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Notes on the History of Mother's Day: 5 Things Worth Knowing

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1. Mother of the Pharaohs
As with many of our calendar-specific events and customs, some of the earliest records of a society honoring a mother can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who held an annual festival for the goddess Isis, sometimes referred to as the Mother of the Pharaohs.

Given the following list of a.k.a.'s, it's no wonder she had her own day of celebration (top this moms!): Queen of Heaven, Mother of the Gods, The One Who is All, Lady of Green Crops, The Brilliant One in the Sky, Star of the Sea, Great Lady of Magic, Mistress of the House of Life, She Who Knows How To Make Right Use of the Heart, Light-Giver of Heaven, Lady of the Words of Power, and She Who Dominates the Remote (okay, okay, but she probably WOULD have, had there been remote control domination issues at the time).

cybele7.jpg 2. Magna Mater
Of course, the Greeks and Romans had to have something like an Isis day, too. In Greece, there was a special day to celebrate the annual spring festival, in honor of Rhea, the Mother of Zeus, a.k.a., "The mother of the Gods." The Romans (and some Greeks) called her Cybele, or Magna Mater. According to a few sources, male Magna Mater wannabees would castrate themselves, don women's clothing and assume female identities. (Do we know any modern-day moms who've had the same effect on men?)

the virgin mary with gesus.tempera on wood.30 x 20cm.collection of mons.fabio attard.malta.jpg 3. The Mother of all Churches
As Christianity spread through Europe, it became fashionable to honor the church in which one was baptized. People would honor their "mother church" with flowers on the fourth Sunday of Lent in honor of the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ. Then, in England, in the 1600s, a decree took hold, widening the celebration to include actual mothers, and voila, we have the birth of "Mothering Sunday," as it was called. Christians were also allowed to eat on this Lenten Sunday, which meant a one-day break from the 40 day pre-Easter fast. In addition to flowers, it was a time for families to travel in order to be together, much like our present-day Mother's Day.

4. The Hymn for Womyn
What do Mother's Day and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" have in common? Julia Ward Howe, of course. It was her eyes that saw much more than the glory of the coming of the Lord. In 1870, 12 years after penning the "infamous" lyric, she wrote a Mother's Day Proclamation that said:

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Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts"¦
We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

It was an anti-war protest of sorts, in which she insisted on an international Mother's Day celebrating peace and motherhood. She proposed July 4th, but ultimately June 2nd was picked as the day. The new holiday, however, slowly fizzled out and by 1900, it was no longer celebrated.

anna.jpg5. The Hallmark of Hard Work
Then, in 1908, Mother's Day was born again at Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, thanks to the efforts of one Anna M. Jarvis, who was looking to honor her mother Anna Reeves Jarvis, who'd recently passed away after spending more than 20 years teaching Sunday school at the church. Every mom who showed up to the memorial received 2 white carnations. The event was so successful, Anna quit her job and went all over the country petitioning state governments, women groups, churches, anyone who'd get behind her cause to create a national Mother's Day. Her hard work paid off and in 1912, West Virginia became the first state to recognize Mother's Day. Two years later, good old President Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance, reserving the second Sunday in May as the official Mother's Day. And there was much rejoicing in the offices of Hallmark. (You think I'm joking, but the card company was founded in 1910, so it's entirely possible.)

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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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Opening Ceremony
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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:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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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]

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