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Worst album covers of all time: the ten

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When I say all time, I mean the future, too. Let's take a look.

10. Ken: By Request Only
I can assure you, Ken, we have only one request.

9. Something Special from Jeff
Poor Jeff looks like death warmed over, from his Herman Munster tan to that funeral director suit. I just hope the "something special" he's got for us doesn't involve that hook. (Or perhaps that's his instrument. After all, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke played a prosthetic arm on his last solo album.)
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8. Joyce
This 1983 album is self-titled, but serious Joyce fans know it as "The Red Album." One choice cut from this LP is "I Get All Excited."
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7. Heino: Liebe Mutter
Keeping the rose theme going, German singer Heino was on his way to plant this rose bush when he stumbled into the photo studio.
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6. Orleans: Waking and Dreaming
I've had the naked-at-school dream plenty of times. But naked at the photo shoot? Also, notice how the photographer arranged them not according to height, but beardedness.
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5. Mike Terry Live At the Pavilion Theater, Glasgow: Volume 2
I can only imagine Mike Terry sounds a lot like he looks: like Elton John crossed with Liberace and fat, Vegas Elvis.
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4. Freddie Gage: All My Friends Are Dead
Nicknamed the Underworld Preacher, Gage is a reformed drug addict from Texas. This is an album with a good heart: a sermon aimed at teens which tries to tell them the truth about drug abuse. With an album cover like this, though, I'm betting Gage didn't sell a lot of copies to anyone, young or old.
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3. At Play with the Playmates
Do their wives know about this? Good Lord -- these guys look so natural on that bike! But seriously: this 50s vocal trio had a long career, and you can buy this album on Amazon right now.
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2. David Ingles: Satan Has Been Paralyzed
(Satan's not the only one.) Ingles claims his music can heal you, fix your marriage and make you rich.
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1. Cody Matherson: Can I Borrow A Feelin'?
Cody had the great honor of having his album title stolen by the writers of The Simpsons: in the episode "A Milhouse Divided," after Milhouse's dad loses his marriage and hits rock bottom he records a terrible album called "Can I Borrow A Feeling?" Sounds like Matherson should borrow a lawyer.
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If you want more, so much more, check this link out, and this. (Warning: some of these covers are NSFW.)

Previously on mental_floss: 23 Album Covers That Changed Everything.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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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]

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