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9 Nudist Resort Rules of Etiquette

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“Feel the freedom!” That’s the mission statement behind the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR), a not-for-profit group based in Kissimmee, Florida. For more than 85 years, the AANR has helped hundreds of thousands of nudists find like minds and safe spaces for wholesome, clothes-free fun.

Those curious about nudist gatherings might wonder how social interactions differ when one or both parties are unencumbered by clothing. To find out, we asked Carolyn Hawkins, the public relations coordinator for the AANR and a frequent presence at Kissimmee’s Cypress Cove Nudist Resort. Here are a few things to keep in mind should you ever find yourself on “nakation.”

1. YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO KEEP YOUR CLOTHES ON.

Some organizations like to ease first-time nudists into the unfamiliar world of genital exposure by arranging what’s known as a “clothes-optional” gathering. That means attendees are welcome to keep their clothes on—even if it’s just a long T-shirt—until they’re comfortable enough to leave them behind. “Clothes-free,” however, means that you need to shed your fabrics without reservations. If you find yourself in the former group, remember that certain areas will still frown on a lack of crack. “In all of our clubs,” Hawkins says, “you have to be nude to get into a pool or hot tub, even if it’s clothing-optional.”

2. THEY MIGHT BLOCK YOUR CAMERA LENS.

The advent of cell phones with megapixel cameras has made protecting privacy at nudist gatherings slightly more difficult; Hawkins says that anyone who strolls into a group clutching a cell phone will probably be called to the side. “At Cypress Cove, we have a red dot policy. If someone brings a phone, we ask them to put a red dot over the camera lens. No one’s complained about it yet.”

3. YOU NEED TO BRING A TOWEL WITH YOU EVERYWHERE.

While no one is casting aspersions on anyone’s personal hygiene, most nudist gatherings mandate that guests carry a bath or beach towel with them at all times and use it as a barrier when sitting down. “It’s for sanitary purposes,” Hawkins says.

4. FOOTWEAR IS WELCOME.

Because Florida is populated by fire ants, Hawkins says she frequently runs into nudists who sport shoes or sandals on an otherwise naked body: “There are also little sticks and things like that on the beach.” Hats and jewelry are also common.

5. THEY EAT IN THE NUDE.

While this sounds like it might be hazardous when ordering hot soups, Hawkins says most resorts welcome nude diners (provided you bring that aforementioned towel). Some patrons might find a dining area chilly and wear something light to avoid feeling cold. And while most servers are nudists themselves, they remain dressed while on duty.

6. THEY DON’T MONITOR TOENAILS. (CLIP THEM ANYWAY.)

While it’s probably good form to keep your nails trimmed, Hawkins says that most groups aren’t going to make a big deal out of some slightly lax hygiene. “That would be at a person’s discretion,” she says. “It’s about body acceptance.”

7. PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION ARE OUT.

While you may discover a newfound appreciation for nature and the freedom of a non-clothed lifestyle, you can't let it get out of hand. Hawkins says most clubs have the modesty of the minister in Footloose when it comes to touching. "The most public affection displayed would be holding hands or a quick hug when you meet friends," she says.

8. SINGLE GUY OR GAL? YOU MIGHT NOT MAKE IT IN.

"The clubs try to keep a gender balance as best they can," Hawkins says. While couples typically won't have trouble being admitted, singles could be. "If a single male or female comes to the gates, they're asked if they have nudist experience," Hawkins explains. If not, and there's no singles function planned, they might need to reconsider their nakation.

9. YOU CAN BE NUDE, BUT YOU CAN’T LOOK SEXY.

For clothing-optional gatherings, Hawkins says that there’s actually a type of dress code: provocative lingerie, dresses, or tight jeans aren’t welcome sights. “That’s sex appeal, not a nude body,” she says.

That doesn’t preclude romance: Hawkins has arranged several nude weddings for people who met at Cypress Cove during singles gatherings. And yes, the brides saved a lot of money by not having to buy a dress. “They can spend it on the honeymoon,” says Hawkins.

All images courtesy of iStock.

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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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Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

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