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Pictures From Our Readers: Ill-Advised Business Names

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The response to our second reader photo challenge was great, and we got a ton of hilarious submissions! We're posting most of them here, and all of them on our Flickr page. Enjoy!

Anatomically-inclined business names
We had so many submissions in this category, we were actually able to organize them by body part:

We received two pictures of Massachusetts liquor stores named "Bunghole," from Cody (above, in Peabody) and Sabrina (below, in Salem). According to Wikipedia, "a bunghole is a hole bored in a liquid-tight barrel," though it's been used as naughty slang since at least the 13th century (famously making an appearance in Dante's Inferno).

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We also got two pictures of the same business, from readers Kati and Laura -- the unfortunately-named Analtech in Newark, Delaware. (I'm sure it's pronounced an-AL-tech, guys. Jeez, grow up!)
analtech.jpg

Jocelyn sent us a snap of Oregon's own T&A Supply Co., which judging from their name, keeps Nevada well-stocked with pasties and stripper poles.
T&A.jpg

This package store is just outside of Atlanta. (Thanks, Lucy!)
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Furniture guaranteed to keep you up at night. (Heh. Sorry.)
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Puntastic business names
The hair weaves in Pine Bluff, Arkansas are beyond belief. (Thanks to Darcie!)
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This had to be intentional. Right? (From Josh and Joanna Burress, taken near Kokomo, Indiana.)
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Caroline Hanke sent in this picture of a really full-service gas station.
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Unfortunate business names
From reader Katherine: tanning for the truly pale.
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Kelly found this sign in southern Indiana. (Just because you own the place doesn't mean you have to name it after yourself.)
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From Mindy, the least popular furniture store in Mason City, Iowa.
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Joe Warner writes that this business in Acworth, Georgia was torn down a few years ago. I guess the formula just wasn't working.
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Asian restaurants

There could've been thousands of pictures in this column, but we liked these three the best. From J.J. in Poughkeepsie:
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In Bath, Maine (thanks, Austin):
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Reader Christine pointed out this photo of San Diego's own Pho King (it's pronounced fuh), taken by the gourmands at mmm-yoso!
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There are lots of these places in Los Angeles, but apparently people in other parts of the world (like reader Tori) think that donuts and Chinese food make strange platefellows:
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Just plain odd
There's really no other way to classify these. What were they thinking?

More weirdness from Darcie in Pine Bluff, Arkansas:
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Discount caskets? (I hope they're not used.) Thanks, Alyssa!
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Sarah sent us this shot from Shreveport, Louisiana. She hoped this was a sign for an exterminator business, but needless to say, didn't go inside to investigate.
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Laura found this on vacation in Phoenix about 15 years ago. Cute!
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Georgetown's own Moby Dick Kabob. (Say that five times fast.) Thanks to Luz.
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On-purpose weird business names
When you have no marketing budget, sometimes the best way to get the word out about your business is by giving it a ridiculous name. We're pretty sure that's what happened to these fine establishments.

From Kevin:
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A Phillipsburg, Kansas restaurant found by Alyssa:
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A guy who got tired of answering the question "what kind of stuff do you sell?" From Jocelyn:
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More peculiarity from Pine Bluff:
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A frozen yogurt place in Salt Lake (thanks Devora), whose motto appears to be "no spooning on Sundays!"
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Bars
There seems to be a long-standing tradition of giving bizarre names to drinking establishments. Here are a few.

Nothing special about this Lancaster, Ohio saloon (thanks, Sheya):
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Live nude cattle in Star Valley, Arizona. (Thanks, Susan.)
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Both the name and logo of this business seem to celebrate drunk driving:
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Just around the corner from the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City (thanks, Jessica):
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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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