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7 Ridiculous Products Licensed by Major League Baseball

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Last weekend the New York Times ran a really interesting article about Yankees Sod, a new product that's pretty much just what it sounds like: grass that's been licensed by the Bronx Bombers for sale to fans. The turf actually has a legitimate claim to being just like what's growing in the new Yankee Stadium; it comes from the same 80-acre plot as the grass that was recently installed in the House that Jeter Built. Now if you go to a New York-area Home Depot, you can pick up swatches of the very grass for around $7.50 for a five-square-foot patch.

To most casual fans, this idea seems patently absurd. By the strange logic of Major League Baseball product licensing, though, there's nothing odd about it. In fact, it might not even be the most ludicrous or unnecessary thing an MLB team has licensed. Here are a few other currently available products that at least give Yankees Sod a run for its money in the ridiculousness department.

1. Wincraft Chicago Cubs 5 Quart Galvanized Pail

At some point in his career, every dairy owner runs into the same problem: his cows just don't know what MLB team to cheer for. This galvanized milk bucket quickly answers the question for any confused bovines. Well worth the $15.99 asking price.

Still not convinced? Check out this sales pitch from "They have a waterproof sealed bottom and are great for holding ice, water, dirt, or anything else you would like to carry or hold in these great decorative pail." I'm willing to overlook the singular/plural confusion here, but really, MLB? That's your selling point for a bucket? That it won't leak and you can put stuff in it? Why not just cut to the chase? "This is a bucket. It's just like every other bucket you've ever seen, but with a Cubs logo on the side and more expensive."

2. Fleer New York Mets B2 Stealth Bomber


You want your kid to play with sports toys, but he loves military ones. What to do? In years past, you probably would have had to send him to live with his grandparents, but now there's room for a compromise! For just $25, you can purchase a die-cast stealth bomber replica covered with Mets logos. There's apparently no underlying logic that ties the team and the plane together, so this novelty is just a sublime bit of licensing absurdity. Really, if Mets fans want to talk about something quiet, fast, and awesomely destructive, they can just recall the team's 2008 bullpen.

3. Baltimore Orioles Father's Day Mr. Potato Head


Father's Day gifts are tough. Most dads are difficult to shop for, and once you buy the gift, you always worry you've picked out the wrong thing. Remove all of that uncertainty by buying Dad something he definitely won't like. Say, a Mr. Potato Head decked out in Baltimore Orioles gear.

Plunk down $25 and you can get not only your favorite baseball-playing tuber, but also a set of Topps baseball cards of the 2008 Orioles team. This way, your dad will never forget that magical 68-93 season.

4. Caskets and Crematory Urns

pirates-casket.jpgHas a lifetime of being a Pirates fan not been quite enough for you? Now you can take your frustration into the afterlife with a series of MLB-licensed funerary products from Eternal Image, Inc. Since early 2007, the company has been selling MLB-themed urns, and towards the end of 2008, it introduced its first run of MLB caskets. They sold out within a week. The urns, which have an MSRP of $799, come with a baseball as part of the display, although the product's website notes that the family can replace the ball with one from their collection. Just don't take the ball down and play with it; that's a one-way ticket to a haunting.

5. Garden Gnomes

Wish your garden could show a little more team spirit? Forever Collectibles makes a line of lawn gnomes whose hats feature MLB logos. At this point, fans of certain downtrodden teams will take any luck they can get, so enlisting magical creatures like gnomes might not be a bad idea. (Note to Padres fans: No, you don't already have a gnome. That's David Eckstein, and he's playing second base for the team this season.)

6. ProMark Arizona Diamondbacks Level and Hammer


When Brandon Webb does home improvement projects, do you think he uses just any old tools? Of course not. If he's got any team loyalty, he picks up his special 10-inch Diamondbacks level and matching hammer before he even starts working. For around $40, you can outfit your own toolbox with the same gear. The grips even look like baseballs. And if that's not enough, the hammer description offers more poetry from "The comfortable molded rubber grip is designed to fit the sport." What sport, baseball or competitive hammering?

7. Team Sports America Cleveland Indians Forest Face

You know what's terrible? Forests. You can blab all you want about the natural beauty of trees and how nothing could possibly improve on their magnificence, but we all know that's bunk. Every tree would be significantly improved if it had a human face and a Cleveland Indians cap on its trunk. Then it would look like people!


Consider this problem solved. will sell you a "forest face" that will allow you to put a mouth, a nose, a pair of eyes, and a team cap on a tree's trunk. does not, however, explain to you why you want to enter into this endeavor in the first place.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]