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21 Pulpy Pieces of Lumberjack Lingo

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Sure, lumbersexuals can walk the walk (and wear the beards and plaid), but can they talk the talk? If you've always wanted to talk like a real-life lumberjack, thanks to the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), we've got 21 pulpy pieces of lingo to get you started.


The lumberjack version of the nautical all hands on deck, this phrase is used to announce an emergency, such as a log jam, requiring everyone’s help “without exception,” says DARE. The dictionary has quotes from a variety of states and regions, including Maine, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Pacific Northwest. As for the whiskey-jack, it’s another name for the Canada jay bird.


Next time you need to wake someone up, you can shout, “Daylight in the swamp!” The saying was used as a wake-up call among loggers in the Pacific Northwest, New England, and the Great Lakes region.


To box up the dough means “to cook” in lumberjack slang and might be heard in New England and the Great Lakes. We’re guessing that the expression might have to do with kneading or beating up dough to make into bread.


Logger lingo for a large sausage and, according to DARE, named after a “rather sizable rifle cartridge of the time.”


When you think of lumberjack fare, you might think of pancakes, although we’re not sure why. This New York Times article makes the connection between Finnish loggers and their affinity for their homeland’s flapjacks, which “bear no resemblance to fluffy American-style,” but are dinner plate-sized, heavy, and dense.

Whatever the connection, lumberjacks had a lot of ways to say “pancake.” Liver pad for instance, named for their resemblance to the medicated pad worn wherever the liver’s supposed to be. Sweat pad is another, especially referring to a tough pancake and perhaps the bottom one in a stack, according to a DARE quote from Wisconsin: “Do I have to eat the sweat pad, or will you bake me a fresh pancake?” Other monikers include morning glory, which also refers to a doughnut, and stove lid, named for its griddle cake resemblance.


No, not that kind of cougar. In logging, a cougar den refers to the bunkhouse, probably in reference to the animal lumberjacks might encounter. The phrase might be heard in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes region, and New England.


While in the South and Midland, the amen corner refers to a section of a church, usually near the preacher, “occupied by those leading the responsive amens,” says DARE. In lumberjack lingo of New England and the Great Lakes, it’s a place in the bunkhouse for storytelling, where it was “old-timers” reminiscing or preachers, also known as sky pilots, spreading the word.


The snake room might be considered the opposite of the amen corner. It’s a room in a bar for drunks, often lumberjacks, to sleep off their drunkenness. Why snake? According to a quote in DARE, the barkeeper or bouncer would slide the drunk lumberjacks “head first,” and presumably prone and snake-like, “through swinging doors from the bar-room.”


After sleeping it off in the snake room, the next morning some lumberjacks might be hit with blanket fever, a condition which involves staying in bed after the other lumber workers have gotten up, according to Leland George Sorden in his 1969 book, Lumberjack Lingo. In general, blanket fever refers to a lazy lumberjack.


If you really are sick, you might go board with Aunt Polly, which means “to draw insurance for sickness or accident,” says DARE. We’re not sure what the origin of this idiom is, although polly is slang for chamber pot in some regions.


To count (the) ties means to be fired or to quit a job. The phrase applies to both logging and railroading, and according to a 1958 quote in DARE, comes “from the days when the only way to leave camp was to walk down the railroad.” Other quitting terms include drag her in the Pacific Northwest, New England, and Great Lakes, and hit the pike scattered throughout the country and also meaning to leave or depart hastily.


In the Southwest, New England, and Great Lakes, the logging camp doctor might be called epsom salts, a once trademarked name that now refers to magnesium sulfate in general. In the Pacific Northwest, the physician might be referred to as iodine.

16. SECTION 37

Section 37 seems to be some mysterious, nonexistent place. According to a 1958 DARE quote from a Pacific Northwesterner, “The usual township contains 36 sections, and 37 is not supposed to exist.” Therefore, the term describes something strange and unusual. A 1969 quote says that in New England and the Great Lakes, section 37 is a kind of lumberjack heaven, “where all good loggers go when they ‘cash in their chips.’” Finally, a 2001 quote from Wisconsin describes section 37 as where greenhorns go, where you cut timber if you’re stealing it, and a night at the tavern.


The next time you or your stuff are knocked flying in all directions, you can say you were knocked sky west and crooked. The phrase is used in the SouthSouth Midland, and West.


The adjective chin-whisker is used derogatorily among loggers and refers to something small-scale and unprofessional, especially pertaining to a farmer.


Lumberjacks really had a thing against farmers. A dung hister—where histe is a variant of "hoist"—is a farmer and “to call a lumberjack a farmer was an insult and meant a fight,” says a 1969 quote in DARE.


While you don’t want to call a lumberjack a farmer, you also don’t want to call him a lumberjack, at not least in “the woods of the Pacific Northwest,” says DARE, although he “may admit being a timber beast or a savage.” Logger seems to be the preferred name while a lumberjack refers to someone who works in “toothpick” timber, that is “the small second-growth pine and hemlock, in Minnesota, Michigan, and Maine.” As for timber beast, while it’s a self-characterization for “any guy who works in the woods,” outsiders “better not use the expression.”

Want more lumberjack lingo? Check out these books which were integral to many of the DARE entries: Logger's Words of Yesteryears by Leland George Sorden and Isabel J. Ebert; Lumberjack Lingo by Leland George Sorden; and Woods Words: A Comprehensive Dictionary Of Loggers Terms by Walter Fraser McCulloch and Stewart Holbrook.

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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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© Nintendo
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.