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15 Things You Might Not Know About Frank Sinatra

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Ol’ Blue Eyes, The Voice, The Chairman of the Board: Whatever you want to call him, today marks the 15th anniversary of his passing. In his honor, here are 15 facts that will help the late crooner seem like a bit less of a stranger in the night.

1.  Actually, don’t call him the “Chairman of the Board.”

It’s a nickname he acquired while president at Reprise Records.  According to his third and last wife, Barbara, Frank hated it. 

2.  And don’t get him started on “Strangers in the Night.”

Barbara also maintains “My Way,” one of Frank’s most loved songs, did absolutely nothing for him.  But that was a kind assessment compared to “Strangers in the Night,” which Frank called “a piece of sh*t” and “the worst f**king song I’ve ever heard.”

Thankfully, he recorded it anyway, not just because it topped the charts, but because, thanks to the improvised skat at the end of the song…

3.  Frank inadvertently helped name Scooby-Doo.

This, according to former CBS exec Fred Silverman, who found inspiration in Frank’s signature “Scoo-Be-Do-Be-Do.”  Good thing too, because otherwise, Shaggy’s best friend would’ve been named Too Much.

4.  The guy who gave Frank “the best welcome … I’ve ever had” was Bono.

As in the U2 guy, not Sonny. Frank was at the 1994 Grammys to receive a Legend Award, when Bono introduced him as "the chairman of the bad attitude ... Rock 'n roll plays at being tough, but this guy is the boss—the chairman of boss ... I'm not going to mess with him, are you?”

Frank approved, perhaps because Bono never technically called him “The Chairman of the Board.” 

5.  The story behind Frank’s famous mug shot?

The Smoking Gun

Frank was clipped for the most Frank reason possible: “seduction.”  The charge was reduced to “adultery”—and later dropped—when it was revealed the woman was already married. Not to Frank, of course.  

6.  Frank had a line of jarred pasta sauces.

Etsy

The year 1990 was a post-Paul Newman, pre-Marky Ramone time in celebrity spaghetti sauce, and leave it to Frank to fill the zesty void. But despite being inspired by his mother’s very own recipe, the sauce flopped (though this author remembers finding it pretty tasty). Thankfully, you can now find Mama Sinatra’s recipe online.

7.  Two words: concept records.

Way before Pink Floyd was building and tearing down The Wall, concept records were Frank’s bread and butter.  Two notable ones: 1965’s September of My Years, where a newly-50 Frank wrestles poignantly with mortality; and 1970’s Watertown, an incredible song cycle about some down and out divorcee in upstate New York, pondering his broken life in the titular town.  The latter was the closest thing to a rock record Frank ever recorded, and it fared so poorly on the charts that…

8.  Frank briefly retired.

In 1971. Thankfully for you “Send in the Clowns” fans, his self-imposed exile from the entertainment industry lasted less than two years, before he returned for good with his comeback “Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back.” And just think: if he hadn’t, “New York, New York” would still be thought of as a Liza Minelli tune.

9. Frank has an asteroid named after him.

The rock, called 7934 Sinatra, was discovered 1989 Sept. 26 by E. W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory. Of course, the Bee Gees have an asteroid named after them, too... 

10. But unlike the Bee Gees, Frank has a unique distinction in Billboard history

He’s the “father” half of the only father-daughter duet to ever hit #1, “Something Stupid” (which he sang with Nancy). 

11.  Frank was an honorary tribal chief

Specifically, the “Order of the Leopard,” the highest honor in Bophuthatswana, a quasi-nation state in apartheid-era South Africa. The honor was a show of gratitude from president Lucas Mangope for Frank’s performances at the maligned—and later boycotted—Sun City casino.  The $1.6 million payout probably didn’t hurt matters.

And you thought all that mob stuff sounded shady.

12.  Frank performed in front of the Pyramids.

No, the Pyramids is not a casino in Atlantic City…Frank played a gig at the actual Pyramids.  In 1979, for Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

13.  One of Frank’s very favorite love songs? “Something” by The Beatles.

Frank may not have loved (okay, he hated) rock and roll, but he was a big fan of the George Harrison-penned “Something.”  The song became a sample in Frank’s live set toward the end of his career.

14.  The last song Frank ever performed live: “The Best Is Yet to Come.”

On February 25, 1995, Frank sang this song for a group of 1200 people on the last night of a golf tournament named for him.

15. Last Words

The words "The Best is Yet to Come" are on his tombstone.

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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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