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Animal Planet

16 Things You Can Watch Instead of the Super Bowl

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Animal Planet

Don’t care about the Super Bowl this year? Guess what—you just discovered the one thing you have in common with Tom Brady. “Truthfully, I could care less about watching the game. That’€™s pretty much how I feel,” he said last week.

Luckily for Tom—and for you—there’s plenty of other programming to tune in to. Here are a few of our frontrunners.

1. Animal Planet: The Puppy Bowl

The Puppy Bowl has been a staple for Animal Planet for a decade and it’s no wonder they keep bringing it back—the show has pulled in north of 10 million viewers for each of the past two years. This year's show will feature penguin cheerleaders and a halftime spectacular starring Keyboard Cat. If you can't stand the suspense, by the way, you can check out live Puppy Bowl practice right now

2. The Hallmark Channel: The Kitten Bowl

After standing by and watching Animal Planet rake in the counterprogramming ratings for close to a decade, the Hallmark Channel is finally putting the focus on the Internet’s favorite pet. Here’s hoping for a halftime show featuring Lil’ Bub or Grumpy Cat. 

3. Nat Geo Wild: The Fish Bowl

Photo courtesy of National Geographic

OK, now this is getting ridiculous. Or is it getting ridiculously awesome? (Sometimes it’s hard to tell.) For four hours, Nat Geo Wild will turn their programming over to a little gal named Goldie. We’re sure it will go swimmingly ...  unless their star goes belly-up live on-air.

4. Style: Ghostbusters

While I’m slightly perplexed by this movie being shown on this particular channel, I fully support the programming decision. If I get to choose between Peter Venkman snark and Richard Sherman snark, I’m going to go with the good doctor every time.

5. CMT: Groundhog Day

See above. In fact, I think that 2015 needs to the year of the first annual Bill Murray Bowl. They can confine him to a small area and give him toys to keep him entertained. It would blow the Puppy Bowl out of the water. 

6. DIY: Rev. Run’s Renovation

It’s the perfect home renovation marathon for people looking for tips on how to caulk this way. (sorrynotsorry)

7. H2: The Definitive Guide to Bigfoot

A cryptozoological programming alternative for people who prefer beast mode to Beast Mode, even if you are more likely to have a Marshawn Lynch sighting.

8. Bravo: The Real Housewives of Atlanta


For people who want all of the drama, but none of the sports.

9. WGN: America’s Funniest Home Videos

WGN should expect to lose a large percentage of their viewers, however, when the hardcore Saget fans switch over to Fox to catch the mini Full House reunion, courtesy Oikos yogurt.

10. Travel Channel: Food Paradise

Let's be honest—at least half of the reason people go to Super Bowl gatherings is to eat copious amounts of regrettable food. Thanks to Travel Channel, you can skip the sports and go straight to watching people eat their weight in brisket.

11. TLC: Say Yes to the Dress

If Troy Aikman and Joe Buck aren't bickering enough for your liking, there's sure to be more than enough to go around over on TLC. Fun fact: Members of the losing Super Bowl team will make $42,000 each, which is just enough to buy one of the high-end wedding dresses (about $40k) featured on Say Yes to the Dress

12. Spike: Cops

Because Cops.

13. OWN: Super Soul Sunday

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Leave it to Oprah to provide a spiritual substitute. Tune in to OWN for uplifting and inspirational conversations with Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz and a bunch of self-help book authors, former NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson, and extreme swimmer Diana Nyad.

14. Hallmark Movie Channel: Murder, She Wrote

Photo courtesy of Hallmark Movie Channel

Well done, Hallmark Movie Channel. Well done.

15. A&E: Duck Dynasty

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A Duck Dynasty marathon on A&E? Well, this must be a special occasion, because a Robertson block of programming is as rare as stumbling across The Shawshank Redemption on cable.

16. AMC: The Walking Dead

It's a tribute to how you'll be feeling on Monday morning.

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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]