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18 Offbeat Holidays You Can Celebrate in June

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The official start of summer is upon us! Let's celebrate all month long with some unconventional holidays.

1. JUNE 2: YELL ‘FUDGE’ AT THE COBRAS IN NORTH AMERICA DAY

If you live north of the Panama Canal, today's the day to yell "fudge" promptly at noon local time. It reportedly scares cobra snakes away, and frankly sounds kind of fun.

2. JUNE 3: CHIMBORAZO DAY

Dabit100 / David Torres Costales, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador is the highest mountain on Earth (yep, higher than Mount Everest). Even though it's technically shorter with an elevation of 20,564 feet versus Everest's 29,029 feet, Chimborazo's location gives it a boost—the equatorial bulge means that its peak is farther away from the planet's center than anywhere else.

3. JUNE 3: NATIONAL DOUGHNUT (DONUT) DAY

No matter how you spell it (we're a doughnut family), today's the official day to celebrate this hole-iest of confections.

4. JUNE 6: NATIONAL THANK GOD IT’S MONDAY DAY!

Apparently there are people in the world who don't feel like the above on Mondays.

5. JUNE 6: NATIONAL YO-YO DAY

A perfect day to Walk the Dog, do the Flying Saucer, Throw Down, and attempt whatever this kid is doing.

6. JUNE 8: UPSY DAISY DAY

If you liked the holiday celebrating Mondays, here's another one for you. It encourages waking up "gloriously, gratefully and gleefully" full of positivity and, if you want, daisies in your hair.

7. JUNE 12: NATIONAL JERKY DAY

No explanation required: chew and be merry.

8. JUNE 18: WORLD JUGGLING DAY

If you're coordinated and like party tricks but felt left out of National Yo-Yo Day, this offbeat holiday is for you—no clown costume required.

9. JUNE 19: WORLD SAUNTERING DAY

A day for slowing down and appreciating the world around you. (Man, everyone is so happy in June.)

10. JUNE 21: GO SKATEBOARDING DAY

If this pup can do it, so can you.

11. JUNE 22: BABY BOOMERS RECOGNITION DAY

Look at them, they're so ready to be recognized! And we can probably all agree that Millennials have had enough attention for now.

12. JUNE 23: LET IT GO DAY

Technically not related to Frozen (but thematically relevant), this is a day for letting go of baggage and hang-ups, and it's a good opportunity to get that song stuck in your head for the next six months.

13. JUNE 23: NATIONAL EAT AT A FOOD TRUCK DAY 

The second annual celebration gives you an excuse to support local businesses by chowing down on a gourmet donut or "mustache pretzel."

14. JUNE 23: RUNNER’S SELFIE DAY

Just be careful out there while you're movin' and groovin' and selfie-in'.

15. JUNE 24: TAKE YOUR DOG TO WORK DAY

But for goodness sake, don't overwork them! This is basically just a memo to the mental_floss staff (hi guys.)

16. JUNE 26: LOG CABIN DAY

This holiday is all about reconnecting to a simpler, more quiet time. In lieu of a log cabin, maybe sit under a tree or don't check Twitter for five minutes.

17. JUNE 27: DECIDE TO BE MARRIED DAY

If you don't get engaged or married on this day, you missed a golden opportunity.

18. JUNE 30: NATIONAL HANDSHAKE DAY

See you next month for another round of quirky holidays! Let's shake on it.

Holidays found in Chase's Calendar of Events 2017. All photos courtesy of iStock unless otherwise noted.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
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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iStock
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Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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iStock

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

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