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10 Things We’re Supposed to Remember

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Rob Wilson / Shutterstock.com

1. …the Alamo

A quick refresher on the basics of the Battle of the Alamo: fought from February 23-March 6, 1836, between Mexico and the Republic of Texas as a part of the Texas Revolution of 1835-1836. The first 12 days were a siege by Mexican General Santa Anna and his troops of the Alamo Mission and its small contingent of Texans including the commanders, William Travis and James Bowie and the “King of the Wild Frontier” himself, Davy Crockett. The siege came to a swift conclusion on the 13th day, March 6, with an all-out assault that killed most of the Texan soldiers. Commander Travis is said to have been the first killed, by a single gunshot wound to the forehead.

The phrase “Remember the Alamo,” then, was used as a rallying cry (often attributed to General Sam Houston) throughout the rest of the revolution and referring to the cruelty exhibited by Santa Anna. General Santa Anna had purportedly even executed those who had surrendered in the battle and burned the bodies of the Texans, including Travis, Bowie, and Crockett. As far as pep talks go, this one appears to have been quite successful. The Texans earned a quick and decisive victory over the Mexicans at San Jacinto on April 21 and Santa Anna was forced to sign a treaty giving Texas their independence the following day.

2. …the first of Octember

Please Try to Remember the First of Octember is a 1977 children’s book written by Theodore Geisel under the pen name Theo. LeSieg (Geisel, spelled backwards). You may recognize Mr. Geisel by his more well-known pseudonym, Dr. Seuss. In addition to all of his Seussian goodness, Geisel wrote, but did not illustrate, 13 books released under the LeSieg pen name and 1 under the name Rosetta Stone. So, if you want to have the complete Seuss canon in your library, you might have some shopping to do.

According to this particular Geisel book, one of the things that will occur on the first of Octember: “…you’ll stay up all night, drinking 66 six-packs of Doodle Delight.” And to think Geisel’s first children’s book, To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was turned down by 27 publishers.

3. …the Time

“Remember the Time” was a 1992 Michael Jackson single from Dangerous. Perhaps more notable than the song itself, which peaked at number three on the Billboard charts, is the randomly star-studded music video directed by John Singleton (of Boyz n the Hood, Higher Learning, and 2 Fast 2 Furious fame). The “short film” stars Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson and Iman (the Somali-American model who is married to David Bowie) and features Jackson’s first on-screen kiss (with Mrs. Bowie).

4. …the Titans

Remember the Titans is a 2000 football movie from Disney Studios and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The movie stars Denzel Washington, so you can be assured of good acting, and it has one of those choreographed football pre-game, on-field team motivational dance scenes that are just all-too-rare in American cinema.

The real story of T.C. Williams High School is pretty cool to remember too, lack of choreography aside. The consolidation of three Alexandria, Virginia, public high schools into one and the resulting formation of an essential all-star football squad consisting of the best from each of the three schools.

Though dramatized for the purposes of the movie, there were certainly racial implications of the school consolidation. Even though integration had technically occurred years prior, the previous three schools had still been racially imbalanced prior to consolidation. Of course, there was some embellishment here-and-there for the purposes of the movie, in most cases to heighten the intensity of the situation’s racial tensions. One thing that was made slightly more mild, however, was the incident in which a brick was thrown through the window of African-American Coach Boone’s family home.

“There wasn’t a brick thrown through my window,” the coach explains during the DVD commentary, “it was something far more devastating to any human being than a brick could be. I guess Disney, being the family movie production company that it is, felt that to depict a toilet stool coming through your window was a bit much ... I've never gotten over that incident that particular night, because I could never understand how anybody could feel so bad about another human being as to throw a toilet commode through a window.”

5. …the Maine

The USS Maine was a U.S. Navy battleship that was stationed in Havana, Cuba during the Cuban revolt against Spain in the late 19th Century for the purpose of protecting U.S. interests there. On February 15, 1898, the Maine exploded in Havana Harbor and 261 sailors lost their lives. Just a couple months later, President William McKinley asked congress for permission to use force in Cuba and the U.S. was catapulted into the Spanish-American war, in part because of media and public pressure (thanks, Hearst and Pulitzer) for a U.S. reaction to the Maine incident.

Much like “Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry for the Texas Revolution, the more emphatic and, indeed, poetic “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain!” became a similar cry during the Spanish-American War. Rally cries are always pretty fun, but the problem with this particular motivational rhyme is that there is, to this day, no conclusive evidence that the Maine disaster was the result of a Spanish attack. Alternate theories include that the explosion was the result of an accidental fire in one of the ship’s coal bunkers, that she was destroyed by a naval mine, and even that the United States was responsible for the ship’s sinking as a means to fuel public support for a war against Spain.

