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ToyMatrix’s eBay

11 Great Geeky Umbrellas

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ToyMatrix’s eBay

If April showers bring May flowers, then let’s all hope it rains plenty this month. Grab one of these great geek umbrellas to shelter yourself from the storms.

1. Umbrella Corp.

Aside from the awesome Resident Evil reference, this umbrella is doubly geeky because it also is an Umbrella umbrella. Oh ThinkGeek, you’re so punny.

2. Middle Earth

Unfortunately, toymatrix’s eBay listing for an umbrella featuring a map of Middle Earth is now over and I can’t seem to find any other place you can buy it, but the design is too beautiful and geeky to leave off of this list.

3. TARDIS

It seems that any normal household object has been turned into a TARDIS version by someone somewhere, and as a Doctor Who fan, I think that’s fantastic. Craftster user MissSadieMae converted her umbrella into a TARDIS and the result is something most Whovians would be proud to carry around—even in sunny weather.

4. Blade Runner

You might not ever get a functional replica of Deckard's LAPD pistol, but you can walk through the rain in style, like so many of the inhabitants of his city, with this great LED umbrella available at ThinkGeek.

5. Broadsword

Wish you could have the style of those in Westeros, but don’t want to have to carry around a real sword everywhere you go? Well then, try this great broadsword umbrella from ThinkGeek. It might not cut down your enemies, but it also won’t land you in prison.

6. Vader’s Lightsaber

Alternatively, if you enjoy your weapons to be a little more futuristic, you can always join the dark side with the Neatoshop’s umbrella that features Darth Vader’s lightsaber for a handle and the logo of the Galactic Empire on the canopy. For those who prefer the light, Obi-Wan’s lightsaber is also available in umbrella form.

7. Marvel

Any comic book fan, or at least any Marvel fan, would be happy to bring home this great umbrella from Geek Lounge that features an array of classic Marvel titles.

8. Ms. Pac-Man

Just imagine how great an overhead shot of umbrellas on a rainy day would look with this one by etsy seller CreativeCommunity hanging out in the middle. In fact, since it’s a little larger than average, it just might look like your umbrella is running around eating all of the other umbrellas on the streets as if they were pellets.

9. Kaylee’s Parasol

Don’t use this one in the rain as it’s for sun protection only, but any Firefly fan will instantly recognize that Etsy seller Karen McBrowncoat’s design is based on Kaylee’s hypnotic parasol used to help mesmerize potential travelers in the first episode of the show.

10. X-Ray

Anastacia Spada’s x-ray umbrella is as unique as it is striking. It’s also perfect for any doctors or biologists who wish to stay dry while showing off their interests. If you want to make your own, Spada has instructions for doing so at the link.

11. Mood-Changing

While you might be in the mood for your umbrella to look a certain way on a particular day, you might not want to carry that same design when you’re in a different mood. That’s why the My Day Umbrella by Hsiao Yong-li is so brilliant. It offers six different design options that each come with their own ambient tune that is played from speakers in the umbrella. Don’t like the design you chose yesterday anymore? Simply turn the handle and pick a new one, and if you get tired of the six pre-programmed designs, you can always download more online.

Do any of you have any particularly geeky parasols or umbrellas? If not, do you have any designs you wish were available as rain protection? I personally would love to see an umbrella with Totoro holding his umbrella painted on it.

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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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