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CrownStarFoods.com

11 Awesome Candies That You’ll Probably Never Eat Again

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CrownStarFoods.com

With the arrival of June comes the beginning of National Candy Month, a 30-day ode to the sweet, tart, and sometimes salty corner store concoctions that have been the frequent source of failed diets everywhere. There are two ways to celebrate: by overindulging in your favorite candies of today and/or by remembering the (for) now-discontinued treats of your past.

1. GARBAGE CAN-DY

This sugar-coated ode to dumpster diving featured a tiny plastic garbage can filled with Pez-like candy pellets in the shape of items you might actually find in a garbage can (a dead fish, an old shoe, a dog bone, a discarded soda bottle). Fortunately, this novelty treat tasted much better. Multitasking types loved the fact that, once the candy was consumed, the toy trash can could be used for storing stuff like stickers, erasers and/or Garbage Pail Kids cards (perhaps not coincidentally, both Garbage Can-dy and Garbage Pail Kids were created by Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus, who worked in the product development department of The Topps Company at the time).

2. BAR NONE

Retroland

Introduced in 1986, Bar None was Hershey’s original foray into the gourmet chocolate bar market before a gourmet chocolate bar market actually existed. Combining the best ingredients of the most popular bars of the time, its original incarnation featured a chocolate-covered cocoa wafer filled with (yet more) chocolate and peanuts in an attempt—as the slogan went—to “tame the chocolate beasty.” Whatever that means. In 1992, Hershey tinkered with the flavor mash-up a bit, adding an extra wafer and some caramel into the mix. The reformulation didn’t help slagging sales; the candy was discontinued in 1997, though it still maintains a fan base of sweet-toothed admirers hoping for its comeback.

3. BONKERS

Bonkers—Nabisco’s chewable fruit candy with a gum-like outer shell and fruity inside—are proof of the power of advertising. Even if you don’t remember the artificial fruit flavor of the candy itself, it’s hard to forget the product’s popular commercial campaign, in which a group of strait-laced characters would be “bonked” into silliness by a giant piece of fruit from above. But when the commercial campaign slowed down, so did the candy’s sales, ultimately leading to a cease in production altogether. Yet there’s potentially good news on the horizon for fans of this treat as well, as Leaf Brands has struck again! In 2012, the company acquired Bonkers’ manufacturing rights and plans to have Bonkers back on the market by the end of 2014.

4. CHICKEN DINNER BAR

CandyProfessor.com

First things first: there is not a piece of poultry to be found in The Chicken Dinner Bar. Introduced during the Depression era, the chocolate-covered nut roll’s name was a reference to Herbert Hoover’s prosperity-minded presidential campaign promise of “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Despite the candy’s unfortunate name (even the commercials made reference to a clucking chicken and the candy was delivered to stores in a chicken-shaped truck), the candy had some serious legs, remaining on shelves for nearly 40 years. Production ceased only when its original manufacturer, the Sperry Candy Company, was acquired by Pearson’s in 1962. 

5. THE VEGETABLE SANDWICH BAR

Another poorly-named relic from the 1920s, re-discovered in Steve Almond’s book Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, is The Vegetable Sandwich Bar. Unfortunately, unlike the sugary Chicken Dinner Bar, this snack was exactly what it sounded like: Dubbed a “health” bar, the wannabe candy actually contained cabbage, celery, peppers and tomatoes and was marketed for its ability to aid in digestion and “not constipate.” Mmmm … sounds delicious.

6. GATORGUM

Pop Rewind

Like any food category, candy goes through phases. In the 1980s, this meant a barrage of beverage-flavored chewing gums, including the Gatorade-inspired Gatorgum which, like its beverage predecessor, promised to quench one’s thirst. While it, too, still maintains a legion of fans, the chewing gum’s super-tart flavor—which could actually hurt one’s mouth on occasion—probably didn’t help its short-lived time on grocery store shelves. Its beverage-themed competitors—including Dr. Pepper Gum, 7-Up Gum and A&W Root Beer Gum—didn’t fare much better.

7. NESTLE ALPINE WHITE

Even diehard white chocolate connoisseurs know that its super-sweet flavor is an acquired taste. And while Nestle did its best to promote the Alpine White bar as a sexy and sophisticated alternative to plain old milk chocolate—as evidenced by their video art-inspired commercial campaign, seen here—not enough customers were biting. A Facebook campaign to bring the bar back has so far only garnered 3,400 supporters.

8. PB MAX

Note to candy manufacturers: As long as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (in all their many forms) are on the market, no new peanut-butter infused concoction will ever compete. But PB Max gets props for trying with something other than a direct Reese’s cup rip-off. Available in the early 1990s, PB Max was a peanut butter-topped chocolate cookie that experienced a fair amount of success upon its introduction. The strangest part of its disappearance, according to Joël Glenn Brenner’s book The Emperors Of Chocolate? That despite $50 million in sales, manufacturer Mars decided to pull it from the shelves because the company founders don’t like the taste of peanut butter.

9. PEANUT BUTTER BOPPERS

Gone but Not Forgotten Groceries

With Nature Valley as their manufacturer, Peanut Butter Boppers were marketed more like granola bars. But any log-like snack that consists of peanut butter, chocolate and graham cracker nuggets is a candy bar in our book. It didn’t help that the commercials touted the snack as a wild-and-crazy kind of treat. Unfortunately, little information exists on why Boppers—which were introduced in the mid-1980s and extinct by the end of the decade—went bye-bye.

10. TART ‘N’ TINY

Collecting Candy

What a difference a decade makes. In the 1980s, Tart ‘n’ Tinys—Wonka’s candy-coated, fruit-flavored pellets, which came in five flavors—were one of the company’s best-selling products. But by the 1990s, they were discontinued. Perhaps it had something to do with their textural similarity to Wonka’s SweeTarts, which are still available in their original roll plus in chewy, giant, miniature and gummy varieties. Eagle-eyed Web shoppers may still be able to find a box or two online; just know that any original box is going to be at least two decades old!

11. ASTRO POP

Old Time Candy

Considering their usefulness as both a sugary treat and a potentially lethal weapon in a pinch, what’s more surprising than the Astro Pop’s disappearance from the market in 2004 is that they remained on shelves for more than four decades. Created by two actual rocket scientists, the sucker’s shape was modeled after a three-stage rocket and purported to be the “longest lasting lollipop on earth.” The Astro Pop was acquired by Spangler Candy (the makers of Dum Dums and circus peanuts) in 1987, only to be discontinued 17 years later when the pop no longer seemed to mesh with the company’s larger corporate strategy. But there’s a happy ending for fans of this multi-colored treat, as its manufacturing rights were acquired by Leaf Brand—a candy company intent on resurrecting retro treats—which is once again making the iconic sucker available to the public and maintains a popular Facebook page in its honor.

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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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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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