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High School Sports Teams

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I attended college in Columbia, Missouri, where the local high school named their athletic teams the Hickman Kewpies. Someone told me the football team debuted during the era when kewpie dolls were all the rage, and a parent declared loudly that they were as cute as kewpies at their opening game. I don't know how true the story is, but you have to admit the name is memorable.
There are a bazillion school systems in the US, and most of them have athletic teams. In amongst the Tigers, Bears, and other ferocious animals are some pretty interesting team names.

MFbeeter guy1.jpgSome names will make you hungry. Who could resist the New Berlin Pretzels, the Frankfort Hot Dogs, the Moorehead Spuds, or the Chinook Sugar Beeters?

More fascinating team names, after the jump.

268_hobo_lrg.jpgA lot of teams are named after occupations, often something to do with a local industry. These include the Brush Beetdiggers, Hoopeston Area Cornjerkers, the Rocky Ford Meloneers, the Tonopah Fighting Muckers, the Cordozo Clerks (of Washington, DC of course), the Bauxite Miners, the Laurel Hill Hoboes, the John Marshall Justices in Richmond and the John Marshall Barristers in Los Angeles.
Vintage High School in Napa Valley named their team the Crushers. Yes, the Vintage Crushers.

MFblossom.gifThere's a few that make you wonder how the name is supposed to strike fear into the heart of the opposing team. Imagine firing up for a game against the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms, the Fisher Bunnies, the St. Hubert Bambies, the Teutopolis Wooden Shoes, the Mt. Clemens Battling Bathers, the Roosevelt Teddies, or the Central Catholic Buttons. The above-cited Hickman Kewpies would belong in this category.

MFmaniac.jpgI found a few names that might be termed politically incorrect. There are Hurley Midgets, the Mcaughlin Midgets, and the Freeburg Midgets, which could be named after the British Leyland vehicle, but I doubt it. Idaho has the Orofino Maniacs. Centralia named their boys teams the Orphans and their girls teams the Orphan Annies.

Some are downright unlawful! There's the Yuma City Criminals, the Van Vandals, the Orono Riots, and the Rawlins County Outlaws. Watch out, or you may run into the Garfield G-Men and end up meeting the Powell County Wardens! Maybe you could use the help of the two John Marshall high schools.

MFwebbfoot.gifOther names are clever puns designed to match the school districts name. Who could argue with the Carlsbad Cavemen, the Normandy Invaders, the Polo Marcos, the Mars Area Fighting Planets and the Poca Dots. The Frankfort Hot Dogs fit here, too. Personally, I love the Webb Feet! The best pun of the lot is the Cairo Syrupmakers.

And some are headscratchers. I can't quite figure out the Fairbury Jeffs, the Shoals Jug Rox, the Maryville Spoofhounds, the Yuba City Honkers, the Danville Little Johns, the Chattanooga Central Purple Pounders, or the Watersmeet Nimrods.

Those are but a small sampling of the colorful team names out there. Do you know of any others?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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
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]