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Understanding Diner Lingo: 55 Phrases to Get You Started

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Photo: avlxyz on Flickr

The origins of most diner phrases are shrouded in mystery or lost to history, and different regions and restaurants use different terminology for the same items, but this list should give you an idea of what's going on when you hear your waitress screaming about wrecking two chicks on a raft.

1. Adam and Eve on a raft/log - Two poached eggs on toast

2. Adam's ale/city juice/dog soup - Water

3. All hot - A baked potato

4. Axle grease/skid grease/cow paste - Butter

5. Baby juice/moo juice/cow juice/Sweet Alice - Milk

6. Belch water/balloon water - Seltzer or soda water

7. Blonde with Sand - Coffee with cream and sugar.

8. Bloodhound in the Hay - A hot dog with sauerkraut

9. Bossy in a bowl - Beef stew

10. Bow-wow/bun pup/tube steak/groundhog/Coney Island/Coney Island chicken/Coney Island bloodhound - A hot dog

11. Breath - Onion

12. Bronx vanilla/halitosis/Italian perfume - Garlic

13. Bullets/whistleberries - Baked beans

14. Burn one - Put a hamburger on the grill

15. Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it - A hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion

16. Burn the British - A toasted English muffin

17. Cackle fruit/Cackleberries/Hen Fruit - Eggs

18. Chicks on a raft - Eggs on toast

19. Customer will take a chance/clean up the kitchen/sweep the floor - Hash

20. Dough well done with cow to cover - Buttered toast

21. Drag one through Georgia - Coca-Cola with chocolate syrup

22. Draw one/a cup of mud - A cup of coffee

23. Draw one in the dark - A cup of black coffee

24. First lady - Spareribs (probably a pun on Eve being made from Adam's rib)

25. Fish eyes/cat's eyes - Tapioca pudding

26. Flop two - Two fried eggs over easy

27. Frog sticks - French fries

28. GAC - A grilled American cheese sandwich (Also called a "jack" or a "Jack Benny" if there's bacon on it.)

29. Gravel train - Sugar bowl

30. Heart Attack on Rack - Biscuits and gravy

31. Hemorrhage - Ketchup

32. Hockey puck - A hamburger, well done

33. Hounds on an Island - Franks and beans

34. Houseboat - A banana split

35. In the alley - Served as a side dish

36. Maiden's delight - Cherries ("cherry" is slang for the maidenhead (archaic), or hymen)

37. Mississippi Mud/Yellow paint - mustard

38. Mystery in the alley - A side order of hash

39. Nervous pudding - Jelly/Jello

40. Noah's boy - A slice of ham (Ham was one of the Biblical Noah's sons)

41. Noah's boy with Murphy carrying a wreath - ham and potatoes with cabbage

42. On the hoof - Any kind of meat cooked rare

43. Pair of drawers - Two cups of coffee

44. Pittsburgh - Toast or burn something so it's charred on the outside but still red on the inside (probably a reference to Pittsburgh's smokestacks or coal beds)

45. Put out the lights and cry - Liver and onions

46. Sand/gravel/yum-yum - Sugar

47. Sea dust - salt

48. Shingle with a shimmy and a shake - Buttered toast with jam

49. Shoot from the South/Atlanta special - Coca-Cola (the company's headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia)

50. Radio - A tuna salad sandwich on toast ("tuna down" or tuna on toast, sounds like "turn it down" the command often repeated when the radio is on in the kitchen)

51. Wax - American cheese

52. Whiskey - rye bread

53. Whiskey down - rye toast

54. Wreck 'em - Scrambled eggs

55. 86 - Remove an item from an order or from the menu; throw an item away (plenty of theories on the origins of this one, including: a reference to Article 86 of the New York State Liquor Code, which defines the circumstances under which a patron should be refused alcohol; a reference to coffins, usually eight feet long and buried six feet under; from Chumley's Bar and Restaurant in New York City, where trash was thrown out the back door at 86 Bedford Street; from Delmonico's Restaurant in NYC, where item #86 on their menu, the house steak, was often unavailable due to its popularity.

A list like this is never complete, so tell us your favorite diner lingo if we missed it!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Opening Ceremony
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]