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8 Stars and Their Second Careers

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Sometimes stardom in music, movies, or TV is just not enough. After a life in the spotlight, many stars turn to something else they enjoy that is totally different from what they are known for. Those who go into politics (Jesse Ventura, Al Franken) stay in the spotlight, but others pursue something that may fly under the public radar.

1. Bill Wyman

Bill Wyman

once said that he was the only one to get out of the Rolling Stones alive. He played bass for The Stones from 1962 to 1992. He now has a band called Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings. He owns several locations of Sticky Fingers restaurants. Wyman is also a photographer. An exhibit called Stone Alone In Saint-Paul opens June 6th at two galleries in St Paul De Vence on the French Riviera. But his most surprising activity is metal detecting. Wyman couldn't find a metal detector that had all the features he wanted, so he collaborated with C.Scope to design the Bill Wyman Signature Metal Detector, which you can buy online.

2. Omar Sharif

Egytian actor Omar Sharif played the exotic romantic leading man in American films (notably Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, and Funny Girl), and appeared in many Egyptian films before and French films afterward. A lifelong gambler, Sharif excelled in the game of bridge. In 1983, he wrote about the game in the book Omar Sharif's Life in Bridge. Other books on the game followed. Sharif had a syndicated newspaper column on bridge for a number of years. Although Sharif still works in show business at age 78, he has given up bridge, but his fame for the game lives on in video games.

3. Ross Valory

Ross Valory is the bass player for Journey. He was one of the original members of the band founded in 1973, and is still performing with the group. But that's not all he is doing.

One day, on a short break from touring, Ross was visiting friends in Arizona, sipping coffee and "just hanging out" ... as his friend's kids were tearing around the house doing something they referred to as the "JAWS"... According to Ross, the kids were running through the house in a single line..arms crossed one over the other , elbows splayed out in front, and opening and closing in a chopping fashion... and making monster noises. He thought it was cute, and didnt think much else of it..... until another day...  some 20 years later, when that very memory just arbitrarily "popped" into his head...

Valory contacted drummer and graphic artist Prairie Prince, who designed a line of hoodies that Valory sells under the name Mouth Man LLC.

4. Bobby Sherman

Teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman became famous when he was a house singer on the television series Shindig! from 1964 to 1966. He then starred in the ABC series Here Come the Brides from 1968 to 1970, and in 1971 he got own show on ABC, called Getting Together, which was cancelled after just 13 episodes. Sherman released four different million-selling songs in 1969 and 1970, the biggest being "Little Woman" in 1969. After guest appearances on the TV show Emergency, Sherman became a certified EMT and for more than a decade he has served as a medical training officer at the Los Angeles Police Academy. He founded the Bobby Sherman EMT Foundation and he is also a full-fledged San Bernardino County Sheriff!

5. David Lee Roth

David Lee Roth will always be best known as the singer for Van Halen. He was a founding member of the group and is currently reunited. However, Roth left the group in 1985 and returned in 2007. He explored several other careers in that 22-year gap, including solo recording, other bands, radio, and emergency services. Yes, Diamond Dave trained as an EMT and worked for the city of New York from 2004 to 2006, during which he was only recognized three times.

6. Wayne Rogers

Wayne Rogers portrayed Trapper John McIntyre in the TV series M*A*S*H. He left the show in 1975, a move he later regretted. He also turned down the title role in the 1979 series Trapper John, MD. Rogers instead turned to managing his investments, which included rental properties, a chain of Swifty Serve convenient stores, and a chain of bridal shops. He founded the investment management firm Wayne Roger & Co. He was named to the board of directors of Vishay Intertechnology, Inc, a manufacturer of electronic components in 2006. Rogers is a regular panelist on Fox News' financial show Cashin' In on Saturday nights.

7. Danica McKellar

Danica McKellar, who you might remember as Winnie Cooper from the TV series The Wonder Years, is still an actress, but she is well into her second career as well. McKellar took a math degree from UCLA, graduating summa cum laude in 1998. She wrote the book Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail in 2007 and Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss in 2008. Her new book, Hot X: Algebra Exposed, is scheduled to be released in August. The first two books aim to encourage girls to excel in math; the third one aims to make math sexy. Actress, mathematician, and author -and McKellar is only 35 years old!

8. Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal made a name in action movies in the 1980s and 90s. Then suddenly last year, his reality show Steven Seagal: Lawman debuted on A&E. Seagal said he had been in law enforcement for twenty years, but there is some question about this, as his title of Reserve Deputy Sheriff in Louisiana was considered ceremonial -until the production of the TV show. The series has now been suspended while Seagal defends himself against a sexual trafficking lawsuit. However, his leap into law enforcement inspired this list.

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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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