Original image

The Quick 10: What 10 Mouseketeers Are Up To These Days

Original image

Everyone knows The Mickey Mouse Club of the early "˜90s was full of people who would go on to become big stars - Britney, Justin, Christina, Keri Russell, J.C. Chasez and Ryan Gosling, namely. But what about those other Mouseketeers? In case you've been wondering, I've got 10 answers for you.


1. Rhona Bennett was on MMC for four years before going on to become the self-titled Miss R&B. She had a recurring role on The Jamie Foxx Show, but what most excited me was that she was a member of another "˜90s staple, En Vogue, from 2003-2008. When original member Dawn Robinson came back in 2008, Rhona was given the boot.

morris2. Matt Morris may have served as a Mouseketeer for just a few years, but his co-stars remembered him. He wrote five songs with Christina Aguilera for her Stripped album, including "Can't Hold Us Down." Likewise, he co-wrote "(Another Song) All Over Again" from Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds album, and J.T. returned the favor by writing a song for the disc Morris released in 2004. He's currently signed to Timberlake's label, Tennman Records.

3. Tate Lynche was a MMCer from 1993 until the show was canceled in 1995, but if you're a fan of American Idol you've seen him since then: he made it to the semi-finals of season three (the one Fantasia Barrino ended up winning). He went by the name Marque Lynche and apparently didn't impress Paula, Randy and Simon the way he impressed the Disney Channel, because he was part of the first round of semi-final eliminations. But you can see vintage Lynche here "“ and check out little J.T. and Ryan Gosling!

deedee4. Deedee Magno was part of The Mickey Mouse Club as a member of The Party, which, by the way, stood for "Positive Attitude Reflecting Today's Youth." Mmm-hmm. Deedee was the singer on their Top 40 hit "In My Dreams." She's still singing today, but she's doing so in musical theater. Her biggest role so far has been Kim in Miss Saigon on Broadway, and she's currently touring with a production of Wicked as Nessarose.

nikki5. Nikki DeLoach was part of a girl group in the late "˜90s, founded by the same guy who put "˜N Sync and the Backstreet Boys together. The group was called innosense (that's not a typo, and no, I didn't forget to capitalize it) and was co-managed by Justin Timberlake's mother "“ in fact, she and the entire band lived in their house for a while. To say innosense had lukewarm success would be generous, and the group disbanded in 2001. Nikki has been working on her acting career ever since (she was in the sequel to the Sandra Bullock film The Net) and dated fellow Mouseketeer and Lou Pearlman protégé J.C. Chasez for five years.

lindsey6. Lindsey Alley landed an awesome role before she was even on the MMC: she played Patsy in Ernest Saves Christmas. When the show ended, Lindsey went back to finish high school and then received her B.A. from the University of Missouri in 2000. Since then, she has had bit parts of T.V. and created her own one-woman show about being in The Mickey Mouse Club, called, appropriately, Look Ma"¦ No Ears! She also apparently waitresses in NYC, because IMDB makes it a point to mention that as a waitress, she once had to serve her former co-star, Justin Timberlake. Ouch.

dale7. Dale Godboldo is a face you might recognize "“ he's had small parts in tons of T.V. shows, including Commander in Chief, Bones, Wanda at Large, Judging Amy and The Drew Carey Show. You can also spot him in the just-released Fame remake as a "Music Executive."

8. and 9. Damon Pampolina and Albert Fields were both members of The Party. Damon stuck to his music roots for a while, DJing in the Houston area, and also starred in a Saturn commercial in the early "˜00s. Albert Fields went by the name "Jeune" for a while (it's half of his middle name, Jeunepierre) and had a song in the movie The Fan. The duo recently reunited to form a group called NDecent Proposal "“ check them out and see if they're the MMCers you remember:

10. Chase Hampton was not only a Mouseketeer; he co-hosted for a year. After the show went off the air, Chase pursued a career in acting and landed parts on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X Files, 7th Heaven and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. But it would appear that he has turned his sights to music and is currently with a band called Buzzfly.

Did I miss your favorite Mouseketeer? Leave a comment "“ maybe fellow _flossers will know what he or she has been up to since the Club disbanded.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
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!

Original image
© Nintendo
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
Original image
© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.