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Get The Day's Best Amazon Deals Now

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As a recurring feature, our team combs the Web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, May 19.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

GADGETS, TOYS, AND MEDIA

Fritesla 20000mah Power Bank 4USB Portable Charger for Smartphones (Green) for $24.99 (list price $100.00)

RAVPower 60W 12A 6-Port USB Charger Desktop Charger Charging Station with iSmart Technology (Black) for $19.99 (list price $39.99)

Kinps Audio Auxiliary Stereo Extension Audio Cable 3.5mm Stereo Jack Male to Female, Stereo Jack Cord for Phones, Headphones, Speakers, Tablets, PCs, MP3 Players and More (10ft/3m, Nylon-Black) for $5.49 (list price $9.99)

SENSO Bluetooth Headphones Wireless Sports Earphones - w/ Mic, IPX7 Waterproof, HD Stereo Sweatproof Earbuds, for Gym Running Workout, 8 Hour Battery, Noise Cancelling Headsets for $37.97 (list price $169.99)

G.U.S. Multi-Device Charging Station Dock & Organizer - Multiple Finishes Available. For Laptops, Tablets, and Phones - Strong Build, Eco-Friendly Bamboo for $39.99 (list price $59.99)

ACDelco Super Alkaline AA Batteries, 40-Count for $7.80 (list price $12.99)

Cell Phone Camera Lens - TURATA 2 in 1 Professional HD Camera Lens Kit 0.45X Super Wide Angle & 12.5X Macro Lens for iPhone7 6s 6s plus 6 plus 5s & Most Smartphone, Tablet for $11.98 (list price $30.99)

NETGEAR AC750 WiFi Range Extender (EX3700-100NAS) for $39.59 (list price $44.99)

KITCHEN

Danish Dough Whisk Size Large for $7.99 (list price $10.49)

Wilton 2105-0112 Easy Layers! 5-Piece Cake Pan Set, 6-Inch for $10.52 (list price $16.95)

OXO Good Grips GreenSaver Produce Keeper - Large for $19.99 (list price $24.99)

Lodge LFSR3 Cast Iron Fajita Set, Pre-Seasoned for $24.97 (list price $29.99)

Watermelon Slicer Cutter Corer & Server - Multipurpose All In One Stainless Steel Knife - Melon & Fruit Slicer - Comfortable Rubber Handle Corer Tongs for $7.99 (list price $19.99)

Mueller Austria V-Pro 5 Blade Adjustable Mandoline Slicer – White/Grey for $29.99 (list price $59.99)

Lifefactory 11-Ounce BPA-Free Indoor/Outdoor Wine Glass with Protective Silicone Sleeve, Multicolor, Set of 4 for $32.89 (list price $39.99)

Presto 04821 Orville Redenbacher's Hot Air Popper for $22.50 (list price $39.99)

Imarku Pro Kitchen 8 inch Chef's Knife High Carbon Stainless Steel Sharp Knives Ergonomic Equipment for $29.99 (list price $99.99)

Rachael Ray Cucina 16-Piece Stoneware Dinnerware Set, Almond Cream for $52.17 (list price $140.00)

HOME

6 Piece 1500 Thread Count Egyptian Quality Deep Pocket Bed Sheet Set - 2 EXTRA PILLOW CASES, GREAT VALUE - Queen, Gray for $26.50 (list price $31.00)

OJIA Deluxe Home Decorative Super Soft Plush Mongolian Faux Fur Throw Pillow Cover Cushion Case (12 x 20 Inch, Light Coffee) for $14.95 (list price $39.99)

Dreamfoam Bedding King Copper Gel Memory Foam Mattress for $379.99 (list price $1,399.99)

GORILLA GRIP Rectangle (35-Inch-by-16-Inch) Non-Slip Machine Washable Bath Mat, Clear for $11.99 (list price $29.99)

Oceanstar M1125 Contemporary Solid Wood Magazine Rack, Mahogany Finished for $21.82 (list price $59.00)

Queen Comforter Duvet Insert White - Quilted Comforter with Corner Tabs - Hypoallergenic, Plush Siliconized Fiberfill, Box Stitched Down Alternative Comforter by Utopia Bedding for $33.99 (list price $69.99)

Brightech - SKY LED Torchiere Floor Lamp - Dimmable Super Bright 30-Watt LED - Warm White Color - Omni-Directional Head - Sleek Black Finish for $79.99 (list price $129.99)

Squeegee for Shower, Window and Car Glass - 2 Extra Silicone Replacement Blades - Foam Handle - Color Blue for $11.97 (list price $19.97)

Shark Navigator Deluxe (NV42) for $129.99 (list price $179.99)

Flameless Candles 4" 5" 6" Set of 3 Ivory Dripless Real Wax Pillars Include Realistic Dancing LED Flames and 10-key Remote Control with 24-hour Timer Function-Antizer for $21.98 (list price $99.99)

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

VIKTOR JURGEN Shiatsu Kneading Massage Pillow with Heat,Neck,Shoulder & Back Massager for Home/Car/Office for $27.95 (list price $99.00)

Fitbit Flex 2, Black for $59.95 (list price $99.95)

