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The Quick 10: 10 Names That Were Already Taken

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There aren't many places where names are first come, first-served, but actors' unions are one of them. If you tried to register with one and found that someone was already actively using your name, you'd simply have to pick another one. It's likely not a problem for people called Gyllenhaal, but the 10 entertainers below had slightly more common names.

1. Michael Keaton. The name on his birth certificate? Michael Douglas. I guess you know who got to that one first. (Beetlejuice is my favorite Michael Keaton, by the way.)
2. Michael J. Fox. Michael Fox was already spoken for, and the future Alex P. Keaton didn't want to use his real middle initial, Andrew - Michael A. Fox was just too ridiculous. He decided on "J" as a tribute to actor Michael J. Pollard.
3. Nathan Lane. Though he went by Joseph through high school, Lane discovered his name was no longer an option when he went to get his SAG card. In true Broadway fashion, Lane chose his first name based on Nathan Detroit, a character in Guys and Dolls.

4. Stewart Granger. British actor James Lablache Stewart wanted to register as James Stewart, but it was already taken, obviously. He kept his last name, but dropped the "Jimmy" and added "Granger," his grandmother's maiden name.
5. Terry O'Quinn. Sometimes it just takes a little change to make a difference. In O'Quinn's case, he simply added the "O" after discovering "Terrance Quinn" was already used with Actors' Equity.
6. David Tennant. Fans of Doctor Who know this actor as the 10th Doctor in the series. But he only took his Neil Tennant-inspired name after finding that "David McDonald" was already on the books.
7. David Walliams. Another clever way to circumvent the system is to simply substitute a letter in your name. That's what David Walliams did. I'll let you take a guess at his real surname on your own.

These three people weren't required by any actor's unions to make a name change, but you'll see why they did.

8. David Bowie. He had been rocking by the name Davy or Davie Jones, but if you were David Bowie and were trying to create the David Bowie image, you'd probably get irritated at people asking what happened to your career with the Monkees as well.
9. Katy Perry. Born Katheryn Hudson, Katy chose to go by her mother's maiden name when she started to get popular so she wouldn't be confused with actress Kate Hudson.
10. Albert Brooks. Though it was probably a good conversation starter, Albert Einstein changed his name to Albert Brooks when he started acting. Bob Einstein, his brother, kept his surname - but you probably know him better by his stage name, Super Dave Osborne. Bob is also Marty Funkhouser on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and as my Twitter followers already know, finding out that Super Dave and Marty Funkhouser are the same guy kind of blew my mind.

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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]