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At the Libraries: Panem Geography

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Each week Miss Kathleen provides links to a variety of stories about libraries, authors, and books. If there’s something noteworthy going on in your local library, leave us a comment!

Here are two great links for everyone who's excited about The Hunger Games movie. First, a possible rendering of Panem. I live in either the wilderness or, yikes, District 12. How about you? Thanks to our Blog of the Month (teaser!) for the link.
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Second, the question on everyone's lips: Who will win... The Hunger Games Nail Art Game? Tough call, you guys, tough call.
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World Book Night is in April, but the sign-up ends this week, so hurry and check it out! Free books, free joy, free community spirit!
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Maybe you've seen these already, but I would be very remiss in my work if I did not point out Stephen Colbert's recent two-part interview with legendary author Maurice Sendak. Please oh please watch them both (they're hilarious), and make sure to stay to the end to hear what Sendak thinks about e-books:

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 1
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive
The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 2
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

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Book covers change all the time as they are reissued and updated for newer readers. Stacked takes a look at one beloved classic and how its cover has changed with its readers. Oh, Flowers in the Attic, I loved you so!
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We haven't seen enough craft projects with books lately, right? Okay, maybe we have, but here's another one for the pile, and it is oh so cute: Book planters!
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They didn't try very hard with this headline, but I guess when a turkey breaks into a library, the jokes kind of write themselves.
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Readers have been sending me some great library links lately (say that three times fast!). Thanks to Junell for this "local hero" story and to Joe for three, count 'em, three links! First up, an Apple app so you can write your OWN e-books. Very cool. Another e-book story highlights the increase in library e-book lending. And last but not least, a sweet story about a second-hand book shop with some very fabulous finds!
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It's a new month, which means it is time for our latest Blog of the Month! This month I want to highlight a great blog that I have been reading for a while (probably over five years!) and that was one of the first to really cover the children's literature world. Have a look at Bookshelves of Doom for fun links and info on books, pop culture, libraries, and reading, and have fun!
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See you guys next week. If you have a great blog I should highlight for next month, please let me know about it. Have a great week!

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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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