CLOSE
Original image

Woody's Winners, NFL Week 1

Original image

NFL WEEK ONE: The fact that my first pick is the Rams should make it clear that this isn’t your typical stack of NFL predictions. In honor of the most entertaining football prognosticator of my youth, Leonard Postero, I employ some of the good-old-boy themes from his classic Leonard’s Losers radio show as a springboard for my own column in what we’ll call Woody’s Winners. Enjoy!

+++

Arizona @ St. Louis

It’s always fun when team-stealers (Arizona, which lured the Cardinals from St. Louis) come back to the scene of the crime to play their replacements. Former Rams QB hero Kurt Warner brought Super Bowl championship hopes to our 48th state, but he retired in January. This gave pretty-boy Matt Leinart time to shine, but Paris Hilton’s ex failed to impress and was released. Now at the helm of the Redbirds is ex-Brown Derek Anderson, who’ll face rookie Sam Bradford and the hapless Rams. The Cards have lost a few pieces, and they’ll be surprised in Week 1.

Woody’s Winner: St. Louis.

FACT: The NFL went to a 16-game schedule for 1978. Since then, the Cardinals franchise never won double-digit games until last season, when the team finished 10-6.

Click "more" to see my picks for the other 15 NFL games in Week 1.

+++

Atlanta @ Pittsburgh

The Atlanta Falcons have the offensive tools to compete with any team in the NFL, but their pass defense has been as spotty as a Dalmatian. Luckily, they head into Week 1 against a Roethlisbergerless roster of Steelers. The ‘Burgh knew they’d be without suspended-Ben’s services, but hung their hopes on now-injured Byron Leftwich. The Steelers won’t have enough smelt in their tanks to knock the Birds of Prey off their perch… even at home. Black-and-gold fans, wave your “terrible towels” and try to ward off the smell that may begin your team's 2010 season.

Woody’s Winner: Atlanta.

FACT: The Falcons have never won in Pittsburgh. The last time they visited Heinz Field in 2002, they played the Steelers to a 34-34 draw.

+++

Baltimore @ NY Jets

A Ravens-Jets game in Week 1 means smash-mouth football, so don’t be surprised to see a player or two carted off the field while both teams get to full speed to begin the season. The Jumbos have depth that the Corvus corax lack, however, which means that the Rex Ryan Express will drop its payload all over the team from Baltimore. This coming Monday Night, the New Meadowlands will be filled with passed-out Poe-birds by the time the final whistle blows.

Woody’s Winner: New York.

FACT: Last season, the Jets rushed the ball 607 times, an incredible 82 times more than the next-closest team (the Panthers).

+++

Miami @ Buffalo

Miami’s always been a Jekyll-or-Hyde team, and it’s tough to say whether the Mister or the Doctor will be “in” when the Bills come due in Week 1. Buffalo should be a better team now that they’re not struggling to justify signing Terrell Owens, but the nickelbacks won’t ride the marine-mammals while summer’s still in season. At least a few diehard Bison fans will get to visit the Southern Florida warmth before colder weather arrives.

Woody’s Winner: Miami.

FACT: The Bills beat the Dolphins in their last matchup of the 1960s and their first matchup of the 1980s, but Miami was a perfect 20-0 against Buffalo in the decade of the 1970s.

+++

Carolina @ NY Giants

The Panthers have an NHL twin (in Florida) and the Giants an MLB one (in San Francisco). We’d take the cats in that matchup, since 6 with hockey sticks beat 11 with gloves every time. But on Sunday, we’ll go Gotham, knowing that the “other” Manning is eager to rebound from last year’s lost season. Sweet Carolina has a top-tier rushing attack, but they won’t best the Big Guys at home in Week 1.

Woody’s Winner: New York.

FACT: The Giants and Jets share a stadium, so they rarely play home games in the same week, but the Giants play Sunday afternoon—and the Jets Monday night—to allow both teams to christen the New Meadowlands.

+++

Detroit @ Chicago

These Great Lakes cities have a rivalry of historic importance. Okay, what that really means is that it’s been many years since their match-ups have mattered very much. The Bears have found occasional success in our lifetimes, however, which is more than can be said for the Lions. Detroit’s offense may perform well this season, but their defense tackles like day-old kittens. And until Motown shows some teeth, picking them to win is about as smart as poking at an angry Grizzly with a toothbrush.

Woody’s Winner: Duh. I mean, Chicago

FACT: The lion logo on Detroit’s helmets was updated last season to give him a more “menacing” look. Good for him. And did you know he has a name? Bubbles. Yes, really.

+++

Cincinnati @ New England

In Week 1, we get to find out if Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco can truly fit on the field at the same time. While the Patriots will be ready for the Bengals’ pass bombs, Cincinnati won’t be able to stop New England’s more balanced attack. By the time the Tigers find out if it’s more than a hunch, the Tom Brady bunch will be well on their way to the Week 1 “win” column.

Woody’s Winner: New England

FACT: Despite being members of the AFL and then the AFC, the Bengals and Patriots have never faced one another in a postseason game.

+++

Cleveland @ Tampa Bay

It’s difficult to come up with a less-exciting matchup than mixing Browns with Bucs, but such games often turn out exciting to watch. At least Cleveland seems to be going in the right direction; Tampa Bay might as well switch back to their orange Bucco Bruce logo if they’re going to party like it’s 1976. The Dawg Pound would have more to root for if the Brownie’s weren’t mired in the tough AFC North, but Northeast Ohio will still party down on Dollar Corn Night.

