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Taco Bell

11 Fast Food Oddities Nobody Had Asked For

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Taco Bell

Good news, everyone. Taco Bell’s waffle taco has been so successful in SoCal test markets that they’ve decided to expand the test. Get excited, Omaha, Fresno, and Chattanooga. Sausage, scrambled eggs, and syrup all snuggled up in a warm, breakfasty waffle, is headed your way.

Sound strange? Or delicious? No matter what your opinion is on the waffle taco, one thing's for sure: It’s not the weirdest fast food to ever cross a counter. Here are 11 other oddities that chains once tried out.

1. Pizza Hut's Kit Kat Pops

This dessert item (or, let's be honest, appetizer) is like a sweet version of pigs in a blanket. For customers who just don’t care about calories, Pizza Hut Middle East offers little pillows of sugared pizza dough with Kit Kats tucked inside.

2. KFC's Cheese Top Burger

This is not a clever marketing name—the KFC Cheese Top Burger literally places a slice of cheese on top of the bun. Though it was released only in the Philippines last year, it caught the attention of writers at Jimmy Kimmel Live, who were able to pinpoint the problem with this creation—you can see that above.

3. McDonald's Hula Burger

This may have been one of the original failed fast food offerings, but the logic behind it was pretty solid: McDonald’s needed something that would appeal to Catholics abstaining from meat on Fridays. While a fish sandwich may be the obvious choice now, back in 1963, Ray Kroc thought, “Hey, I know—pineapple.” The fast food giant slapped a slice of grilled pineapple in a bun and topped it with cheese, then scratched their heads when it wasn’t a best seller. After an abysmal test run, the fruity fare was scratched off the menu.

4. Jack in the Box's Bacon Milkshake


Here’s another idea that takes two separate and delicious foods and combines them into something that’s neither separate nor delicious. It uses bacon flavoring, not actual bacon, but I’m not sure if that’s a consolation or not. The reviews are in, and they’re... mixed. Some people think the smoky bacon flavor mixed with vanilla ice cream is actually pretty good, while others deem it “aggressively” bad.

5. Burger King's Shake ‘Em Up Fries

In 2002, customers who just weren’t content with plain old salty fries could get a “Cheezy Flavor Blast” packet to sprinkle on their Burger King fries. The fries came in a paper bag, so after sprinkling, you’d simply close the bag and shake like hell. Voila! Cheez Fries.

6. White Castle's Chicken Rings


You love onion rings? You love chicken nuggets? You’ll adore chicken rings. Or not. One writer described them thusly:
“The juiciness is more like a semblance of juiciness, in that it feels like moist meat, but there is actually no visible juice in the strangely crisscrossed fibers of the 'chicken.' And at the end, there’s a very weird, chemical kind of bitterness, a taste that throws the reality of what I’m chewing to the fore: This is a lab-created facsimile of food.”

But don’t take his word for it. It would appear that the chicken rings are still available, so get thee to a White Castle immediately if “lab-created facsimile of food” is appealing to you.

7. McDonald's Kolacky

While a Bohemian pastry may be a good addition to Dunkin’ Donuts or even Panera Bread, it doesn’t exactly scream “McDonald’s.” Ray Kroc found this out the hard way when he launched the product in honor of his mother, who apparently made damn good kolacky (also spelled kolache, by the way). Maybe it would have lasted longer in stores if he had used her recipe.

8. Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza

CBS News

You know how sometimes you can’t decide if you’d rather have a hot dog or a couple of slices of pizza? Pizza Hut knows that feeling, too. Enter the Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza, an unholy hybrid of the two. Unfortunately/fortunately, this is another delicacy not available in the States—the Hot Dog Stuffed Crust has only been released in the U.K. and Canada.

9. Burger King's Meatloaf Sandwich

Making your own meatloaf sandwich out of leftovers at home: Yum. And yet, going to Burger King and ordering a sub-sized meatloaf sandwich just seems like all kinds of wrong, though Bob Uecker disagrees (and so does Dan Cortese).

10. Burger King's Pumpkin Burger

While we’re on Burger King missteps, let’s look at a burger topped with slices of kabocha, commonly known as a Japanese Pumpkin. It’s also smothered in a creamy nut sauce that includes sesame seeds, peanuts, cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts. You won’t find this one at a drive-thru near you unless you live in Japan, though.

11. McDonald's McSpaghetti

Most people go to McDonald’s for burgers, chicken nuggets, maybe a milkshake or even the rogue salad. But Italian? Not so much. That didn’t stop Golden Arches execs from putting McSpaghetti on the menu several years back, though. Because what’s more appealing than eating spaghetti with watery sauce out of a flat, styrofoam container? Though McSpaghetti didn’t do so hot in the U.S., it’s still available in some international markets, where it developed a cult following.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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© Nintendo
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.