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The Quick 10: 10 People Banned For Life From Stuff

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liam-gallagher.jpg1. Liam Gallagher of Oasis: Banned from Cathay Pacific Airways
Before anger rehab was in vogue, Liam told the London Daily Mirror about the incident by saying, "I didn't throw anything, I don't know what they're talking about. Some panhead told me to shut up—some panhead who needs stabbing through the head with a f***ing pick axe." There you have it!

2. Pete Rose: Take Me Out of the Ballgame
Though he claimed he never bet against the Reds, the team he managed, Rose was banned from Baseball and from induction eligibility into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

3. Eftis Paraskevaides: Banned from eBay
Eftis, an antiquities dealer from Cambridgeshire, was banned for life from the online auction site for "shill bidding," or artificially driving up the prices of bids. Almost too easy ... er, to get caught, that is.

4. John Green: You're Piston Me Off!

John Green ignited the infamous Pistons-Pacers Brawl when he threw a full cup at Ron Artest, who subsequently charged into the stands. Green has since be banned from all Piston home games.

ben-johnson-si.jpg5. Ben Johnson: Ben There, Banned That
This Olympian was stripped of his gold not once but twice for failing drug tests, and received a blanket ban from every sport for it.

6. Wes Scantlin: Messed with the King
The Puddle of Mud singer found himself banned from Graceland for jumping into a pool without permission, a much lamer version of ...

7. The Who: Banned from Holiday Inns
A rumor perpetuated by Keith Moon himself that the band was banned for, in part, submerging a Lincoln in the hotel's pool. Now that's Rock 'n Roll.

8. Tonya Harding: Go Figure
You guys know the details on this one, with Harding being banned from Figure Skating after her alleged involvement in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. But are you as familiar with Harding's second career?

9. Andrew Dice Clay: Too Rude for MTV?
Too much profanity and sexism in his routines lead this comedian to be the blackballed by most of the industry (it sure must take a lot to get banned form MTV, is all I'm saying)

10. Benny Villani: (you can't make up a name like that): NY Waste Management? Fuggedaboudit.
Seemingly straight out of the Sopranos, Villani's alleged mob connections and shady deals caused his name to be added to a long list of those banned from the city's waste collection/removal/disposal industry.

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If you've ever been banned from something (preferably, for life), add yourself to the list by leaving a comment.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
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]