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Chips, Crisps, Croustilles: A Global Tour of Unusual Potato Chip Flavors

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There’s a whole world of chip flavors out there that most of us have never even imagined. Here are some of the most interesting.

Australia:

Some of the most popular flavors of late sound quite tasty, or at least intriguing, including lime and pepper, sweet chili sauce & sour cream, honey soy chicken, kangaroo, emu and Caesar salad.

Image courtesy of avlxyz's Flickr stream.

Canada:

They may only be a border away from the snack food capital of the world, but they’re miles away when it comes to flavor varieties. A few different options include dill pickle, ketchup, wasabi, ham & mustard, spicy curry, pizza and, of course, poutine.

Image courtesy of lynx81's Flickr stream.

China:

When it comes to interesting snack food flavors, Japan and China are in a constant state of battle, but as far as potato chips go, China seems to have the lead. Japan can't compete with the fruit-flavored chips of China: kiwi, blueberry, mango and lychee are all on the shelves. As for non-fruit flavors, the country still has some delightfully unique options including braised pork, garlic soft-shelled crab, cheese lobster, hazelnut, spicy hot pot, hot & sour fish soup, lemon tea and cucumber.

Image courtesy of toehk's Flickr stream.

Egypt:

If you love Middle Eastern cuisine, then you’ll love Chipsy’s flavor line that includes kebab, stuffed grape leaves and Rumi cheese (above).

Image courtesy of Prince Roy's Flickr stream.

Germany:

The most famous flavor of potato chips in the country is beer, but they are actually not all that popular with the locals. More commonly, Germans prefer to eat paprika chips.

Image courtesy of ceris42's Flickr stream.

Greece:

For those with a soft spot for Greek food, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the country has incorporated a few of its favorite foods into its chip flavors, offering olive oil, lemon-vinegar-black pepper, mushrooms a la crème, mustard, Tzatziki and oregano flavors.

Image courtesy of daftgirly's Flickr stream.

India:

Their food is known for its spices and so are their potato chips. Popular flavors available in both India and Pakistan include mint, masala, coriander and red chili pepper.

Image courtesy of smee_me's Flickr stream.

Japan:

While China certainly leads the way with their fruit chips, Japan isn’t far behind. A few notable varieties include nori & salt, consommé, soy sauce & butter, garlic, mayonnaise, scallop with butter, teriyaki, yakitori, salmon sushi, clam chowder Doritos, hamburger and kimchi.

Image courtesy of kalleboo's Flickr stream.

The Netherlands:

Here we find some perfect flavors for people with the munchies. Lay’s offers quite a selection in the Netherlands, including spaghetti Bolognese, barbecued ham, Mexican herbs, Mediterranean herbs, Oriental spices, spareribs, Thai sweet chili, pepper & cream and chicken & thyme. Yum!

Image courtesy of wbpartridge's Flickr stream.

Russia:

Many Americans would love some of the flavors of our Cold War rivals. A few notable chip choices: bacon, shish kabob, crab, caviar and mushroom & sour cream.

Image courtesy of catorze14's Flickr stream.

South Africa:

If you like meat, then you’ll probably love some of the flavors of chips here including beef jerky and sausage. Of course, these flavors go great with sauces, so you might want to pair them with some chutney, hot sauce or Worcestershire sauce chips.

Image courtesy of mikemedia's Flickr stream.

Spain:

For the most part, Spain prefers their chips fried in olive oil and lightly salted, though there are slightly more gourmet varieties like pink Andean salt or sea salt & black pepper. Prosciutto-style ham is the country's second-bestselling flavor.

Image courtesy of scaredy_kat's Flickr stream.

Scandinavia:

Most of your flavor options this northern corner of Europe all sound pretty darn tasty: mushroom, horseradish, black pepper & spring onion, and pretty much anything with sour cream, including béarnaise. Things get weirder when chip companies try to mimic international flavors: Texas Grilled Cheese & Onion, the whimsical Kebab Dream (above), and Louisiana Style Hot BBQ are all available from Swedish brand OLW.

Image credit: Moa at twinkuss

The U.K.

While the residents of the United Kingdom seem to appreciate many of the same foods as Americans, their chip flavors tell a different story. Some of the many flavors of note include prawn cocktail, steak & onion, lamb & mint, sausage & ketchup, pickled onion, marmite, roast pork & mustard sauce, turkey & bacon, stilton & cranberry, roast beef & Yorkshire pudding, mozzarella with tomato & basil, beer & cheddar, paella, bratwurst, sausage & brown sauce, Cajun squirrel, chili & chocolate, duck & hoisin sauce and haggis. So if you really want some variety in your “crisps” and don’t want to leave the states, you can always head to your local British imports store and see what flavors they carry.

Image courtesy of Scorpions and Centaurs' Flickr stream.
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There are probably hundreds of weird potato chip flavors out there flying under our radar, so tell us what crazy things we missed. What’s the best and/or weirdest chip you've ever had? Have you ever tried one you thought would be gross, but ended up really liking?

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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
entertainment
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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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