Woody’s Winner: Cleveland

FACT: This game is one of only two inter-conference match-ups in Week 1 (the other is Atlanta @ Pittsburgh).

+++

Dallas @ Washington

Last year, Dallas’ new giant overhanging video screen doubled as a punting target. For 2010, the Redskins installed new end-zone screens at FedEx Field, and proclaimed them “punter-proof” in an obvious jab to the Cowboys. Washington should find out quickly if they’re really immune to punts, since they’ll be turning the ball over to Big D all night long. New Capital City QB Donovan McNabb will quickly learn to miss the prowess of the Philly team that once surrounded him, and D.C. will need some Romo-Seltzer before the Sunday-night game ends.

Woody’s Winner: Dallas

FACT: Weekly Sunday-night games were introduced on ESPN in 1987, and moved to NBC in 2006 when ESPN took over Monday Night Football.

+++

Denver @ Jacksonville

A Jaguar will beat a Bronco on the open road, but in the four-wheel-drive land of professional football, it’s nice to have ground clearance. Denver is still finding itself under QB Kyle Orton, and injuries to most of the running backs on their roster will reduce their ability to mix things up. Some fans feel that Tim Tebow could be the next John Elway, but that’s just the mile-high air making them lightheaded. Still, they’re playing in a city that has made it clear they’re bored with their NFL team, so enjoy the Jags before they head to Los Angeles.

Woody’s Winner: Denver

FACT: Forbes magazine recently labeled the Jags the least-valuable franchise in the NFL, worth $725 million when the league average is in excess of $1 billion.

+++

Green Bay @ Philadelphia

Kevin Kolb has a chance to pull an Aaron Rodgers by taking over the Eagles after long-serving QB Donovan McNabb left to serve our nation’s capital. If he proves half as successful, the Feathered Faithful will celebrate with cheesesteaks all around (but no bell-ringing). This time around, however, the Packers’ relentless sack machine will make cheddar at Lincoln Financial Field, with Kolb Salad on the side. Say cheese!

Woody’s Winner: Green Bay

FACT: If a Packers-Eagles game without Favre and McNabb seems foreign to you, you can watch those two face-off Thanksgiving weekend when Minnesota visits Washington.

+++

Indianapolis @ Houston

Like the Colts suffered in Indy until King Manning arrived, the Texans struggled before Prince Schaub came to town. This season might see a changing of the guard as people begin to realize that, hey, no team in a state that borders Lake Michigan should be a member of the AFC South. If Houston’s once-promising running game can get moooving, the Steers could become the toast of Texas this season.

Woody’s Winner: Houston

FACT: The Bizarro anti-version of this game would pit the Ravens (the team that replaced the Colts in Baltimore) against the Titans (the team that abandoned Houston before the Texans arrived.)

+++

San Diego @ Kansas City

All arrows point to the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that hasn’t been to the Super Bowl in 40 years. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon. Beginning the KC beatdown is a San Diego team that hopes that rookie RB Ryan Mathews can be the success that Ladanian Tomlinson once was. Expect the Chargers’ lightning to be very, very frightening to the Red & Gold. Len Dawson, where are you?

Woody’s Winner: San Diego

FACT: Ryan Mathews’ potential, along with his strong showing in preseason, has catapulted him to a first-round pick in most fantasy football leagues, a rare showing for a rookie.

+++

Minnesota @ New Orleans (Thu night)

This rematch of last season’s thrilling overtime NFC Championship will undoubtedly be the most-watched game of Week 1. Like that matchup, this one will occur in Louisiana, giving the Old Gold the home-field advantage. It remains to be seen whether Brett Favre has anything left in the tank, but even if he falters, there are worse options than handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson. Since opponents will be gunning for the Super Bowl Champs, the Saints will find it difficult to match last season’s level of success. At least for Week 1, however, they’ll hold their own against a top-tier team.

Woody’s Winner: New Orleans

FACT: The Men in Purple have defeated the Holy Ones in 7 of their last 8 regular-season meetings.

+++

Oakland @ Tennessee

Both the Raiders’ and the Titans’ logos incorporate blades, but it remains to see if Oakland can regain their once-sharp edge. JaMarcus Russell is history, but the Silver-and-Black inexplicably replaced him with another heralded underachiever, Jason Campbell. The new quarterback will quickly begin to miss the capable targets he had in D.C., especially when the Titans defense forces him into an impromptu audition for Dancing with the Stars. Oakland fans might want to wear patches over both eyes.

Woody’s Winner: Tennessee

FACT: With a stellar 13-3 record in 2010, Tennessee could bring the franchise to an overall winning record. Since 1960, the Oilers/Titans have gone 371-379-6.

+++

San Francisco @ Seattle

The Seahawks lost their top two WRs from last season, meaning the chemistry between QB Matt Hasselbeck and his new wideouts isn’t quite there yet. Enter Mike Singletary’s tough 49ers defense, and Monday morning’s $3 coffee won’t taste very good in Seattle. A good dose of Frank Gore will likely make this a low-scoring affair, and expect ‘Frisco to come out on top on the road.

Woody’s Winner: San Francisco

FACT: The 49ers made the playoffs 17 times from 1982-2002, but have not returned since.

+++

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, but please be cordial to others; this is all in good fun. Thanks!

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
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
entertainment
arrow
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]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES