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9 Signs You've Been in Your Job for Too Long

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It may come after six months or six years, but there’s a moment in every job when you realize you’ve reached your limit. Whether it’s due to burnout, boredom, or a generally bad fit, you'll eventually get to a point where you've simply been doing the same thing for too long and find yourself unhappy and unfulfilled. It’s not always easy to recognize, but it’s important to act on that "Aha!" moment when it hits so that you don't waste any more time in a stagnating career. So how do you know you’ve been in a job too long?

We spoke to career coaches Kate Bagoy and Rebecca Thompson, both of whom burnt out in their previous roles—Kate in consulting and Thompson in politics—and now use their experiences to advise others who find themselves in the same boat. “People stay in things way too long,” says Thompson, who stuck with a job for five years even though she knew it wasn’t the right fit after six months. “Know when it’s time to get out, and get out.”

According to Bagoy and Thompson, here are the key signs you’ve been in a job too long:

1. YOU'RE COUNTING YOUR SICK DAYS.

Playing hooky is fun to think about, but if you’re regularly considering pulling a Ferris Bueller, it’s a pretty clear indication that you’re unhappy. “If you get up too many days in a row and think, ‘I don’t want to go to work,’ ‘How many sick days do I have left?’ ‘Would anybody even notice if I show up today?’” says Bagoy, “for me, that’s the first sign that’s something is wrong."

2. YOU FEEL LIKE ALL OF YOUR CREATIVITY HAS BEEN DRAINED.

No matter your industry, you should spend most of your time feeling inspired by your job, not beaten down by it. “That burnout from my job was seeping over into the rest of my life,” says Bagoy. “It had eaten up all of my creative energy and my joy.” If you feel like your role is taking too much brain-power and not allowing you to keep those creative juices flowing, it may be time to make a change.

3. YOU'VE STOPPED PARTICIPATING IN OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE.

Being tired after a long day at the office is one thing, but being burnt out is another, and it’s important to know the difference. “I was so miserable in the eight hours a day I was in my job that I had nothing left,” says Bagoy. "I would come home, microwave a plate, binge-watch Netflix, and go to bed.”

When you’re burnt out, the rest of your life suffers, and you can use that as an indicator that things aren’t working. And, Bagoy says, if you find yourself using addictive behaviors like drinking, binge-eating, or online shopping to numb yourself to the burnout, get out of there fast.

4. YOU'RE DREAMING OF LEAVING A HIGH-PAYING JOB FOR MINIMUM WAGE.

“I used to fantasize about leaving my six figure role to go flip burgers,” says Thompson, while Bagoy used to “dream about going to work at Starbucks, even if it meant going to work 80 hours a week to make up the salary." If the tax on your mental energy is so high that you’re dreaming of doing anything else, just to give your brain a break, get out.

5. YOU'VE EXHAUSTED YOUR OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH.

Not every job is meant to launch an entire career (otherwise turnover rates would be non-existent) and that’s totally OK. Think about each role as a steppingstone, and know what you want out of the position when you start. When you feel like you’ve learned and grown in every way that you can, move on. “Get what you came to get, then get out,” says Thompson.

6. YOU AREN'T GETTING PROMOTED.

While you shouldn't necessarily expect a promotion every year, if there is no room for any upward movement—or if your peers are consistently beating you out for more senior positions—there’s no point in staying in a role any longer than you have to. Have an honest conversation with your boss about whether or not there are any options for you within the company, and if there’s no possibility that you’ll get promoted or your role will change, take your services elsewhere.

7. YOU CAN TELL YOUR PERFORMANCE IS SLIPPING.

For a while, you may be able to get away with it, but eventually people will notice. Don’t allow yourself to settle for doing a mediocre job, and don't wait for your supervisor to talk to you about it; use your drop-off in performance as a sign that your mental capacity can be better used somewhere else.

8. YOU'RE ON AUTOPILOT.

No matter how much you love your job, some days are going to be more productive than others. But if you’re spending the majority of your time scrolling through E! News or hammering away like a mindless monkey at a keyboard, make the conscious decision to put your brain to better use elsewhere.

9. YOU WANT TO GET FIRED.

When you’re fantasizing about getting fired so that you don’t have to go to work another day, it’s time to quit. “I knew [my company] wanted me to quit, instead of firing me,” says Thompson. Of course, getting laid off may have certain financial benefits, but waiting it out and letting your performance slip in the hopes that you’ll be let go isn’t doing anyone, most of all you, any favors.

