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The Cast of Teen Witch, 24 Years Later

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I remain steadfast and resolute in my belief that the “Top That” scene from Teen Witch is one of the best cinematic moments of all time. Or at least of the 80s. OK, maybe just 1989. So you can imagine my excitement that the supernatural rom-com has seen a bit of a revival lately, what with the one-night-only Groundlings performance in January and remake rumors swirling around. And hey, cameos from the original actors wouldn’t be out of the question—most of them are still in the industry. Here’s what they’ve been up to.

1. Robyn Lively, bed and breakfast owner.

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Louise Miller, aka Teen Witch herself, is currently the owner of the Johnson Mill Bed and Breakfast in Midway, Utah. She's also Blake Lively’s older sister. In 2011, Blake just happened to be photographed kissing Ryan Reynolds in front of the Johnson Mill sign during their then-clandestine relationship, prompting the tabloids to speculate that Blake was throwing her sister a publicity bone. But the elder Lively isn’t just baking scones and changing Egyptian cotton sheets. In the past few years, she’s had roles on Psych, 30 Rock, The Mentalist, Saving Grace and Criminal Minds.

2. Dan Gauthier, still acting.

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For those of us who grew up on Teen Witch and Son in Law, here’s a shocker: Dan is going to be 50 this year. He’s been busy since his stint as Brad Powell—not only did he have regular roles on Ellen (the sitcom, not the talk show), Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, All My Children and One Life to Live, but he’s had lots of one-time parts in a whole slew of TV shows. My favorite? The co-pilot in a 2009 episode of Lost.
Teen Witch was pretty good to Dan, by the way. Not only was it his first big movie, it also had a big effect on his personal life. Remember Randa, the popular blonde? He married her. They have a son. That's them in the picture.

3. Joshua John Miller, writer.


Unbeknownst to me, Louise’s little brother, Richie, was a member of Leonardo DiCaprio’s posse (which has a different but very specific name that I’ll let you use your Google-fu on, but maybe don’t do it at work) in the 90s. After that, he graduated from Yale, then got an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. He has a couple of novels under his belt, and, judging from his Tweets, is in the middle of another one. He was also the screenwriter for a werewolf series called Howl that was apparently picked up by Fox, but is either languishing in development hell or just never made it out of the gate.

4. Amanda Ingber, yogi to the stars.

Once known as Polly the funky fresh teenage rapper, Ingber is now teaching yoga to some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Jennifer Aniston, Kate Beckinsale, and Jennifer Lawrence.

5. Zelda Rubinstein, deceased.

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Zelda, of course, was the tiny lady with the creepy voice whom Hollywood loved to cast in paranormal roles. The 4-foot 3-inch actress stole the show in Poltergeist, but that was before her turn as Madame Serena. Post-Teen Witch, Rubinstein made appearances on Tales from the Crypt, Martin, Caroline in the City, Hey Arnold, and The Pretender. She also had a recurring spot on Picket Fences and narrated 48 episodes of The Scariest Places on Earth. She was an outspoken AIDS activist and advocate for little people. Rubinstein passed away in 2010 at the age of 76.

6. Noah Blake, SyFy star.

If any of you shared Polly’s giant crush on Rhet Capaletti, you might be excited to know that he’s still acting. He’s recently been on The Office and a SyFy movie called Piranhaconda, and had roles in a bunch of acronym-y shows in the early 2000s: V.I.P., JAG, ER and LAX.

Blake is also the son of Robert Blake, in case the name didn’t give him away. Here he is talking about his father’s murder charges.

7. Shelley Berman, Larry David’s dad.

Stage and screen legend Shelley Berman hasn’t been hurting for work since his bit part in Teen Witch. Even as an octogenarian, he’s been busy with Entourage, Pushing Daisies, Hannah Montana, and Boston Legal. But my favorite part, by far, is Berman’s portrayal of Nat, Larry David’s dad on Curb Your Enthusiasm. In Teen Witch, Berman played a cranky old man who embarrasses Louise. In Curb, Berman plays a cranky old man who embarrasses Larry. Here are the two of them discussing Larry’s sandwich.

8. Marcia Wallace, voiceover queen.

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She went from Ms. Malloy, eccentric drama teacher, to Mrs. Krabappel, bitter chainsmoker. Though Wallace is arguably most famous for her voiceover work as Bart Simpson’s lonelyhearts fourth grade teacher, she’s also done voices for Darkwing Duck, The Angry Beavers, Captain Planet, the Aladdin TV series, the Batman TV series, and more. She also played Annie Wilkes on The Young and the Restless a few years ago and had a prominent role as Maggie the maid on That’s My Bush in 2001.

9. Rita Wilson, actress, producer, singer, and wife to Hanx.

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You don’t remember Rita Wilson in Teen Witch? Me neither, but IMDB insists she was a dancer. Anyone know where she is? My money’s on the ubiquitous choreographed high school dance scene at the end. Anyway, you’ve no doubt noticed that Rita’s doing OK for herself these days. She produced My Big Fat Greek Wedding and all of its spinoffs, has continued to act, and also found the time to drop an album of 60s and 70s covers last year.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Sponsor Content: BarkBox
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.