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Scottsville Veterinary Adoptions/Facebook

The Weird Week in Review

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Scottsville Veterinary Adoptions/Facebook

Smelly Cat Finds a Home

Lenny the cat has a story that most cats can’t match -he suffered a failed adoption because he farts too much. Lenny was found at a park in Rochester, New York, in February and taken in to Scottsville Veterinary Adoptions in Scottsville. He was adopted out, but was returned two days later. His Facebook update said,

Hello! I was returned today because I fart too much. I am hoping I can find a person who can love me even with my stinky farts. I am a 19 month old neutered male and would love to be your smelly cuddle cat. I am very friendly and love to be petted and held. I even am wearing a tuxedo so I'll look snazzy if you come to see me.

The veterinary clinic could find no problem with Lenny, and did not notice him to be overly gassy. But the story has a happy ending. Lenny has since found a new home.

Teenager Sells Pot Brownies to Buy Prom Dress

Saira Munoz of Yuba City, California, has been sentenced to five years probation for selling brownies laced with marijuana. The bake sale was intended to raise money for the student’s prom dress. She was 18 years old at the time of the offense last fall. The scheme came to light when one student at River Valley High School had to be hospitalized from the effects of the marijuana. The Sutter County Probation Department is investigating her status, and Munoz may face deportation.

Sewage Treatment Plant Offers Weddings

The Bridgewater Wastewater Treatment Center in Seattle has found a potential new source of revenue- they are offering the plant as a wedding venue! For $2,000, you can rent the plant for eight hours and have full access to their kitchen, dance floor, audio and video equipment, and grounds. On the one hand, Brightwater is a “zero odor” plant, but on the other hand, how would you tell your friends and family that you’re getting hitched at a wastewater treatment center? It does cost less than many other popular wedding spots in the Seattle area. But will anyone take advantage of this offer? One couple already has!

Sriracha Factory Declared a Public Nuisance

The City Council of Irwindale, California, voted unanimously Wednesday night to issue a resolution declaring the Sriracha hot sauce plant a public nuisance. Complaints of the smell and burning eyes have focused attention on the new plant. Huy Fong Foods is working on a plan to alleviate the smell and says the problem will be fixed by June first. Officials from the South Coast Air Quality Management District have offered to help craft a mitigation plan. The City of Irwindale already has a lawsuit pending against Huy Fong Foods, and has offered to help them find a new location.

Nursing Home Sued For Hiring Male Strippers

Franklin Youngblood found a photograph of a male stripper performing in front of his 85-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia and lives in a nursing home. The family of Bernice Youngblood is suing East Neck Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in West Babylon, New York, saying Youngblood was encouraged to watch the strip show against her will. The Long Island nursing facility said the event was requested by the residents. Bernice Youngblood testified that she has no recollection of the show at all.

Town Erects Bronze Statue of Favorite Cat

The town of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, has erected a bronze statue in honor of the town’s favorite citizen. He’s a cat. And the cat is still alive. And he’s not even known for a specific heroic deed. But Hamish McHamish is a star among St. Andrews' residents. The 15-year-old cat even has his own Wikipedia entry. The bronze statue of Hamish was created by Kilmany-based sculptor David Annand and Fife stonemason Colin Sweeney. The £5,000 was funded by donations. The unveiling ceremony was a big affair.

After students Hannah Holmes and Rosie Hanlon from St Andrews Opera had serenaded the assembled crowd with Rossini’s humorous duet for two cats, Hamish’s owner Marianne Baird said it all seemed a bit surreal.

She said: “I can’t really get over it. All I did was get a kitten."

Hamish is a wandering cat, and over the years has made himself at home at many local businesses and the University of St Andrews. He befriends everyone he meets. People who travel to St Andrews often ask to meet Hamish.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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© Nintendo
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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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