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Every Single John Ratzenberger Pixar Role

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If you’re a fan of Pixar movies such as Toy Story and The Incredibles, you may have noticed a familiar voice. John Ratzenberger has been in every single Pixar movie to date, starting with Toy Story in 1995 and continuing all the way through the next Finding Nemo movie, currently scheduled for a 2016 release.

Ratzenberger isn’t sure why he has become Pixar’s lucky charm, but Pixar knows. Writer/producer Andrew Stanton said they had so much fun hanging out with him at the first Toy Story press junkets, they decided to work with him as much as possible in the future. And director Pete Docter just thinks Ratzenberger’s vocal work is recognizable. “He's someone so clear, I know that guy after only two lines of dialogue. Having him in every film is like our Hitchcock cameo."

In case you’ve missed some of those appearances, here they are.

Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3: Hamm

"You heard of Kung Fu? Well prepare yourself for Pork Chop!"

A Bug's Life: P.T. Flea

"Word of mouth got around, the next day there was a line of flies outside the tent, went on forever. It must have been a foot long!"

Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University: Yeti/The Abominable Snowman

"Abominable! Can you believe that? Do I look abominable to you? Why can't they call me the Adorable Snowman or ... or the Agreeable Snowman, for crying out loud? I'm a nice guy."

Finding Nemo: School of Moonfish

"What you wanna do is follow the EAC, that's the East Australian Current. Big current, can't miss it, it's in that direction. And then you gotta follow that for about, I don't know, what do you guys think? About three leagues? And that little baby's gonna put you right past Sydney."

The Incredibles: The Underminer

"Behold, the Underminer! I'm always beneath you, but nothing is beneath me! I hereby declare war on peace and happiness! Soon, all will tremble before me!"

Cars and Cars 2: Mack the Truck

"Oh, these best friend greetings get longer every year."

Ratatouille: Mustafa the Waiter

"She likes the soup."

WALL-E: John

"Uh, John."

Up: Tom the Construction Worker

"This is serious. He's out to get your house!"

Brave: Gordon the Guard

Gordon the Guard starts to announce the arrival of the other lords to the castle, but is interrupted mid-sentence.

Ratzenberger also has confirmed roles in the upcoming movies Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, and Finding Dory.

All Images via Pixar Wiki.

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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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