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10 Cocktails Inspired by Pop Culture

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Have you ever wanted to drink just like your favorite book, TV, movie or video game character, or at least drink a cocktail inspired by them? Well, good news. Thanks to the creativity and goofiness of many amateur mixologists, now you can, and here are some of the best cocktails based exclusively on pop culture icons.

Special thanks to The Drunken Moogle, which specializes in pop culture cocktails.

1. Harry Potter


While the Harry Potter series might be written for kids and young adults, there are enough references to Butterbeer and Firewhiskey that plenty of adult fans were inspired to create their own versions of the drinks. In fact, there just might be more butterbeer recipes out there than there are for any other drink inspired by a fictional series. While the books don’t make it clear whether butterbeer has a low-level alcoholic content or if it’s just named like root beer, if you’re looking for a real cocktail, the most delicious option might be the butterscotch schnapps, cream soda and whipped cream concoction found on Little Pink Blog.

Little Pink Blog has a whole series of Harry Potter cocktails, including drinks inspired by Hermione, Lord Voldemort, Sirius Black, and The Golden Snitch, but the most visually impressive by far is the Goblet of Fire, which contains vodka, blue Curacao, lemonade, Bacardi 151 and a pinch of cinnamon and is served flaming.

2. The Avengers

After the movie came out last summer, dozens of drink recipes appeared online based on the characters. One of the most comprehensive sets was created by Lily Mitchell and Paul Harasiwka of The More I Arty. Of the entire series, the most fitting cocktail was the God of Thunder based on Thor, which is comprised of mead, Lillehammer and lingonberry vodka.

Comic site MegaCynics also created a number of Avengers creations, with The Hulk being the most impressive. The drink starts with a Bruce Banner (1 part vanilla vodka and 4 parts club soda) and then a gamma bomb (3 drops green food coloring and one ounce of any alcohol you prefer) is dropped in the cup to create a Hulk.

3. Pokemon

If you’re into Pokemon, then you already know that they can evolve into stronger versions when they gain enough experience. So it only makes sense that their cocktails would do the same. The Drunken Moogle has three such Pokemon recipes: a Charmander, Charmeleon and Charizard; a Pichu, Pikachu and Raichu; and a Squirtle, Wartortle and Blastoise. Of the three though, the Squirtle, Wartortle and Blastoise seems the most appropriate, as each evolved level still contains the ingredients from its previous incarnation—they just keep getting stronger as they go.

4. Final Fantasy

With 14 Final Fantasy games on the market, it’s no wonder that the series has inspired so many drinks. In fact, The Drunken Moogle has 24 drinks in their archives based on the games. Unsurprisingly, many of the cocktails are based on Final Fantasy VII, which remains one of the most adored games in the series. If you want to engage in your own Final Fantasy fantasy world, you might try the Phoenix Down (above), which contains absinthe, zwack, simple syrup, grenadine and club soda.

5. Mario Bros

Similarly, Mario’s long-standing success has ensured the series has inspired its own line of cocktails. In fact, when Denmark’s Scrollbar held a Mario-themed night, they invented ten new drinks specifically for the occasion. In fact, the Yoshi (Apple Pucker, Melon Bols, lime juice and apple juice) was so popular that it was even added to their regular menu. Of course, the 1-Up shot might not have been as tasty as the Yoshi, but with white and green frosting, it certainly stole the show when it came to appearance.

If you’re looking for a seasonal geek-themed cocktail, you might want to try Yoshi’s Eggnog, which looks like Yoshi’s egg and tastes like sweet, boozy eggnog goodness.

6. Breaking Bad

Love Breaking Bad but don’t actually want to develop a meth habit just to intoxicate yourself in a fitting style? Then try a Blue Sky or a Heisenberg. The Blue Sky (above) is more appropriate for the “Crystal Blue Persuasion” aspect as the cotton candy vodka, UV Blue and Sprite blend provide a flavor and color that are more authentic. On the other hand, the Heisenberg looks cooler since it’s made with dry ice and served in an Erlenmeyer Flask, even if it is essentially just a gin and tonic with food coloring.

7. Lost

If you like incorporating dry ice into your cocktails, then you might just enjoy this Lost-themed Smoke Monster made with Sprite, mint, vodka, food coloring and, of course, dry ice.

8. Pulp Fiction

If you really want to scare your guests with your presentation, then try this Adrenaline Shot that is sure to freak out the more squeamish attendees at your next party. Of course, for those brave enough to try it, the Redbull, cherry vodka and Amaretto concoction will be a pleasing surprise that will give the guests a little shot of energy as well.

9. Resident Evil

For zombie-lovers who are also big into style and presentation, The Drunken Moogle’s drinks based on Resident Evil are a great option. Their T Virus and T Virus Antidote (above) are both basic shots with a flavored Twizzler twisted in the glass to resemble their namesakes in the game.

If you get injured while fighting the infected, you can always try to cure yourself by mixing some colored herbs together into a tasty, and pretty, shot. In this case, the red herb is made from grenadine and 5 Hour Energy; the green herb includes Midori and Green Apple Pucker and the yellow shot features gold rum and honey bourbon.

10. How I Met Your Mother

If you want a cocktail that is actually mentioned in a series, even if the writers presumably believed no one would ever actually make it, then try the Thankstini, which combines cranberry juice, potato vodka, and bullion in order to create a drink that tastes “just like a turkey dinner.” According to The Campus Companion, the flavor isn’t actually that bad, since the bullion just gives the cosmo a little splash of salt flavor.

Personally, I’m a bit of a lightweight, so if I was going to indulge in any of these, it would probably be the butterbeer or Yoshi’s eggnog since they seem the least intoxicating. But for those of you who are bigger drinkers, which of these cocktails would you prefer? Or, do you have any of your own pop culture cocktail recipes you’d like to share?

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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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