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Bud Shaw's Year in Review

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In 2010, retired heavyweight Mike Tyson appeared on Animal Planet.


As a pigeon racer.


The Pittsburgh Pirates fired a pierogi mascot for ripping the team on Facebook.


A Norwegian cross country skier blamed failing to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics on watching too much porn.


A Phillies fan purposely threw up on a man and the man's daughter during a game.

An NFL executive asked a draft prospect if his mother was a prostitute.

Baltimore Orioles player Brian Roberts missed the last six games of the season with concussion-like symptoms after hitting himself in the helmet with a bat in frustration after a ninth-inning strikeout.

Joslyn James, one of Tiger Woods' mistresses, complained that Woods led her to believe she was the only one in his life...other than his wife.

And thus was the sanctity of adultery compromised.

We come today not to salute the last 12 months as much as shake a finger at the sky and blame it on the heavens.

In November, Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson dropped a sure touchdown pass in the end zone in overtime. The Steelers prevailed over his Bills.

Johnson did not blame his hands, a case of nerves or even the sun (this was Buffalo after all). He blamed God.

Tweeted Johnson: "I praise you 24/7!!! And this how you do me!!! You expect me to learn from this??? How??? I'll never forget this!! Ever!!"

As if to mitigate the fallout of angering a vengeful deity, he added:

"Thx tho."
* * *
Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White tweeted that the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl last February because "the grace of god gave them tht championship so tht city wouldn't wouldn't fall apart."

White apologized (sort of), saying, "I'm sorry. I really didn't say anything about the hurricane but they took it that way."

So what did he mean? Mardi Gras?

Not all the signs from above were divinely inspired.
Tiger Woods, who talked of his re-commitment to Buddhism after months of scandal linked him to women all over the country, was greeted on the first tee at The Masters in April by a plane trailing the following message:

"Tiger: Did you mean bootyism?"

Some people showed they literally do not know what "literally" means.
After losing lots of weight, golfer John Daly signed a deal with Slix underwear.

The press release called Slix "thoughtfully designed garments that literally change lives" and that "literally put a spring in your step."

Ben Roethlisberger, for one, literally changed one aspect of his life.
That was his vow after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for another off-field incident.

So the former pride of Findlay, Ohio, reportedly changed his biographical information in the Steelers' media guide.

The Associated Press said Roethlisberger was upset with some unflattering things said about him in his hometown after he was accused (but not charged) in a sexual assault incident in the offseason. So he dropped Findlay and listed Corey Rawson, Ohio as his hometown.

Introducing the greatest, unparalleled, best-ever, life-changing "Overstatements of the Year."
"Tim Tebow is 250 pounds of concrete cyanide." -- Jon Gruden, before the April NFL draft.
* * *
"He came from a team that was always looking for a savior to a team that knows how to win. No one would understand what he's been through unless you've been drowning." -- Malesa Plater, Braylon Edwards' mom, to the New York Times on the tribulations her son endured while playing in Cleveland.
* * *
Sociologist Harry Edwards explained the cultural divide between white college coaches and black players this way to Yahoo! Sports.

"At the end of the day, you have a situation where it's Lawrence Welk and Pat Boone talking to Snoop Dogg, Ludacris and Vanilla Ice in the locker room. They don't get it. They don't understand it."

At least not like they get Lawrence Welk references.
* * *
Curtis Wenzlaff, the man who supplied steroids to baseball slugger Mark McGwire, told ESPN's Outside The Lines the combination of steroids McGwire used would make anybody bigger, stronger and faster.

"Will it help you hit a baseball?" Wenzlaff said. "Let me put it to you this way. If Paris Hilton was to take that array, she could run over Dick Butkus."
* * *
And the winner is...
"We've become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butts in everything. If this was in China do you think the Chinese would've called off the game? People would've been marching down the stadium. They would've walked and they would've been doing Calculus on the way down." -- Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell after the NFL canceled Vikings-Eagles this past Sunday due to a blizzard.

Of all the reasons the U.S. has fallen behind China, not being willing to risk life and limb to get to a football game is somewhere down the list.

When some athletes don't feel the love, they make up for it by taking a hard look at themselves...in the mirror.
"I feel love for me. I love me." -- baseball player Milton Bradley on Milton Bradley.

"People love me everywhere I go. I'm excited to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people." -- Manny Ramirez.

"I am a complete football player. If anybody wonders about me I'm a complete football player. I can say that twice. You can't do better than me." -- wide receiveer Michael Crabtree.

"I mean, even my family gets spoiled at times watching me doing things that I do, on and off the court," LeBron James telling GQ Magazine he didn't regret saying during a season-ending playoff loss to Boston that he spoiled Cleveland fans with his "greatness."

