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Instagram User: BarBrutus

(Almost) All Bacon Bar Coming To Montreal

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Instagram User: BarBrutus

The first thing I asked Anthoni Jodin—owner of the soon-to-be-open Bar Brutus, where almost everything on the menu features bacon—is whether we were talking about American bacon or Canadian bacon. As it turns out, that was an even sillier question than I realized.

"No one here calls it Canadian bacon," he says of the leaner cuts of "back bacon" we consider to be Canadian-style here in the States. But to be clear, at Brutus they'll be serving up the fatty, salty strips of pork we know as just bacon.

Jodin stresses that this is not an exercise in gluttony, or even kitsch. "It's not just bacon for the fun of bacon," he says. Before there was bacon, there was just the idea of a bar with a certain ambiance, one of gentlemanly class, Jodin explains. But when considering the menu, bacon seemed like the perfect bridge between this highbrow spirit and a warm welcoming array of finger foods. Not to mention how delicious and popular it is.

For some of the items on the menu, the addition of bacon seems completely natural: Their burger is a called the "Kevin Bacon" and, of course, comes topped with strips of the good stuff. While Caesar is ousted from his own salad—now called a "Brutus Salad," naturally—there's the option to have it served in a bacon bowl (for an extra fee). Others are a little bit more of a stretch: "Bacon Sushi" comes stuffed with chicken, tempura, date puree, Japanese omelet and seaweed—all wrapped in bacon. And some are just pure brilliance: The "Hotpig" claims to be "probably the world's first 100 percent bacon sausage" and—since this is Montreal—"Jagerpoutine," which adds both bacon and a Jagermeister-flavored sauce to the Canadian classic.

And if you like your salty with an equal dose of sweet, there's a house-made caramel and bacon doughnut and house-made chocolate chip and bacon bits cookie for dessert.

And since this is a bar first, restaurant second, the cocktail menu features some surprise bacon appearances as well. "Pork Soda" is just like a vodka soda, except that it makes use of a bacon-infused vodka. The "Beeznuts" keeps the sweet and salty appeal of a margarita but with a twist: tequila, homemade bacon marmalade and almond liqueur. And the "Bloody Caesar"—their take on a Bloody Mary—comes garnished with a bacon rose. "Looks good, tastes awesome," Jodin says of this fatty floral arrangement. "What person doesn't want to order a drink with a bacon rose?"

The bar is all but ready to open; they're just waiting on a liquor license.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Opening Ceremony
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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:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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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]

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