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17 Other Memorable Presidential Photographs

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Getty Images

This White House photo of President Obama doing the "not impressed" look with Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney is zooming around the Internet this morning. This gives us a good excuse to share some of our favorite presidential pics from the White House and presidential libraries.

1. San-T Claus

In December of 1983, Mr. T went to Washington to help the First Lady unveil the White House Christmas decorations. Why Mr. T? “Nancy Reagan was campaigning to get kids to say no to drugs,” Mr. T told The Independent in 2008. “They heard about me going round schools telling kids to stay away from drugs."

The First Lady received a Mr. T doll, and Mr. T got a peck on the forehead. “Oh wow, man,” San-T Claus joked. “That’ll start some scandal.”

2. A Popcorn Shower

The 1986 Super Bowl champion New York Giants popularized the tradition of dumping Gatorade on their coach after wins. When the team came to the White House in 1987, Harry Carson gave The Gipper a similar treatment.

3. Hipster Lincoln

A reporter once described Lincoln’s mop as “Wild Republican hair.” In this 1857 photo, Abe looks like he just got out of bed.

4. Hippie Clinton

Bill and Hillary in the early days.

5. Tickling the Ivories

Two months before he became president, here’s Harry Truman playing piano for Lauren Bacall.

6. The Gipper and The Gloved One

© Bettmann/CORBIS

For lending “Beat It” to a campaign against drunk driving, Michael Jackson was awarded a Presidential Special Achievement Award by Ronald Reagan in 1984.

7. Angry Teddy

A young and menacing Teddy Roosevelt.

8. Older Teddy

TR on safari in Central Africa after leaving office.

9. Pardon That Turkey

The annual turkey pardoning has led to some unflattering photos. See also: A Brief History of Presidential Turkey Pardoning.

10. Elephant Rides

The Bush family on an elephant in 1964. The Bush Library's caption says it's an elephant statue. We're not so sure. Left to right: Barbara, Doro, Marvin, Neil, Jeb, and George H.W. Bush (George W. was away at school).

11. Harry Truman's Summer Wardrobe

If you happened to be in Key West in 1951, you could have run into President Truman in some really short shorts.

12. "A Nice Little Person"

President Reagan poses with Drew Barrymore at a ceremony launching the Young Astronauts program in 1984. In his diary, Reagan wrote, "Little Drew Barrymore—the child in E.T.—was one of the children [I met]. She’s a nice little person."

13. Golden Girl in the White House

Betty White dropped by earlier this year.

14. Chef Ike

Here’s Dwight Eisenhower cooking up a storm at Secretary of the Treasury George Humphrey’s Georgia plantation in 1956. One of our readers sent this to us a few years ago. As Rachael put it, “Ike appears to be pushing the head of a miniature woman into his frying basket.”

15. The First Presidential Photo

This is the first known photograph of a president, although it was taken in 1843, years after John Quincy Adams had left office.

16. Another President With Another Gymnast

If Twitter were around in 1984, this Mary Lou Retton photo is what the political reporters would have been obsessively retweeting.

17. Nixon-Elvis

No presidential photo round-up would be complete without this classic. Concerned about increased drug use in the U.S., Elvis Presley petitioned Nixon in a handwritten letter proposing he be named a “Federal Agent at Large.” Elvis wrote, “I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing, where I can and will do the most good.”

Elvis then showed up at the White House unannounced, packing two handguns—one for protection, the other as a gift for the president. After some thinking, officials let him inside with both guns in tote. At the extensively photographed meeting, Elvis showed Nixon his family photos and a collection of law enforcement badges. Later, Nixon awarded him a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge, which listed Elvis’ position as “Special Assistant.”

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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
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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]

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