.

Thrun’s deep investment in the project seems to come from a personal aversion to the madly proliferating gadgets that stand between people and the world around them. The inspiration is to “get technology out of your way” so people “spend less time on technology and more time on the real world,” he says.

And for someone who hopes to see us endowed with an all-seeing electronic third eye, Thrun is remarkably hostile to his devices. Cellphones are a distraction that make us socially “cut off” from an environment, he gripes. He’ll finish a two-hour meal without once glancing at his phone. To him, phone calls are a “super negative” experience because they interrupt what he’s doing.

“I once saw a family of five children and two parents in a Lake Tahoe restaurant, where every single person was just looking at their phone while they were having dinner together. That made me so sad because they have this brief of moment of time with their family and they should just enjoy each other,” Thrun recalls. “I can’t tell if Google Glass has succeeded, but it’s a really big emotional thing for me: having the technology that we love and connections that bring us to other people. Technology is synonymous for connection with other people.”

Maybe.

A cellphone can slip into a pocket and be temporarily out of sight. Google Glasses are at eye level and constantly in your face, or on someone else’s face. Making it easier to snap and share photos all but guarantees we’ll take more of them and share more of them, thus connecting ourselves more directly to the people who aren’t present. Surveillance—and documentation—will become more pervasive as well in a world full of Google Glasses.

Does Thrun worry that omnipresent Google Glasses will make us more likely to disconnect from people around us?

“All the time,” he says, explaining that he and other Google X engineers have been wearing the device as much as possible to see what dinner table conversation is like once the novelty of the gadget has worn off. “Maybe the outcome will be socially not that acceptable, we don’t know.”

So far, he’s felt “amazingly empowered” by the ability to take pictures, share pictures, and bring people into what he’s doing at that very moment. To Thrun, Google Glasses’ primary appeal is as a camera. He predicts we’ll share ten times as many photos as we do now and that the images we share will be “uglier”— more personal, more authentic, and more of the moment. These intimate images of what we’re seeing right this instant — a baby’s face, the steak we’re about to bite into — will allow a kind of elementary teleportation that lets us each bring everyone along for the ride.

Your mind can be closer than ever to mine.

If Google Glasses embody Thrun’s vision for a device that brings people together, the house he’s building near Palo Alto is a wish for a home that does the same.

The frame of the house tops a gold, grassy hill on a $5.9 million, nine-acre plot of land in Los Altos Hills. Seen from afar, it might be mistaken for a red flying saucer that has descended on Silicon Valley. Designed by Eli Attia, former chief of design for Philip Johnson, the building is a squat, single-story cylinder with exterior walls made entirely of floor-to-ceiling glass. A glass cone protrudes from the roof at the center of the circle and directly below it, a spiral staircase leads to a garage. Thrun says with a touch of pride that at 5,000 square feet, the three-bedroom home is a fraction the size of its neighboring mansions. There are also no corridors or load-bearing walls in the floor plan, and much of the eco-friendly home is given over to common areas.

“It’s really compact,” Thrun says. “The idea to make as compact as possible so family stays as close together as possible.”

During the tour, a neighbor stops by to ask if Thrun will join him at this year’s Bohemian Club retreat. Like Thrun, he’s a member of this elite society where men—and only men—with big checkbooks and big roles to play in life get together to schmooze, booze, sing and pee in the woods, according to accounts. Thrun says it isn’t likely. Later, he tells me he wouldn’t want to go on vacation without his wife and son.

The Laws Of Motion

Even as Thrun seeks to get gadgets out of our way, his vision suggests an effort to make humans a bit more like computers: more rational and less inclined to give into foolish fears. Thrun sees a very real and important place for technology that advances clarity, eliminates obfuscation, and gives people all the help they need to solve problems on their own.

Thrun approaches problems armed with facts and cool hard logic, and seems troubled by people who do otherwise. He has an impressive number of statistics at his fingertips: the energy efficiency of planes versus trains, the fraction of materials shipped to a construction site that go to waste, the number of years required to fly to Mars and the percentage of Americans who don’t believe in evolution (a number irksomely large, in his view). He imagines a device more instantaneous, personalized and melded with our mind than a smartphone, one that would elevate conversations by allowing user to more easily research and surface facts during a discussion. No more messy speculation or faulty memories.

