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Thomas Strömberg
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Thomas Strömberg

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On Independence Day

My youngest daughter started with a push-bike this week, and she loves it. I've never seen her beaming with so much pride and confidence as she does when she's rolling around the neighborhood all by herself. That's the smell of freedom.
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Push bikes are really the best way to learn. Being able to put your feet down anytime takes the fear out of it. Once kids can balance well, learning to pedal is a lot easier.
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Pretty nifty system, though I'd rather see it in our car first, as I am more likely to kill someone else with it rather than myself.
Six months. That's apparently how long it takes to buy a company, retool their product, and sell it under a new name. Garmin's new Varia Rearview Bike Ra
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all the while cooking your naughty bits with high intensity, close proximity radiation... :)
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Just in time for this Sunday. Pride is always a big event in SF -- this time it's going to be absolutely bonkers. Congratulations, America!
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Yonatan consistently shares an interesting perspective on events. This post is no different.
The perpetrator of yesterday's terrorist strike was captured a few hours ago, and the bodies of the dead have not yet been buried, and already I'm seeing a refrain pop up in news coverage and in people's comments: How do we understand this killer? What made him turn out this way? Was he mentally ill, was he on drugs, was he abused, was he influenced by someone in his life? Were his motivations about politics, religion, personal relationships, psychological? We can't form opinions about why he did this yet; we shouldn't assume that, just because [insert thing here], it was about race.

You might mistake this, at first, for a genuine interest in understanding the motivations that would turn a young man into a terrorist and a mass murderer. But when other kinds of terrorists -- say, Muslims from Afghanistan -- commit atrocities, the very same people who are asking these questions are asking completely different ones: Why are Muslims so violent? What is it in Islam that makes them so prone to hating America, hating Christianity, hating Freedom?

I think that there are two, very important, things going on here. The more basic one is that, when terrorists are from a group you've never met, it's far easier to ascribe their behavior to the whole group; if it's from a group you know, and you know that the average member of that group isn't malicious or bloodthirsty, then people start asking individual questions. 

But the more important one is that the group that this terrorist belonged to was not merely familiar: it's the same group to which most of the people asking the questions belong. Not merely the same broad group -- "Muslims" and "Christians" are groups of over a billion people each, groups far too broad to have any deep commonalities -- but a far narrower group, a group with a common culture. And there's a reason that people don't want to ask "What is it about this group that caused it:" because in this case, there's a real answer.

The picture you see below is of the Confederate flag which the state of South Carolina flies on the grounds of its state house, and has ever since 1962. (That's 1962, not 1862: it was put there in response to the Civil Rights movement, not to the Civil War) Today, all of the state flags in that state are at half mast; only the Confederate flag is flying at full mast.

The state government itself is making explicit its opinion on the matter: while there may be formal mourning for the dead, this is a day when the flag of white supremacy can fly high. When even the government, in its formal and official behavior, condones this, can we really be surprised that terrorists are encouraged? (Terrorists, plural, as this is far from an isolated incident; even setting aside the official and quasi-official acts of governments, the history of terror attacks and even pogroms in this country is utterly terrifying)

Chauncey DeVega asked some excellent questions in his article at Salon (; among them,

1. What is radicalizing white men to commit such acts of domestic terrorism and mass shootings? Are Fox News and the right-wing media encouraging violence?

6. When will white leadership step up and stop white right-wing domestic terrorism?

7. Is White American culture pathological? Why is White America so violent?

8. Are there appropriate role models for white men and boys? Could better role models and mentoring help to prevent white men and boys from committing mass shootings and being seduced by right-wing domestic terrorism?

The callout of Fox News in particular is not accidental: they host more hate-filled preachers and advocates of violence, both circuitous and explicit, than Al Jazeera. 

There is a culture which has advocated, permitted, protected, and enshrined terrorists in this country since its founding. Its members and advocates are not apologetic in their actions; they only complain that they might be "called racist," when clearly they aren't, calling someone racist is just a way to shut down their perfectly reasonable conversation and insult them, don't you know?

No: This is bullshit, plain and simple. It is a culture which believes that black and white Americans are not part of the same polity, that they must be kept apart, and that the blacks must be and remain subservient. That robbing or murdering them is permissible, that quiet manipulations of the law to make sure that "the wrong people" don't show up in "our neighborhoods," or take "our money," or otherwise overstep their bounds, are not merely permissible, but the things that we do in order to keep society going. That black faces and bodies are inherently threatening, and so both police and private citizens have good reason to be scared when they see them, so that killing them -- whether they're young men who weren't docile enough at a traffic stop or young children playing in the park -- is at most a tragic, but understandable, mistake.

I have seen this kind of politics before. I watch a terrorist attack on a black church in Charleston, and it gives me the same fear that I get when I see a terrorist attack against a synagogue: the people who come after one group will come after you next.

