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The First Time News Was Fit To Print, XXIV

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In case you missed our first twenty-three volumes or the greatest hits edition, let me explain. Every Monday, we head into the archives of The New York Times to find first mentions worth mentioning. If you have a suggestion for next week, leave us a comment.

"I Have A Dream" Speech

August 29, 1963

Peroration by Dr. King Sums Up a Day the Capital Will Remember
i-have-a-dream.jpg Dr. King brought them alive in the late afternoon with a peroration that was an anguished echo from all the old American reformers. Roger Williams calling for religious liberty, Sam Adams calling for political liberty, old man Thoreau denouncing coercion, William Lloyd Garrison demanding emancipation, and Eugene V. Debs crying for economic equality "“ Dr. King echoed them all.

"I have a dream," he cried again and again. And each time the dream was a promise out of our ancient articles of faith: phrases from the Constitution, lines from the great anthem of the nation, guarantees from the Bill of Rights, all ending with a vision that they might one day all come true.

Dr. King touched all the themes of the day, only better than anybody else. He was full of the symbolism of Lincoln and Gandhi, and the cadences of the Bible. He was both militant and sad, and he sent the crowd away feeling that the long journey had been worthwhile.

Michael Strahan

April 25, 1993

Giants Eye Defenders a Cut Below the Best
strahan1.jpg If the Giants still had the ninth choice in today's National Football League draft, they might have been able to take a premier defensive end like Eric Curry of Alabama or Dan Williams of Toledo or a quick outside linebacker like Wayne Simmons of Clemson. Instead, they may have to settle for linebacker Chris Slade of Virginia or defensive end Michael Strahan of Texas Southern, who are good but a cut below the best.

But the Giants gave up their first-round choice in this draft when they chose quarterback Dave Brown of Duke last July in the first round of a supplemental draft. They seem to have no regrets because they might have picked Brown anyway with the ninth pick of this draft. Besides, he now has a year of pro experience.

The Giants won't pick now until the middle of the second round, where they will have the 40th choice over all. They believe they can have a winning team this year with their present offense, but acknowledge they need help for a slow and aging defense.
* * * * *
Strahan is a hard worker but raw and not yet strong enough.

[The Giants did end up drafting Strahan in the 2nd round. It worked out.]

Keep reading for Mitt Romney, Exxon, Game Boy, Mount Rushmore and Bobby Fischer.

Mitt Romney

February 28, 1960

A Maverick Starts a New 'Crusade': George Romney feels that he has pat across the compact car. Now he is turning his missionary fervor to a campaign to reshape American political institutions
mitt-and-george.jpg The man who made the compact car big competition for Detroit's land yachts is crusading against bigness on an even bigger scale these days. George Romney, the almost terrifyingly earnest head of the American Motors Corporation, has moved from his conquest of the gas-guzzling dinosaur into a battle to break up the concentration of economic power embodied in giant companies and giant unions.
* * * * *
He speaks with equal disrespect of the ranking politicians of both major parties when it comes to their readiness to face up to what he considers the make-or-break issues in America's survival.
* * * * *
George Romney considers talking his wife out of a movie career his greatest sales achievement. They are shown* with their children, Mitt, Jane and Scott.

[Well, not here. This picture is from two years later, when George announced he was running for President. To see the picture referenced here, you'll have to check out the original article.]

Mount Rushmore

July 10, 1927

Making a Monument out of a Black Hills Mountain
rushmore-lincoln.jpg Out of the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota within the next five years will appear in heroic proportions the features of four of our illustrious Presidents "“ Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. This memorial will be to the founding, extending and preserving the Union and to the completion of the dream of Columbus by the cutting of the Panama Canal, and the four Presidents represent these epochs in our history. The work is authorized by an act of Congress and is being planned by the State of South Dakota. Actual carvings of the figures will begin this Summer.

