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8 Surprising College Roommates

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As incoming freshman pack up their stuff and head to college, one of their many anxieties is the roommate. Will they throw parties in the room all the time? Will they take my Pop Tarts? Will they smell? To remove some of the fear about being forced to live with some stranger, here are some former college roommates that went on to great individual success:

1. Tommy Lee and the V.P.

Actor Tommy Lee Jones and Former Vice President Al Gore (and eventually John Lithgow) shared a room at Harvard and, like plenty of college roomies, chased skirts together. However, most don't join a country music band to do it. The unlikely duo also served as the inspiration for the character of Oliver in Love Story, written by fellow Harvard alum Erich Segal.

2. A Tale of Two Coaches

When rooming together at the University of Minnesota, Tony Dungy and Flip Saunders dreamed of capturing a national championship for the school, Dungy on the football field and Saunders on the basketball court. Little did they know they'd both be responsible for coaching nationally spotlighted teams; Dungy led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory last year and Saunders' took the Detroit Pistons to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2006.

3. Popeye and Superman

r.willreeves.jpgAt Julliard, roomies Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve vowed to always be friends and help each other throughout life. Both held true to the promise, as they remained close. Williams even covered some of Reeves' medical expenses after he was paralyzed. Of course, being Robin Williams, he couldn't stop there; after Reeve found out he couldn't walk again, Williams channeled his inner-Patch Adams, visiting Reeve dressed as a doctor and pretending to be his proctologist. Reportedly, the act caused Reeve to smile for the first time after his accident.

more roomies revealed after the break!

4. The Guys Behind Rushmore

r.wes-owen.jpgWes Anderson and Owen Wilson have had great success collaborating on films from Rushmore to The Royal Tenenbaums. And it all started when they were roommates at University of Texas, where they co-wrote Anderson's directoral debut Bottle Rocket. That's not the only writing they did together, though; Anderson wrote an A+ paper about Edgar Allen Poe for Wilson in order to score the better bedroom in their apartment.

5. Legends of Notre Dame

r.montana.jpgCharlie Weis may run a pretty no-nonsense football program at Notre Dame, but back when he was a student there, he was fond of playing pranks on roommate (and quarterback) Joe Montana.

6. Stanley and Irving

Actor Ving Rhames probably wouldn't have carved out his successful career if it weren't for roommate Stanley Tucci. While at SUNY Purchase, Tucci convinced Rhames to shorten his name from Irving. And let's face it, that was probably a good career move; Marsellus Wallace just wouldn't be the same played by someone named Irving.

7. Two Rhodes to Success

r.billstrobe.jpgWhen you've got two Rhodes scholars rooming together at Oxford, you know there's bound to be some brainpower. But the pairing of future president Bill Clinton and Time editor/U.S. diplomat Strobe Talbot just seems excessive.

8. Climbing to Success

This is one of those anecdotes you just can't make up. When they were friends in Michigan, Steve Mariucci and Tom Izzo would race up the steps of a man-made ski jump to see who would be successful. If Izzo won, he'd become head basketball coach at Notre Dame, but if Mariucci won, he'd be the school's football coach. The two bffs roomed together at Northern Michigan University and then went on to live their childhood dreams. Izzo became head basketball coach at Michigan State University, while Mariucci went on to coach the San Francisco "˜49ers.

    Note: It's been reported that former FEMA chief Joseph Allbaugh was roommates with his successor Michael Brown. The tale of two disgraced government officials living together is, sadly, too good to be true- the two didn't even go to the same college.Big thanks to Kara, Jenny and Mangesh for their research tips.
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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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    8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
    May 25, 2017
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    Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

    1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

    What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

    2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

    What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

    3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

    What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

    4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

    What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

    5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

    What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

    6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

    What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

    7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

    What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

    8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

    What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

    The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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