Original image

5 Famous Fights Between Teammates

Original image

Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable is in the news for allegedly slugging defensive assistant Randy Hanson in the jaw a few weeks ago. Sure, Cable's punch was probably the strongest hit any Raider will make this season, but is it really all that unusual for teammates to mix it up? Here are a few more examples of fisticuffs between teammates:

1. Michael Jordan vs. Steve Kerr

Although Jordan and Kerr were teammates on the second great Bulls championship run from 1996 to 1998, they didn't always get along. Kerr and Jordan didn't agree on the best solution to the labor woes that plagued the NBA at the time, and Kerr felt the other Bulls were too deferential to Jordan. It didn't help that the two guards often defended each other in practice. At one particularly frisky scrimmage in 1995 the two players began pushing off of each other, and eventually Kerr decided he'd had enough and came up swinging. As Kerr later put it, "I knew I had two choices. Either let it go and be obedient to Michael forever, or fight and probably get my ass kicked. I picked a real winner for my adult fighting debut."

Jordan gave Kerr a black eye in the dustup, but His Airness was quick to reconcile with the sharpshooter. By the time Kerr got home, Jordan had left an apologetic answering machine message, and the two got along swimmingly after that.

2. Nap Lajoie vs. Elmer Flick

Don't be fooled into thinking teammates putting up their dukes is a recent phenomenon. Hall of Famer Lajoie may have been one of the greatest second basemen of all time, but his longtime teammate on the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Naps, Elmer Flick, was no slouch, and made the Hall of Fame himself. Lajoie and Flick had long, productive careers playing together, but one day in May 1900 things didn't look so rosy.

When the Phillies took the field for their game on May 31, 1900, stars Lajoie and Flick were both missing from the lineup. Where were they? Apparently recovering from knocking the tar out of each other. Reports vary on what prompted the fight - some say it came when the fashionable Flick insulted the slovenly Lajoie's threads, while others claim that Flick enraged Lajoie by using the second baseman's bat "“ but it's clear that the two knocked the stuffing out of each other. Flick gave Lajoie a black eye and a cut on his face, and Lajoie allegedly socked Flick's noggin so hard that he broke a bone in his punching hand.

Although Flick allegedly threatened to leave the Phillies immediately after the fight, he and Lajoie eventually reconciled, and Lajoie served as Flick's manager with Cleveland from 1905 to 1909.

3. Ken Lucas vs. Steve Smith

carolinaPerhaps the most memorable teammate fight in recent memory came during the Carolina Panthers' 2008 training camp. Star wideout Steve Smith and cornerback Ken Lucas routinely lined up across from each other in scrimmages, and although the two men were known to talk a bit of trash across the line, things got out of hand while they were watching a special teams drill from the sidelines. The jawing turned into a fight, and the diminutive Smith broke Lucas' nose and gave him a black eye. Although Smith quickly apologized, the Panthers suspended the mercurial receiver for two games. (Maybe because this wasn't a first-time thing for Smith; he'd also punched teammate Anthony Bright during a film session in 2002.)

Lucas eventually forgave Smith completely, and when Smith scored his first touchdown of the 2008 season, he gave the ball to Lucas.

4. Kieron Dyer vs. Lee Bowyer

At least most of the other throwdowns on this list happened behind closed doors. Dyer and Bowyer, teammates on the English soccer team Newcastle United, took their disagreement to the pitch. Late in a 2005 game with Aston Villa, teammates Bowyer and Dyer started going at it in the middle of the game. Although it wasn't clear exactly what started the punch-up, the two had to be separated; even concerned Aston Villa players helped pull Bowyer and Dyer apart. Both players received red cards and suspensions, and since Bowyer threw the first punch he had to go through the British court system for disturbing public order. Have a look for yourself:

5. Scott Skiles vs. Shaquille O'Neal

magicYou've got to hand it to retired point guard Scott Skiles; he didn't back down from anyone. In 1994, he even went out of his way to irritate a teammate who was nearly a foot taller and 150 pounds heavier than he was, a young second-year center named Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq later said that Skiles annoyed him because, "He was like a little gnat. He just used to talk too much. Talk about nothing."

At a practice in Los Angeles during a road trip, Shaq eventually got so fed up with Skiles' chirping that he took a swing at the point guard. Reports vary on whether the Skiles-Shaq fisticuffs actually sprang from a fight the Big Aristotle was having with backup Larry Krystkowiak, but O'Neal and Skiles later admitted that Shaq connected with a punch at Skiles, then wrestled the smaller man to the gym floor. Once teammates pulled them apart there was no bad blood, though, and the two men now speak of each other in fairly glowing terms.
* * * * *
Obviously, these are just a few instances of pugilistic teammates. Do you have any favorites we missed? Michael Barrett vs. Carlos Zambrano, perhaps? Bill Romanowski vs. Marcus Williams?

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

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