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9 Birds Caught Using Some Very Naughty Language

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If you’re going to teach Polly how to talk, you’d better watch what you say! Here are nine of the world’s most “fowl”-mouthed avians.

1. Pet Cockatoo Cusses Out Human Neighbors

When a couple breaks up, things can get ugly—but it’s not every day that a swearing cockatoo gets thrown into the mix. In 2012, Lynne Taylor of Warwick, Rhode Island was accused of teaching her pet bird, Willy, to scream expletives at her former husband, Craig Fontaine, and his new girlfriend, both of whom lived next door. One of these outbursts was filmed and shown to the local police department, where an officer claimed that he was able to hear Willy shouting “‘f*** off’ and ‘f****** whore’” in the footage. Taylor was subsequently ticketed for violating a regional noise ordinance, a charge that was eventually dropped.

2. Potty-Mouthed Parrot Teaches Feathered Friends How To Swear

To date, “Barney the Swearing Parrot” of Nuneaton, England has verbally assaulted a vicar, two law enforcement officials, a pair of old ladies, and even the mayor’s wife. “It was quite horrifying to find out that he was swearing,” says Geoff Grewcox, director of the Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, where the infamous blue and gold macaw currently resides. Barney’s also had a bad influence on some of Grewcox’s other birds, some of whom have actually begun imitating his vulgar vocabulary.

3. Mr. T Told to Watch His Mouth

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This is one bird that had to kick a very bad habit. Tropical Inc. of Birmingham, Alabama specializes in producing educational programs about exotic critters for nearby schools and universities. When a green-winged macaw named Mr. T was given to the organization, animal trainer Steve Rowlands quickly realized that the bird’s dialect needed a bit of cleansing before the staff could safely display him in public. “[He’s] picked up some interesting phrases and words which are not appropriate for some venues we go to,” Rowland explained. “Parrots like Mr. T can live to 90-years-old so he’s still only a youngster at [age seven]… I’m sure he’ll outgrow this rebellious stage soon.”

4. Adopted Cockatoo Swears at New Owner in Viral YouTube Video

In 2011, a YouTuber by the name of Furman Campbell posted this hilarious clip in which he gets into a highly NSFW argument with Baby, his newly-acquired fowl. Since then, their entertaining exchange has drawn over one million views.

5. Bird Uses Taiwanese Profanity

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Pika the African Grey parrot is knows quite a lot of words. Unfortunately, many shouldn’t be repeated. According to the Taipei Times, he lives at a food stand in Taiwan’s Kaohsiung province and has begun “hurling insults and discouragement” at its customers, along with a slew of regional obscenities. Despite this, the winged detractor has become a beloved figure within his community.

6. Gutter-Mouthed Lory Seeks New Home

Finding a family can be difficult for any abandoned animal, especially one that curses like a sailor. Such is the burden of Beaky, a lory whose lingo has raised a few eyebrows over the years. “He knows some words that possibly are for adults only,” says Sally Jones of the Leybourne Animal Centre. Taking this information into account, in 2012, the British Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals began advertising that Beaky was in need of a good home but warned that “new owners shouldn’t mind bad language as he comes out with some rude words.” 

7. Mynah Bird Gets Kicked Out of Aviary for Insulting Tourists

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When an impressionable avian at China’s Jiufeng Forest Zoo picked up a few expletives and started re-using them in front of startled visitors, officials decided it was time to put the critter in rehab. The offending Mynah bird has since been forced to listen to tapes containing “polite words” in a separate enclosure until its demeanor improves.

8. Parrot Discovers The Wonderful World of Interjections

It turns out that kids aren’t the only ones R-rated films can negatively affect. The owner of this bawdry macaw claims that he learned to shout “What the f***?!” from an unidentified “Hollywood movie.”

9. Bird Cusses Through a Thick Welsh Accent

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Sarah Fisk, a 34-year-old wife and mother, felt that a homeless grey parrot would make a perfect addition to her Bristol household. Named Basil, the bird had previously lived in Wales, a fact that’s been reflected in his vernacular. “His accent is so strong sometimes that we don’t understand what he’s saying,” says Fisk, “but it definitely sounds Welsh.” Regrettably, the twang in his voice isn’t the only thing Basil picked up from his former owners. “He was very quiet and shy for the first day,” she reflects, “but then all of a sudden he started talking and rather surprised us with his adult vocabulary.” While visiting nearby veterinarian Mandy Stone, Basil chirped so many nasty names at the nurses that Fisk felt compelled to formally “apologize for his bad manners.”

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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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fun
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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