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8 American Snacks & Their Foreign Flavors

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It doesn’t matter what country you live in, you’ve undoubtedly encountered your share of American junk foods. But if you live outside of the states, you're very likely getting flavors of these treats that Americans can’t buy at home. And the more you travel, the more strange flavors of salty and sweet snacks you’ll run into.

1. Fanta

Fanta comes in more than 90 flavors worldwide and most countries only sell 5 or so varieties. Some flavor highlights include Blueberry (Indonesia), Cantaloupe (Egypt), Honeydew (Taiwan), Lactic White Grape (Taiwan—that's it to the left), Lychee (Cambodia), Melon Cream (Japan), Orange Mint (China), Passion Fruit (Portugal and Tanzania), Sour Cherry (Estonia, Montenegro, and Serbia), Tamarind (Mexico), Toffee (Taiwan), and Watermelon (Greece). The company also sells a variety of blended flavors, including Passion Fruit and Lemon in France and Apple and Pear in Iran.

Japan has their own special line of Fanta drinks called Fanta FuruFuru Shakers that include “carbon acid” that releases a floating jelly substance when shaken before drinking. That's it in the image at left, by Flickr user HK-DMZ.

2. & 3. Potato Chips

Potato chip lovers looking to spice up their lives should consider traveling around the world to enjoy all the flavors Lay's has to offer. In Canada alone there are at least ten flavors not available in the states, including Ketchup, Roast Chicken, Smokey Bacon, Spicy Curry, Pizza, Poutine, and Wasabi. You can read a review of the Wasabi and Spicy Curry flavors seen at left on Flickr user Smaku's page. Over in the UK, Lay's are sold under the Walkers brand with their own special flavors including Prawn Cocktail, Pickled Onion, Greek Kebab, and Marmite.


Other notable Lay's flavors include Blueberry (from China, as displayed by Flickr user zieak above), Crab & Red Caviar (Russia), Cucumber & Goat Cheese (Belgium), Finger Licking Braised Pork (China), Garlic Soft Shelled Crab (China), Jamon (a prosciutto-styled ham from Spain), Kiwi (China), Lasagna (throughout South America), Magic Masala (throughout South Asia), Mexican Peppers & Cream (The Netherlands), Mushroom & Sour Cream (Russia), Nori Seaweed (Thailand and Vietnam), Soy Sauce (Japan), Spicy Chili Squid (Thailand), Teriyaki (Japan), Thai Sweet Chili (Germany and The Netherlands), and Tzatziki (Greece and parts of South America).

The fruit-flavored Lay's are probably the ones that surprise American food sensibilities the most, but Lay's isn’t the only company selling them. Pringles also has a unique flavor list available throughout Asia, including Blueberry, Grilled Shrimp, Hazelnut, Lemon, Seaweed, and Soft-Shelled Crab.

4. KitKat

If you can’t imagine blueberry potato chips, what about wasabi-flavored KitKats? While the UK sells Mint bars, Australia sells a Cookie Dough variety, and Poland has a Cappuccino flavor, the majority of different-flavored KitKats come exclusively from Japan, as demonstrated by the delightful Godzilla robot in Flickr user Kelvin255's image. Flavors sold exclusively in the Land of the Rising Sun include Aloe Vera, Apple, Azuki (a red bean paste), Banana, Beet, Black Tea, Blueberry, Bubblegum (complete with blue chocolate), Cantaloupe, Cheese, Cucumber, Fruit Parfait, Ginger Ale, Green Tea, Kiwi, Melon, Miso, Pepper, Pineapple, Pumpkin, Rose, Soybean, Sweet Potato, Wasabi, Wine, Yakimorokoshi (grilled corn), Yogurt, and more.

5. Oreos

If you prefer chocolate cookies over chocolate candy bars, then you might consider snacking on some Oreos with flavored fillings such as China’s Green tea (seen in Flickr user Ken.Larmon's image at left) or strawberry varieties or the Dulce de Leche filling from Chile. Even the pickiest readers who are freaked out by the rest of this list would probably enjoy these sweet treats.

6. Pepsi

Much has been made of Japan’s strange flavors of Pepsi as well, but the truth is that most of these varieties, including the Ice Cucumber flavor seen at left as pictured by Flickr user tenaciousme, were only limited edition. With so many delightfully strange permanent flavors of the cola, the limited editions are only a blip on the radar.

A few permanent Pepsi flavors you might want to try while traveling include Russia’s Pepsi Ice Cream (said to taste like a Pepsi float), the Pepsi Cappuccino (a coffee-flavored cola from Russia),  Italy’s Pepsi Max Twist Mojito (Pepsi with a twist of citrus and mint), Japan’s Pepsi White (cola with a yogurt flavor, as seen above in the image by Flickr user Rami), Vietnam’s Pepsi Blue (a fruity, pineapple soda), and South East Asia’s Pepsi Ice (Pepsi with a minty touch).

7. Sprite

Of course, if you prefer something lighter, Sprite is always a good choice, whether you prefer Sprite on Fire from China (a spicy version of the soda, as photographed by Flickr user sinosplice) or Sprite Ice from Canada (blue in color and featuring a mint flavor).

8. Nestea

For some refreshment sans carbonation, Nestea has you covered, and their international flavors are just as varied as the other brands on this list. Over in Brazil you can enjoy Passion Fruit Nestea, while Croatians prefer their blend of wild berries and cranberries. Hungarians enjoy black currant flavors while Lebanon likes variety in their Fruit Cocktail version. Perhaps the one that sounds most refreshing on a hot day though is Ukraine’s watermelon flavor.

Have any of you well-traveled Flossers experienced any of the flavors here? Or any other strange varieties that I didn’t include? How were they?

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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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