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7 Board Games That Probably Weren't Appropriate for Kids

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Board games are a time-honored tradition for kids of all generations to enjoy, and parents depend on them to keep their young ones in check for at least a few minutes at a time. Some competitive games have the added benefit of being educational, too. But then there are those few that, while popular or memorable, don't seem like they should be a part of shaping young minds. Here's a look at seven games that are probably best left on the toy store shelves.

1. Busting balls?

The soft-spoken narrator of "Ball Buster" appears to be in on the joke. It comes from a different era, before double entendres lost their subtlety. This promises to be "a family game" that can be played with kids or without them. The mother winks at the audience upon busting her husband's balls.

2. Snot a Good Idea

What kid doesn't love a good booger, right? Playing this Dutch game is likely to have kids reaching deep inside their noses trying to pull out sticks of snot like they found inside of the disembodied head of "Snotty Snotter." Some children love to search for gold inside their nostrils, and this game capitalizes on the curiosity and anticipation that kids exhibit. But it's not the best lesson for them to learn at an early age if parents wish to ever begin to stamp out the nosepicking.

3. Playing with Poo

Giving your dog a tasty treat sounds like something valuable and humane. But in "Doggie Doo," the goal is not to satisfy the pooch—it's to get the mutt to pass it on the other side. "You win by collecting the doggie's doo," the commercial excitedly professes. One kid in the ad seems to realize what a bad idea this is; he holds his nose and braces for the stench.

4. Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Another flashback to a different time reveals some misguided and questionable tactics to keep your kids entertained. "Pie Face" is exactly what it sounds like: a guillotine-like structure that requires children to stick their faces inside of a cardboard outline and prepare to get splattered with a pie. "Get your face full of goo," the ad boldly says. A decade later, children hoped to avoid being "Swacked!" when they looked to remove small pieces of cheese from the gameboard.

5. Beware of Sharks

The imagery in the commercial for "Shark Attack" should come with a PG-13 rating as rowers try to steer clear of the incoming shark looking to ravage them and their boats. Even cruiselines aren't safe from the gigantic "maniac" on their tails: "It's coming to get you." The last survivor will win the game, but everyone might go home with nightmares and a fear of ever going into the nearest ocean.

6. Pig's Delight

Feed this pig a few burgers, then pump his head and hope he doesn't "go pop." His growing belly can only ward off so much indigestion before he absolutely blows. For those who revel in giving animals food they shouldn't be eating, the game "Pig Goes Pop" is a riot. However, some parents may not want to encourage their kids to participate in this kind of terrorizing behavior. Thankfully, the game doesn't lead to a massive mess full of pig guts and fluids (though that's what the ad seems to imply).

7. Bedbugs Everywhere

It's every parent and New York City resident's worst fear: bedbugs. But the notion of the cost and effort it takes to rid your furniture of these oft-returning pests is lost on tykes. They instead view bedbugs as something they're lightheartedly warned about when being tucked into bed, and in the "BedBugs" game, the little and speedy bugs are a source of amusement. Who can catch the most? The real winner might actually hope to finish last.

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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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