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Wikimedia Commons

11 Embarrassing Incidents Caused By Mascots

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Wikimedia Commons

This week the Chicago Cubs unveiled a new mascot, Clark. While the Cubs described him as "a young, friendly Cub who can’t wait to interact with our other young Cubs fans," the Internet focused on his lack of pants. But give Clark a break! Unlike these mascots, he hasn't done anything to embarrass the franchise.

1. The Phillie Phanatic’s Infamous Phist Phight

In 1988, the famed Phillie Phanatic dragged out a dummy clad in a blue jersey with Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda’s name printed on the back and started thrashing it about before a raucous crowd. The irate manager responded by leaping onto the field, snatching the doll, and slugging the noodle-nosed beastie. You can read Lasorda’s account here.

2. Harvey’s Loose Tongue

Lasorda wasn’t the only coach to lash out at an opposing mascot. When Craig MacTavish of the Edmonton Oilers grew weary of Calgary Flames mascot Harvey the Hound and his derisive antics, he resorted to ripping out the brash canine’s dangling tongue and throwing it into the stands, to the stunned amusement of nearby fans.

3. Billy the Marlin Injures Fan With T-Shirt Gun

Maude Flanders isn't the only one to learn the dangers of pressurized T-Shirt gun abuse. In 2000, Billy the Marlin of Major League Baseball's Florida Marlins decided to give away some free garments by firing them into the crowd... only to knock an elderly man unconscious when a high-speed tee struck the side of his head. Billy was subsequently found “not liable” in an ensuing lawsuit. 

4. The Sad Life of an “Anti-Mascot”

In 1984, the San Francisco Giants introduced “Crazy Crab,” a sorry-looking crustacean mascot the crowd was supposed to boo. Team manager Frank Robinson set up the gag with a TV spot in which he had to be restrained from punching out the crab. However, the fanbase, embittered by a 92-loss season, didn't seem to get the joke and began pelting the unfortunate invertebrate with a barrage of bottles and batteries at every home game. The situation eventually got so bad that the Crab's shell was reenforced with fiberglass to prevent serious injury. “Crazy” was retired at the season's end, but made a re-appearance in 2008: Predictably, he was booed.

5. Barney Sues the San Diego Chicken

“I Love You, You Love Me” is a song that evidently doesn’t extend to one Ted Giannoulas, creator of the iconic “San Diego Chicken” (now called simply “The Famous Chicken”). The beaked thespian ruffled some feathers in the mid-nineties after debuting a new routine which involved dancing off with and eventually tackling a Barney look-alike:

The purple dinosaur's creators sued for copyright infringement, but lost the ensuing case after a lengthy struggle. Adding insult to injury, Giannoulas called the ruling “Super-Dee-Dooper!”

6. Sebastian the Ibis’ Near-Incarceration

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“The key phrase in this situation is that I was ‘detained’.  I was never arrested,” says John Routh, who portrayed Sebastian, the University of Miami’s beloved avian cheerleader, from 1985 to 1992—a gig which once got him in trouble with the law as discussed in this clip.

7. Fowl Play

Memo to all prospective mascots: Never tick off the Oregon Duck. In a 2007 match-up against Oregon, the University of Houston's Shasta—a bipedal, jersey-wearing cougar—decided to drop down and show off some pushups after her team scored a touchdown. It was a move that both mascots had been showing off for years, but which the pugnacious waterfowl mistook for an act of copyright infringement. The result? A fist fight and a one-game suspension for the web-footed perpetrator.

8. Fan Gets Creamed

When it comes to botched birthdays, the NBA’s Jazz Bear takes the cake. In 2012, the apparently-nearsighted ursid helped the Utah Jazz honor season ticket-holder Luke Larson’s special day with a commemorative cake … only to drop it thirty feet onto the heads of some unsuspecting fans below.

9. Live Hawk Delays Playoff Game

A 2009 postseason rivalry matchup between the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks was delayed when a live hawk named “Spirit” (on loan from the local zoo) initially refused to return to his handler and instead perched menacingly atop the scoreboard before eventually coming down, spooking all-star Dwayne Wade in the process.

10. The Sooner Schooner Draws A Penalty

The Sooner Schooner, a horse-drawn carriage that heads onto the field after every University of Oklahoma touchdown, may have helped cost the team an Orange Bowl championship in 1985 when it got stuck in the turf in front of the opposing team's bench and netted the Sooners a 15-yard penalty at a critical moment in the fourth quarter. To see the Schooner functioning normally, check this out: 

11. Bird Beheading

To energize the team and fans, the St. Joseph University Hawk symbolizes the school's slogan, “The Hawk Will Never Die,” by ceaselessly flapping its wings during every major athletic event. Rhody the Ram of the University of Rhode Island decided to have a little fun with the concept by shoving an inner tube over the fluttering raptor, only to accidentally decapitate the hawk and spark a shoving match in the process. Skip to 0:42 to see the skirmish...

Portions of this post originally appeared last year.

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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]