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9 Other Mascots Who Were Given a Facelift

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The New Orleans Pelicans announced this week that the team's mascot was undergoing "beak surgery," a coy euphemism for making the much-mocked pelican slightly less horror-inducing.

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Pierre isn't the first mascot to get a facelift (or total transformation). Here are nine others who underwent an update.

1. The Pirate Parrot

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When the Pirates introduced a Parrot as their mascot in 1979, he was designed to resemble the incredibly popular San Diego Chicken. The original Parrot wore the typical tri-corner pirate hat, complete with skull and crossbones. That year, the Parrot led the Pirates to a World Series victory, an impressive feat for a rookie.

The effort went unappreciated though, and the team opened the 1980 season with a revamped Parrot patrolling the stands. The new mascot was rounder and more cartoonish. The beak was curved with a pair of oversized googly eyes perched on top. However, this friendlier-featured Parrot has struggled to find postseason success. The Pirates haven't been in the World Series since.

2. Bernie Brewer

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The Brewers' mustachioed mascot has undergone a makeover during his 21-year tenure, but both incarnations are true to the adorable origin story. After one year in Seattle, the franchise had moved to Milwaukee in 1970—but the crowds were not quick to follow. One dedicated fan, 69-year-old Milt Mason, took it upon himself to rally the masses. Under the auspices of the team and dressed in lederhosen, Milt set up camp atop the scoreboard and vowed to stay there till the team drew 40,000 spectators. It took 40 days, but when the stadium was finally sufficiently full, Milt slid down a rope to celebrate the Brewers' fans and a well-timed win.

The stunt was so popular that it was immortalized with the creation of Bernie Brewer as the mascot in 1973, and Milt was honored as the original Bernie. The first mascot memorial to Milt was just a man in a costume that resembled Milt's German attire topped off with an oversized head. Bernie was phased out in 1984, but in 1993, Bernie was reborn as a full-body costumed, cartoonish mascot.

3. Giants' Crazy Crab and Lou Seal

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When the Giants got into the mascot game, the team chose to forgo fearsome animals and adorable creatures. Instead, they created Crazy Crab in 1984, an "anti-mascot" that looked as much like a slice of sandwich meat as it did a crustacean. Rather than elicit cheers, the hapless crab was designed to draw jeers as a satirical comment on the state of mascot-dom (or something).

It worked a little too well. In a 96-loss season, fans and players alike relished the opportunity to vent their frustration on the blameless mascot. They lobbed not just insults but food, trash, and even resin bags at the crab. The team decided to put Crazy Crab out of his misery after just one season. It would be over a decade before the Giants attempted to get back into the mascot game. Lou Seal, named in a KNBR Sports Radio phone-in contest, debuted in 1996. The sunglasses-wearing sea mammal was an instant hit.

4. Nationals' Screech

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When the Expos left Montreal behind to become the Washington Nationals, they didn't bring Youppi!, their Canadian-minded mascot. In need of a new face for the franchise, the team solicited contest entries from D.C. public schools for what the mascot—who students were told would hatch from an egg and fly over the city—should look like. Fourth-grader Glenda Gutierrez's drawing came closest to the stout, fuzzy eagle chick that "hatched" on the field on April 17, 2005.

Most mascots who get an update are made less intimidating and more lovable. But bucking the trend, the Nationals decided that Screech was too cute and needed an edgier look. So just a few years later, a leaner, meaner Screech debuted to start the 2009 season. Nationals PR explained that Screech was just growing up (naturally) and that this was his teenager stage.

5. Expos' and Canadiens' Youppi!

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But what about Youppi!? The orange hairy giant joined the Montreal Expos in 1979, but was abandoned when the team moved to Washington prior to the 2005 season. Youppi! was not out of work long, though. He became the first mascot to make the switch from MLB to the NHL when he was picked up by the Montreal Canadiens, making his hockey debut on October 18, 2005. As for an appearance change? Well, all he had to do was switch jerseys.

6. 49ers' Sourdough Sam

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In the early days, the 49ers' logo showed a gritty gold miner with a droopy mustache, a fallen hat, and a pair of pistols. When they first debuted their mascot, Sourdough Sam, he was designed to be reminiscent of that early emblem. His ten-gallon hat had a chunk missing and much of his chubby face was hidden behind a wild brown beard. A slimmer Sam showed up for the 2006 season. Brown eyes had become blue and in place of a beard he now sported a clean shaven—and incredibly chiseled—chin. His hat was flawless and his smile was wide and toothy. Sam has stayed trim ever since, but he brought back the facial hair a few seasons ago.

7. Padres' Swinging Friar

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No one knows when the clergyman with a violent streak first became associated with the Padres. In fact, the emblem predates the Padres joining the ranks of Major League Baseball in 1969. Originally, the lovable logo came to life at the games in the form of an actual man dressed in appropriate garb. However, following a World Series appearance (and loss) in 1984, then-owner Joan Kroc thought the Friar wasn't professional enough and replaced him with a pared-down baseball-based logo. Fans missed the Friar, however, and he was reborn in the late-1990s, this time with a proper mascot costume to bring the beloved logo to life.

8. Seahawks' Blitz

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Blitz burst onto the scene in 1998. An unnaturally muscular bird, Blitz's feathers have changed slightly during his career to suit the shade of teal the Seahawks are sporting in any given year. However, he underwent a major update in 2004 to make his snarling facial features less snarl-y. [The first person to find a 1998 photo of Blitz and link to it in the comments gets a mental_floss t-shirt.]

9. Braves' Chief Noc-A-Homa and Homer

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Long before the debate raged about the Washington Redskins, the Braves retired their Native American "mascot." Chief Noc-A-Homa was the name given to the "screaming Indian" sleeve patch worn on Braves jerseys. A teepee was set up in the bleachers where the Chief "lived" and after every home team homer or victory he would send up a smoke signal and perform a celebratory dance.

There were three Chief Noc-A-Homa's during the mascot's Atlanta existence. The longest lasting and final incarnation was played by Levi Walker, an Odawa Native American. But after 17 years in costume, the Braves declined to bring Walker back for the 1986 season. At the time, the team claimed it was a mutual decision stemming from a disagreement about pay and scheduling. However, no one was brought in to fill the role. Years later, Walker said criticism over the character was to blame: “They were overly sensitive about being politically correct.”

The team later debuted the undeniably inoffensive Homer the Brave, a Mr. Met-inspired baseball-headed humanoid. Homer's race-less perma-smile has graced the games ever since.

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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]

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