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10 Facts About Wrigley Field

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I went to my first baseball game at Wrigley Field this weekend, and I have to say, I was pretty impressed. It's a gorgeous stadium just steeped in history. Here are 10 facts everyone ought to know about this Jewel Box park.

1. The famous ivy backdrop was planted by Bill Veeck in 1937. It was originally 350 bittersweet plants and 200 Boston ivy plants, but the Boston ivy eventually took over. If a ball gets lost in the ivy, it's considered a ground-rule double as long as the outfielder raises his hands to indicate that the ball is lost. If he doesn't, it's considered fair play. There used to be Chinese elm trees leading up to the scoreboard, but the leaves kept blowing off and the trees kept dying, so the idea was eventually given up.

2. The scoreboard has been around since 1937 too, and is still manually operated. Despite it's prominent placement, it has never been struck with a batted ball. Golfer Sam Snead teed off from home plate and hit it once, though.

3. Fans inside and outside of the park sweetly return any home run ball hit by the opposing team. They're thoughtful like that. I did see this happen "“ a ball was hit out into the street and was promptly returned to the outfield.

4. Wrigley Field used to be Weeghman Park. William Wrigley was an investor and kept increasing his shares, then eventually bought out Weeghman in 1918. He was full owner by 1921 and expanded the park in 1922.

5. Lights weren't added to Wrigley until 1988. They were scheduled to be added in the early "˜40s, but P.K. Wrigley donated the materials to the war effort instead of having them installed. The City of Chicago issued an ordinance against night games at Wrigley because the lights would be distracting to people that actually lived in the neighborhood, but the organization and the city came to an agreement in time for the '88 season.

6. The first night game was supposed to be against the Phillies but it got rained out. While waiting on the rain delay, some of the Cubs took the opportunity to act out a scene from Bull Durham and played slip-and-slide on the tarp covering the field. The players who participated were fined $500 each.

7. The Bears played at Wrigley from 1921 to 1970. They were called the Staleys for the first season but then renamed themselves to coordinate with the Cubs.

8. It's one of the only ballparks where neighborhood residents can sit on the roof and watch the game. This wasn't really a problem for the Cubs organization until the 1990s, when owners of the apartments built bleachers on their roofs and started charging people to come watch the game from their stands. The owners of the apartments agreed to share some of the proceeds with the Cubs and the Cubs agreed not to block the view with a fence.

9. Babe Ruth's famous Called Shot happened at Wrigley. During the 1932 World Series, The Babe pointed to centerfield to indicate exactly where he was going to hammer the next ball. And he did. It's much argued among baseball fans as to whether Babe Ruth actually called the shot or if he was pointing at the pitcher or if he was gesturing to the Cubs bench. Whatever he did, it happened at Wrigley.

10. Harry Caray's famous seventh-inning stretch rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" almost never happened. Radio producer and broadcaster Jay Scott approached Caray about singing the song before, but Caray declined. So, during one game, Scott turned the mikes on in the announcer's booth without telling anyone and a tradition was born.

I know I haven't hit on everything, so if you've got some stadium factoids (Cubs or not), let's hear "˜em in the comments.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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iStock
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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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