“We’ve stopped thinking. We’ve really stopped thinking,” he says. “We don’t look at problems logically, we look at them emotionally. We look at them through the guts. We look at them as if we’re doing a high school problem, like what is beautiful, what makes me recognized among my peers. We don’t go and think about things. We as a society don’t wish to engage in rational thought.”

Thrun blames the sorry state of our minds on an education system that raises students “like robots” and trains them to “follow rules.” Thrun’s pedagogy, at Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and now Udacity, leans heavily on learning by doing. He advises that I take up snowboarding so I can understand the laws of motion by living them rather than memorizing them in a classroom.
Thrun also believes that connectivity is fundamental to learning. It’s through interactions with as many good minds as possible that good ideas take hold.

Conversations with people like Dean Kamen, Elon Musk and Google’s co-founders are crucial to Thrun’s problem solving process. He listens, debates and tests ideas out on people to see how they react. Being around Page and Brin makes Thrun feel “stupid,” like “a schoolboy,” and he says he can’t get enough of it.

“For me these are the high points of my life: When I go in and somebody just shows me how dumb I am and how little I know. That’s what I live for. Just to learn something new,” he says.

On a recent afternoon, Thrun is at Udacity’s headquarters in Palo Alto, just blocks from Stanford’s campus, rallying the troops. He has called an all-hands meeting and the company’s 30-odd employees, mostly 20-somethings in jeans, are gathered in a semi circle around him leaning on desks, squished onto couches, or sitting cross-legged on the floor. His two co-founders, David Stavens and Mike Sokolsky, former members of Stanford’s self-driving car team, have also joined.

“The purpose of this week has been for me to think about where the focus is and I know all of you have been asking me for this and it’s obviously something I’ve been slacking to do and not doing really well, so score me on the performance review and make sure that you put a check mark on ‘Sebastian is not particularly fast,’” he tells his staff.

Since Udacity launched in 2011, first under the name Know Labs, over 730,000 students have enrolled in classes—including the 160,000 that registered for Thrun’s first online course, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence—and 150,000 of them are actively taking Udacity courses. Enrollment is down, Thrun acknowledges, though he doesn’t say by how much.

But Thrun is undaunted.

“If we do a really good job here, then we’re going to shape society, together with our partners and other entities in the space, to really, really redefine education,” he says. “That’s pretty cool for a mission. That’s much better than being Instagram.”

Thrun predicts education will radically transform in the next ten years. Like blockbuster films, blockbuster online classes will command huge audiences and cost millions of dollars to produce. Many alma maters will shutter their doors as low-cost, high-quality online courses put second-tier schools out of business. Learning won’t stop the moment careers begin, and instead co-exist with work throughout life. He hopes to see teens start working earlier. Books will play a reduced role in teaching and short-but-comprehensive, quiz-intensive lessons will replace them.

Udacity marks Thrun’s effort to make all of the above come true. He’s after an audience of people from 18 to 80 years old, from Sacremento to Shanghai, from novice to knowledgeable. Thrun calls Udacity the “Twitter of education,” in keeping with his vision that universities “will go from mammoth degrees to 140-character education.”

Shorter, more digestible units created by professors concerned with teaching, not tenure, will seamlessly “fit” in students’ lives. Udacity’s lessons — YouTube videos split into segments three to five minutes in length — feature a professor narrating principles or equations as they are sketched out by a disembodied hand.

Each lesson ends with a quiz, followed by an explanation of how to properly answer the problem.

Unlike traditional universities, Udacity plans to turn a profit. For a fee, the company will provide official certification to students who pass course exams at an in-person testing center. Udacity also plans to play matchmaker between students and companies looking to hire them, and, like LinkedIn, will charge firms to browse its database of resumes.

Upsetting the status quo in lecture halls around the country has become big business and Udacity faces a growing number of competitors, most of which have, unlike Udacity, partnered with existing universities to produce their courses. Coursera, a company that’s the brainchild of two Stanford professors, boasts a dozen partners from Princeton to Penn. EdX is a not-for-profit initiative founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to provide instruction online. And 2tor is working with a growing roster of universities to offer online graduate degrees in business, law and nursing, among other fields.
Thrun says he welcomes these rivals because more choice is the best thing that could happen to students.

Udacity looks to be a breeding ground for cultivating the talents of the young Thruns of the world: motivated individuals who want to learn, know what subjects they care about, seek a braniac community and are determined to teach themselves, no matter what. It’s the experience Thrun didn’t have growing up, but would have wanted. Classes are structured around solving a problem — building a search engine, programming a robotic car — rather than mastering theory or reviewing a canon. The thirteencourses offered so far cover programming physics, math, statistics and artificial intelligence.

