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11 Colleges That Changed Their Mascots

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With college football season starting up, we thought it might be interesting to take a look back at a few colleges who have changed their nicknames or mascots. Here are a few squads that have changed mascots, either because of controversy or the emergence of a better alternative.

1. Dartmouth College
The Ivy League school abandoned its unofficial Indian mascot in the 1970s in favor of going by the longtime nickname "the Big Green." Students missed having a real mascot, though, so in 2003 members of the humor magazine Dartmouth Jack-o-Lantern created a new one: Keggy the Keg. As you might imagine, he's an anthropomorphic beer keg.


2. University of Evansville
Until the 1924-25 basketball season, the University of Evansville's teams went by the bland nickname "the Pioneers." During a game in which Evansville routed Louisville, though, the Cardinals' coach remarked to the Pioneers that "You didn't have four aces up your sleeve, you had five!" A sports editor at the Evansville Courier heard the story and thought it was so funny he started referring to the school's teams by their current nickname, the Purple Aces.

3. Carthage College

Like St. John's and UMass, the small Wisconsin liberal arts school used to be known as "the Redmen." But while St. John's became the Red Storm in 1994 and UMass has been the Minutemen since 1972, Carthage got creative to avoid offending Native Americans while still paying homage to the school's red jerseys. The teams went from being the Redmen to the Red Men while removing any Native American imagery from their logo, and the NCAA gave the revamped name the thumbs-up.

4. Miami University
Ben Roethlisberger's alma mater went by the nickname "the Redskins" until 1997, when the school switched to the RedHawks for obvious reasons.

5. University of Hawaii at Manoa
Rainbows-FootballUntil 2000 all of Hawaii's teams were known as the Rainbow Warriors, but not all athletes loved being affiliated with the rainbow. Athletic Director Hugh Yoshida said, "It's part of the gay community, their flags and so forth. Some of the student athletes had some feelings in regard to that."


In response to these homophobic "feelings," the school revamped its logo into a rainbow-less block letter "H" and let each team select its own mascot. As a result, the football team is now just the "Warriors," while the basketball team is the "Rainbow Warriors" and the apparently progressive baseball team is simply the "Rainbows."

6. Eastern Washington University
In 1973 the student body decided that its mascot, the Savages, had to go. Since then the school's teams have been known as the Eagles.

7. St. Bonaventure University
Prior to 1979, St. Bonaventure's men's teams were known as the Brown Indians. Believe it or not, that wasn't even the most offensive name on campus; the women's squads went by "the Brown Squaws" until 1979. In 2001 one former female athlete at St. Bonaventure told Indian Country Today, "[A] Seneca chief and clan mothers came over from the reservation and asked us to stop using the name because it meant "˜vagina.' We almost died of embarrassment." Since then the teams have been known as the Bonnies.

elon8. Elon University
Until 1999 the North Carolina school's teams went by the less-than-intimidating moniker "the Fighting Christians." However, as the school started to transition to Division I competition it needed a new mascot, which ended up being the Phoenix.


9. Stanford University
The Pac-10 power's teams were known as the Indians until 1972, when the school dropped the nickname in favor of the Cardinals. The new nickname was supposed to refer to the school's red color rather than the bird, but the plural form threw people off. Thus, in 1981 the school changed its nickname again, this time to the singular Cardinal. Stanford's signature zany tree mascot burst onto the scene in the post-Indians period when the school didn't really have one. Members of the band took it upon themselves to come up with a new mascot, and tried out several unsuccessful ideas like the Steaming Manhole and the French Fry. When they trotted out the Tree, though, the student body quickly fell in love, and the new mascot tradition started.

10. Wright State University
Sometimes a school's nickname stays the same while the mascot changes. The Wright State Raiders rallied behind Rowdy Raider, a red-bearded Viking from 1986 to 1997, when the pillaging sailor found himself replaced by a wolf. The school's teams still call themselves the Raiders, though.

11. The College of William & Mary
William & Mary was another school that called its teams the Indians until the 1990s, when it changed to the Tribe. The nickname placated the NCAA, but the team's new logo, a "W" and an "M" adorned with two tribal feathers, seemed to still suggest a Native American element. NCAA regulation eventually forced the school to drop the feathers, but the Tribe nickname remains.

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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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