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15 Real Movie Locations You Can Actually Visit

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While many major films shoot on a closed sound stage, sometimes productions venture out into the real world to create movie magic. Here are 15 locations from famous films that you can actually visit.

1. The Firehouse from Ghostbusters

The Ghostbusters' New York City headquarters sits at 14 North Moore Street on the corner of Varick Street in TriBeCa. It's actually the home of Hook & Ladder Company #8, a fully working and operational New York Fire Department firehouse. Though the exterior of Ghostbusters HQ was in New York City, its interiors were filmed at another firehouse in Los Angeles, which is located at 225 E. 5th Street. Fire Station #23 was decommissioned in 1960 and the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission declared it a Historic Cultural Monument.

2. Nakatomi Plaza from Die Hard

Die Hard's Nakatomi Plaza is located at 2121 Avenue of the Stars, which is actually Fox Plaza, the corporate headquarters for Twentieth Century Fox in Los Angeles, California. A majority of Die Hard was filmed there, despite the building being under construction at the time of shooting. Fox Plaza is also featured in Speed, Airheads, and Fight Club. All four movies were released by Twentieth Century Fox. 

3. The House from A Christmas Story

While A Christmas Story is based in Indiana, the exterior house shots were filmed on location in Cleveland, Ohio. The Parkers' home is located at 3159 W. 11th Street in the Tremont neighborhood. After purchasing the house, Brian Jones set about renovating the house—including the interior, which the production shot on a soundstage in Toronto—into an exact replica of the Parkers’ house in the film. It's open to the public and serves as a museum that is full of props and movie memorabilia. There's even an "official" Chinese food restaurant located a few blocks away from A Christmas Story House and Museum, but it's not the same location featured in the holiday film.  

4. OCP Headquarters from Robocop

Although the original RoboCop took place in Detroit, Michigan, future downtown Detroit was an amalgam of Pittsburgh and Dallas. In fact, OCP corporate headquarters was actually Dallas City Hall; the production used matte paintings to make the building appear taller. 

5. The Hotel from The Grand Budapest Hotel

The department store Görlitzer Warenhaus (de) was used for the atrium lobby of the titular Grand Budapest Hotel. The store was scheduled for demolition, but the production saved it. “The columns, the staircases, that really magnificent window and that huge chandelier, that was already there, that’s all original,” production designer Adam Stockhausen told The Hollywood Reporter. “We built everything else.” Currently, the department store is under renovation and will re-open in early 2016.

6. Yavin IV from Star Wars

The Massassi Outpost rebel base on the fourth moon of Yavin in the original Star Wars film was shot on location at the Mayan temple ruins in The Tikal National Park in Guatemala. Director George Lucas picked the location after he saw a poster at a travel agency while shooting in London, England.

7. The Tribute Training Center from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Marriott Marquis Hotel at 265 Peachtree Center Avenue NE in Atlanta, Georgia is where you'll find the posh Tributes' Quarters and Training Center from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The hotel was chosen for its gigantic atrium—at one time the largest in the world—and beautiful glass elevators. The Tributes' living quarters were filmed on the 10th floor and a set was built on the hotel's roof.

8. Subterranean Pool from 127 Hours

At the beginning of 127 Hours, Aron Ralston (James Franco) meets two hikers (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn); the trio dives into a subterranean pool with a 55-foot drop. The pool is actually a natural hot spring located at the Homestead Resort in Midway, Utah. But you can't recreate the scene: The resort won't let you dive into the hot spring like the actors did in the movie for safety reasons.

9. The Overlook Hotel from The Shining

While the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining was an elaborate set on a sound stage at EMI Elstree Studios in England (the largest set ever built at the studio), the fictional hotel is based on two real hotels in the United States. The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, California was the inspiration for the interior of the Overlook, while Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon was used for its exterior and establishing shots.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado was the original inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in the novel The Shining. Author Stephen King was disappointed that Kubrick didn't shoot at The Stanley, but the made-for-TV version of The Shining was filmed at the Colorado hotel in 1997 instead. The Stanley also appeared in Dumb and Dumber in 1994.   

10. Camp Towanda from Wet Hot American Summer

Wet Hot American Summer was shot at Camp Towanda, a sleepaway summer camp in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Though the movie takes place during the summer, it was actually filmed during the spring before new campers arrived for the season. Unlike what the title suggests, it was actually very cold and rainy throughout the 28-day shoot. The producers told the owners that Wet Hot American Summer was a family comedy, so they could get clearance from Camp Towanda to shoot there. After the camp owner's watched it, they were appalled by the movie.

11. Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters from X-Men

Hatley Castle, located in British Columbia, Canada, was used as the exterior for Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters in the X-Men movies. It first appeared in Generation X, a made-for-TV movie in 1996, but later it found its way into X-Men, X2: X-Men United, and X-Men: The Last Stand throughout the 2000s. Twentieth Century Fox also used Casa Loma in Toronto and Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, Ontario for exteriors, while movie sets on a soundstage in Los Angeles were used to shoot interiors.

12. The Baseball Diamond from Field of Dreams

Universal Studios built the field of Field of Dreams in Dubuque County, Iowa, near the city of Dyersville, straddling the land of two farmers. After filming completed in 1988, the field was left behind for the landowners: the Lansing family, who owned the house, the infield, and right field; and the Ameskamp family, who maintained left and center. At first, there were two driveways, two gift shops, and two parking lots, and equipment purchased from left field couldn’t be used on the right. But in 2007, the Ameskamps sold their part of the baseball diamond to the Lansings. Currently, Go the Distance Baseball, LLC owns the 193 acres where the film was shot; there are plans to develop a new $74 million complex called Baseball Heaven.

13. The Cherry Street Inn from Groundhog Day

While Groundhog Day takes place Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, it was almost entirely filmed in  Woodstock, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The cozy bed and breakfast where Bill Murray's Phil Connors stays is Royal Victorian Manor, located at 344 Fremont Street. Woodstock also hosts an annual Groundhog Day, where fans can experience the movie with special events around the town—including a two-night stay at the Royal Victorian Manor.  

14. Top Notch from Dazed & Confused

Top Notch, located at 7525 Burnet Road in Austin, Texas, served as one of the teen hangouts in Dazed & Confused: It's where David Wooderson, played by Matthew McConaughey, first got the word out about the party at the Moontower (no longer a functioning site) at the film's climax. You can still grab a burger at the Top Notch today.

15. Hogwarts from Harry Potter

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter film series is actually a few locations around England: Christ Church College and Cathedral in Oxford was used for its 16th-century stone staircase, and the design of its dining hall inspired Hogwarts' Great Hall; Gloucester Cathedral was used for the school's hallways in the first two films; Lacock Abbey near Chippenham in Wiltshire was used for a number of Hogwarts’ classrooms; and Bodleian Library of Oxford University, Fourth Form Room of Harrow Old Schools in Greater London, and Alnwick Castle in Northumberland were all locations used to bring Hogwarts alive on the big screen.

A majority of Christ Church College and Durham Cathedral's architecture inspired the design of the numerous Hogwarts movie sets at Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire, England.  

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]