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Funny and Fabulous Fortune Cookies

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Many years ago, my mother got a fortune cookie that said, "You got the wrong cookie!" That particular message has cropped a couple of times since then. Americans crack open so many fortune cookies that it keeps the industry busy coming up with sayings, pithy or not, to make us think, laugh, or even cringe. After collecting quite a few to show you, I wanted one that would make no sense at all as the first cookie, and I found the perfect image at My 2 Second Shelf Life.

The origin of the fortune cookie is a matter of some dispute. One story is that the first fortune cookies were made by Chinese immigrant David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company in Los Angeles. Jung's first fortune cookies were supposedly made in 1918. The other origin story is that the cookie is a version of the Japanese rice cookie tsujiura sembei, which became a fortune cookie when Makoto Hagiwara, owner of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, tucked thank you notes inside to serve his customers after dinner, beginning in 1914. He also made his cookie recipe sweeter for American palates. However, it turns out that cookies with paper slips inside were available in Japan even earlier.

Logic is not necessary. Don't gamble, but here's your numbers! This picture (and the next) is from a collection at Top Cultured. At least two companies have tried to sell fortune cookies in China, but both have failed as the concept is very strange to the intended market.

Only a couple weeks ago, Matt Soniak gave us instructions for proposing marriage to your sweetheart by fortune cookie. If you don't feel comfortable making your own fortune, there are companies who will make cookies with custom messages by mail order for a price. Since there is a minimum run of cookies, these are popularly used for birthday parties or weddings.

If you received this fortune cookie, you might be tempted to question your own sanity -or the dinner you just consumed. It was posted by redditor bryght. Is it an omen? A lazy writer? Or possibly a misaligned paper cutter?

This fortune, posted by redditor othersomethings seems complete and deliberate, but could be the result of drug use in the copy room. Or just plain confusion.

Fortune cookie manufacturers take feedback from their customers seriously. Bernard Chow at Wonton Food said customers asked for more contemporary and predictive fortunes, but the depressing results of the effort got the company written up in the New York Times a few years ago. The tone of the fortunes was adjusted accordingly, at least for that particular manufacturer. Corinna received these two depressing fortunes just this year.

Have you ever aspired to be a fortune cookie writer? Most of us who ever received a lame fortune have contemplated it for a short time. However, there aren’t many of these positions available. Donald Lau is the vice-president of Wonton Food, Inc. in Queens, New York. In addition to his financial work, he has written many cookie fortunes. Other manufacturers appear to depend on fortune writers who don't speak English. These fortunes are great for a laugh!

Nice, but it would make more sense if you put the words through a blender again. Which is more than you can say about this one.

There's no danger that I will make any bugs. I'm no programmer.

Some are copied from text found elsewhere, but edited to fit in the space allowed.

Or copied verbatim in its entirety, from any random source of English. See the rest of this collection at Buzzfeed. But every once in a while, you encounter a cookie from a comedian in training.

A few years ago, Bob Bjarke received a cookie that impressed him so much that he created an entire website to honor it.

Four years later, people still go there to receive inspiration for their aspirations.

The inspiration for this one is obvious. Not much in the way of enlightenment, but if I got it, I'd take a picture of it, too.

Some online generators will give you a random fortune any time you want one. That's especially handy if you don't like to eat the cookies. Others allow you to write your own, and save the image. That's the easy way to do it, but if you have any image manipulation skills, you can add your own message to almost any picture of a fortune cookie, so take images on the internet with a grain of salt.

A fortune cookie doesn't have to be real to be entertaining! This one was posted by redditor other_one. They can even be works of art.

Artist Christopher Rozzi painted the secret thoughts of a fortune cookie for his series Tiny Confessions. The print is for sale at his Etsy store.

How about you? What the strangest fortune you ever found in a cookie?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]