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The Real Names of 18 Authors Known by Initials

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Want to be an author? You should probably think about going by your first and middle initials. A surprising number of writers have struck literary gold while remaining semi-anonymous by using initials instead of full names. Here are a handful of them - and some of the reasons why they opted to drop their given names.

1. E.B. White – Elwyn Brooks

2. A.A. Milne – Alan Alexander

3. C.S. Lewis – Clive Staples. Apparently Lewis never liked his given name. It’s often said that he assumed the name of a beloved dog named Jacksie after it was hit by a car, but his brother had a different story to tell about how the name came to be:

Then, in the course of one holiday, my brother made the momentous decision to change his name. Disliking "Clive," and feeling his various baby-names to be beneath his dignity, he marched up to my mother, put a forefinger on his chest, and announced "He is Jacksie." He stuck to this next day and thereafter, refusing to answer to any other name: Jacksie it had to be, a name contracted to Jacks and then to Jack. So to his family and his intimate friends, he was Jack for life: and Jack he will be for the rest of this book.

4. H.G. Wells – Herbert George

5. H.P. Lovecraft – Howard Phillips

6. J.D. Salinger - Jerome David. As a kid, however, most people called him “Sonny.”

7. F. Scott Fitzgerald - Francis. Actually, it was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, and no, the name wasn’t a coincidence. He was named after that Francis Scott Key, the one who wrote The Star Spangled Banner. They were second cousins, three times removed.

8. S.E. Hinton - Susan Eloise. The Outsiders author used initials instead of her full name on the advice of her publisher. Her publisher didn’t want reviewers to skew one way or another based on Hinton’s sex.

9. J.K. Rowling - Joanne K. Jo Rowling added a "K" for Kathleen (her grandma’s name) at her publisher’s request. According to Rowling's website, the publisher "thought that a woman’s name would not appeal to the target audience of young boys."

10. E.E. Cummings - Edward Estlin. I had always heard that Cummings insisted on using lowercase letters for his initials, but according to his widow, that was a myth.

11. L.M. Montgomery - Lucy Maud. The Anne of Green Gables author loathed her first name and insisted on being called Maud by friends and family. Sounds kind of similar to Anne with an “e” being “so much more distinguished,” don’t you think?

12. W.B. Yeats - William Butler

13. T.S. Eliot - Thomas Stearns

14. L. Frank Baum - Lyman. As is the case with several of these examples, the man who created a character named Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs simply didn’t care for his given name.

15. P.G. Wodehouse - Pelham Grenville. I’m guessing there are a couple of reasons he went with P.G., the least of which is that “Pelham Grenville Wodehouse” takes up a lot of real estate on book covers.

16. W.H. Auden - Wystan Hugh

17. J.M. Barrie - James Matthew

18. J.R.R. Tolkien - John Ronald Reuel. As a child, his family called him Ronald.

This post originally appeared in 2011.

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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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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]

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