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The Quick 10: 10 Facts About Yankee Stadium

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I was in New York this weekend to visit my brother-in-law, check out a Yankees game and drop in on Mangesh and Jason at the Brooklyn HQ. I feel like I'm being rude if I dedicate a post to Wrigley and not Yankee Stadium, so I thought I'd give you a little Yankee Stadium history today.

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1. Obviously Yankee Stadium is the House that Ruth Built, but it's also the House that Edison built. Thomas Edison started a cement company in 1899, and the extra-durable cement he developed was used for the original walls.

2. The Stadium was almost built at the site of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum at Amsterdam Avenue between 136th and 138th Streets in Manhattan. Today, that spot is known as the Jacob H. Schiff Playground.

smith3. New York Governor and soon-to-be Presidential nominee Alfred Smith threw out the first pitch in the new stadium (now old??) in the Bronx.

4. Old Yankee Stadium was the first three-tiered sports facility in the States.

The electronic scoreboard was the first of its kind, too, as was the instant replay display installed after renovations later in the century.

yankee sign5. Since a lot of the original Yankee Stadium was demolished for renovations in the early "˜70s, some people don't even consider them to be the same stadium. It's sometimes called "Yankee Stadium II".

6. "New York, New York" is played over the stadium loudspeakers at the end of every game. The tradition used to be that the Frank Sinatra version was played if they won and the Liza Minnelli version was played if they lost, but Liza became a little miffed. In 2001, she told them to play her version after a win, or not play it at all. The Yankees opted to play the Sinatra version after every game, regardless of the outcome.

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7. About halfway through every game, the grounds crew performs the YMCA. This used to result in some of the bleacher section harassing a fan of the opposing team with the song, except with the words changed to "Why are you gay?" The practice was put to a stop in 2006 when the NYPD started ousting anyone who sang the bleacher version.

8. Like a lot of teams, the Yankees have a superfan that serves as an unofficial mascot. At Yankee Stadium, it's Freddy Schuman. He is in his 80s and is missing an eye as a result of a stickball game in the 1930s. He comes to games with a frying pan to bang on and carries signs that usually start with "Freddy sez". Examples include, "Scream, whistle, keep up noise! It helps Yanks!" and "Fans, We Got to Help Yankees Out Of Slumps". The word is that you can generally find him outside of the stadium before games, but we didn't make it there that early.

9. Monument Park used to actually be in the middle of left field. Before the 1970s remodel, the monuments were even in play. The monuments are a good 460 feet from home plate, so it wasn't every day that a ball would get lost out there "“ but it did happen on occasion. A-Rod and Thurman Munson are among those in the "new" ("old") park to smash a ball all the way out to Monument Park. Monument Park will be relocated to the new stadium.

10. The Batter's Eye at Yankee Stadium is just a section of bleachers (well, they used to be bleachers) painted black. At the new stadium it's going to be a restaurant covered in black glass.

I'm glad we experienced the Stadium before it's lost to history, but I have to say"¦ I prefer Wrigley. OK, Yanks fans, I know I'm going to get battered for that one. Go ahead. Leave me a comment. But don't be too mean!

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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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