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6 Notable Goldman Sachs Alums (Who Made Their Mark Elsewhere)

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When Goldman Sachs received Fed approval to become a bank holding company, it ended the stalwart firm's run as an investment bank and foretold a new corporate direction. While a staggering amount of money has passed through Goldman's hands since its founding in 1869, many notable people have made their marks (and their fortunes) while passing through the firm's ranks. Here are a few alums you might not have realized had Goldman Sachs on their resumes.

1. Stuart Sternberg

The Tampa Bay Rays just made the World Series thanks to their brilliant defense and a dazzling pitching performance by Matt Garza, but one could argue that none of this season's magic could have happened without principal owner Stuart Sternberg, who took over executive control of the woeful team in 2005. Sternberg immediately cleaned house and let smart baseball thinkers lay the groundwork for this season's run. Of course he's a shrewd manager who knows that it may take a few years for a smart investment to mature; Sternberg enjoyed a 24-year career in finance before retiring as a partner at Goldman in 2002. When he took over the Rays, he needed a new president for the team, and he didn't have to look past the Goldman partner who helped him arrange his purchase of the team, Matthew Silverman. Silverman, who formerly worked in Goldman's Merchant Banking Division and Firmwide Strategy Group, now controls the day-to-day operations of baseball's biggest surprise.

2. Jim Cramer

Jim-Cramer.jpgIf you're a fan of financial-talk television or just enjoy seeing someone stalk around a TV set while apparently coping with the early symptoms of rabies, you've probably watched an episode or two of Jim Cramer's Mad Money. Obviously Cramer's a really sharp guy behind all of his bluster, but it's surprising how interesting his life's been. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard, he worked as a journalist, where one of his assignments saw him report on a murderous rampage by infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. He then went to Harvard Law School before getting a job as a broker at Goldman. Cramer used the expertise he gathered at Goldman to launch his own hedge fund, and he later founded TheStreet.com before eventually jumping to TV fame. As you might expect, Cramer's not the only Goldman alum to find a niche on TV; CNBC personality Erin Burnett also spent time with the firm.

3. Charlie Haas

haas.jpgGoldman's alums haven't all gone on to become leaders in the corporate world, though. Some have taken up high positions in the tail-kicking industry, especially Charlie Haas. Haas was a decorated amateur wrestler at Seton Hall, where he won two Big East championships, but after college, he did the responsible thing and got a job working as a stockbroker for Goldman Sachs. He still had the itch to do some wrasslin', though, so he eventually started working some independent shows with his brother, Russ. It's unclear how skilled Haas was as a broker, but he showed some real merit as a grappler. He eventually made it up to the WWE in 2002, and he's won the WWE Tag Team Championship three times. Despite following a wildly divergent career path from the one he started on after college, Haas has maintained a bit of business-world flavor in his matches: one of his signature moves is a lifting reverse DDT he calls the "Haastile Takeover."

4. Josh Bolten

boltenrove.jpgThe White House Chief of Staff is sometimes referred to as the second-most powerful man in Washington, and Bolten currently holds the title. After graduating from Princeton and then going to Stanford Law School, he passed through a number of high-level jobs, including International Trade Counsel to the Senate Finance Committee, private law practice, and even a one-semester stint teaching international trade at Yale Law School. From 1994 to 1999, though, he was a Goldman man. He served as the Executive Director, Legal & Government Affairs for Goldman Sachs International in London.

5. Ashwin Navin

ashwin_navin.jpgOne doesn't usually associate high finance with downloading albums and movies, but Navin was able to use his own financial expertise to help make the BitTorrent protocol become one of the Internet's most popular content distribution avenues. After his 1999 graduation from Claremont McKenna, Navin worked as a banker and analyst for Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch before going to Yahoo! in 2002. In 2004, he linked up with BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen to start BitTorrent, Inc. While serving as the company's president, Navin has been able to strengthen BitTorrent's position by working directly with movie studios and other content creators who generally don't work with file-sharing powerhouses.

6. Jon Corzine

Corzine.jpgCorzine is a former Democratic Senator and the current Governor of New Jersey, but he's possibly most famous for suffering serious injuries in a 2007 accident involving his motorcade. (Although Corzine made the questionable decision not to wear a seat belt, he turned his bad judgment into a memorable public service announcement for seat belt use. He opened with the line, "I'm New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, and I should be dead.") Before he entered the political realm, though, Corzine was a big name in finance. He went to work for Goldman in 1975, and by 1994 he'd risen to the position of Chairman and co-CEO of the company. When Goldman went public after Corzine left the company, the future governor's stake in the firm was worth $400 million. Why did Corzine leave in the first place, then? He was apparently pushed out following clashes with his co-CEO, another famous Goldman alum: current United States Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson.

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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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