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10 Other SNL F-Bombs

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In her debut performance on Saturday Night Live this weekend, comedian Jenny Slate became a member of a surprisingly exclusive club: people who have dropped the infamous "F-Bomb" on the show (here's the clip, which obviously contains strong language). Here's a quick list of 10 other slips of the tongue that have occurred during the show's 35 year, 659 episode run.

1. March 15, 1980: Paul Shaffer, David Letterman's band leader for the last hundred years, was supposed to say "floggin" during a sketch about a Medieval band rehearsing a song, but it didn't come out that way. When the audience heard the mix-up, they gasped in surprise, but nothing more really came from the incident.

2. February 21, 1981: The f-word made two appearances in this episode. Musical guest Prince played his song "Partyup," and included the uncensored line, "Fightin' war is such a f***in' bore." The show also featured a Dallas parody playing off the iconic "Who Shot J.R.?" storyline, which featured SNL cast member Charles Rocket as the Texas oil baron. As the cast and crew were saying goodnight to the audience at the end of the show, the host, Dallas star Charlene Tilton, asked Rocket how it felt to be shot. He replied, "Oh, man, it's the first time I've ever been shot in my life. I'd like to know who the f*** did it." Tilton and the rest of the cast were shocked at the slip-up, but laughed it off as the credits rolled. NBC execs, however, weren't laughing, and the event influenced their decision to let Rocket go as part of a massive round of layoffs after the season. (Watch Rocket's clip here.)

3. January 28, 1989: In the sketch, "Da Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts presents Da War of da Woilds," guest-host Tony Danza and regulars from the show said "fonking" in their dialog. Jon Lovitz, on the other hand, was not, and his blatant disregard for censoring himself brought about the most laughs from the audience.

4. February 17, 1990: Aerosmith's Steven Tyler performed to promote their new album Pump (the same episode with the infamous Wayne's World sketch when the band debates the fall of Communism in Wayne's basement.) During the song "Monkey on My Back," Tyler sang the uncensored lyrics, "get the f***ing monkey off my back"

5. October 29, 1990: During a performance by Morris Day and The Time, there was a brief interlude in the song "Chocolate" when the music stops and Day shouts out, "Where the f*** this chicken come from? I thought I ordered ribs!"

6. May 14, 1994: Janet Jackson slipped an f-bomb into her performance of "Throb" from her hit album, Janet.

7. November 12, 1994: R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe performed "What's the Frequency Kenneth?"—a song whose last line reads, "I never understood. Don't f*** with me." While Stipe did sing the line, he did so with his back turned to the audience, so it wouldn't be clearly interpreted.

8. December 10, 1994: The Beastie Boys performed their classic hip-hop song "Sure Shot," which featured Ad Rock yelling the lyric, "Never quittin', so won't you f***in' listen?"

norm-mac9. April 12, 1997: Norm MacDonald was running the Weekend Update desk at the time and, after trying to read from the teleprompter, got his words jumbled. Flabbergasted, he asked "What the f*** was that?" After the audience laughter died down, Norm nervously laughed himself and said, "My farewell performance." At the end of his bit, he concluded with, "Maybe I'll see you next week, folks." Audiences did see Norm next week as the incident reportedly received only three complaints. (Click here and skip ahead to the 0:49 mark.)

10. May 7, 2005: Daron Malakian, guitar player for the metal band, System of a Down, screamed out "F*** yeah!" at the end of the band's performance.

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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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