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12 Reddit AMAs Worth Revisiting

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Photo courtesy Snoop's Instagram

Snoop Dogg (AKA Snoop Lion) recently claimed in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) that he smokes a lot of marijuana. And I mean, a lot. As in hundreds and hundreds of joints every week.

This somewhat dubious claim reminds us just how amazing the Reddit AMA can be. If you aren’t familiar, AMAs happen on a subpage of Reddit.com, where people from various walks of life (from major stars to ordinary people with extraordinary experiences) invite the site’s readers to ask any question they’d like. The discussions are wildly popular and often produce hilarious/intellectual/sobering/uplifting exchanges.

Here are 12 Reddit AMAs worth revisiting.

(As a note, all grammar and spelling has been left as it appeared in the original post, and some of the AMAs linked below may contain NSFW content.)

1. Louis CK

This writer-director-actor-stand up comedian has seemingly taken over the world the last few years by launching his own critically-acclaimed show, hosting SNL, and implementing his own experimental ways of connecting with his audiences by selling them content directly through his website and refusing to let Ticketmaster have a role in selling tickets to his shows.

Snippet of AMA, discussing a really bad fan:

i was on the subway once and this old lady came up to me. she pointed right in my face and screamed and diarreah started just gushing out of her onto the floor. I'm not sure she was a fan but it was pretty awful. Also it never happened. But it will...

2. Ken Jennings

This 74-time Jeopardy! Champion (that is still amazing to read) won $2,520,700 over his record-setting run, and $3,172,700 in all, once all of the special Tournament of Champions appearances were factored in. Jennings is not only smart, he’s funny (a combination that made him a great contributor to mental_floss magazine). His sense of humor was on display during his Reddit AMA when he lampooned his destruction at the hands of the IBM Super Computer Watson by adopting the internet handle “WatsonsBitch.”

Snippet of AMA, discussing the host of Jeopardy!:

Trebek takes a lot of heat for being sort of smug and starchy on camera, but that's just for TV. In person he is sort of a nut, always doing goofy jokes and accents and little bits of soft-shoe and stuff. He's like your good-natured, slightly-losing-it grandpa.

3. A Columbine Survivor

The author of this AMA was a student at Columbine High School in 1999 when two gunmen opened fire, killing 12 students, a teacher, and themselves. According to the claim, the author is the one individual told to “get out of here” by one of the the killers just before they began their attack.

Snippet of AMA, discussing his “rocky” relationship with one of the killers, Eric Harris:

He chipped my windshield with a chunk of ice, I told im he needed to pay for it, told his mom, he got angry, we had a falling you. We started talking again, then another fight, then I ratted to him mom where he kept his booze (yes, I was an a**hole), so he threatened to murder my family. You know. High school stuff.

4. Bill Nye the Science Guy

William Sanford Nye, better known by his catchy, rhyming stage name, was an edutaining part of the childhood of so many.

Snippet of AMA, in which the Science Guy lists the things that he and Neil deGrasse Tyson chat about when they get together:

Astrophysics, the business of television, baseball, wine, and women.

5. A McDonald’s Employee

It takes a lot of employees to serve Billions and Billions, as McDonald’s signs used to boast about doing. That means there are probably a lot of people out there willing to spill the beans on working in one. This AMA delivers a hot, delicious serving of just that.

Snippet of the AMA, detailing an unpleasant cleaning experience:

Every few months, the restaurant undergoes an inspection from a McOpCo consultant. This is called an FOR. Before the FOR, the owner gets everyone to clean, paint,, brush up on their skills/habits, etc. On one of these occasions, I was tasked with cleaning behind the vats and the grills. The accumulation of grease, dropped, rotting meat and chicken products that were festering underneath was enough to give me nightmares. The grease was pooled on the floor and there were grease stalagmites on the ground. Trapped in the burnt and encrusted filth were hundreds of flies.

6. A Former Religious Cult Member

The subject of this AMA describes herself as having grown up in a “small communal Bible-based cult” where “children were raised to be workers in the church and to give their lives for what the leader wanted.” The answers shared in the post are shocking, eye-opening and thoroughly interesting.

Snippet of AMA, discussing how she left the community:

I had to sneak out. If you told anyone you were leaving they would throw you out on the street with nothing and not allow you to get your things. Also, I knew my family would try really hard to talk me into staying, and because I love them so much, it would be hard to resist their pleas.

7. A Nickelodeon Artist

This subject actually did two different AMAs (Part 1 & Part 2), both times taking drawing requests from readers and delivering awesome sketches. Click on any of the links at the top of the two posts and you’ll see drawings of Freddie Mercury, Bill Cosby’s Reaction to the Mars Landing, Lindsay Lohan Getting Punched By A Monkey, Complicated Fight Scene, and many more.

Snippet of AMA, drawing of Batman and Bane Playing Rock’em Sock’em Robots

8. An Amnesiac

The bio at the start of this AMA explains that Benjamin Kyle woke up outside a Burger King in 2004 with no idea who he is, how he got there or pretty much anything else. The Wikipedia page he links to says he’s “the only American citizen officially listed as missing despite his whereabouts being known.”

Snippet of AMA, answering a question about whether he is a time traveler:

Everyone is a time traveler. They're born, they live, and they die.

9. Ira Glass

The awesome host of the brilliant This American Life talks openly about how they miraculously create radio’s most phenomenal show. Can you tell I’m a huge fan?

Snippet of AMA, discussing what they’re looking for on the show:

A great story is like a great melody: it announces its inevitable greatness and you recognize it the first time you hear it. Most stories aren't that. They do not announce their obvious greatness. 60% are in the limbo region where they might GET great or they might flop, and the only way to figure it out is to start making the story. So you launch in, hoping for that winning combination of great moments, charm, funny, and X factor.

10. “Needle Nose” Ned Ryerson

Actor Stephen Tobolowsky has been in a ton of different movies, but he is perhaps best known as Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day. Bing!

Snippet of AMA, discussing a scene fit for a movie that unfortunately actually happened to him:

A man saw I had mangos in my shopping cart. He pulled out a .45 and stuck it into my head, and said "I don't know why I picked you today." The only thing I could think of for some reason were scenes from the TV show medical center.

I ended up talking to the man about my father, Chad Everett, and eventually I invited him over to my house for dinner. Unfortunately I gave him my real address. Fortunately the swat team intervened and dragged him out kicking and screaming.

11. A Real Life Superhero

Phoenix Jones is a real person that puts on a real superhero outfit and tries to fight real crime in the real city of Seattle. He is a member of the Rain City Superhero Movement.

Snippet of AMA, explaining a time that made him question his crime-fighting career:

AFTER I GOT SHOT THE FIRST TIME AND WOKE UP UNDER A DUMPSTER

12. Two Falsely Imprisoned Men

Clarence Harrison and Robert Clark spent a combined 42 years falsely imprisoned, until the Georgia Innocence Project helped them win their freedom.

Snippet from AMA, Harrison discussing a conversation he had with the man who put him away:

I spoke with the DA but I am still angry with the DA because he is still patting himself on the back for having a "fair trial" and "doing their best." How can they still pat themselves on the back when I was innocent?

See all of our 12 lists here.

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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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