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"Tweet Me," "Mommy Issues" and More Offbeat Valentine's Day Candy Hearts

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If you're a fan of chalky candy (I am!), you've probably noticed that Necco's Sweethearts Conversation Hearts have gotten a bit of an overhaul in the past couple of years. Not only are the flavors different, to the chagrin of many, but the sayings have joined the rest of us in the 21st century as well.

It's not the first time the conversation has changed. In the mid-'90s, the basic Sweethearts were given a small update to get rid of some of the outdated sayings, but replacement gems like “Fax Me” and “Beep Me” quickly became obsolete again. Then, throughout the naughts, Necco added a handful of themed sayings every year. For example, 2009 was a cooking theme, which resulted in sayings such as "Top Chef" and "Table 4 Two." The hearts got a total overhaul in 2010 when Necco let candy connoisseurs vote on 10 new sayings for the first time in the company's history. The winners included “Tweet Me” and “Text Me,” among others that aren’t technology-oriented.

If Tweeting and texting don't trip your trigger, though, here are a few more interesting sayings from a post that originally ran last Valentine's Day.

1. “Forks.” Before you start wondering why Necco has decided to pay tribute to utensils, you should know that this one is from the Twilight-themed Conversation Hearts that hit stores in 2009. In case you’re not a Twi-hard, Forks is the name of the town where most of the action takes place.

2. “Mommy Issues.” This one comes to you from BitterSweets, a line of candy that includes themes such as Dumped, Dejected, Dysfunctional. Other awesome sayings include “U left seat up,” “Aging Poorly,” and “Pwned! Meh.”

3. “Nice t***.” Whoops.

What was probably a joke by a bored Brach’s assembly line employee ended up being not so funny when a 12-year-old California girl found it in her bag of candy in 2011. Check out a picture of the offending confection at Geekologie.

4. “Please send a lock of your hair by return mail.” Back in the early days of what were then called “Motto Hearts,” the concept was a bit different – instead of being printed right on the candy, candy makers did it up fortune-cookie style by putting slips of paper inside of little crispy candies. And the shapes weren’t just restricted to hearts – others included watches, baseballs and envelopes.

5. “Married in Pink, He will take to drink.” Although Necco started using vegetable coloring and a stamp to print sayings directly on the candy in the 1860s, they didn’t stop with the ridiculously long sayings. They were popular at weddings, hence the charming saying here. Others included the rhyme stretch “Married in satin, Love will not be lasting” and “Married in white, You have chosen right.”

6. “Stud Muffin.” Perhaps a bit risque for the children’s candy here in the U.S., “Stud muffin” is on the U.K. equivalent of Conversation Hearts, cleverly called Love Hearts.

7. “Let’s Read.” Nice, and to that I say, “Yes, please.” But is that really Valentine’s Day material? Is it a euphemism? Is that what the kids are saying these days?

8. “Get My Drift.” Necco added some weather-themed hearts in 2009 called “Love’s in the Forecast,” the pickup line your local weatherman uses when he goes out for drinks.

9. “You are gay.” It didn’t mean the same thing back when it was originally printed, which is why Necco pulled it from the ranks for being “outdated,” along with “Dig it.”

10. “Odyssey.” A bit cryptic for a piece of candy, perhaps, but it was part of the 2001 theme “Limitless love.” 2001… odyssey… get it?

Not a fan of the chalky taste of the candies, but like the way they look? DIYers have tons of ideas for you, including a wreath, framed art and jewelry.

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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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