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10 Musicians With Official "Days" Named After Them

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Rock stars have got it made. They’ve got fame, fortune, and a bevy of attractive better halves. If they’re really lucky, they’ve also got a mantel piled with Grammys. And if they’re really, really lucky, someday they might even have a full 24-hour time period named in their honor. Just as these 10 musicians do.


In January, Bill Simpson—the mayor of Aberdeen, Washington—announced that beginning this year, February 20th will be celebrated annually as Kurt Cobain Day. “Aberdeen residents may justifiably take pride in the role our community played in the life of Kurt Cobain and the international recognition our community has gained from its connections with Kurt Cobain and his artistic achievements,” states the official proclamation. The city—population 16,896—already pays tribute to its most famous resident on its welcome sign, which touts the slogan “Come As You Are.”


Fifty years ago, Beatlemania made its official arrival stateside when the Fab Four took the stage on The Ed Sullivan Show twice in one week (first in New York, then on location in Miami Beach). But their fans in Liverpool proved there’s no place like home by declaring July 10th—the day the band arrived back to England in 1964—as Beatles Day.


January 8th—Elvis Presley’s birthday—has become a day of tribute for the original King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s fans around the world. But Graceland in Memphis is still the mecca for his most devoted admirers, where Elvis Presley Day is a multi-day affair with a jam-packed calendar of events that this year included a gospel music tribute, a trivia tour, and, of course, cake!


Nearly 23 years after Purple Rain hit theaters, Prince made a triumphant return to his hometown of Minneapolis for a trio of concerts on July 7, 2007 on what became known as Prince Day. In addition to shows at the Macy’s Auditorium and Target Center, the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince also put on a show for the crowd at First Avenue, the club featured in the cult classic rock drama.


Among the many fine contributions Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has made to the pop culture conversation in the past several months is the official declaration of February 6th as Bob Marley Day. This year would have marked the 69th birthday of the Jamaican singer-songwriter, whom Ford’s proclamation describes as “an influential musician, advocate for human rights, and international ambassador of peace.” No word yet as to whether this will be declared the official Bob Marley Day dance.


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Though the date changes from summer to summer, the event itself is a highly anticipated annual event: Jerry Day serves as a cultural and community tribute to one of the music industry’s most celebrated guitarists, and one of San Francisco’s most beloved native sons. The music-filled festival all goes down at The Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park.


Though he was born in Seattle, the city of San Francisco also recognizes the contributions that Jimi Hendrix made to its music scene, particularly the half-dozen shows he played at the city’s legendary Winterland Ballroom, by naming September 13th Jimi Hendrix-Winterland Day. The official proclamation cites Hendrix as a “symbol of the ingenuity and experimentation that San Francisco prizes.”


Shortly after Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch lost his battle with cancer in 2012, fan Mike Kearney organized a musical tribute in the musician’s honor in Gowanus, Brooklyn as “an outlet in which to communicate, express ourselves, and offer our gratitude for the gift of Adam Yauch.” Kearney has kept the event going ever since, with this year’s MCA Day planned for May 3rd at Littlefield Performance + Art Space. Past years have featured a lineup of DJs and Beastie Boys-inspired art.


September 5th, a.k.a. Freddie for a Day, is an annual AIDS fundraising event in the name of Freddie Mercury. It was started by Liz Swanton, a City of London banker (and Web Editor of the Mercury Phoenix Trust AIDS charity) who once raised more than $2300 by dressing up like the late Queen frontman for a day. So she decided to make it a regular thing. The 2013 event raised more than $226,000.

10. ABBA

It takes three whole days to fete the Swedish pop sensations known as ABBA. International ABBA Day coincides with International ABBA Weekend, which will take place from March 28th to 30th this year in Roosendaal, in the Netherlands. The celebration kicks off with a pub meet-up, which leads into a record and memorabilia fair. ABBA-themed contests, presentations, and special guests are also on the itinerary, as is an all-ABBA disco party to conclude the event. Mamma mia!

All images courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise noted.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]