CLOSE
Original image
getty images

How 6 Fraternal Organizations Got Their Names

Original image
getty images

Traditional "old man" fraternal organizations are supposed to be cloaked in mystery, holding secrets that only fellow brothers may know. As a result, most of us outsiders only know a tiny bit about these orders. What's the real story behind these often inscrutable names and curious emblems? Here, some insight into how these lodges formed, and why they chose their baffling symbols.

1. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks

Image courtesy of Chestertown Lodge Facebook

The Elks (BPOE) are a relatively young fraternity in that they don't trace their beginnings to any ancient or noble guilds. The fraternity was started by actors and entertainers in the 1860s as a way to be able to drink on Sundays without having to pay extra taxes in the state of New York. Although the group originally called themselves "The Jolly Corks," in 1868 they decided to form a proper fraternal order, with an emphasis on benevolence and charity. They chose to be Elks because they believed them to be distinctly American animals. Their emblem is an Elk imposed over a clock tolling the 11th hour, as this is the hour Elks pause to give remembrance to their absent brothers.

2. Freemasons

Image courtesy of MesserWoland, used under Creative Commons license

Once upon a time, the Freemasons were a guild of actual stone cutters. In the Middle Ages, in order to get work, professional craftsmen had to belong to a guild (this proved he was properly trained and trustworthy). Though the Masons claim these beginnings, no one is sure exactly how a guild of laborers morphed into the modern fraternal order. There are some clues, though: The Masonic Square and Compass are builder's tools, and for the Freemasons, they represent forethought and good judgment.

3. Odd Fellows

Image courtesy of Bashereyre, used under Creative Commons License 

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) has a peculiar name with unclear origins, but it is generally accepted that "oddness" was a founding philosophy of the fraternity. Founded in the 1700s, it was intended that Odd Fellows would be so generous and kind to those in need, that society would consider them odd. This benevolent philosophy is represented by the three chain links, which stand for Friendship, Love, and Truth.

4. Loyal Order of Moose

Image courtesy of Loyal Order of Moose Avon Facebook 

The origin story of the Moose Lodge is perhaps the least intricate of all. In 1898, a man named Dr. John Wilson wanted to start a fraternal order that was similar to the Elks, but run kind of like the Masons — so he did. Although he didn't stick with it long, the Moose never died out, and four U.S. presidents (Harding, both Roosevelts, and Truman) became members. As for the Moose? We'll leave it to the order to explain: "He takes only what he needs, nothing more... yet for his great size and strength he lives in peace with other creatures. The moose uses his size and power not to dominate but to protect, not to spoil but to preserve. He is a fierce protector, a loyal companion, and a generous provider who brings comfort and security to those within his defending circle."

5. Knights of Columbus

Image courtesy of Kmcgrail, under fair use license 

Unlike most of the aforementioned fraternities, who only specify that members must believe in a "higher power," the Knights of Columbus is flat-out Catholic. The KofC was founded by Priest Michael J. McGivney in 1881 in Connecticut as a way to help new Catholic immigrants. McGivney also wanted to keep good Catholic men from being tempted to join other non-denominational secret societies.

The symbol of the KofC is complex. There is a shield, as a knight would use, protecting a cross pattee, which represents Christ. On the shield is a knife, an anchor, and an ax called a fasces. The knife is what a knight uses in battle, the anchor represents Christopher Columbus (for whom the order is named), and the fasces represents unified strength and embracing orderly authority.

6. The Shriners

Image courtesy of Shriners of North America, under fair use 

There's a reason the Shriners are famous for wearing silly hats and driving little cars in parades. The Shriners are a branch of Freemasonry that was started by Masons who wanted to focus more on fun and fellowship than ritual and sanctity. The order adopted an Arabian theme because one of the founders attended a cool party in France with that theme.

The many parts of their emblem all represent different things. The scimitar stands for the backbone of the fraternity (its members), the sphinx stands for the governing body of the Shriners, and the five-pointed star represents the many children helped by their philanthropy each year. The emblem also bears the phrase "Robur et Furor," which means "Strength and Fury."

The exact origins of the name are unknown, but the initials for Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (A.A.O.N.M.S.) are an anagram for "A MASON," and many scholars think this isn't a coincidence.

More From The Week

The taxonomy of selfies 

*

Cook every cut of chicken 

Elephants are messy eaters 

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
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!

Original image
iStock
arrow
technology
Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
Original image
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]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES