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The Brugge Friet Museum

11 Delicious Food Museums

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The Brugge Friet Museum

Love food? Visit a food museum on your next vacation! Not all of them are well-known or found in travel books, but there are culinary and agricultural museums around the world that celebrate the finer points of food, its production, and the people involved in growing and making it.

1. Fries Museum // Bruges, Belgium

The Brugge Friet Museum, or Fries Museum, has various fried potatoes covered, of course, but it’s more than just that: the history of the potato, potato-centric art, and historic potato peelers and choppers are all available for your perusal. The building that houses this museum is worth seeing in and of itself—the Gothic Saaihalle (“wool hall”) dates back to 1399, and once housed the Consul of Genoa. Don’t forget to fill up on fries before you leave!

2. Chihsing Tan Katsuo Museum // Hualien, Taiwan

If you visit Hualien, Taiwan, you can hop along the rocky Chihsingtan beach, watch the fishing boats come to port with their catches, and visit the Chihsing Tan Katsuo Museum. Katsuo is another name for skipjack tuna, but the museum isn’t concerned with the fish itself—its focus is on “katsuobushi.” These dry, fermented fish flakes are common in Japanese cuisine, and are often prepared fresh at a meal, shaved or grated from a wood-like block of dried fish, much like parmesan cheese. Today, many people buy pre-shaved flakes at the market instead. The museum also has an exhibit on bonito flakes (a cheaper, less umami substitute for katsuobushi) and a gift shop, whose biggest seller is naturally the large bags of katsuobushi.

3. Pulmuone Kimchi Museum // Seoul, South Korea

Kimchi is another fermented food. Fermented vegetables, to be specific, and the Pulmuone Kimchi Museum has 187 varieties of it. The museum has been around since 1986, but was moved to Seoul in 1988 to promote the national food to tourists during the 1988 Seoul Olympics. There are also exhibits on the centuries-old history of kimchi, kimchi tastings, and even kimchi-making classes. While the museum is currently in the process of moving and renovating, it hopes to reopen later in 2014.

4. Dairy Shrine // Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin

William Dempster Hoard was Wisconsin’s 16th governor, founder of “Hoard’s Dairyman,” and the author of the strongest anti-margarine-coloring laws in the country. In addition to the Hoard Historical Museum, Hoard’s Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin home also houses the Dairy Shrine, a two-story museum of dairy history, technology, and the “Dairy Hall of Fame.” Don’t miss the airdrop package used to deliver bull semen prior to frozen semen delivery, and the dog-powered butter churn.

5. The European Asparagus Museum // Schrobehausen, Southern Bavaria

For the past few hundred years, the German-speaking nations have known asparagus as the “royal vegetable”, which was so revered as to be restricted to aristocracy and royalty. It’s fitting, then, that in Schrobehausen, Southern Bavaria, you can find Europäisches Spargelmuseum—the European Asparagus Museum. This museum, housed in a 15th century watchtower, features the history of asparagus, a statue honoring the “spargelfrauen” (women of the asparagus fields), varieties of asparagus, chemical and pharmaceutical properties of asparagus, and even an Andy Warhol painting of asparagus. Of course, during Spargelzeit (the yearly asparagus harvest), the museum has seminars and asparagus tastings, while it sells asparagus-themed paraphernalia year-round.

6. Alkmaar Cheese Market // Alkmaar, North Holland

For 500 years, great wheels of cheese were bought and sold at the Alkmaar Cheese Market, in Alkmaar, North Holland. Today, the auction spectacle is a recreation of what was seen in the middle ages, and the old weigh-house features the largest cheese museum in the Netherlands. The Dutch Cheese Museum features all manner of cheese making, trade, and tasting, and is a popular attraction among visitors to the region. The Alkmaar kaaskoppen (cheeseheads) take pride in their artisanal cheeses, but also understand the factory-produced cheese world, and a large section of the museum is devoted to the contrast between the two worlds of cheese making in the modern era.

7. Gingerbread Museum // Torun, Poland


When was the last time you had real gingerbread? One gingerbread bakery that dates all the way back to the 16th century and is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List is still around and baking delicacies daily. The Muzeum Piernika, or Gingerbread Museum, in Torun, Poland, features the option to make and bake your own gingerbread with the traditional “cake”-type recipe, and the baker on hand can teach you about the medieval Polish baking method. While there aren’t many artifacts or exhibits, the cafe, gift shop, and the historic significance of the bakery itself help make the hands-on experience well worth the diversion.

8. The National Coffee Park // Montenegro, Colombia

In Colombia, there is a rural, wet, fertile region known as the “Coffee Triangle,” which grows nearly all of the country’s famed coffee beans. Inside this triangle, near Montenegro, is Parque Nacional del Cafe—the National Coffee Park. Unlike the other museums, this place is as much theme park as it is cultural and gastronomical celebration, but they don’t skimp on the latter just because they have log flume rides and roller coasters. The National Coffee Park has many species of coffee trees on its grounds, full-size statues of Colombian coffee pickers, demonstrations of organic and conventional coffee bean preparation, guided tours, horseback rides through the grounds, and, of course, lots of coffee-flavored and coffee-themed foods and gifts. Their children’s attractions also feature the coffee theme, but hopefully no free samples.

9. Tottori Nijisseiki Pear Museum // Kurayoshi, Tottori Prefecture, Japan

While there are several varieties of European and South Asian pear at the Tottori Nijisseiki Pear Museum, in Kurayoshi, Tottori Prefecture, Japan, the shining star is the prefecture’s favorite fruit, the Nashi Pear. Shaped more like an apple than a typical pear, these fruits are grown throughout the prefecture, and are even one of the prefecture mascots. Nashi pears are more grainy than European pears, and not as suited for pie or jam, but are much crispier and juicier, and don’t bruise as easily. The Pear Museum has dozens of varieties of pear, exhibits on pear production in Japan and around the world, and, during pear season, fresh fruit from local farms.

10. Mill City Museum // Minneapolis, Minnesota

Declared more than once to be the “largest flour mill in the world,” the Washburn “A” Mill in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has had a rough history. In 1878, airborne flour inside the mill explosively combusted, killing 19 people and eventually destroying five other Minneapolis mills. After the mill was rebuilt, it had a long run, but was put into disuse in 1965, when General Mills shifted its focus away from flour, and when milling no longer needed water power to be efficient. In 1991, the building almost burned down again, but it was eventually stabilized, and turned into the Mill City Museum. As might be expected, milling techniques and exhibits from agricultural practices throughout history are displayed, but the real attraction is in the exhibits covering the dog-eat-dog world of the Upper Mississippi milling industry. The brutal competition, dangerous working conditions, and incredible output of the “Mill City” can make even ordinary wheat flour fascinating.

11. Kansas Underground Salt Museum // Hutchinson, Kansas

What’s food without salt? Located on top of one of the largest rock salt deposits in the world in Hutchinson, Kansas, Strataca is also known as the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, and offers tours through the Hutchinson Salt (formerly Carey Salt) Company mine. There are exhibits on mining, salt, and Kansas geology, deep beneath the surface. Though Hutchinson Salt Company produces rock salt (largely used for road salting and industrial application due to its slate inclusions and somewhat “off” flavor), you can collect your own bag of salt at the end of their tram tour through the main galleries. Interestingly, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum is also used as a repository for original film and television reels, thanks to its constant temperature and humidity. While the actual vaults aren’t available to the public, a replica of the collection is shown in one of the many large rooms of the early mine area.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Opening Ceremony
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:


Opening Ceremony

To this:


Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]