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17 Disney Park Windows Worth a Closer Look

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DisneyBlog

The next time you find yourself on Main Street at Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, tear your eyes away from the street trolley, the balloon seller, the barbershop quartet, and the elaborate window displays. Look up. Each window on Main Street bears an inscription of the name of the fictional vendor who “owns” the business housed in that building. A staggering variety of careers are represented, from miniature model makers to travel agents and palm readers.

Well, there is no “random” at Disney parks. Just like almost all of the other little details you’ll find tucked away at Disney, those names are there for a reason—they honor people who have contributed greatly to the company. Actually, according to Imagineer Marty Sklar, it takes three things to get your name on a park window these days. First of all, you only receive the honor upon retirement. Secondly, the honor only goes to those with the highest level of service, respect, and achievement. And thirdly, management at each park has to agree with the folks at Walt Disney Imagineering on the who, what, and where of each window.

Here are a few to look for the next time you’re strolling down Main Street, ambling through Frontierland, or pratfalling through Toontown.

Disneyland

1. Roland “Rolly” Crump

Photo courtesy of MousePlanet

Crump was one of Walt Disney’s favorite designers. He worked on attractions such as the Haunted Mansion and the Enchanted Tiki Room. Crump’s original Haunted Mansion plans included a walk-through “Museum of the Weird” concept, so you can see why his window received the palm reading theme.

2. Harriet Burns

Photo courtesy of DisneyBlog

As the first female Imagineer, Burns was responsible for model-making and figure-building—among other things—applying paint and other finishes to the pieces and people featured in rides like the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Enchanted Tiki Room. She also helped design Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and the Carousel of Progress.

3. Bob Gurr

Photo courtesy of MousePlanet

Gurr is responsible for the design of most of the ride vehicles at Disney Parks, from the Doom Buggies at the Haunted Mansion to the Monorail. He's the one who famously gave Richard Nixon a little joyride on the Monorail back in 1959.

4. X. Atencio

Photo courtesy of DisneyPal

Look above the Opera House at Disneyland to find this inscription for the man who wrote the scripts for the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, including the lyrics to “Grim Grinning Ghosts” and “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me).” Atencio also has a tombstone at the Haunted Mansion.

5. Wally Boag

Photo courtesy of Yesterland

If you visited Disneyland between 1955 and 1982, you probably saw Wally Boag. Wally starred in the Golden Horseshoe Revue for 40,000 performances and was honored with a window above the Blue Ribbon Bakery in 1995—but his longtime onstage partner, Betty Taylor, doesn’t seem to have her own window. C’mon, Disney. It’s probably time to honor Sluefoot Sue, who kept going after Boag retired and put in 45,000 performances.

6. Roger Broggie

Photo courtesy of LaughingPlace

As the head of the Disney Studios Machine Shop, Broggie oversaw the development of the Disneyland Railroad, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and the Disneyland Monorail, among other things. He also worked with Walt to create the 1/2 mile-long Carolwood Pacific Railroad located in Disney’s backyard. “Mechanical wonders” and “Magical Illusions” indeed.

7. and 8. Alice and Marc Davis

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

Immediate members of the Disney family may all have their names on windows at Main Street together—Walt Disney’s daughters with their spouses and children, for example. But there’s only one married couple in the whole park that have their own windows based on individual contributions to the park. Marc Davis, one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” was an animator and draftsman. He was responsible for Snow White, Alice, Tinkerbell, Cinderella, Maleficent, Cruella De Vil, and characters from the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Enchanted Tiki Room, and more. Alice Davis was a costume designer who outfitted the audio animatronics on It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Carousel of Progress, and more. The Davises’ longevity rivaled that of Mickey and Minnie—they were married for 44 years until Marc’s death in 2000. Alice got the window real estate right next to her husband’s in 2012. They can both be found above the Disneyana store.

9. Robert Jani

Photo courtesy of FindingMickey

Though he’s credited with reviving the spectaculars at Radio City Music Hall and creating the master plan for the opening and closing ceremonies at the 1984 Olympics in L.A., Robert Jani is perhaps best known for the Main Street Electrical Parade, as evidenced by his window at the Disneyland Opera House.

10. Marty Sklar

Photo courtesy of DisneyBlog

From working on marketing materials for Disneyland in 1955 to becoming president of Disney Imagineering, Marty Sklar was the only Disney employee to have been present for the opening of all 11 Disney Parks at the time of his retirement in 2009. On his last day, the company honored him with a window at City Hall in Disneyland, where he had once had an office.

Magic Kingdom

11. Yale Gracey, Bud Martin, Ken O’Brien, and Wathel Rogers

Photo courtesy of Magic100

Special tricks—yeah, you could say that. Gracey, Martin, and Rogers were responsible for most of the special effects in the Haunted Mansion, including the Pepper’s Ghost effect seen in the famous ballroom scene. O’Brien was an audio-animatronics specialist who worked on the Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

In my opinion, Disney bestowed an even higher honor to three of these gentlemen—Yale Gracey, Bud Martin, and Wathel Rogers all have tombstones at the Mansion.

12. Donn Tatum

Photo courtesy of WDWCentral

As the first non-Disney family member to become president of Walt Disney Productions, Tatum was instrumental in the creation of Walt Disney World in Florida, especially after Walt passed away in 1966. The “subsidiaries” listed on Tatum’s window were the names of the dummy corporations used to anonymously purchase Florida swampland to create the theme parks.

13. Ub and Don Iwerks

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

Ub Iwerks was Walt Disney’s original business partner and co-creator of Mickey Mouse. Don is his son, who worked on Disney films for more than 35 years, pioneering techniques such as the 360-degree camera and Circle-Vision—so you can see why their “Stereoscopic Camera” business is quite appropriate.

Non-Main Street/Other Windows

14. Fess Parker

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks

In 2004, Fess Parker, AKA Davy Crockett himself, received a window touting his Coonskin Cap Supply Co. in Frontierland at Disneyland. Parker played Crockett in a Disney miniseries, then used the character to help promote the opening of Disneyland. He starred in a number of other Disney productions in the ‘50s as well, including (sob) Old Yeller.

15. Harper Goff

Photo courtesy of DisneyPal

It’s said that Disney doesn’t approve of visible tattoos on their employees, but it looks like they made an exception for Harper Goff. Goff, an artist, musician, and actor, created many of the special effects in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He also created concept art for Mickey Mouse Park, the original idea behind Disneyland. As a man of many talents, his tattoo-and-banjo parlor can be found in the bazaar in Disneyland’s Adventureland.

16. Michael Eisner

Given the shadow cast over Michael Eisner’s time with the company, it’s no wonder that his window has been relegated to Disneyland Paris.

17. Walt Disney

Photo by Stacy Conradt

Walt himself has more than one window—in fact, he has at least six. There are two in Disneyland (one on Main Street and one in Toontown), three at the Magic Kingdom , and one in Disneyland Paris.

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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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Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
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iStock

We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

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