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10 Holiday Hats: the Silly Side of Thanksgiving

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For some families, the Thanksgiving feast is a sacred and solemn occasion. For others, the holiday is orchestrated by the control freak who insists that everything be picture-perfect. And quite a few families put their personal tensions and passive-aggressiveness on display. The perfect remedy for these uptight feasts is a ridiculous holiday hat.

1. The Gobbler

The Gobbler Hat has it all: a turkey who still has his head, feathers, and his own Pilgrim hat. This hat is so popular that it is sold out at the half-dozen or so suppliers I checked. Maybe next year.

2. Sexy Turkey Hat

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Here's a much fancier (and more feminine) turkey hat.

There are some people, I am told, that have elegant Thanksgiving suppers. Then there are the rest of us.

No, you can't buy it, but you can buy the knitting pattern and make your own by next year.

3. Paper Turkey

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The cheapest way to wear a turkey for Thanksgiving is to make one yourself, out of construction paper, using a children's activity website as a guide. Kids look cute in these. Adults? Maybe not so cute, but you'll draw attention wherever you go.

4. Roast Turkey Hat

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This nice fuzzy plush turkey hat from Miles Kimball will set you back $9.99 but will remind everyone at the dinner table that a) you love roast turkey, and b) you're a real dork.

5. Chef's Hat

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Russ Parsons, food editor of the L.A. Times was recently spotted wearing a similar hat while preparing the fashion inspiration. Note how accurate the color of the hat is!

6. Cold Turkey

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Check out this Cold Turkey Hat modeled by Vicki at Knitorious! This one is called the Cold Turkey hat because Vicki and her friend who made it both quit smoking about the time this picture was taken, but you could whip one up to wear at the dinner table Thursday. Here are complete knitting instructions for a child size hat and an adult-sized hat.

7. Pumpkin Cap

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Turkey isn't the only dish on the menu. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, and a pumpkin cap! This cap is knitted from 100% organic cotton and is available in sizes from infants to adults. For the very few who think cranberry sauce is the best thing about Thanksgiving, you can have a hat, too.

8. Pilgrim Hat

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While half your family is looking forward to pumpkin pie and the other half just want to get back to the football game, someone needs to reference the historical roots of the holiday. What better way than to show up in a deluxe pilgrim hat! In this case, we overlook the fact that the Pilgrims did not wear buckles on their hats; modern day celebrants wouldn't recognize the hat without one.

9. Indian Feathers

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The Native American half of the Plymouth Colony Thanksgiving celebration didn't wear any particular kind of hat you would recognize today, but a few feathers might remind your family and friends who really saved the Pilgrims from complete extinction. I'm not sure why this model is sneering. Maybe he really hates the combination of green and purple.

10. Thanks Cap

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I believe this hat is the most appropriate of all. Simple, fashionable, and it's the only one in this collection that symbolizes what Thanksgiving is really all about.

Yes, I understand that liquor may be more effective at loosening family tensions during the holiday, but funny hats are safer on the highways.

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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
entertainment
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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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