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The Late Movies: The Hitchcock Interview, 1973

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"I'd like not to talk to you this morning about movies, but rather about ideas. I may not be successful at that, but, I'm going to attempt it. All the pictures that you do scare people. What frightens you?" With this question, Tom Snyder opened an hour-long interview with Alfred Hitchock in the fall of 1973 on Snyder's Tomorrow Show. Hitchcock began his reply by saying: "Most things. I'm scared of policemen. I never drive a car, on the theory that if you don't drive a car, you can't get a ticket. ... I'm scared to death of anything that's to do with the law. Though I'm fascinated by it, I'd hate to be involved with it myself."

The resulting hour-long interview is riveting, largely because it's just so quiet, erudite, and placid -- but Hitchock is one of the men, so you can't help but think something terrible is about to come out up any moment. These are two men speaking quietly, carefully, sitting in big armchairs in the early 70's. If you can get past the slightly dour pacing, I think you'll find Hitchock and Snyder both very interesting characters. There are a lot of jokes here, good quiet humor, including one notable potty joke.

Part 1

Part 2

Hitchcock: "You know, I saw a terrible thing once, I'm not kidding, in a French magazine, and it was one of those satirical French magazines, and it was a picture of God sitting on a cloud, a bearded old gentleman, and just slowly coming up through the clouds was the figure of Christ, with hands held out, and a woebegone expression, with holes in each hand. He's looking to his Father, and God is poking his tongue out at him, he said, 'There, you see? I told you not to go down there!'"

Also, possibly the first instance of a "that's what he said" joke by Tom Snyder. (He does it twice.)

Part 3

Snyder: "Does Albert Hitchcock ever tell jokes? ... You're a rather imposing gentleman." Hitchock: "...I used to indulge very much in practical jokes of a very high order, and I used to have very great pleasure from them."

Part 4

Snyder: (referring to the famous bathtub scene in Psycho) "Can you feel what you think the audience is going to feel -- when you're putting that together?" Hitchcock: "Um. I hope so.... I've been around long enough to say how audiences...how shall I...may I say something vulgar? To make the audience feel, uh, you know, there's not a dry seat in the house. I mean that's the aim."

Part 5

Snyder: "How long will you keep making movies?" Hitchcock: "I have no reason to stop, I have many more pictures to make." (After 1973, Hitchcock would make only one film, Family Plot.)

Part 6

Snyder: "I know from reading about Alfred Hitchcock that he is a man who loves grand food, and good wines, and he's now on a diet. He's lost 14 pounds in the last two weeks?" Hitchcock: "Oh yes, 14 in the last 10 days. I would say that in my lifetime I must have lost altogether 500 pounds. Truly." (He reveals that he's on a 750-calorie-a-day diet of "meat and string beans" and that he doesn't believe in water, because "that's what you're trying to get rid of.")

Many thanks to Kottke.org for pointing out this wonderful interview.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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iStock
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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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iStock

Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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