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16 Offbeat Holidays You Can Celebrate in April

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There's plenty to celebrate this month, even if you don't like jelly beans or pranks. 

1. April 1: National Fun at Work Day

This is, of course, timed to coincide with April Fools Day, but also encourages employees to not limit their idea of fun to pranks. What about ice cream cake? Ice cream cake is fun, too.

2. April 2: Pascua Florida Day

This holiday commemorates the first landing on what is now Florida by Ponce de León in 1513. It's not known exactly when he first stepped ashore, but the name he bestowed upon the land gives some indication—Pascua means "Easter" and Florida means "flowering." It's a legal holiday in the state.

3. April 7: National Beer Day

On March 22, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt signed the Cullen–Harrison Act, legalizing the sale of beer (as long as it was 3.2 percent alcohol by weight or less) after many years of Prohibition. The thirsty public had to wait two long weeks before they could legally imbibe again, and on April 7, the law finally went into effect. Beer drinkers around the country rejoiced, and celebrated with a nice cold one, presumably.

4. April 9: Anniversary of Jumbo the Elephant Arriving in America

This elephant was captured in Africa in 1861, when he was just a young calf, and taken to the London Zoo and given the nickname "Jumbo," for the West African word for elephant. Jumbo was a tremendously popular attraction at the Zoo for many years, and in 1882, P. T. Barnum, founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, purchased the elephant for $10,000. On April 9, Jumbo arrived in Manhattan and enjoyed such fame stateside that his name entered our lexicon.

5. April 10: National Siblings Day

Hannah Keyser

Dedicated, as it was last year, to Emelye, Benjamin, and Samuel Keyser.

6. April 12: National Licorice Day

Specifically to celebrate the oft-debated black licorice.

7. April 14: National Library Workers Day

Thank your local librarian today!

8. and 9. April 15: National Take a Wild Guess Day and National That Sucks Day

Both perfectly-timed to coincide with tax day.

10. April 16: National High Five Day

You don't have to worry about taxes for a full year. High five!

11. April 17: National Haiku Poetry Day

Celebrate with your
Own haiku that is likely
Much better than mine.

12. April 22: Earth Day

This is the 45th anniversary of the international celebration of the planet we all call home.

13. April 23: World Book Night

On Shakespeare's birthday passionate volunteers hand out books in the U.S., U.K., Ireland and Germany.

14. April 25: Anniversary of the First License Plate

On this day in 1901, New York became the first state to require license plates on automobiles.

15. April 26: National Pretzel Day

First celebrated in 1983, this is a day to partake in, and admire, the salted snack.

16. April 30: International Jazz Day

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is responsible for this holiday, which celebrates its fourth edition this year. Schools, communities, and even government organizations around the world will host programs to highlight the diplomatic role of jazz in bringing people together.

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

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise noted.

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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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