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Creepy Halloween Party Food

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When you plan your Halloween party, the food must be front and center. Since we published Gruesome Halloween Party Food two years ago, many more creepy and delicious treats have surfaced. Try serving these, and your guests will be talking about your party for years. Warning: some images may be disturbing.

Mummy Rolls

Holly Klein calls these mummy rolls "Morning Mummy!" They are constructed from bread dough, nutella, and frosting eyes. Unlike many Halloween recipes, these look good enough to eat!

Eyeball Cupcakes

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There are many recipes for eyeball cupcakes, but this is the only decoration job I've seen that includes eyelids and lashes for a very creepy effect. Jayne at The Barefoot Kitchen Witch made these eye-catching cupcakes with chocolate cake and strawberry-marshmallow filling. The steps she took for the icing are illustrated in pictures in the post.

Headcrabs

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AnnaTheRed makes wonderful bento meals in which every piece of food looks like something else. In this project, she uses potato, bacon, and cheese to make headcrabs. Sounds like a delicious side dish for a Halloween feast, if you can get past thinking about what they look like.

Bloody Brain Cupcakes

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Flickr user xsomnis posted a set of pictures called the Zombie Food Guide that shows how to make these brain cupcakes from red velvet cake, complete with dark red caramel blood. They sound so delicious and look so...  Halloweeny!

Oven-baked Tarantula

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Unlike most of the recipes here, the Oven-baked Tarantula is a real tarantula, collected from Cambodia and cooked to perfection. It is shipped ready-to-eat. One spider will run you £14.95, but a portion of the proceeds go to endangered species preservation projects in Cambodia.

Spider Cakes

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Megan at NotMartha made Crawly Cakes and Spider Cakes in a variety of styles that look good on a Halloween party table and no doubt taste better than the real spider.

Melting Head Cake

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Barbara Jo, who made the famous Killer Rats Cake also made this Melting Head Cake. As if the cake itself isn't awesome enough, it was designed with flesh made of icing that melts as the party goes on, eventually revealing the sugary skull underneath. What's more, there was raspberry jelly between the skull and the melting flesh to give it a gruesomely bloody appearance as it melted.

Flayed Skin Cheese Ball

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If you like the idea of a head on a platter, the Flayed Skin Cheese Ball is your appetizer. The head-shaped cheese is wrapped in thin slices of ham, giving it the look of skinless flesh. Be sure to have plenty of crackers ready.

Naked Mole Rat Cake

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There are no recipes or instructions for the collection of Creepy-crawly Cakes posted at Cake Wrecks, but I couldn't resist including them. Of particular interest is the Naked Mole Rat Cake, created by professional baker Cristy B.

See the earlier post Gruesome Halloween Party Food for a bleeding heart gelatin dessert, white chocolate sugar skulls, a fleshworm entree, and more for your Halloween dinner party.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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iStock
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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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iStock

When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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