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Famous Wiener Dogs in History

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I'm getting jealous of all of the pictures Jason posts of his adorable dog, Bailey, so I thought I'd squeeze in a gratuitous picture of my own.

The little one on the left is Patton (he has one blue eye and one brown eye), the black one is Winston and the red one is Jackson. Yes, they are named after General George Patton, Winston Churchill and Andrew Jackson. Don't ask.

Jackson was our first. Winston came a couple of years later because we thought Jackson was lonely. We meant to stop at two, but then we found Patton with his wonky eyes and his Gene Simmons tongue and couldn't help ourselves. We're in good company, though "“ dachshunds have been the faithful companions of authors, artists, politicians and actors for centuries. I thought I'd share a few "celebrity" dachshund tales with you. If anything, this will make myself feel better about owning three of them.

Picasso and Lump

2picasso.jpgA dachshund who has gotten a fair amount of press in the last couple of years is Lump (pronounced "Loomp," it's German for rascal).

Our own Andréa, the author of the "Feel Art Again" posts, could tell you more about Picasso's works than I can, but I do know that Lump was featured in many of his pieces. He acquired Lump from photographer David Douglas Duncan in 1957 when Duncan brought Lump along on a trip to photograph Picasso. It was love at first sight. Lump didn't get along with Duncan's other dog and made it pretty clear that he preferred to become an artist's muse. Lump had his portrait painted for the first time that very day. Their relationship is chronicled in Duncan's book Picasso and Lump: A Dachshund's Odyssey. The friendship is pretty clear from the pictures in the book, which include Picasso holding Lump like an infant and letting the dog eat from his dinner plate.

Andy Warhol, Amos and Archie

Andy Warhol only got a dachshund puppy because his boyfriend wanted one, so they got Archie. Warhol ended up being the one infatuated with the breed, though. Warhol would bring the dog to interviews with him to "answer" questions he didn't care for. He also took Archie to galleries, on business trips, on photo shoots and to his studio.

3warhol-dog.jpgThings were going so swimmingly for the two of them that Andy decided a second dachsie was in order, which was when Amos came along. Archie stopped accompanying Andy everywhere so he could stay home and play with Amos. Even though they weren't seen out and about together as often, the breed's influence on Andy's work was still evident: he painted one of his famous colorful portraits of Maurice, an art collector's dachshund.

David Hockney, Stanley and Boodgie

5hockney.jpg One of Warhol's pop art contemporaries, David Hockney, also found inspiration from his dogs. Stanley and Boodgie were the featured attraction in about 45 oil paintings in his 1995 gallery show. Hockney is known for his dry humor, but when it comes to his dachshunds he is downright adoring "“ he actually refused to sell any of the paintings of them because he felt they were "too intimate." Stanley and Boodgie are also the subjects of David Hockney's Dog Days, a book of illustrations and photos released last year.

I particularly enjoyed these sketches because I see our dogs wedge themselves in weird positions and crevices like this all of the time. I thought it was just their individual quirks, but apparently it's a breed thing.

Waldi

6olympics.jpgI didn't mean to turn this into "Wiener Dogs in Art," but what can I say? They must be popular muses: a dachshund named Waldi just happened to be the first-ever mascot of the Olympics when they were held in Munich in 1972. The dachshund was chosen to represent the summer games because the breed originated in Germany and they has certain personality characteristics similar to those of athletes "“ namely, agility and tenacity. And, if they are anything like my dachshunds, stubbornness.

The stripes in Waldi's midsection were the colors of the games that summer. Unfortunately, the cute dachshund mascot isn't the most memorable thing about the 1972 Olympics "“ that was the year of the "Munich Massacre," when 11 Irsaeli competitors were killed by Palestinian terrorists.

William Randolph Hearst and Helen

William Randolph Hearst had many dachshunds, but none that he loved as much as his Helen. He even had a little ramp installed on a fountain at Hearst Castle so she could use it as her own personal swimming pool.

Hearst was so devastated when Helen died in 1942, he wrote an elegy for her that was published in Time magazine:

"A boy and his dog are no more inseparable companions than an old fellow and his dog. An old bozo is a nuisance to almost everybody — except his dog....She always slept on a big chair in my room and her solicitous gaze followed me to bed at night and was the first thing to greet me when I woke in the morning. Then when I arose she begged for the special distinction of being put in my bed. . . .

"Aldous Huxley says: 'Every dog thinks its master Napoleon, hence the popularity of dogs.' That is not the strict truth. Every dog adores its master notwithstanding the master's imperfections of which it is probably acutely aware. . . .

"So as your dog loves you, you come to love your dog. Not because it thinks you are Napoleon, not because YOU think you are Napoleon. Not because you WANT to be Napoleon. But because love creates love, devotion inspires devotion, unselfishness begets unselfishness and self-sacrifice. . . .

"Helen died in my bed and in my arms. . . . I will not need a monument to remember her. But I am placing over her little grave a stone with the inscription:

"Here lies dearest Helen —my devoted friend."

Kaiser Wilhelm II and Wadl, Hexl and Senta

The last emperor of Germany loved dachshunds so much he buried five of them in the park at Huis Doorn, his residence-in-exile after WWI. The most famous of them, though, are Wadl, Hexl and Senta. Senta accompanied the Kaiser during WWI, which earned him the honor of having a stone dedicated to him at the Huis Doorn park. Wadl and Hexl are famous for a more mischievous reason, though. When the Kaiser was paying a visit to Austria to visit Archduke Franz Ferdinand, they gobbled up one of his golden pheasants.

John Wayne and his dog

7wayne.jpgWhile I can't find any entertaining stories about John Wayne and his dog, I thought this picture was worth sharing:

Other celebrities and their dachshunds include:

"¢ Dorothy Parker and Robinson
"¢ Dita Von Teese and Greta and Eva
"¢ Napoleon Bonaparte and Grenouille and Faussete
"¢ Carole Lombard, Clark Gable and Commissioner
"¢ Mary Tyler Moore and Dash
"¢ Wayne Gretzky and Clyde

Do you have an ornery dachsie? If you're like me, you love to trade stories about them"¦ so let's hear it! Good stories about other breeds are welcome too (I suppose"¦).

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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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