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Woody's Winners, NFL Week 2

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NFL WEEK TWO: For those who missed last week's column, Woody's Winners is written with highest respect in a similar style to that of the most entertaining football prognosticator of my youth, Leonard Postero, host of Leonard’s Losers. I went a respectable 8-5 through last Sunday afternoon’s games, but then fell apart to lose all three night games on Sunday and Monday to end Week 1 with an even 8-8 record. More day games! Do ya hear me, NFL? Oh, you’ve got your hands full with referee positions and the “process of the catch”? Fine, then. Here are Woody's Winners for Week 2.

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BALTIMORE & CINCINNATI

The Bengals bungled away a possible win in Week 1 with an interception and two fumbles, which tempered an attack that outgained the Patriots by 50+ yards. Rest assured that the Ravens have studied film of those turnovers and are devising schemes to peck the eyes out of the Tigers. But Owens and Ocho will have fans living on the air in Cincinnati as they adopt a pass-first attitude that will keep Baltimore from opening the season 2-0. In the Poe House, the Ravens rule, but at Paul Brown…

Woody’s Winner, in a close one: Cincinnati

FACT: Baltimore led the NFL last season with 1,094 penalty yards. The next-closest AFC team had only 920.

Click "more" to see my picks for the other 15 NFL games in Week 2.

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TAMPA BAY @ CAROLINA

The Bucs pulled out what promises to be a rare victory last week at home against the Browns. In Week 2, Tampa Bay goes looking for an angry pantheon of Panthers, and they’ll find them. Carolina QB Matt Moore proved he wasn’t quite ready for prime time, with 5 turnovers (3 INT, 2 FUM) and a concussion to boot. Still, without a reliable sub in the Panther dock, he’s expected to start in Week 2. The Giants wore down the Cats last week and outscored them 17-2 in the last half, so expect a Tampa tamp-down as things turn sour in Sweet Carolina.

Woody’s Winner: Tampa Bay

FACT: Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman threw for a season-best 321 yards at Carolina last season, but five interceptions cost his team the game.

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BUFFALO @ GREEN BAY

Watching Pack QB Aaron Rodgers dodging and ducking defenders and chucking the ball here and there last week made it obvious who his mentor was. Watching Green Bay LB Clay Matthews made me wonder if he’s human. Add several thousand cheesehead fans to the mix, and the Bills are in for a long day in Wisconsin. While the opportunistic Bison defense may grab a few INTs, it won’t take long before Buffalo learns that life isn’t always fun when you’re lactose intolerant.

Woody’s Winner: Green Bay

FACT: No member of the Bills had more than 40 combined rushing/receiving/returning yards last week.

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MIAMI @ MINNESOTA

Minnesota’s had 10 days’ rest since posting a loss in the first regular season game of the season, but Brett Favre should be in better form with a week of legit play under his belt. Miami hasn’t opened the season with back-to-back wins since 2002, and although Dolphins are smart, there’s not a fish in the ocean that doesn’t expect that streak to continue. Rose Nylund and Mary Richards will be partying all night to celebrate a Viking victory in Week 2.

Woody’s Winner: Minnesota

FACT: Don Shula won 274 games as Miami head coach. None of his replacements has won more than 43.

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CHICAGO @ DALLAS

Last week, the Bears did all they could do to lose to Detroit. (If I were Commissioner, both teams would be 0-1 heading into Week 2.) They’ll have to play much better against a squad of Cowboys eager to put on a better show than they did in a loss to the Redskins. Expect the Stars to extract revenge by blowing the Windy City team halfway across Texas.

Woody’s Winner: Dallas

FACT: The Cowboys have a Week 4 bye, tied for the earliest in the league. The 13-game stretch after that includes back-to-back games against last year’s Super Bowl contenders, the Saints and Colts.

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PHILADELPHIA @ DETROIT

“L” is indeed for Lions, a team that rushed 21 times for 20 yards in Week 1. (If my public-school math holds up, that’s less than one yard a carry.) With Kevin Kolb banged up, Philly’s Michael Vick will get his first regular-season start since returning to the NFL, and this will cause all sorts of match-up problems for Detroit. To Motown’s credit, the team did deliver some big hits on defense last week, but with their own QB injured as well, Rocky will deliver a KO punch to keep the Kitties winless.

Woody’s Winner: Philadelphia

FACT: Detroit QB Matthew Stafford missed 6 games last season with a separated left shoulder, and may miss similar games this year with the separated right shoulder he suffered last week.

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ARIZONA @ ATLANTA

Alphabetically, Arizona and Atlanta come first in the standings, but both teams have things to prove heading into Week 2. Luckily for the Falcons, QB Matt Ryan has lost only one of 14 starts at home. While the Blackbirds do expect their rushing offense to return to form, their underrated passing attack may prove the difference. If the Cardinals fumble 7 times (losing 4) like they did last week against the Rams, however, expect (Michael) Turner Classic Movies to be in the end zone all day long.

Woody’s Winner: Atlanta

FACT: Cards QB Derek Anderson targeted Larry Fitzgerald 15 times last week, but the team’s #1 WR only hauled in three catches for 43 yards and a touch.

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KANSAS CITY @ CLEVELAND

In the last four games between the Chiefs and Browns, the average score has been 36-33. This week’s match-up is expected to be a lower-scoring affair, particularly on the KC side of the ball, but either team might explode for points in any given week. The Arrowheads’ Week 1 victory against San Diego said more about the Chargers’ woes than the Chiefs’ ability, and that will be proven when the Dawg Pound sinks its teeth into some Native hindquarter.

