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11 Korean Yogurt Stores that'll Knock Your Pinkberries off

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Sadly, if you don't live in NYC or LA, you probably don't yet know about Pinkberry frozen yogurt, and all the knockoffs. But if trends are any indication, you probably will soon enough because there are already more than 50 Pinkberries in California alone.

So what's so special about it? Well, for starters, the original flavor is sour, as in real yogurt culture sour (though there's some controversy over how much real yogurt is in the mix). Second, the only other flavor available is green tea (up until recently). Lastly, no one really knows what's in it or how to knock it off 100% successfully (in terms of its smooth texture and unique flavor). The secret recipe is so guarded, Pinkberry employees tell me that they're instructed to rinse out the unmarked yogurt mix cartons before disposing of them because people have been going through the dumpsters trying to sample the contents.

And that leads us to probably the most interesting thing about the yogurt: the huge number of imitations popping up, despite that they haven't figured out how to knock it off successfully (can you tell I'm a real Pinkberry devotee?). Of course, the most curious thing about this is: Pinkberry itself is said to be a knock off of the South Korean chain Red Mango. Indeed, Pinkberry was started in LA by Korean Americans Shelly Hwang and Young Lee, so there could be truth to the claim.

And while there are Red Mangos opening up in LA too now, Pinkberry clearly has a stronghold, as you'll see from the imitation store names I found all within a 2-mile radius of my house. (Believe me, there are MANY more than just these below). Also note how the stores imitate the cool, clean modern design of the Pinkberry franchise (most of Pinkberry's furniture, and even their floor, comes from Design Within Reach).

Here's one of the many Pinkberries in my neighborhood. On weekend evenings, the line goes out the store and way down the block.

Here's Red Mango, said to have come up with the original recipe in South Korea. It's good, but not as smooth as Pinkberry.
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(check out all the hilarious knock-offs after the jump)

Berri Good isn't so Berri Good by my standards, but, hey, cute signage!
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Berry Nutty on the other hand is okay if I'm really hurting and can't make it all the way up to Pinkberry, a mile away.

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I've never tried Iceberry, but they also have smoothies there, which means they aren't yogurt purists.

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Same with Gelatoday. They sell more than just Korean-style frozen yogurt. I think you can even get pizza at this particular one.

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In addition to the original flavor and green tea, Green Apple also has, surprise, surprise, Green Apple flavor. They also sell crepes and salads"¦ again, this is not for the frozen yogurt purist.

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Kiwibear is, oddly enough, a knockoff of a knockoff! Kiwiberry is the original, which, of course, is a Pinkberry knockoff. And it tastes like it.

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Snowberry wouldn't let me photograph their storefront"¦ needless to say, I've never tasted their knockoff attempt.

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Yogurtberry is another one that mostly gets the flavor right, but doesn't really come close in terms of texture. It's much harder than Pinkberry and they don't have coconut shavings in their mix-in bar. (Gotta have coconut).

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Snowpod doesn't quite compare to our yogurt yardstick either, despite that they have a few Macs set up and offer free Internet browsing while you eat. Just for giggles, I loaded the Pinkberry Web site when I was there last and left it up for the next person who happened into the store.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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