CLOSE
Original image
ThinkStock

17 Swashbuckling Facts About Talk Like A Pirate Day

Original image
ThinkStock

Ahoy, me hearties! As many of you know, September 19 is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, an annual phenomenon that’s taken the world by storm, having been observed by every continent, the International Space Station and even the Oval Office since it first made headlines back in 2002. So let’s hoist the Jolly Roger, break out the rum, and take a look back at the holiday’s timber-shivering history.

1. Creators John Baur & Mark Summers Originally Celebrated the Event on D-Day

The pair of Oregon natives (who’ve since acquired the nicknames “Ol’ Chumbucket” and “Cap’n Slappy,” respectively) created the holiday while playing racquetball on June 6, 1995—the 51st anniversary of the invasion of Normandy.  Out of respect to the battle’s veterans, a new observance date was quickly sought.

2. September 19th Was Selected as the Holiday’s New Date Because It Was The Birthday of Summers’ Ex-Wife

“[September 19th was] the only date we could readily recall that wasn’t already taken up with Christmas or the Super Bowl or something,” the pair later claimed. Summers claims to harbor no ill will towards his former spouse, who’s since stated, “I’ve never been prouder to be his ex-wife!”

3. Pulitzer Prize-Winning Humor Columnist Dave Barry Is Responsible for Popularizing TLAP Day

Barry was so smitten with the holiday after having been introduced to it via email in early 2002 that he dedicated an entire column to its publicity that September, turning an inside joke into a global sensation. He later went on to make a cameo appearance in one of Baur & Summers’ buccaneer-themed music videos in 2011 (look for him at the 3:25 mark):

4. Real Pirates Spoke A Wide Variety of Dialects

Despite some extensive “English-to-Pirate” dictionaries that have cropped up over the net, the idea that all pirates shared a common accent regardless of national origin is historically absurd, as National Geographic pointed out a few years back.

5. Actor Robert Newton is Hailed as the “Patron Saint” of TLAP Day

So where did the modern “pirate dialect” come from? Summers and Baur credit the British thespian’s performance in Treasure Island (1950) and have accordingly dubbed him the “patron saint” of their holiday. Tasked with breathing life into the scheming buccaneer, Newton simply exaggerated his native West Country accent and the rest is history.

6. Baur’s Family Was Featured On a Pirate-Themed Episode of Wife Swap

The reality show’s highly-anticipated 2006 season premiere pitted the Baurs (in full pillaging regalia) against a family which, according to John’s wife Tori (aka: “Mad Sally”), “behaved as though ‘fun’ was something that had to be pre-packaged for their protection.”

7. Baur Was Also on Jeopardy!

Baur was described to the audience as “a writer and pirate from Oregon” in his 2008 appearance. “I didn’t win,” he said, “but the introduction made Alex blink.”

8. TLAP Day Has Become a Cornerstone of the Pastafarian Movement

Bobby Henderson, founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, cited Earth’s dwindling pirate population as the clear source of global warming in his 2005 open letter to the Kansas school board which established the religion. Since then, Talk Like A Pirate Day has been observed by devout Pastafarians worldwide. 

9. Thanks Largely To The Holiday, Facebook Has Uploaded a “Pirate” Language Setting…

You can see how to set your Facebook account to Pirate here. Google's got the feature, too.

10. A Florida Mayor Once Ignited A Local Controversy For Making An Official TLAP Day Proclamation

Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo light-heartedly urged her constituents to embrace the holiday last year, writing, “The City … is known to possess a spirit of independence, high spirits, and swashbuckling, all traits of a good pirate.” Her actions were criticized by the city’s former commissioner, Jo-Ann Golden, who took offense to the association with murderous seamen.

11. “Day of the Ninja” Was Created As A Retort To “Talk Like A Pirate Day”

Golden’s not the only pirate-hater out there. Not to be outdone by their hated rivals, the pro-ninja community was quick to execute the first annual “Day of the Ninja” on December 5, 2002.  For Summers and Baur’s take on the warring factions, here’s a nifty clip:

12. Astronauts Once Celebrated TLAP Day Aboard The International Space Station

In a 2012 interview, Summers recalled being “informed that the astronauts on the International Space Station were awakened to ‘A Pirate’s Life For Me' and joined in the pirate talk from space.”

13. Cap’n Slappy & Ol’ Chumbucket Are Now Minor World of Warcraft Characters

For experienced gamers interested in seeing this clever homage for themselves, directions are available here.  

14. President Obama Once Celebrated With A Costumed Buccaneer In The Oval Office

The leader of the free world tweeted this image on TLAP Day last year with the caption “Arr you in?”

15. Congressman Dennis Ross Later Used The Holiday to Slam The President’s Tax Plan

Florida’s 12th congressional district representative used the festivity as a political punchline after Obama made a speech detailing his tax plan last September 19th, tweeting, “It is TALK like a pirate day… not ACT like one. Watch ye purses and bury yr loot, the taxman cometh.”

16. The State of Michigan Officially Recognized TLAP Day Earlier This Year

On June 4, 2013, state senator Roger Kahn’s proposal to grant Talk Like A Pirate Day official acknowledgement from the Michigan government was formally adopted, to the chagrin of some dissenting landlubbers. 

17. Talk Like A Pirate, Get A Free Donut

Rejoice, sweet-toothed scallywags! According to the company’s official website, “Thursday, September 19, any buccaneer to enter a participating Krispy Kreme and talk like a pirate gets one FREE Original Glazed® doughnut. To the landlubber who dares to wear full pirate attire goes a bounty of one FREE dozen Original Glazed doughnuts.” Unsurprisingly, Long John Silver’s held a similar promotion last year

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

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