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6 Lavish Dog Spas Across America

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After I left for college, my parents and younger sister filled the void with a Jack Russell Terrier. If you're at all familiar with Jack Russell Terriers, you know that they're high-energy, high-maintenance and highly intelligent. On days Sinatra doesn't get to the dog park, she finds more destructive ways to exercise "“ namely, chewing drywall. Leaving her home alone for more than a few hours is a risky proposition and leaving her alone overnight is out of the question. Enter the dog spa.

We're not exactly sure how Sinatra spends her time at Dogtopia "“ my sister suggests that the proprietors make all the dogs cobble shoes "“ but it always leaves the pup so tired that she sleeps the whole ride home. Let's take a look at some of the other more, uh, unique, doggie daycare and boarding services available:

1. Stay: A Modern Dog Hotel "“ Chicago

Is your pup packing a few extra pounds after the holiday season? Then Chicago's Stay might be the perfect remedy. The 30,000 square foot facility features an aquatic fitness center with a custom designed lap pool, which uses paddle-in-place currents to "effectively increase muscle strength and endurance." All dogs wear life vests and receive a one-on-one workout, with a 25-minute session setting you back $20. You can also keep an eye on your dog while you're away via one of Stay's two Web cams.

2. Yankee Dog Retreat "“ Boston

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I don't know who thought it was a good idea to name an establishment in Boston after baseball's Evil Empire "“ maybe it's a not-so-veiled indication of what Red Sox fans think of their New York brethren "“ but the Yankee Dog Retreat boasts a lineup of amenities worthy of a champ. From purifying clay treatments and conditioning milk baths, to essential massages and emergency deskunkings, this place is guaranteed to pamper your pooch for the right price.

For the on-the-go dog looking for a trendy way to stay fit, 20-minute Doggy Yoga sessions provide an "indirect way to teach obedience and focus," while aggressive or shy dogs might benefit from one of YDR's Positive Energy sessions. Among the items for sale in the boutique, the dog house at the bottom of this page would make some celebrities blush:

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3. America Dog & Cat Hotel "“ Las Vegas

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What happens in Vegas, (sits and) stays in Vegas. This luxurious hotel boasts private suites for dogs and cats and "play pals" who look after your pets during the day. The large free range area features 32-inch color TVs, which play "doggy cartoons," and, from the Web site: "pleasant soothing jazz music such as ENYA and SADE." I think my dog's partial to Snoop.

4. Ritzy Canine Carriage House "“ New York

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Ever dropped $20 for room service that tastes like dog food? Well, at the Ritzy Canine Carriage House, the room service is dog food, including dishes made from organic meats, vegetables and basmati rice. While it also boasts deluxe accommodations, such as orthopedic bedding and a $175/night Presidential Suite replete with "a toy chest filled with all kinds of stimulating toys, a television, VCR and special selections from our video library," the Ritzy Canine is perhaps best well known for its one of a kind boutique. I suppose there are worse ways to spend money on your pups.

5. Cha Cha's Doggie Daycare "“ Sacramento

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Cha Cha's offers a wide variety of services and activities for your dog, including field trips, weight camp, and arts and crafts. Perhaps some particularly artistic former visitors were responsible for the facility's Rainbow Brite-inspired walls. Cha Cha's also hosts birthday parties with liver-flavored cake, a balloon chase, and, my personal favorite childhood game, bobbing for hot dogs. Mmmm. From their Web site: Cha Cha's is like "a day at doggie Disneyland." Pluto would be jealous.

6. Paradise Ranch Country Club "“ Sun Valley, Calif.

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The artsy intro to the Paradise Ranch Web site says it all: "A resort so exclusive it doesn't accept people." People, after all, can't legally request a "bed buddy" with the concierge. That's right, with the largest staff to dog ratio on the West Coast, Paradise Ranch employees will actually "cuddle up and snooze the night away right next to your dog in order to bring them that much closer to home" for an extra $20 per night. That's just one way that Paradise Ranch promises to make your dog, however shy he might be, feel a part of the family from the time he sets paw inside the country club's secure gates.

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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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