CLOSE
Original image
ThinkStock

17 Offbeat Holidays You Can Celebrate in May

Original image
ThinkStock

If you remember nothing else from this article, remember that Mother's Day is Sunday, May 12. Go ahead and buy the card now. Once that’s taken care of, here are 17 much wackier holidays to keep it fun this month.

1. May 1: Loyalty Day

A lovely relic of our best years in the U.S.—the McCarthy Era. As communism gained popularity worldwide during the 1920s, the holiday of Labour Day, or May Day, on May 1st became closely tied to it. To combat the threat of the proletariat, it was proposed May 1st could also be a holiday for Americans to reaffirm their commitment to their homeland. Congress made it official in 1958, and former President Eisenhower made it formal by decreeing May 1st, 1959 an official holiday. It has since been honored annually by every subsequent President.

2. May 2: Scurvy Awareness Day

The preferred disease of pirates has its own international holiday, and an entire website to boot! Steer your ships over to Limestrong for citrusy cocktails, curvy-not-scurvy pin-ups, and drop some (citric) acid into your bloodstream!

3. May 3: Hug Your Cat Day

Not to be confused with Hug Somebody Else’s Cat Day. (Some celebrate Hug Your Cat Day on June 4th. Feel free to celebrate both.)

4. May 4: Star Wars Day

Getty Images

May the fourth be with you. (And don't forget to pick up some Star Wars goodies to celebrate properly.)

5. May 5: Cinco de Mayo

Getty Images

For many in the US, the 5th of May in Spanish justifies a 5th shot of tequila. Cinco de Mayo actually holds its roots in the Mexican state of Puebla. It commemorates the Mexican army defeating the better-equipped French army occupying their land at the time. As far as the addition of excessive drinking as part of the holiday, all signs point to America as the culprit.

6. May 6: National Nurses Day

National Nurses Day kicks off National Nurses Week which concludes on the O.G. nurse Florence Nightingale’s birthday. According to the reliable sources at Hallmark, there are currently 3.1 million registered nurses in the United States. Hallmark also alleges to be the first card company to invent, errr publish, National Nurses Day cards (in 1992). They now offer more than 20 different options, for males and females. At least they practice equality with their fake holidays, we’ll drink to that!

7. May 9: National Lost Sock Memorial Day

Today we honor the past, and we let go. It’s time to admit that one red argyle sock has gone to washing machine heaven. Time to turn the partner it left behind into a rag or a sock puppet, and buy a new pair. It’s what it would have wanted.

8. May 10: Clean Up Your Room Day

Also known as every child's least favorite day of the year, right behind Eat Your Brussels Sprouts Day and Do Your Homework Week. For the adults, this is a seasonal invitation to finally tackle that whole spring-cleaning thing—and torture your kids just a little.

9. May 11: National Twilight Zone Day

“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and on the eleventh of May, plan on confronting the pit of your fears and the summit of your knowledge.” Today you must honor your parallel realities and dive deep into the dimension of imagination, known as the Twilight Zone.

10. May 13: Frog Jumping Day

One of Mark Twain’s first short stories introduced the image of the “jumping frog” into the collective consciousness of America. How this ties to this specific date is unclear, but do you really need a clear reason to jump around like a frog?

11. May 14: National Dance Like a Chicken Day

Getty Images

Call up your local oom pah band, because today we Vogeltanz until we drop. Gather all the Arrested Development fanatics you know and start a round of your worst chicken impersonations. Or introduce your own interpretation of how the flightless bird might tango. All of the above suffice as celebrations, as long as your moves are fowl.

12. May 17: National Pack Rat Day

There’s a fine line between holding on to nostalgia, and being a serious contendor for an episode of Hoarders. But just for a day, you are permitted to openly cherish the growing stack of Signals catalogs piling up in your basement sans any judgment of concerned family and friends. Who knows? Maybe your Beanie Babies will become collectibles again, and the joke will be on us.

13. May 22: National Buy a Musical Instrument Day

Treat yourself to that baby grand you’ve always wanted. Don’t know how to play guitar? No problem! On this day in May, buy now, learn later!

14. May 23: Lucky Penny Day

Getty Images

Keep your eyes glued to the ground, because the cards are stacked in your favor that today is your lucky one! Just make sure you see the face of Abraham Lincoln staring back at you, before you pick the penny up.

15. May 26: Sally Ride Day

NASA

As the first American woman in space, Dr. Sally Ride rightfully earned a full day dedicated to her honor. Remember when space was a thing?

16. May 29: End of Middle Ages Day

Barkeep, we’ll have a pint of your finest grog! Today in 1453, the official Middle Ages ended—allegedly. The conclusion of one era ushered in the Renaissance, and other subsequent influential periods in European history. You gave us Arthurian lore, you gave us a plague of Bubonic proportions, and you gave us Game of Thrones. For that— mostly the last part—we thank you.

17. May 30: My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It Day

Somewhat inspired by a folk song of the same name, My Bucket’s Got a Hole in it Day, or MBGHD, does not dictate any formal observational traditions. We suggest putting a positive spin on a crisis, and taking the day to reflect on how things could be worse. Unless, of course, you’re a bucket.

All images via Thinkstock unless otherwise noted.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
Opening Ceremony
fun
arrow
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
Original image
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:

501069-OpeningCeremony2.jpg

Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

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]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES