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22 Stores That Refuse to Open on Thanksgiving

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In recent years, the Black Friday craze has inched further and further into Thanksgiving. With stores opening as early as 5 p.m. on Thursday, festive dinners are being overshadowed by shopping frenzies. Retailers like to point the blame at consumers—in a survey last year, 38 percent of shoppers said they planned to shop on Thanksgiving—but opening a day early also runs the risk of cannibalizing sales that could have been made on Friday. Furthermore, with stores open the day before, the idea of going shopping in the middle of the night for already picked-over merchandise seems unnecessary.

But there are still stores that allow workers to stay home and enjoy the holiday. Here are some of the bigger retailers that will be closed on Thanksgiving.

1. DSW

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DSW issued a statement: "While many retail stores will be opening for business on Thanksgiving Day, this year we continue the DSW tradition of keeping ours closed.  Family time is extremely important to us, and we want our associates to enjoy the holiday with their loved ones.  Our stores will remain closed until 7 a.m. on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.”

2. COSTCO

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The warehouse club has always had a reputation for being good to their employees. This Thanksgiving, the nearly 127,000 Costco employees will have the opportunity to spend the holiday with their families.

3. NORDSTROM

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Nordstrom's won't be open for business on Thanksgiving, but some employees will still be coming in for work. “[F]or the past 40+ years, some of our employees work on Thanksgiving eve and into the wee hours of the morning on Thanksgiving Day to decorate our stores with our holiday trim. This is mostly a group of employees who have volunteered to be there and some bring along relatives or friends to join in,” a spokesperson told ThinkProgress. “We’ll also have a small team working in our Nordstrom.com Call Centers on Thanksgiving to serve the many customers who shop online that day.”

4. DILLARD'S

Last year, Dillard’s spokesperson told ThinkProgress, “We choose to remain closed on Thanksgiving in longstanding tradition of honoring of our customers’ and associates’ time with family.”

5. BJ's

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BJ’s Wholesale Club has confirmed they will be closed Thanksgiving. In 2013, their CEO told HuffPost, “maybe call me old-fashioned, but I feel that it’s an easy decision to make [to stay closed on Thanksgiving].”

6. BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY

The retailer made a point of staying closed last year, as well.

7. REI

REI will not be open for Thanksgiving or Black Friday. Because the sporting goods retailer says that they "believe that being outside makes our lives better," their CEO is "paying our employees to head outside.”

8. AMERICAN GIRL

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You will have to wait until Friday to pick up a doll. 

9. CRATE AND BARREL

Crate and Barrel employees will be staying home on Thanksgiving this year.

10. JO-ANN FABRICS AND CRAFTS

“Out of respect to our Team Members and their families, Jo-Ann stores will not be open Thanksgiving Day,” Travis Smith, then-CEO and president of Jo-Ann Stores, Inc., said in 2011. “We ask a lot from our Team Members during the holidays, and Thanksgiving Day is a valued tradition for many families. We believe it is important for our Team Members to be able to spend this time with their loved ones.” The tradition continues this year.

11. T.J. MAXX

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"We feel so strongly about our employees spending Thanksgiving with their families," said spokeswoman Doreen Thompson. "And we don't anticipate this changing in the future."

12. MARSHALLS

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Marshalls, like T.J. Maxx, is owned by TJX and will therefore also be closed.

13. PIER 1 IMPORTS

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Pier 1 Imports decided to stay closed for the holiday.

14. PUBLIX

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You'll have to buy your last minute Thanksgiving fixings somewhere else.

15. SIERRA TRADING POST

“As in past years, Sierra Trading Post stores will be closed on Thanksgiving so our Associates can enjoy the holiday with family and friends,” said spokesperson Juliette Rule.

16. BARNES AND NOBLE

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Barnes and Noble wants their employees to enjoy the holiday with their families.

17. SAM'S CLUB

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Sam's Club is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

18. HOME DEPOT

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Home Depot stays closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

19. PATAGONIA

When asked why, a spokesperson responded,“It’s a holiday—we’re closed!”

20. STAPLES 

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Staples was open last year, but changed their mind for the upcoming holiday. “We want our customers and associates to enjoy Thanksgiving their own way,” said Demos Parneros, president, North American stores and online, Staples. “On Thanksgiving Day, customers can shop from home on Staples.com and then continue their shopping in stores starting at 6 a.m. on Black Friday."

21. GAMESTOP

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“We believe strongly that our customers and associates should have the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday relaxing with family and friends, and not worrying with the stress of where to find the best shopping deals. We know this is in stark contrast to what many other retailers are doing, but we are taking a stance to protect family time during this important holiday,” Mike Buskey, executive vice president and president of U.S. Stores, said in a press release.

22. LOWE'S

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The hardware giant has decided to give its employees the day off to spend with their families. 

This piece originally ran in 2014. 

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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Stephen Missal
crime
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New Evidence Emerges in Norway’s Most Famous Unsolved Murder Case
May 22, 2017
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A 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of the Isdal Woman
Stephen Missal

For almost 50 years, Norwegian investigators have been baffled by the case of the “Isdal Woman,” whose burned corpse was found in a valley outside the city of Bergen in 1970. Most of her face and hair had been burned off and the labels in her clothes had been removed. The police investigation eventually led to a pair of suitcases stuffed with wigs and the discovery that the woman had stayed at numerous hotels around Norway under different aliases. Still, the police eventually ruled it a suicide.

Almost five decades later, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has launched a new investigation into the case, working with police to help track down her identity. And it is already yielding results. The BBC reports that forensic analysis of the woman’s teeth show that she was from a region along the French-German border.

In 1970, hikers discovered the Isdal Woman’s body, burned and lying on a remote slope surrounded by an umbrella, melted plastic bottles, what may have been a passport cover, and more. Her clothes and possessions were scraped clean of any kind of identifying marks or labels. Later, the police found that she left two suitcases at the Bergen train station, containing sunglasses with her fingerprints on the lenses, a hairbrush, a prescription bottle of eczema cream, several wigs, and glasses with clear lenses. Again, all labels and other identifying marks had been removed, even from the prescription cream. A notepad found inside was filled with handwritten letters that looked like a code. A shopping bag led police to a shoe store, where, finally, an employee remembered selling rubber boots just like the ones found on the woman’s body.

Eventually, the police discovered that she had stayed in different hotels all over the country under different names, which would have required passports under several different aliases. This strongly suggests that she was a spy. Though she was both burned alive and had a stomach full of undigested sleeping pills, the police eventually ruled the death a suicide, unable to track down any evidence that they could tie to her murder.

But some of the forensic data that can help solve her case still exists. The Isdal Woman’s jaw was preserved in a forensic archive, allowing researchers from the University of Canberra in Australia to use isotopic analysis to figure out where she came from, based on the chemical traces left on her teeth while she was growing up. It’s the first time this technique has been used in a Norwegian criminal investigation.

The isotopic analysis was so effective that the researchers can tell that she probably grew up in eastern or central Europe, then moved west toward France during her adolescence, possibly just before or during World War II. Previous studies of her handwriting have indicated that she learned to write in France or in another French-speaking country.

Narrowing down the woman’s origins to such a specific region could help find someone who knew her, or reports of missing women who matched her description. The case is still a long way from solved, but the search is now much narrower than it had been in the mystery's long history.

[h/t BBC]

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