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11 Amazing Thank You Notes From Famous People

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Letters of Note is one of our favorite places to hang out. Since 2009 the site has curated hundreds of interesting letters, telegrams, memos and faxes, from famous people, regular people, and even fictional people. We took advantage of their hard work and rounded up these 11 thank you (and one thanks-for-nothing) letters from their archives.

1. Thank You for the Dream You Sent Me

Once upon a time (1989), a little girl named Amy sent a bottle of colored water, oil and glitter to Roald Dahl, who knew right away that this was a dream in a bottle inspired by his book, The BFG. In response, the author penned this short note to his 7-year-old fan

Dear Amy,

I must write a special letter and thank you for the dream in the bottle. You are the first person in the world who has sent me one of these and it intrigued me very much. I also liked the dream. Tonight I shall go down to the village and blow it through the bedroom window of some sleeping child and see if it works.

With love from,
(Signed)
Roald Dahl

2. Thank You for Keeping Me Safe on the Moon

When your job involves leaving the planet to walk on the nearest rocky body, it’s important that the people who build your equipment do things the right way. The enormity of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit engineering team’s task—that is, building a spacesuit that kept a man safe and alive on the moon—was not lost on Neil Armstrong, who wrote this letter for the 25th anniversary of the lunar landing.

To the EMU gang:

I remember noting a quarter century or so ago that an emu was a 6 foot Australian flightless bird. I thought that got most of it right.

It turned out to be one of the most widely photographed spacecraft in history. That was no doubt due to the fact that it was so photogenic. Equally responsible for its success was its characteristic of hiding from view its ugly occupant.

Its true beauty, however, was that it worked. It was tough, reliable and almost cuddly.

To all of you who made it all that it was, I send a quarter century's worth of thanks and congratulations.

Sincerely,

(Signed) Neil A. Armstrong

3. Thank You for Asking Me to Your Prom

Remember prom? Nikki Simmons probably won’t forget hers, even though the guy she asked had to politely decline. Seems he’d just gotten married and, honestly, he was probably busy.

Dear Nikki -

Thanks for your very flattering offer. It's great to know I have such a devoted fan out there, and I'm sure you would make a great prom date (I didn't go to mine - it's a very sad story).

Unfortunately, I got married recently and my wife doesn't allow me to go to proms anymore with cute 16 year old girls. Still, it was very cool of you to ask me. Thanks and have a great evening.

Your Friend,

Conan

4. Thank You for Not Hitting Me

Once upon another time (1974), John Lennon showed up drunk to LA’s Troubadour club and proceeded to heckle the Smothers Brothers during their act. A fight ensued which involved just about everyone, including actress Pam Grier. The next day, she got this letter from Lennon:

Dear Pam,

I apologize for being so rude and thank you for not hitting me.

John Lennon

P.S. Harry Nilsson feels the same way.

5. Thank You for the Champagne

Sometimes less is more.

Dear Mr. von Fuehlsdorff:

Thank you for your champagne.
It arrived, I drank it and I was gayer.
Thanks again.

My best,
Marilyn Monroe

6. Thank You for Including Animals in Your Book

After reading Yann Martel’s book Life of Pi with his daughter, a fan sat down to write this short note of thanks.

Mr. Martel —

My daughter and I just finished reading Life of Pi together. Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals.

It is a lovely book — an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.

Thank you.

(Signed, 'Barack Obama')

7. Thank You for Making a Fine Car

When a product has served you well, it’s always nice to write an appreciative letter to the people who make it. This one allegedly comes from Clyde Barrow, of Bonnie and Clyde notoriety:

Dear Sir: -

While I still have got breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make. I have drove Fords exclusivly when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned and even if my business hasen't been strickly legal it don't hurt enything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8 -

Yours truly

Clyde Champion Barrow

Legend has it Henry Ford received the letter about a month before Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934 while attempting to outrun the police… in a V8-powered Model B Ford. There’s some evidence against the note’s authenticity, but we’re hoping it’s real.

8. Thank You for the Picture

Andy Warhol first printed his Liz series in 1963, but it wasn’t until 1977 that Elizabeth Taylor got her own version of the iconic painting. She didn’t wait 14 years to send Warhol a thank-you:

Dearest Andy

I'm so proud I finally have your "Liz" and thank you for signing it so sweetly to me.

I do love you.

Elizabeth or Liz
(of A.W.'s fame)

9. Thank You for the Music

This is just a little note from an actress to the man who composed the score for her recent film. That’s all.

Dear Henry,

I have just seen our picture – BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S – this time with your score.

A movie without music is a little bit like an aeroplane without fuel. However beautifully the job is done, we are still on the ground and in a world of reality. Your music has lifted us all up and sent us soaring. Everything we cannot say with words or show with action you have expressed for us. You have done this with so much imagination, fun and beauty.

You are the hippest of cats – and the most sensitive of composers!

Thank you, dear Hank.

Lots of love
Audrey [Hepburn]

10. Thank You for Coming on Our Show

From hosts Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, a uniquely personal note of thanks to a recent guest on Laugh-In:

11. Thank You for Letting Me Be Your President

Ronald Reagan wrote this touching open letter to the American people in 1994, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The former president lived another ten years.

My fellow Americans,

I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.

Upon learning this news, Nancy and I had to decide whether as private citizens we would keep this a private matter or whether we would make this news known in a public way.

In the past, Nancy suffered from breast cancer and I had cancer surgeries. We found through our open disclosures we were able to raise public awareness. We were happy that as a result many more people underwent testing. They were treated in early stages and able to return to normal, healthy lives.

So now we feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clear understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it.

At the moment, I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done. I will continue to share life's journey with my beloved Nancy and my family. I plan to enjoy the great outdoors and stay in touch with my friends and supporters.

Unfortunately, as Alzheimer's disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes, I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage.

In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.

I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.

Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.

Sincerely,

Ronald Reagan

Bonus: The Complete Opposite

Say you’re the drummer for a band and someone writes a bad review of your latest tour. What do you do? If you are in fact Roger Taylor, the drummer for Queen, you write a letter on an airline motion-sickness bag and send it to the editor of Rolling Stone. From 1981:

Your peculiar 1970-time-warp attitude, coupled with an innate, congenital miscomprehension of rock & roll, continues to fascinate and annoy. Thank you, oh thank you, for the pseudopolitical slant and personal dishonesty that you continue to peddle in your outdated, opinionated, down-home rag.

Thanks also for the finely tuned musical assessment of my group from our sound check! Grow up. You invented the bitterness. I pity you. You suck. You are boring and you try to infect us.

Awaiting your charming review of my current album in about eight months!

ROGER TAYLOR
London, England

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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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iStock

Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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