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Early Media Coverage of Jenna Bush, Indiana Jones & Playboy Magazine

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Every Monday, we travel into the archives of The New York Times to find the first time the paper covered various topics. This edition features Jenna Bush trick-or-treating with her grandfather on Air Force Two and Steven Spielberg admitting he didn't give 100% on Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Jenna Bush

November 2, 1988

jenna-bush1.jpgUnmasking Bush Reveals, Well, Bush
For those who believe that Mr. Bush would offer more offbeat moments as President than Mr. Dukakis, there was fresh evidence on Halloween.

Flying home Monday night from a rally in Kansas City, the Vice President turned Air Force Two into a flying Haunted House, with a darkened cabin and spooky, wind-blown music. As Secret Service agents hovered, his twin granddaughters, Jenna and Barbara, trick-or-treated through the plane in costume, one as a Juicy Fruit chewing gum pack and the other dressed as a Juicy Fruit pack vampire. Aides sported Michael Dukakis masks.

And in what had to be one of the most surreal moments of the 1988 race, Mr. Bush appeared, wearing a windbreaker with "George Bush" embroidered on it, and a George Bush mask with wild, carrot-colored hair. He became annoyed when his fellow travelers remarked that the mask looked more like one of Charlton Heston than of the Vice President.

Keep reading for Indiana Jones, Mariah Carey, O.J. Mayo, Superdelegates and Playboy magazine ...

Indiana Jones

June 7, 1981

raiders.jpgHow Old Movie Serials Inspired Lucas and Spielberg
By the time the screenplay [for Raiders of the Lost Ark] was ready, Mr. Spielberg was in no mood for fun. "I read it and wept," he said, "because it just looked like too much work. It was so expansive, it was so—what's the word for when you bite off more than you can chew?" He had just completed the critically unsuccessful 1941, and the idea of another ambitious, expensive and cumbersome movie filled him with dread. So he decided, from the very first, to make what he calls "a real good B-plus film. I decided not to shoot for a masterpiece but to make a good movie that told George's story very well. Sure, I could have gone out and made this movie for $30 million instead of $20 million, in 100 days instead of 73. But it would have boiled down to the same ideas, the same characters, the same continuity of scenes. I could have tried to give it a remarkable veneer that only I and this year's graduating class at USC film school and Stanley Kubrick would have noticed. Or I could have just made the picture and substituted humor and invention for time-consuming technique and additional angles."

O.J. Mayo

December 11, 2003

oj-mayo.jpgStill in High School, Certified Celebrities Look Toward NBA
In the suburbs of Cincinnati, a 6-foot-5 freshman named O. J. Mayo is already garnering national attention. Mayo, a point guard at North College Hill High School, has appeared on ESPN and CNN and has been featured in Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine and Slam.

"We played last Saturday and he could've signed autographs all night instead of playing in the game," said Joe Nickel, athletic director at North College Hill High. "Last Thursday and Friday, an ESPN news crew was here taking pictures of him walking around the halls."

Mariah Carey

June 13, 1990

mariah-carey.jpgThe Pop Life
"It was incredible, like in a movie," Mariah Carey said the other day. The 20-year-old singer and songwriter from New York City was recalling the moment a year and a half ago when she was discovered by Tommy Mottola, the president of CBS Records, who has made her the company's pop Cinderella of 1990.This week her debut album, Mariah Carey, was released by Columbia Records with more fanfare and promotional hoopla than the label has bestowed on a new young talent in years.
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The singer, who lives with two cats in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, is one of three children of Patricia Carey, a vocal coach who used to sing with the New York City Opera. Mariah Carey's parents divorced when she was 3. In 1987, she graduated from Harborfields High School in Huntington, L.I.


December 22, 1983

mondale.jpgA Not so Mad Race for Delegates on Capitol Hill
The selection of the first delegates to the 1984 Democratic Presidential convention will take place early next year not in the chill air of Iowa or New Hampshire, as has been the case for many years, but in the temperature-controlled back rooms of Capitol Hill.

Under new rules adopted last year by the Democratic Party, House Democrats will hold a caucus, probably in the first week of February, to choose 164 of their number as delegates to the party's national nominating convention, where there will be a total of 3,933 delegates. The aim is to get more of the party's top elected officials involved in the nominating process.
* * * * *
The party's only black Presidential candidate, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, is expected to include this class of "˜'superdelegates'' in a challenge to delegate selection rules.

Mr. Jackson, who contends that the rules are racially discriminatory, is expected to argue that setting aside a bloc of delegate slots for elected officials deprives blacks of a chance to compete for these positions. Party officials insist that Mr. Jackson does not have a legitimate issue because the overall delegation to the national convention will reflect the percentage of blacks and other minorities in the party.

[From The First Time News Was Fit To Print, Volume XXVIII.]


April 24, 1955

playboy.jpgNews of the Advertising and Marketing Fields
Playboy Magazine, designed for what it calls "the urban male," has been having trouble with its rate card. When it began accepting advertising in January the rate card, guaranteeing a circulation of 110,000, was obsolete by the time it was printed. The circulation had jumped to 225,000. The revised card, in turn, is obsolete, because the circulation now has gone to 325,000. Hugh Hefner, the publisher, does not mind reprinting the card, with appropriate changes.

From Previous Installments...

The Presidential Candidates (Obama, Clinton, McCain, Huckabee, Paul, Bloomberg)
Greatest Hits (Walkman, Email, Jerry Seinfeld, Donald Trump and more)
"¢ November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

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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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Live Smarter
Working Nights Could Keep Your Body from Healing
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The world we know today relies on millions of people getting up at sundown to go put in a shift on the highway, at the factory, or in the hospital. But the human body was not designed for nocturnal living. Scientists writing in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine say working nights could even prevent our bodies from healing damaged DNA.

It’s not as though anybody’s arguing that working in the dark and sleeping during the day is good for us. Previous studies have linked night work and rotating shifts to increased risks for heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and car accidents. In 2007, the World Health Organization declared night work “probably or possibly carcinogenic.”

So while we know that flipping our natural sleep/wake schedule on its head can be harmful, we don’t completely know why. Some scientists, including the authors of the current paper, think hormones have something to do with it. They’ve been exploring the physiological effects of shift work on the body for years.

For one previous study, they measured workers’ levels of 8-OH-dG, which is a chemical byproduct of the DNA repair process. (All day long, we bruise and ding our DNA. At night, it should fix itself.) They found that people who slept at night had higher levels of 8-OH-dG in their urine than day sleepers, which suggests that their bodies were healing more damage.

The researchers wondered if the differing 8-OH-dG levels could be somehow related to the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate our body clocks. They went back to the archived urine from the first study and identified 50 workers whose melatonin levels differed drastically between night-sleeping and day-sleeping days. They then tested those workers’ samples for 8-OH-dG.

The difference between the two sleeping periods was dramatic. During sleep on the day before working a night shift, workers produced only 20 percent as much 8-OH-dG as they did when sleeping at night.

"This likely reflects a reduced capacity to repair oxidative DNA damage due to insufficient levels of melatonin,” the authors write, “and may result in cells harbouring higher levels of DNA damage."

DNA damage is considered one of the most fundamental causes of cancer.

Lead author Parveen Bhatti says it’s possible that taking melatonin supplements could help, but it’s still too soon to tell. This was a very small study, the participants were all white, and the researchers didn't control for lifestyle-related variables like what the workers ate.

“In the meantime,” Bhatti told Mental Floss, “shift workers should remain vigilant about following current health guidelines, such as not smoking, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep and exercise.”