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11 Golden Girls References Explained for Younger Viewers

You'd better stock up on cheesecake: all seven seasons of The Golden Girls will be dropping on Hulu on February 13, 2017. For those of you who were too young to watch the show when it first aired, many of the topical references might seem like ancient history. Hopefully, with this handy reference guide, those reruns will be twice as funny in the future.

1. DANNY THOMAS

“I’ve never known any personally, but isn’t Danny Thomas one?”
“Not Lebanese, Blanche, Lesbian.” — Dorothy, to Blanche, "Isn't it Romantic?"

Danny Thomas was born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz in Deerfield, Michigan, but grew up in Toledo, Ohio (also the hometown of fellow Lebanese-American actor Jamie Farr). When Thomas was struggling to make a name for himself in show business, he prayed to St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes, and pledged to make a shrine in his honor if he found success. Not long afterward, Thomas landed several regular roles on network radio shows, which ultimately led to his own long-running TV sitcom, Make Room for Daddy. Thomas went on to produce several other successful TV series and also founded the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

2. ISHTAR

“Let me tell you girls the three most important things I learned about life: Number one, hold fast to your friends; number two, there's no such thing as security; and number three, don't go see Ishtar. Woof.” —Sophia, "The Audit"

Ishtar is a 1987 comedy starring two box office powerhouses of that time, Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, as two untalented songwriters who get a gig performing in Morocco and somehow end up involved in some Cold War shenanigans. Directed by Elaine May, the film received a lot of negative press before it was released due to its enormous budget and reports of fights between the stars and director. It went on to become synonymous with “expensive box office bomb” and ended up on many “Worst of” lists.

3. DOUG HENNING

“Well Rose, do I look like the Mayor of Palm Springs?”
“Doug Henning is the Mayor of Palm Springs?” —Rose, to Sophia, "An Illegitimate Concern"

Doug Henning was a Canadian-born magician/illusionist who gained fame in the 1970s with his World of Magic TV specials, and eventually a Tony-nominated Broadway show.

4. FESS PARKER

“Rose, you know how uncomfortable I am in front of a camera. Besides, I always come out looking like Fess Parker.”
“Don't worry, Dorothy. This is a documentary; it's okay if you're not good looking.” —Rose, to Dorothy, "Whose Face Is This, Anyway?"

By NBC Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Actor Fess Parker was actually considered to be ruggedly handsome, but that’s probably not the ideal look for a woman. Parker played both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett on two different TV series in the 1950s and '60s.

5. HEE-HAW

“Rose, I've never met anyone quite like you.”
“Check the cornfield on Hee-Haw.” —Sophia, to Rose's boyfriend Miles, "Triple Play"

Hee-Haw was a long-running (over 20 years in first-run syndication) comedy/variety show that was a rural version of Laugh-In. Each episode was filled with hayseed humor (a recurring skit featured cast members trading one-liners in a makeshift cornfield) and the top country music stars of the day.

6. SUSAN HAYWARD AND ANITA BRYANT

“This is more moving than Susan Hayward's climatic speech in I Want To Live!
“You're ready to fly right out of here, aren't you?”
“Well excuse me for living, Anita Bryant!” —Caterer, to Blanche, "Sophia's Wedding: Part 1"

Susan Hayward won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Barbara “Bloody Babs” Graham, a former prostitute and small-time crook who gets involved with a gang of men that commit a murder. Badgered by the press and represented by poor legal counsel, Graham was ultimately sentenced to the gas chamber.

A former Miss America finalist, Anita Bryant became the spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission in 1969 and appeared in a series of TV commercials singing the praises of orange juice. Then in 1977 she led a highly publicized campaign to repeal a Dade County, Florida, ordinance that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Her statements equating homosexuals with child molesters resulted in a national backlash that, for many years, made “Anita Bryant” a common insult directed at any person displaying an intolerance for homosexuality.

7. BURL IVES

"That child over there is trying to steal my daddy away. She ain't better but a tick on a slow moving hound dog.”
“Why is everyone around here talking like Burl Ives?” —Dorothy, to Blanche, "Big Daddy's Little Lady"

Burl Ives wasn’t born in the south, strictly speaking, but rather southern Illinois. However, early in his career, he gained fame as a folk singer with such homespun hits as “Bluetail Fly,” “The Foggy, Foggy Dew,” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” He later acted in films and on television, and is probably best remembered today for his holiday hit “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” and his narration of the annual TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

8. SHINOLA

"You know, back in Minnesota, I was known as the Sherlock Holmes of St. Olaf.”
“Figured out which one was Shinola, did you, Rose?”
“The hard way.” —Rose, to Dorothy, "The Case of the Libertine Belle"

Shinola was a brand of shoe polish. In the 1940s, a popular colloquialism to describe someone’s naiveté was, “He doesn’t know sh*t from Shinola.” Perhaps that’s why the brand eventually went out of business; the Shinola folks couldn’t come up with an advertising slogan that was more memorable than the insult. 

9. THE PLO

“Maybe you ought to join an organization that is a little less fanatical in its devotion, honey.”
“Oh, like what, Blanche, the PLO?” —Dorothy, to Blanche, "Sophia's Wedding"

The Palestine Liberation Organization is a paramilitary organization founded in 1964 and was considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist group until the Madrid Conference in 1991.

10. YASSER ARAFAT

“You grow a beard, Dorothy! Believe me, I woke up one morning, I looked like Arafat!" —Sophia, to Dorothy, "End of the Curse"

Getty Images

When Sophia discussed the effects of menopause, she name-dropped Yasser Arafat, the longtime leader of the PLO, who was also known for his distinctive chin stubble. (Even younger viewers should probably understand this one.)

11. DAVID HOROWITZ

“I'm sorry, Dorothy, it's all my fault. I misunderstood the brochure.”
“'Fun in the buff at a mountain retreat! Hike, swim, and play volleyball while the sun beats down on your fanny!’ Call David Horowitz; I mean, how can they get away with this misrepresentation!” —Dorothy, to Rose, "Valentine's Day"

Consumer advocate David Horowitz used to host a TV show called Fight Back. He specialized in exposing false advertisements, shady business practices, and outright rip-offs.

Original image
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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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iStock

Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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