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Inkall.com

6 Creative Uses of Sentence Diagramming

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Inkall.com

Sentence diagramming was once a widespread technique for teaching kids how to analyze the structure of a sentence. If you had to do it in school, you either loved it or you hated it. Most kids hated it. But for the kids who loved it, it made language into an orderly puzzle, complicated but solvable, where words clicked into interlocking pairs, groups, and chunks, until a picture of the hidden architecture of sentences emerged. That architecture, when exposed, can be beautiful. It’s no wonder that sentence diagrams have made their way into art. Here are 6 creative uses of sentence diagramming.

1. Our Own Effort (Proust)

Click to enlarge. Image courtesy of Nicholas Knight

Artist Nicholas Knight features sentence diagrams in many of his drawings, collages, and wall installations. He diagrams quotes from famous artists and thinkers that highlight the interplay between meaning and structure. This work, Our Own Effort (Proust), represents Proust’s statement that “what we have not had to decipher and to clarify by our own effort, what was clear before we came, does not belong to us.” You can figure this out, through the clarifying effects of your own effort, if you closely study this print that at first appears to be a colorful subway map.

2. close 

Image courtesy  of Kelly Sherman and Barbara Krakow Gallery.

Artist Kelly Sherman has produced a series of works diagramming lines of original poetry. As she says in her artist’s statement, “reiterating or undermining the sentences’ content, the work in this series addresses the hierarchies, structures and overwhelming eloquence of language.” In this work, close, the modifiers of the adjective “close” in “so close like breath” are obscured to different degrees by layers of vellum, adding another element of visual structure.

3. 9 artists/9 spaces

Photo courtesy of lnkall.com.

In 1970, the Minnesota State Arts Council organized a show of art in public spaces called 9 artists/9 spaces. The invited artists prepared their pieces, but almost none of the works were ever seen because, as Peggy Weil explains in this unbelievable history of the event, “one by one each piece fell victim to controversy or mishap.” One was vandalized, one was dismantled by the FBI, and one was shut down after a giant cache of explosives were discovered in the basement of the building where it was installed. The piece Robert Cummings created, a giant sculpture of diagrammed sentences made up of 1150 painted letters on wooden scaffold, was destroyed when a semi truck crashed into it. As if that wasn’t unlucky enough, the camera of the photographer who was at that very moment photographing the piece was also destroyed, along with the detailed images he was in the middle of capturing for posterity.

4. "Which Sentences Are We Diagramming"

Comic by Kevin Huizenga; image via Austin Kleon. 

In “Which Sentences are We Diagramming,” Kevin Huizenga illustrates the frustration of parsing confusing sentences. He tries to untangle structure through everything from sentence diagrams and lists to base-running and Mad Libs. The full version of this comic is at What Things Do.

5. "a loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge"

Image courtesy of Follow Your Gnose

 

This post from Follow Your Gnose gives instructions for making your own sentence diagram mobile. The sentence pictured here, “a loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge,” is from Thomas Carlyle. With some card stock, wooden dowels, fishing line, and glue you too could set some delicately balanced clauses spinning in the breeze.

 

6. "cross-stitching is contagious"

 

Image courtesy of Embroiderbee

The straight lines of sentence diagrams lend themselves well to anything made on a grid. Embroiderbee offers a huge selection of free needlework patterns, including this cross stitch sentence diagram.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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© Nintendo
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Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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