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100-Year-Old Hairstyle Trends for Hairstyle Appreciation Day

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2 La Creme

Whether you wear your luscious locks long or short, straight or curly, high or flat or all business in the front and party in the back, April 30 is Hairstyle Appreciation Day. Which means it’s a day of celebration for manes of all manner. (Yes, even the mullet.) 

Here, we track down 10 female hair trends that pre-date The Rachel by more than a century. None of which (save the timeless Bob) we’re particularly keen on seeing make a comeback.

1. Sausage Curls


Courtesy of The Barrington House Educational Center

“The tighter the curl the more stylish the girl” seemed to be the motto in the late 1830s, when sausage curls became all the rage. But their reign didn’t end with the Early Victorian period; actress Mary Pickford—America’s first “America’s Sweetheart,” a.k.a. “The girl with the curls”—brought a slightly softer style back in the early 1900s.

2. The Victorian Updo


Courtesy of HairStyleTwist

Both practical and sexist, women in the mid- to late-1800s grew their hair long but opted to wear it swept up—typically with a little poof and some curls to cover the forehead—so that it didn’t interfere with their chores around the house.

3. The Marcel Wave

Courtesy of 1920-30.com

A precursor to the perm, the Marcel Wave is named for French hairstylist François Marcel, who invented the process for this crimped style in 1872. Created with the help of heated curling irons, the style remained popular for more than five decades.

4. The Merry Widow

Courtesy of Anything Goes

To be clear: the Merry Widow in question is the enormous, plumed hat that replaced the need for much in the way of hairstyling (and made for one hell of a big-haired look). Prevalent during the Edwardian days, the look came about in 1907, following the immense popularity of a London staging of Franz Lehár’s operetta of the same name. The hat’s designer, Lucy Duff-Gordon, remarked of the trend: “Every woman who wanted to be in the swim had to have a ‘Merry Widow Hat,’ and we made thousands of pounds through the craze, which lasted longer than most fashion crazes, for the charm of the play kept it alive.”

5. The Pompadour

Courtesy of British Photodetective

Elvis Presley may have rocked the style back into popularity in the late 1950s, but the pompadour has been around since the 18th century, and is named for Madame de Pompadour, King Louis XV’s mistress. In the early 1900s, women resorted to all sorts of drastic measures to enhance the height of this vertically-aspirational style, from ratting their hair to inserting rolls of padding.

6. The Low Pompadour

Courtesy of British Photodetective

While the true pompadour was often reserved for more formal occasions, the Low Pompadour—in which hair was rolled over a crescent-shaped pad in order to create a serious front poof—was easier to maintain and, therefore, suitable for daily wear.

7. The Gibson Girl

Courtesy of Gertrude Käsebier/Social Serendip

In the earliest part of the 20th century, the feminine ideal came courtesy of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, whose pen-and-ink sketches for top publications of the time—including Life, Harper’s Weekly, and Collier’s—depicted the American woman as independent and strong. Few women better exemplified the “Gibson Girl” than Evelyn Nesbit, an actress/model who became the center of a scandalous murder trial when her millionaire husband murdered her lover, famed architect Stanford White, atop Madison Square Garden. Piled on top of the head with some tendrils hanging down, the effect was much looser than that of the Victorian era, perhaps as a metaphor that the times were a-changin’.

8. Curtain Hair

Courtesy of Social Serendip

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this harsh coiffure got its name. The styling is simple: 1. Part hair in the middle. 2. Pray the result looks better on you than it does this woman.

9. The Bob

Courtesy of Adventures of the Reluctant Housewife

Even today, the Bob—a shorter cut, usually angled around the jawline—has the ability to grab headlines, whenever a female celebrity opts for a chop. The cut caused controversy in the 1920s, when it was seen as a political statement of women asserting their equality to men. But it all started much more innocently than that, in 1915, when dancer Irene Castle bobbed her hair in preparation for an appendectomy, in an effort to make her recovery easier.

10. The Eton Crop

Courtesy of Ammo

The Eton Crop emerged as a term in 1926, when it was used by a journalist in The Times to describe the super-short, severely slicked-down style that was gaining popularity among women. Sultry songstress Josephine Baker was perhaps its most famous proponent

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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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10 Facts About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
May 29, 2017
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Library of Congress

On Veterans Day, 1921, President Warren G. Harding presided over an interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery for an unknown soldier who died during World War I. Since then, three more soldiers have been added to the Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) memorial—and one has been disinterred. Below, a few things you might not know about the historic site and the rituals that surround it.

