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Work Attire Over the Last 10 Decades

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Out here in LA, jeans have been de rigueur in the workplace for some time—other than a select group of film/tv agents, almost nobody in L.A. is required to wear a suit and tie. Even the Wall Streeters here can get away with business casual most days. A lot of businesses out here that have business casual mon-thur, have extremely casual Fridays, which is supposed to mean jeans that haven't been distressed and a nice pair of shoes but that doesn't stop some from wearing inappropriately short skirts and Uggs.
I'm not sure how you all feel about Uggs in the workplace, but I can tell you, they certainly wouldn't have been tolerated even 20 years ago. A cursory look at the last 10 decades of office attire history reveals the following:

Early 1900s: Men were all about frock coats, vests, watch fobs, and, of course, the old top hat.

img_MenClassicCollar.jpg 1920s: Wristwatches were issued to men in the army during World War I. When the soldiers came back from the war, they went on wearing those wristwatches, doing away with fobs, but, more interestingly, vests, too. Why wear an uncomfortable vest if you don't have to put your fob in it? Also, the stiff, starched detachable collar was still popular around this time, but softer ones that—look out!—attached to the shirt were gaining in popularity.

VintageAccess_LG.jpeg1930s: While The Depression forced many into unemployment, it also allowed more women to enter the workplace because in some households, if the wife could find work, one income was better than none. Suits were ubiquitous at the office; so working women adopted their own versions, which they complemented with matching hats, gloves, bags, and shoes.

doublebreasted.jpg1940s: Here's an interesting fact from work attire history: Before the war, double-breasted suits made up almost 50% of all suits made; by the end of the 40s they accounted for only 12%. Why? Simple: Wartime cloth restrictions squeezed the second breast right out of the suit.

photo1.jpg 1950s: Two things happened after the war: women celebrated the end of restrictions by opting for small-waisted, billowing skirts (One of Dior's used 20 yards of fabric!). Chanel's knit suits also became popular during this time. For their part, men continued wearing the same old drab Brooks Brothers suits, but, hey, at least the suits were getting smaller with each passing decade.

jfk2colour.jpg 1960s: JFK, trendsetter that he was, shook office wear up by appearing in a two-button suit on a televised debate with Richard Nixon. From that day on, three buttons were for old people.

002.jpg 1970s: My favorite fact about this earthshaking decade: In 1970 about 80% of shirts sold by Arrow (the largest shirtmaker at the time) were anything but white. Six years earlier the reverse had been true.

3.jpg 1980s: Wall Street and Trump took over in the 80s, bringing with them suspenders and contrasting collars. Maybe it was because men thought women should look like men, or because MTV-influenced fashion spread to the workplace, but women's suits all had large shoulder pads stuffed in them by the mid-80s.

Dockers-Custom-Fit-Khaki---Pleated.jpg1990s: the decade can be summed up in one word: Dockers. The suit finally gave way, first to khakis and then to jeans. Blame it on all those Gap ads, or just the culmination of changes started in the 60s, but all forward-thinking tech-geeks hung up their suits for good in the 90s and many others followed.

Picture 72000s: Ahh, the decade that turned t-shirts into currency. Thanks to technology, every blogger can now print, stock and sell t-shirts. They have become like temporary tattoos, allowing us to express our personalities, humor and style. As casual has become more and more accepted in the workplace, t-shirts are becoming more common. Though it's fiction, the boys on The Big Bang Theory epitomize the new dress code, wearing cool tees over top stylish long-sleeve shirts. (Oh, and incidentally, the mental_floss tee you see this lovely model wearing is available right here in our store!)

What about you all? What does your office let you wear and, more importantly, what do you WISH you could wear to work?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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iStock
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Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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iStock

We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

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