CLOSE
Original image
Beth Jackson Klosterboer

9 Gross and Gruesome Goodies for Your Halloween Party

Original image
Beth Jackson Klosterboer

The treats in this list are all totally edible, despite their appearance. They were designed mostly for Halloween parties, but if you are planning a get-together for the premiere of the new season of The Walking Dead this weekend, these offerings will fit the theme perfectly. The foods are arranged in order of least to most gross, so you can stop whenever you start to become queasy.

1. Sweet Cookies and Cream Cheese Ball Rat

This sculpture of a rat is made from cream cheese and cookies, for a sweet spread at your party. Roll the body in crushed cookies to give him fur, and trim with pink cream cheese frosting for the details. You find complete instructions at Hungry Happenings.

2. Anatomically Correct Chocolates

Visual Anatomy Limited offers medical illustrations and chocolate. While those two businesses don't appear to really mesh, the chocolates come in the shapes of bodily organs. You can get chocolate brains, hearts, livers, colons, ears, eyes, skulls, pancreases, kidneys, or other organs, in small or large sizes, or in assorted gift boxes. Some are even available on a stick!

3. Demonic Deviled Eggs

Let's take a little detour on the subject of deviled eggs. The term "deviled" means "spiced" eggs, which in modern times is achieved with mustard, pickles, and paprika -or other spices if you prefer. But they still have a devilish name, and they somewhat resemble eyeballs, so they fit in well with Halloween feasts. You can make them seasonal but innocuous by dressing them up as little pumpkins. Or you can go all out to make your eggs resemble the evil Eye of Sauron, like the egg pictured here. The look is dependent on food coloring and black olives.

Or you can try to hit a sweet spot in between innocent and frightening, with deviled eggs covered in spiders made from black olives.

4. Pizza Pie-eye

Beth Jackson Klosterboer at Hungry Happenings had a party once in which every treat resembled an eyeball! The main dish was an eyeball pizza, made with black and green olives arranged on a background of cheese. There were also three kinds of dip and meatballs that all resembled eyes.

5. Brains in a Jar Cupcakes

This dessert looks creepy, but it's actually delicious cake with brain-shaped frosting and a bit of raspberry jelly for blood, all stuffed on a jar. The instructions for making your own are at Living Locurto. The website has kindly included printable labels for your jars!

6. Sweet or Savory Specimen Jars

Photograph by Flickr user Windell Oskay.

These specimens in jars look pretty nasty, and the labels make them seem even worse. But believe it or not, they are all not only edible, but tasty! They contain unfamiliar fruits (lychees, jackfruit, tapioca), or other foods like sausages cut into odd shapes. The sweet treats are packed in syrup, and the savory items can be displayed in chicken broth. Your Halloween guests will be delighted, if they can get over the willies and try them out. Get the instructions at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

7. Zombie Brains Jello Shots

When you bite open these little brains, you'll find they are filled with delicious but frighteningly red raspberry sauce! If you serve a full platter of them, be sure to cut one open to show your guests what they are in for. The presentation makes all the difference! The gelatin is flavored with hazelnut and raspberry liqueur in addition to vodka, which both lend a bit of authentic coloring to the condensed milk-colored gelatin. The raspberry filling can be homemade, as the recipe is included, or you can take the shortcut of using raspberry pie filling.

A little raspberry syrup drizzled over the top completes the look. Just pretend you are a zombie, for which brain-eating comes naturally. These will work for your premiere party for The Walking Dead next weekend, or for any Halloween party. The complete instructions are at WikiHow.

8. The Noshing Dead: Bloody Banana Guts

These overripe bananas look thoroughly disgusting covered in brown sugar and food coloring, but they're tasty when spread on a graham cracker or cookie! This recipe was inspired by The Walking Dead visuals, but you don't need to think about that while you're eating. The recipe at Kitchen Overlord comes with a cute zombie story, too.

9. The Grossest Cupcake Ever

The cupcake you see here will be sold at the Eat Your Heart Out 2013 pop-up cake shop in London, England, open October 25-27. Food artists will be offering the world's most gruesome and delicious treats. These cupcakes are made by Twisted Fondant, a macabre, x-rated division of Fantasy Fondant. What makes them so gruesome?

They are called Mango Fly Larva Cupcakes. They are served with a glove and a pair of tweezers so you can do the deed, as shown in this photo series, which may be disturbing. Just keep reminding yourself that no matter what it looks like, this is all delicious cake and edible icing.

If you've made it this far, you may also want to check out our previous recipe roundups:
Gruesome Halloween Party Food
Creepy Halloween Party Food
Ten Terrific or Terrifying Treats for Halloween
9 Spooky Halloween Party Treats

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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
iStock
Sponsor Content: BarkBox
arrow
8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
Original image
iStock

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.

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