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5 Fascinating Facts About Girl Scout Cookie Names

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Girl Scout Week may be over, but Girl Scout cookie season is still going strong.

The cookies were first sold in 1917. Back then, the scouts baked the cookies themselves and sold them door to door. By the 1920s, they were using a simple sugar cookie recipe, perhaps based on one published in a July 1922 issue of The American Girl magazine. In 1935, the words “Girl Scout Cookies” appeared on the boxes for the first time, and in 1936, the national organization began using commercial bakers. The rest is cookie-selling history.

While you may know your Tagalongs from your Do-si-dos, here are a few things you might not know about the names of Girl Scout cookies.

1. Cookies have different names, depending on who bakes them.

For a while, each Girl Scout council could choose its own baker, and at one point there were 29 different companies making the cookies. To streamline the process, that number went down to four in the late 1970s, and in the 1990s, it decreased even further to two: ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers (a division of a company you might have heard of).

You'd think these companies would cooperate and call each cookie by the same name—and you would be wrong. Each company distributes to different areas of the country, each cookie recipe is slightly different, and, each, except for the Thin Mint, has a different name.

That coconutty, caramelly, chocolatey concoction known as the Samoa in the Bay Area is called a Caramel deLite just a stone's throw away in Sacramento. (Why deLite? Perhaps because it has five fewer calories than the Samoa, and one less gram of fat.) If you're in Nebraska, you're eating Peanut Butter Patties. A Windy City resident? You're munching on Tagalongs. Forth Worthians indulge on Peanut Butter Sandwiches while their Dallas neighbors do Do-si-dos. And in New Jersey, the south has Shortbreads while it's Trefoils in the north.

2. Thin Mints go by another name in Canada.

While the Girl Guides of Canada were established two years before the Girl Scouts, they began selling cookies later, in 1927. Past cookie varieties included vanilla crème, maple cream, and shortbread, but nowadays, the Canadian cookie selection is much more streamlined than the Girl Scouts'. In the spring they offer "classic chocolate and vanilla cookies," and in the fall, their version of Thin Mints: Chocolately Mint cookies.

3. Samoa the cookie is named for Samoa the island—maybe.

Samoas, second in sales only to the iconic Thin Mints, were added to the Little Brownie cookie line in 1975. While we know why it’s called the Caramel deLite in some places and Samoa in others, no one seems sure where the name Samoa comes from.

One popular theory is the coconut connection. Of the island Samoa's top exports, number eight is coconut oil while number 15 is coconuts, brazil nuts, and cashews.

A more tenuous idea is that the word Samoa kind of sounds like “some more,” as in, "Give me some more of those delicious coconut thingies." Of course s’more was already taken, so maybe the Girl Scouts and Little Brownie Bakers went with the next best thing.

4. Trefoil is a leafy metaphor for the Girl Scout promise.

A trefoil, in case you didn’t know, is a kind of three-leafed plant—hence the shape of the shortbread cookie with the same name. The word trefoil comes from the Latin trifolium, “three leaf.”

The trefoil is also the emblem of both the Girl Scouts of the U.S. and the Girl Guides of Canada. For the Girl Scouts, the three leaves stand for a three-fold promise: "to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout law." That’s one wholesome cookie.

5. Savannah Smiles is a creepy name for a cookie.

A rather less wholesome back story lies behind the Savannah Smiles cookie—or at least the name. The crisp lemon cookie shaped like a smile was introduced in 2012 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the very first Girl Scouts meeting, which was held in 1912 in Savannah, Georgia.

If the name Savannah Smiles sounds familiar, that's because it was a 1982 family-friendly movie about an unhappy little girl named Savannah who runs away from home, but in the end is happily reunited with her mother. However, the actress who played Savannah, Bridgette Andersen, didn't have such a happy ending; she died of an apparent drug overdose at age 21.

Or you might know Savannah Smiles as the name of a 2007 song by indie band The Stage Names. What was Savannah Smiles the song about? A porn star who went by the stage name of Savannah and committed suicide at 24. If that bums you out, call the cookies by the ABC Bakers' name: Lemonades.

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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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