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Toilet Paper Dispensers

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Even if you enjoyed the previous post on Innovative Toilet Paper, you know a major drawback to using toilet paper as a decorating idea is that it runs out. But you can impress guests with a one-time purchase by installing a very different toilet paper dispenser. And there are a lot of them to choose from!

The Tube

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Tube Tissue Dispensers look like oversize tubes of glue or toothpaste. The crimped end is velcro, so you can load the roll. Then pull the paper out of the cap end as you need it!

Automatic Folder and Dispenser

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This "T-per" may be someone's prototype or personal homemade machine, since it doesn't seem to be for sale anywhere. With the touch of a button, it measures and folds a wad of paper for you. It may seem like a waste of energy, but it would be handy for someone with limited use of two hands. See a video of this contraption in action at Engadget.

iWipe

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Here's a way to recycle and old computer case and make your friends scratch their heads when they see your bathroom. This version uses a Mac SE. Tech Republic has instructions for making your own.

iPod Dock and Toilet Paper Holder

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Many people though the iCarta iPod dock with attached toilet paper holder was a hoax when it first appeared, but this is a real product. Charge your iPod while availing yourself of the facilities! Gizmodo wrote a review of the product. You can order yours from Amazon.

The RSStroom Reader

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It's a gadget for the bathroom that prints out your favorite RSS feeds from the internet directly onto your toilet paper. Unfortunately, it's a hoax. But after the iWipe and the iPod dock, it's easy to believe something like this could exist.

Industrial Wipe

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Low-tech toilet paper holders come in some strange and wonderful designs, too, like the Industrial Wipe TP Holder. This fits in well in a bathroom that has exposed plumbing. Despite the name, it works with all kinds of toilet paper.

Goth

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Speedcult has a variety of strange dispensers, including this lovely bat. They also have holders in the shape of tiki gods, skulls, and flames.

Metal Sculpture

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This delightful holder features a man reading a newspaper as he does his business on a metal pot.

Robot

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The Airyusha Robotan Toilet Paper Holder is made of heavy ceramic and feeds paper out of the "robot's" mouth. It is the only dispenser I've found that comes with a roll of paper, so that you can begin to use it immediately.

Novelty

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Plenty of normal dispensers come in novelty shapes to illustrate your personality, like a fishing reel dispenser, or a cat holding your roll. Almost any animal can be found in the same sort of design. eBay has a wide selection.

Vertical

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With all the strange and artful toilet papers holders available, the one I want seems rather plain. But this design makes the over/under argument a matter of history. It's less likely to attract mischievous cats, too.

See also:

Innovations in Toilet Paper

How to Use Toilet Paper

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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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