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11 Really Terrible 19th-Century Beauty Tips

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A lot of things have changed since the 19th century. When Barkham Burroughs wrote his Encyclopaedia of Astounding Facts and Useful Information in 1889, he devoted a full chapter to the "secrets of beauty," and for good reason. To quote Burroughs, "If women are to govern, control, manage, influence and retain the adoration of husbands, fathers, brothers, lovers or even cousins, they must look their prettiest at all times." Here are 11 of his tips for doing just that.

1. Bathe often(ish)...

At least once a week, but if possible, a lady should "take a plunge or sponge bath three times a week."

2. ... in a household cleaning solution.

What's better than soap? Ammonia. "Any lady who has once learned its value will never be without it." Just a capful or so in the bath works as well as soap and cleans the pores "as well as a bleach will do."

3. Wash your eyes...

Nothing is as attractive as a sparkling eye. The best way to achieve this is by "dashing soapsuds into them." If that's not your style, perfume dropped into the eyes is a reasonable alternative. For the same bright-eyed look without the burn, "half a dozen drops of whisky and the same quantity of Eau de Cologne, eaten on a lump of sugar, is quite as effective."

4. ... but don't wash your hair.

Water is "injurious" to the hair. Instead, wipe "the dust of the previous day" away on a towel. You can also brush your hair during any long, idle breaks in the day. 30 minutes is a good hair-brushing session.

5. And never, ever wash your face.

Simply rub the skin with "an ointment of glycerine" and "dry with a chamois-skin or cotton flannel." One "beautiful lady" is admired who had "not washed her face for three years, yet it is always clean, rosy, sweet and kissable."

6. And try not to wash your hands, either.

A well kept hand is soft, pale, and really, really dirty. Red hands can be relieved "by soaking the feet in hot water as often as possible," but don't dare touch water with your hands. As with the face, a regimen of ointment and cotton flannel should be used, and gloves worn for bathing. (Burroughs notes here that "dozens of women" with gorgeous hands "do not put them in water once a month.")

7. Hang out naked by the window every day.

This is also called vapor-bathing, which is a different kind of vapor than the aforementioned ammonia soak, and one more likely to bring the attention of unwanted suitors. To take a proper vapor bath, "the lady denudes herself, takes a seat near the window, and takes in the warm rays of the sun." If you're a lady of the restless sort, dancing is advised. A good vapor bath is at least an hour long.

8. Go heavy-metal on the eyes.

Nothing says "handsome lady" like a lined lid. The proper solution is "two drachms of nitric oxid of mercury mixed with one of leaf lard." Lacking these components, a woman may just as easily produce a nice effect with "a hairpin steeped in lampblack."

9. Say goodbye to that fringe.

In your great-grandmother's day, lashes had a tendency to become "unruly." They were therefore "slightly trimmed every other day" with sharp, tiny scissors, because who wants eyelashes, anyway.

10. Suction!

Nice lips are essential to a woman's prettiness. As early as possible, a girl should begin thinking about the shape of her lips and how it might be improved. Thin lips "are easily modified by suction," which "draws the blood to the surfaces" and over time provides a "permanent inflation." Thick lips "may be reduced by compression." There are no instructions for this procedure.

11. And try not to be single.

The author's female acquaintance, after disclosing to her favorite suitor that she had gone those three long years without using soap, found herself back on the market. A note from the gentleman read, "I can not reconcile my heart and my manhood to a woman who can get along without washing her face."

So remember, ladies: Whatever methods are used, "it would be just as well to keep the knowledge of it from the gentlemen." Because being married is better than ammonia-water for the complexion.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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