“It’s opening up the chances for other people to also become innovators,” Zachary, the venture capitalist, says of Udacity and Thrun. “It is passing forward his spirit of innovation.”

Thrun considers Udacity his most important undertaking and it will perhaps prove his most challenging one. Regardless, he doesn’t think about his legacy and he doesn’t imagine he’ll be remembered in a generation. After all, he’s only human.

“I screw up every day,” he says. “I have a broken piece of glass in my car. I almost got a ticket this morning.” In the meantime, he plans to keep aiming high.

“Question every assumption and go towards the problem, like the way they flew to the moon,” he says. “We should have more moon shots and flights to the moon in areas of societal importance.”

This story originally appeared in Huffington, in the iTunes App store.

The untold stories of women who moved the world forward – The Verge

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/8/14850102/day-without-a-woman-cars-transportation-racing-gm-mercedes

— excerpt below —

The untold stories of women who moved the world forward

9

A day of silence to honor pioneers who made noise

Photo: General Motors

Last month I saw Gloria Steinem and Octavia Spencer speak on a panel about the film Hidden Figures at the Makers Conference. An audience member posited the question, “How do we find the other hidden figures in history?”

“We have to be tenacious,” Spencer responded. “If you don’t know the story, how can you seek it out? First we have to ask questions and we have to acknowledge every person on a team. Women couldn’t put their name on reports and men took the credit for all their work, I mean come on.”

 Photo: General Motors

That got me thinking. What have I been missing? I am a woman who writes about transportation, often looking forward trying to measure disparities that still exist, but not always spending enough time looking back to understand how we arrived here.

In virtually every aspect of industrial innovation, women have played an essential part of forming that history. When the women were left out of the decision making, it was never for a lack of interest, but rather for lack of opportunity. And when women did do something significant, it often took many years for their contributions to be acknowledged, if at all. When commended, their achievements were heralded as something noteworthy because it wasn’t deemed normal for women to participate in the process of progress. 

The rise of the automobile coincided with the rise of the struggle for women’s rights. In 1914, French-born Dorothée Pullinger tried to join the Institution of Automobile Engineers, but was denied entry because she was a woman. She persisted and was finally granted access in 1920, the year American women gained the right to vote. She later oversaw production at the Galloway Motor Car Company in Scotland, and moonlighted as a race car driver as well. In 1921, the first African-American pilot Bessie Colemanreceived her flying license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

Almost from the beginning women drivers made their mark on society. Bertha Benz, the wife of Mercedes-Benz founder Karl, took the first cross country road trip in Germany in 1888, but only recently has been celebrated for her contributions. In the summer of 1909, Alice Ramsay and three other women traveled from New York City to San Francisco in a Maxwell, a journey she wrote about in the 1961 book Veil, Duster and Tire Iron. She became the first woman inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in the year 2000, 91 years after the fact. That’s a long time to wait for props.

Here and there women show up in the transportation history books. The most notable was Harriet Tubman, who liberated over 300 people by navigating the Underground Railroad. Marta Coston was issued a patent for development of the telegraphic night signals in 1859 for maritime use. Mary Walton was issued patents for her work on railroads reducing noise pollution in the 1880s and Olive Dennis contributed to the development of B&O railroads as an engineer. Some women are mentioned for their work at burgeoning car companies throughout the 20th century. Automobile Magazine reported Betty Thatcher Oros worked as a Hudson designer in the 1930s, and Helene Rother became the first female designer at GM in 1943. Audrey Moore Hodges worked at both Studebaker and Tucker in the 1940s. In 1937, Willa Brown became the first African American commercial pilot.

In the grand scheme of things, these women’s contributions are significant, but are overshadowed by their male colleagues, and the stereotypes, stigma, and barriers that kept them from going far in big numbers. But what about the others, women who made things, pushed boundaries, and innovated who we are still unknown? I am certain they existed, but they have have sailed under the radar, or like the women portrayed in Hidden Figures, been carelessly or deliberately left out of the stories. For every Mary Barra and Amelia Earhart, there are many more Jane Does.

