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Make Yourself a Hat

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It's never too early to plan your Halloween costume. Some folks like to keep it simple. With these hats, you probably won't even need the rest of the costume to draw attention. Bonus: these are all homemade, and they come with instructions for making your own.

Are we not men? Rob at Cockeyed.com made these Devo hats for a Guitar Hero party, and posted step-by-step instructions.
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Check out this Chicken Viking Hat that Vicki at Knitorious made! This one may actually work better for Thanksgiving than for Halloween, but it's a conversation-starter whenever you wear it. Here are complete knitting instructions for a child size hat and an adult-sized hat. Update: Vicki made the sweater, and her friend made the hat for her. They call it the Cold Turkey hat, as they both quit smoking!

More hats, more instructions, after the jump.

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Instructables has a tutorial on how to make your own disco ball visor. What kind of costume should you wear with this? It doesn't really matter, since this will reflect all attention away from the rest of you.
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If you're ever going to be a balloon sculpture artist, you have to know how to make a balloon hat. Otherwise, passers-by on the street won't know you are a balloon sculpture artist! See the illlustrated tutorial here.
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If you are worried about aliens trying to take over your mind with radio signals or whatever they use these days, you can construct your own Aluminum Foil Defector Beanie (tinfoil hat).

It can't be stressed enough how important it is to have the shiny side pointing out. This is needed because the shiny side is most reflective to psychotronic radiation, while the dull side can actually, in certain environmental conditions, absorb it. However, as is illustrated in the instructions above, it is also wise to complement this with a layer of foil pointing shiny side in. This will keep your brain waves, which are also reflected by the shiny side, from being picked up by mind-reading equipment.

Or, you can buy one.
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The Giddyup! Pony Hood can be made with or without the kinky bit. The child size is downright adorable. Downloadable instructions are available from Naughty Needles. You'll also find a devil horn version.
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The original tutorial on how to make a cat fruit helmet has disappeared from the web. Too sad. I remember it required a bottle of tequila, limes, a knife, and a very patient cat. The tequila was only for inspiration, for which you can use the above picture. You can probably figure out the rest. Your cat may be just as happy about it as this one.
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Just in case nothing else you see here is at all useful or practical, here's down-to-earth instructions for making your child a witch's hat for her Halloween costume.

For more homemade hat choices, see How to Make a Trucker Hat Out of Garbage, How to make a Renaissance Hat, a Paper Pope Hat, a Cat In The Hat hat, or a Duct Tape Hat.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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