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IQ-tips: remote control etiquette

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My wife and I were fighting over the remote the other night—literally fighting—when it flew out of our grips and went sailing across the room, nearly destroying a ceramic baby rattle from about 350 B.C., which someone had once given me as a present.

After wiping my brow and turning the remote over to her so she could watch her stupid show (and what other adjective could be used to describe the "other" person's show but stupid?) I decided to hunt around online for some etiquette tips we could agree on, laminate, and keep on our Noguchi coffee table (knock-off, of course) for the next round.

Not only did I find some tips worthy of lamination from this great article over at the BBC, but just look at the contributors! ("10 tips" found after the jump.) As always, if you have any remote control etiquette tips of your own to add, we're always happy to hear from you.

New research suggests men are still hogging the television remote control - 41% of men and 30% of women claim to rule the sofa entertainment, says a poll by Intel. We asked some etiquette experts what the rules are on button-hogging.

1. Letitia Baldrige, author and lecturer on manners says: The first rule of politeness is "No Quick Changes". The remote-controller who speeds through a hundred channels without even one breathless pause in one minute has committed a social crime, worthy of being remote-deprived for the rest of the of the social hour. People should be allowed to at least know what program is being rejected by the controller.

2. Mr. Manners of Tomorrow's News says: Do not hide the remote control when you are going to the bathroom. This overt power play is sure to offend your female companion.

3. Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves says" It's only when women are widowed that they discover there's such a thing as a remote control and they find all kinds of things that are on television, like musicals as well as westerns. If you can't agree with your partner what to watch, then split up immediately because it can't be resolved.

4. Letitia Baldrige adds: If there's someone in the room who is about to appear on the television himself or herself- a performer, politician, quiz show contestant or felon caught in the act by police - they get priority.

5. Writer and broadcaster Marcelle D'Argy Smith says: Buy two televisions or do without the man. No woman who can squeeze into a pair of trousers should be with a man who hogs the remote. It's emotional violence and mental cruelty. It means your life is not under your control. I don't want to control a man but neither do I want to be controlled.

6. Letitia Baldrige adds: Men present in the TV room may well lobby for a girly-girly show, such as a big bosoms contest, but their choices may be rejected simply by the numerical strength of the women present. Democracy is a human right which overshadows an individual's right to watch beauty pageants.

7. Peter Post, author of Essential Manners for Men: What to Do, When to Do It and Why says: When you do share the remote, remember this is a risky strategy, because you've got to be prepared for those times when the other person actually does take control. The upside is that this approach puts a stop to any arguing.

8. Letitia Baldrige adds: Sports-mad viewers should be given their own TV set - in an out-of-the-way place in the house, such as the kitchen or a bathroom - where they can remain undisturbed and undisturbing to others while watching the game.

9. Letitia Baldrige again: People on diets should be allowed to veto the watching of cooking shows.

10. Lynne Truss adds: Agree with each other and say "let's look through what's on". The problem with that is the man usually just goes ahead anyway.

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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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