1. THERE WERE FOUR UNKNOWN SOLDIER CANDIDATES FOR THE WWI CRYPT. 

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

To ensure a truly random selection, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from four different WWI American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and received the Distinguished Service Medal, was chosen to select a soldier for burial at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington. After the four identical caskets were lined up for his inspection, Younger chose the third casket from the left by placing a spray of white roses on it. The chosen soldier was transported to the U.S. on the USS Olympia, while the other three were reburied at Meuse Argonne American Cemetery in France.

2. SIMILARLY, TWO UNKNOWN SOLDIERS WERE SELECTED AS POTENTIAL REPRESENTATIVES OF WWII.

One had served in the European Theater and the other served in the Pacific Theater. The Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, chose one of the identical caskets to go on to Arlington. The other was given a burial at sea.

3. THERE WERE FOUR POTENTIAL KOREAN WAR REPRESENTATIVES.

WikimediaCommons // Public Domain

The soldiers were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. This time, Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle was the one to choose the casket. Along with the unknown soldier from WWII, the unknown Korean War soldier lay in the Capitol Rotunda from May 28 to May 30, 1958.

4. THE VIETNAM WAR UNKNOWN WAS SELECTED ON MAY 17, 1984.

Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr., selected the Vietnam War representative during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor.

5. BUT THE VIETNAM VETERAN WASN'T UNKNOWN FOR LONG.

Wikipedia // Public Domain

Thanks to advances in mitochondrial DNA testing, scientists were eventually able to identify the remains of the Vietnam War soldier. On May 14, 1998, the remains were exhumed and tested, revealing the “unknown” soldier to be Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie (pictured). Blassie was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. After his identification, Blassie’s family had him moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. Instead of adding another unknown soldier to the Vietnam War crypt, the crypt cover has been replaced with one bearing the inscription, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

6. THE MARBLE SCULPTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MANY OTHER U.S. MONUMENTS. 

The Tomb was designed by architect Lorimer Rich and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, but the actual carving was done by the Piccirilli Brothers. Even if you don’t know them, you know their work: The brothers carved the 19-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial, the lions outside of the New York Public Library, the Maine Monument in Central Park, the DuPont Circle Fountain in D.C., and much more.

7. THE TOMB HAS BEEN GUARDED 24/7 SINCE 1937. 

Tomb Guards come from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard". Serving the U.S. since 1784, the Old Guard is the oldest active infantry unit in the military. They keep watch over the memorial every minute of every day, including when the cemetery is closed and in inclement weather.

8. BECOMING A TOMB GUARD IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

Members of the Old Guard must apply for the position. If chosen, the applicant goes through an intense training period, in which they must pass tests on weapons, ceremonial steps, cadence, military bearing, uniform preparation, and orders. Although military members are known for their neat uniforms, it’s said that the Tomb Guards have the highest standards of them all. A knowledge test quizzes applicants on their memorization—including punctuation—of 35 pages on the history of the Tomb. Once they’re selected, Guards “walk the mat” in front of the Tomb for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the time of year and time of day. They work in 24-hour shifts, however, and when they aren’t walking the mat, they’re in the living quarters beneath it. This gives the sentinels time to complete training and prepare their uniforms, which can take up to eight hours.

9. THE HONOR IS ALSO INCREDIBLY RARE.

The Tomb Guard badge is the least awarded badge in the Army, and the second least awarded badge in the overall military. (The first is the astronaut badge.) Tomb Guards are held to the highest standards of behavior, and can have their badge taken away for any action on or off duty that could bring disrespect to the Tomb. And that’s for the entire lifetime of the Tomb Guard, even well after his or her guarding duty is over. For the record, it seems that Tomb Guards are rarely female—only three women have held the post.

10. THE STEPS THE GUARDS PERFORM HAVE SPECIFIC MEANING.

Everything the guards do is a series of 21, which alludes to the 21-gun salute. According to TombGuard.org:

The Sentinel does not execute an about face, rather they stop on the 21st step, then turn and face the Tomb for 21 seconds. They then turn to face back down the mat, change the weapon to the outside shoulder, mentally count off 21 seconds, then step off for another 21 step walk down the mat. They face the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until the Guard Change ceremony begins.

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