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The Quick 9: 9 Bad Parents

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No one ever said being a parent was easy, but these parents aren't even trying. OK, in some cases, that isn't fair "“ circumstances of the day probably dictated the actions of certain parents, like Jack Nicholson's mom. I've got nine bad parents "“ who do you think the #10 bad mom or dad should be? I almost added Joan Crawford but decided that since she was the bad parent, it didn't count. Leave your suggestions in the comments!

1. When the movie Anatomy of a Murder came out, Jimmy Stewart's dad was so upset by the content that he took an ad out in the newspaper imploring people to avoid his son's filthy movie.
2. Mickey Hart, the drummer for the Grateful Dead, got his dad hired on as the band's manager when the band was just starting out. The problem? Lenny Hart stole thousands of dollars from the then-struggling group. There was no love lost after he was fired: "He was an absolute rotten human being," Mickey said when his father died.

king3. Stephen King's dad pulled the cliché "I'm going for cigarettes" move when Stephen was two and never came back.
4. Cary Grant's dad told him his mother was dead when she really wasn't. Well, Grant was told that his mother was on a "long holiday" and was never given any other explanation; he assumed she was dead. After their first child died, Elise Leach couldn't overcome her depression, so her husband had her institutionalized when Cary was nine: she was at home when he went to school and was missing when he came home the same day. It wasn't until Cary was in his 30s that he discovered that his mother was still around and living in an asylum ("The Country Home for Mental Defectives").

5. Balzac's parents really didn't have much to do with him until he was five. Immediately after he was born, he was sent to live with a wet nurse. His parents were said to have been cold to him in the few years that he spent there and at the age of eight, sent him away to grammar school until he was 15.

bow6. Clara Bow's parents didn't want kids "“ the first two they had died within days of their births, presumably from neglect, and Clara herself came pretty close. She was born during a heat wave and her mother did nothing to try to help Clara survive the boiling temperature. She didn't even call a doctor. Clara's grandma found the baby and assumed it to be dead, but it cried when she picked it up. Thus, Clara was born. Her dad was nowhere to be found for the first few years of her life, and her mom turned to prostitution to make ends meet. When her father finally did show back up, it was apparently just so he could sexually molest her.

7. Louise Brooks grew up in Cherryvale, Kansas, no thanks to her parents. Although her mother was present in her childhood, she barely lifted a finger to raise her children and freely admitted it "“ she had better things to do and her husband was too busy with his law practice to be involved. When Louise told her mother years later that she had been molested at the age of nine by one of the Brooks' neighbors, her mother shrugged and said Louise must have led him on.

8. Jack Nicholson was raised thinking his grandparents were actually his parents and that his mother was his older sister. His mother wasn't married to his father (in fact, he still doesn't know who his father is, although there are several candidates) and she wanted to pursue a dancing career, so his grandparents raised him as their own. He didn't know about his sordid family history until 1974, when a Time magazine reporter asked him about it and Jack was rather bewildered. By this time, both his mother and his grandmother were dead.

capote9. Truman Capote's mother sent him off to live with relatives in Alabama after she divorced Truman's dad. That was where he met and became friends with Harper Lee, incidentally. In 1933, he moved to New York to live with his mom and her new hubby, but it turned out that the new husband was actually embezzling money. Truman's mom couldn't deal with it and killed herself by overdosing on sleeping pills.

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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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