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12 Cruel Anti-Suffragette Cartoons

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Throughout history, there were people who did not want women to vote. Women would work, they would pay taxes, they would technically be considered citizens... but voting was for men. In America, when the right to vote was extended to include all races, all social positions, and all incomes, women were still not included. It didn't matter if a man was illiterate, had been to jail, or if he was the town drunk. He could vote, and a woman, no matter who she was, could not.

Women suffragists (suffragettes) began campaigning in democratic countries all over the world to change this, starting in the mid-19th century. Their campaigns were largely peaceful and dignified... at least by 21st century standards. But by 19th century standards, these women were abhorrent and indecent, making fools of themselves by demanding to be treated like men.

1. "Did I save my country for this?"

Women's Suffrage Memorabilia

2. "What I Would Do With the Suffragists"

Women's Suffrage Memorabilia

3. "Origin and Development of a Suffragette"

Women's Suffrage Memorabilia

4. "Nobody Loves Me"

Oregon Blue Book

5. "The Suffragette Bar"

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6. "Suffragette Vote Getting"

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7. "For a Suffragette"

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To save you the squinting, this reads: "The Ducking-Stool and a nice deep pool were our fore-fathers plan for a scold, and could I have my way, each Suffragette to-day, Should 'take the chair' and find the water cold."

8. "I want to Vote, but my wife won't let me"

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9. "Afternoon Tea"

Library of Congress

This political cartoon depicts what life was like for imprisoned suffragettes. One big long party for "martyred" socialites. Actual prisoners reported that this was not the case.

10. "Darns her men, but not her sox"

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11. "An Up-to-Date Suffragette"

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Here we see a suffragette assuming another traditionally male duty, much to the erotic delight of the men around her.

12. "No votes. Thank you."

20th Century London

Notice the gawky, frenzied suffragette running behind the poised and graceful pillar of true womanhood. The message being, a real woman wants no part of anything as base as politics.

Some of these cartoons are courtesy of Woman Suffrage Memorabilia, curated by author Kenneth Florey, writer of Women's Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated Historical Study.

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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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May 23, 2017
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