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10 Things You Might Not Know About Seth Meyers

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REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

Late Night with Seth Meyers premieres tonight—which means it’s the perfect time to learn a little bit about the Weekend Update alum. 

1. He’s a poker shark.

Meyers won the third season of Celebrity Poker Showdown in 2004. In the first game, one of his opponents was fellow SNL cast member and future Weekend Update co-host Amy Poehler. He then went on to the championship game and he beat David Cross, Steve Harris, Jeff Gordon, and Dave Navarro. Don’t expect him to brag though. He claimed, “When ‘Celebrity’ is in front of [the title], that means 'worse.'”

2. He’s from the same place as Sarah Silverman and Adam Sandler.

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Though Meyers was born in Illinois, he grew up in Bedford, New Hampshire. Sarah Silverman is also from Bedford. Adam Sandler was raised in the neighboring town, Manchester. Meyers grew up watching Adam Sandler on television and thought, “Well if that guy’s from New Hampshire and on TV, that’s probably the last guy from New Hampshire who’s going to be on TV for the next 50 years.”

3. He joked to President Obama about Osama Bin Laden the day before Bin Laden was killed by Navy Seals.

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At the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Meyers joked, “People think Bin Laden is hiding in the Hindu Kush, but did you know that every day from 4 to 5, he hosts a show on C-SPAN?” President Obama chuckled along, one day after he had ordered the raid on Bin Laden's compound that had yet to be announced.

4. He’s in Donald Trump’s book.

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Speaking of the 2011 Correspondents’ Dinner, Donald Trump was less amused by Meyers’s jokes than Obama was. In Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again, Trump wrote, “A third-rate comedian named Seth Meyers (somebody who in my opinion had absolutely no talent) got up and spoke. He was nervous, shaking, and sounded like he had marbles in his mouth. He made a crack that Donald Trump’s candidacy was a joke or something to that effect.”

5. His brother was on MADtv.

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Seth’s brother, Josh Meyers, was a MADtv cast member for two years. He then went on to play Randy Pearson, Topher Grace’s replacement on the last season of That 70’s Show. Both Josh and Seth have also played love interests on The Mindy Project. Seth promoted his brother’s episode by tweeting, “My hilarious brother Josh will be hanging with @mindykaling on #TheMindyProject tonight! #Taller #BetterHair”

See Also: 10 Times Seth Meyers Cracked Up at His Own Jokes

6. He lived in Amsterdam for a year.

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After Meyers graduated from Northwestern University, he moved to Amsterdam with his brother, where they both joined Boom Chicago, an improv comedy troupe. He often cites his time working overseas as helpful, particularly in learning to avoid pop culture references as comedic crutches. Meyers’s later SNL co-star Jason Sudeikis also got his start with Boom Chicago.

7. He did impressions of Russell Crowe, Hugh Grant, and David Arquette for his SNL audition.

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Meyers auditioned for the show in 2001, which explains his impersonation picks. His first show as a cast member was the infamous post-9/11 episode.

8. He loves comics.

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Meyers is a huge fan of comic books. He has named Batman, Justice League, Hawkeye, and Locke & Key as some of his favorites. Meyers has been able to break into the superhero genre himself; he and his former SNL co-worker, Mike Shoemaker, created The Awesomes, a series that airs on Hulu.

9. He read 800 Weekend Update jokes every week.

As SNL head writer, Meyers would read jokes proposed for the upcoming episode’s Weekend Update the night before the show aired. At that time, the writers had around 800 jokes compiled for him to read through. He would then help to pick a top hundred before they would later be whittled down to a mere 20 jokes for the actual show.

10. His mom taught him French in middle school.

Hilary Meyers taught French at an elementary school in Bedford, New Hampshire for almost 30 years. Seth was one of her first students, but he wasn’t exactly a straight-A student. He once explained, “I didn’t mind having my mom as a teacher. It was really fun. I just wish I could have been a better French student.” 

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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