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How to Be Popular: 5 Helpful Films From the 1940s

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In decades past, short films were used in classrooms to show young people how to get along in society. They were starchy, unrealistic, and authoritarian. Despite all that, most of the advice they give isn’t bad. They promote courage, kindness, and inclusiveness (unless you’re Jenny—see below). It’s the package the information is delivered in that’s the problem. Here we look at mid-century ideals of How To Be Popular.

1. Are You Popular?

I’ll tell you who isn’t popular. Jenny. That make-up-caking, over-accessorized floozy who thinks parking in cars with boys is the key to popularity. In daylight, none of those boys will even make eye contact with her. There is a reason they’re called “ladies of the night,” Jenny.

Then take Caroline, who floats through the film like a large Shirley Temple on Xanax. She is on the path to being beloved by all. She helps wrangle props, and only accepts dates offered a week in advance, because she is a lady of quality.

That’s why she has to turn down Jerry, the short-sighted chap who thought he could get a same-day date with her. Who does she look like, Jenny?

2. The Other Fellow’s Feelings

In the 1950s, bullies who didn’t do actual bodily harm to their victims got to wear the much more innocent moniker of “teasers.” In this film, you’ll meet Jack, who is an absolute ass. It’s not enough that he “accidentally” knocks Judy’s first real perfume out of her hand and shatters it, he has to go on for weeks “teasing” her about how smelly she is. Judy doesn’t tattle, or retaliate, and no one defends her with any heart. Eventually she breaks down, unable to take it anymore. When the film asks the final question, “What would you do?” it’s hard to think of any responses that don’t involve establishing an alibi first.

3.The Snob

Sarah works harder than you, schlub. She studied for hours for the history test, not like the rest of those apple-polishers. She worked her pencil-skirted patoot off to design a classy yearbook cover, but everyone chose that galoot Bill Tyler’s instead! No one appreciates her. So Sarah spends Friday nights with her only friend, Algebra, glaring daggers at Don’s never-ending party pad across the yard. Because Sarah is a snob. Can she be helped? Should the gang judge her so harshly? And what of the yearbook cover? So many questions left dangling.

4. The Outsider

The narrator of this film spends the majority of the story endeavoring to irreparably damage the psyche of a young girl.

This film starts with poor, unwanted Susan Jane, huddled against a wall, watching other children, even the fat ones, enjoy life. From there she must endure the merciless taunting of the narrator:

“Susan? Susan Jane. What’s the matter with you? Why is everyone else having such a good time when you’re not? Why do they always leave you out? What makes you the outsider? The Outsider. The one who never gets asked.”

The narrator keeps pace with all of little Susan’s failures. Not invited to a study date? “Even in things you’re good at, why do they make you the outsider?” Order a root beer while everyone else ordered chocolate ice cream? “Why are you the one who’s always out of step?” You disgust me, Susan Jane.

He works so efficiently that when poor Susan Jane does get invited to a party, she drops the phone and collapses into heaving sobs of shame over her unworthiness. Even in the last frames, as Susan bravely prepares to attend the party putting everything she has into presenting herself as a likable girl, that bastard is on her heels. “But is this enough? Will it work? Will the gang accept you, Susan Jane?”

We are never told the answer. Hopefully because the happiness Susan Jane finds silences the demon voice forever.

5.The Shy Guy

Suppose you were an alien who had recently taken over the body of a teenage boy. How would you go about best understanding the human teenagers around you, and convince them that you were one of them? This 1947 film, The Shy Guy, would be your guide.

Phil (Dick York, the first Darrin from Bewitched) spends a lot of time in the basement, wearing a disheveled suit and playing with radios, presumably to contact the home world. He is failing horribly at his assimilation directive. His mission commander (called “Dad”) councils Phil to “keep an eye” on the most popular kids in school to learn of their ways.

Phil, dressed in the worst “It’s okay, I’m one of you!” camouflage sweater on Earth, begins his observations of humans in their natural habitat. Eventually Phil and “Dad” come to the conclusion that the key to fitting in with the humans is to display similar emotions to theirs, and feign empathy for their weakened human condition. The film closes with Phil using his superior knowledge of electronics to successfully infiltrate the population.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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