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How Much Do You Really Know About the Presidential Candidates?

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How Much Do You Really Know
About The Presidential Candidates?
By Abby Shepherd

Foreign policy experience, health care plans and national security aside, what do you really know about the politicians running for office? By now, many of us can recite our favorite candidates' stump speeches and have memorized the delegate count for each state. But it is easy to forget that these superhuman, 24/7 political machines are actually people too.

Barack Obama

boThe Grammy-winning candidate is already known for his two bestselling books, Dreams of My Father and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts of Reclaiming the American Dream. But, there is more to the Senator from Illinois. Barack met his wife, Michelle while both were working in the Chicago law firm scene. On their first date, they saw the movie Do the Right Thing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Obama is also publicly known for his ethnicity; his mother was from Kansas and his father from Kenya. But Obama also lived in Indonesia as a child because his mother remarried after a divorce. He has a half sister who is Canadian and Indonesian. When Obama appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he openly talked about his diverse family. His wife often refers to the family's Thanksgiving and Christmas as a gathering of the United Nations.

John McCain

john-mccain3.jpgAfter acquiring the appropriate number of delegates to secure the Republican nomination for president, McCain now must turn his attention to the real thing-becoming President of the United States.

McCain comes from a long military lineage. His father was a four-star admiral who served in Vietnam as commander of all US forces in the Pacific. His grandfather saw the Japanese surrender September 6, 1945 when he was stationed onboard the USS Missouri. McCain himself served as a naval aviator and was held as a Prisoner of War for five-and-a-half years in Vietnam.

According to his own book, Faith of My Fathers, McCain admits to holding his breath as a child if he didn't get what he wanted. This standoff would often last until McCain blacked out.

Hillary Clinton

hcShe has been in the national spotlight ever since her husband was in the White House. Clinton was the first First Lady to then run for public office. She became the Senator of New York in 2000. Clinton and Obama are now in a nail-biting race for the Democratic nomination for President.

As a child, Clinton once wrote to NASA asking for advice on how to become an astronaut. NASA wrote back to Clinton telling her that women can't become astronauts. Apparently, they can become Senators and run for President.

Clinton received her law degree from Yale Law School and has twice been named one of the 100 most influential attorneys at law in the United States. She also was a staff member for the House Judiciary Committee impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon.

Mike Huckabee

mhAlthough Huckabee isn't technically in the race to the White House anymore, the former Arkansas governor has too many interesting tidbits to not include him in our list. According to The Thomas Report, a conservative online blog site, Huckabee has about 29 interesting facts to be exact.

Huckabee has appeared numerous times on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report and admits to actually liking the show, which pokes fun at many conservative politicians and platforms. Also, Huckabee is known for undergoing gastric bypass surgery and one of his favorite "diet" foods is Yarnell's guilt free ice cream. He also likes movie theater style popcorn and received a popcorn machine for Christmas from his wife, Janet.

Ron Paul

rpPaul is currently running as a Republican candidate, however, his more Libertarian views has earned him a cult following online and among young voters. On December 16, 2007, Paul raised over $6 million dollars in 24 hours which is the largest one-day Internet fundraiser in American political history.

Paul was a track star at Dormont High School high school near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In his junior year, Paul was state champion for the 220-yard dash and placed second in the 440-yard run.

Paul attended Duke University School of Medicine and graduated with a degree in obstetrics and gynecology. He later became a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon and served outside the Vietnam War Zone.

During Ron Paul's 1988 presidential campaign, when he ran as a Libertarian, John McCain told his campaign chair, "You're working for the most honest man in Congress."

Let's try to keep it civil, but do you have any interesting facts about the candidates?

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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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Opening Ceremony
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:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


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]