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Don't Forget the Lyrics...And definitely not last night's winner, Patricia Canale

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Last night, Patricia Canale owned the stage on FOX's popular game show, "Don't Forget the Lyrics." The only sad thing about her win of $100,000 was that it signaled the end of her vocal performance! At a packed viewing party in the Valley, Patricia caught her breath to dish on karaoke bars, shuffling-off-to-Buffalo, and knowing when to walk away.

Congratulations on beating the system! Are you prepared for people to interrupt you in the grocery store asking you to sing "Maniac"?

I can't wait! I'm a born performer, darling—I'm ready to perform at any moment.

What was the casting process like for you?

My friend was up for the show to be a contestant and I auditioned to be his back-up. He ended up not getting cast and the producers ended up calling me a month later out of the blue and brought me into the studio. I had to pass three written tests and then I was brought to the casting directors, where we did a practice run of karaoke.

Having cast game shows, I'd say you're a dream contestant. Obviously! But have you been on any other game shows?

I was the tap-dancing cupcake on "Grease: You're the One That I Want!" I received the most audience response and producers said if they hadn't cut me, America would have voted me in. That was an exciting thing, as well.

I hear you've actually worked as a tap-dancing cupcake.

I moved to LA from New York, and I was looking for work and I had applied at this place—The Job Factory—and they needed a tap-dancing cupcake, and I figured: what the hell; I'm gonna make a living. It was at JONS in Downey. images-2.jpgI got paid fifty bucks. I was a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing. Kids would poke at the netting and people would just laugh at me--I was shuffling-off-to-Buffalo near the bread aisle and I was sliding on the supermarket floor. My humble beginnings in show biz!

Can you eat cupcakes now?

I can't.

What were you feeling or doing right before you walked on stage?

I was a little nervous. I'm a Buddhist, so I chanted, and felt really centered because I had done a lot of studying prior to the show. I was pretty confident that I had done enough studying to be successful. I had no idea what curves they were going to throw at me.

And the curves were"¦

The one that cost me a hundred thousand dollars! ("You Can't Hurry Love" by Diana Ross) You think you know these songs, but when you really pick them apart word by word, not so much. They really get you on the specifics of the wording. "My Sharona" was one of those songs that I thought I knew but I didn't really. You don't know which part of the song they're going to use.

Did you try to cram song lyrics prior to the taping?

I actually tried to learn categories I'm not as strong in— 80s, rock, top ten—I trolled the internet. There are millions of sites dedicated to lyrics, but the lyrics aren't the same on all the sites.

Was there a song you were secretly hoping would come on?

Something by Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight—all the Motown women—Diana Ross being the lone exception. images-4.jpg

Was there a song you were secretly dreading would come on?

I was hoping that there would be no heavy metal because I would be lost—any songs that I had just absolutely no idea. I knew I had a choice of two, so I was concerned that I wouldn't know either one.

How would you describe your chemistry with the host, Wayne Brady?
My chemistry with Wayne Brady was phenomenal. They didn't have time to air images-1.jpgall the banter—it was an instant bond. He said some extremely complimentary things I'll never forget.

Anything you can disclose?

He announced to the audience my name, and then, "Actress, Singer, Comedian," and then said "I'm not worthy!" and started bowing down to me. I was completely floored by that, given Wayne Brady's stature in the business, and I tried to maintain composure. Then he looked at me and said, "You're going to be a star."

How did you stay focused between commercial breaks?

The producers would whisk me off and brief me on things I could say or couldn't say. They kept me separate from my family or anyone who could have helped me in any way. It's nerve racking because the entire studio audience is screaming your name, and knowing that that your family is standing behind you.

Did you really have no clue that your family (she's one of 12) was going to be there?

I had no idea that my family was going to be there. Complete surprise to me. They had called my Uncle Cos and asked him to give him my parents' number in the Bronx. And Fox called my family and flew them all out unbenownst to me. I didn't understand why I had such intense security prior to the show—I had three security guards around me at all times! It was because my family was in the building.

Have you done karaoke since? How is it different?

I did do karaoke this week at The Brass Monkey in LAimages5.jpg--I sang "Son of a Preacher Man," by Dusty Springfield, "Midnight Train," by Gladys Knight, and "Mickey" by Toni Basil--and when people would look at me after I sang, telling me I was the best singer, I would hand out my card and say, "Look for me on "˜Don't Forget the Lyrics' this Thursday."

Do you have a signature karaoke song?

Anything Aretha, any torch singer. Aretha and Gladys "“occasionally I throw in a Heart song, like "Alone," which is always dramatic and fun.images-3.jpg

What's your favorite karaoke place?

I would have to say Robin Hood Pub—it's an English pub in Santa Monica. There are so many foreigners who don't know American music and you get a much more honest and less jaded LA crowd. They would give me money to sing certain songs. I made fifty bucks. They asked me to sing a Whitney Houston song—"One Moment in Time." One of them asked me to sing "Danny Boy." And an Italian guy asked me to sing something by Connie Francis—gave me ten dollars to sing "Where the Boys Are."

Have you had any weird dreams about the show or your performance?

I've been having weird dreams that I was naked on the show—that I was on national television with no clothes on. I think it was just my anxiety about how they were going to edit the show. I was a little nervous about how it was going to sound, etcetera.

What did you think of the way they cut it?

I was a little surprised that they used certain cuts of the songs, because I sang them a couple of times. I didn't know what they were going to play, I had no idea what key they were in. You're trying to sing a song, you don't have a monitor, and you're on stage in front of millions of people and your family. Under those circumstances, I think I did well.

Your uncle helped you at the very end—if he hadn't been there, do you think you would have walked with the money?

Honestly, I knew instinctually that they weren't the right lyrics. Because my uncle was not certain, I took that a sign to walk away. I just knew in my gut that it wasn't right.

What's the response been like from your homies in the Bronx?

My entire family had images-5.jpga confidentiality agreement to sign, but the entire tri-state area knows my family and was rooting me on. It's been announced at every school in New York, pretty much. My father has a deli in the South Bronx—hundred and hundreds of people knew to tune in. They were beyond thrilled.

This kind of publicity is really exciting--I'm being seen for projects I normally wouldn't be seen for and I'm really grateful to this for raising my profile a little bit.

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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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200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.