This rift -- this seeing our country as being built of two distinct polities, with the success of one having nothing to do with the success of the other or of the whole -- is the poison which has been eating at the core of American society for centuries. It is the origin of our most bizarre laws, from weapons laws to drug policies to housing policy, and to all of the things which upon rational examination appear simply perverse. How many of the laws which seem to make no sense make perfect sense if you look at them on the assumption that their real purpose is to enforce racial boundaries? I do not believe that people are stupid: I do not believe that lawmakers pass laws that go against their stated purpose because they can't figure that out. I believe that they pass laws, and that people encourage and demand laws, because consciously or subconsciously, they know what kind of world they will create.

We tend to reserve the word "white supremacy" for only the most extreme organizations, the ones who are far enough out there that even the fiercest "mainstream" advocates of racism can claim no ties to them. But that, ultimately, is bullshit as well. This is what it is, this is the culture which creates, and encourages, and coddles terrorists. And until we have excised this from our country, it will poison us every day.

First and foremost, what we need to do is discuss it. If there's one thing I've seen, it's that discussing race in my posts is the most inflammatory thing I could possibly do: people become upset when I mention it, say I'm "making things about race" or trying to falsely imply that they're racists or something like that. 

When there's something you're afraid to discuss, when there's something that upsets you when it merely comes onto the table: That's the thing you need to talk about. That's the thing that has to come out there, in the open.

We've entered a weird phase in American history where overt statements of racism are forbidden, so instead people go to Byzantine lengths to pretend that that isn't what it is. But that just lets the worm gnaw deeper. Sunshine is what lets us move forward.

And the flag below? So long as people can claim with a straight face that this is "just about heritage," that it isn't somehow a blatant symbol of racism, we know that there is bullshit afloat in our midst.

The flag itself needs to come down; not with ceremony, it simply needs to be taken down, burned, and consigned to the garbage bin.
"The stars and bars promised lynching, police violence against protestors and others. And violence against churches."
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The conclusion of this years AIDS/LifeCycle. While I missed this year, my participation last year remains one of the most amazing events I've ever been part of. 545 miles of California over 7 days. Anyone up for 2016?
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I loved the video. I think it would be fun to be a Roadie for the week.
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RIP. :(
Ride in Peace, Brian Silva.

Brian Silva was a 16 year old who just finished his sophomore year in high school. That sunny Sunday afternoon he was riding south on Johnny Morris road in far East Austin when he was struck by a vehicle.

That part of Johnny Morris road runs behind the Harvey Penick golf club, but Brian Silva wasn't heading there, because you can't access the golf course from that street. Instead, he could have been riding down to the soccer fields maintained by the City of Austin. Perhaps he was riding to one of the many mobile home parks along that street. Maybe he was just out for some recreation. Wherever he was heading, he deserved to make it there alive.
Street View Here:

Johnny Morris road itself is narrow with two lanes, no shoulders and a posted speed limit of 30 mph. In some parts of this street, guard rails line the edge and would prevent a rider from bailing even if he know the car was about to hit him.  The news article says the car was travelling the same direction, but regardless of Mr. Silva's lane position he would have been totally dependent on the driver of the car operating in a safe manner. 

It was a sunny and dry day in Austin. The sun would have been high in the sky. The speed limit was only 30 mph - but we don't know how fast the driver was travelling. According to the US National Institutes of Health, the risk of a pedestrian dying when hit by a car at 25mph is about 10%. The risk of death climbs to 25% when the car reaches about 33mph. At 40 mph, the risk of death 50% and climbs to 75% at 48mph. He still would have been totally dependent on the driver of the car operating in a safe manner.

It doesn't sound like Mr. Silva's family is very wealthy. He certainly didn't die in the rich part of town. His high school principal has started a gofundme to help the family with expenses. Feel free to chip in if you care to. Tell them the Bike Commuter Cabal cares.

#IAmTraffic   #SaferStreetsNow   #CarsKill  

This is part of my #VirtualGhostBike  project, an effort of mine to commemorate every bicyclist killed in Texas during 2015. If I have missed any, please let me know.  To find more, search for that hashtag in my feed.


Full text of GoFundMe posting to avoid link rot: 
Brian Silva's Memorial Fund

Hello, my name is Kyle Olson, and I am the 10th Grade Assistant Principal at KIPP Austin Collegiate High School. One of my 10th grade students recently passed away, and I am trying to raise funds to support his family in this time of need.

Brian Silva, survived by his mother Diana Guerrero de Luna, step-father Marcelino Cruz, and brother Osman Silva, passed away on June 7, 2015 after tragically being struck by a car while riding his bicycle. Brian was a gregarious, fun-loving student at KIPP Austin Collegiate High School who was instantly loved by everyone he met. He was a great teammate to his fellow KAC students and a valued member of the KIPP Austin Collegiate boys basketball team. Even students and teachers who did not have the privilege of teaching him were touched by his energy, positivity and overall contribution to the KAC community. He will be greatly missed by his KIPP teachers and students. His memory will surely live on with our team and family at KIPP Austin Collegiate. Please help Brian's family with financial support for his memorial services.   