6. …Baker

OK—Remember Baker was a guy. I had never heard of him before, but maybe we just ought to remember him, after all. Aside from having a very memorable first name, he was Ethan Allen’s first cousin and a member of Allen’s Green Mountain Boys militia who, in the decade prior to the Revolutionary War, were crucial in resisting New York’s attempts to control the territory that is now Vermont.

But the Boys’ most remembered accomplishments occurred during the early part of the Revolutionary War when Ethan Allen, et.al. captured some strategically important military posts in New York, most notably Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. Remember was there.

A disturbing thing to remember about Remember is that, after leaving Ticonderoga on a scouting mission, he was shot and killed by Native Americans, who then cut off his head and stuck it right on a pole.

7. ...How You Got Where You Are

"Remember How You Got Where You Are" is the subtitle of the 1971 Temptations single "Superstar." Lyrics like, “No, you didn’t make it by yourself; You had help from somebody else” and “Remember beneath the glitter and gleam, like everyday people, you’re just a human being” were some verbal slaps from the Temptations to former band members David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, who had left the band in 1968 and 1971, respectively. Kendricks and Ruffin had been vocal about their negative feelings toward their former band mates in several 1971 interviews and the song served as a melodious means for the remaining and replacement Temptations to call out their old pals as sell outs. Some view the song as an early ancestor of today’s “diss tracks” that are sometimes released by artists as a part of musical rivalries most famously, perhaps, in the battle between East and West Coast rappers.

Apparently, people liked the way the superciliousness sounded – "Superstar" peaked at #18 on the Billboard charts. As the ultimate in-your-face comeback, David Ruffin recorded a cover of the song four years later. Also, incidentally, the Temptations version is featured on the soundtrack of the aforementioned movie, Remember the Titans.

8. ...the fifth of November

The fifth of November is to be remembered as Guy Fawkes Day in England and commemorates the day Mr. Fawkes was arrested while guarding 36 kegs of gunpowder that he and his Gunpowder Plot co-conspirators had placed below the House of Lords for the commencement of the Parliamentary session. They had high hopes of blowing up the Lords sending them a’leaping along with King James I, who they resented for not following through on a promise to relax England’s strict laws against Catholics.

Although Richard Catesby was the real mastermind behind the plot, Guy Fawkes’ is the name that most people remember. Either way, they were both killed for their role in the treasonous plot, Catesby by gunshot wound in a gunfight with the Sheriff of Worcester who was hunting down the conspirators and Fawkes by a good ol’ fashioned hanging, drawing and quartering. It is really a pretty interesting piece of history and, as the rhyme says, “…I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.” So, c’mon, join in the fun, light up those bonfires, chase each other through the streets with flaming barrels of tar, and set those Guy Fawkes effigies ablaze!

9. …me to Herald Square

“Remember me to Herald Square” is a lyric from George M. Cohan’s song “Give My Regards to Broadway.” The song is from Cohan’s first full-length musical Little Johnny Jones, which is based on the true story of American jockey Tod Sloan. Sloan went to England in 1903 to ride in the English Derby. The song is sung by the title character to a friend returning to America while Jones remains in England to clear his name in a scandal that erupts around the Derby. While the musical is extremely patriotic (it also features the song "Yankee Doodle Boy"), Cohan’s patriotism was even more apparent in real life. He was the first artist to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, which he was given by FDR for his contributions to the nation’s cause in World War I, primarily for the songs "Over There" and "You’re a Grand Old Flag."

As of 1959, you no longer have to give Cohan’s regards to Broadway—an 8-foot bronze statue of Cohan stands at Broadway and 46th Street and that seems to take care of all of the requisite regard-giving. But you really still ought to remember him to Herald Square (which is at the intersection of Broadway and Sixth).

Also remember this: potentially the only thing cooler than George M. Cohan is James Cagney as George M. Cohan. In the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, the classic actor typically known for his gangster roles, played the song and dance man to audience acclaim, superlative reviews, and the approval of the Academy who awarded him the 1942 Oscar.

10. ...Two Things

Remember Two Things is the name of Dave Matthew’s Band 1993 self-released album (reissued by RCA in 1997 when more people started jumping on the DMB bandwagon) that included three of their first major hits: "Ants Marching," "Tripping Billies," and "Satellite."

The cover of the album is one of those magic eye thingies that is supposed to show a person’s hand giving the peace sign. Unfortunately, and verrrrrry frustratingly, I cannot confirm this for you and never ever will be able to do so. Ever.

So, what are the two things that one is supposed to remember? Two theories out there: one is that it is referring to the two fingers on the alleged hand giving the peace sign on the album cover. The other is that the two things are to “love your mother” and to “leave only your footprints.”

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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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© Nintendo
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Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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