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ISTOCK COLLAGE

11 Imaginative Regional Idioms to Describe Heavy Rain

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ISTOCK COLLAGE

You might be up to speed on international idioms to describe heavy rain, but how about the way people across the U.S. talk about it? We’ve teamed up with the editors at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to bring you 11 imaginative regional idioms for heavy rain that go way beyond cats and dogs.

1. IT’S RAINING THE DEVIL AND PITCHFORKS

While this particular phrase was found in Florida, variations abound throughout the country, including it’s raining pitchforks (tines downwards) and it’s raining hammer handles (and pitchforks).

2. IT’S RAINING MONKEYS

Prefer your rain to be mammalian? Go with this idiom from Louisiana.

3. IT’S RAINING BULLFROGS

Bullfrogs and other amphibians tend to emerge after a heavy rain. Hence, this saying, that might be heard in the South and South Midland. Other amphibians it might rain include frogs, toad-frogs, and tadpoles.

4. TOAD-STRANGLER

Also toad-choker, this term for a very heavy rain is used in Gulf States such as Alabama, Louisiana, and eastern Texas, as well as the South Midland. Variations include frog-strangler and frog rain.

5. GOOSE-DROWNDER

"It's sure to be a goose-drownder today!" someone from the Midland states might say. Fish-drownder is another option.

6. TURD-FLOATER

Next time you’re caught in a heavy downpour, be sure to shout, “This is a real turd-floater!” a phrase that originated in Texas and Oklahoma. (An alternative is cob-floater.)

7. GULLY-WASHER

A gully-washer is “very heavy rain or the runoff it occasions,” according to DARE. It might also be called a gully-buster, gully-pour, or gully-whopper. (A gully, by the way, is a ditch cut as the result of running water after a downpour.) The usage of the term is widespread except in New England and is less frequently used in the Inland North and the Pacific states of Washington, Oregon, and California.

8. MUD-SENDER

What is used in California is mud-sender as well as mud rain. In the mid-Atlantic states, such as Maryland and Virginia, as well as the Lower Mississippi Valley, you might hear trash-mover, and bridge lifter in North Carolina.

9. PALMETTO POUNDER

In Miami and hit by a drencher? That’s known as a palmetto pounder, where a palmetto is a kind of tropical palm tree.

10. SIZZLY SOD-SOAKER

In the Appalachians, a sizzly sod-soaker refers to a steady rain. From The Wolfpen Notebooks: A Record of Appalachian Life: “When the old folks wanted a rain they’d look up at the sky and say, ‘I wish hit would come a sizzly sod-soaker.’” The book also includes some handy rain-making instructions: "For a sizzly sod-soaker: Three snakes."

11. NUBBIN

A nubbin is an eastern Kentucky term for a heavy rain that causes stunted ears of corn called nubbins to mature into full ears of corn. Also called a nubbin strangler and nubbin stretcher. Nubbin killer refers to the thunder that portends such as a rain. Why would anyone want stunted corn? Nubbins are sometimes used specifically to feed cows, according to a quote in DARE.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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© Nintendo
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Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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