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An ad from 1951. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

11 Hulking Facts About Green Giant

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An ad from 1951. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Although most well known for its peas and corn, the Green Giant brand sells a variety of fresh, frozen, canned, bagged, and boxed vegetables (as well as hummus). Founded in 1903 as the Minnesota Valley Canning Company, the company changed its name in 1950 to Green Giant, though its recognizable mascot had been around much longer. Read on for 11 things you might not know about the veggie company.

1. THE COMPANY WAS AT THE FOREFRONT OF INDUSTRIAL CANNING.

In 1903, 14 merchants in Le Sueur, Minnesota joined forces to create the Minnesota Valley Canning Company. They started an industrial cannery, producing and selling 11,750 cases of white corn in their first year of business. In 1907, they started producing cans of Early June peas, and they continued to focus only on corn and peas until 1939 when they began also selling canned asparagus.

2. GREEN GIANT PEAS WERE NAMED AFTER A BIG PEA FROM ENGLAND.

Until 1925, the Minnesota Valley Canning Company only sold Early June peas, a variety of small, sweet peas. When a company executive found a large pea in England that was tender and tasted sweet, he brought it back to Minnesota. At the time, the company couldn’t legally trademark the name Green Giant to describe the peas, so they created a mascot named Green Giant and sold the new type of peas under that name.

3. THE ORIGINAL GREEN GIANT MASCOT WAS NEITHER JOLLY NOR GREEN…

COURTESY GREEN GIANT

The original Green Giant mascot was a white (not green) man holding a giant pea pod in his arms. Starting in 1928, he appeared in ads for the peas. The Green Giant’s original incarnation was reportedly influenced by illustrations from Grimms' Fairy Tales, a collection of German fairy tales from the early 1800s.

4. …BUT HE BECAME THE GENTLE GIANT WE KNOW TODAY THANKS TO THE CREATOR OF TONY THE TIGER AND THE PILLSBURY DOUGHBOY.

An ad from 1953. Jamie via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The advertising company Leo Burnett, which created other well-known food mascots such as Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Toucan Sam, softened the Green Giant’s appearance in 1935. The revised giant had a smile to match his new name, the Jolly Green Giant, and he wore a toga of green leaves. He also got a backstory—he watched over the Jolly Green Giant Valley, protecting the crops.

5. GREEN GIANT HAS CLOSE TIES WITH LE SUEUR VEGETABLES.

Green Giant and Le Sueur are different brands under the same company. Because the Minnesota Valley Canning Company was founded in Le Sueur, Minnesota, the company named its canned vegetables Le Sueur Z. They dropped the Z in 1933, but Le Sueur still sells cans of peas, asparagus, and carrots today.

6. LITTLE GREEN SPROUT HAS BEEN LEARNING FROM THE JOLLY GREEN GIANT SINCE THE EARLY 1970s.

Green Giant introduced another company mascot called Little Green Sprout in 1973. Aimed at children, the young green boy with leaves for hair joined the Jolly Green Giant in the valley, learning about veggies and keeping him company. Little Green Sprout’s youth is reinforced with his high-pitched voice, a stark contrast to the Jolly Green Giant’s booming "ho, ho, ho" tagline.

7. YOU CAN VISIT A TOWERING 55-FOOT STATUE OF THE JOLLY GREEN GIANT.

Tourists to Blue Earth, Minnesota will probably marvel at the sight of a 55-foot statue of the Jolly Green Giant. Paul Hedberg, a radio station owner, wanted to encourage visitors who were traveling on Interstate 90 to stop in Blue Earth, so he contacted Green Giant to ask if a statue could be erected. Green Giant gave the okay, and Hedberg raised money from local businesses. The fiberglass statue, which has been towering over the town since 1979, even gets a giant red scarf placed around his neck each winter.

8. GREEN GIANT HAS INNOVATED VEGETABLE MANUFACTURING METHODS.

Green Giant has a history of being on the cutting edge of research and development. In 1929, the company invented Green Giant Niblets by canning vacuum-packed sweet corn in a new way. In 1933, the company used gravity separators—machines that measured and separated peas during the manufacturing process. And in 1969, Green Giant was the first company to sell frozen corn on the cob and mushrooms in glass jars.

9. GREEN GIANT FREEZES THEIR VEGETABLES AFTER HARVESTING TO PRESERVE NUTRIENTS.

Studies have shown that freezing vegetables at their peak ripeness can preserve the nutrients, so you can get just as much benefit from eating frozen veggies as eating fresh ones. Green Giant’s sweet corn, for example, is frozen and packaged within 24 hours of being harvested, and then shipped to a grocery store near you.

10. GREEN GIANT SUPPORTS BULLY PREVENTION.

Green Giant has partnered with Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center to help kids who are bullied. With the "Nominate A Giant" program, Green Giant encourages people in the community to nominate kids and adults who stand up against bullies. "From being friendly in the halls to inviting others to sit with you at lunch, your nice gesture is what makes you a Giant," the company writes, and they reported that more than 12,000 people nominated "giants" on their social media pages.

11. THE JOLLY GREEN GIANT HAS BECOME A POP CULTURE ICON.

People love the Green Giant’s combination of brawn and gentleness. In Blue Earth, Minnesota, people can visit the Green Giant Museum and get a kick out of seeing the giant green footsteps that are painted on the sidewalks each summer for the town’s Giant Days festival and parade. For those not in Minnesota, Green Giant vintage merchandise such as dolls, kites, shirts, hats, coffee cups, and posters are available for sale online.

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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

501069-OpeningCeremony2.jpg

Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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