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11 Things You Might Not Know About Domino's

In the past 50 years, Domino’s has grown to become the second largest pizza chain in the country.

1. THE FOUNDER WAS A COLLEGE DROPOUT.

Tom Monaghan’s father died when he was just 4 years old. Unable to care for her kids on her own, his mother sent Tom and his brother to a Catholic orphanage for six years. After that, they bounced around to various foster homes. After barely graduating high school—he was last in his class—and a stint in the Marine Corps, Tom tried to go to college in Michigan. He briefly studied as an architect at the University of Michigan but, unable to pay tuition, he took his brother Jim up on an offer to go in on a small pizzeria that was for sale. They bought DomiNick's in 1960 with a $900 loan.

2. TOM MONAGHAN TRADED HIS CAR TO BECOME THE SOLE OWNER.

The original plan between the two Monaghan brothers was to trade off shifts so Tom could continue his studies and Jim could keep up his job as a mailman. But within eight months of buying the pizzeria, Jim decided to focus solely on his job with the post office. Tom traded him the Volkswagen they used for deliveries for sole ownership of the business.

3. THE CHAIN WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO BE CALLED “DOMINICK'S.”

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It took about a year for Monaghan, who had no pizza-making experience, to get the hang of peddling pies. But he soon bought two more pizzerias in the same county, intending to create a mini-chain of restaurants all with the same name. The real Dominick of the original DomiNick's wouldn’t let Monaghan use his name for an expanded chain, so one of the delivery guys suggested they tweak it slightly to Domino’s.

4. IF THEY’D GONE WITH THE ORIGINAL PLAN, THE LOGO WOULD BE MASSIVE NOW.

The new name lent itself to a domino logo. Monaghan put three dots on the domino to represent the three restaurants he owned at the time, intending to add a dot for each new location. “You can see I wasn't thinking of a national chain back then,” he said in 2003.

5. WHEN MONAGHAN OWNED THE DETROIT TIGERS, THEY CELEBRATED WITH DOMINO’S PIZZA.

Domino’s the franchise was a huge success, making Monaghan a very rich man. After having grown up effectively an orphan, he initially spent the money in flashy ways—acquiring 224 luxury cars, amassing the world’s largest Frank Lloyd Wright collection, and even buying the Detroit Tigers in 1983. The following the year, the Tigers won the World Series and when rowdy celebrations in the streets stranded some of the fans and sportswriters inside the stadium, Monaghan flew in several hundred pizzas from Domino’s on his Sikorsky S-76. In 1998, Monaghan sold the company to Bain Capital for around $1 billion.

6. DOMINO’S MOCKED SUBWAY WITH FREE SUBS FOR “JAREDS.”

As part of their expansion beyond pizza, Domino’s started offering oven baked sandwiches in 2008. The chain recognized that in doing so, they were targeting a certain chain’s market. And rather than deny competition with Subway, Domino’s really went for it: They offered free sandwiches to the first 1000 “Jareds” to who came in, a direct hit at the popular Subway spokesperson. Any spelling qualified, so Jarods and Jerrods were also in luck.

7. IN 2009, DOMINO’S ACCIDENTALLY GAVE AWAY NEARLY 11,000 FREE PIZZAS.

Somehow, in March 2009, a clever customer stumbled onto a promotional code that had been created months before, but never green-lighted or publicized. News of the glitch went viral around southern Ohio and northern Kentucky. By the time the company disabled the code, almost 11,000 free pizzas had been redeemed.

8. DOMINO’S ADMITTED THEIR PIZZA WAS BAD—AND THEN MADE IT BETTER.

By 2010, the complaints about Domino’s pizza and the lackluster flavor had gotten too loud to ignore—even at the company headquarters. So rather than try to stifle the critics, Domino’s featured them in a national ad, and promised to do better. They revamped their entire pie, “from the crust up.”

9. DOMINO’S IS BIG BUSINESS.

As of 2013, Domino’s is the second-largest pizza chain worldwide, after only Pizza Hut, with 11,629 restaurants in total. Brits especially love Domino’s. It’s the number one pizza chain there and in 2015, there were an estimated 75 million pizzas sold in the UK.

10. THE ONLY VEGAN DOMINO’S IS IN ISRAEL.

Cheese is fairly integral to the pizza experience. But in Israel, where veganism is especially popular, activist groups were persuasive enough to convince Domino’s to begin offering a family-size pizza with vegetables and a soy-based cheese for about $20 starting in 2013. It was an exciting development for the 50 or so Israel outposts of Domino’s, but expansion beyond that seems unlikely.

"We'll be paying attention to [the vegan pizza in Israel], but it's not something we're working on here in the U.S.," Domino's spokesman Tim McIntyre said at the time.

11. DOMINO’S ROLLED OUT THE FIRST CAR DESIGNED BY A PIZZA COMPANY.

Domino’s estimates that their 100,000 deliverymen drive a combined 10 million miles a week and deliver 400 million pizzas a year. So it only makes sense that the company has recently developed a car especially designed for delivery. Domino’s DXP, a riff on a subcompact Chevrolet Spark, can carry up to 80 pizzas and includes a 140 degree oven to keep the pies toasty. Domino’s will spread a fleet of 95 DXPs around 25 markets throughout the country. Franchisees can purchase the particular vehicles for $25,000.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Sponsor Content: BarkBox
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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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iStock

Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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