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10 Town Names That Will Make You Hungry

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Earlier this year, Ranker.com assembled a list of food-centric town names. It made us hungry. Here's how some of those places got those delicious monikers.

1. Hot Coffee, MS

Image credit: Flickr user jimmywayne

In the early 1800s, travelers on their way to Mobile often stopped at an inn in southern Mississippi, where owner Levi Davis greeted them with ginger cookies and a pot of piping hot coffee. The inn took on the name of its signature beverage, and eventually so did the surrounding area. Today, it’s not really a town so much as a scattering of farms, homes and businesses along Hot Coffee Road.

2. Two Egg, FL

This little burg got its name during the Great Depression. The story goes that in the town’s general store, two lads often came in on errands for their mom, regularly trading two eggs for a package of sugar. Locals began referring to the place as the “two egg store,” and the name stuck for the town as well. Strange fact: On the town’s website, there is news about recent sightings of a Bigfoot-type creature called the Two Egg Stump Jumper.

3. Cookietown, OK

This place supposedly got its name in the early 1900s, after general store owner Marvin Cornelius gave a cookie to a young boy, who exclaimed, “I don’t want to leave Cookietown.” Despite its yummy name, Cookietown is more of a ghost town today – just a few residents and a church.

4. Chicken, AK

In the late 1800s, gold prospectors who were mining near the south fork of 40-mile River found a tasty supply of victuals courtesy of the Ptarmigan, a game bird that resembles a sleek chicken. In 1902, the region was incorporated into a town called Ptarmigan. The only problem was, nobody could agree on how to spell the name. So they simplified it. Today, Chicken (pop. 17) offers tourists the opportunity to do some free gold panning along Chicken Creek. The Ptarmigan became the State Bird in 1955.

5. Rabbit Hash, KY

According to popular legend, a flood in the 1840s drove hundreds of rabbits from the riverbank, and right into the stew pots of hungry settlers. Described by the general store clerk as “a little slice of American pie,” Rabbit Hash consists of “eight buildings and an official population of one.” Strange fact: The current mayor of Rabbit Hash is Lucy Lou, a Border Collie.

6. Tortilla Flat, AZ

Back in the late 1800s, this area was a stop for cattle drivers. While on a drive from Phoenix to Tonto Basin, a man named Cline and his fellow cowboys had a bit too much to drink and forgot to stock up on supplies. Camped at the flat with only a bag of flour, all they could make to eat was tortillas. Today, this humble town has a museum, a country store, a post office and a population of 6.

7. Pie Town, NM

Image credit: Joe Berkovitz

In the 1920s, Clyde Norman, a World War I vet with a thing for baking, started a business in a rocky region of western New Mexico, making dried apple pies. Word got around among cattle drivers, and they nicknamed Norman’s place “Pie Town.” Today, it’s a town of approximately 50. At the center is the Pie Town Café, which serves over fifteen varieties of tasty home made pie.

8. Ding Dong, TX

In the early 1930s, uncle and nephew Zulis and Bert Bell ran a country store near the Lampasas River. They hired a local artist to paint them a sign, and he put their names inside two bells alongside the words “Ding Dong.” The small community that grew around the store took on the name. All that’s left of the town today is a bit of stray signage. Strange fact: Ding Dong was in Bell County (the county was named for Governor Peter Bell).

9. Oatmeal, TX

The town’s name is related to the German farmers who settled there in the 1840s. One version has it coming from a gristmill owner named Mr. Othneil. The other from a family named Habermill (Haber is a German dialect word for hafer, or oats). Today, the small town’s big event is their annual Oatmeal Festival.

10. Spuds, FL

St. John’s County is the leading producer of potatoes in Florida, as this little hamlet’s (est. 1911) name reflects. Though some signage remains, Spuds has pretty much been swallowed up by its larger neighbor, Hastings. A temporary camp for German prisoners of war was reportedly built in Spuds during World War II. The prisoners were put to work harvesting potatoes.

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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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