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12 Crafts Perfect for Librarians

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From coffee mugs to pasties (!), here are some of the coolest crafts we hope to see popping up soon in a library near us.

1. The Mug Who Lived

With so many cute book-inspired coffee cups for sale out there, there is no excuse for any librarian to be sipping out of a boring white coffee cup. But if you prefer to DIY, try making this adorable Harry Potter mug using tips from NerdCraftLibrarian, and drink away your fears about the Dark Lord’s return.

2. Fashion and Function

Always remember to bring along a book to read, but forget to take your keys and wallet? Well perhaps you’ll be better about grabbing those things before you leave the house if you hide them inside of a book. All you need to follow this Instructable by grow_power is some fabric, glue, purse handles, and a book with a great-looking cover. It’s a great way to bring new life to a book that has already been too destroyed to read.

3. The Seed of Knowledge

Here’s another great use for old damaged books—turn them into adorable planters. Apartment Therapy has all the instructions you need to make these for yourself and, because they house succulents, they won’t get so messed up from watering.

4. Make Your Tea Time More Cozy

Maybe it’s just me, but I think your teapot looks lonely. Fortunately, with this pattern by HandMadeAwards, you can knit your own Kate the Librarian to keep it cozy all while reading it a lovely story.

5. Get Lost In Adventure

Librarians are known for crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s, so it’s no big stretch for them to move on to crossing some stitches and making great needlework designs. If you’re looking for a pattern that’s perfect to hang in the library, it’s hard to beat this design by oneofakindbydesign that invites everyone to enjoy getting lost in a book.

6. I Cannot Tell A Lie

For the more edgy librarians, it never hurts to show off your sense of humor by parodying 90’s hip hop songs with book-inspired cross stitches. This pattern by neverdyingpoet can help you impress both fans of Sir Mix A Lot and Leo Tolstoy-obsessives all at once.

7. Pick A Card

There aren’t many quilts out there that scream “librarian,” but when you have one out there that actually features copies of old card catalog pages, you really don’t need any others. This impressive feat of librarian fandom was completed by Craftster user feeddog, who once was a librarian and still works with books as part of her career.

8. Don’t Be Such A Turkey

What does a turkey have to do with librarian crafts? Well, this particularly turkey craft was made by a librarian. And not just any librarian, but one who feels there simply aren’t enough turkeys out there. If you agree with Ravelry user Steph Michauld, you can buy her pattern and start knitting your own turkey to entertain your own holiday guests or to decorate your library at any time of the year. Best of all, the small purchase price goes to supplementing the income of a librarian.

9. A Bookworm for Bookworms

Every library needs a little mascot, and this crocheted plush bookworm, complete with reading glasses, is a perfect option. You can grab your own from Etsy seller RobertaAnne.

10. She’s A Real Paige Turner

Etsy seller KrazyBoutKats sells a whole town worth of adorable cat figures, but it’s little Paige Turner here who has earned herself a place on this list. This cute career cat would also make a great mascot for a library or a great friend for any real library cats.

11. A Naughty Librarian

Even the most uptight librarian is far from prudish when it comes to a love of books and with this cross stitch by Etsy seller MeltedSquirrel, you can brag to the world about your literary conquests.

12. Not Safe For the Library

Know any librarians who stock the shelves during the day and hit the burlesque stage at night? Well then, you found the perfect audience for Craftser user calluna’s librarian pasties. Made from pages of books and adorned with sequins spelling “shhh” and tiny books at the ends of the tassels, these are only for the naughtiest of naughty librarians.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]