Shirley MuldowneyPhoto: Getty Images

In the post-war car boom, women became a driving force in the marketplace. Some male executives and marketers, eager to sell cars to women, began to experiment with different ways to appeal to female customers. Outside of automotive enthusiast circles, it’s a little known fact that GM hired a group of women designers from the Pratt Institute to work in the GM design studios in the late 1950s. The design chief Harley Earl called them the Damsels of Design, a terrible name, but one that shouldn’t take away from the show cars they developed for the— wait for it— Feminine Auto Show held in 1958. But it’s been reported that the designers had strict limits on what they could touch in the car interior; the instrument panel was off limits. But despite restrictions, some of their innovations were pioneering such as light-up mirrors, glove compartments, and child proof doors.

 Photo: General Motors

Faster, first, speed, aggression: When I think about the metaphors of progress, motorsports is among the more profound. Women’s impact on racing is an extraordinary achievement considering women were banned from racing in various organizations and then were relegated to special races for women only. But some women felt that racing wasn’t a gendered pursuit. I met one of these extraordinary women, Denise McCluggage, a journalist who went head to head with motorsports giants and continued to document the industry well into her 80s. Other stand outs include Janet Guthrie, the first woman to compete in the Indy 500 in 1977 and Shirley Muldowney, the first woman to receive a drag racing license and the inspiration for the film Heart Like A Wheel, the L7 song “Shirley,” and the Le Tigre Song “Hot Topic.” In the mid 1970s “Nitro Nellie” Goinsbroke barriers as an African-American woman drag racer, who was inducted into the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame in 2014.

Once these stories of women who worked in all aspects of the field are unearthed, their capacity to inspire is profound. These stories defy what we’ve been taught. At that Makers talk, Gloria Steinem also said, “We still do not know history. It’s still a political history that we are learning.”

For every high profile trailblazer, there’s the behind-the-scenes woman whose story is waiting to be discovered, in the foreground of a photo, in the fine print, or in a tiny smudged corner of the ledger. What I do know is that I’m grateful to all of them, because in some way each made it a little bit more easy to for me navigate this strange space in the car industry where women are still widely underrepresented.

 Photo: General Motors

So in honor of all the women whose stories were silenced in transportation, science, arts and culture, and the technology we cover at The Verge, today I strike in solidarity. Finding my way here was an adventure, but it’s nothing compared to what came before me, when women who spoke out had to watch their backs. Tomorrow is a new day in the massive work ahead of looking, listening, and unearthing the truth that will help us remember how important it is to fight for our place in the future.

Vox Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved

We No Longer Have Three Branches of Government – POLITICO Magazine


POLITICO Magazine

THE BIG IDEA

We No Longer Have Three Branches of Government

I served in Congress for 16 years and taught civics for 13 more. Our government no longer looks like the one I told my students about—or the one the Constitution describes.

 

February 27, 2017

For more than a dozen years, teaching government classes to graduate students at Harvard and Princeton, I filled my students’ heads with facts that no longer seem to be true. They have become “alternate facts,” or perhaps just outdated ones.

It has been my habit to begin each semester by slowly taking students through the Constitution, each article and section in turn, emphasizing not only each provision but why it was included. Fundamental to the constitutional process, I taught, was the unique delineation of authority and responsibility: the separation of powers that so cleanly distinguished American government from those that had gone before it. There were three branches, independent of each other, with varied duties and roughly equal. The greater power—overtaxing, spending, deciding whether to go to war, confirming members of the president’s Cabinet and justices of the Supreme Court—had been placed in the Congress, I said, because while the Founders had created a republic, they also added a sprinkling of democracy: The people would choose who would do the actual governing. I would underscore this point by noting the provisions that made clear the Framers’ deliberate rejection of a parliamentary system like the ones they had known in Europe, where legislative and executive power were joined. Here, it was to be the people, not the parties, that ruled, I told my students.

I believed it to be true—certainly it was what the Founders intended, and it was pretty close to the reality when I was first elected to Congress 40 years ago. But it’s no longer accurate. Instead of three equal, independent branches, each a check on the others, today’s federal government is, for practical purposes, made up of either two branches or one, depending on how you do the math. The modern presidency has become a giant centrifuge, sucking power from both Congress and the states, making de facto law through regulation and executive order. Yet the growing power of the executive is not merely a case of presidential power lust. For decades, the Supreme Court has consistently held that on most policy questions, foreign as well as domestic, statute trumps fiat (as recently as 2014’s decision Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the court declared that “the executive is not free from the ordinary controls and checks of Congress merely because foreign affairs are at issue”). But if Congress subordinates its constitutional duties to political concerns, what then?

