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7 Times People Were Awarded Lifetime Supplies Of Things

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At one time or another, we’ve all daydreamed about scoring a limitless supply of something—whether it's in the form of sweet treats, caffeine, or perhaps gasoline to get us around. But some people have actually achieved this remarkable dream and have procured gifts that just keep on giving.

Check out some of these tales of people scoring free stuff—none of which stemmed from a corporate complaint.

1. CHOCOLATE

In the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield was baking chocolate cookies for guests at her successful Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. When she ran out of baker's chocolate, she chipped away at bars of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate with an icepick and included them in what turned out to be the first-ever batch of chocolate chip cookies.

But Wakefield was actually deliberately creating a new type of cookie, telling the Boston Herald-American in 1974: “Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different. So I came up with the Toll House cookie.”

The cookies were beloved locally, and a Boston newspaper printed the recipe. Nestle’s sales got a boost right around the time Wakefield’s “Toll House Crunch Cookie” recipe became popular, and so the company approached her to make a deal. They would use the Toll House name and print the recipe on every package in exchange for a life-lasting stash of Nestle’s famous chocolate for Wakefield.

2. DIAPERS

A “lifetime supply” in this case translates to about three years’ worth (only lasting until potty training becomes routine). Identical twin girls in Ohio were awarded with their own Pampers diapers-and-wipes trove from Procter & Gamble after news spread that they held hands when first presented to their mother, Sarah Thistlethwaite, in the delivery room. The rare “mono mono twins”—siblings that share the same amniotic sac and placenta—are named Jenna and Jillian, and the pair’s endearing entrance into the world in 2014 garnered nationwide attention. (It even served as fodder for a joke on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.”)

The Procter & Gamble-owned Pampers brand has seemingly dominated the lifetime supply handouts. In 2006, the company welcomed the birth of the 300 millionth American by presenting the newborn’s family with a lifetime supply of diapers and wipes, as well as donating $10,000 to the March of Dimes.

In 1997, Procter & Gamble announced it was providing Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey of Des Moines with a lifetime supply of Pampers for their septuplets: four boys and three girls. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that “babies usually stay in diapers for more than two years, with each child going through about 4500 diapers—or an estimated 31,500 for the McCaughey kids.”

3. ICE CREAM

A lifetime supply of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was the runner-up prize in a 1995 essay contest put on by the dessert moguls, called "Yo! I want to be CEO!" Ben & Jerry’s was seeking a new CEO after Ben Cohen stepped down, and three people, including three-year-old Taylor James Caldwell of Santa Clara, California, took home the second-place prize. (Nobody who submitted an essay scored the title of Ben & Jerry’s CEO; it was awarded to Robert Holland Jr., who was hired through a New York executive recruiting firm.)

Taylor was selected out of 22,000 contestants as one of the contest’s three runners-up, and he was promised 150 coupons annually, redeemable for free pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, as well as a card that can be used at any of their brick and mortar ice cream parlors. In 2010, the Woodlands Villager caught up with Caldwell, who said that the card had come in handy for others, too, as anyone he was with was privy to the free treat.

“Growing up, I used to play baseball and other team sports,” Caldwell said. “It was really nice, because after a game we’d all go have Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.”

4. MILK

In August 2015, six-year-old Brady Carpenter “got milk”—lots of it. During media day at the University of Michigan, the first-grader asked football coach Jim Harbaugh: “How much milk do I have to drink to be big enough to be quarterback?”

Harbaugh responded, “Drink as much milk as your little belly can hold.”

After footage of the encounter spread, Indiana-based milk producer Fairlife helped Brady on his quest—presenting him with a lifetime supply of milk and inviting his family to visit one of their dairy farms.

Anders Porter, spokesperson for Fairlife, tells mental_floss the boy’s prize comes in the form of custom coupons, complete with Brady’s photo and a barcode for grocery store scanning, that the family can redeem for free Fairlife milk at their local store.

“We went ahead and made the prize pretty open-ended,” says Porter. “It’s just up to the parents to reach out to us as soon as they run out of coupons, and we’ll keep giving them as long as we’re still making milk.”

5. TACOS

Diehard fans have gotten inked plenty of times to express their adoration for a band or sports team—and taco-lovers are no different. When a Toronto resident tattooed “DLT 4 Life” over an image of a Doritos Locos Taco on the inside of his left arm in 2014, it garnered plenty of PR for the franchise. They rewarded the taco fan—who is referred to only as "Tyler" in press reports—with an endless supply of Doritos Locos Tacos.

Jamie Solimine, also a resident of Canada, caught Taco Bell’s attention with her electric orange hair. Because of her Doritos Locos Tacos-inspired dye job, the fast food chain awarded her a lifetime supply as well. The company calculated this as a taco per day for “life”—32 years, in Taco Bell terms—for her to feast on. Solimine presents an ID card at the counter to redeem her prize, and she says she’s not sick of it yet.

“I do love tacos,” she told mental_floss. “Not completely over them.”

6. TOILET PAPER

Of the more practical jackpots to win, a lifetime supply of toilet paper was the prize in a 2014 contest sponsored by Charmin that asked people to use the product to make a wedding dress. Frank Cazares, an Anaheim, California resident who holds a design degree, was a runner-up, and he was awarded a lifetime supply of Charmin toilet paper. (Besides a lifetime supply of toilet paper, first prize in the contest also receives $10,000.)

Cazares had only learned of the 2014 contest just two days before the deadline to submit photos of his creation, but he quickly climbed his way into the running.

“I would get home from work and stay up all night working on it,” Cazares told the Orange County Register. “I sent in the photos and got an email five minutes later that I was a finalist.”

He put that prize to use for 2015’s contest, for which he designed a functional dress made of the bathroom staple, supported by tape, glue, and thread. It took him 34 rolls and two weeks to fashion the outfit for the contest, which was hosted by Cheap Chic Weddings.

Alas, he did not win. The first prize of 2015’s contest went to Donna Pope Vincler, who, besides a lifetime supply of toilet paper and cash, also won the opportunity to see her dress produced with real fabric made by Kleinfeld Bridal.

7. PIZZA

One family in Oregon made some serious dough last year—monetary and edible.

When Portland restaurant owner Donna DeNicola scavenged the city’s extremely competitive housing market for a new place, Rob and Holly Marsh sold their 900-square-foot house to a buyer willing to really beef up the offer.

The Marsh family agreed to sell the house after DeNicola, owner of Italian restaurant DeNicola’s in southeast Portland, exceeded their asking price and threw in one pizza every month for the rest of their lives. The Marsh family told ABC News that they were especially swayed by the two free months of rent DeNicola added to her pitch, in addition to the pizza.

“I thought it was hilarious,” Holly Marsh told ABC News. “I’m a fan of unorthodox approaches to things, and that definitely stood out and got our attention.”

Pizzas at DeNicola’s cost around $20 on average.

“I felt like I was in a poker game,” DeNicola told KPTV. “I’m willing to do anything because I know this market is crazy.”

All images via iStock.

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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 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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