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7 Must-Have Items from Rue McClanahan’s Estate Sale

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Actress Rue McClanahan passed away in 2010, and even though she had a long list of acting credits—including regular roles on Maude and Mama’s Family, as well as multiple stage and film appearances—she will always be Blanche Devereaux in most minds. And, unlike a lot of actors who resent getting typecast, Rue embraced her Blanche-ness and actively collected souvenirs, props, and artifacts during her years on The Golden Girls with the intent of one day sharing them with her loyal fans. Mark LaRue, a close friend of McClanahan’s, launched a website last year in accordance with Rue’s wish—that, after her family and friends took their pick, the rest of her memorabilia be made available for sale to the public with the proceeds donated to her specified charities. A lot of the items are already sold, but we couldn’t resist putting together the ultimate wish list for the average rabid Golden Girls fan.

1. The Men of Blanche’s Boudoir Calendar

One year for Christmas, the Girls decided to eschew the crass commercialism of the holiday season and give each other homemade presents. Blanche’s gift to the other three is a calendar featuring explicit photos of some of her favorite male companions of the past year. Unbeknownst to either the actresses or the TV viewing audience, some playful prop masters had actually taped Playgirl-style pictures of some of the crew members (no pun intended) inside the booklet. Those reaction shots from Bea Arthur and the others were genuine.

2. Driver’s License

If this were Blanche's license, the year of birth would have been deleted by order of the governor. Used during her Maude days, McClanahan's license actually has three addresses on it.

3. Nunsense Keepsakes

In 1993, Rue starred as Reverend Mother in the TV movie version of the stage musical Nunsense. The estate has many items from the production, including these fans, which she then hung above the bed in her Manhattan apartment, and a cast-and-crew jacket.

4. Onex Taupe Leather Mules

Wouldn’t you love to step into these size 8 mediums, close your eyes and imagine the shoe salesman "caressing your calf as he kneels in front of you, tiny beads of perspiration breaking out on his forehead…? His breath gets shorter and quicker as he ever so gently slips the supple leather onto your quivering foot and you achieve a perfect fit…" Rue wore these mules on many episodes of The Golden Girls.

5. Sedatives and Heart Medications

For those occasions when you’re jumpier than a virgin at a prison rodeo and wound up tighter than a girdle on a Baptist minister’s wife at an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. Marilyn Monroe’s old prescription bottles sold for upwards of $18,000 each years ago, so maybe celebrity medicine could prove to be a good investment.

6. Bath Items

When sitting in a hot steamy bath with only enough water to cover your perky bosoms, a touch of Miss Dior Chérie Eau De Parfum adds some ambience. The chalice holding the bath nuggets is vintage etched glass trimmed with gold.

7. Silk Robe

Bea Arthur, Betty White, and Estelle Getty’s Golden Girls costumes were mostly off-the-rack pieces, while Rue’s were custom-made by designer Judy Evans. McClanahan very wisely had it written into her contract that she got to keep all of Blanche’s clothes, and she had 13 closets in her home filled with exquisite pieces like this. Cheesecake always tastes better when you’re clad in 100 percent silk.

What would be on your wish list if you had your pick of Blanche Devereaux’s keepsakes and a very large bank account?

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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]