Exxon

September 21, 1971

McCann to Promote Humble's Exxon Gas in 6 Cities
exxon1972.jpgMcCann-Erickson will soon be promoting Exxon gasoline in six cities. Exxon? Exxon?

Exxon is a new brand name that will be tested by the Humble Oil and Refining Company to find out how it is accepted by consumers.

This is an important move for Humble, the major domestic arm of Standard Oil (New Jersey), because it has long been legally prevented from using Esso, its best known brand name, in 29 of the 47 states it markets in. So it uses Humble in one state and Enco in 28.

Game Boy

June 5, 1989

Now, Video Game Players Can Take Show on the Road
gameboy.jpg The two products introduced over the weekend are Nintendos's Game Boy and Atari's Portable Entertainment System.

In both name and appearance, Nintendo's Game Boy resembles a Walkman (a pure coincidence, Nintendo says). The small, paperback book-size unit has a 2 1/2-inch diagonal screen, and headphones for stereo sound. Credit card-size cartridges slip in the back, allowing the unit to play potentially limitless numbers and types of games. It will sell for $89.95, including one game cartridge. Additional cartridges will cost about $20.
* * * * *
For the first time, Nintendo finds itself somewhat on the defensive as a competitor brings a product that is admittedly in many ways technologically superior to the Game Boy.

"It's like using the Ferrari to get to the corner grocery store," says Bill White, Nintendo's director of advertising, of the Atari product. "We think it's really a bit more than players want and need."

Bobby Fischer

October 3, 1955

Eastman Wins at Washington Square "“ Boy, 12, Near Top
bobbyfischer.jpgCharles Eastman won first prize of a $100 savings bond yesterday afternoon in the final chess tournament of the season at Washington Square Park. But he had to share the limelight with 12-year-old Bobby Fischer, who had weathered the month-long contest and thirty-two eliminations before being beaten.
* * * * *
But many in the crowd of 400 onlookers seemed to think the best show was given by Bobby Fischer. Despite competition from his more mature and experienced adversaries, he was unbeaten until yesterday, when he came within fifteen players of the championship. He lives at 560 Lincoln Place, Brooklyn.

Our Archives

"¢ Volume I: Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, iPod
"¢ Volume II: Hillary Clinton, Starbucks, Donald Trump
"¢ Volume III: JFK, Microwave Oven, the Internet
"¢ Volume IV: Larry David, Drudge Report, Digital Camera
"¢ Volume V: Walkman, Osama bin Laden, Iowa Caucuses
"¢ Volume VI: Times Square, Marijuana, Googling
"¢ Volume VII: Lance Armstrong, Aerosmith, Gatorade
"¢ Volume VIII: Bob Dylan, New York Jets, War on Terror
"¢ Volume IX: Hedge Fund, White Collar Crime, John Updike
"¢ Volume X: E-mail, Bruce Springsteen, George Steinbrenner
"¢ Volume XI: RFK, the Olsen Twins, Digg
"¢ Volume XII: Jerry Seinfeld, Lee Harvey Oswald, Don Mattingly
"¢ Volume XIII: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Taxicab, Hippies
"¢ Volume XIV: Digital Watch, Prozac, David Hasselhoff
"¢ Volume XV: George Clooney, Golden Gate Bridge, Toyota Prius
"¢ Volume XVI: Woody Allen, The Titanic, The Beastie Boys
"¢ Volume XVII: New York Edition
"¢ Volume XVIII: Sports Edition
"¢ Volume XIX: TV Edition
"¢ Volume XX: Wrestlemania, Phil Knight, My Two Dads
"¢ Volume XXI: Books on Tape, Condoleezza Rice, Tina Fey
"¢ End of 2007: Greatest Hits
"¢ Volume XXII: John McCain, American Gladiators, Dianetics
"¢ Volume XXIII: Barbara Bush, Sports Illustrated, The Daily Show
"¢ November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

T.jpgWant to play along at home? Get complete access to the The New York Times archives by becoming an NYT subscriber.

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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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Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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iStock

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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