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10 World Cup-Inspired Cocktails 

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the-tgc.com

Good news for your next World Cup party: The Travelling Gin Company whipped up 32 cocktails for the 32 countries competing. What better way to celebrate the blending of countries and cultures than by blending drinks? Some cocktails are new inventions inspired by flavors indigenous to the respective countries, while others are new takes on old classics. Now you can watch a game with appropriate drinks for both sides.

1. Brazil: Maracujá Caipirinha

As the home country, with 5 titles under its belt, it might be a safe bet to invest in a lot of the ingredients to make this one.

Recipe: "Cut 1 & 1/2 limes into wedges and place into the bottom of a rocks glass with a teaspoon of brown sugar. Muddle the ingredients together and follow up by filling your glass 3/4 full with crushed ice. gently stir all and add 50ml of Cachaça. Finally add more crushed ice to fill the glass up to the max and a final stir.

For a finishing touch we like to open up a passion fruit (maracujá) and pour the seeds and juice goodness over the top of the ice and garnish with a slice of lime. For extra sweetness add more brown sugar to meet your taste."

2. Argentina: Messi Pomelo

Argentina has one of the best players in the world, so it's only fitting for their drink to be named after him. Celebrate Lionel Messi with this tart summer drink. 

Recipe: "50ml gin, 15ml Pink Grapefruit, 10ml White Grapefruit, 10ml Red Grapefruit, 10ml basil syrup…shake all together well in a ice filled cocktail shaker.

Strain and serve. The intense sweet, sour and tart flavour from the grapefruits works perfectly on a summer’s day, but if too strong for some, simply add some soda water and pour on ice."

3. USA: The American Cream

USA! USA! What's more American than beer and puns? 

Recipe: "Add 25ml good quality bourbon, 15ml lemon juice & 15ml cream soda cordial with plenty of ice in a cocktail shaker.

Gently shake ingredients a few times and strain. Top with a classic American lager. You want ratios of around 1 part cocktail mix to 3 parts beer."

4. Costa Rica: Pinto’s Tico Sour

This drink is named after the team's coach, Jorge Luis Pinto.

Recipe: "50ml Cacique Guaro (alternatively use more widely available Cachaça), juices of half a lemon, half a lime and half an orange, teaspoon of brown sugar and an egg white. Combine all in ice filled shaker and shake heavily until very very cold. Strain into your glass of choice with a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters."

5. Italy: Negroni Sbagliato

Evviva/Cheers!

Recipe: "Equal parts Campari, Sweet Vermouth & prosecco on ice. orange wedge for garnish."

6. Russia: Raspberryoska

It's not a good Russian cocktail without vodka and the country's signature color: red!

Recipe: "50ml good quality vodka, 25ml freshly pressed raspberry juice, 15ml lime juice. Some soda water to top your glass. garnish with some mint and a raspberry or two." 

7. Nigeria: The Chapman

The Chapman is Nigeria's signature drink, so it's only fitting to drink a version of it while watching them play. This drink might also work while watching Orange is the New Black. 

Recipe: "In a pitcher full of ice, add blackcurrant cordial  (we prefer to avoid brand names, but Ribena does work best), a dash of grenadine syrup, the juice of an orange, a lemon and a lime. Add cucumber slices and pour half a can of Sprite and half a can of Fanta - finish off the national party cocktail of Nigeria with fresh mint and 3-4 drops of Angostura Bitters.

Vodka can be added to this otherwise non-alcoholic sweet punch."

8. France: Les Bleus ‘75

Appropriately named after their team, this drink incorporates lots of blue(berries). 

Recipe: "Gin, lemon juice, St Germain Elderflower liqueur, champagne top. Garnish with blueberries."

9. England: Bramble ROYale

Feel like royalty while sipping on this cocktail that incorporates the team manager, Roy Hodgson, in the name. 

Recipe: "50ml gin, 20ml lemon juice, 15ml sugar syrup & 20ml blackberry liqueur on lots of ice, topped with a splash of English sparkling wine. Garnished with blackberries and lemon slice."

10. Spain: Sevilla Gin Tonic

Spain might not being doing as well as expected, but at least fans can find comfort at the bottom of this citrus drink. 

Recipe: "Fill a hi-ball glass with plenty of ice.Add 50ml gin (we recommend Xoriguer Mahon) and a heaped teaspoon of Seville Orange marmalade. Mix well and top with a Traditional Tonic Water. Garnish with Seville orange slices and tarragon."


Check out the rest of the cocktails on the Travelling Gin Company's Instagram and follow them on Twitter. You can find all the recipes here. 

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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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