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8 Thanksgiving Flowcharts

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Holidays, especially traditional family holidays, come loaded with many decisions to make. Luckily, flowcharts give us a geeky shortcut to making those decisions. Here are eight that pertain specifically to how you handle Thanksgiving.

1. Making Your Plans

What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year? It might be a little late to book a flight to Vegas, but that is one of your options for next year. Otherwise, you can go home to Mom and Dad, host your own dinner, or get invited to someone else's home, but once those decisions are made, there are other things to consider. This handy flowchart from The Houston Press can help you make those important decisions about how to spend your holiday.

2. What to Bring?

What should you bring to the Thanksgiving feast? This flowchart from Chow breaks it down by your abilities, means, and personality. This one is geared toward younger people, so whatever you bring, no one will be surprised.

3. No Really, What to Bring?

If you've dealt with the conundrum of what to take to someone else's feast a few times before, you may have more luck with V.V. Denman's Thanksgiving Menu Flowchart. It's labeled as "simplified," but it is not simple. Only a portion is shown here, but you can rest assured that if you are a college student going to Mom's house, it's okay to just bring your laundry.

4. Where to Sit?

Once you arrive at Grandma's house (or wherever), you'll be told where you are supposed to sit. A flowchart from College Humor will clue you in so there are no surprises. Only the beginning is shown here. Wherever you are assigned, there will be problems, but at least you'll be prepared for them.

5. How Should I Prepare Turkey?

Or maybe you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your house this year. What to do with the turkey? Should you buy a frozen, organic, free-range, or kosher turkey? Should you marinate or rub it? Should you grill, fry, or roast it? Whew, how do you know which way to go? The answers lie in a flowchart at the New York Times, which will take you through each decision step-by-step. The answers depend on your tastes, your desired result, and what you are willing to do to make your turkey special.

6. Impressive Dinner Conversation

Dinner table talk may turn to current events, including the scandal involving former CIA director David Petraeus. You don't want to be caught totally confused, so you might want to brush up on who's who in the story before you say something dumb. With the brief overview of knowledge contained in a flowchart by Hilary Sargent, you'll know more than most of the people you're eating with. Probably all of them. Yes, it is small and involved, but you can enlarge it here.

7. What to do After Dinner

Let's say you are home from college. You can only take so much family togetherness, so after dinner you are considering changing the pace. A flowchart from College Humor helps you decide what to do next. Consider carefully.

8. High School Heartbreaker

If you decide to go out on the town, you might be confronted with decisions you've never faced before. For example, what if you run into your old high school crush at a bar? You're an adult now, how do you handle it? A flowchart from Ask Men gives you the answers. Follow the logic on the entire chart.

There, that was easy, wasn't it? Make the rest of the decisions in your life with the help of other flowcharts we've posted.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
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]