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The Origins of Weird State Park Names (Part Three)

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When you see these names, you tend to say to yourself, "Does that mean what it sounds like?" In most cases, no.


You've seen the sign, if not from the highway in Wisconsin, then on the internet. And you've heard the jokes about "recreation" involving either a water pipe for marijuana, or more recently a funnel for drinking beer. But if you follow the signs, you'll find the name of the place is actually the Richard Bong State Recreation Area. Its namesake, Major Richard Ira Bong, was called the "Ace of Aces." He flew 200 combat missions in the Pacific during World War II, scoring 40 victories. Bong was presented with the Medal of Honor in 1944, on top of a number of other wartime medals. He then became a test pilot for the Air Force and flew the P-80, which malfunctioned during a flight in 1945. Major Bong bailed out of the plane, but was too close to the ground for his parachute to deploy properly, and he died on impact. The Richard Bong State Recreation Area is just one of many memorials to the flying ace.

Big Bone Lick

Big Bone Lick State Park in northern Kentucky is famous for its name alone. It should be more famous for its fossils, since the area was once a swamp and home to all kinds of huge prehistoric animals like mammoths, mastodons, and ground sloths. A salt spring in the area attracts animals, who would come and lick the salt that was difficult to get in the rest of their diet. Hence, it was a "lick", the same name that sticks with other such areas. Native Americans also got salt there, and passed this tip on to a French Canadian named Baron de Longueil, who explored the area in 1739. A 1744 map marks the spot as the "place where they found the elephant bones in 1739." By then, the bones found at the lick were used for all kinds of purposes. Image by Wikipedia user Mattguyver.

When John Filson published the a map of Kentucky in 1784, the lick was labeled, as well as Big Bone Creek and "Salt Springs and Medicinal Spring the large Bones are found here."

Saddleback Butte

Saddleback Butte State Park near Lancaster, California might give you pause when you see the sign. When I saw this state park listing, the name struck me as a medical condition along the lines of tennis elbow, since the last time I spent all day in a saddle my butte was quite sore. It could also be a descriptive term for the appearance of a person's posterior, although not a flattering one. But this butte is pronounced beaut, which Americans should know because of the small city of Butte, Montana. It's a term for a geological formation, a hill distinguished by steep sides and a flat top, like a large rock set on a relatively flat plain. Those who've been to Saddleback Butte (or who've seen the pictures) say it looks nothing like a saddle and is hardly a butte. Someone lost to history thought up the name. Still, the park offers hiking trails up the hill to an elevation of 3,651 feet, with the reward of a spectacular view. Image by Wikipedia user Matt Jalbert.

Big Bottom

Big Bottom State Memorial Park in Stockport. Ohio is a park that commemorates the Big Bottom Massacre of 1791, a skirmish between Wyandot Indians and Ohio Company settlers that resulted in the deaths of 14 settlers. The Native Americans attacked in part because they resented the settlers encroachment upon the large fertile area on the Muskingum River. A "fertile area" on a river floodplain was commonly called "bottom land", and since the floodplain was extensive, the settlers called it Big Bottom. However, in the modern usage of the term, you don't want to pose with the sign if you are insecure about your weight.


Nimrod State Wildlife Management Area is named for Nimrod Lake in Arkansas. The lake was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1940-42 by damming the Fourche LaFave River. They named the lake after Nimrod, the grandson of Noah, who, according to the Bible, was a mighty hunter. The area surrounding Lake Nimrod has plentiful game. Little did they know that the name Nimrod would later be a slang term for a clueless person.

Bogus Basin


Bogus Bason State Park in Boise County, Idaho, is one of those names that, yes, means exactly what it sounds like. Bogus Basin was once a destination for gold miners. However, that gold was actually pyrite, or "fool's gold," which led to the name. Miners warned others away with the name, but colorful tales sprung up to explain the exact circumstances. In one, "Pan Handle Pete" and "Jughead Jake" sold the mining rights and skipped town in a hurry. Other legends have hucksters planting gold dust in the mines or broadcasting their nugget sales to fool other prospectors into buying a claim. Image by Flickr user Disodium.

Ha Ha Tonka


Ha Ha Tonka State Park is near Camdenton, Missouri. If the name were spelled Hahatonka, we would all assume it has native origins like Minnesota or Mississippi. But the real story is even more interesting. Land speculator Robert Scott bought up a lot of Missouri wilderness in the 1890s, and wanted a better name for the area than Gunter Springs, so, inspired by the Longfellow poem "Hiawatha," he came up with Hahatonka. Scott said it was an Osage Indian name meaning "laughing waters," but there is no evidence to back up his story. Wealthy Missouri businessman Robert Snyder purchased 2,500 acres from Scott in 1904 and started building a castle, intending it as a resort area. But Snyder died in 1906, and the castle (completed in 1922) burned in 1942. When the state park was founded in 1978, the state Parks Division put spaces in the name, either to distance it from the fake Osage term or to highlight the laughing waters idea. Or both. Image by Flickr user Amazing Brian.

Humbug Mountain

Humbug Mountain State Park, Oregon

Humbug Mountain State Park in Oregon takes its name from the mountain. It was first known as Sugarloaf Mountain until Captain William Tichenor brought a group of explorers and settlers in the 1850s. He sent out an exploratory party with instructions for climbing the mountain, but they disregarded his directions and became lost. The men named the hill Tichenor's Humbug (according to Tichenor) "to palliate their gross failure." The name was later shortened to Humbug Mountain. Image by Flickr user Mark Hillary.

Frozen Head

Snow on Frozen Head Mountain

Frozen Head State Park in east Tennessee is named after Frozen Head Mountain. There are no corpses associated with the place name, despite stories told to children of the area. Settlers name the mountain Frozen Head because the peak is 3,324 feet high, and the top is covered with ice and snow in winter -unlike smaller hills in the area. Image by Flickr user Michael Hodge.

A couple of notable suggestions for this post should be included, even though they are not state parks. Head-smashed-in Buffalo Jump is a Canadian provincial park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. A buffalo jump is an area in which buffalo were herded over a cliff to their deaths by hunters. The only reference to the name Head-Smashed-In I found was an unsubstantiated legend about a Blackfoot who was killed by falling buffalo through his own foolishness. Then there's Beaver Dick Park in Rexburg, Idaho, which is a county park, so you can read the story of the name on your own.

See also: Part One and Part Two of this series.

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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]