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What Kevin McCallister's Awful Family Is Doing Now

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It’s that time of year again: travel, annoying family, scary neighbors and, of course, bumbling burglars. Yep, I’m talking Home Alone. Since the movie is now 24 years old, Kevin McCallister’s jerky siblings are all grown up. Here’s how they've been keeping themselves busy since they were last seen harassing poor Kev.

1. Angela Goethals, AKA Linnie.

Line:

What she’s up to: Linnie has been busy. Since her turn as Kevin’s snooty sister in 1990, Angela Goethals has been in a ton of television dramas, including 24, Six Feet Under, Grey’s Anatomy, Boston Public, Crossing Jordan and Law & Order. Basically, she’s one of those actresses that makes you go, “Hey, I know her from somewhere...” every time she appears on your television.

2. Devin Ratray, AKA Buzz.

Line:

What he’s up to: Like his movie sister, Ratray has been steadily making appearances on TV ever since he pretended to puke up Kevin’s precious cheese pizza. You might have seen him on Supernatural, Law & Order and The Good Wife. He was in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska last year, and has several movies scheduled to be released in 2015.

3. Gerry Bamman, AKA Uncle Frank.

Line:

What he’s up to: Guess who else has been on Law & Order? Yep: Uncle Frank. As four different characters over a period of nearly 15 years, actually.

4. Hillary Wolf, AKA Megan.

Line: “The dope was whining about a suitcase. What was I supposed to do? Shake his hand and say, ‘Congratulations, you're an idiot’?”

What she’s up to: Well, after landing the role of Laura in the 1992 movie Big Girls Don’t Cry... They Get Even, Wolf put acting on hold to join the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympic Judo team for the U.S. She didn’t medal, but she is a second-degree black belt. And you thought Kevin was the tough McCallister.

5. Michael Maronna, AKA Jeff.

Line:

What he’s up to: You’re almost definitely familiar with Maronna’s work in the mid-’90s. The Adventures of Pete & Pete was basically one of the best shows to ever run on Nickelodeon (and this is coming from a huge Clarissa Explains It All fan). Though he has had some notable parts since then - Slackers, for one - Maronna is mostly working behind the camera these days. He’s done electrical rigging for movies ranging from Sex and the City to The Smurfs.

He was also in Law & Order.

6. Kristin Minter, AKA Heather.

Line: “Eleven, including me. Five boys, six girls, four parents, two drivers, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

What she’s up to: She was only the subject of the best movie tagline ever written: “When a girl has a heart of stone, there’s only one way to melt it. Just add ice.” In case that doesn’t immediately ring a bell, let me jog your memory:

Kristin Minter played Kathy, Ice’s love interest. Though she has had parts on Ray Donovan, The Mentalist, and Nip/Tuck, among others, she has not been on Law & Order. Yet.

7. Kieran Culkin, AKA Kevin’s cousin Fuller.

Line: No lines, just a lot of references to his incontinence problem.

What he’s up to: Little Fuller has since had a pretty successful career on stage and screen. He received lots of critical acclaim for his title role in Igby Goes Down in 2002 and was also enjoyable in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in 2010. In between, he’s been starring on stages from New York to London and Sydney. He's currently starring in This Is Our Youth on Broadway with Michael Cera and Tavi Gevinson.

8. Anna Slotky, AKA Kevin’s cousin Brooke.

Line: Brooke is one of the cousins who tells Joe Pesci that yes, her parents are home, but no, they don’t live there.

What she’s up to: After about a decade in the entertainment industry - she was Ruth Ann in The Torkelsons and had parts on Third Rock From the Sun and Sister, Sister - Slotky went to the University of California to get her JD and is now practicing law in the Los Angeles area.

9. Senta Moses, AKA Kevin’s cousin Tracy.

Line: Tracy doesn’t talk much. I think her only line in the movie is when she asks for shampoo.

What she’s up to: Moses is another one of those actresses who has been getting consistent TV work, but my favorite is her part as the bubbly Delia Fisher on My So-Called Life. However, if you weren’t into watching Angela Chase constantly make bad decisions about Jordan Catalano, you’ve still probably seen Senta Moses on Greek, General Hospital, The Mentalist, Beakman’s World, Sister, Sister and about a million other things.

10. Jedidiah Cohen, AKA Kevin’s cousin Rod McCallister.

Line: Rod is mostly notable for the conversation he has with Buzz about French girls not shaving their pits and how France’s nude beaches are shut down for the winter.

What he’s up to: After getting a BA in Astrophysics and Astronomy at Harvard, Cohen was the Vice President and Operations Manager at New York real estate firm Cooper & Cooper. Then he founded RocketHub, a crowdfunding site similar to Kickstarter.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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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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