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What is Proper Handshake Etiquette Around the World?

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First impressions mean everything, and most of the time, they start with a handshake. Here’s what you need to know to make the locals happy on your next business trip.

1. Brazil

Expect a firm handshake that lasts longer than you’re used to. Mix in strong eye contact, and greet women with a kiss on each cheek. Repeat when you leave.

2. China

Age matters here, so greet the oldest people first. Grip lightly and bow slightly. Avoid direct eye contact and hold onto the person’s hand a moment or two after the handshake has finished.

3. Philippines

Most other Asiatic countries follow China’s lead. The Philippines is an exception. Look them right in the eye and don’t bow. A weak grip, though, is a must.

4. Australia

If you’re a woman and you’re shaking a man’s hand, offer your hand first. Typically, women don't shake hands with other women. Shake firm and fast. And no matter what your political ambitions are, never ever use both hands.

5. France

It doesn’t matter if you’re meeting them for the first or 101st time. Shake their hand quickly and lightly. If you’re close, a kiss on both cheeks is a-okay.

6. Russia

Unless it’s a business situation, don’t shake the hand of the opposite sex. Traditional circles consider it impolite, since a man should kiss a woman’s hand. If you’re going to shake, though, bulk up and make it a bonecrusher.

7. Turkey

Keep your deathgrip packed in your suitcase! Firm shakes are rude. Don’t be surprised if the person holds the handshake so long that they start holding your hand. It’s a gesture of friendship.

8. South Korea

The most senior person should start the handshake, and the grip should be soft. Don’t bury your free hand in your pocket, but feel free to clench their right arm with your left hand.

9. Morocco

As long as they’re the same gender, it’s okay to shake their hand. But go gentle. Only shake a woman’s hand if she offers it.

10. United Arab Emirates

Start by shaking the hand of the oldest, or most senior, person there. Greet them by their title, whatever it may be, and expect the handshake to linger. Let them determine when it’s time to let go.

11. Kenya

When greeting elders or high-status people, grasp the right wrist with the left hand. Say “Jambo” (How are you?). Afterward, ask them about business or their family. It’s rude not to.

12. Mexico

Expect a long lasting handshake. If you’re a man, a hug may be in order, too. Women may kiss each other on the cheeks.

13. Norway

It doesn’t matter who is there, how many people there are, or how old they may be—shake hands with everyone. Call each person by his or her first and last name. Never say, “How are you?” To Norwegians, it’s meaningless conversational fluff.

14. Thailand

Don’t shake hands! The person will offer what’s called a “wai,” placing their palms together at chest level and bowing. Return the gesture. If you’re a man, greet then with “Sawadee-krap.” If you’re a woman, say “Sawadee-kah” (both mean “Hello). Shake hands only if a wai is not offered.

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