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5 Adult-Friendly Food Fights Around the World

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1. The Battle of Oranges

Photo from the 2007 Battle of Oranges by Flickr user Giò-S.p.o.t.s.

Each February at the Carnival of Ivrea in Italy, citizens commemorate the people's uprising against the tyrannical Raineri di Biandrate with an epic food fight.

As the story goes, Biandrate gave himself the right to sleep with any bride on her wedding night. One day, a beautiful young woman named Violetta issued a clear rejection by decapitating him with a dagger. Violetta became the hero of the commoners, a symbol of the numerous revolts against the monarchy.

Nowadays, participants are divided into two teams. One group parades through town in carriages to represent the emperor’s men. The other team, representing the common people, stays on foot and hurls food at the aristocracy. And of course, both groups sport era-appropriate costumes.

While this epic food fight originally featured beans, citizens of Ivrea switched to oranges in the 19th century. Makes sense. If you’re going to be in the midst of a messy food fight, better to be covered in Tropicana than bean soup. By the time the last fruit is thrown, the streets are covered in sugary, citrus-scented sap (minus the annoying peels). Orange you glad they didn’t use bananas?


Photo from the 2011 Battle of the Oranges by Flickr user Sebastiano Rossi. See the rest of his photo set here.

2. The World Custard Pie Championship

YouTube video of the 2008 World Custard Pie Championships by New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television

In Coxheath, Britain, finding a super-fun food fight is as easy as pie. In a competition inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s slapstick comedy, no one can turn down a heaping helping of pie-in-the-face.

Contestants work in teams of five, attempting to pummel pies at specific parts of opponents’ bodies. Points are awarded depending on what part of the body is hit, and striking an adversary in the face automatically earns competitors 6 points. Judges also reward originality: amusing styles of pie-throwing earn competitors up to 5 additional points.

The only downside? These scrumptious-looking pies are inedible. Instead of real custard, they are purportedly made from a secret recipe consisting of water and flour. But that still doesn’t stop people from all walks of life – businessmen, students, and nuns alike – from heading downtown to get their just desserts.

3. La Meringada

YouTube video of the 2011 La Merengada by Canal Blau TV

La Batalla de Carmelos/La Meringada is a two-pronged food fight in Vilanova, Spain that leaves everyone involved with a serious sugar rush.

The festival has its roots in the Franco era, when townspeople angrily protested the regime’s ban on carnivals by throwing sweets. Each year, after sitting down to a traditional Lenten meal of fish with red pepper sauce and salad, residents of the town spill out onto the streets to cream the competition, chucking the sweet stuff at everything that moves. Even you, Granny.

If that’s not enough, townspeople gather the Saturday before to attend La Batalla de Carmelos, a parade in which caramels are hurled into the crowd. Children and adults alike congregate to catch the sweets to kick off the week’s festivities. Now that’s what I call a sweet pregame.

4. The Great Fruitcake Toss

This YouTube video of the 2008 Fruitcake Toss by jgrotz includes the destruction of a computer at the 1:25 mark

Finally, brilliant minds in Manitou Springs, Colorado have developed a solution to an age-old conundrum: how do you get rid of a freaking fruitcake? The answer: chuck it as far as possible, and pray it’s never found.

Participants register by paying a small fee or donating a can of non-perishable food. While this nutty brawl primarily consists of a skirmish against the revolting food itself, participants also battle each other for prizes and the cachet of a cake-tossing title.

Competition is intense. Athletes face off in two weight classes (2-lb and 4-lb cakes) and numerous tossing divisions: the catapult, the giant slingshot, and the spud gun. Several local inns offer services to give participants a competitive edge—including extra-sturdy cakes and lessons to help refine their tossing technique.

The event also includes a “catch the cake” competition, as well as an accuracy task in which participants aim their fruitcakes at targets. Teams are also awarded prizes for showmanship: coolest costume, slogan, and cake-hurling device.

5. La Tomatina

YouTube video about La Tomatina by Journeyman Pictures

The mother of all food fights tastes curiously like SpaghettiOs. In Buñol, Spain, thousands of citizens gather each year to participate in the world’s most epic food fight. In this massive tomato-throwing frenzy, there are no teams. Rather, it’s every man for himself in a V8 bloodbath.

The tradition began in 1945 when a group of teenagers watching the festival of gigantes and cabezudos (puppets with enormous heads) attempted to join the parade, causing angry audience members to pelt them and each other with tomatoes from a nearby produce stand.

To prevent the food fight from degenerating into an unmediated melee, la Tomatina is governed by a strict set of rules established by the city council.

  1. The tomatoes must be squashed before throwing to avoid injuries.
  2. No other projectiles except tomatoes are allowed.
  3. Participants have to move out of the way for trucks and lorries.
  4. No ripping off the t-shirts of other contestants.
  5. After the final shot goes off, no more throwing tomatoes.

La Tomatina has spawned copycats across the globe, inspiring similar tomato brawls in Columbia and Reno, Nevada. But if they’re looking to host the largest food fight on Earth, the rest of a world needs to do a lot of tomato squashing to ketchup. (Yeah, we went there.)


Photo from La Tomatina 2006 by Flickr user davidd (puuikibeach). See the rest of his set here.

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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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