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8 Memorable Rejection Letters

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These letters may not have contained the responses the candidates were hoping for, but a memorable rejection is better than a cold form letter from Human Resources.

1. THE THING ABOUT PRINCETON LAW...

Letters of Note

There was just one problem with this application. Mr. Wax had better luck with Harvard and went on to a successful law career.

2. LORNE MICHAELS WILL GLADLY ACCEPT YOUR NUDE PHOTOS.

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That SNL producer Lorne Michaels would make a joke out of rejection seems only appropriate. At the start of the series, he crafted a very tactful way to let wannabe writers know that he could not accept their unsolicited materials. But added that “we at NBC’s Saturday Night do accept and read nude photographs.”

3. MR. ROGERS MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER.

Letters of Note

Mr. Rogers was a man of many talents. He could rock a cardigan like no one else, and he even had a way of making saying “no” sound like a victory. In 1990, he wrote an entirely adorable letter to a six-year-old fan who had asked to come visit the set. The young boy’s father was so moved by the letter, that he actually sent one back to let Fred know how his son “was beaming all afternoon the day he received it,” to which Mr. Rogers yet again replied!

See Also:10 Rejection Letters Sent to Famous People

4. YOU CAN’T GET MAD AT MAD.

Letters of Note

You’d better have a sense of humor if you want to write for MAD Magazine. And even more so if they don’t want you. Editor Al Feldstein turned saying no into an art with his wittily crafted rejection letter, which encouraged writers to send even more material … so that it could be rejected again.

5. SUB POP THINKS YOU’RE A LOSER.

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As the record label that “discovered” bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Flight of the Conchords, the executive mailboxes at Seattle’s Sub Pop records were understandably overflowing with demo tapes back in the late 1980s and 1990s, making it impossible for each submitting artist to receive a personal response. So the label came up with a better idea: treat every artist they were rejecting in the same manner, and be sure to address them all as losers.

6. THE MUMMIES TELL SUB POP TO F*** OFF.

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California garage band The Mummies were really just following protocol when they opted not to allow Sub Pop to use one of their songs as part of the label’s “Singles of the Month” series. And told them so in no uncertain terms.

7. HILLARY’S JUST NOT THAT INTO JASON SEGEL.

Politico

After almost singlehandedly reviving The Muppets, one can’t blame Jason Segel for believing he could achieve anything. But he set his sights a bit too high when he asked Hillary Clinton to appear in one of his upcoming projects.

8. THE NEW YORK TIMES DOESN’T LIKE A**HOLES.

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Will Georgiades may not have impressed Adam Moss enough with any of his pitches in 1996 to land an assignment, but his work clearly made enough of an impact to prompt Moss—then editorial director of The New York Times—to offer some unsolicited advice: “‘A**hole’ is just never going to fly here.”

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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

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