CLOSE
Original image
Kate-Colored Glasses

11 Fashions the Kids Were Wearing Back in 1993

Original image
Kate-Colored Glasses

In the fall of 1993: Tupac Shakur was charged in the shooting of two off-duty police officers; Pearl Jam released their sophomore effort Vs.; Nirvana performed an “Unplugged” concert for MTV; Dazed and Confused was connecting with kids at the box office; future teen idols Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera joined the cast of The New Mickey Mouse Club; Boy Meets World met the world; Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place continued to fascinate teens, and all of it was influencing the way they thought, talked, and dressed. Here’s a look at what the kids were wearing in the early '90s. 

1. PLAID, PLAID & MORE PLAID

Image courtesy of LOTHIAN

The grunge movement continued to gain momentum in the first half of the 1990s and its defining item of clothing—for both genders—was the plaid flannel shirt. But it didn’t take long for the checkered print to crawl its way onto other items, including mini-skirts, dresses, pants and sweaters. There’s just one rule: reds, browns, blues, and greens rule; bright colors were the immediate mark of a poseur.

2. BABYDOLL DRESSES

Image courtesy Cherry Bomb Magazine

Grunge style went beyond flannel everything: the idea was to take a formerly standard item of clothing, like an intact pair of jeans, and give it a grungy makeover. Few celebrities understood this fashion mantra better than Courtney Love, lead singer and guitarist for Hole and wife of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Among her most copied fashion statements was the super-short babydoll dress, which was most often paired with a pair of black tights and combat boots. Solid colors were Love’s trademark, but floral prints were just as in. 

3. DOC MARTENS

Image courtesy Dr. Martens

Speaking of combat boots: While there were plenty of brands to choose from in a variety of price ranges, Dr. Martens was the first choice of 1990s fashionistas, with their signature yellow-threaded soles being somewhat of a status symbol. High-top or low-top, black or brown, worn with a girly dress or destroyed jeans, Doc Martens could be paired with any outfit.

4. SKIN-TIGHT DRESSES

Image courtesy Cineplex/TriStar

Blame (or thank) Sharon Stone for the skin-tight dresses that ladies of varying ages and body types were wearing well into the mid-1990s, following her infamous turn as murderess Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct. Yes, even teenage girls were rocking the “body conscious”—a.k.a. body-con—trend.

5. BODYSUITS

Image courtesy Totally Awesome Teen Pinups and Magazines

The second-skin style was available in a bodysuit version, too—a skintight, leotard-like top that may or may not snap at the bottom and was typically worn with a skirt or pair of high-waisted jeans … which were then cinched with a thick leather belt (yes, we’re cringing). 

6. MOM JEANS

Photo courtesy Kate-colored Glasses

Every generation has its of-the-moment style of denim. Unfortunately for teens in the 1990s, that style was high-waisted, unnecessarily bunchy in the front, tight in the backend and unflattering in every way. It wasn’t until a decade later that Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch famously dubbed the style “Mom Jeans” on SNL. But in the 1990s it was the kids who were wearing them—guys and girls—as evidenced in this photo of the entire trend-setting cast of Beverly Hills, 90210.

7. OVERALLS

Photo courtesy Etsy

The fascination with too much denim didn’t end with Mom Jeans. Overalls were a huge hit with teenagers in the early 1990s, with traditional, farmer-like styles for the colder months and a shorter version—known as shortalls—to be worn during summer vacation. Extra style points were awarded for leaving one strap hanging!

8. THE JEAN SUIT

Photo courtesy Starcrush

Think we’re done with denim? Hardly. For those opposed to a jean one-piece, there was another option: the jean suit, a (usually) monochromatic denim-on-denim fashion catastrophe where a pair of jeans were topped with either a denim button-down, vest or jacket. Even the usually-fashionable Britney Spears rocked the look as a kid. Yes, that is Ryan Gosling sitting next to Brit, who would actually come to resurrect a dark-washed version of the jean suit in 2011’s Drive and somehow make it look good.

