CLOSE
Original image

14 Pop Culture References in World of Warcraft

Original image

OK, between Guitar Hero and this, I'm totally outing myself as a geek. But I don't care. Here it is: I play World of Warcraft. (It's not a problem; I can quit any time I want.) Ever since I started playing, I've started noticing little references to WoW everywhere. South Park and The Simpsons have both had episodes featuring the game (or in the case of The Simpsons, a suspiciously similar game).

And the more I advance in the game, the more pop culture references I notice in the game itself. I just love sly little mentions that not everyone would catch. I started doing a little research and there are way, way too many to mention, but I'm going to list a few of my favorites. I haven't actually discovered all of these myself, so it gives me something to watch out for while I'm playing. Besides murlocs and ghouls, I mean.

finkle.jpg1. The inscription on a couple of weapons (the Finkle's Lava Dredger and Finkle's Skinner) says, "Property of Finkle Einhorn, Grandmaster Adventurer." Ace Ventura fans will recognize this from the moment near the end of the movie when Ace figures out that Lois Einhorn is, in fact, ex-Miami Dolphins footballer Ray Finkle. "Einhorn is Finkle! Finkle is Einhorn! Einhorn is a man!"

2. My friend Josh says he has never seen this one mentioned on any other Easter egg site, so this may very well be an exclusive (thanks, Josh). This one's also in the town of Stormwind - there's a traveling salesman who goes by the name Antonio Pirelli. In both the theater and recent movie versions of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (which I adored), there's a traveling hair tonic salesman named Adolfo Pirelli. Coincidence?? Not in my book.

bernard-gump.jpg3. This one's a little trickier. In one of the large cities in the game, Stormwind, there's a flower shop owner named Bernard Gump. Florist Gump. Get it?

4. If you head to a town called Lakeshire and train with the fisherman there, you might be getting more of a lesson than you bargained for: the trainer's name is Matthew Hooper. Richard Dreyfuss played shark expert Matt Hooper in Jaws.

5. More naming fun. In the Eastern Plaguelands, there's a priest named Father Inigo Montoy, which is just one letter away from Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.")

6. The creators must be fans of The Princess Bride, because the stable master in the town of Southshore is named Wesley. That's not quite the same as the stable boy Westley in The Princess Bride, but it's close enough that it had to be intentional. Right?

7. Another movie that gets multiple references is Silence of the Lambs. One quest requires players to get an ogre tannin out of a basket. (No, I don't know what a "˜tannin' is.) The second the tannin is removed, an ogre runs after the player yelling, "It puts the tannin in the basket or else it gets the club again!" This is a combination of Buffalo Bill's "It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again," and "It places the lotion in the basket."

8. There's a blacksmith in the town of Darkshire who sometimes mumbles about hearing the lambs scream. Her name just happens to be Clarise.

9. Visit the city of Orgrimmar and you'll have the chance to check out a shop called "Boomstick Imports". Bruce Campbell would be proud.

10. My favorite category of movies "“ the horror genre "“ does not go unnoticed in the World of Warcraft (which is only appropriate since it's crawling with the undead, ghouls, zombies and banshees). The innkeeper in Undercity is named Innkeeper Norman and the innkeeper of Sepulcher is named Innkeeper Bates"¦ see, Norman Bates, our favorite Psychopath hotel manager.

11. The trick in the bullet above "“ giving two people of the same profession names that relate to one another "“ is a favorite trick of the WoW game designers. Next time you visit Undercity, take notice of the auctioneer there. His name is Yarly. Not something you'd think much of, right? But if you travel to Stranglethorn Vale and check out the auctioneer there, you'll see that his name is O'Reely. O'Reely and Yarly is a reference to the "O RLY? YA RLY!" owls of Internet fame.

12. There's a kitty at the start of the Naxxramas instance whose name is Mr. Bigglesworth"¦ AKA Dr. Evil's cat in the Austin Powers movies.

13. It isn't just movies that are referenced. The punk movement also gets a little love from the good people of Blizzard Entertainment. In the Alterac Mountains, there's a non-playable character named Nancy Vishas. This is likely a nod to Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, whom he stabbed to death in 1978.

homestar.jpg14. Finally, not one, but two Homestar Runner references. First, a non-playable character in the Searing Gorge named Master Smith Burninate"¦. as in the Strongbad drawing Trogdor the Burninator. I wonder if there's a poorly-drawn dragon lurking somewhere that I haven't found yet. The second reference is a bad guy named Jorb. This may or may not be a reference to the Homestar short "A Jorb Well done" where Coach Z is unable to pronounce the word "˜job' correctly.

Those are a few of my favorites. So tell me, Warcraft people, what have you come across that made you giggle to yourself?

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
iStock
Sponsor Content: BarkBox
arrow
8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
Original image
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.

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES