CLOSE
Original image
Getty Images

4 Big Differences Between Canadian and American Thanksgiving

Original image
Getty Images

When you're sitting down for Turkey Day dinner, wow your relatives with factoids about a few of the differences between Canadian and American Thanksgiving.

1. Canada probably did it first.


Wikimedia Commons

There's a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving: friends and family, leftovers, a long weekend ... and don't forget Canada! English explorer Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew first got their thanks on in Newfoundland in 1578, which is widely accepted at the first celebration of Thanksgiving in North America (there is, however, some debate as to when the first Thanksgiving actually occurred, and where). The story goes that Frobisher and company hadn't found the Northwest Passage to the Orient like they'd been hoping to, but still wanted to celebrate a safe arrival in the New World.

The frequently cited first American Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts, occurred some 43 years later in 1621. We don't need to tell you the American version is a bit more controversial. The Pilgrims gathered to celebrate God's bounty and a good harvest. The Native Americans who helped the Pilgrims survive—many of whom were killed or exploited, in turn—may or may not have been invited to the party.

2. Canada still celebrates it first.

Since 1957, Canadian Thanksgiving—which the natives simply call Thanksgiving—has occurred on the second Monday of October. But it hasn't always been that way. Years after the first celebration, the holiday occurred sporadically to coincide with larger events, differing by region. And if these events didn't occur in autumn? No big deal. In 1816, the end of the war between Great Britain and France inspired Thanksgiving in both Lower and Upper Canada in May and June, respectively. Then in 1921, the country tried to schedule a two-for-one so that Armistice Day and Thanksgiving would both be celebrated the Monday of the week of November 11. Thanksgiving's a lot less confusing now that Canada's one big tribe and can always count on the same annual three-day weekend.

Back in the U.S., Franklin D. Roosevelt is still regarded as one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century. He helped America recover from the Great Depression and fight a world war. He taught us that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." But no one talks about how FDR ruffled everyone's turkey feathers in 1939. Another beloved president, one Abraham Lincoln, first declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. The president was given the power to choose the date of the holiday each year, but the last Thursday of November became the standard. Holidays were difficult to celebrate during the Great Depression. Many businesses worried that most Americans wouldn't spend money Christmas shopping if Thanksgiving fell on the last day, or the fifth Thursday, of the month, as it did in 1939. So Roosevelt moved the holiday one week earlier, to the dismay of many Americans. Calendars were out-of-date. School schedules were disrupted. And retailers still complained that they were losing income. Some states decided to ignore the presidential decision and celebrate Thanksgiving on the usual day; others followed the president. For the next two years, Roosevelt made Thanksgiving the second to last Thursday of the month. But no one likes to fight over turkey dinner. In 1941, Congress officially declared Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday of November every year. Let them eat pie!

3. Holiday, Legislate!


Thanksgiving's a statutory holiday in most of Canada, meaning that it's celebrated nationally, but can also be legislated at the provincial and territorial levels. But in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, Thanksgiving's optional. Most Canadians still get the day off, but others get paid overtime for working. One word of advice: Tell them thank you.

Thanksgiving's a federal holiday in the U.S., so most Americans get a day off to stuff themselves—and then a long weekend to reheat leftovers. Still, many others, from hospital employees to store clerks to restaurant workers, hold down the fort over the holiday. Another word of advice: Tell them thank you.

4. There's no Black Friday in the Great White North.


Getty Images

Historically, Canada's biggest shopping day of the year is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. Imagine Black Friday, but with thousands of people returning disappointing gifts. There are sales and lines and yes, sometimes even a boxing match in the aisles. (Not everyone in Canada can be friendly.) While Black Friday has picked up in Canada, it isn't nearly the mess that it is in the United States.

Each year, American retailers sell massive amounts of inventory on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and the much less ominous sounding Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. (The latter term was coined back in 2005. Can you believe it's only been seven years?) The two events are some of the biggest shopping days of the year. This year, the most crazy, err, dedicated shoppers are spending their vacation days camping out in front of stores up to a week before Black Friday. Hey, it's a free country.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
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!

Original image
© Nintendo
arrow
fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
Original image
© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
SECTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES