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7 Schools That Dropped Their Native American Nicknames

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The debate over Native American sports mascots has roiled for decades. While pro teams like the Washington Redskins are standing firm, change is brewing in the lower tiers. Over the past three decades, 28 high schools nicknamed “Redskins” have ushered in a new mascot. The last college with the moniker dropped it over a decade ago. Here are some stories of schools that dropped their Native American nicknames and mascots.

1. Cooperstown High School, New York

For nine decades, the quaint upstate New York town was home of the Redskins, but that changed in March 2013. Surprisingly, the move wasn’t sparked by an irate tribe or school board, but through a student petition. The Oneida Nation was so moved by the gesture, they donated $10,000 to cover the change’s cost. The school—which is 0.32 percent Native American—now buzzes with Hawkeye pride.

2. Carthage College

Oh, the difference a space makes! Formerly the “Redmen,” Carthage’s nickname caught flak from the NCAA in 2005. So Carthage got creative—they pressed the space bar, changing from the “Redmen” to the “Red men,” a testament to their bright red jerseys. (In a bigger move, they also removed all Native American imagery from the school logo.) The NCAA gave Carthage’s new name the thumbs up.

3. Wiscasset High School, Maine

After a local Native American group complained about the school’s Redskin moniker, the board decided it was time to start fresh with Wolverines—and it didn’t win them any popularity points. Students staged a walkout, and, a year later, the boys varsity basketball team came to a home game wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the old logo. The crowd showered them with a standing ovation.  

4. Southern Nazarene College

When Miami University of Ohio became the Redhawks in 1997, South Nazarene—a small Christian liberal arts college in Oklahoma—was the only collegiate Redskin left standing. With the school’s 100-year anniversary approaching, a marketing committee suggested it was prime time to change. It proved painless. That said, students did have to briefly endure being represented by a smiling cloud. (They changed to the Crimson Storm.)

5. Dartmouth College

Although Dartmouth originated to turn Native Americans into missionaries, its unofficial Indian mascot is just a coincidence. Legend has it that in the 1920s, sports journalists started calling the Ivy League school the “Indians,” and the name stuck. Following a wave of Native American protests in the 1970s, the trustees nixed the name and logo, going with another unofficial nickname, "Big Green," and favoring mascots like “Dartmoose.” But nothing beats the fan favorite, Keggy the Keg, a humanoid keg overflowing with school spirit(s). 

6. Syracuse University

For years, ‘Cuse’s mascot was a fearsome goat. But in the 1920s, rumors swirled that the body of a 16th-century Onondaga chief had been excavated under the women’s gym. The student paper dubbed the body “Big Chief Bill Orange,” or the Saltine Warrior, and he rose to mascot fame. When the Saltine Warrior retired in 1978 after protests, a flood of bad subs followed: A roman gladiator, a Superman knockoff, a troll named “Egnaro,” and even a dude in an orange tuxedo. Finally, in 1980, Otto the plush orange captured fans’ hearts. 

7. Stanford University

Stanford sported a logo of a near cross-eyed Indian with a big nose in the 1930s. In 1972, Native American students petitioned against it. Stanford changed its mascot to the “Cardinal”—a move that confused everyone. (The name referred to the school color—not the songbird.) Stanford had run through plenty of other ideas, too: Robber Barons, Railroaders, Sequoias, Trees, Spikes, Huns, and Griffins. In 1975, the Stanford band poked fun at the wishy-washy renaming process by teasingly introducing a steaming manhole, a French fry, and a tree. Fans fell in love with the tree, and he’s been there ever since.  

BONUS: Amherst College

Although Amherst doesn’t have a Native American mascot, it has roped itself into the debate. Their mascot, Lord Jeff, is a caricature of Lord Jeffery Amherst, commander of the British Army during the French and Indian War. Amherst gets a bad rap because he approved the infamous plan to give smallpox infested blankets to Native Americans. In his letters, Amherst wrote that he wanted to “bring about the total Extirpation of those Indian Nations” and to “put a most Effectual Stop to their very Being.” He even suggested hunting Indians with dogs. The debate is ongoing, and a handful of townies have even suggested changing the locale’s name. 

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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]