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10 Other People Ronald Reagan's Diary Only Mentions Once

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During last night's GOP debate, Mitt Romney attempted to minimize Newt Gingrich's connection to President Reagan:

"I looked at the Reagan diary. You're mentioned once in Ronald Reagan's diary. And in the diary, he says you had an idea in a meeting of young congressmen, and it wasn't a very good idea and he dismissed it. That's the entire mention."

We had a copy of The Reagan Diaries handy. Here's what the Gipper wrote about young Newt on January 3, 1983:

"Met with a group of young Repub. Congressmen. Newt Gingrich has a proposal for freezing the budget at the 1983 level. It's a tempting idea except that it would cripple our defense program. And if we make an exception on that every special interest group will be asking for the same."

But the former Speaker is in good company. The Reagan-Mentioned-Me-Once-in-His-Diary Club includes lots of big names. For example:

1. Drew Barrymore (October 17, 1984)

"Out on the South Lawn a ceremony recognizing the Young Astronauts program. Little Drew Barrymore — the child in 'E.T.' — was one of the children. She's a nice little person."

2. The A-Team (May 3, 1986)

"Dinner alone in my suite. I'll be glad when Nancy joins me. CNN has an English language channel in Japan. I ate dinner watching 'The A-Team' & 'Hart to Hart.' Then word came to me that we'd had our 3rd calamity in the Space program. A Delta missile carrying a $57 mil. weather satellite had to be blown up when it malfunctioned. You can't help but wonder about sabotage."

3. Harry Caray (September 30, 1988)

"...threw out the first ball at Wrigley Field, joined in play-by-play with announcer Harry Caray."

4. Vinny Testaverde (December 12, 1986)

"Noted military team in Holland cooperating on Suriname situation; photo session with Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde; Domestic Policy Council meeting with reports on reforming welfare program."

5. Shelley Long (February 28, 1984)

"...Cabinet meeting on containing 'Beltway Bandits,' advisory and consulting groups gaining unnecessary government contracts; greeted actress Shelley Long; state dinner, entertainment by Mel Torme and Peter Nero."

6. Muhammad Ali (January 24, 1983)

"Visit from Muhammad Ali, 'gave me an autographed Muslim Prayer Book.'"

7. Juice Newton (August 26, 1984)

"Picnic for female appointees, entertainment by Juice Newton; Vice President Bush learned by telephone that his daughter had a baby son."

8. Wayne Newton (June 28, 1984)

"Photo sessions with Bay Buchanan and with Wayne Newton; met with former secretaries of the Treasury and current secretary Regan in support of appropriation for International Monetary Fund."

9. Pat Riley (June 30, 1988)

"...meeting with congressional leaders on drug policy; lunch with basketball coach Pat Riley; desk work; cabinet briefing on nuclear power stations, commented, 'some were shut down because countries & or states refused to submit plans for emergency evacuation."

10. Burt Reynolds (March 21, 1982)

"Dined with Burt Reynolds, noted, 'Had not known him well in Hollywood so surprised at his seriousness and his sincere crusade spirit against drugs, etc.'" [I cheated here. Burt's mentioned twice.]

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
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:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


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]