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Etsy: GeekkiBoutikki

15 Fantastic Custom Made Lunch Boxes

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Etsy: GeekkiBoutikki

Summer has officially ended, which means all the youngsters are headed back to school, new lunch boxes in hand. If you’re looking for a cool new lunchbox for your kiddo or for yourself, here are some of the coolest custom lunch boxes and bags around.

1. Kicking It Old School

Anyone who loves retro gaming will dig this cool NES lunch box made by DeviantArt user sealsouch. That's not the only NES lunch box: Redditor Masennus designed his to use the controller and the controller cord as the handle on the lunchbox.

2. It’s All Fun and Games At Lunch

Prefer your gaming to be a little more modern? Then perhaps you’d feel more at home with an X Box lunchbox like this one designed by Craftster user ClemiesGirl.

3. Is It Lunch Yeti?

Like cryptozoology and silly puns? Then you’ll love this lunchbox by Craftster user SpookyPooky that features an adorable cartoon yeti and a bad joke.

4. Cute Crochet Carrier

Amigurumi characters are all too adorable—and popular with the kiddies. If you’re looking for a perfect lunch bag for your little one, you could always try making your own with this turtle bag pattern from Ravelry user Ana Paula Rimoli.

5. As Cool As It Gets

For those handy geeks who care way more about function than style, this lunchbox hack is a brilliant way to ensure your food stays nice and cool. Instructables user kcbford1 uses a small computer fan, two frozen bottles of water, and a metal plate to cool off his bag from the top down. He just plugs in the fan to the USB port on his computer and the cool air from around the iced water bottles spreads out to the rest of the food. You can follow in his footsteps with this tutorial, assuming you have the technical knowhow.

6. Hot and Cold

Having your lunch cooled by a USB device is great and all, but what if you work outside or if you want your meal to stay warm? In that case, you’ll need to rely on this Instructable by simonvp that shows how to use a solar plate, a Peltier element and a few other supplies to make a solar-powered lunchbox that can keep things hot or cold.

7. A Steampunk Rocker

This steampunk box by Etsy seller oldjunkyardboutique may not technically be labeled as a lunch box, but one look at it will tell you that it was just made to carry a steampunker’s lunch at a convention. Of course, if you try to make your own steampunk lunch box, you may want to incorporate the heating and cooling elements from the previous lunch boxes and install a working temperature gauge on the front—making it both fanciful and functional, the epitome of great steampunk design.

8. No Soggy Sandwiches In The Floppy Disk Box

Similarly, this recycled floppy disk bag isn’t labeled as being exclusively for lunch-carrying, but it does have lunch box as a tag, so Etsy seller GeekkiBoutikki certainly thought it would function well as one. It’s the perfect blend of geek chic and eco-friendly.

9. A Pouch Made of Pouches

Wish there was a way you could get more use out of those Capri Sun pouches your youngster chugs down at lunch? Make a new lunch bag out of everyone’s favorite beverage-in-a-pouch. Thrifty Fun can guide you through the simple sewing process. Alternatively, you can also try this tutorial by Instructables user mommyknows1 on turning the similar Kool Aid Jammers into a lunch bag.

10. The Manliest Lunch Bag Around

Like the classic look of a brown paper sack but wish it was a bit more classy and reusable? Then head over to Etsy shop LifelessLeatherCo to get your hands on this great insulated leather lunch bag with a sweet mustache detailing.

11. It Only Looks Vintage

If you glanced at this lunchbox for only a second, you’d probably just assume it is one of the classic vintage Thermos lunch boxes for kids. But when you give it a second look, you’ll quickly see that it’s actually a hand-painted design based on the very adult HBO program, The Wire. Artist Bart Gold did a fantastic job making the modern TV show have a classic lunchbox layout, inspired, in part, by the layout of the Welcome Back Kotter boxes of the 70s.

12. Breaking Bad Looks So Good

Here’s another of Bart Gold’s delightful adult lunchbox creations, this one featuring Jesse and Walt from Breaking Bad looking happily fascinated by the science of meth-making. These aren’t Gold’s only designs: He also has one featuring characters from Sons of Anarchy and one based on Six Feet Under.

13. This Box Isn’t Child’s Play

Speaking of adult lunchboxes, this Child’s Play lunch box by DeviantArt user Kreepy Kustoms is perfect for anyone with a soft spot for horror flicks.

14. Dawn of the Lunch

If you prefer zombies over evil dolls, you’ll dig Kreepy Kustoms’ Dawn of the Dead lunchbox instead. While he won’t sell you any of the designs already on his DeviantArt page, Kreepy Kustoms is open to commissions and will make a custom lunchbox loaded with images from any of your favorite horror flicks.

15. My Little Gory Pony

For those that like a little cuteness with their horror, DeviantArt user Laquera based this My Little Disemboweled Pony lunchbox on a joke from Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse. Despite the intestines coming out of the black pony, it’s still surprisingly adorable.

Do any of you have cool custom lunchboxes of your own, or do you go with the commercial ones?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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