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Pop annotations: "U Can't Shine Like Me" by Lil' Romeo (feat. the Old Prospector)

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This week, Floss' senior annotator warms the bench while the Old Prospector tries his hand at a little pop cultural deconstruction. From his unhealthy obsession with precious metals to his impenetrably filth-laden colloquialisms, who better to tackle an anachronistic annotation of ghetto ingenue Li'l Romeo's new single? Let's get it started!

Are you serious, man?
They must not know who I be!
We got tha hood pressure in tha buildin'!

Are ya pullin' my donkey's tail?
They done woke up tha wrong doggie
It's hog-killin' time at the hookshop, sakes alive!

You can't shine like me
You know, ride like me
Pull dimes like me if you ain't from tha streets
I'm a hood star, you know who I'm is
I rock big ice, you can't live how I live!

Yer mail-order cowboys can't hold a candle
Can't grab the nubbin like me
Lasso the buckle bunnies if ya don't hail from tha tenderloin
I'm a celebrated mudsill of the first water, acknowledge the corn
I boast ducky notions, I'm fine as cream gravy

10 karats on my earlobes
BBS on my wrist
20 karats on my neck
While y'all slidin' in tha little bit '06 vette
I'm waitin' on tha runway for my G4 jet

Got much specie "˜neath mah hat (these ain't prarie-pancakes)
Bonanza "˜round my hand
Like Neil Young, I'm afta the gold rush
Though y'all squeeze the biscuit on that crowbait jackass
I hang fire on the trail for mah widowmaker

I'm ahead of tha game
You see you boys got next
Did a lil' bit of actin' just ta stack a few chips
I ain't gotta remind y'all how tha game go
I'm tha youngest widda clothin' line, first widda TV show

Won't catch me suckin' hind tit
Cool yer heels, you shave-tails'll soon absquatulate
Strung a few whizzers just to earn ma grubstake
But I needn't stretch the blanket for ya
I'm a button wit' a concern o' bib and tucker, big bug wit' a bill show

I do it big, I guess you say I'm jus' the best at it
Made a mil early, man, I done learned my mathematics
Boy stop stuntin', if I wanted I could have your chick
Don't get it twisted, Richey Rich, so gutta!
You'z a momma's boy, I'm tha son of a hustla!

I'm the biggest toad in the puddle; I'm the rip-snortin' sockdolager
Got my poke o' plunder as a shaver, twigged tha numerical palaver
Enough ballyhoo, pilgrim, don'cha kick up a row; should I take a notion I could cut a rusty wit' yer soiled dove!
Don't get it honey-fuggled, I'm a dude what's hit pay-dirt
Yer a tenderfoot desperado, I'm a bunko artist's guttersnipe!

See me, I'm so fly I'm diff'rent from them otha brothas
Only 16 and I don't live at home wit motha
Kids poppin' they grillz in, they think they gettin' tougher
They tryna take off they shirts, think they gettin' buffa
I'm benchin 180 and that just wit one muscle

Lookee here, I'm a huckleberry 'bove a persimmon
Between hay and grass but don't bunkroll with momma
Whipper-snappers think they been through tha mill
They strip off their long johns, fancy they cut a swell
But I c'n take a rag off the bush six ways from Hell

I see dudes tryna act like me, be like me, dogg even dress like me
No, ya not me and there won't be anotha
So many rocks on my hand I'm a certified hustla
Got a wizard on ya hands, kinda like Ron Butler

Greenhorns playin' to tha gallery, even wear my union-suit and hat
Horsefeathers! You'll catch a weasel asleep "˜fore you cap my climax
Many nuggets in the sluice box, I'm a jo-fired hornswoggla'
Hot as a whorehouse on nickel night, I'm a dandy conjura'

I jus' learn from da best
Hoodstar down South wit a mansion on the West, yes
I got a Bentley that I don't even drive
And I bought a Phantom just to see how it ride!

I suckled from the boss teat
Cattle baron tenderfeet wit' a lean-to on the rollin' plain
Got a broomtailed mare I don't even ride, bayin'
An' I dickered a bangtail just to burn the breeze, sayin'
Can I get two whoops an' a holla?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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]