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11 Lesser-Known 2012 Presidential Candidates

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If you haven't fallen in love with any of this year's candidates, don't worry. Obama, Romney, Paul and company aren't your only options. There are hundreds of people running for president. We've rounded up eleven of them.


1. Vermin Supreme wears a boot on his head, carries a giant toothbrush, and last month glitterbombed Randall Terry at the Lesser Known Candidate Debate. His Democratic campaign promises ponies for everyone, strict toothbrushing laws, and funding for time travel research. On a more serious note, Supreme donated a kidney to his mother four years ago and is a strong advocate for organ donation.


2. Jimmy McMillan: If you ever want to get elected to office, there's worse publicity than being a meme. McMillan, representing the Rent Is Too Damn High party, is a karate expert and Vietnam vet with wicked awesome facial hair who made a splash at the 2010 New York Gubernatorial debate after repeatedly dropping his catchphrase:

Predictably, his platform is primarily about making sure rent is no longer too damn high.

3. Kathyern Lane is a 45-year-old mother from Indiana who says her "childhood resembles the 'Lifetime' movies people see on television."

She cites her work as a "babysitter, waitress, security guard, real estate agent, aircraft electrician, avionic lead, and as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, and as a community organizer" as evidence of her strong managerial skills and "skill set to get America back on track and make her strong again."

4. Roseanne Barr filed her application for candidacy with the FEC back in May 2011. Since declaring her intent to run for president (representing the Green Tea Party) on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Barr has been blogging up a storm and running a campaign Facebook page.

5. Robert Burck, a.k.a. The Naked Cowboy, is running as an independent. Here's a video of him singing in Times Square:

And here is his press conference:

6. Zubi Diamond wrote Wizards of Wall Street, a book that, according to the author's website, is "the most important book in the country today that everyone should read." Highlights: "The scam that elected Obama, exposed," and "a solution for a complete and permanent recovery from the crisis." Diamond is officially running as a Republican, though his website states that he is running against all established parties.

7. Brian J. Moran is the only candidate running for the Jedi party this election cycle.

8. Terry Jones: In 2010, President Obama was forced to formally request that Florida Pastor Terry Jones not publicly burn the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. He did it anyway six months later, sparking riots in Afghanistan. Now Jones is running as an Independent for the highest office in the land. His "Stand Up America Now" campaign is a 7-point order of business that promises to "stop overspending immediately" and "deport all illegals." Jones asks specifically for donations to support his "stand against radical Islam."

9. "Average Joe" Schriner spends his time painting houses, doing light handiwork, and trying to beat his wife at Scrabble when he's not on campaign tour. He has a degree in Journalism from Bowling Green State University and, thanks to his extensive campaigning over four successive bids for the presidency, Schriner says he's learned how to end homelessness, end global warming "for good," balance the national budget, and handle immigration concerns. "Average Joe" is an Independent who advocates homesharing, jobsharing, and not exploring space—a 'Joeism' in reference to NASA funding quotes Schriner as saying, "Maybe the money could be much better spent on, oh I don't know, things like: ENDING WORLD HUNGER!" So there's that.

10. Tiffany Briscoe, formerly a Democrat, is the Boston Tea Party's nominee for the 2012 race. She owns Tiffany of Elegance, a Maryland-based clothing boutique.

11. Craig Tax Freeze Freis: "Tax Freeze" is 67-year-old Craig Freis' legal middle name and, thanks to a court order, he's allowed to list it as such on election ballots. It really just sells itself. According to his campaign site, his "only political victory to date was at the lowest step of the political ladder when he was elected to the Democratic Party Central Committee in his home state of California."

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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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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