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5 Ways TV Characters Celebrate Real Holidays

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Reddit

Television characters are always coming up with new and exciting ways to celebrate traditional holidays. Here are a few ways you can celebrate real holidays in entirely new ways thanks to your favorite fictional characters.

1. Cinco de Mayo: Arrested Development

The Basics: To be fair, the folks on the show actually celebrate Cinco de Cuatro, but because it’s a direct response to Cinco de Mayo and celebrated on the eve of the real holiday, it’s close enough to a real holiday. Cinco de Cuatro is one of the main settings for the new Netflix episodes that make up season 4. The whole thing starts out when young Lucille Bluth (Kristen Wiig) and George Bluth Sr. (Seth Rogen) get annoyed that their housekeeper has taken the day off for Cinco de Mayo. They decide to throw their own party on the fourth that will consume all of the Cinco de Mayo party decorations so the Newport Beach Mexican-American population will have nothing left to celebrate with and, thus, won’t be able to take the day off.

Of course, the enterprising Mexican-Americans soon embrace the holiday, as it provides them a great opportunity to make extra money by selling Cinco de Mayo products to the wealthy populace. In the end, everyone ends up embracing the holiday.

How to Celebrate It: Most of us don’t have the money to buy out all the Cinco de Mayo decorations in our entire town (nor would we want to), but holding your Cinco de Mayo festivities a day early by the nearest waterway is always fun—especially if the local boaters start joining in and hold a “Festival of Lights” boat parade. You can also enjoy the holiday by putting together your own musical version of The Fantastic Four (or your own favorite group of superhero crime fighters).

2. Leap Day: 30 Rock

The Basics: In the 30 Rock universe, Leap Day is a real holiday and Liz Lemon (who always spends the day inside) is the only one who doesn’t know about it. Leap Day even has its own holiday mascot, Leap Day William, who was even played by Jim Carrey in a movie at one point. Leap Day William lives in the Mariana Trench, has gills on his neck and fangs, and gives candy to children in exchange for their tears. The traditional colors for Leap Day celebrations are blue and yellow, which are the same colors as Leap Day William’s suit, and like Saint Patrick's Day, it's critical you wear these colors on the holiday.

Another Leap Day tradition, unrelated to William, is leaving out rhubarb for your guests—though Jack goes down a dangerous road when he eats the leaves rather than the stems, despite Kenneth’s warnings.

You can download and watch the whole episode here.

How to Celebrate It: Who doesn’t want an opportunity to celebrate a day that only appears on the calendar every four years? While you won’t get to celebrate the holiday again until 2016, you can at least start preparing for the biggest Leap Day celebration ever. Invest in a blue and yellow suit, and buy some costume gills and fangs so you can jovially play William for all the crying children. Alternatively, save up all of your tears in the hopes that they will land you lots of extra candy in a few years. On the day of, don’t forget to put out your rhubarb and don your blue and yellow. And as Kenneth reminds us, if you ever see a man in a blue suit, say “hi.”

Of course, you can always celebrate like Tracy Jordan and save any gift cards and Groupons that are set to expire at the end of February and try to use them all up on the 29th, even if you have $50,000 worth of Benihana gift cards to spend.

(And if you want to follow 30 Rock’s lead when it comes to Christmas by throwing a Ludachristmas party, The Daily Titan has some great suggestions for making it a party to remember.)

3. Leif Erikson Day: SpongeBob

The Basics: You may not have heard of Leif Erikson Day, but it is a real holiday that takes place on October 9. The date doesn’t coincide with any dates from Leif Erikson’s trip as the first European to travel to North America. Instead, it was the arrival date of the ship Restauration, which headed the first organized immigration from Norway to the US.

While Leif Erikson Day might not be that popular here, it happens to be one of SpongeBob’s favorite holidays, appearing in the episode "Bubble Buddy."

How to Celebrate It: If you want to commemorate the day like SpongeBob, just strap on a Viking helmet and a red beard, paddle your furniture around, and talk like the Swedish Chef all day. And if you don't have anyone to celebrate with, make up your own friend like SpongeBob does.

