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Niche Dating Sites

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Online dating was once regarded as a bit strange, and possibly a last resort of the lonely. Now, online dating sites and social networking are downright commonplace! Thousands of people have joined eHarmony and Match.com, and posted a profile on Yahoo Personals. Social networking sites that are more than dating services (such as Friendster and Facebook) are quite popular. But the size of those pools can be intimidating. You can narrow your search for a date by seeking out a niche service, a dating service that caters to people who are like you.

While most sites encourage members to include their interests in their profiles, WeNeither matches people through the things they DON'T like. You can search by sorting through "shared dislikes". It's organized like a bookmarking site; you give your profile a list of tags, and when you browse other's profiles, your shared tags will be highlighted. You can bookmark those you find interesting, and save a list of profiles of people you may want to contact sometime.
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IBS Dating stands for "Irritated Being Single", but it could also stand for "Irritable Bowel Syndrome". It's a dating site for those with IBS or Crohn's Disease. It was founded by Craig Jex, who says the problem with dating for IBS suffers stems more from the anxiety surrounding the dating experience than from the syndrome itself. He explains why and how he started the service in this interview by Tim Phelan. (warning: mildly explicit discussion).

Dating sites for geeks, golfers, republicans, and more, after the jump.

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Nerd Passions is a free networking site for "nerds, geeks, and those who love them." You can browse profiles by location, or by the interest groups members have joined, such as science fiction, role playing games, programming, comic books, Linux, and Slashdot. And like any respectably geeky site, it has an extensive set of sidebar links.

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Golfmates.com was launched in 2004 by Scott Kroeger, who set up some of his golfing friends and decided the golf community needed a dating service.

The philosophy behind Golfmates.com is simple: Golf is the perfect first date. Why? It's a sport men and women can enjoy playing together. The sport provides an instantaneous icebreaker—a common interest that two people can discuss. Golf is a relaxing, safe, outdoor activity that provides ample opportunities for socializing between shots. What is more, after nine or 18 holes, a round of golf comes to an end—if two people are not compatible, the end of the round is the end of the date.

Registration is free. The same company also runs Tennisdate.com.
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Golf may be a great first date, but scuba diving is a serious and expensive hobby that requires training and planning, and often a lot of traveling. It makes sense to seek out a partner who also dives, or at least understands the time commitment diving requires. ScubaDivingSingles.com offers free registration for those who want to meet divers, but the "news" page hasn't been updated since 2003.
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When you have serious political convictions, it's hard to click with someone who doesn't share your views. Enter the political dating sites. Republican Singles.com bills itself as "a community to meet the Right person." Democratic Singles.com is, of course, the counterpart. Both sites are free to join, and are run by the same company.
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MPwH stands for Meet People with Herpes. People who meet through this site don't have to dread breaking the news to their date. The site has lots of success stories posted (without names), which you can read if you sign up. Registration is free. MPwH (also known as HDate) has over 69,000 members, but there are quite a few other dating sites catering to those with the herpes virus.
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DateMyPet.com is dating site for pets and pet lovers. You can browse without registration, stating whether you are looking for a playdate for pets, a match for yourself, or both. You can even sort by the type of pets. The site also has links to pet advice, dating advice, and stories.

In researching this article, I ran into some sites that I didn't include because they didn't seem to be quite what they appeared. There are two schools of thought on selecting a dating service. One says "you get what you pay for" and why should you go for a partner who won't pay for a premium dating site. The other says if you must pay before you can see what you're getting, then you may be burned. However, some sites require registration only for the privacy of their members. Before signing up for any dating service, do some research on their methods, reputation, and policies.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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© Nintendo
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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© 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.

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