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11 Cool, Creative and Totally Crazy Barbecue Grills

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It’s summertime, which means it’s time to start burning hot dogs grilling! If you’re in the market for a new one, maybe one of these strange grills will spark your interest.

Tired of grilling your meat with boring old wood, charcoal or gas? Well then, ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. This grill runs on a 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI engine. It can cook 240 hot dogs in only three minutes—we'll let you calculate the dogs-per-gallon ratio yourselves.

This muscle car grill might not run on an engine, but it is designed to look like a classic car motor, complete with exhaust pipes for ventilation and pistons for knobs. It also has a CD/MP3 player with speakers so you can rock out while you char steaks with your own custom grill brand.

Sure, motorcycle sidecars are pretty cool, but you know what’s even cooler? A mobile barbecue that’s big enough to feed a hungry motorcycle club. It may look like it was built for a biker with a big appetite, but it's really a custom build for New York restaurant RUB, which hired OC Choppers to make the bike.

The Baby Carriage Pit is exactly what it sounds like—a barbecue built inside of a vintage metal baby carriage. We're not sure why this exists. On the upside, it’s totally portable and would be easy to move through a crowded park.

The Texas Six Shooter Grill does not actually shoot food bullets, which is a shame.  But after loading the meats in the general chamber area, the barrel serves as the chimney, so there is a pretty cool smoking-gun effect.

One of the many failed merchandise concepts George Lucas was considering prior to the launch of the Star Wars prequels was a Death Star grill. The concept art made it to the 'net, where sheet metal worker Bryan Tate discovered it and decided to to make the grill into a reality. When it was all completed, Tate sold it on eBay to a lucky Star Wars fan.

You can always tow a small cabin or a large grill behind your pickup truck, but with the Bar-B-Q Log Cabin Concession Trailer, you can do both at the same time. That’s because this 8 x 12 log cabin comes with a built-in 6’ smoker or a 4’ smoker and a 2’ grill. Now that’s convenient.

The intricate details on this one almost make it look fake, but this dragon grill is in fact more real than dragons. Its creator, Ed McBride, dubbed it “Guardian of the Beast” before he sold it off for $65,000 at the Safari Club International 33rd Annual Hunters' Convention

Not every grill also serves as a work of art, but the sculptural ‘Circle’ grill by Fire and Steel certainly does, with its circular frame supporting the ash bowl and a hanging grill. While it looks like the grill could be dangerously wobbly, two support beams work to ensure it stays in place while you cook. If nothing else, this beautiful grill is an excellent conversation starter.

This space-saving wall barbecue folds up while not in use. The plate protects the wall from smoke and the bowl is designed to catch the ashes so it won’t spill all over your wall if you fold it up without cleaning it first.

Technically, this isn’t a grill, but a grilling accessory that converts your standard kettle grill into an oven that can be used to make smoky, gourmet pizzas.

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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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