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Not-quite-famous (but still great) last words

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Sure, a lot of us are familiar with the last words of Douglas Fairbanks ("I've never felt better") and Oscar Wilde ("Either that wallpaper goes, or I do"), but the plain fact of the matter is that everybody, save those who never spoke during their lifetimes, had last words, and just because they're obscure doesn't mean they're not awesome. So if you've already checked out our new musical about last words and feel a hankerin' for more, read on!

18th century newspaperman Andrew Bradford's last words may well be those of any devoted mental_floss writer: "Oh Lord, forgive the errata!"

One of the most memorably poetic partings belongs to Russian diarist Marie Bashkirtseff, who died from tuberculosis at the tragically young age of 25. Addressing the candle by her bedside, she said "We shall go out together."

This one very nearly made it into our last words film, but was cut for time at the last moment. (Also, the deathbed scenes were starting to pile up, and something had to go.) Gloomy Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen (d. 1906) had suffered a stroke and was confined to his bed. When he overheard his nurse remarking to his visitor that he appeared to be on the mend, he quipped "On the contrary!"

Among our favorites are the last words of Karl Marx, who simultaneously departed this mortal coil with fantastic last words, and undermined the whole enterprise of honoring last words: on his deathbed, Marx's housekeeper urged him to tell her his last words, so that she might record them for posterity. He replied: "Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven't said enough."

According to Kool Aid-loving Ken Kesey, who was present at his deathbed, Allen Ginsberg's lighthearted last words were "Toodle-oo!"

In 1959, Lou Costello (of Abbot and ... fame), had just finished a malt shoppe treat. He said "That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted." We're guessing it wasn't of the fat-free persuasion, as he died of a heart attack soon thereafter.

For those of you who spend too much time thinking about this sort of thing (guilty!), consider the last words of guru Meher Baba, who died in 1969 but spoke his last words in 1924 right before taking a 44-year vow of silence: "Don't worry, be happy."

Eeyore's last words couldn't have been glummer: when the first gallows-rope broke as Russian revolutionary Ryumin Bestuzhev was being executed in 1826, he said "Nothing succeeds with me. Even here I meet with disappointment." (Don't feel so bad, Ryumin. If it weren't for disappointments, we wouldn't have any appointments. Hey hey!)

In 1959, Carl Switzer -- better known as The Little Rascals' Alfalfa -- yelled "I want that that 50 bucks you owe me, and I want it now!" and was subsequently killed in a bar fight.

As the assassinated president William McKinley was dying in his bed, his wife plead with him not to go. "We are all going," he responded.

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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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