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A No-Spoilers Review of Tonight's Game of Thrones Premiere

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YouTube / GameofThrones

Tonight, Game of Thrones returns for its fourth season. The episode airs at 9pm ET/PT on HBO, Sunday, April 6.

Because executive producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have requested that we don't spoil any plot twists or spoilers, our review of tonight's episode must be curtailed. So here, I present the most spoiler-free GoT premiere review I can manage.

Tywin Lannister

Is alive and making weapons. Or rather, paying others to make weapons for him. (See also: 7 Secrets of a Game of Thrones Weapons Artist.)

Tyrion Lannister

Is doing odd jobs for his dad. It's not easy being the Hand's errand-boy (sorry, I mean Master of Coin), being married to a distraught child bride, and having to manage his increasingly bold mistress Shae.

The Dornishmen (and Women)

Are coming. (Kind of like Winter, but with more characterization.) Well, they're pretty much here now, and that could be a problem in the long term. There's some lightweight sexposition featuring these new characters.

Daenerys Targaryen

Has dragons that are growing up. And is surrounded by various men who want to give her advice and/or date her and/or impress her. She is not impressed.

Ser Jorah Mormont

Has two lines.

The Red Wedding

Was not a dream, and has bummed out a bunch of people. On the bright side, there's a new wedding coming up in King's Landing in a fortnight! Yay, weddings!

Sansa Lannister (nee Stark)

Is extra-bummed due to the recent death of most of her remaining family in the aforementioned Red Wedding. She could really use a break. Will she get a break? Magic 8-Ball says: outlook not so good.

Ser Dontos Hollard

Is drunk. (You'll be forgiven if you don't remember this fellow when you see him.)

Jon Snow

Knows nothing. And is about to go on trial for all the crazy nothings he's done on the wrong side of the Wall.

The Wildlings

Know plenty, but are freaked out by the arrival of the Thenns. (Because everybody knows the Hornfoots hate the Thenns.)

Ygritte

All I'm saying is that Jon Snow had better watch out because his ex is manufacturing an alarming number of arrows.

Samwell Tarly

Has two lines, and one's a zinger.

The Commanders of the Night's Watch

Are ticked at Jon Snow for pulling the various hijinks he's been up to.

Brienne of Tarth

Is "just marvelous." Has made various promises/vows regarding Renly and the Stark children in previous episodes. She's looking to keep them.

Ser Jaime Lannister

Has a new haircut! Is still missing a pretty important hand. He's not a confident lefty yet, but he's trying. His dad is still tough on him. Will he keep his promise to protect the Stark girls? Is that even possible? Also, he's in charge of security for the upcoming wedding. That sounds like fun.

King Joffrey Baratheon

Is still a jerk. He's even mean to his uncle/father Jaime. He's getting ready for his wedding. Yay, weddings!

Margaery Tyrell

Is getting ready for her wedding. But she needs a new necklace! Who will find her a necklace befitting a queen? (Tune in next week to find out.)

Olenna Redwyne

Is helping sort out this necklace business.

Cersei Lannister

Drinks more than she used to.

Sandor Clegane (The Hound)

Is a stupendous badass.

Arya Stark

Is rapidly becoming a stupendous badass. Who wants her very own horse.

Arya Stark's Enemies

Should watch out, because, you know, "Valar Morghulis."

Bran and Rickon Stark, Osha, Jojen and Meera Reed, etc.

Presumably exist. Can't really tell ya.

Hodor

Hodor? Hodor. (Spoiler: Hodor?)

All in All

Game of Thrones has so many moving parts that it can be hard to keep track of all the subplots and familial relationships. This first episode is mainly about establishing where the various major characters are (notably excluding the Greyjoys and the non-Arya Stark kids) and what they're up to.

This episode is an appetizer sampler offering a little bit of everything, but not too much. The episode runs long, filling out a full hour, because we have to see at least enough of each of the above-listed characters (except Hodor, because Hodor) long enough to establish their current position on the global chessboard.

Relatively speaking, this episode is light on sex and violence, but heavy on exposition. Having said that, there is still sex and violence, the latter being the most interesting development in the episode. But, this being ultra-spoiler-free, you're just gonna have to wait and see. Here are some trailers to help you while away the few hours between now and tonight's premiere:

And if you need to refresh your memory, consult The Game of Thrones Viewer's Guide, including episode recaps, character studies, and plenty of maps.

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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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