9. CARHARTT JACKETS

Photo courtesy Old Bailey

Introduced in 1889, Carhartt jackets were designed as a sort of uniform for hunters and farmers, their heavy-duty, wind-resistant construction being a perfect match for keeping warm while spending hours outdoors. In the 1990s, a new brand of businessmen caught on to Carhartt’s many charms: crack dealers. “They needed to keep warm and they needed to carry a lot of stuff,” Steven J. Rapiel, the brand’s New York City salesman told The New York Times Style section in late 1992. “Then the kids saw these guys on the street, and it became the hip thing to wear.”

10. HIGH-PRICED KICKS

Photo courtesy CounterKicks

Sneakers were big business in the 1990s, with Air Jordans ruling the jock market and Converse All Stars catering to the grunge crowd. But sensible young ladies got their own pair of custom kicks when ever-reliable Keds debuted a sporty pair of sneakers dressed up to look like a baseball. The sneakers even managed to make a comeback in 2011, when design house Opening Ceremony re-released a limited number of them, newly constructed to replicate the 1993 version.  

11. SKORTS

Photo courtesy Etsy

Is it a skirt or a pair of shorts? No one could tell… at least not until you turned around and made it clear that you were wearing a pair of shorts with a flap in the front for some reason. If you want to make it look like you’re wearing a skirt, why not just wear a skirt? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question. We’re not going to put too much thought into this short-lived trend because the designers who attempted to move this womenswear hybrid from the tennis court to the classroom didn’t waste a lot of brain power on its logic either.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
Stephen Missal
crime
arrow
New Evidence Emerges in Norway’s Most Famous Unsolved Murder Case
May 22, 2017
Original image
A 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of the Isdal Woman
Stephen Missal

For almost 50 years, Norwegian investigators have been baffled by the case of the “Isdal Woman,” whose burned corpse was found in a valley outside the city of Bergen in 1970. Most of her face and hair had been burned off and the labels in her clothes had been removed. The police investigation eventually led to a pair of suitcases stuffed with wigs and the discovery that the woman had stayed at numerous hotels around Norway under different aliases. Still, the police eventually ruled it a suicide.

Almost five decades later, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has launched a new investigation into the case, working with police to help track down her identity. And it is already yielding results. The BBC reports that forensic analysis of the woman’s teeth show that she was from a region along the French-German border.

In 1970, hikers discovered the Isdal Woman’s body, burned and lying on a remote slope surrounded by an umbrella, melted plastic bottles, what may have been a passport cover, and more. Her clothes and possessions were scraped clean of any kind of identifying marks or labels. Later, the police found that she left two suitcases at the Bergen train station, containing sunglasses with her fingerprints on the lenses, a hairbrush, a prescription bottle of eczema cream, several wigs, and glasses with clear lenses. Again, all labels and other identifying marks had been removed, even from the prescription cream. A notepad found inside was filled with handwritten letters that looked like a code. A shopping bag led police to a shoe store, where, finally, an employee remembered selling rubber boots just like the ones found on the woman’s body.

Eventually, the police discovered that she had stayed in different hotels all over the country under different names, which would have required passports under several different aliases. This strongly suggests that she was a spy. Though she was both burned alive and had a stomach full of undigested sleeping pills, the police eventually ruled the death a suicide, unable to track down any evidence that they could tie to her murder.

But some of the forensic data that can help solve her case still exists. The Isdal Woman’s jaw was preserved in a forensic archive, allowing researchers from the University of Canberra in Australia to use isotopic analysis to figure out where she came from, based on the chemical traces left on her teeth while she was growing up. It’s the first time this technique has been used in a Norwegian criminal investigation.

The isotopic analysis was so effective that the researchers can tell that she probably grew up in eastern or central Europe, then moved west toward France during her adolescence, possibly just before or during World War II. Previous studies of her handwriting have indicated that she learned to write in France or in another French-speaking country.

Narrowing down the woman’s origins to such a specific region could help find someone who knew her, or reports of missing women who matched her description. The case is still a long way from solved, but the search is now much narrower than it had been in the mystery's long history.

[h/t BBC]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES