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The Quick 10: 10 Famous Comments Made By Non-U.S. Politicians

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herbert We're probably all very familiar with phrases uttered by U.S. politicians that have gone down in history. The good: FDR's "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" and Teddy's "Speak softly and carry a big stick." And the bad: the elder Bush's "Read my lips: no new taxes," Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," and Senator Larry Craig's "I have a wide stance."

But the same thing happens in other countries, of course, we just don't often hear as much about them. I thought we'd check some of those out today. And, if we have any natives of those countries reading, let us know if these statements really are widely known and/or mocked.

1. Carlos Saúl Menem, the President of Argentina from 1989-1999, has a whole host of phrases. During his tenure as President, he was accused of corruption, unemployment rates soared to more than 20 percent, and Argentina entered a terrible recession. So when you consider his campaign catchphrase, "¡Síganme, no los voy a defraudar!" ("Follow me, I won't let you down!") you can see how it became the laughingstock of his Presidency (kind of like the No New Taxes debacle). He apparently was also famous for saying, "Hermanito querido"¦" which means "My dear little brother"¦". He would say it condescendingly in speeches and debates.

2. Austrian Chancellor Fred Sinowatz (his term was from 1983-1986) is often quoted tongue-in-cheek. He once said, "Ich weiß, das klingt alles sehr kompliziert...", which means, "I know, this all sounds complicated." People now use the phrase to try to hide when they don't know much about the subject. It's done ironically, though "“ as soon as you say, "I know, this all sounds complicated"¦" people immediately know you are no expert on the subject at hand. Sinowatz just recently died, actually, on August 11.

3. Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien - "I don't know... A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven."

4. "Mit Verlaub, Herr Präsident, Sie sind ein Arschloch." This was said by German foreign minister and Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer. What does it mean?

It's something we've probably all wanted to say at one point or another to at least one of our Presidents: "With all due respect, Mr. President, you are an asshole." They were having a heated debate in parliament and the President had threatened to eject him from the meeting (it's just like baseball!).

5. And yet another "No new taxes" "“esque statement: "Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten." This was said by Walter Ulbricht, a German communist politician who has held several public office roles. The translation? "No one intends to build a wall." Of course, the Berlin Wall was built a couple of months later.

chavez6. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez got his rear handed to him by Juan Carlos I of Spain last year during the Ibero-American Summit. First, he called former Prime Minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar a fascist. Then when the current Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, tried to respond during his allotted time, President Chavez kept interrupting, even when his microphone was turned off on him. Finally, Juan Carlos reached his breaking point, turned to Chavez and said, "¿Por qué no te callas?" Translation: "Why don't you shut up?"

7. Another zinger from Spain: Then-Prime Minister Felipe González was campaigning to keep his position in 1996. His opinion of his opponents were quite clear: "Aznar y Anguita son la misma mierda." You can probably figure this one out if you know how to curse in Spanish "“ "Aznar and Anguita are the same shit."

8. As current Polish President Lech KaczyÅ„ski was about to get into his car in 2002 after attending an event for the Warsaw mayoral campaign, he was stopped by a passerby. The passerby said (in Polish), "You've changed the part, you've run away like rats." The distinguished politician's response?

"Sir, piss off Sir! That's what I'll say to you."
Passerby: "Piss off sir?? Sir, you are just afraid of the truth!"
KaczyÅ„ski: "Piss off, old man!"

Ever since, the phrase "Piss off, old man!" has been seen on t-shirts, movies and cartoons "“ albeit, in a milder form for cartoons. In the Polish versions of Open Season, the Simpsons Movie and Shrek, the form, "Get lost, old man," was used.

9. At the time this quote was originated, Romanian President Traian Băsescu was the Minister of Transport. After a particularly heavy snow, numerous streets were blocked and seemingly nothing was being done about it. When asked about what measures he was taking to be more effective next time, his response was, "Iarna nu-i ca vara" - "When it's winter, it's not like summer."

trudeau10. This last one is probably my favorite. I guess, in some parts of the world, "Fuddle Duddle" is a popular euphemism for the F-Bomb. Similar to "fudge," I suppose. In 1971, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was accused of mouthing "Eff off" during a discussion at the House of Commons. Of course, the press was all over it. Trudeau denied saying it or mouthing it or anything of that nature, although admitted he may have moved his lips at the moment in question. Here's the transcript of an interview from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

Pierre Trudeau: Well what are they, lip readers or something?
Press: Did you"¦?
Pierre Trudeau: Of course I didn't say anything. I mean that's a"¦
Press: Did you mouth anything?
Pierre Trudeau: I moved my lips and I used my hands in a gesture of derision, yes. But I didn't say anything. If these guys want to read lips and they want to see something into it, you know that's their problem. I think they're very sensitive. They come in the House and they make all kinds of accusations, and because I smile at them in derision they come stomping out and what, go crying to momma or to television that they've been insulted or something?
[later in the press conference]
Pierre Trudeau: Well, it's a lie, because I didn't say anything.
Press: Sir, did you mouth it?
Pierre Trudeau: [visibly annoyed] What does "mouth" mean?
Press: Move your lips.
Pierre Trudeau: Move your lips? Yes I moved my lips!
Press: In the words you've been quoted as saying?
Pierre Trudeau: [half smile] No.
Press: (After murmurs by other press) What were you thinking"¦ when you moved your lips?
Pierre Trudeau: What is the nature of your thoughts, gentlemen, when you say "fuddle duddle" or something like that? God, you guys"¦! [walks away]

Needless to say, the press had a blast with this. When his wife became pregnant with their first child, a popular radio station declared, "Margaret Trudeau has been fuddle-duddled!"

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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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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iStock
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Scientists Think They Know How Whales Got So Big
May 24, 2017
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iStock

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]

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