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The 24 Most Bizarre Injuries in Baseball History

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1. Ken Griffey Jr. missed a game when his protective cup slipped and pinched a testicle. (I spent four years in journalism school and three decades as a sportswriter wondering if I'd ever get to write such a sentence.)

2. Pitcher Jamie Easterly started a new workout regimen at home in Crockett, Texas, back in the mid-1980s. One drill included backwards running. He promptly stepped in a gopher hole and hurt his back.

3. Outfielder Marty Cordova missed time with the Orioles in 2002 because he scorched his face in a tanning bed and was ordered by doctors to avoid direct sunlight. Standing in the sun from February through September apparently didn't give him the glow he sought.

4. Reliever Steve Sparks dislocated his shoulder while ripping a telephone book in half emulating some motivational speakers he just heard speak.

5. Wade Boggs might've laughed at that if he didn't miss a week after straining his back while trying to pull on his cowboy boots.

6. According to the legend of Clarence Blethen, the Red Sox rookie pitcher in 1923 thought he looked meaner without his false teeth when he was on the mound. He supposedly didn't think to put them back in his mouth while he batted. That led to Blethen sliding into second base and getting bit in the posterior by his own teeth.

He was removed from the game for excessive bleeding.

7. Relief pitcher Ernie Camacho signed autographs for a charity one spring, stopped after 100 or so and made a beeline for the team doctor complaining of pain in his pitching elbow.

8. In Atlanta one year, utility infielder Randy Johnson dislocated his thumb putting on his socks and spent six weeks on the disabled list.

9. Brian Giles, a free-spirit, blamed his absence from the Indians lineup one year on spider bites.

10. Tough-guy Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, famous for hog-tying Robin Ventura when Ventura rushed the mound, was bitten by a very brave coyote.

11. Jose Cardenal missed a game in the 1970s, citing fatigue. His claim: crickets got into his hotel room and kept him awake all night. That was his story. Another one of his stories: In 1974 he missed a game because his eyelid was "stuck open," preventing him from blinking (but not, apparently, fabricating bogus injuries).

12. Rickey Henderson missed several games one August. The reason: frostbite. Why do I feel the need to add "allegedly"?

13. Atlanta Braves closer Cecil Upshaw missed the entire 1970 season when his ring got caught on an awning as he tried to demonstrate his slam dunk technique.

14. Reliever Greg A. Harris once missed two starts after spending an entire game flicking sunflower seeds at a friend who was sitting nearby. Diagnosis: inflamed elbow.

15 and 16. Pitcher Tom Glavine broke a rib vomiting. How weak! Kevin Mitchell only strained a muscle while vomiting.

17. George Brett broke a toe while running from the kitchen to the TV. Why the rush? To see Bill Buckner hit. I would've guessed it was to see Bill Buckner field.

18. Outfielder Moises Alou, who came from a proud baseball family, injured his knee falling off a treadmill, then hurt his knee again a year later running over his son with a bike.

19. Pitcher David Cone got bit by his mother-in-law's dog. Perhaps on command.

20. Watching a brawl break out one game, reliever Ted Power leapt to his feet in defense of his teammates and strained a calf muscle.

21. Cubs' pitcher Ryan Dempster went on the DL with a fractured right big toe suffered while tying to jump the dugout railing to celebrate a Chicago victory.

22. Kevin Mitchell didn't get hurt vomiting all the time. Once, according to ESPN.com, he showed up at spring training four days late after getting hurt eating a microwaved donut and requiring a root canal.

23. Blue Jays outfielder Glenallen Hill fell out of bed and crashed into a glass table while having a nightmare that he was covered by spiders. To which even the most sympathetic manager would say, "Yeah, sure you did."

24. In 2011, Indians' rookie Jason Kipnis strained his hamstring while stretching to avoid, you know, straining his hamstring.

This article originally appeared in 2011.

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.

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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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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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