Sometimes logic was downgraded from "probable" to "ridiculously doubtful."
Bengals' receiver Chad Ochocinco said he jogs naked on the wooded property he owns.

"What's wrong with that?" Ochocinco told SI.com. "I take a shower naked."

Indianapolis Colts' punter Pat McAfee was arrested for public intoxication after he appeared to take a pre-dawn swim in a canal. The shirtless McAfee was soaking wet. He blamed it on rain even though it hadn't rained for days. Asked by police how much he had to drink, said McAfee, "A lot cause I'm drunk..."

A 69-year-old Michigan man delayed getting a pacemaker so he could watch Michigan State play Michigan in football. "Whatever happens," he told The Detroit News, "I want to see the game."

Joseph Rimmer, an amateur English soccer player, didn't like a referee's call. So he drove his Range Rover onto the field and got the ref in his sights.

That upped the discipline from a yellow card to a six-month jail sentence.

No marijuana was used (that we know of) in the making of this statement.
Snowboarder Graham Watanabe was asked what it was like to make the U.S. Olympic team.

"Try to imagine Pegasus mating with a unicorn and the creature that they birth. I somehow tame it and ride it into the sky in the clouds and sunshine and rainbows. That's what it feels like."

If only mulligans applied off the golf course...
Oprah Winfrey got up out of her chair to wipe at the smudge she thought was lipstick on the side of New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees' face during a post-Super Bowl guest appearance.

It was a birthmark.

(Fortunately, she fought the urge to scream to her audience, "You get a permanent blemish, you get a permanent blemish, e-ver-y-bod-y gets a permanent blemish.")

"The pregame altercation got us going. We were like pit bulls, ready to get out of the cage." -- Eagles' receiver DeSean Jackson on a pre-game scuffle with the Washington Redskins.

(Come on, your teammate is Mike Vick. Do I have to say more?)

"You can't have the cavalry come in and save your butt every time you feel a little stiff shoulder, sore elbow," Washington Nationals TV analyst Rob Dibble on his XM Sirius Radio show after Stephen Strasburg grabbed his elbow and left the field.


(A week later, Strasburg was scheduled for Tommy John surgery and will miss at least a year. Dibble was fired.


LeBron James denied he said contraction in the NBA would be good for the league.


"That's crazy, because I had no idea what the word 'contraction' meant before I saw it on the Internet," James said. "I never even mentioned that. That word never even came out of my mouth. I was just saying how the league was back in the '80s and how it could be good again. I never said, 'Let's take some of the teams out.'"


As comedian Jay Mohr pointed out, James' statement that he didn't know the meaning of the word "contraction" contained three contractions.

The stone-cold lock of the year...
Sept. 11, 2010 was the 25th anniversary of Pete Rose breaking Ty Cobb's all-time record for hits.

Rose is banned from his sport for life for betting on baseball but the Reds got clearance to honor him.

Except they had to move the celebration to Sept. 12 because Rose had a previous engagement.

He was making an appearance in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

At a casino.

Some showed razor-like focus and child-like tendencies.
Guard Larry Hughes reportedly grew his beard in protest of his diminished playing time with the Knicks.

Hughes has played for seven teams. After the beard incident, his fan club consisted only of ZZ Top band members.

NBA big men Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard actually spent time debating which of them should get to call himself "Superman."

Once again, it was good advice to be wary of false advertising.
A website dedicated to Major League Umpire and self-proclaimed Renaissance man Joe West describes him as a "true Patriot, Humanitarian, a Believer and a person with millions of funny stories to tell but also a man that will give an answer to any question."

After getting fined by Major League Baseball for his antagonizing a situation during the White Sox-Indians game, West was asked for a comment: "I will say that's none of your business," was his non-answer.

The Surgeon General warns you could put a hole in somebody'e ear lobe with one of those things.
Nine Miami Dolphins' players raked the field in search of defensive end Kendall Langford's diamond after Langford forgot to remove his earrings and lost one during practice.

The size: 2.5 carats.

The value: $50,000.

Knowing you out-blinged Zza Zza Gabor: priceless.

The fine line between sharing athletic insight and giving too much personal information.
Norwegian cross country skier Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset attributed his disappointing silver medal in the 4x10-kilometer relay at the Winter Olympics to less than focused preparation.

"I think I have seen too much porn in the last 14 days," he said.

At least he didn't blame God.

Bud Shaw is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who has also written for the Philadelphia Daily News, San Diego Union-Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The National. You can read his Plain Dealer columns at Cleveland.com, and read all his mental_floss articles here.

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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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