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Where Are They Now? What 8 former-celebs are up to

1. Steve Perry

He was the frontman for probably the greatest guilty pleasure arena rock band of the 70s and on any given Saturday night his voice can be heard lilting out of speakers in countless bars across the country. Although Steve Perry left Journey in the mid-90s, he has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years strictly off the popularity of "Don't Stop Believing." In 2005, the Chicago White Sox adopted the song as their unofficial anthem and Perry traveled with the team as they swept the Houston Astros to win the World Series. Then in 2007, Perry allowed the song to be used in the final episode of The Sopranos. Do you think he knows if Tony got whacked?

Steve Perry sings "Don't Stop Believing" with the world champion White Sox:

2. Little Mikey

Three brothers sit around the breakfast table and watch as the youngest devours a heaping bowl of Life cereal, causing one of the brothers to exclaim, "He likes it! Hey Mikey!" The once-famous Mikey is child actor John Gilchrist, who became the subject of an urban legend shortly after the commercial's debut. A rumor began to circle that Gilchrist had died when his stomach exploded from simultaneously consuming Pop Rocks candy and soda. The myth was quickly debunked, but still resurfaces every few years even though Gilchrist is alive and well. Little Mikey returned to his roots for a 2000 relaunch of the now classic commercial. No word if he still likes Life cereal.

Little Mikey's Life commercial:

3. Pat Benatar

Most people would like to remember Pat Benatar as the voice behind such 80s standards as "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" and "Heartbreaker". But the truth of the matter is that she'll be remembered more for her fashion sense than her music. Her on-stage personal of a spandex-clad temptress actually derived from a vampire costume she had worn to a Halloween party. She found that the audience went wild when she performed her usual cadre of songs in black tights and heavy eyeliner. Thus, the Benatar look was born. Like most of her fellow 80s rockers, Pat Benatar has fallen out of favor with the public in recent decades and reduced to compilation albums and nostalgia tours. She did, however, manage to make this guest spot on The Young and The Restless last year.

Pat Benatar on The Young and the Restless:

4. Shaun Cassidy

He's best known as the half brother of 70s teen sensation David Cassidy, but little brother Shaun was somewhat of a celebrity in his own right"¦ if you measure one's success by the number of bad TV shows they appeared in (The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and Breaking Away to name a few). Of course today the Cassidy brothers are long forgotten throwbacks to an era that produced Leif Garrett and The Bay City Rollers, yet Shaun managed to find a second career working behind the camera. He has found work as a writer/producer on a series of marginal TV shows, none of which is notable, and in July, his first foray into half hour comedy, Ruby and the Rockits, premiered on the ABC Family network. Lucky for Shaun that his brother David is the show's star.

Here's Shaun Cassidy performing his top ten hit, "Hey Deanie," on an episode of the The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Look how much fun the audience is having!

5. George Wendt

Aside from Kelsey Grammar, George Wendt is the only cast member who's made a lucrative post-Cheers career off his indelible character Norm Peterson, or as his friends like to call him, "Norm!" He has reprised the character on The Simpsons, Frasier, even an episode of Family Guy. In recent years, Wendt has juggled his time between live theater, he starred in the Broadway production of Hairspray in 2008, and guest roles on some of the most significant pop culture mainstays produced in the last 20 years. Wendt made several appearances as Bob Swerski in the widely popular Chicago "Superfans" sketch on SNL and was the screaming father alongside Macaulay Culkin in the music video for Michael Jackson's "Black or White".

"Black or White" video:

6. Marvin Lee Aday (Meat Loaf)

The portly presence behind Bat Out of Hell and Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell, is also an accomplished actor, appearing in over 50 movies and TV shows. He was memorable as Bob, the lovable lump with man boobs, in Fight Club, and even had a small part as a bouncer in Wayne's World (He also played Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but you knew that already). Meat Loaf will always be remembered for his 1977 rock opus, Bat Out of Hell, which consistently sells over 200,000 copies a year, making it the third best selling album worldwide behind Thriller and AC/DC's Back in Black. Meat Loaf made a return to his musical roots, releasing Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose in 2006, but the album received poor reviews and was largely forgotten. Perhaps "The Meat" should stick to doing A1 commercials, which he has done, despite that I can't find them on YouTube.

7. Larry Wilcox (the other CHiP)

The other CHiP, Larry Wilcox, left the popular TV show in 1982 to focus on his production company, Wilcox Productions, and various other business ventures. He briefly ran a pharmaceutical company in the mid-90s and today serves as the CEO of a successful software company out of Nevada. Wilcox twice returned alongside Erik Estrada as Officer Jon Baker; once in 1993's National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 and then again in TNT's ill-fated reunion movie, CHiPs 99.

TV Promo for CHiPs 99:

8. Lisa Whelchel

A born-again Christian since the age of 10, Lisa Whelchel has appeared in few acting roles since her days as the preppy Blair Warner on The Facts of Life. Today, Whelchel devotes her life to her family and faith and has authored several books on mothering. She did, however, briefly return to acting in 2001's made-for-TV movie The Facts of Life Reunion.

Here Whelchel reunites with her Facts of Life co-star Kim Fields on Good Morning Texas:

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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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