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16 Quotes About Writing for Children

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1. Maurice Sendak

From his final television appearance on The Colbert Report: "I don't write for children. I write. And somebody says, that's for children."

2. Beverly Cleary

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In an interview with the University of Washington: "As a child, I disliked books in which children learned to be 'better' children."

3. Dr. Seuss


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On where he got his ideas: "I get all my ideas in Switzerland near the Forka Pass. There is a little town called Gletch, and two thousand feet up above Gletch there is a smaller hamlet called Über Gletch. I go there on the fourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock fixed. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them."

4. H.A. Rey

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On finding ideas for Curious George: “I know what I liked as a child, and I don’t do any book that I, as a child, wouldn’t have liked.”

5. Eric Carle

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In an interview with Reading Rockets: "[Children's books] are deceptively simple. I admit that. But for me, all my life I try to simplify things. As a child in school, things were very hard for me to understand often, and I developed a knack, I think. I developed a process to simplify things so I would understand them."

6. Steven Kellogg 

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On why he became an author and illustrator"When I was a kid, I was very aware of the fact that a lot of the adults in my neighborhood hated their jobs ... Knowing that one day I would be an adult, I really didn't want to lose the fun of childhood by going into this dark period where every day started off with resignation and gloom or worse. And so I was determined to get to know myself very well and choose a job that I thought would be just right for me."

7. Margaret Wise Brown

MargaretWiseBrown.com

On the importance of “goodnight noises everywhere”: “In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child's need for quietness is the same today as it has always been—it may even be greater—for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.” 

8. Roald Dahl

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On his early career, when he wrote novels for adults: “I’m probably more pleased with my children’s books than with my adult short stories. Children’s books are harder to write. It’s tougher to keep a child interested because a child doesn’t have the concentration of an adult. The child knows the television is in the next room. It’s tough to hold a child, but it’s a lovely thing to try to do.” 

9. Judy Blume 

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About censorship: “Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear.”

10. Lloyd Alexander 

On choosing a profession"The old expression 'Poets are born, not made' is absolutely true in my case. Sadly, I very quickly understood that I was not born to be a poet, and I couldn't manage to make myself into one. I could only hope that maybe, with luck, I might've been born to write for young people."

11. Stan and Jan Berenstain

Museum of Play

In an interview for Scholastic: "Children are very good about finding mistakes. We get probably thousands of letters, and some of them find mistakes in our books. As some readers know, Sister Bear always wears a pink hairbow. In one book we forgot the hairbow, and we got a letter about it. That proves to us that the children are really paying attention, and that's good." 

12. Tomie dePaola

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Talking to children in a literacy promotion video series: "Reading is important because, if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.”

13. Madeleine L'Engle 

On writing for the right audience: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

14. Astrid Lindgren 

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On the difference between adult and young readers: “I don’t want to write for adults. I want to write for readers who can perform miracles. Only children perform miracles when they read.”

15. Tim Wynne-Jones

On what kids' books are really about: “It’s the ability to bring events and characters to a resolution that draws me to writing, especially writing for children. I don’t want to ever be didactic, but if there’s something I do want to say, it’s that you can bring things around. You can make a change. Adult novels are about letting go. Children’s novels are about getting a grip.”

16. Mark Haddon

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In a piece for The Guardian: "Writing for children is bloody difficult; books for children are as complex as their adult counterparts, and they should therefore be accorded the same respect."

See Also: 10 Dr. Seuss Quotes About His Work

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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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May 23, 2017
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