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Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

15 Fun Facts About Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

Since its debut in the spring of 2015, Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has become a bona fide pop culture obsession. The brainchild of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, who worked together on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, the comedy series has also scored major accolades from critics, as evidenced by the 11 Emmy nominations it has (so far) received, including nods for Outstanding Comedy Series in both 2015 and 2016. Here are 15 things you might not know about the streaming series.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY TITLED TOOKEN.

Inspired by her two daughters—ages four and 10—Tina Fey originally intended for the series to be called Tooken. NBC, the original network behind the show, however, rejected the title.

2. HAD THE TITLE STUCK, THE THEME SONG WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT.

While fans of the series will undoubtedly recognize “Unbreakable! They alive, damnit! It’s a miracle!” as the catchy chorus behind Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s theme song, Tooken would have had a slightly different tune. As gathered from an October 22, 2013 draft of the Tooken pilot script, Mr. Bankston would have sung something to the auto-tuned likes of:

Them girls got tooken / I was cutting up bike tires with my grandson when outta nowhere/ forty hundred police vehicles came bookin’ / they went busting in that weird old white dude’s house / we call him “Spiral Eyes” / my wife says he’s just a nerd / I say cult! / I knew somethin’ was up ‘cuz I seen him in town at Publix buying feminine napkins. Who that for?!

3. WHEN THE TITLE CHANGED, SO DID THE SHOW’S DIRECTION.

Veering away from the darker side of Kimmy’s past, Fey and Carlock decided to focus on Kimmy moving forward with her life. “Once we agreed upon this [title], it ended up informing the episodes. They did end up leaning more towards the positive and the future as opposed to what had happened in the past,” Fey told BuzzFeed. Because of this, the darker humor was toned down, as demonstrated by the removal of a scene in the early draft in which Kimmy, after discovering a rat in the bunker, is locked inside a metal box by the Reverend.

4. THERE WAS A FIFTH MOLE WOMAN.

Another element removed from Tooken was the story of a fifth mole woman. In the early draft, an FBI agent named Clarisse finds herself as the fifth member of the bunker. She explains her capture to Matt Lauer in the beginning of the episode: While following a tip, she finds the Reverend at his farmhouse in Indiana. He, however, quickly disarms her and throws her in an old refrigerator, keeping her there until she is willing to join the others in the bunker.

5. KIMMY WAS WRITTEN WITH ELLIE KEMPER IN MIND.

"I still am not sure what in my face screams 'bunker-cult victim' to [show creators Robert Carlock and Tina Fey], but something did, so they went with that," star Ellie Kemper told NPR about the title role being written specifically for her.

6. AUDIENCES ALMOST MISSED OUT ON MEETING KIMMY ALTOGETHER.

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unbreakable kimmy schmidt
Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

Even with its new title and more positive spin, NBC feared that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt wouldn’t be a good fit with their drama-heavy TV lineup. If it failed to generate positive ratings, the network would have no choice but to cancel the show in which they had already invested 13 episodes. Because of this, in November of 2014, NBC happily agreed to sell the series to Netflix, who made a two-season commitment.

7. THE MOVE TO NETFLIX GAVE THE CREATORS MORE FREEDOM.

While the first six episodes of the series were originally edited with the thinking that they would air on NBC, the creators were allowed to reedit the episodes once Netflix purchased the series. Jokes that were deemed unfit for broadcast were allowed to be edited back in, breaks in the story for commercials were removed, and the episodes were no longer constrained to fit the network’s 22-minute time slot.

8. EVEN THOUGH TITUS ANDROMEDON WAS NAMED AFTER TITUSS BURGESS, THE ACTOR STILL HAD TO AUDITION FOR THE PART.

Impressed with his appearances on 30 Rock, Carlock and Fey found themselves developing the character of Titus for Burgess. But they weren’t sure whether Burgess had the singing prowess the character needed. “We thought, okay, he can hit one-liners, and he has presence and style, but we started to mold the character without really knowing how deep the chest was,” Carlock told Entertainment Weekly. “I mean, he had to audition for a part named after him!"

9. “PEENO NOIR” WAS A LAST-MINUTE ADDITION.

Jeff Richmond, Fey’s husband and composer/executive producer for both Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock, admitted that Titus’s tune, “Peeno Noir,” was thought up on the spot. Behind schedule on that particular day of shooting, Richmond played the ringtone beat while the writers shouted out rhymes for Burgess to perform. It wasn’t until after the footage was shot that Richmond began layering in the different elements of the song, turning it into the viral hit we know today.

And as for the beat? Richmond confessed that the beat behind “Peeno Noir” comes from the 30 Rock segment “La Piscine,” in which Denise Richards sings about her love for the pool. “We needed something,” Richmond told The Hollywood Reporter. “We were shooting in 10 minutes, so Giancarlo [Vulcano, Richmond's music associate] said, ‘What about 'La Piscine’?” and we said, ‘OK, perfect.’”

10. BURGESS NOW HAS HIS OWN BRAND OF PINOT NOIR.

Thanks to the immense popularity of “Peeno Noir,” Burgess decided to create his own brand of Pinot Noir. Pinot By Tituss was first announced via Burgess’s Instagram and became available to consumers on March 14, 2016. A 2014 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, Pinot by Tituss is described as possessing "aromas of dried fruits, slate, subtle rosemary, coriander and roses lead to flavors of plum and black cherry cola.”

11. FEY AND CARLOCK HAD ALWAYS INTENDED FOR JANE KRAKOWSKI TO PLAY JACQUELINE VOORHEES.

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unbreakable kimmy schmidt
Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

However, when it came time to film the pilot, Krakowski was unavailable as she was committed to Fox’s comedy Dead Boss. So actress Megan Dodds was cast in the role. After it was announced that Krakowski’s Dead Boss had been canceled, she was quickly brought in to replace Dodds as Jacqueline Voorhees. Trusting Fey and Carlock from their 30 Rock days together, Krakowski agreed to the part without having read the scripts.

With Dodds out, Krakowski reshot the few scenes in which Jacqueline appears in the pilot. “There were no actors there, but I read the scene with a stand-in and script supervisor,” Krakowski told The Hollywood Reporter. “They just pasted me in, and I started filming a few weeks later. I really didn't even know who I was playing. It was that quick. We filmed it properly again once I knew where everything was going.”

12. THE CREATORS FOUND EVEN GREATER FREEDOM WITH SEASON TWO.

Unlike the first season, season two’s writing began with the knowledge that all 13 episodes would stream directly on Netflix. Because of this, a whole new world opened up for the show, one full of jokes, themes, and storylines that would otherwise be unimaginable for network television. But Fey and Carlock had to fight the many temptations of this newfound freedom, and instead they focused on what had brought them success in season one. “We definitely have the freedom to kind of explore these ideas, but we also became aware just anecdotally after season one premiered that we have, in a lot of ways, a very young audience," Fey said.

13. THERE WAS A SLIGHT DELAY WITH SEASON THREE.

While a third season of Kimmy Schmidt was confirmed in early 2016, it took a little while to reach audiences. In order to debut its second season in the spring of 2016, season two filmed throughout the summer of 2015. But filming of season three had to be delayed due to a couple of timing issues—both of them happy ones: Tina Fey working on adapting Mean Girls into a musical and Ellie Kemper being pregnant with her first child; Kemper's son, James Miller Koman, was born in the summer of 2016.

14. THERE'S A CONNECTION BETWEEN KIMMY SCHMIDT AND THE AMERICANS.

In 2015, one eagle-eyed viewer noticed a strange connection between Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and The Americans: the opening credits for both series contain the same footage of a little girl hula-hooping. While The Gregory Brothers, who created the trailer for Kimmy Schmidt, denied any connection, the Internet concocted some entertaining common universe fan theories:

15. EVEN MORE KIMMY SCHMIDT IS ON THE WAY.

On June 13, 2017, just a few weeks after season three's debut, Netflix demonstrated its faith in the newest episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt by renewing the show for a fourth season.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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science
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]

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