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15 Historical Complaints About Young People Ruining Everything

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Nothing is certain in this life but death, taxes, and the existence in every generation of fuddy-duddies who carp about things not being what they used to be. This centuries-spanning collection of gripes seems to suggest that the golden era of stability and contentment these geezers long to return to may never have existed in the first place. Still, the sheer similarity of their views ought to console them—some things never change.

1. "So Fatal a Contagion"

From an 1816 issue of the Times of London:

The indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced ... at the English Court on Friday last ... It is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs, and close compressure of the bodies ... to see that it is far indeed removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females...[Now that it is] forced on the respectable classes of society by the evil example of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.

2. "Self-Admiring, Emaciated Fribbles"

In Paris Fashion: A Cultural History, Valerie Steele published a letter sent to Town and Country magazine in November 1771 by a reader who wanted to get something off of his chest: 

Whither are the manly vigor and athletic appearance of our forefathers flown? Can these be their legitimate heirs? Surely, no; a race of effeminate, self-admiring, emaciated fribbles can never have descended in a direct line from the heroes of Potiers and Agincourt...

3. "The total neglect of the art of speaking"

In the preface to the 1780 book A General Dictionary of the English Language, Thomas Sheridan wrote:

The total neglect of this art [speaking] has been productive of the worst consequences...in the conduct of all affairs ecclesiastical and civil, in church, in parliament, courts of justice...the wretched state of elocution is apparent to persons of any discernment and taste… if something is not done to stop this growing evil …English is  likely to become a mere jargon, which every one may pronounce as he pleases.

4. "Corrupted the Morals of Many a Promising Youth"

In the 1790 book Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, Reverend Enos Hitchcock wrote, 

The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?

5. "A Lessening Sense for Both Duty and Discipline"

In 1904, psychologist and educator Granville Stanley Hall published The Psychology of Adolescence, in which he warned that it was a dangerous time, particularly for young folk:

Never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day. Increasing urban life with its temptations, prematurities, sedentary occupations, and passive stimuli just when an active life is most needed, early emancipation and a lessening sense for both duty and discipline, the haste to know and do all befitting man's estate before its time, the mad rush for sudden wealth and the reckless fashions set by its gilded youth--all these lack some of the regulatives they still have in older lands with more conservative conditions.

6. "Lax Habits, Low Moral Standards, Hotel Episodes..."

Besides the devil, nothing was more dangerous to the immortal soul than film—at least, according to "The 'Movies'--The Greatest Religious Menace," published in the November 6, 1926 issue of The Pentecostal Evangel:

...[The screen artists'] beauty, their exquisite clothing, their lax habits and low moral standards, are becoming unconsciously appropriated by the plastic minds of American youth. Let them do what they may; divorce scandals, hotel episodes, free love, all are passed over and condoned by the young... The eye-gate is the widest and most easily accessible of all the avenues of the soul; whatever is portrayed on the screen is imprinted indelibly upon the nation's soul.

7. "A Mere Amusement of a Very Inferior Character"

In its July 1859 issue, Scientific American rallied against a wicked game that made both the mind and body weaker—chess:

A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages...chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises--not this sort of mental gladiatorship.

8. "A Mendacious Umbrella"

Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and the 1894 essay “The Philosophy of Umbrellas,” could tell a lot about a person based on what they held over their heads when it was raining:

A mendacious umbrella is a sign of great moral degradation. Hypocrisy naturally shelters itself below a silk; while the fast youth goes to visit his religious friends armed with the decent and reputable gingham. May it not be said of the bearers of these inappropriate umbrellas that they go about the streets "with a lie in their right hand"?

9. "Lewd Wicked Children"

In 1695, Robert Russel wrote in A Little Book for Children and Youth (subtitled Being Good Counsel and Instructions for Your Children, Earnestly Exhorting Them to Resist the Temptation of the Devil...):

... I find by sad Experience how the Towns and Streets are filled with lewd wicked Children, and many Children as they have played about the Streets have been heard to curse and swear and call one another Nick-names, and it would grieve ones Heart to hear what bawdy and filthy Communications proceeds from the Mouths of such...

10. "Dogs at Their Heels and Other Evidence of Dissolute Habits"

In a speech to the House of Commons on February 28, 1843, Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, ranted:

...a fearful multitude of untutored savages... [boys] with dogs at their heels and other evidence of dissolute habits...[girls who] drive coal-carts, ride astride upon horses, drink, swear, fight, smoke, whistle, and care for nobody...the morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly.

11. "Full of Self-Conceit and Admiration"

It's probably safe to assume that the writer S.B.S. wasn't invited to any more kids' shindigs after "Children And Children's Parties" was published in The Mothers' Journal and Family Visitant in 1853:

... see the simpering little beau of ten gallanting home the little coquette of eight, each so full of self-conceit and admiration of their own dear self, as to have but little to spare for any one else... and confess that the sight is both ridiculous and distressing... the sweet simplicity and artlessness of childhood, which renders a true child so interesting, are gone (like the bloom of the peach rudely nipped off) never to return.

12. "The Mad Spirit of the Times"

In “Degeneracy of Stature,” which appeared in the December 18, 1856 issue of The National Era, Thrace Talmon wrote:

Household luxuries, school-room steam-press systems, and, above all, the mad spirit of the times, have not come to us without a loss more than proportionate...[a young man] rushes headlong, with an impetuosity which strikes fire from the sharp flints under his tread...Occasionally, one of this class...amasses an estate, but at the expense of his peace, and often of his health. The lunatic asylum or the premature grave too frequently winds up his career...We expect each succeeding generation will grow "beautifully less."

13. "A Progeny Yet More Corrupt"

In Book III of Odes, circa 20 BC, Horace wrote:

Our sires' age was worse than our grandsires'. We, their sons, are more
worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more
corrupt.

14. "Youth Were Never More Sawcie"

In his 1624 book The Wise-Man's Forecast against the Evill Time, Thomas Barnes, the minister of St. Margaret's Church on New Fish Street in London, bemoaned:

Youth were never more sawcie, yea never more savagely saucie . . . the ancient are scorned, the honourable are contemned, the magistrate is not dreaded.

15. "Throwing Off Every Kind of Social Restraint "

In Hour of Decision, published in 1933 (and translated by C.F. Atkinson in 1942), Oswald Spengler wrote:

The bad manners of all parliaments, the general tendency to connive at a rather shady business transaction if it promises to bring in money without work, jazz and Negro dances as the spiritual outlet in all circles of society, women painted like prostitutes, the efforts of writers to win popularity by ridiculing...the correctness of well-bred people, and the bad taste shown even by the nobility and old princely families in throwing off every kind of social restraint and time-honoured custom: all of these go to prove that it is now the vulgar mob that gives the tone.

See Also...

20 Self-Deprecating Notes Found on Vintage Photographs
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What the Internet Looked Like in 1995
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12 Old Words that Survived by Getting Fossilized in Idioms
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8 Great Mustaches of World War I

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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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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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