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11 Geeky Craft Creations, Including Rainbow Brite vs. Strawberry Shortcake

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There's a lot of variety in geek crafting. Whether you geek out over Star Wars, Pokemon or marine biology, there are plenty of subjects for you to enjoy, whether you prefer them rendered via crocheting, sewing or felting.

Cross Stitch

If you spent your childhood playing Nintendo, then you'll recognize the screen this cross stitch has captured so perfectly. In fact, it’s easy to expect the cacti to start dancing like they do in the game. Cross Stitch Ninja of Radical Cross Stitch definitely nailed the game's look and feel.

For those with a soft spot for both 80s cartoons and the era’s violent fighting games, this delightful cross stitch featuring Rainbow Brite battling Strawberry Shortcake should be just up your alley. Of course, if you prefer watching Care Bears fight to the death, then you’ll be happy to know that Jude Buffum also stitched one of those for your viewing pleasure.

If you’re more into modern geekery, then perhaps you’ll prefer this great meme cross stitch featuring Keyboard Cat. While it was originally created by Julie of Subversive Cross Stitch, it has since been removed, although you can still view it over at BoingBoing.

Sewing

For something a little more practical, this Keyboard Cat quilt by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com could keep you warm as well as entertained. Of course, if you prefer your meme kitties in Nyan form, then she’s got you covered there as well.

History buffs, your interests aren’t exempted from this geek craft roundup. Whether you actually prefer the true story or the television drama version, these Tudor dolls by DeriDolls are a great way to reenact your favorite scenes from the lives of Henry, Catherine, Anne and the rest of the king’s wives.

Crochet

This Salacious Crumb plush might just be one of the cutest geeky crafts ever made. In fact, it’s amazing how much a little crochet work can create something far more adorable than the original puppet used in Star Wars. To see more work by artist Allison Hoffman, don’t forget to click on the link to visit her blog where you can see other great creations, including her take on the Flaming C (Conan O’Brien’s superhero character).

Ms. Hoffman has quite a talent for making great geek crochet creations and has not only worked on Star Wars and Conan characters, but also on creatures seen on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, including Chairry, Pee Wee, Jambi and this Magic Screen that operates as a whimsical and adorable picture frame.

If you’ve never played any of the Katamari games, then not only are you missing out on one of the most delightfully strange video games, you’re also keeping yourself from being able to appreciate why things like this magnetic crocheted katamari by Amy Shimel are so wonderful. For those of you who do understand the power of the rolling katamari and who know how to crochet, you can get a pattern to make your own over on Amy’s Babies.

The great thing about crochet is just how versatile the craft is. You can use it to make anything from plushies to picture frames to blankets, like this delightful afghan throw in the shape of a Bulbasaur from Pokemon. Its creator, Craftster forum user SoreLoser, spent a whole year making this blanket that features over 848 small crochet squares.

Felting

For marine animal lovers, particularly those who enjoy the intelligence and sensitivity of cephalopods, there is always this fun, felted octopurse which is just as fashionable as it is a good conversation starter. You can buy your own from Etsy seller Galaflic.

Knitting

If you’re looking for a great geek craft that you could ask your grandma to make you for Christmas though, perhaps you should send her a picture of this Contra sweater now so she has plenty of time to knit it. The design, shared by Reddit user don_majik_juan, is delightful in that it perfectly blends the classic cheesy Christmas sweater with the imagery of the classic side scroller.

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

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