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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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10 Facts About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
May 29, 2017
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Library of Congress

On Veterans Day, 1921, President Warren G. Harding presided over an interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery for an unknown soldier who died during World War I. Since then, three more soldiers have been added to the Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) memorial—and one has been disinterred. Below, a few things you might not know about the historic site and the rituals that surround it.

1. THERE WERE FOUR UNKNOWN SOLDIER CANDIDATES FOR THE WWI CRYPT. 

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

To ensure a truly random selection, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from four different WWI American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and received the Distinguished Service Medal, was chosen to select a soldier for burial at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington. After the four identical caskets were lined up for his inspection, Younger chose the third casket from the left by placing a spray of white roses on it. The chosen soldier was transported to the U.S. on the USS Olympia, while the other three were reburied at Meuse Argonne American Cemetery in France.

2. SIMILARLY, TWO UNKNOWN SOLDIERS WERE SELECTED AS POTENTIAL REPRESENTATIVES OF WWII.

One had served in the European Theater and the other served in the Pacific Theater. The Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, chose one of the identical caskets to go on to Arlington. The other was given a burial at sea.

3. THERE WERE FOUR POTENTIAL KOREAN WAR REPRESENTATIVES.

WikimediaCommons // Public Domain

The soldiers were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. This time, Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle was the one to choose the casket. Along with the unknown soldier from WWII, the unknown Korean War soldier lay in the Capitol Rotunda from May 28 to May 30, 1958.

4. THE VIETNAM WAR UNKNOWN WAS SELECTED ON MAY 17, 1984.

Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr., selected the Vietnam War representative during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor.

5. BUT THE VIETNAM VETERAN WASN'T UNKNOWN FOR LONG.

Wikipedia // Public Domain

Thanks to advances in mitochondrial DNA testing, scientists were eventually able to identify the remains of the Vietnam War soldier. On May 14, 1998, the remains were exhumed and tested, revealing the “unknown” soldier to be Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie (pictured). Blassie was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. After his identification, Blassie’s family had him moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. Instead of adding another unknown soldier to the Vietnam War crypt, the crypt cover has been replaced with one bearing the inscription, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

6. THE MARBLE SCULPTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MANY OTHER U.S. MONUMENTS. 

The Tomb was designed by architect Lorimer Rich and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, but the actual carving was done by the Piccirilli Brothers. Even if you don’t know them, you know their work: The brothers carved the 19-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial, the lions outside of the New York Public Library, the Maine Monument in Central Park, the DuPont Circle Fountain in D.C., and much more.

7. THE TOMB HAS BEEN GUARDED 24/7 SINCE 1937. 

Tomb Guards come from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard". Serving the U.S. since 1784, the Old Guard is the oldest active infantry unit in the military. They keep watch over the memorial every minute of every day, including when the cemetery is closed and in inclement weather.

8. BECOMING A TOMB GUARD IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

Members of the Old Guard must apply for the position. If chosen, the applicant goes through an intense training period, in which they must pass tests on weapons, ceremonial steps, cadence, military bearing, uniform preparation, and orders. Although military members are known for their neat uniforms, it’s said that the Tomb Guards have the highest standards of them all. A knowledge test quizzes applicants on their memorization—including punctuation—of 35 pages on the history of the Tomb. Once they’re selected, Guards “walk the mat” in front of the Tomb for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the time of year and time of day. They work in 24-hour shifts, however, and when they aren’t walking the mat, they’re in the living quarters beneath it. This gives the sentinels time to complete training and prepare their uniforms, which can take up to eight hours.

9. THE HONOR IS ALSO INCREDIBLY RARE.

The Tomb Guard badge is the least awarded badge in the Army, and the second least awarded badge in the overall military. (The first is the astronaut badge.) Tomb Guards are held to the highest standards of behavior, and can have their badge taken away for any action on or off duty that could bring disrespect to the Tomb. And that’s for the entire lifetime of the Tomb Guard, even well after his or her guarding duty is over. For the record, it seems that Tomb Guards are rarely female—only three women have held the post.

10. THE STEPS THE GUARDS PERFORM HAVE SPECIFIC MEANING.

Everything the guards do is a series of 21, which alludes to the 21-gun salute. According to TombGuard.org:

The Sentinel does not execute an about face, rather they stop on the 21st step, then turn and face the Tomb for 21 seconds. They then turn to face back down the mat, change the weapon to the outside shoulder, mentally count off 21 seconds, then step off for another 21 step walk down the mat. They face the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until the Guard Change ceremony begins.

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