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The Conservatives Hated Bush (and 7 Other Reactions to VP Choices)

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Senator Obama is likely to name his running mate this week, possibly as early as tomorrow morning. So we went back into the archives of The New York Times to see the initial reaction to past VP announcements. Here's how the press covered the nominations of Vice Presidents Roosevelt, Cheney, Gore, Quayle, Bush, Agnew, Johnson and Nixon.

George Bush—Ronald Reagan's VP

July 18, 1980

reagan-bush.jpgConservatives First Recoil,
Then Line Up Behind Bush

Finally, after 16 years, the conservatives thought they had put it all together. From the outset, this had been their convention. They had spent the time, the money and the energy, and they had elected their delegates. They had fashioned a platform and drafted rules that made few concessions to the party's moderates.

But shortly after midnight last night, things changed. By a single stroke, the party's Northeast Republican establishment was resurrected, placed on the national ticket by the man on whom they had pinned their hopes. Worse yet, from their point of view, a future party leader was annointed who was a member of the Trilateral Commission, a supporter of the Federal equal rights amendment and an opponent of a constitutional ban on abortions.
* * * * *
"Governor Reagan sounded like Winston Churchill, but behaved like Neville Chamberlain," said Howard Phillips, executive director of the American Conservative Union....[But] there were indications that pragmatic politics had led conservatives to join ranks behind Mr. Bush.

"It's a winning ticket," added representative Eldon Rudd, a conservative from Arizona.

Lyndon Johnson—John Kennedy's VP

July 15, 1960

jfk-lbj.jpgChoice A Surprise
Senator Johnson was nominated on the recommendation of the Massachusetts Senator. Senator Kennedy overrode protests by labor and Northern liberals in the surprise move in naming the Senate majority leader for Vice President. The Texan's acceptance of second place was equally surprising.

Senator Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, moved boldly to win party unity and new strength below the Mason-Dixon Line by choosing the Texan, a Protestant, for his running mate...The Johnson choice was far from universally popular, but it satisfied the overwhelming majority of the delegates...The choice was particularly offensive to leaders of Americans for Democratic Action. Negro leaders were divided.
* * * * *
Senator Johnson appeared before the convention after his nomination and said that the party must unite to win in November. Thanking the convention for his selection, he brought a cheer when he said, "And I congratulate you on your decision last night."

Theodore Roosevelt—William McKinley's VP

June 22, 1900

Great Enthusiasm in the Republican Convention

Governor Roosevelt was the idol of the convention, but the idolatry was not frenzied. His speech was a model of directness and conciseness, his bearing was soldierly, dignified, and satisfactory to his most anxious friend.

The tumult over him was manifestly spontaneous, universal, and sincere. It was not overdone. His conduct plainly strengthened him in the estimation of the convention.
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McKinley and Roosevelt were nominated upon a call of the roll, as provided by the rules. McKinley received every vote in the convention. Roosevelt received 929, one delegate not voting. The delegate who did not vote was Theodore Roosevelt.

Dan Quayle—George Bush's VP

August 17, 1988

Baby Boomer With Right Credentials
In choosing Dan Quayle as his running mate, George Bush has selected a man in his own image: pleasant, affable, conservative—as well as rich and good-looking.

quayle-bush.jpgStill, the campaign seems to be counting on some help from the differences: Senator Quayle is a generation younger than the Vice President and has the right-wing credentials that some Republicans have found lacking in Mr. Bush.

The scion of the family that owns the biggest newspaper chain in Indiana, Mr. Quayle has led the proverbial charmed life. Elected to the Senate in 1980 after only two terms in the House, he now stands to win the second-highest executive office in the United States at the age of 41. The only thing he can recall losing, he once told an interviewer, was an election at a college fraternity.
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A key question for the party is whether Mr. Quayle can be the point man in what may be a mean campaign. And strategists also wonder about his ability to stand up against the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee, Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas.

Richard Nixon—Dwight Eisenhower's VP

July 12, 1952

nixon-eisenhower.jpgEisenhower Nominated on the First Ballot; Senator Nixon Chosen as his Running Mate; General Pledges 'Total Victory' Crusade
The only potential barrier to quick action on Senator Nixon's nomination had been the desire of approximately 200 Republican women delegates to symbolize the demand of their sex for political equality by proposing a woman, Senator Smith, for the Vice Presidency. But the Maine Senator, who had gone along with the idea when it seemed there would be a field of VP candidates from whom the convention might choose, quickly let it be known she did not want to be placed in nomination if Senator Nixon was to be the only other candidate. This was announced to the convention by Mrs. Luce, the playwright and wife of Henry Luce, the publisher.

Al Gore—Bill Clinton's VP

July 10, 1992

clinton-gore.jpgClinton Selects Senator Gore As Running Mate
Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas today selected Senator Al Gore of Tennessee to join him as his Vice-Presidential running mate when he receives the Democratic nomination for President in New York next week.

In making the much-anticipated announcement on the lawn of the Governor's mansion here, Mr. Clinton emphasized Mr. Gore's experience in foreign policy and the environment. And with their wives and children arrayed behind them in the baking noonday sun, both men spoke of their commitment to family values.
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But the wisdom of Mr. Clinton's choice was immediately questioned by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who has twice unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for President and has on several occasions offered himself as a Vice-Presidential running mate. "I have deep concerns about the ticket. It takes two wings to fly and here you have two of the same wing."

