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The Quick 10: Dodger Stadium

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I've recently decided that I need to see a game at every baseball stadium in the MLB. So far I've been to Yankee Stadium (the old one), the Metrodome, Wrigley, Citizens Bank Park, Miller Park and as of last week, Dodger Stadium. Wrigley's my favorite and I don't think any park is probably going to top it, but Dodgertown definitely has a gorgeous backdrop. Read on for 10 other facts about Dodger Stadium, and let me know in the comments what your favorite ballpark is. Who knows which one I might hit up next! As of right now it's U.S. Cellular Field (the White Sox) in August, but I tend to pick up and go on random long weekends, so your comment could influence me.

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1. Since the demolition of Yankee and Shea Stadiums, Dodger Stadium is now the third oldest ballpark, ranking well behind Wrigley (1916) and Fenway (1912).

2. Dodger Stadium sits in Chavez Ravine, but it didn't get there without a fight. Although the residents of Chavez Ravine were compensated for the values of their land and their homes, some of them were not willing to leave. Things got so bad that the sheriff's department had to go in with a bulldozer and armed guards. The last hold out finally sold for $10,500 (it was the "˜50s) and construction on Dodger Stadium began. The actual ravine was filled in with dirt to create level ground for the stadium and parking lots.

3. Dodger Stadium and the area surrounding it (Dodgertown) will soon be getting its own zip code "“ the L.A. City Council unanimously voted to give it one last year.

4. Dodger Stadium is the only stadium in the whole National League with a symmetrical outfield. And it's one of just four in the MLB. The measurements: left field and right field are 330 feet, medium left-center and medium right-center are 360 feet, true left-center and true right-center are 375 feet, and center field is 400 feet. The 400 feet isn't marked, though "“ you'll just see "395" signs on either side of the dead center mark.

hills5. Hits that might have been home runs during the day don't quite make it all the way in the evenings. Because of the nearby ocean, the air cools really fast at night which results in very dense air. So instead of cutting through the air and flying right out of the park like they might have in the daytime, balls that look like they should have been outta there often die short of the mark in the evenings.
6. Pope John Paul II held mass at Dodger Stadium in 1987.

sign7. A rainout at Dodger Stadium? Don't count on it. Prior to 1976, the only rainout the Dodgers ever had was on April 21, 1967 against the Cardinals. The second time they were rained out, on April 12, 1976, ended a 724-game streak of no rain. And the amazing streak was topped in the late 80s and most of the 90s "“ from April 21, 1988, to April 11, 1999, no home game at Dodger Stadium was rained out. At 856 consecutive games, that's a major league record that still stands today.
8. Since it's L.A., you might surmise that the stadium has showed up in a movie or two, and you would be correct. If you've seen the Star Trek that just came out, look closely at the ice planet of Delta Vega "“ it's a Dodgertown parking lot. In The Fast and the Furious, Paul Walker has a scene where he works on his racing techniques. It was filmed at the stadium. The stadium was the victim of a bit of destruction in Transformers when an Autobot's protoform smashes through the upper deck, and apparently there was also a scene from the second Fantastic Four movie shot at Dodger Stadium (haven't seen that one so I can't vouch for it "“ anyone know?).

9. You probably already know that the numbers belonging to Jackie Robinson, Tommy Lasorda, Pee Wee Reese and Sandy Koufax are retired from the Dodgers (and Jackie's is retired from the whole league). But the other retired numbers are those of Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, Duke Snider, Walter Alston, Roy Campanella and Jim Gilliam. The numbers can be found mounted under the roofs behind the outfield fence.

blu10. The Dodgers have very loyal fans and were the first team to get more than three million fans to games in the span of a single season. In fact, they did this six times before any other team did it once. OK, maybe that has something to do with the fact that the stadium can hold between 56,000 and 85,000 people in one game, but I'm sure fans prefer to think it's because they are so dedicated to the team.

And a bonus fact for you: Dodger Stadium sells the most hot dogs of all MLB parks. As of 2005, they were selling 1,674,400 Dodger dogs every year, topping the runner up, Coors Field (home of the Rockies), by more than a hundred thousand franks. My opinion: Dodger Dogs are no different than any other hot dog. I was more impressed with the garlic fries. Also, I'm pretty sure this is the saddest picture of a hot dog I have ever seen.

Hope you all enjoyed L.A. week at the Quick 10 as much as I enjoyed my trip! We'll be back to our regularly scheduled Q10 (i.e.: totally random) next week. If you have any suggestions, feel free to send me a Tweet or leave a comment.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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