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10 Bizarre Food-Related Kickstarters (That Aren't Potato Salad)

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People will crowdfund anything these days. When Zach Brown wanted to make potato salad—“I haven't decided what kind yet”—he created a Kickstarter to do it. His initial goal was $10, and, depending on their contribution, backers would receive a photo of Brown making the potato salad, a bite of the potato salad, and Brown saying the backer’s name while he made the salad. Currently, the Kickstarter is at more than $70,000; new rewards include t-shirts, hats, a potato-themed haiku written by Brown, and a book, Potato Salads of the World, featuring “recipes inspired by each country where we have a backer.”

Brown wasn’t the first to kickstart a weird quest for food, either: To get a chicken burrito from Chipotle and "graph its deliciousness," Noboru Bitoy asked for $8 from the Internet earlier this year; he ended up taking in $1050, and switched his original mission to determining a chicken burrito's deliciousness ... while skydiving.

The success of these two bizarre food Kickstarters ensure that they won’t be the last (you can already fund someone’s burrito, someone’s mac and cheese, someone’s beet cake, someone’s jello shots, and someone’s chicken soup). Here are a few more weird food-related Kickstarters that you might consider kicking some money to.

1. Pancake in the Mail

"I really like to make pancakes, and I am really darn good at it," Mark Cesal says on this Kickstarter. "I learned to make great pancakes working the breakfast shift at family restaurants. Now I make them at home for my family. I would like to make a pancake for you." Contribute just $3, and Cesal will send you a pancake. Why do this? "I just think it would be cool to get a Pancake in the Mail," he writes. "I will use the contributions to keep making pancakes and stock up for making even more. Maybe even do a block pancake party or something. Food is one of the best ways to bring people together, and this project will be my way to bring all of us a little closer." Here's hoping he actually uses Comic Sans on the packaging.

2. Bacon Sculpture

"Bacon is pretty cool and it's durable and flexible enough to make a sculpture out of, so I wanna do that," Rob Kaufman, who is asking for $30, writes. Potential risks include "burn[ing] bacon by accident in an attempt at getting crispy bacon, but I'll try hard not to do that." Rewards for contributors include a digital photo of the bacon sculpture, plus photos of the sculpture in progress.

3. Take Out Week

Andrew Reynolds is moving, and he doesn't want to buy food he'll just have to throw out when the time comes. Help him pay for takeout, and he'll thank you on his Facebook wall, do a livestream, or invite you over to partake (if you live in the Boston area).

4. Trevor Makes A Wheel Of Cheese

"Using local milk, I'd like to make a wheel of gouda style cheese," Trevor writes. "I want you to be involved and to get some (hopefully! ;) delicious cheese for your face." Rewards include some of the cheese and having your name inscribed on the aging cave door.

5. The Vegemite Project

Daniel E. moved to Australia and fell in love with Vegemite. "I really want to share this enthusiasm I have for Vegemite with people around the world and create a project where we develop the world's greatest recipe for the classic Vegemite sandwich (along with a few other uses for Vegemite) so that I can share it with everyone," he writes. Taste is in the papillae of the beholder, of course, but given how gross many consider Vegemite to be, Daniel probably has a long road ahead of him. 

6. I’m Growing Tomatoes

But: Jonas Burke will only water the tomatoes if you contribute to his campaign. Backers will have their names said aloud as the plants are watered, or have the plants named after them. More generous donors will get to "decide what to name each individual tomato baby" or "get to decide what we do with the fruit of your labors, and will receive video or live stream of what you request."

7. French Toast Pancake Waffle


Watch out, cronut: If Spencer H. has his way, people will soon be enjoying ToPaWa, French toast wrapped in a pancake wrapped in a Belgian waffle. "Like most people, I enjoy French toast, waffles, and pancakes," Spencer writes. "In fact, I love them. But so often I'm faced with having to choose among them when ordering brunch. I intend to remedy this cruel state of affairs by creating a tasty combination of all three so no breakfast craving need go unsatiated ever again." Pledge $50 or more, and you can go to Spencer's Brooklyn apartment, where he'll make a ToPaWa just for you.  

8. Michelangelo’s Pizza

Cody Dietrich is a big fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and this show inspired this Kickstarter. "I want to make a pizza with ingredients as crazy as Michelangelo's from TNMT!" Cody writes. Potential combinations include tuna fish, peanut butter, and grape jelly; butterscotch, onions, and anchovies; chocolate sprinkles and clam sauce; shredded coconut and sweet pickles; and hot oatmeal (among many more). The toppings will ultimately be determined by the backers. Once he's been funded, Cody says, "I will plan on eating maybe one or two pieces of it, and making my friends eat the rest, LIVE ON YOUTUBE! I may also livestream the whole process of making the pizza up to and after eating it." Best of all, Cody doesn't have any food allergies: "If there needs to be a pizza that has garlic, radishes, peas, shrimp, mustard, and can happen and I will eat it!" Also, if he reaches $150, he'll dress up as a TMNT while he eats the pizza.

9. Hot and Cold Kool-Aid

Najee Dowlen is "just a man trying to find out if hot koolaid is better than cold koolaid." Give him some money, and he'll get to the bottom of the mystery.

10. Making Crumpets While Wearing Only Socks

Matt Jacobs is asking for £100,000 to "film an educational documentary on how to make crumpets whilst only wearing socks and discuss the dangers of doing so. Making crumpets whilst only wearing socks has been a huge part of my life. This has given me much joy over the years despite suffering many drawbacks. It would be a pleasure to share my story with you in an educational video about the highs and lows of making crumpets whilst just in your socks."

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise noted.

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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]