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25 Deep-Fried Foods From the Texas State Fair

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For years, county fairs have been at the forefront of deep-frying science, splicing and creating mutant “foods” that are all at once monstrous and wondrous. The Texas State Fair — the largest state fair in the country — holds a yearly competition for the most innovative deep-fried foods. Here are 25 fried Frankenfoods from fairs past:

1. Bubblegum

Photo: CC Collin Harvey on Flickr

It's actually bubblegum-flavored marshmallows, battered and deep fried and sprinkled with Chicklets. Do you chew this? Eat it? Who knows, but you can buy it.

2. Butter

Photo: CC mgerskup on Flickr

Frozen balls of butter, battered and fried and served with four sauces. Because why not.

3. Beer

Photo: CC Stacy Huggins on Flickr

Nope, this isn’t beer battered. This is beer: battered and fried. The beer is poured into little ravioli pockets which burst with scalding suds upon first bite.

4. Peanut Butter Banana Cheeseburgers

Photo: FoodBeast

Elvis would probably make a special trip to Texas just to see this.

5. Coke

Photo: CC L. Richarz on Flickr

An enterprising chef found a way to deep fry soda without the 3rd degree burns.

6. Chicken Fried Bacon

Photo: CC ladybugbkt on Flickr

This is self-explanatory. And probably delicious.

7. Jelly Belly Jelly Beans

Photo: CC RosieTulips on Flickr

It's really just batter with some Jelly Belly jelly beans mixed in, like a fritter on a sugar high.

8. Cadbury Crème Eggs

Photo: CC goodiesfirst on Flickr

Easter doesn’t have nearly enough fried foods... until now.

9. Pizza

Photo: CC Siggi Churchill on Flickr

It's not just pizza ingredients inside a ball of dough. No. It's an actual slice of pizza, breaded and fried.

10. Kool-Aid

Photo: CC nineminutes on Flickr

With an extra sprinkle of Kool-Aid powder over the top instead of powdered sugar.

11. French Fry Coated Hot Dog

Photo: CC phil.lees on Flickr

See? It exists.

12. Pecan Pie

Photo: CC erichcpeters on Flickr

There's probably not a more delicious way to gain five pounds.

13. Lattes

Photo: CC Traveling Fools of America on Flickr

This one is a bit of a misnomer, it seems; the fried part is a sweet dough, which is topped with coffee-flavored ice cream, whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

14. PB&J

Photo: CC bittermelon on Flickr

With a banana thrown in for good measure.

15. Salsa

Photo: thestir.com

Deep-fried condiments can't be a good thing, but according to some people, this is the best-tasting item at the fair. It's salsa mixed with masa, then rolled in crushed tortilla chips before frying.

16. Pop Tarts

Photo: CC RosieTulips on Flickr

It's hard to see, but there's a Pop Tart in there.

17. Margaritas

Photo: CC David Berkowitz on Flickr

Funnel cake batter made with margarita mixer, fried and soaked in more margarita, all served in a salt-rimmed glass.

18. Club Salad

Photo: New York Daily News

The thing about salad is that it’s good for you, usually. Not this time. This is a spinach wrap filled with ham, bacon, cheese, chicken, tomatoes, shredded lettuce and carrots, fried and served on a bed of lettuce.

19. S'mores

Photo: CC David Berkowitz on Flickr

It was only a matter of time.

20. Pumpkin Pie

Photo: CC Collin Harvey on Flickr

It's a pocket filled with pumpkin pie, rolled in cinnamon and ginger snaps, fried and served with whipped cream.

21. Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Photo: CC Blazenhoff on Flickr

Each item is battered and fried individually, skewered and served with whipped cream and a cherry. The "upside-down" part is up to you.

22. Deep Fried Cheesecake

Photo: CC Stacey Huggins on Flickr

Cheesecake filling wrapped in a tortilla, fried.

23. Oreos

Photo: CC Jenn Larsen on Flickr

These are amazing, actually.

And this year's winners, announced this week:

24. Fried Jambalaya: Best Taste

Photo: David Woo for The Dallas Morning News

25. Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll: Most Creative

Photo: David Woo for The Dallas Morning News

Follow Cole on Twitter: @ColeGamble

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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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