CLOSE
Original image
AMC

9 Colorful Phrases from Breaking Bad's Final Season

Original image
AMC

We're just hours away from the series finale of Breaking Bad. All season long, Angela Tung of Wordnik has been listening for interesting terms. Here are some of her favorites. [Could be some spoilers ahead if you're not caught up.]

1. A1
A1 is slang for first-class or outstanding. It originally referred to a wooden ship, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), "in respect of both hull and fittings." Charles Dickens was one of the first to use A1 to mean anything excellent. From The Pickwick Papers: "'He must be a first-rater,' said Sam. 'A1,' replied Mr. Roker." In order to appear first in the phone book, a company may place multiple As and 1s before its name. But whether or not this actually improves business is questionable. A1 is also the brand name of a steak sauce.

Example: Walt [to Lydia]: "Give this to your car wash professional and have an A1 day."
— "Blood Money," August 11, 2013


2. change in management
Change in management is a euphemism for "a bunch of people quit or got fired and now there are new people in charge." In this case, the former management was killed. Todd's dialogue is filled with euphemisms and biz speak, which are often one in the same: he and Declan had some "differences of opinion" rather than a murderous rivalry; the deadly shootout "got a little messy"; and Todd wants to make give Walt a "heads up" about the murder of Declan and his men.

Example: Todd [to Walt]: "Me and Declan had some differences of opinion, and it got a little messy. It's all straightened out now, but just a heads up that there's been a kind of change in management."
— "Confessions," August 25, 2013


3. dead to rights
Dead to rights means "with sufficient evidence to establish responsibility definitively," or as the OED puts it, caught "red-handed, in the act." The phrase is also known as bang to rights. Dead to rights and bang to rights may come from the phrase deadbang meaning "open-and-shut; irrefutable." The phrase caught red-handed comes from the idea of a murderer being caught with blood on his hands.

Example: Marie: "I got a call from Hank. He arrested Walt three hours ago. Dead to rights, I believe is the expression."
— "Ozymandias," September 15, 2013


4. Devil, the
The word devil comes from the Greek diabolos by way of Middle English, Old English, and Latin. In general use, diabolos means "accuser, slanderer," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. The Devil was first known as "the proper appellation of the supreme spirit of evil" in Jewish and Christian theology, says the OED, and later was a "wicked or malevolent person." The word gained the playful meaning of a "clever rogue" around 1600. In "Blood Money," the first episode of this last half of the season, Marie says jokingly to Walt, "You are the Devil!" A few episodes later Jesse refers to him as the Devil incarnate.

Example: Jesse [to Hank and Gomez]: "You two guys are just guys. Mr. White, he's the Devil. He is smarter than you, he's luckier than you. Whatever you think is supposed to happen, the exact reverse opposite of that is going to happen."
— "Rabid Dog," September 1, 2013

5. hat trick
hat trick is three consecutive wins. The phrase comes from the game of cricket where it means "three wickets taken in cricket by a bowler in three consecutive balls." It originated with the idea that such a bowler would be rewarded with a new hat.

Example: Saul [to Jesse]: "The Feds have already taken Kaylee's money twice. You're going for ahat trick?"
— "Blood Money," August 11, 2013

6. rat patrol
The rat in this case is "a despicable person, especially one who betrays or informs upon associates." A rat patrol would exterminate such individuals. The Rat Patrol was also an American TV show from the mid-1960s about four Allied soldiers "who are part of a long-range desert patrol group in the North African campaign during World War II." Rat is the disparaging nickname given to "some of the British Commonwealth forces in the North African campaign." Also called Desert Rats.

Example: Jack: "What are we talking? Rat patrol?"
Walt: "No, no. [Jesse's] not a rat. He's just angry."
— "To'hajiilee," September 8, 2013


7. send someone on a trip to 
Belize
To send someone on a trip to Belize is a euphemism for having someone killed. To sleep with the fishes, which comes from The Godfather, is another euphemism that means the individual is dead, most likely murdered and the corpse deposited in a body of water. For more ways to say deadwithout saying dead, check out this list.

Example: Walt: "Hank knows. That's not nothing."
Saul: "Yeah, I can't exactly see him turning the other cheek... Have you given any thought tosending him on a trip to Belize?"
— "Buried," August 18, 2013


8. term of 
art
term of art is "a term whose use or meaning is specific to a particular field of endeavor." These terms "have one or more specific meanings that are not necessarily the same as those in common use. "Vacuum cleaner repair" is the guise used by a man whose expertise lies in erasing people's identities. Saul is surprised when the man appears to own an actual shop full of vacuums.

Example: Saul: "It's an actual store. I guess I figured 'vacuum cleaner repair' was a term of art."
— "Granite State," September 22, 2013


9. tweaker
tweaker is someone addicted to methamphetamines, otherwise known as crystal meth. This meaning of tweaker has been around since the 1980s, says the OED, and comes from tweakmeaning "to become agitated or excited" or "twitchy," especially from drug use. Tweak could be a blend of freak out and twitch.

Example: Declan: "Heisenberg's standards don't matter anymore."
Lydia: "To whom? A bunch of scabby Arizona tweakers?
— "Buried," August 18, 2013

MORE FROM WORDNIK...

A Brief History of Newspaper Lingo
*
11 Words From Charles Dickens
*
Wordnik's Word of the Day

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
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!

Original image
© Nintendo
arrow
fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
Original image
© 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.

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
SECTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES