CLOSE
Original image
Nickelodeon Animation Studio

12 Serious Facts About Doug

Original image
Nickelodeon Animation Studio

Almost any kid who grew up in the 1990s remembers flying with Quailman, wooing Patti Mayonnaise, and hiding from bully Roger Klotz. Here are 12 things you might not know about Jim Jinkins' hit animated series Doug. 

1. It was one of Nickelodeon’s first cartoons.

Doug premiered in 1991 as part of Nickelodeon’s gamble on three new cartoons: Doug, The Ren & Stimpy Show, and Rugrats. Until then, the kid-centered cable network—which had been broadcasting for 12 years—did not feature any cartoons. 

2. Creator Jim Jinkins fell in love with drawing as a child.

Getty

Doug creator Jim Jinkins was always a doodler. "As a little kid having to sit quietly in church, you pray there’s a little blank spot on the bulletin to draw on," he recalled. "So, drawing Doug was just something that came naturally. The idea of him expressing my twisted points of view and all that, that just sort of gathered momentum when it got started."

3. DOUG WAS ALMOST CALLED BRIAN.

Originally, Doug going to be called Brian, but Jinkins felt that name was “too fancy.” “I geared it down and started calling him Doug,” he said in a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post. “If you think about what that sounds like, it sounds incredibly average, and that’s what I was trying to do: express from that point of view.” 

4. THE SERIES WAS NOT DOUG'S TV DEBUT.

Before his hit TV show, Doug was featured a 1989 Florida Grapefruit commercial. The ad features Doug bouncing around on a pogo stick, with a glass of grapefruit juice in hand, to show how the drink will put a spring in your step. 

5. AN UNPUBLISHED BOOK IS WHAT GOT DOUG HIS OWN SERIES.

Jinkins visited several publishing houses with his book, Doug Got a New Pair of Shoes, but was never able to nail down a deal. The unpublished book was what he later used to pitch the series to Nickelodeon executives. 

6. NICKELODEON WAS PRETTY EXCITED ABOUT THE IDEA.

In his first meeting with Nickelodeon, Jinkins recalled to The Huffington Post, Nickelodeon executive Vanessa Coffey "looked at the cover of the book and, in the middle of me describing it, just ran out of the room ... which is, you know, disturbing." Coffey wasn’t running from the idea; she just couldn’t wait to tell her boss that they needed to take the idea to pilot.

7. SKEETER'S RACE HAS ALWAYS BEEN UP TO THE VIEWER.

Nickelodeon Animation Studio

The ethnicity of Doug's best friend, Skeeter, has been a widely debated topic since Doug first premiered. In an interview, Jinkins said he chose nontraditional colors for his characters after the realization that, as the creator of Bluffington, he could make the characters whatever colors he wanted. Jinkins embraces the discussions of race in Doug’s world and wants the audience to make the characters their own.

8. THE SHOW'S MAIN MESSAGE WAS HONESTY.

Jinkins wanted the importance of always telling the truth to be the biggest lesson kids learned from the series.

9. The unusual music, including the theme song, was almost all voice effects.

Voice actor Fred Newman is the one responsible for the scatting featured in the show’s theme song and during the scene transitions. Newman also gave viewers Skeeter’s honks and Mr. Dink’s sputters.

10. Doug only aged when the show moved to Disney.

In 1994, the show transferred from Nickelodeon to Disney. Not only was Disney Doug slightly slimmer than Nick Doug, but his age was changed from 11-and-a-half to 12-and-a-half. 

11. The Beets had some pretty familiar-looking members.

Nickelodeon Animation Studio

Two of the members of Doug and Skeeter’s favorite band, while animated, bear striking resemblances to Ringo Starr and Robert Plant. The group’s seemingly endless “reunion” tours are a nod to The Who.  

12. Jinkins reconnected with the real Patti, Skeeter, and Roger through the series.

The three characters are based on Jinkins' real-life crush, best friend, and bully—respectively—during middle and high school. Though he had lost touch with all of them, Jinkins eventually reached out to all three and even sent a card to the girl who inspired Patti, telling her to pay close attention to the character.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
quiz
arrow
Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
Original image
SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES