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10 Ways to Vent Your Job Frustration Online

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The daily grind of office work can wear a person down. The monotony, the close encounters with people you'd never befriend outside of work, the office politics, and that horrid cubicle all conspire to make you insane. But you must believe it beats physical labor, or you wouldn't be there. So here are ten ways to reduce the pressure before you do something you may really regret.

10. Low Morale is a series of animations dealing with the "soul-sapping, will-to-live draining, life-force mugging, morale-crushing experiences of work." If your work life isn't at least a little better than that of the protagonist, then you need this list a lot worse than you know.

9. Break up the monotony of everyday office work by playing pranks on the one person who is away for a while.

The list continues, after the jump.

8. You can be bored at work because you have to wait for other people, or you finish your tasks ahead of schedule, or your job is just plain boring. Why not use that extra time to creat something new and beautiful? Artwork from the Workplace features things that people have made while bored at work. Just a little inspiration can take you places!

7. Speaking of taking you places, a little daydreaming never hurt anyone. Pretend you're going on a trip. You may feel less guilty if it were a business trip. What would you pack? If you were James Bond, you would need extensive gadgets and weaponry. Play the game Attache and find out if you are superspy material.

6. If you consider your boss the scum of the earth, you are far from alone. Get inside his/her mind with this Interview with an Honest Boss. The honest boss is such an elusive species that he had to be illustrated instead of videotaped.

5. Online games can help you vent at work. If your frustration level is low, try chucking a soccer ball into the office wastebasket with Binball. To combat a higher level of frustration, shoot rubber bands at your colleagues and supervisor with Rubber Band It. If that's not real enough, order The Boss Toss plastic shooter. It comes with miniature executives which can double as voodoo dolls.

4. Submit your work complaints and stories of injustice, stupidity, and ineptitude to be published on a website. You don't have to use your real name. A couple of these are Job, Schmob! and Disgruntled Workforce. If you don't want to contribute a story, reading the woes of other workers may make you feel better about your own situation.

3. Is someone at the office driving you up a wall? You can send them an anonymous message about their bad habits via Annoying Co-worker. You might find the perfect message already there, or you can submit one.

2. Try one of these quizzes to let off steam. Is your co-worker crazy? helps to validate your suspicions, and What kind of office moron are you? may bring you back down to reality. It may turn out that you are the annoying coworker!

1. If all else fails, and you are ready to smash a desk, do it online! Smash a desk! There, don't you feel better?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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