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The Late Movies: The Best Simpsons Songs

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I know I’m showing my age when I talk to people and say something like, “Remember when The Simpsons was really funny?” and they don’t. Awkward. Anyway, among my favorite Simpsons moments from their best seasons (3-9) are the musical numbers. Here are my top picks, but the list is by no means exhaustive. Leave your favorites in the comments.

“Talkin' Softball”

The only thing more brilliant than parodying Terry Cashman's "Talkin' Baseball" with lines like “Ken Griffey's grotesquely swollen jaw/Steve Sax and his run-in with the law" is getting Cashman himself to perform it. Despite the ear-buggy tune’s age (the episode “Homer at Bat” aired in 1992), it’s still one of the better known Simpsons songs, even among casual fans.

The Canyonero Song

The “country-fried truck endorsed by a clown” is a perfect satire of not only truck commercials, but also razor blade ads, the Marlboro Man, and any other marketing that targets the male mind’s fixation on masculinity and excess.

"Everyone Hates Ned Flanders"

Homer’s musical career may have peaked with “Baby on Board,” but lyrical brilliance never struck the Be Sharps quite like it does here with the comparison of Flanders to both Frankenstein and Dr. No.

Hank Scorpio’s Theme

“You Only Move Twice” is, in my humble opinion, the best Simpsons episode ever. It focuses on Homer’s brief employ with dream boss/super villain Hank Scorpio, and the Bond-theme-esque tune at the end is pitch perfect. Hey guys, what's your least favorite country, Italy or France?

“We Do” (the Stonecutters’ Song)

Conspiracy theorists fear that secret societies control national governments or are hiding knowledge of extraterrestrials. The Stonecutters do all that, but they also have much more innocent aims. In this drinking song, they brag about suppressing the metric system in the U.S. and maintaining Steve Guttenberg’s career, among other things.

The Monorail Song

The song has some great lines (Is there a chance the track could bend?/Not on your life, my Hindu friend!), but its real strength is in laying bare Springfield’s mob mentality and lack of foresight and reason, and holding up a mirror to the shortcomings of our own political processes.

“See My Vest”

This one tips its hat to two different Disney films, parodying “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast and exposing Mr. Burns’ inner Cruella de Vil.

“We Put the Spring in Springfield”

This tribute to “that little extra spice that makes existence extra nice” won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Music and Lyrics.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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iStock
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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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