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14 Future Stars Who Appeared on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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Buffy Wikia/Getty Images

In its seven season run, the sci-fi/fantasy series Buffy the Vampire Slayer was responsible for launching the careers of a number of its stars, including Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendan, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, and Julie Benz, among others. A number of future famous faces stopped by the Hellmouth, too.

1. Carmine Giovinazzo // Season 1, Episode 1


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You might recognize him as the first-ever person killed on Buffy—in the pilot’s cold-open, by "damsel in distress"-turned-vampire Darla. You might also recognize Carmine Giovinazzo from his role on CSI: New York; he played Danny Messer.

2. Clea Duvall // Season 1, Episode 11

In "Out of Mind, Out of Sight," Clea Duvall played Marcie Ross, a student who feels so invisible she actually becomes invisible—and also goes crazy, setting her sights on popular girl Cordelia Chase. She later reunited with Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Grudge, appeared in the Oscar winning film Argo, starred in the second season of American Horror Story, and appeared in Lifetime's The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, The Newsroom, and Better Call Saul..

3. Eion Bailey // Season 1, Episode 6

In his first on-screen role, Eion Bailey played Kyle DuFours, a Sunnydale High student, who—along with four other students, including Xander—is possessed by the spirit of demonic hyenas. In one memorable scene of "The Pack," the group—minus Xander—kills and eats Sunnydale High Principal Bob Flutie. Bailey later appeared in six episodes of HBO’s Band of Brothers, had a 10-episode arc on ER, and starred as August Booth on the hit ABC series Once Upon a Time. And, oh yeah, he won a Daytime Emmy.

4. Jordana Spiro // Season 2, Episode 5

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In “Reptile Boy,” Jordana Spiro played Callie Anderson, a student at Kent Preparatory School, who was offered up as a sacrifice to a demon by a fraternity alongside Buffy and Cordelia. Spiro, who had just three screen credits to her name before she appeared on Buffy, went on to star in the TBS series My Boys and had an arc on CBS' The Good Wife.

5. Laura Silverman // Season 2, Episode 5

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Comedian Sarah Silverman’s sister Laura had her first on-screen role in “What’s My Line? Part 1,” playing Vampire #2 (she was uncredited). She went on to play Jan in Half-Baked and appear in the TV series Nurse Jackie and The Comeback. These days, she voices Andy, one of Jimmy Pesto’s twins, in Bob’s Burgers. (Sarah plays the other twin, Ollie.)

6. Wentworth Miller // Season 2, Episode 20

Wentworth Miller played Gage Petronzi, a member of the Sunnydale High Swim Team who becomes a Gill Monster, in the episode “Go Fish.” It was his first on-screen role. Later, he appeared in a pair of Mariah Carey music videos, starred in the TV series Prison Break and The Flash, and appeared in films, including Underworld and Resident Evil: Afterlife.

7. Shane West // Season 2, Episode 20

Shane West had a number of bit parts on other shows, including Boy Meets World and California Dreams, before he booked the role of Sean Dwyer in “Go Fish." Look for him in the scene where the swim team is in the sauna: He's the one who tells Xander that the steroids the swim team is taking—which the coach has laced with fish DNA to improve the swimmers’ performance (and is unknowingly turning them into sea monsters)—are in the steam. After Buffy, West starred in A Walk to Remember and on the TV series ER, Nikita, and Salem.

8. Pedro Pascal // Season 4, Episode 1

Before he was getting his skull crushed as Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones, Pedro Pascal was Pedro Balmaceda, and he played Eddie, a potential friend for Buffy, in “The Freshman.” In a Reddit AMA, Pascal explained that his character was “kind of [Buffy’s] first friend in college, or she finally meets a nice person that's in the same boat as her. And unfortunately I am turned into a vampire by the head campus vampire, and Buffy is forced to kill her first college friend. Or her first new college friend.” It was one of his first jobs out of college, which Pascal said “made my sister and friends very very proud.” Pascal has also appeared in The Adjustment Bureau, on The Mentalist, and this August, on Netflix's Narcos.

9. Kal Penn // Season 4, Episode 5

Harold & Kumar star Kal Penn’s third screen credit was a role as a stereotypical college guy—i.e., one who loves beer—in “Beer Bad." He played Hunt, a UC Sunnydale student who would go with his friends to a local pub to drink pitchers. One night, they entice Buffy to join them, and when they drink the Black Frost beer—which the pub's bitter owner, who is sick of being mocked by students, has put a spell on with the help of his warlock brother-in-law—they temporarily revert back to cavemen (and a kinda-cavelady, though Gellar doesn't get the full-on Neanderthal makeup), wreaking general havoc and setting the pub on fire.

Not content with having just one role in the Buffyverse, Penn also appeared on the Buffy spin-off Angel; he played “Brain Man” in “That Vision Thing,” the second episode of the third season. Penn also worked with Buffy actress Alyson Hannigan again on an episode of How I Met Your Mother. Most recently, he appeared on CBS' Battle Creek as Fontanelle White. 

10. Amy Adams // Season 5, Episode 6

Amy Adams had appeared in the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous and had a number of guest-starring roles on other TV shows when she guest-starred in the Buffy episode “Family,” but was by no means a household name. Adams played Beth, a cousin of Willow’s girlfriend (and fellow witch) Tara, who comes to Sunnydale with Tara’s father and older brother Donny. They all seem pretty OK at first, but it turns out they're not so nice at all: They're there to bring Tara home, claiming that on Tara's 20th birthday, she’ll suddenly become evil thanks to some demonic heritage. (Spoiler alert: Tara's not a demon.) Memorable Adams line: "I hope you'll all be happy hanging out with a disgusting demon!"

11. Amber Tamblyn // Season 6, Episode 6

No doubt soap fans knew who Amber Tamblyn was when she played Dawn Summers' best friend Janice in the season six episode "All the Way"—she had played Emily Bowen/Quartermaine on General Hospital for six years. But Tamblyn wouldn't become really famous until she starred in the hit adaptation of YA novel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The actress also appeared with Gellar in The Grudge 2, and had arcs on House MD and Two and a Half Men. 

12. Zach Woodlee // Season 6, Episode 7

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Post-Buffy, Woodlee made a name for himself as a choreographer on, and producer of, the Fox series Glee. But back in the day, he did some acting and dancing on camera. One of his first roles was “Demon/Henchman” in the musical episode “Once More, With Feeling.”

13. Rachel Bilson // Season 7, Episode 18

In just her second on-screen role—her first was “Gum Chewing Girl” on an episode of 8 Simple Rules—Rachel Bilson played Colleen, a potential Slayer, in the episode “Dirty Girls.” Xander has a very saucy dream featuring Colleen and Caridad, another potential Slayer. Bilson got her big break playing popular girl Summer Roberts in the Fox series The O.C. that same year.

14. Felicia Day // Season 7, Episodes 11, 12, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

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Now known for creating, writing, and starring in The Guild and playing Penny in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Felicia Day had just eight screen credits to her name when she played Vi, a potential Slayer, in eight episodes of the seventh (and final) season of Buffy.

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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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