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Julia Schillo

10 Internet Memes Illustrated in Peeps

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Julia Schillo

Marshmallow Peeps are everywhere! The stores are full of them, and so are Easter baskets. Better stock up now if you use them as an art medium. Plenty of people do for the Peeps diorama competitions held each year. And every year I pick some of those best, centered around a theme for your entertainment. More and more of the dioramas feature internet themes and memes, social networking, and popular videos.

1. JK Wedding Dance

A Peeps version of the 2009 super-viral JK Wedding Entrance video made semi-finalist in the Washington Post diorama competition in 2010.

2. What People Think Peeps Are

Megan Hustings and Rachel Hamilton adapted Peeps to the What People Think I Do meme. Their effort, entitled "What People Think Peeps Are: Six different perspectives on the memening of Peeps," made them finalists in the Washington Post's Peep Show in 2012. Watch a video about this project.

3. Charlie Sheen's Tiger Blood

Natalie and Bob Brown from Alexandria took advantage of Charlie Sheen’s troubles to create this scene illustrating the concept of “Tiger Blood.” This was an entry in the WaPo contest in 2011.

4. Twitter

Anna Yoshida De La Paz made finalist in the Seattle Times contest in 2010 with a rendering of the Twitter logo in Peeps.

5. Pinterest

"Peepterest: The Loss of American Productivity" by Karlyn Owens and Dave Owens puts the social networking site Pinterest into the world of Peeps. Or maybe it's the other way around.

6. Nyan Peep

The meme of the year in 2011 was Nyan Cat. The Peep analog, Nyan Peep, was entered into the Washington Post diorama contest in 2012 by Julia Schillo. 

7. Peepnam Style

Not so much of a diorama as a collage, this Peep scene is a parody of the PSY video of the song "Gangnam Style" that became the biggest meme of 2012. Jason Loul of Seattle entered this one in last year's Seattle Times Peep Contest.

He wasn’t the only one who had the idea, as this one from Noelle Stanley and David Stanley was entered into the Washington Post competition last year.

Molly Zuzek of Forest Lake, Minnesota, entered her version into the 2013 Pioneer Press Peeps contest.

8. The Book of Bunny Suicides

Carolyn Whitton created the above diorama in honor of Andy Riley's first Book of Bunny Suicides for the Washington Post competition in 2010.

9. Peeps from Hillary

Jane Lieberman of Minneapolis recreated the meme Texts from Hillary as Peeps From Hillary for the Twin Cities Pioneer Press competition in 2013.

10. IKEA Monkey

The Twin Cities contest from last year also had a reference to the IKEA Monkey story that captivated the internet for a brief time in late 2012. This rendering from Katie MacInnes of St. Paul turned the monkey into a marshmallow bunny for the contest last year.

And what about those contests for this year? The Winners of the Washington Post Peeps Diorama Contest of this year will not be revealed until April 20th. The Twin Cities Pioneer Press is holding their contest this year, but have not announced the winners yet. The York Daily Record will announce their contest winners on April 18th. The Seattle Times has not yet announced the winners, but you can see the entries in this year’s competition.

See a lot more creative uses for Peeps in our previous articles.

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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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]