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18 Offbeat Holidays You Can Celebrate in May

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ThinkStock

May is more than just the birthday month of yours truly—check out all the quirky holidays you can celebrate.

1. May 1: Lei Day

You've heard of May Day, but this is the Hawaiian equivalent. Celebrate the islands' culture with lei-making contests, Hawaiian food and music, and even the crowning of the Lei Queen.

2. May 3: Free Comic Book Day

Ever since 2002, the first Saturday of May has seen participating independent comic book stores across the country hand out their wares for free. Over 3 million comic books are given away each year!

3. May 4: Star Wars Day

"May the fourth be with you." Get it?

4. & 5. May 6: No Diet Day and No Homework Day

Although they weren't created in conjunction, these seem appropriately paired for both children and adults to let loose a little and just indulge.

6. May 8: No Socks Day

The pitch for this holiday cites the lighter load of laundry foregoing socks will create. This seems specious at best—how big are your socks?— but let's all hope it will be sandal weather by this point, in which case you should definitely do without socks.

7. May 9: Fintastic Friday: Giving Sharks a Voice!

Not to be confused with Shark Week, this is a day sponsored by WhaleTimes Inc. and the Shark Research Institute to promote awareness of the plight of sharks and update their image.

8. May 10: National Train Day

This is the seventh annual National Train Day, which celebrates the day on which the "golden spike" was driven into the final tie that connected the Central Pacific and Union Continental railroads, creating a country unified by train travel.

9. May 11: Mother's Day

But not just Mother's Day—the 100th anniversary of the creation of Mother's Day by Congressional legislation in 1914 as a response to Anna Jarvis' letter-writing campaign.

10. May 12: Limerick Day

Observed annually on the birthday of English author Edward Lear, whose 1846 A Book of Nonsense helped bring the lyrical form to popularity.

11. May 16: National Pizza Party Day

Last month we had a day dedicated to Chicago's deep dish, but this is a little different. Designed to mark the school year winding down, celebrate with the one thing sure to make even the surliest student happy: a pizza party.

12. May 18: International Museum Day

This will be the 37th annual celebration of the many cultural institutions around the world.

13. May 19-26: National Backyard Games Week

Break out the bocce, horseshoes, and croquet mallets! The weather will (hopefully) be warm enough to spend your free time outdoors by the end of May, so this is the week to try out as many silly lawn games as you can.

14. May 22: World Goth Day

I don't know if Hot Topic is still in business, but this would be the day to find out.

15. May 23: International World Turtle Day

You can be sure mental_floss will have the fun facts.

16. May 24: International Tiara Day

Embrace your inner princess.

17. May 25: Towel Day

Carry a towel with you wherever you go on this day to honor the life and work of Douglas Adams because, as any good interstellar hitchhiker knows, a towel "is about the most massively useful thing".

18. May 30: Hug Your Cat Day

Go on, even if they seem like they don't like it.

For an even more exhaustive list of holidays, historical anniversaries and notable birthdays, check out Chase's Calendar of Events.

All images courtesy of ThinkStock unless otherwise noted.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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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]

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