4. Daylight Saving Day: Pete and Pete

The Basics: The Petes always stay up until the clocks are turned back, trying to always do something amazing during the last possible hour of Daylight Saving Time. In the episode, it’s the first year the brothers spend the day apart, with older Pete going on his first date with Ellen and younger Pete and his neighbor Nona plotting revenge against the neighborhood bully, Endless Mike.

On the advice of Endless Mike, older Pete acts like a jerk to Ellen by trying to get her to fool around with him. Ellen gets fed up and decides to walk home from the drive-in. Meanwhile, Little Pete switches the drive-in movie for home video footage of Endless Mike as a baby, embarrassing him in front of everyone there.

Older Pete chases after Ellen and apologizes, asking her if, in the spirit of Daylight Saving, she can forget what a jerk he was the last hour and if they can go back to being friends. She agrees and kisses him on the cheek.

Endless Mike chases younger Pete so far that the two end up crossing time zones, leaving Pete to time travel again. The event is eventually immortalized in the making of a slidey pen that features the chase.

How to Celebrate It: Most people just turn their clocks back before they go to bed or the next morning when they wake up, but when you get an extra hour in your life, you might as well celebrate it. It is, after all, the closest most of us will ever get to time traveling.  Do something you’ve always wanted to do that night and, like New Year’s Eve, be sure to stay up until the big clock change or else the whole night is pointless.

Don’t forget to bring along a mood ring to help catalog your emotions and some Krebloggs cereal with Riboflavin, or you might get stuck between time zones forever.

5. Arbor Day: Raising Hope

The Basics: The Chance family never had money, so after seeing Jimmy get picked on the day after Christmas for receiving a crummy handmade yo-yo that only goes down, they decide that since they can’t give him the best Christmas, they’ll give him the best days possible on other holidays. For Presidents Day, they'd throw chocolate coins all over Jimmy, they would all settle down to watch 90210, eat a special meal of LBJ sandwiches (lettuce, butter, and jelly) and then Burt would sing a special song. For Groundhog Day, the family would dig holes in the backyard, fill them with treats for Jimmy to find, they would all settle down to watch 90210, enjoy a special meal with six more weeks of hot dogs, and then Burt would sing a special song. For Chinese New Year, the family would make a bon fire, light some sparklers, they would all settle down to watch 90210, eat a special meal of egg foo young, and Burt would sing a special song.

Young Jimmy’s favorite holiday was always Arbor Day though, when his dad would dress up like Papa Woody, “the mystical, gift-giving wizard of the forest” who pitches his tent “deep in the bush.” Papa Woody would bring a bunch of magical trees inside the Chance home and load them up with candy and toys from the dollar store. Then, the family would then all settle down to watch 90210 and enjoy a delicious dinner of warm maple syrup soup before Burt sang a special song.

There is one problem with the Chance’s Arbor Day celebration—the trees Jimmy finds are pulled from the ground after traditional Arbor Day revelers plant them. The family then leaves them to dry out in the backyard until they can be burned for Chinese New Year.

You can download and watch the whole episode here.

How to Celebrate It: The Chance family proves you don’t need money to make your child feel special. They also prove that even second-string holidays deserve the chance to become something a lot more magical. Why not celebrate Presidents Day, Groundhog Day, Chinese New Year, and Arbor Day? Granted, you might not want to celebrate with the same foods they enjoy and you’ll probably want to watch something besides 90210, but these overlooked holidays can be just as good as the big ones if you make your own special holiday traditions.

While their Arbor Day celebration is pretty amazing—from the holiday mascot with adult innuendos to the idea of making saplings fun for youngsters—you probably ought to add a little bit of a traditional twist here. If you want to celebrate a Chance-style Arbor Day celebration, get tree saplings to plant, hold your Papa Woody surprise first and then tell the youngsters that they have to help plant the trees if they want Papa Woody to come back again next year. This way, everyone wins!

Remember, holiday traditions are only traditions because someone decided to celebrate that way a long time ago. So if you want to have your own special holiday traditions, all you have to do is start celebrating with your friends and family every year. Next thing you know, your kids will be passing your made-up traditions down to their kids.

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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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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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