Woody’s Winner: Cleveland

FACT: Cleveland was the only AFC team with triple-digit losses (103) in the 2000s.

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PITTSBURGH @ TENNESSEE

Dixie was no match for Dixon last week, as sub-Roth QB Dennis Dixon helped his team edge Atlanta in overtime to seal the Steelers’ 8th consecutive victory on Kickoff Weekend. In Week 2, Pittsburgh faces another southern team, the Tennessee Titans. RB Chris Johnson rushed for 154 yards and two TDs in Week 1, but will he be able to duplicate that effort? Pitt’s D looks as tough as nails, but Tennessee will find a way to win at home.

Woody’s Winner: Tennessee

FACT: Pittsburgh’s OT victory against Atlanta last week marked the third consecutive game between those two teams that went longer than regulation time. The teams are each 1-1-1 in those games.

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SEATTLE @ DENVER

The Seahawks invented a new move called the “49er Smackdown” in Week 1, and I’m as curious as any to see how they follow up that gem 5,000 feet up. Neither the Ocean Birds nor the Buckin’ Bunch had much success running the ball last week. In the statistics-can-be-misleading department, the Broncos are 15-5 in their last 20 games against Seattle, but most of those games are from 2001 and before, when both teams were in the same division and played each other twice a year. Still, it’s difficult to pick against Rocky Mountain High at home.

Woody’s Winner: Denver

FACT: In Week 1, Seattle allowed San Francisco to convert only 1 of 15 third-down attempts.

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ST. LOUIS @ OAKLAND

It’s a good thing that he wears a different uniform, ‘cause Oakland QB Jason Campbell (2 fumbles, 1 interception) sure looks a lot like he did at the helm of the Redskins. Rams rookie Sam Bradford impressed, however, despite tossing three passes to the other team. A blocked field goal attempt and a last-minute TD cost St. Louis a win last week, but that won’t happen in Oakland. If every Man in Black had the skill of the Raiders’ punter and kicker, they’d be making reservations for Dallas in February. Alas…

Woody’s Winner: St. Louis

FACT: Last week’s Oakland-Tennessee game was a punting clinic. The Titan’s Kerns booted 4 for a 50-yd. average (and 2 inside the 20), while the Raiders’ Lechter punched 4 for a 55-yd. average (and 1).

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NEW ENGLAND @ N.Y. JETS

I’m not recommending that Pats QB Tom Brady have an auto accident before every game, but heck; not only did he escape uninjured, but he went on to decimate the Cincinnati defense for 3 TD passes. Add to that a TD kickoff return and a defense that was there when it mattered, and New England looks set for another strong season. The Jets would hate nothing more than to open their new stadium with two consecutive home losses, but the season is long, and facing the Ravens and Patriots back-to-back is not exactly a late summer picnic.

Woody’s Winner: New England

FACT: New England’s 38 points scored in Week 1 led all NFL teams.

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HOUSTON @ WASHINGTON

The Texans made a HUGE statement to the NFL in Week 1, defeating the Colts despite Manning’s sharp 433/3/0 performance. And, unexpectedly, they did it on the ground. The Redskins earned their own shout-out by surprising the Cowboys, and they’d love to knock of Texas’ other team in Week 2. Houston seems destined to break out this season, however, and should pull off a W in Washington. I’m tempting fate by picking three road teams in a row, but why not?

Woody’s Winner: Houston

FACT: The Texans are 0-2 lifetime against the Redskins, losing both games by the same margin, 16 points.

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JACKSONVILLE @ SAN DIEGO

In Week 1, Jacksonville’s hyphenated-last-name attack belonged to Maurice Jones-Drew, who ran for 98 yards and caught three passes. (Sims-Walker didn’t touch the ball except in pre-game warm-ups.) As they proved last season, the Chargers can be notoriously slow to warm up. But they should still have enough juice in their battery packs to render Jacksonville catatonic. I wonder if any Jags will take a side-trip up to L.A. to check out the housing market…

Woody’s Winner: San Diego

FACT: Both the Bolts and the Jags tossed 10 interceptions last season, tied for fewest in the AFC.

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N.Y. GIANTS @ INDIANAPOLIS

Manningfest 2010 takes place in Indianapolis, where Peyton expects to defend his home turf against his younger brother. New York should have fallen victim to Eli’s 3 interceptions, pulled out a win nonetheless. Indy couldn't do the same with Peyton's 400+ yard passing day, and lost at Houston. That’s the third regular-season loss in a row for the Colts, something that hadn’t occurred since 2002. I wouldn’t hold my breath to wait for number four.

Woody’s Winner: Indianapolis

FACT: Hakeem Nicks had four catches last week, three of them for TDs.

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NEW ORLEANS @ SAN FRANCISCO

It’s gold rush time in California as the New Orleans arrives to do some panning in San Francisco. No team scored fewer points (6) than the 49ers did in Week 1, and there’s no way the team can hold its own against a bunch of high-flying Saints. The Super Bowl champions will be wearing flowers in their hair as they descend on some unsuspecting Prospectors, and I wouldn’t want to be in the locker room post-game when coach Mike Singletary tells it like it is.

Woody’s Winner: New Orleans

FACT: Since New Orleans was realigned out of the NFC West in 2001, the Saints are 5-0 against their old division rivals.

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

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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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