Presidents have managed to accumulate such a prominent place at the top of what is now increasingly a pyramid rather than a horizontal structure of three connected blocks because for more than a generation, Congress has willingly abandoned both its constitutional responsibilities and its ability to effectively serve as a check on the executive even when it wishes to do so.

***

In the days after Donald Trump’s election, even after the new Congress was sworn in, congressional leaders waited eagerly to receive direction from the incoming president on budgetary, and even legislative, priorities. It is, at this point, a familiar pattern. When Barack Obama was president, Congressman Steve Israel, who had been tasked with overseeing House Democrats’ messaging, noted that Obama was, in fact, “our messenger in chief.” To a considerable extent, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have taken to seeing themselves not as part of a separate and competing branch of government, but as arms of their respective political parties.

Under the speakership of Newt Gingrich, in an attempt to demonstrate its new cost-cutting zeal, the Congress began to unilaterally disarm itself. Staffing (and thus expertise) was reduced. Foreign travel was scaled back, leaving members of Congress dependent on whatever information the executive branch wished to share with them about important international issues, or what they could discern from reading newspapers. That diminished capacity was further decreased in 2011, when Congress stripped itself of the ability to designate specific spending priorities through appropriations earmarks. As a result, members of Congress were not only deprived of an important tool for negotiating with their colleagues, but power over spending decisions—a fundamental congressional responsibility—was ceded to executive branch bureaucrats whose decisions about which government projects would be funded lacked any public transparency.

Congress’ abdication of responsibility predates Gingrich, however. The Constitution clearly provided that the United States would not send its children to fight and die in foreign wars unless the people themselves, through their elected representatives, thought the sacrifice necessary. Although presidents command the military, they do not decide when troops are to be sent into combat, except in the case of invasion or civil insurrection. Reacting to presidential overreach (beginning with Truman taking the nation to war in Korea without first seeking congressional authorization, and continuing through an undeclared war in Vietnam during the Johnson and Nixon years), Congress eventually stepped in, years later, in an attempt to reassert its authority but clumsily did the reverse: Under the 1973 War Powers Act, hailed by its sponsors as a means to restrain the executive, presidents were given free rein to go to war so long as they notified Congress first. Members of Congress congratulated themselves for providing that they could step in within 60 days to call a halt to a presidentially initiated conflict although it was not likely that Congress would pull back support with American troops engaged in combat. In that one spectacularly ill-considered action, the Congress stepped back from its single-most important obligation: deciding, as the peoples’ representatives, if and when America would wage war.

Other international issues speak to a similar trend of congressional retreat from constitutional responsibilities. During the just-ended presidential election, both Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders were sharply critical of international trade agreements that they believed disadvantage the United States. Since Congress is the only body authorized to write American law, it had acted over the years to provide safeguards on matters ranging from environmental protections to worker safety. But for decades, it has repeatedly surrendered its power to protect American interests in trade deals, bowing to presidents’ requests to simply accept whatever agreements the executive strikes with other countries (often without any congressional input). As a result, Congress has agreed to take up trade pacts on a “fast track,” denying its members the right to make any changes in the terms of the agreement, even though the Constitution explicitly gives Congress the authority to make the laws that govern international commerce. Congress has stripped itself of the power to insist that international trade be conducted in a way not harmful to American national interests and, specifically, the interests of American workers.

Americans have become accustomed to seeing Congress—especially when it’s controlled by the same party that holds the White House—wait for presidents to submit their proposed federal budgets before beginning serious discussions about spending decisions. But presidents prepare national budget proposals not because they are entitled to tell Congress what to do, but only because Congress has tasked the president with doing so in order to give the legislature a better sense of his thinking—and give members of Congress the chance to gather the information they need from the executive branch to decide how much to spend (and on what) and whether to increase taxes to pay for it. By stripping itself of sufficient resources to compete with the executive, Congress has made itself not the parent of the national budget, but a secondary player often forced by its own inadequacy to tinker at the edges with what presidents demand.

***

Of course, there remains another branch of government which, like the Congress, is theoretically and constitutionally separate and independent. But in reality the separateness is a bit fuzzy. That’s because even in this age of hyperpartisanship, there is at least one important area in which Democrats and Republicans think alike: both parties view the federal courts, and especially the Supreme Court, not as a neutral, Constitution-bound, arbiter, but as a de facto branch of the legislature.

Whether by a president, presidential candidate, or member of Congress, potential jurists are evaluated not on judicial temperament, quality of reasoning, or other examples of what were once considered “judicial attributes.” Today, the dominant question is how a nominee for the court will rule on controversial political questions. Last year, both Hillary Clinton and Trump, like presidential candidates before them, announced, as a part of their political campaigns, a “litmus test” for potential court nominees.

While many previous Supreme Court nominees were confirmed by the Senate with little or no dissent, Democrats and Republicans in today’s Senate announce their support or opposition at the instant of the nomination’s announcement—often even before a specific nominee is chosen—in anticipation of how the nominee will vote on questions of abortion, immigration, regulations, firearm ownership, and so on. Whether Merrick Garland or Neil Gorsuch, the question is not whether the nominee is qualified to function judicially, but whether he or she is “one of us”—that is, a fellow liberal or conservative. Each Supreme Court nominee is viewed as if he or she were to be a 101st vote in the Senate.

Today’s “separation of powers” is no longer between the three original, constitutionally created, branches of government, but between, on the one hand, a branch consisting of the president, his supporters in Congress and their mutual supporters on the federal bench; and on the other hand, a branch made up of the party in opposition to the president, his opponents in Congress and their co-partisans on the bench.

America’s Founders recognized the truth in Hobbes’ declaration that governments were needed to prevent abuses of the weak by the powerful. But they recognized that government, too, would need to be prevented from committing its own abuses—hence the need for the sometimes frustrating but nonetheless necessary divisions of authority between the state and federal governments and between the branches of the federal government. That is the system described in the Constitution and the system I taught. But it is not the system by which America operates today—a persistent war between competing political clubs.

I taught my students a system of government based on the Constitution. I thought I was teaching about current events. Instead, I now realize, I was teaching ancient history.

Mickey Edwards is a former eight-term member of Congress and chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. After leaving office in 1993, he taught government for 13 years at Harvard and Princeton, and became a vice president of the Aspen Institute, where he directs a political leadership program.

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Self-Driving Car Engineers Can Earn $10 Million, According to Insider

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/self-diving-car-engineers-make-10-million/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=21HotJobs_US16&utm_campaign=Sept2016_US

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The One Job That Pays $10 Million Per Year (Hint: It’s Not A CEO Gig)

Amy Elisa Jackson September 22, 2016
If you want to make up to $10 million in one year, forget launching a start-up. You need to become an engineer of self-driving cars ASAP.
Ex-Google genius Sebastian Thrun, the man dubbed by some as the “father of self-driving cars” says that because of the high demand and low numbers of engineers with the skills, “The going rate for talent these days is $10 million.”
The co-founder and CEO of online higher ed startup Udacity tells Recode, “it’s a very simple instance of a law that is fundamentally true: Technology is moving so fast, that by definition when something becomes hot, the skill set doesn’t exist.”
It’s why Tesla, Google, and Apple are constantly poaching engineers from each other and why Uber swiped all the talent from Carnegie Mellon’s robotics lab. There simply aren’t enough people with the skills required to automate cars. According to Thrun, the only machine learning program in the world run, is at Carnegie Mellon, which cannot churn our talent fast enough for the industry’s demands.
home where
“I’m surrounded by companies that are desperate for talent,” said Thrun. “Non-traditional players are joining the field and they’re all building substantial teams. But the skill set to build a self-driving car is a multidisciplinary skill set [and] that broad skill set is just not there.”
So if you’re in college and have a penchant for tech, change your major quick. Self-driving cars are the wave of the future and it’s where the big bucks are. “The number of people you can hire right out of university who are being educated in the field are limited,” Axel Gern, Mercedes Benz head of autonomous driving in North America, tells Recode. “You’re looking for experts in computer vision, robotics, intelligent systems, artificial intelligence and so on.”
And if you are already out of college, consider a specialized program like the one at Udacity. Since opening the applications for the self-driving program this week, Thrun’s brainchild has received over 4,000 applicants for the 250 slots. Whoa! Not to worry, Udacity says it will expand the program in the coming months and years.
In the mean time, talent will be the pervasive problem in tech. Once it was virtual reality designers and now it is self-driving car engineers. One thing is for sure, being on the cusp of technology education is where the millions are made.
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TagsEngineersRecodeSebastian ThrunTechnologyUdacity

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