CLOSE
Original image
OnlineAthens.com

10 Houses Painted in Protest

Original image
OnlineAthens.com

Homeowners who paint their houses unusual colors, like Mr. Plumbean in this classic children's book, are sometimes doing it just for fun. But sometimes their motivations are all about making a statement or getting revenge. Spiteful paint jobs are a common way for people to get back at strict city ordinances, historical commissions, homeowners' associations, bigoted neighbors and even banks. And like spite houses, they're fun to look at. Here are a few examples.

1. Topeka, KS

Image credit: courtesy of Gawker

Gawker reports that an activist group has purchased a house across the street from Westboro Baptist Church, which has gotten national attention for its vehement anti-gay activities as well as the anti-gay slogans posted on signs on its property. Now church-goers will have a house-sized gay symbol to look at every Sunday morning: The owners are painting the new house to resemble a rainbow flag.

2. Cape Cod, Mass.

The owners of this historic house applied for permits to alter the building, but they were repeatedly turned down. According to a 2010 article from the Cape Cod Times, they denied that they commissioned the garish green and yellow update to get revenge, but it seems a clear case of a spiteful paint job.

3. Lubbock, Texas

Image credit: Courtesy of OnlineAthens

The city cracked down on the landlord of this house for allowing unrelated occupants to live in it together. So the landlord thumbed his nose at the city by painting the brick house purple, with black and yellow polka dots. Eventually, though, the landlord settled with the city and agreed to return the house to its original color.

4. Edenton, N.C.

Image credit: Courtesy of WVEC.com

A development company reportedly painted this house yellow with purple stripes in 2011 to express frustration over a dispute with their bank, according to local news outlet WVEC. When neighbors protested, the owners hastily painted over the bright colors with white paint.

5. Thorntown, Ind.

An Indiana homeowner was insulted when town officials accused him of neglecting his child. He posted angry signs in his windows, painted odd designs on his house and filled the yard with outrageous lawn ornaments like a boat and a giant styrofoam alligator.

6. Avondale Estates, GA.

Image credit: Courtesy of 2Dorks

A homeowner in Georgia, denied permission to change the front steps of his house, painted the whole thing bright green with purple spots to get revenge on the local Historic Preservation Commission. The Los Angeles Times reported that many neighbors painted purple dots on their own houses in sympathy. Within a month, the mayor overruled the earlier decision and the owner was able to alter his front steps.

7. Napa, Calif.

In 2010, a Napa resident spray-painted expletives all over his home’s exterior in an attempt to send a message to employees of the gas station next door, who he complained were using their leaf blower too late in the evening. (Napa city ordinances prohibit businesses from using noisy equipment after 9 p.m.—the neighbor claimed that he heard gas station employees working with the leaf blower at 10.) A code enforcement officer for the city said there wasn’t much they could do: “It’s his own property and he has the right to paint it,” she told the Napa Valley Register.

8., 9. Cambridge, Md., and Bradenton, Fla.

 

This is awesome!! The American flag house pictured above is located in Cambridge, Maryland, and its owner, Branden...

Posted by Beth Mansfield on Saturday, April 26, 2014


In 2013, this photo of a home in Cambridge, Md.—and the alleged story behind the patriotic paint job—went viral. According to the rumor, its owner was told to take down an American flag he had flying in his yard, and, in protest, painted his entire house red, white, and blue. In reality, the reasons for the makeover weren’t quite as patriotic—the homeowner was actually protesting the historical code after building inspectors told him that his restored Victorian’s windows weren't in compliance. 

In Bradenton, Fla., last June, a Florida man outfitted his home in the stars and stripes after he was cited for several local code violations, including peeling paint, a lack of window screens, and trash in the yard. Officials first noticed that his house was in violation after they received an anonymous complaint that his 15-foot Christmas tree had fallen over in the front yard. 

10. London, England

The owner of a townhouse in London’s posh Kensington neighborhood—worth £15 million—hired painters to give her residence candy stripes after neighbors blocked her plans to demolish the building and, in its place, build a brand-new home boasting a two-story basement with a pool. Unless she repaints, the Chelsea and Kensington neighborhood councils have threatened to prosecute under a section of a local act that states that a property’s condition should not “adversely affect the amenity of the area.”

 

Portions of this post originally appeared in 2013.

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
iStock
Animals
arrow
Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
Original image
iStock

It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]

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