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Peeps of Art and Literature

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I posted a roundup of Peeps dioramas called Heaps of Peeps back in 2007 and Peeps Imitate Life in 2009. There are thousands of Peeps scenes and dioramas to enjoy, but I decided this year to focus on art and literature. Why? Because marshmallow chicks and bunnies can be more than Justin Peeper and The Jersey Peeps: they can be highbrow, too!

This diorama from the Chicago Tribune's 2008 Peeps Diorama competition features Peepanardo DaVinci, by TI-Gen3-chinews. The artist is working with the live model for the Mona Lisa.

Night Hops by horselover5 recreates Edward Hopper's 1942 painting Nighthawks.

This scene depicts Samuel Peepys Diary of the Great Fire of London. It was constructed by sheepwash.

Peep Art shows us a modern art gallery, Peep-style. Diorama by TI-Gen3-chinews.

A Peeps tribute to Edward Gorey, "Gashlycrumb Peeps" is by Rachael Blair, inspired by the illustration "N is for Neville who died of ennui."

Vincent Van Peep's Bedroom in Arles is another artistic recreation by TI-Gen3-chinews, who is also behind the next four entries in the 2008 Chicago Tribune competition.

These Peeps are posing for the work American Gothic by Grant Wood.

Here is the Peep version of The Scream by Edvard Much.

This scene featuring Edgar Allan Peep has a marshmallow chick that says "Nevermore."

Andy Peep-hol watches over his museum exhibit.

The 2009 competition from the Chicago Tribune had 248 entries, including some with highbrow tastes. Beware the Ides of Marshmallow by Suzanne Belles recreates a scene from William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar.

Gulliver's Travels in Peeps, by jckbng.

The Chicago Tribune's 2010 competition had more art and literary Peeps. Here are two art references in one Peep diorama: Vincent Van Peep and the Agora sculpture by Anna Pugsley. The idea is that Van Peep feels like less of a freak for having only one ear among the earless statues of the Grant Park artwork called Agora.

Peepnardo Da Vinci features the Mona Lisa rendered in blue marshmallow, an entry from

The Last Peeps Supper combines Peeps with toast, waffles, and candy. Do you think Da Vinci would be proud? This diorama was created by Tileboy.

Peep artist snuffy72 gave us Andy Warhol's "16 Peeps," a parody of 16 Jackies.

Voting in The Chicago Tribune's 2011 Peeps Diorama Competition ends at noon today. The winners will be announced on April 21st. Among the competitors this year is this diorama of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, by violinist Ashley Rewolinski and her dad Joe Rewolinski.

This work of art bring "two iconic chicks" together in Andy Warhol's Marilyn. Diorama by Kelly Baas.

You can see more Peeps dioramas at the Washington Post, which also holds an annual competition.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]