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15 Third-Party Presidential Candidates

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You don't have to read mental_floss to know that President Obama is running for re-election on the Democratic ticket and that Mitt Romney is opposing him on the Republican ticket. However, you might not know about these other political parties and their 2012 presidential nominees.

1. Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson, the presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, was Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003 as a Republican. As governor, he earned the nickname "Governor Veto." Before politics, he ran his own construction company. Among his personal accomplishments, he lists climbing Mt. Everest and Ironman Triathlons. Johnson is theoretically able to win the presidential election, as he is on the ballot in enough states (43) to achieve 270 electoral votes. Photograph by Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

2. Jill Stein

Dr. Jill Stein is running on the Green Party ticket. She is the only third-party candidate besides Johnson who can theoretically win 270 electoral votes. A physician and medical school professor, Stein focuses on environmental health issues, and has run for political office in Massachusetts twice for the Green-Rainbow Party, which is that state's branch of the Green Party. Stein is on the ballot in 32 states.

3. Virgil Goode

Virgil Goode is the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party. Goode will be on the ballot in 22 states, and can be written in as a candidate in 14 more. He became a Virginia state senator as an independent, then joined the Democratic Party. Goode later represented Virginia in congress from 1997 to 2009, initially as a Democrat. He switched to independent in 2000, and still won re-election. For the 2006 election, he ran as a Republican and was again re-elected -- for a sixth term. Goode was defeated in 2008. Selected as the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party, Goode's campaignseeks to restrict immigration and reduce the size of the federal government.

4. Rocky Anderson

4-21-07 SLC Marathon 5K - 1006

Rocky Anderson represents the Justice Party in the 2012 presidential election. A long-time Salt Lake City lawyer, he served two terms as mayor, from 2000 to 2008. Anderson renounced the Democratic Party in August of last year, and accepted the nomination of the new Justice Party in January of 2012. The party's platform includes the end of war, universal health care, and international cooperation on dealing with climate change. Anderson will be on the ballot in 15 states. Photograph by Flickr user Jen Wakefield-Dillier.

5. Peta Lindsay

Peta Lindsay is the candidate from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, a political party that formed by splitting off from the left-wing Workers World Party in 2004. Lindsay is an anti-war activist. She was born in 1984, so if elected, she would be ineligible to serve as president. The U.S. Constitution states that presidents must be at least 35 years old. Her name will be on the ballot in ten states.

6. Tom Hoefling

Tom Hoefling is the national chairman of America's Party, and is also its 2012 presidential candidate. The party's platform seeks to end the income tax, outlaw abortion, beef up the military, and outlaw gay marriage. Hoefling's presidential campaign does not seek or accept campaign donations. He has achieved ballot access in three states.

7. Roseanne Barr

Roseanne Barr (yes, that Roseanne Barr) sought the candidacy of the Green Party, but lost to Jill Stein in July. She gained the attention of the Peace and Freedom Party, which nominated her in August. Barr's campaign platform includes the legalization of marijuana, an end to war, and forgiveness of student debt. Barr's candidacy has gained the endorsement of NORML, the Green Party Black Caucus, and 2008 Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney. Barr will be on the ballot in three states.

8. Stewart Alexander

Stewart Alexander
is running on the Socialist Party USA ticket. Alexander is a community and consumer activist and an NAACP member. He ran for mayor of Los Angeles in 1988 and for Lieutenant governor in California in 2006 on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. He was the Socialist Party candidate for vice-president in 2008. Three states will have Alexander on the ballot.

9. James Harris

James Harris was nominated for president by the far-left Socialist Workers Party. He was also its candidate in 1996 and 2000. Harris rose through the ranks by campaigning for workers' rights and union organization, particularly in the union-averse state of Georgia. His name will be on the ballot in six states.

10. Andre Barnett

Andre Barnett is the candidate for the Reform Party USA. Barnett served with the U.S. Army and was wounded in Sarajevo in 2000. Told he would not be able to engage in heavy physical activities again, he rehabilitated himself and became a fitness model. He then founded an information technology business. Barnett's platformincludes pulling the military out of foreign countries to concentrate on homeland security, implementing tariffs on imports, lowering the corporate tax rate, and regulating the cost of health care. Three states will have Barnett on the ballot.

11. Tom Stevens

Tom Stevens is running on the Objectivist Party ticket, a party he founded. Stevens is an activist lawyer and is also chairman of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania. The Objectivist Party was formed to promote the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Stevens also publishes a personal blog. His name will be on the presidential ballot in two states.

12. Merlin Miller

Merlin Miller is the first ever presidential candidate for the Third Position Party. Miller is an independent film producer. Miller has been linked to the the Council of Conservative Citizens, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a White Nationalist hate group. The Third Position Party platform focuses on law enforcement and victim's rights. Three states will have Miller on the ballot.

13. Jerry White

Jerry White is the candidate for the Socialist Equality Party, a party that follows the philosophy of Leon Trotsky. His platforminvolves issues of jobs, workers' rights, and quality of life issues like universal healthcare, guaranteed minimum income, an end to foreclosures, and universal pensions. He will be on the ballot in two states.

14. Jim Carlson

Jim Carlson is running for president for the Grassroots Party. The party shares a philosophy with the Green Party with an added emphasis on the legalization of marijuana. The campaign has no website. Carlson is the owner of a Duluth head shop, Last Place on Earth. Minnesota is the only state that will have Carlson on the ballot.

15. Will Christensen

Will Christensen represents the Independent American Party. The party is very conservative, and only on the ballot in one state: Oregon.

This information, particularly the states that have these candidates on the ballot, is subject to change. You can check for more information here.

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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]