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Liberace’s 15 Most Extravagant Possessions

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While Liberace’s talents on the ivory keys made him famous, it was his showmanship that made him one of the world's highest-paid entertainers throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies. Here's a look at some of the extravagance that helped make a legend.

1. Singing In Style

You can’t expect someone as extravagant as Liberace to use a regular old microphone can you? He preferred glittering mics like this one.

[Image courtesy of Bobaloo Rox's Flickr stream.]

2. Music That Shined

One of Liberace’s many mirrored pianos, this 1945 nickelodeon piano was adorned with peacock feather designs and rhinestone trim.

[Image courtesy of Ethan Prater's Flickr stream.]

3. A Sparkling Image of Success

This Baldwin grand piano was one of Liberace’s favorites. It was adorned with rhinestones, but, as you can see, it is the mirror plate on the front that really makes it pop.

[Image courtesy of purpletwinkie's Flickr stream.]

4. Keeping It Old School

Liberace didn’t limit his extravagances to modern, custom-made items. This 1885 Pleyel art case grand piano is a perfect example of his vintage properties.

[Image courtesy of rbglasson's Flickr stream.]

5. A Rhinestone Roadster

Liberace loved anything that sparkled, particularly rhinestones. After creating a rhinestone piano and a sparkling sequin suit, the next logical step was obviously creating a roadster to match.

[Images courtesy of rbglasson's Flickr stream and bryanh's Flickr stream.]

6. Mirroring The Road

Liberace loved mirrors just as much as he loved rhinestones, so it was only fitting that he have a mirror-covered Rolls Royce Phantom, adorned with galloping horses, to match his mirrored piano. By the way, check out the awesomely appropriate vanity plate.

[Images courtesy of rbglasson's Flickr stream and CaDeltaFoto's Flickr stream.]

7. The VW/Rolls Royce Crossover

Another mirror-adorned car, this was a VW that was converted into a Rolls Royce by George Barris. Of course, the custom license plate is perfect yet again, reading, "VWRR JR."

[Image courtesy of bryanh's Flickr stream.]

8. All That Glitters

This 1972 custom gold-glittered Bradley fit right in with Liberace’s other outrageous autos. And, of course, it looked great with his matching golden suit.

[Image courtesy of rbglasson's Flickr stream.]

9. Like A Rhinestone Cowboy

There are two Liberace outfits that have become more famous than any others. This star-spangled shorts set, known as “The Drum Major,” is one of them. While you can’t tell from this photo, the arms of the blouse are adorned with fringe, ensuring it didn’t lose any glamor once he dropped the cape.

[Image courtesy of Rodny Dioxin's Flickr stream.]

10. The Drum Major’s Shoes

Not always wanting to wear the boots pictured with his sequined Americana ensemble above, these were another classy option.

[Image courtesy of ~BC~'s Flickr stream.]

11. King Neptune

This is his second-most famous outfit, known as his King Neptune costume. This ensemble weighed an amazing 200 pounds (just imagine how much the heavier fur-covered costumes must have weighed). If you’re wondering how one suit and cape combo could be so heavy, just check out the detail shot showing all the pearls, sequins and other adornments on the fabric.

[Images courtesy of Snarkygurl's Flickr Stream.]

12. A Truly Classy Throne Room

This velveteen toilet served as the guest bathroom for the Valentino Room in Liberace’s Palm Springs Home. Because nothing says class like a throne toilet.

[Image courtesy of Bob's World of Liberace.]

13. Bathing In Style

With its own private chandelier and marble columns, it’s hard to imagine a more opulent bath tub than this one from Liberace’s Las Vegas abode. I have to admit, of all his stuff, this is the one thing I would desperately love to own myself.

[Image courtesy of Bob's World of Liberace.]

14. The Fur The End All Furs

If you thought Princess Diana’s wedding gown had an outrageous train, then you'll appreciate this white llama fur coat with a 16’ train interspersed with rhinestones and sequins.

[Image courtesy of Bob's World of Liberace.]

15. The World’s Largest Rhinestone

After giving so much business to an Austrian rhinestone company, it was only natural for them to give Liberace a little thank you gift—in this case, the world’s largest rhinestone. They broke the mold after presenting it to him.

[Image courtesy of Bob's World of Liberace.]

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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]