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The Quick 10: The Former Names of 10 Bands

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You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has never heard of The Beach Boys or Led Zeppelin. The Pendletones and The New Yardbirds? Maybe not so much. Check out 10 bands who are probably thankful they changed their names before they hit the big time.

cleo1. The Beach Boys were once known as "The Pendletones." It was kind of like the Beatles trick of changing the spelling of a word to include a music reference "“ "Pendletons" were a style of shirt popular at the time. When the Boys were signed to a label and produced their first single, the label changed them to "The Beach Boys" without consulting them.
2. Sonny and Cher have such distinctive names there was really no reason for them to go by Caesar and Cleo. The names referred to each of their distinctive hairstyles.
3. Black Sabbath definitely has more of a metal ring to it than Polka Turk, don't you think? They were actually called "The Polka Turk Blues Company," partially named after an Indian clothing shop, then shortened to Polka Turk, then changed to Black Sabbath after the 1963 Boris Karloff movie of the same name.

4. Angels and Snakes may sound like a Guns "˜N' Roses reject name, but it was actually Blondie who went by that name for a while (or Angel and the Snake, depending on which source you believe). The name change was inspired by truck drivers who shouted at Debbie Harry.

5. Can you imagine "Stairway to Heaven" by The New Yardbirds? Members of Led Zeppelin actually completed a tour for the original Yardbirds (including Jimmy Page) who were contractually obligated to do so. They got permission to use the name to complete the tour for them, but before too long it was decided that touring as the New Yardbirds was basically fraudulent and they change their name.

6. We could all be playing Johnny and the Moondogs Rock Band right now and enjoying their remastered albums if the Beatles hadn't come to their senses. To be fair, it was John Lennon's skiffle group back before the band was really solidified.

goliwogs7. Creedence Clearwater Revival could have been known as The GWs instead of CCR if they had stuck with their original name, The Golliwogs. The name was coined by their label, Fantasy Records, who wanted the name to sound similar to popular British bands at the time. When Fantasy was purchased by another company, the band was given the opportunity to change their name.
8. Not that the Champagne Music Makers is such a great name "“ they were Lawrence Welk's band "“ but the Honolulu Fruit Gum Band is even worse.
9. It's a good thing Journey changed their name, because "The Golden Gate Rhythm Section" wouldn't have fit on an album as nicely. The band intended to just be a backup band for artists in the San Francisco area, but when they proved to be more talented than that, they scrapped the generic name and came up with Journey.

10. Perhaps the Bangles only added two letters to their name, but I bet it really cut down on the jokes that probably came from being called The Bangs. And actually, this is only one of quite a few names "“ first they were christened The Colours, then The Supersonic Bangs, then The Bangs, and finally The Bangles.

Know of some other names that probably wouldn't have looked so hot on a marquee? Share in the comments!

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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]