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The Sandlot: Where Are They Now?

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Believe it or not, The Sandlot turns a whopping 20 years old today. Yep, those adorable little kids your pre-teen self had a crush on (and/or wanted to be) are all grown up. Here's what the gang is up to these days. Sad truth: none of them went on to play baseball with the Dodgers.

Tom Guiry, AKA Scotty Smalls


FanPop/Getty Images


Scotty “You’re Killing Me” Smalls himself has been consistently busy since his 1993 debut. He had roles in Mystic River and Black Hawk Down, then scored a lead part in NBC’s The Black Donnellys in 2007. Unfortunately, the show was canceled after just a handful of episodes. Guiry was last seen in The Fitzgerald Family Christmas in 2012 with Connie Britton and Edward Burns.

Mike Vitar, AKA Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez

Ology/IGN


Like his alter ego Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez, Mike Vitar went on to have one of those careers that little boys everywhere dream of having when they grow up. Benny, of course, became a pro ball player with the Dodgers. Vitar became a firefighter with the LAFD. He was honored in 2003 for rescuing fellow firefighters when the roof of a Hollywood Hills home collapsed while they were trying to put the fire out.

Patrick Renna, AKA “Ham” Porter

AMC/Getty Images Patrick

Renna has been acting, most recently, it would appear, in a 2011 short for Funny or Die. You definitely saw him in several other kid-friendly movies in the '90s, though, including Son-in-Law and The Big Green.

Chauncey Leopardi, AKA Squints

Celebuzz

After a five-year hiatus from the movie business, the bespectacled Sandlotter is now appearing a movie called Coldwater that was just screened at SXSW. He plays a character named Eddie.

Good news for all of you Squints fans: Leopardi tweets under the name “_squintz,” and he occasionally talks about The Sandlot. But you might expect that from someone whose profile description is "Life & Times of a Childhood Icon". 

Marty York, AKA Yeah-Yeah

OhNoTheyDidn't/MartyYork-actor.com

Well, he was arrested for domestic violence a couple of years ago, and last year a housekeeper thought she had stumbled upon his dead body in a hotel room in Vegas. (He was just extremely hungover.) York also has a neglected website. Oh, and in 2011, he was in this movie.

Brandon Quintin Adams, AKA Kenny DeNunez

IMDB/Listal

After roles in shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; Moesha and Sister, Sister, Brandon decided to become a rapper. His stage name is B. Lee., but you can still find him as @BrandonAdams22 on Twitter.

Shane Obedzinski and Victor DiMattia, AKA Tommy “Repeat” Timmons and Timmy Timmons

Both of these actors have kept extremely low profiles since The Sandlot. In fact, Shane stopped acting immediately afterward, and Victor followed in 1995. Looks like Victor has moved behind the scenes instead, working in the sound department, and serving as the production assistant and assistant director in several small films. But Obedzinski? No idea. 

Grant Gelt, AKA Bertram Grover Weeks

Sarcaustic/LinkedIn

Though he continued to act for a few years post-Sandlot, Gelt now works at New Sound Artist Management in L.A. You can see him talking about that here.

Denis Leary AKA Bill

TRCommons/Getty Images

Denis Leary, you’ve probably noticed, has been doing just fine since The Sandlot. Among his projects: Ice Age and all of its sequels, Rescue Me, the Leary Firefighters Foundation and several comedy albums.

Karen Allen, AKA Mom

Yifi/Getty Images


Everyone heralded Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Karen Allen's big return, but the truth is, she hasn't really stopped working ever since her career took off in the '80s. Most of her projects since The Sandlot have been smaller-scale—appearances on Law & Order, a few TV movies, small parts in The Perfect Storm and In the Bedroom—but she's been around. Allen, a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate, also runs a fiber arts store in Great Barrington, MA. 

Marley Shelton, AKA Wendy Peffercorn

SportsNirvana/Getty Images

Arguably the most successful of the kids, the erstwhile Wendy Peffercorn has been steadily working since The Sandlot put her on the map 20 years ago. Her film credits include Grindhouse, Sin City, Scream 4, Pleasantville. Yeah, she totally knows what she’s doing.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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Stephen Missal
crime
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New Evidence Emerges in Norway’s Most Famous Unsolved Murder Case
May 22, 2017
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A 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of the Isdal Woman
Stephen Missal

For almost 50 years, Norwegian investigators have been baffled by the case of the “Isdal Woman,” whose burned corpse was found in a valley outside the city of Bergen in 1970. Most of her face and hair had been burned off and the labels in her clothes had been removed. The police investigation eventually led to a pair of suitcases stuffed with wigs and the discovery that the woman had stayed at numerous hotels around Norway under different aliases. Still, the police eventually ruled it a suicide.

Almost five decades later, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has launched a new investigation into the case, working with police to help track down her identity. And it is already yielding results. The BBC reports that forensic analysis of the woman’s teeth show that she was from a region along the French-German border.

In 1970, hikers discovered the Isdal Woman’s body, burned and lying on a remote slope surrounded by an umbrella, melted plastic bottles, what may have been a passport cover, and more. Her clothes and possessions were scraped clean of any kind of identifying marks or labels. Later, the police found that she left two suitcases at the Bergen train station, containing sunglasses with her fingerprints on the lenses, a hairbrush, a prescription bottle of eczema cream, several wigs, and glasses with clear lenses. Again, all labels and other identifying marks had been removed, even from the prescription cream. A notepad found inside was filled with handwritten letters that looked like a code. A shopping bag led police to a shoe store, where, finally, an employee remembered selling rubber boots just like the ones found on the woman’s body.

Eventually, the police discovered that she had stayed in different hotels all over the country under different names, which would have required passports under several different aliases. This strongly suggests that she was a spy. Though she was both burned alive and had a stomach full of undigested sleeping pills, the police eventually ruled the death a suicide, unable to track down any evidence that they could tie to her murder.

But some of the forensic data that can help solve her case still exists. The Isdal Woman’s jaw was preserved in a forensic archive, allowing researchers from the University of Canberra in Australia to use isotopic analysis to figure out where she came from, based on the chemical traces left on her teeth while she was growing up. It’s the first time this technique has been used in a Norwegian criminal investigation.

The isotopic analysis was so effective that the researchers can tell that she probably grew up in eastern or central Europe, then moved west toward France during her adolescence, possibly just before or during World War II. Previous studies of her handwriting have indicated that she learned to write in France or in another French-speaking country.

Narrowing down the woman’s origins to such a specific region could help find someone who knew her, or reports of missing women who matched her description. The case is still a long way from solved, but the search is now much narrower than it had been in the mystery's long history.

[h/t BBC]

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