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Lehigh Valley IronPigs

How the Lehigh Valley IronPigs Got Their Name

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Lehigh Valley IronPigs

From the Savannah Sand Gnats to the Montgomery Biscuits, Minor League Baseball is full of slightly bizarre names. But where do they all come from? From now until Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at the stories behind some of the greatest team names in MiLB. Yesterday we covered the story behind the Akron RubberDucks and today we tackle the Lehigh Valley IronPigs

In 2008, the team that had been the Ottawa Lynx moved south of the border to play at the brand new Coca-Cola Park in Lehigh Valley, PA. It was just their second season as an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, who had acquired the team after the Baltimore Orioles cut ties. But while lynx prowl the snowy hills of Canada, they are not common in Pennsylvania. So along with a new stadium, the team would need a new name to kickoff their Allentown existence.

A contest sponsored by a local daily newspaper, the Allentown Morning Call, garnered 3,500 suggestions in the first round. From there, the field was narrowed to eight finalists: Crushers, Gobblers, IronPigs, Keystones, Phantastics, Phillies, Vulcans (always a finalist, never a team name) and Woodchucks. Over 10,000 votes were cast in the final round, and the IronPigs emerged the clear victor, winning by more than a two-to-one margin.

Ron Steele, who originally submitted IronPigs to the contest, credited the quirkiness of his suggestion for its appeal. "It was the weirdest name out there, I guess," Steele told the AP at the time. "I think the uniqueness got a lot of people into it." For his contribution, Steele won VIP game tickets and assorted memorabilia.

But what exactly is an IronPig? Well, nothing really. Not even, unfortunately, a snarling, steely pig like the logo suggests. The name is an intentional butchering of "pig iron," which is the raw iron that gets melted down to make steel. The term refers to the rows of ingots on the conveyor belt all attached to a single runner, which was thought to look like a litter of suckling piglets. Over the course of the 19th century, iron production grew to be the Valley's leading industry, helping drive the country's railroad and skyscraper construction.

When the name was announced on November 13, 2006, IronPigs president Chuck Domino had this to say: "We chose a name that bonds the Lehigh Valley's steel-making heritage to the fun of the Minor Leagues and also the way we plan to operate the franchise, which is boldly with an emphasis on a uniqueness that will set the Lehigh Valley IronPigs apart from anything that the people of the Lehigh Valley have previously been exposed to."

Naming the Mascot

Image Credit: Digital Photographic Imaging

Before the IronPigs inaugural season in Allentown could begin, they needed a name for the mascot. With fan interest running high, the front office solicited suggestions for what to call the giant furry pig. In early December, PorkChop was chosen from a pool of over 7,300 submissions. But just two days later, the name was dropped.

The team had received complaints from Hispanic fans that the name was a derogatory slur and was quick to address the issue. "We were really unaware of any negative connotations with the word 'pork chop,'" General Manager Kurt Landes said at the time. "If it offended a few, it's a few too many."

Instead, the mascot was introduced as Ferrous, derived from the Latin word for iron ("ferrum"), which had received 235 fan nominations.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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iStock
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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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iStock

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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