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12 Toasty Tips for Staying Warm in Cold Weather

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istock

Using these tips, you can stay warm no matter how frightful the weather outside gets.

1. Warm yourself first. 

It's easier to change your body temperature than room temperature, not to mention more eco-friendly. Instead of turning up the heat, put on another layer of clothing.

2. Wear a hat. 

Your mom may have said that you lose 80 percent of your body heat through your head, but that's not actually true. If you're otherwise clothed, you'll lose heat from any surface that's exposed. So put on your hat, even if you're inside.

3. Turn on the ceiling fan.

Warm air rises to the ceiling. Run your fan on its lowest setting in a clockwise direction to push the warm air back down to where you can feel it.

4. Switch between hot and cold water in the shower.

Hot showers immediately warm you up, but cold showers improve blood circulation between your skin and organs. Cold showers are also correlated with a stronger immune system.

5. Block drafts with a pool noodle. 

Keep heat in and cold out by cutting a pool noodle in half lengthwise, wrapping it in fabric, and sliding it under your door. It'll stay put all winter, and you can re-use it at the pool come summer. (But we recommend you spring for a new one.)

6. Two words: Programmable thermostat.

Another two words: Obvious, right? Stay toasty on schedule, so you never go home to a living room that's colder than outside. You can even do it with your smartphone.

7. Trick a locked thermostat.

Not everyone has access to adjust the thermostat in their apartment or office building. If that's the case, you may need to outsmart the device by making it "think" the room is colder than it actually is. Putting ice near it often does the trick.

8. Dress your windows up in warmer clothes.

If you're not wearing a tank top or going sleeveless, your windows shouldn't, either. Replace thin curtains with heavier wool or fleece drapes in the winter. But be sure to open them on sunny days for free heat.

9. Go ahead, bake all day. 

Using your oven heats up the whole house. You'll feel even cozier if you invite friends—and all their body heat—over to eat four dozen cookies.

10. Start composting. 

If you're already interested in composting, here's another reason to do it: The microbial breakdown of organic material produces heat. Some people use it to warm up showers and greenhouses, but even small-timers in studio apartments can feel a difference.

11. Layer your covers with the thinnest, densest ones on top.

It's intuitive, but fluffy blankets should be closer to your skin. Thin, dense blankets should be on top to prevent convective heat loss. Bonus tip: Don't put your bed directly against an exterior wall. You'll be warmer if you leave a little space. 

12.  Stuff your coat pockets with DIY hand warmers.

You could just buy hand warmers, but you'll radiate pride and self-sufficiency if you make them yourself. All it takes is two Ziploc bags, water, and calcium chloride ice melt pellets from the hardware store.

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated. 

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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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