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7 Tips for Eliminating Toxic People From Your Life

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We all know how important it is to give our bodies a break from “toxic” food and alcohol, but what about giving ourselves a break from toxic attitudes? "Just like any toxic thing—like food or poison—toxic people are extremely dangerous," Tara Mackey, author of Cured by Nature and founder of The Organic Life, tells mental_floss in an email. “They distract us from our positive or productive habits. They'll be the people who discourage you from exercise or make fun of you for wanting to be a better person. They'll come up with reasons for you to stay in other bad relationships. Toxic people get you stuck in the past and focused on the negative, and in that mentality, you can't move forward and you can't succeed. It is impossible for them to share in your joy."

It's worth noting that there is a difference between people who are truly toxic to your well-being and people who have a negative outlook because they struggle with depression. It's important to let friends and family members who suffer from clinical depression know that you love and support them, not cut them out of your life. But interacting with toxic people who constantly cut you down or manipulate you to their own advantage can take a toll on your own mental health. And yet, it can be difficult to distance yourself from them.

"Toxic people can try to cling on—sometimes for years! They can make you feel guilty and because of that, are not always easy to remove from your life,” says Mackey. To help you detox your relationships once and for all, here are her tips for getting rid of harmful personalities.

1. IDENTIFY THE TOXICITY.

The first step of getting rid of something—or someone—toxic is actually recognizing the fact that it’s harming you. “Toxic people are manipulative and often selfish,” says Mackey. “They're difficult to please and impossible to work with, even when you're trying to help them. They have a hard time owning their feelings or apologizing, and they will consistently make you prove yourself to them."

If a relationship is weighing on you constantly or bringing you down significantly more than it's building you up, it’s time to let go. "Toxic people are a distraction from your true purpose," says Mackey.

2. BE FIRM.

“Toxins have to be met with a powerful force,” says Mackey. “It's likely that they won't just respond to ‘Go away,’ and will perhaps even dig their claws in deeper if you try to create a separation. Don't let this discourage you.” Be very, very clear with the person about your intentions, then keep the necessary distance to make sure your message isn’t misconstrued.

3. SET BOUNDARIES...

… and stick with them. “Stick with your boundaries long-term or [toxic people] will use any weakness over time to sneak back into your life,” says Mackey. “If you told yourself you wouldn't respond to their texts, don't. Block their number and block them on all social media. Don't send them any e-mails and don't check in six months from now.” Once you’ve made the decision to end a relationship, you’re responsible for keeping the guidelines clear after the fact.

4. DON'T BE TOO NICE.

It may sound harsh, but since toxic people tend to take advantage of any kindness that’s imparted on them, being overly nice can be detrimental. “Realize that they get their energy from draining your loving, good nature,” says Mackey. “They thrive on your trust and kindness.” It doesn’t mean you have to be cruel (to paraphrase Michelle Obama, when they go low, you want to go high), but you should stop going out of your way to be overly accommodating.

5. REALIZE IT'S NOT YOUR JOB TO SAVE THEM.

Toxic people are great at showing up when they need something, particularly during crisis moments in their own lives. "They'll ask for a shoulder to cry on or an ear for you to lend. They may disguise it as wanting advice,” says Mackey. “All of these are ploys for your time and attention. Do not give in to them, no matter the circumstance.”

If things are truly dire for your friend, you can direct him to resources that specialize in his particular issues. Solving his problems is not only not your responsibility, it's likely beyond your capabilities.

6. KNOW THAT WHEN IT'S DONE, IT'S DONE.

Toxic people will keep coming back if you let them, so when you decide to say goodbye, make sure you’re ready to make it permanent. “They will always find a way to create a problem or drama in your life,” says Mackey. “When you've decided to move on, move on for good.”

If the toxic person is family, and it's therefore impossible to make a clean break, you can still establish clear limits for your interactions (be it, we will only speak on the phone once a month or you will only visit during the holidays).

7. TREAT YOUR SEPARATION LIKE THE BREAKUP IT IS.

Yes, we need relationships, but we don’t need every relationship—especially ones that bring us more pain than support. “Energy flows where attention goes,” says Mackey. “The more selective you are about where your focus is, the more successful you'll be. The more time you spend away from toxic people, the more time you have for yourself and the people that are positive, uplifting, and important to you.” Make time for people who bring you happiness, and let go of those who bring you anything less.

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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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