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Presidential "Affairs"

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If you thought Bill Clinton's tryst was bad, check out some of the salacious dirt haunting our other famous Presidents...

Warren Harding had a 15-year long affair with Carrie Phillips and over the years he gave her a Cadillac and offered her $5000 a year to keep her mouth shut. When the affair started getting in the way of his election, his campaign managers paid her more then $20,000, and sent her on a trip around the world.

Nan Britton, Harding's other famed mistress, supposedly gave birth to his daughter. She also reported that Harding and she often had relations in White House coat closets, and once were almost caught by his wife before a Secret Service agent saved the day.

It's no secret that Thomas Jefferson put the father in Founding Father. DNA evidence shows he sired at least 1 and probably all 6 of his slave Sally's children. What's harder for textbooks to verify is that he first seduced her when she was 14.

franklin-roosevelt-picture.jpgWhile JFK's definitely the best-known White House Lothario, FDR might wheel himself into second place. The Polio Player had an affair with his wife's bubbly secretary Lucy Mercer. When Eleanor found out about it, she was hopping mad, so he promised to put a halt to it... for a while. In the meantime, Roosevelt slept with his White House secretary Marguerite "Missy" LeHand, another one of his cousins (his wife was a cousin, too), and supposedly, he also got nice with Princess Martha of Norway. But despite the abundance of tail, he couldn't get Lucy Mercer out of his head. When the 4-term president passed away, the two were wrapped around each other.

It's not quite an affair, but John Quincy Adams got slapped with the nickname "The Pimp" after he offered his kids' nanny's "services" as a gift to the Czar of Russia.

lyndon-johnson-picture.jpgLyndon Johnson, the straight shooter from Texas who referred to his own Johnson as "Jumbo", shagged Madeleine Brown for 21 years (and fathered her son) all behind his wife Lady Bird's back. Meanwhile he was also busying himself with the movie actress Helen Gahagan Douglas and the knock-out Alice Glass—apparently, the latter eventually dumped him because of his politics on Vietnam.

James Garfield had an affair with an 18 year-old New York Times reporter named Lucia Gilbert Calhoun until his wife caught wind of the affair and made him decide between them. Good ole Garfield stuck to his marriage.

john-kennedy-picture.jpgAnd then there's JFK, the smoothest swinger of the lot. The most famous of his conquests was Marilyn Monroe who supposedly giggled and confided to a friend after their tryst, "I think I made his back real better." Allegedly, Kennedy also bedded his secretary Pamela Turner, movie star Angie Dickinson, famed stripper Blaze Starr (he supposedly had sex with her in a closet while her fiancée was in the next room during a party), Danish journalist Inga Arvad, B-movie actress Jayne Mansfield, and a host of others. He also slept with an intern while in office, Marion Fahnestock, ushering the way for a later president to do the same.

BONUS "Founding Father" (but not a president) FACT: Back when he was still Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton decided to console a saddened Maria Reynolds. Despite the fact that they were both married, he continued "consoling" her, and "consoling" her until Reynolds' husband smelled opportunity. He blackmailed the future president$1000 to keep quiet (1/3 of his salary!), but made it clear that Hamilton could keep sleeping with his wife for additional cash.

Special thanks to Sandy and Kara for the research help!

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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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