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The First Time News Was Fit To Print: Volume XXX

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Every Monday, we venture into the archives of The New York Times to find the first time the paper covered various topics. If you have a suggestion for next week, leave us a comment.

National Review

October 14, 1955

national-review.jpgBuckley Starting Weekly Review
A November 5 start for a new conservative weekly journal of opinion, The National Review, was announced yesterday.

William F. Buckley Jr., editor and publisher, said that $290,000 capital had been raised from 125 investors and that $160,000 had been lined up in circulation and advertising.
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Among regular features, he said, would be "a weekly survey of relevant misinformation and outright falsehoods published by the nation's most influential reporters and commentators." This will be conducted by Ralph de Toledano, author of Seeds of Treason.

Wayne Gretzky

July 6, 1978

Hockey Star, 17, Is Always Ahead of Himself
gretzky.jpgWith mock fear he asked if it was safe to walk the streets of New York. The joke was that Wayne Gretzky, now 17 years old, has been thwarting assaults since he began outclassing the big boys as a 5-year-old all-star player on a hockey team for 11-year-olds.

Now the slight center is skipping three years of junior hockey to join the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association with a seven-year contract worth $1.75 million.

"All the way up everybody said I'd get killed," Gretzky said yesterday of his accelerated ascent through the Canadian amateur system. "Now they say I'm gonna get killed next year in the pros. But I find as I go higher in the leagues, it's tougher but less dirty. There's more respect for each other."
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Gretzky proudly announced he had just received his driver's license two weeks ago. His face fell flat when he was reminded he would have to apply for a United States license. "I get nervous at driving tests," he said.

Keep reading for Harry Truman, wireless internet and greenwashing.

Wireless Internet

April 3, 1996

At Stanford, a Class-Lab Friendly to Computers
stanford-mascot.jpg With a grant of $165,000 from the Charles E. Culpepper Foundation and $300,000 from Stanford, [head of the Curriculum Development Lab] Charles Kearns set out to build a classroom where computers would be a tool, not a dominating fixture. The cost, about $400,000, would be prohibitive for the typical public school, but Stanford experts say the design will help future architects plan schools.Last year the first prototype classroom opened in a basement with laptop computers and wireless Internet connections -- although the wireless system proved too slow and no one liked the basement. This winter, the current version of the classroom opened in its sunny new location.
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[Professor of French] John Barson said the room was especially good for teaching foreign languages because of its audio-video capabilities. His French students have created language games, Web pages and signed onto the Internet to chat with students in France.

And, he said, he has not caught any students playing video games when they are supposed to be translating or noticed any of his prone students nodding off on a bean bag.

Greenwash

April 19, 1990

Some Smog in Pledges to Help Environment
recycle.gif On the bottom of the paperboard container that McDonald's uses for its hash-brown potatoes is the three-arrow symbol that generally denotes a product made of recycled material, and the words "Recyclable Paper." But McDonald's officials concede that the package is not made of recycled paper, is not being recycled and may not even be capable of being recycled because of a promotional label glued to the back.

"It's a little embarrassing," said Shelby Yastrow, McDonald's senior vice president for environmental affairs. "We're going to take the recycling logo off everything except what we are actually recycling."
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Many other packaged-products companies are doing things like putting the three-arrows symbol on products and labeling them ''recyclable.'' But environmentalists point out that virtually everything is recyclable with enough time and effort. They say adding labels like "recyclable" and "degradable" is a cheap way of looking green without getting involved in the hard work of reducing solid waste.
* * * * *
The conflict between image building and actual practice was highlighted at a recent exhibit in Washington called "Earth Tech." At the exhibit, companies like Du Pont and USX emphasized efforts like the use of bacteria to clean up contaminated waste sites and materials conservation through recycling.
But some environmentalists said the exhibit was an attempt to divert attention from the pollutants these big industrial companies emit in the course of their operations each year. Peter Bahouth, director of Greenpeace U.S.A., denounced it as "a slick opportunity for some companies to greenwash their dirt."

Greenwashing

May 20, 2001

Uneasy Being Green: Tourism Runs Wild
Major hotel chains, cruise ships and megaresorts have been underscoring their earth-friendly practices of late. Some of these enterprises do a commendable job of protecting the local environment, said Martha Honey, author of Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise? But others are engaged in "greenwashing," promoting themselves as earth-friendly simply because they have small showerheads or do not wash guest towels every day.

Harry Truman

May 20, 1934

harry-truman.jpgMissouri Political Leaders Have Already Selected Their Candidates [For Senate]
Tom J. Pendergast, head of the Kansas City machine, then turned to Harry S. Truman, presiding judge of the Jackson County Court. Truman accepted and the gage of battle was thrown down.

But within the past few days there has been a growing sentiment in favor of John J. Cochran, Representative from St. Louis. [Jacob L. "Tuck"] Milligan's candidacy did not strike much fire. Truman is little known and his only strength is that given him by Pendergast in Kansas City.

Our Archives

"¢ Volume I: Barack Obama, Microsoft, 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
"¢ Volume XXIV: "I Have A Dream" speech, Mitt Romney, Game Boy
"¢ Volume XXV: Randy Moss, Regis Philbin, Valentine's Day
"¢ Volume XXVI: Yoko Ono, Universal Health Care, Tom Coughlin
"¢ Volume XXVII: The U.S. Presidential Candidates
"¢ Volume XXVIII: Superdelegates, HD DVD, Spud Webb
"¢ Volume XXIX: Academy Awards Edition
"¢ November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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Sponsor Content: BarkBox
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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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