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7 Retail Weddings

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The most traditional places to get married are a religious facility, the government office that issues marriage licenses, a resort, or a home. I've been married in each. Then there are those few people who hold their wedding ceremony at a retail outlet, while business as usual goes on around them. Some do it for sentimental reasons, some do it to save money, some do it for the publicity, and some just because they got a kick out of it.

1. The Apple Store

Ya Ting Li and Joshua Li met at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Both Apple fans, they decided that's where they wanted to get married. Officiant Henry Hu shopped for a black turtleneck to wear to the wedding. Just after midnight on Valentines Day, 2010 about thirty friends witnessed the ceremony at the always-open Apple store. A quote from Apple founder Steve Jobs was included in the vows.

"You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down."

Apple did not authorize the wedding, but allowed it to proceed.

2. Waffle House


George "Bubba" Mathis and Pamela Christian got married at the Dacula, Georgia Waffle House on Independence Day, 2008. After nine years together, they gave up on getting a day off together to tie the knot and just did it at their workplace. They had been determined to get married on July 4th (which was their "anniversary," although they didn't say what milestone they wanted to celebrate). For several years, the bride had to work on the holiday. The bride actually got the day off at the last minute, but Bubba had to work. They were married in the parking lot of the diner. See more pictures in this gallery.

3. White Castle


Jeff and Terry Parks of Indianapolis got married just last week at a local White Castle outlet. They won the wedding, catered of course, from radio station X103. The vows were as unconventional as the setting.

"Dearly beloved we are gathered here today in the presence of the assistant manager and head cook in the hallowed  and aroma filled halls of the Shelby Street White Castle. With this ring do you promise to allow Terri to keep you under her thumb and furthermore vow that  together and forever you will rock and roll all night and party all day?"

This was not the first White Castle wedding. Kurby and Krystal McDonald were married in the London, Kentucky franchise in 2009, and Cyndie Nunamaker and Brian Wilson (and two other couples) were married at a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant in 2008.

4. Taco Bell


Paul and Caragh Brooks spent a total of about $200 on their wedding, in front of family and friends at a Taco Bell restaurant in Normal, Illinois. It was where they enjoyed hanging out, and since they were trying to save money on the ceremony, an unconventional location made it all the more memorable. She was in Australia and he was in Illinois when they met over the internet a year earlier.

5. KFC


Alex Bury and and Jack Norris performed their nuptials at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Toronto, despite the facts that they are both vegans! The 2008 wedding was a political statement, as they were celebrating KFC Canada's agreement to implement more humane methods of chicken farming. The groom is an employee of PETA. The wedding party was served the recently-introduced KFC vegan sandwich.

6. Walmart


Crystal Newsome and Robert Vickrey exchanged vows at the Walmart store in York, Nebraska, last fall. It only made sense, as Vickrey is the grocery manager and has been a Walmart employee for twelve years. Newsome has five years of Walmart experience under her belt, and is the deli manager. The ceremony took place in the lawn and garden department. Walmart weddings have also occurred in West Sacramento, California, Palm Harbor, Florida, Epping, New Hampshire, and other Walmarts.

7. McDonalds


Trisha Lynn Esteppe and Tyree Henderson of Fairborn, Ohio, considered McDonalds a romantic place to get married. So they did, in 2006. Both Esteppe and Henderson worked at the fast food restaurant where they met three years earlier. Patrons continued to order food during the ceremony. McDonalds weddings have also occurred in Long Island, New York, and Scottsdale, Arizona.

See also: Your Wedding: Star Trek or Star Wars? and 8 Very Different Weddings to Remember


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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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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]