PRO-Women: Probiotics for Women with Cranberry Extract & D-Mannose - 15x More Effective than Probiotic Capsules - 30 Once Daily Time Release Tablets - Supports Urinary Tract Health for $22.95 (list price $35.95)

Nerdwax Stop Slipping Glasses as Seen on Shark Tank for $10.99 (list price $14.99)

Bekith Eco-Friendly Bamboo Toothbrush Adult Size – Natural Dental Care for Men & Women, Set of 6 for $10.00 (list price $19.99)

Colgate Slim Soft Charcoal Toothbrush (Pack of 3) 17x Slimmer Soft Tip Bristles for $4.10 (list price $5.95)

Colgate MaxFresh Wisp Disposable Travel Toothbrush, Peppermint - 24 Count for $3.41 (list price $7.99)

Philips Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control Sonic Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush, HX6211/30 for $39.95 (list price $69.99)

Philips Sonicare Essence Sonic Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush, White for $19.97 with coupon (list price $49.99)

Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh By Marc Jacobs Eau-de-toilette Spray for Women, 2.50-Fluid Ounce for $38.60 (list price $75.00)

OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND CRAFTS

HP Paper, Color LaserJet Poly Wrap, 28lb, 8.5 x 11, Letter, 98 Bright, 500 Sheet / 1 Ream (205050R) Made In The USA for $9.88 (list price $19.55)

Crayola Colored Pencils, 50 Count, Vibrant Colors, Pre-sharpened, Art Tools, great for Adult Coloring Books for $7.41 (list price $12.89)

Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Bold (1.4mm), Assorted Colors, 12 Count for $7.97 (list price $17.09)

Paper Mate Profile Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Bold (1.4mm), Black, 12 Count for $7.19 (list price $8.47)

Strathmore Bristol Smooth Paper Pad, 9 by 12-Inch, 20 Sheets for $7.43 (list price $12.99)

Fluorescent Liquid Chalk Markers (10 Pack) By Kassa - Child Safe (Non-Toxic) - 2 Tip Sizes (6 and 4 mm) Chalkboard Paint Markers - Erasable Ink for Chalk Board (Nonporous), Glass and Windows for $12.95 (list price $24.95)

OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

Vremi Garden Weeder Hand Tool - Gardening Weeder with Ergonomic Handle for Planting and Weeding - Handheld Cultivator for Flower and Vegetable Plants Care (Single) for $9.99 (list price $19.99)

Chapin 20002 Poly Lawn and Garden Sprayer For Fertilizer, Herbicides and Pesticides , 2 Gallon for $17.77 (list price $24.99)

GreenWorks 21212 4Amp 13-Inch Corded String Trimmer for $29.98 (list price $49.99)

Grillaholics Grill Mat - Set of 2 Non Stick BBQ Grill Mats - Heavy Duty, Reusable, and Easy to Clean - Extended Warranty for $19.95 (list price $39.97)

True Temper Forged Round Point Digging Shovel - 2585600 for $12.98 (list price $19.99)

Coleman Company 4-Person Pop-Up Tent,Green/Grey for $77.77 (list price $99.99)

GeLive Elephant White Ceramic Succulent Planter Flower Pot Window Box with Saucer for $13.99 (list price $19.99)

Coleman Compact Table for $37.64 (list price $49.99)

Survival Spark Magnesium Survival Fire Starter with Compass and Whistle for $8.95 (list price $12.95)

HeroBeam LED Lantern V2.0 with Flashlight - 2016 COB Technology emits 300 LUMENS! - Collapsible Tough Lamp - Great Light for Camping, Car, Shop, Attic, Garage (SINGLE PACK) for $13.77 (list price $24.99)

ALL NEW 2017 Garden Hose 50 Feet Expandable Hose With All Brass Connectors, 8 Pattern Spray Nozzle And High Pressure, {IMPROVED} Expanding Garden Hose for $44.89 (list price $89.99)

TOOLS

Lisle 52000 Razor Blade Scraper for $7.09 (list price $13.28)

DEWALT DW2166 45-Piece Screwdriving Set with Tough Case for $14.97 (list price $41.80)

BLACK+DECKER LI2000 3.6-Volt 3-Position Rechargeable Screwdriver for $16.99 (list price $19.88)

Stanley 51-713 Hickory Handle Nailing Hammer, 13 Ounce for $6.17 (list price $9.95)

3M 19015ES-CC 3-2/3 by 9-Inch Fine Grit Aluminum Oxide Paint, Wood, Metal Sandpaper, 9-Pack for $2.47 (list price $7.97)

Amir Motion Sensor Light, Cordless Battery-Powered LED Night Light, Stick-anywhere Closet Lights Stair Lights, Safe Lights for Hallway, Bathroom, Bedroom, Kitchen, etc. (White - Pack of 3) for $11.99 (list price $29.99)

DEWALT 3PC SIDE STRIKE CHISEL SET Blade widths: 3/4" 1" 1-1/4" for $18.60 (list price $40.90)

Stanley 20-045 15-Inch Fat Max Hand Saw for $9.56 (list price $20.38)

Kidde 466204 Pro 10 MP Fire Extinguisher, UL Rated 4-A, 60-B:C, Red for $57.45 (list price $84.45)

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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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iStock
Sponsor Content: BarkBox
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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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iStock

Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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