Brian Silva falleció el 7 de junio del 2015 depués de trágicamente haber sido arrollado en su bicicleta. Le sobreviven su madre Diana Guerrero de Luna, su padrastro Marcelino Cruz y su hermano Osman Silva. Brian, estudiante de KIPP Austin Collegiate, era un jóven alegre querido por todos. Era un excelente compañero e integrante del equipo de baloncesto varonil de la misma escuela. Aún los estudiantes y maestros que no tuvieron el privilegio de enseñar a Brian fueron conmovidos por su energía, positivismo, y la contribución de él a nuestra comunidad. La comunidad de KAC, maestros y estudiantes lo extrañaran por siempre. Su memoria vivirá en el equipo y familia de KIPP Austin Collegiate. Favor de ayudar financieramente a la familia de Brian. Está contribución servirá para pagar servicios funerarios.

Full text of news article to avoid link rot:
Teen cyclist killed after colliding with car in East Austin
By Eric Janzen
AUSTIN (KXAN) — A 16-year-old boy was killed Saturday while riding his bike down Johnny Morris Road. Police said Brian Silva was headed south near Walnut Creek about 6:30 p.m. when he swerved to the left and collided with the side of a car traveling in the same direction.

Silva was taken to University Medical Center Brackenridge where he later died.

Police say the case is still under investigation and anyone with information is asked to call detectives at 512-974-5312. This was Austin’s 43rd deadly traffic crash and the 45th death of 2015. At this time in 2014, there were 22 deadly crashes and 28 deaths.
Hello, my name is Kyle Olson, and I am the 10th Grade Assistant Principal at KIPP Austin Collegiate High School. One of my 10th grade students recently passed away, and I am trying to raise funds to support his family in this time of need. Brian Silva, survived by his mother Diana Guerrero de Lu...
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Finally, some delayed proof that it is possible to go birding with two children. It's not easy, but with some practice, we'll get clearer photos next time around. :)
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I am so impressed, both with your photos, and that you know all the birds by common and latin name.
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Every time I'm reminded by how much I hate time as a programmer, I need to remember this chart showing how standardized time used to work in the United States.
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Love to see the date manip on that!
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+Dallas Strömberg did an awesome job capturing what happens when I put off changing the chain on my road bike for too long, and submitted it for a photography contest. Great work!
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Couldn't have said it better myself...
Jon Stewart’s monologue tonight was an impassioned, frustrated meditation on the Charleston shooting and other recent tragedies. “I didn’t do my job today,” he said. “I’ve got nothing for you in terms of jokes and sounds, because of what happened in South Carolina.”
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All of these images were computer generated!

For the last few weeks, Googlers have been obsessed with a internal visualization tool that Alexander Mordvintsev in our Zurich office created to help us visually understand some of the things happening inside our deep neural networks for computer vision.  The tool essentially starts with an image, runs the model forwards and backwards, and then makes adjustments to the starting image in weird and magnificent ways.  

In the same way that when you are staring at clouds, and you can convince yourself that some part of the cloud looks like a head, maybe with some ears, and then your mind starts to reinforce that opinion, by seeing even more parts that fit that story ("wow, now I even see arms and a leg!"), the optimization process works in a similar manner, reinforcing what it thinks it is seeing.  Since the model is very deep, we can tap into it at various levels and get all kinds of remarkable effects.

Alexander, +Christopher Olah, and Mike Tyka wrote up a very nice blog post describing how this works:

There's also a bigger album of more of these pictures linked from the blog post:

I just picked a few of my favorites here.
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Should we be worried about how much it seems to be obsessed with eyes?
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Nevermind the confusing thumbnail, watching the video is 15 minutes well spent.
Sometimes I find something that is so interesting and so deserving of attention I can't wait to put it up here.  This is one of those things.  This is a very interesting data visualization of WWII fatalities.  It leaves you with a lot to think about.  

I really highly suggest watching, I don't think there is anyone who is following me who won't learn something from this.  In the comments bellow let me know what you found most interesting.  
It’s difficult to conceptualize excessively large numbers, particularly when they pertain to human tragedies. But this highly-engaging animated data visualization by Neil Halloran makes WWII-related deaths all too comprehensible.
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Systems Engineer
Making things go.
  • Google
    Systems Engineer, 2006 - present
  • Alltel
  • Indiana University
  • Bell & Howell
  • RTCI
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Systems Engineer, Cyclist, Dad.
/* My words do not represent my employer in any way */

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Stockholm, Sweden - Raleigh, North Carolina - Bloomington, Indiana - Atlanta, Georgia - Brussels, Belgium
Thomas Strömberg's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
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