Spiro Agnew—Richard Nixon's VP

August 9, 1968

agnew-nixon.jpgEditorial: Vice-Presidential Choice
If Mr. Nixon's own nomination is readily understandable, his choice of Gov. Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland as his Vice-Presidential running mate is another triumph of the old politics—but one which is much less comprehensible or defensible. The open dissension in many delegations and the protest vote for Governor Romney of Michigan demonstrated that Mr. Agnew lacked enthusiastic support among the surprised delegates who were asked to nominate him.
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It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Mr. Nixon chose Mr. Agnew for reasons of party unity and campaign strategy rather than out of a responsible concern for the national interest and an eagerness to choose the ablest man available...He represents a return to the discredited tradition that a Vice President should first of all be safe and bland.

Dick Cheney—George W. Bush's VP

July 26, 2000

bush-cheney.jpgBush Names Cheney, Citing 'Integrity' and 'Experience'
As Mr. Cheney stood almost bashfully at the side of the ebullient Texas governor, Mr. Bush tacitly acknowledged the oddity of his months-long search for a vice-presidential nominee ending with the selection of the searcher himself.
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Mr. Bush appeared to accomplish several goals at once by picking Mr. Cheney. He supplemented his own limited career in government, confined to the five and a half years that he has presided over the nation's second-largest state, with the accumulated wisdom of a man who served as chief of staff under President Gerald R. Ford and then spent a decade in the House before his appointment as the defense secretary by President George Bush, the governor's father.

And because the selection of Mr. Cheney did not on its face represent an overtly political calculation, it enabled Mr. Bush to maintain his assertion that he is someone more interested in good government than political gamesmanship, someone more deeply wedded to principles than to polls. There was no discernible electoral strategy at work: Mr. Cheney maintains homes in Texas and Wyoming, two states that Mr. Bush should easily win in November.

Since we don't yet know who their running mates will be, here's a look instead at the first time John McCain and Barack Obama made The Times...

John McCain

July 31, 1967

Start of Tragedy: Pilot Hears a Blast As He Checks Plane
john-mccain.jpg At 10:30am Saturday, Lieut. Comdr. John Sidney McCain 3d climbed aboard his A-4 Skyhawk for a mission over North Vietnam.

"I closed the canopy and started the plane and then went through the normal checks of the gauges and the settings," the 30-year-old Navy pilot recalled today. "Suddenly I felt and heard an explosion. It was either my plane or the one to the right. Flames were everywhere."

In the following moments aboard the aircraft carrier Forrestral, the 150-pound Annapolis graduate climbed out of the cockpit, stepped precariously onto the plane's three-foot-long refueling pipe and then leaped onto the burning flight deck and ran.
* * * * *
The son and grandson of two noted admirals, Commander McCain has a disarming disregard for formal military speech or style. He is wiry, prematurely gray and does not take himself too seriously.

Barack Obama

February 6, 1990

First Black Elected to Head Harvard's Law Review
obama-harvard.jpgThe Harvard Law Review, generally considered the most prestigious in the country, elected the first black president in its 104-year history today. The job is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.

The new president of the Review is Barack Obama, a 28-year-old graduate of Columbia University who spent four years heading a community development program for poor blacks on Chicago's South Side before enrolling in law school. His late father, Barack Obama, was a finance minister in Kenya and his mother, Ann Dunham, is an American anthropologist now doing fieldwork in Indonesia. Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii.

"The fact that I've been elected shows a lot of progress," Mr. Obama said today in an interview. "It's encouraging."

See all the previous installments of The First Time News Was Fit To Print.

T.jpgWant to play along at home? Get complete access to the New York Times archives by becoming an NYT subscriber.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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It can be difficult to understand how enormous the blue whale—the largest animal to ever exist—really is. The mammal can measure up to 105 feet long, have a tongue that can weigh as much as an elephant, and have a massive, golf cart–sized heart powering a 200-ton frame. But while the blue whale might currently be the Andre the Giant of the sea, it wasn’t always so imposing.

For the majority of the 30 million years that baleen whales (the blue whale is one) have occupied the Earth, the mammals usually topped off at roughly 30 feet in length. It wasn’t until about 3 million years ago that the clade of whales experienced an evolutionary growth spurt, tripling in size. And scientists haven’t had any concrete idea why, Wired reports.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B might help change that. Researchers examined fossil records and studied phylogenetic models (evolutionary relationships) among baleen whales, and found some evidence that climate change may have been the catalyst for turning the large animals into behemoths.

As the ice ages wore on and oceans were receiving nutrient-rich runoff, the whales encountered an increasing number of krill—the small, shrimp-like creatures that provided a food source—resulting from upwelling waters. The more they ate, the more they grew, and their bodies adapted over time. Their mouths grew larger and their fat stores increased, helping them to fuel longer migrations to additional food-enriched areas. Today blue whales eat up to four tons of krill every day.

If climate change set the ancestors of the blue whale on the path to its enormous size today, the study invites the question of what it might do to them in the future. Changes in ocean currents or temperature could alter the amount of available nutrients to whales, cutting off their food supply. With demand for whale oil in the 1900s having already dented their numbers, scientists are hoping that further shifts in their oceanic ecosystem won’t relegate them to history.

[h/t Wired]