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4 Famous TV Co-workers (who struggled to get along)

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Every work environment has its personality conflicts "“ that one co-worker that gets on your last nerve. Sure, you can do your best to avoid that person. But what happens if it's someone you absolutely have to "make nice with" in front of millions of TV viewers and your career depends on it? The following are 4 great examples of just that.

1. The Shlemiel and Shlimazel between Laverne and Shirley

Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams originally appeared as the characters Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney on an episode of Happy Days. Producer Garry Marshall (Penny's brother) thought that the pair worked well together, and that a Happy Days spin-off could become a ratings success. Williams was reluctant from the get-go, thinking that her co-star might get preferential treatment since her brother was the producer. One of the first concessions made for Williams was "cross billing" "“ when the opening credits rolled, the actresses' names appeared simultaneously, with Marshall's name at the lower left of the screen, and Williams' at the upper right. (This way, neither was considered the show's "top" star.) Nevertheless, Williams complained to TV Guide in 1977 that the writers gave Laverne more lines. Williams' manager once appeared on the set with a stopwatch to "prove" that Laverne had more speaking time than Shirley. Before long, the raging arguments over such things as the square footage of dressing rooms became so heated that actors working on nearby sets could hear them. When Williams became pregnant in 1982, the producers proposed filming as many episodes as possible before she "showed," and then having her sit out the next 10 episodes. Cindy sued, and was ultimately written out of the series.

2. Little Love between Ethel and Fred

a.fred.jpgOnscreen, Vivian Vance and William Frawley had terrific chemistry as Ethel and Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy. Offscreen, they loathed each other. It all started on the first day of rehearsals, when Vance found out that Frawley, 22 years her senior, had been cast as her husband. "He's old enough to be my father!" she complained. Unfortunately, Frawley had been within earshot when she made the remark, and the battle lines were drawn. One of Bill's more printable nicknames for Viv was "that sack of doorknobs." Desi Arnaz proposed a "Mertz" spin-off series to Frawley and Vance. Even though Bill was amenable, Vivian absolutely refused.

3. Cybill Wars: Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd's Moonlighting spats

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Director Peter Bogdanovich spotted Cybill Shepherd on the cover of Glamour magazine in 1970 and was smitten. He cast her in The Last Picture Show, and the two began an intimate relationship. Her career didn't take off as expected, and she appeared in a string of B-movies before eventually being cast as Maddie Hayes in ABC's Moonlighting. The understanding was that Shepherd, who'd spent many years in the business, was to be the star of the show. But no one anticipated the charisma of her then unknown co-star, Bruce Willis. With his sardonic smirk and cocky insouciance, his portrayal of David Addison quickly became an audience favorite, which did not sit well with Shepherd. She resented the producers slowly turning David into a hero while making Maddie increasingly more shrewish. When the writers finally had David and Maddie "get horizontal" (in order to explain Shepherd's real-life pregnancy), Willis felt that the sexual tension between the characters had been destroyed, and that the basic premise of the show had been ruined. By the time Willis was tapped to star in Die Hard, he and Cybill were barely speaking. In fact, they filmed their scenes separately whenever possible.

4. Survey Says: Richard Dawson vs. the Match Game producers

a.match.jpgGene Rayburn was the host of Match Game, but Richard Dawson was the show's star. The British-born actor had a quick wit, and even when he playfully poked fun at a contestant's truly dreadful answer, he still remained a gentleman. He was also highly intelligent and was the overwhelming favorite when it came to choosing a panelist for the Head-to-Head match. In 1976, Mark Goodson tapped Dawson to host a new game show called Family Feud. It was an immediate hit, and as its popularity grew, numerous nighttime "specials" were also filmed. Meanwhile, Richard was still committed to filming both the daytime and evening versions of Match Game. Feeling burned out, he asked to be released from his Match Game contract. The producers refused his request, so he rebelled by becoming sullen on the set; he no longer joked or flirted with contestants, and he stopped speaking to his co-panelists. He left Match Game in 1978 and went on to win a Daytime Emmy for his work on Family Feud. Be sure to click here to watch Dawson on bad behavior.

What other backstage feuds have you heard about? Shelley Long being difficult on the Cheers set? Kim Cattrall versus Sarah Jessica Parker? Succumb to your inner Hedda Hopper and dish!

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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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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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