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Library of Congress

14 Wonderful Vintage Canadian Propaganda Posters

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Library of Congress

During World War I, 620,000 Canadian soldiers served—and over 10 percent of them died. In honor of the Canadian men and women who bravely served the British Commonwealth during the war, here are 14 fantastic propaganda posters. (Unless otherwise stated, all images are courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.)

1. Join The Canadian Forestry Battalion 

Those who didn't want to fight (or couldn’t sign up for the army due to health issues or old age) but still wanted to serve their country could enroll in the military by joining the Canadian Forestry Battalion, which cleared areas for camps and air strips. The story of the Forestry Battalion is pretty interesting and you can read more about it here.

2. Boys to the Farm

Those who wanted to serve but didn’t want to fight or chop down trees could even enroll as a Soldier of the Soil, which was operated by the Canadian Food Board and established in 1918. Participants were assigned and trained to help increase the food production during the war and were paid between $15 and $40 a month, equivalent to around $200 and $550 today. You can read more about the Soldiers of the Soil here.

3. Fight For Her

You might recognize the image in this poster. After all, artist Hal Ross Perrigard based this 1915 poster on Whistler’s famous painting of his mother. What an American-born, British-based painter and his mother had to do with the Irish Canadian Rangers, I can’t tell you, but it does show that great art is appreciated even during major war periods.

4. Only Strong, Healthy and Well Educated Men

The Canadian Navy wouldn't take just anyone: “Only strong, healthy and well educated men and boys are required and they must be of good character.” Thankfully there were plenty of other options for those who were ill educated (or, presumably, of bad character).

5. Shall We Wait Whilst Our People Burn?

Naturally, French Canadians had their own propaganda posters in French. This one roughly translates to “Shall We Wait Whilst Our People Burn?” and pushed viewers to enroll in the 178th French Canadian Battalion.

6. This is What It Will Take to Win

Image courtesy of the Canadian Library and Archives

Here is another French Canadian poster, this one telling the story of Lieutenant-Colonel Menard, D.S.O, who received five wounds in five hours and still pushed the attackers back. Even after he was immobilized by his injuries, he helped organize an air raid to save his men. The top of the poster roughly translates to “This is what it will take to win.”

7. Help Save Lives

Image courtesy of the Canadian Library and Archives

Canada didn’t stop with posters in English and French; they also made posters urging those in the country’s Jewish communities to “Help Save Lives.”

8. Our Boys Want Smokes

Here’s something you’d never see today: A fundraising poster promising that “all the money goes for smokes.” But when this poster was created by artist Thomas Bert, cigarettes were provided to all military men free of charge—in most cases, as part of their daily rations. With that in mind, it’s only logical to ask civilians to help donate to a necessary part of a soldier’s rations the way this poster does.

9. Keep All Canadians Busy

While it may seem silly to see a 1918 propaganda poster motivating everyone to support the war effort illustrated with a beaver, remember that the animals have long been an icon of the country and were even named the national animal in 1975. Plus, it makes sense to tell everyone to keep busy with a busy beaver.

10. Buy Thrift Stamps

The same way squirrels save nuts for a rainy day, citizens, especially children, were encouraged to buy low-cost Thrift Stamps, which could be traded up for War Savings Stamps, which could eventually be traded in for a War Savings Certificate Bond that would mature at a 4.5 percent interest rate. It took 160 Thrift Stamps to earn a War Savings Certificate Bond, so kids really would have to hoard them if they wanted to make the most of their future investments.

11. Buy Victory Bonds

This one was targeted at the ladies, pointing out that if women in France must go plow their fields alone, the least housewives in Canada could do was buy some war bonds to show their support.

12. Are YOU Breaking the Law?

Presumably food hoarders didn’t actually label their excess goods, but the point of this poster is pretty obvious to anyone familiar with the concept of war-time food rationing. During WWI, the crime was very serious and hoarders could face fines of up to 1000 Canadian Dollars—around $14,000 Canadian or $13,500 US in today’s money, a lot of scratch for a little extra sugar.

13. We Are Saving You, You Save Food

The government didn’t just try to scare off food hoarders, they also tried to play off of their patriotic sensibilities reminding them that while the boys in battle are working to “save you,” you had better “save food” and that “well-fed soldiers will win the war.”

14. Canada's Pork Opportunity

Propaganda posters usually revolve around wartime service—helping the soldiers and buying war bonds and the like—but this one focuses on agricultural and economic opportunities provided by the war. In 1918, the Canadian Food Board hired E. Henderson to create this poster to help motivate farmers to sell more pork to England.

Whether you live in Canada or are just enjoying our coverage of the nation's birthday, Happy Canada Day dear readers!

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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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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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