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Eight Wacky Action Figures (Plus a Quiz!!)

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In recent years, the toy market has been inundated with action figures, both typical (superheroes) and not-so-typical (historical figures). Sadly, though, many of the action figures are still rather humdrum. To help you steer clear of boring desk decorations, we've dug through the plethora of action figures to bring you the best of the bizarre and offbeat.

Bossman & Deluxe Jesus

1. BossMan: This 3-faced super hero / super villain comes with a Wisdom Amplifier, Magical Management Stogie, Wireless Worker Leash, Truth Mystifier, and Early Retirment Plan. BossMan is also either the most appropriate action figure for work or the most inappropriate—You decide!

2. Deluxe Jesus: You may have seen Jesus action figures before, but I bet you haven't seen the miracle-working action figure! The Deluxe Jesus kit includes a Jesus with "glow-in-the-dark miracle hands," as well as 5 loaves of bread, 2 fish, and a jug for turning water into wine. (Sadly, the company does not guarantee miracles.)

Devo, Fuzz & Houdini


3. Devo: Feeling nostalgic for the days of Devo? Now you can bring the party home with a Devo action figures complete with 5 interchangeable heads, a whip, and, of course, an energy dome.

4. Fuzz: Fuzz is the hipster action figure. He stands apart from the crowd of other action figures because (1) no one has ever heard of him before and (2) he has three interchangeable heads.

5. Houdini: The master of escapes comes with a chair, a cloth straight jacket, real rope, and working shackles, so you can reenact your favorite escapes over and over again.

Marie Antoinette

6. Marie Antoinette: Marie isn't just another pretty face. This doll has head-ejection action and a removable dress!

SuperMom & Vincent Van Gogh


7. SuperMom: This mom juggles it all... groceries, cell phone, children, work, and even her own second head!

8. Vincent Van Gogh: Impress friends and coworkers with your own personal Van Gogh and a collection of mini masterpieces. Plus, who can resist the second, bandage-wrapped (and presumably one-eared) head?

GI-Fridge.jpgMore action figures: Crazy Cat Lady, Cold War Unicorns, your friendly neighborhood barista, The Brady Bunch, Bo Jackson, Sgt. Slaughter, the World's Tallest Man, Jeffrey Lebowski & Walter Sobchak, and Nancy Pearl, Librarian (with amazing push-button shushing action!) Also, Jason made me include this picture (==>) of his William "The Refrigerator" Perry special edition G.I. Joe.

Let's hear all about your bizarre action figures, whether you own one, want one, or have a great idea for a new one.
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And don't forget it's Quiz Week!! To celebrate, take The Action Figure Quiz.

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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]