CLOSE
Original image

Week Two: 'At the Libraries'

Original image

Every Wednesday, Miss Kathleen will provide links to a variety of things happening at libraries across the country. If there's something fun going on in your local library this week, leave us a comment!

We librarians will do just about anything to get your attention—including parking a car in the library. The Brownsburg (IN) Public Library has done just that in order to promote their new downloadable audio books and OverDrive Media Console.
*
If you live in Telluride, CO, you are already blessed with beautiful scenery year-round. Adding to the general awesomeness is the great stuff the public library is doing, including circulating energy meters and even bikes (on top of all the great books, of course). Check it out here.

*
Blue Island Public Library (IL) is celebrating Law Enforcement Week (May 9-15) with lots of great programs. If you can't make the events, or if the law isn't your bag, you could also join an online book club: "Every day, Monday through Friday, you will receive in your email a five-minute selection from a chapter of a book. By the end of the week, you'll have read 2-3 chapters."
*
Libraries like to take things outside, too! The Newport (PA) Public Library must have a lot of golf enthusiasts, because they're holding their 3rd annual Golf Scramble on May 14.
*
La Habra Public Library (CA) just wrapped up National Poetry Month with some great events, and they're not slowing down. On April 28 (today) was Dia de los Ninos, Dia de los Libros, a celebration of books and children, which included a children's parade and crafts.

Have you seen this yet? These funny library signs have been making the rounds on the internet. As a public librarian, yes they are sad, but they are also necessary. People are strange.
*
In fact, the strangeness of our patrons has inspired some librarians, namely the geniuses Gene Anbaum and Bill Barnes, to create a daily comic strip about a public library. I'm not sure if non-librarians will find it funny, but trust me when I say it is both hilarious and *very* true to life. Check out Unshelved here. It's like our xkcd.
*
Are you inspired to hit the library and grab that book you've always been meaning to read? Moby-Dick, Pride and Prejudice, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (it's really good!), or that long out-of-print book you loved as a kid? Well, check here first to find any book at any library!
*
Speaking of that long out-of-print book that you loved as a kid, is it just burning you up that you can't remember its title? Try one of several online groups to help you solve that exact problem, so you can be reunited with that book! Here are just a few to get you started.
*
Got any burning questions about libraries -- how they work, what they do, why they are draws for crazy people? Leave a comment and I'll try and tackle it next week. And librarians, let me know what awesome stuff your library is doing and maybe we'll post it here! Email me: atthelibraries@gmail.com. See you next week!

See previous installments of At the Libraries here.

twitterbanner.jpg

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
entertainment
arrow
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
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]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES