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The Quick 10: 8 Famous Apologies (and two that never happened)

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The past seven days or so have been chock-full of apologies, haven't they? Joe Wilson issued an apology for yelling "You lie!" at Barack Obama, Serena Williams apologized for threatening to shove the [expletive] ball down the line guard's throat on Saturday, and now Kanye has said he was sorry for stealing Taylor Swift's thunder at the VMAs Sunday night (not to mention David Letterman's apology to Sarah Palin from a couple of weeks ago). But they're definitely not the first people to retreat hastily at the frantic urging of their publicists "“ here are others who issued public apologies after some pretty major faux pas"¦ and a few who should have apologized and didn't.

grant1. Jay Leno gets all of the apology scoops "“ Kanye, sure, but in 1995, Jay was also the one who got Hugh Grant to offer the world his strangely charming apology after being arrested for lewd conduct in a public place with Hollywood prostitute Divine Brown. ""I think you know in life what's a good thing to do and what's a bad thing, and I did a bad thing, and there you have it," he said. It was one of the first times a celebrity decided to face an embarrassing episode head on instead of spin the issue or go into seclusion and pretend it didn't happen, and it paid off: the public forgave him and he continues to have a booming career today (particularly if you're a fan of romantic comedies). Here's the Jay Leno interview, if you're interested.

2. Bill Clinton, of course, had a lot of "˜splainin to do after the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal. In what was perhaps the most public apology of all time "“ a nationally televised address "“ Clinton said, "Indeed, I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible."

3. Celebrity sex tape scandals are almost getting to be commonplace these days. In fact, some celebrities would probably die for that kind of publicity. A sex tape involving a minor? Now that's bad news. Just ask Rob Lowe, whose sex tape involving two girls "“ one of them a 16-year-old "“ got him in big trouble in 1988. He apologized for his bad behavior, although he didn't know the girl was only 16 (and it was later proven that they met at a bar she had lied about her age to get in to) and after a couple of years of being on the outs with Hollywood, he rebuilt his career.

4. John Lennon's the-Beatles-are-more-popular-than-Jesus statement is one of the original P.R. snafus. After making an offhanded comment about how crazy Beatlemania was getting, the Vatican denounced the Fab Four, people all over the world burned Beatles records, and death threats even started to roll in. The Beatles held a press conference on August 11, 1966, in which Lennon explained that he was simply referring to the madness of their popularity, and that the statement was "never meant to be a lousy anti-religion thing."

PEOPLE WILLIAMS5. Probably the worst thing you can do when you're pulled over by a cop is to assault him or her with ethnic slurs. Mel Gibson learned that the hard way. A totally tanked Gibson told the Jewish officer, "[expletive] Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. Are you a Jew?" This among other things, apparently, that were not released to the public. Once sober, Gibson realized the error of his ways (read: wanted to save his career) and issued the following lengthy statement:

"After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed. I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County Sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person. I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said. Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself. I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health."

6. Christian Bale: the egotistical, f-bomb dropping tirade that was heard "˜round the world. I know you've already seen it, but in case you haven't, here you go. And in case you haven't seen it and you're at work, here's the summary: the director of photography disrupted Bale's concentration by walking into his line of sight (twice) and Bale let him have it for nearly four minutes. He later called in to KROQ radio station in L.A. and said,

"It's been a miserable week for me. I know I have a pottymouth, everybody knows that now. I have no confusion whatsoever. I was out of order beyond belief, I was way out of order. I acted like a punk, I regret that and there is nodbody that has heard that tape that has been hit harder by it [than me]. I make no excuses for it, it is inexcusable and I hope that is absolutely clear."

sheen7. Charlie Sheen has done a lot of things he should have probably apologized for over the years, but the most recent one is from 2008, when he publicly apologized for the names he called Denise Richards in a 2005 voicemail that was "leaked" to the public: the C-word and the N-word. Yes, that N-word. There was also an e-mail which told her to "Go cry to your bald mom" "“ Richards' mother was going through chemotherapy at the time. He didn't apologize for that, but he did apologize for his choice of insults. He told Us Weekly, "I deeply apologize by my choice of words to all I have obviously offended; especially to Tony Todd, an African-American, who was my best man at my first two weddings. Three and one-half years later, the reasons that caused the anger and frustration displayed on that voice mail continue to be manifested on a daily basis"¦ my children did not show up today for a custodial visit without explanation." Convenient time to name-drop, no?

8. Surprise: this isn't Kanye's first apology. Last summer, he apologized to fans after he kept them waiting for two hours at Bonnaroo. But if you ask me, it was a pretty half-hearted apology: ""This is the most offended I've ever been ... This is the maddest I will ever be. It broke my heart that I couldn't give these fans 'Stronger' in its finest form. I'm sorry to everyone that I didn't have the ability to give the performance I wanted to. I'm sorry."

9. Did you know Johnny Cash single-handedly depleted half of the world's California Condor population at one point? He was driving in Los Padres National Forest in California oil from a cracked bearing dripped onto the wheel and caught the truck on fire "“ which also caught the grass on fire. The fire caught fast, but Johnny managed to save his fishing pole from the back, and then he pretended to be so engrossed in fishing in a nearby creek that he didn't notice his truck had caught the forest on fire. He had to go through depositions and was quite biligerant during the line of questioning. Straight from his autobiography, here's an excerpt:

"Did you start this fire?"
"No, my truck did, and it's dead, so you can't question it."
"Do you feel bad about what you did?"
"Well, I feel pretty good right now." (he was on amphetamines,for the record)
"But how about driving all of those condors out of the refuge?"
"You mean those big yellow buzzards?"
"Yes, Mr. Cash, those yellow buzzards."
"I don't give a damn about your yellow buzzards. Why should I care?"

Yikes. So he wasn't very apologetic at the time, and it doesn't really look like he necessarily apologized in his biography, either, and was more concerned with how much the government sued him for (he ended up paying them $125,000 in 1964 money) and said he was the only person the government had ever sued and successfully collected from for starting a forest fire (that was as of 1997).

10. In 1990, rapper and television personality Dee Barnes interviewed Ice Cube about leaving N.W.A. In 1991, Dr. Dre retaliated for her negative publicity by kicking the crap out of her. According to Rolling Stone, he ran into her at a record release party, where he kicked things off by slamming her face and the right side of her body into a wall over and over. His bodyguard held back the people who tried to come to her defense. Then Dre tried to throw her down the stairs, and when she resisted, he started kicking her in the ribs. She ran into the women's bathroom, but he followed her and grabbed her by the hair and punched her in the back of the head. Seems like something to issue an apology for, wouldn't you think? Hm. This was Dre's take on the whole thing: "People talk all this shit, but you know, somebody [expletive] with me, I'm gonna [expletive] with them. I just did it, you know. Ain't nothing you can do now by talking about it. Besides, it ain't no big thing-- I just threw her through a door."

Of the ones who apologized "“ who was sincere and who did it because their publicists told them to? And what other public apologies stand out in your head?

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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]