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The Last Words of 38 Presidents

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Some are eloquent quotes worthy of the holders of the highest office in the nation, and others... aren’t.

1. George Washington

"'Tis well."

2. John Adams

"Thomas Jefferson survives." What Adams didn't know was that Jefferson had actually passed away several hours earlier.

3. Thomas Jefferson

His last recorded words are "No, doctor, nothing more," but the three people present at the time of his death all noted that he either stated or asked about the date shortly before his death. The date: July Fourth, of course. History likes to remember him as closing out his time on earth with this fitting speech: “Is it the Fourth? I resign my spirit to God, my daughter, and my country.”

4. James Madison

“Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear.” It was his response when one of his nieces asked him “What is the matter?”

5. James Monroe

“I regret that I should leave this world without again beholding him”—"him” being James Madison, one of his best friends.

6. John Quincy Adams

“This is the last of earth. I am content.” JQA actually had a stroke on the floor of the House of Representatives and died in the Speaker's Room in the Capitol Building.

7. Andrew Jackson

“I hope to meet each of you in heaven. Be good, children, all of you, and strive to be ready when the change comes.”

8. Martin Van Buren

“There is but one reliance.”

9. William Henry Harrison

Spoken to Veep John Tyler: “I understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”

10. John Tyler

“Perhaps it is best.”

11. James K. Polk

“I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you.” Sarah, as you might have already assumed, was his wife. Sarah lived for another 42 years.

12. Zachary Taylor

“I regret nothing, but I am sorry to leave my friends.” I bet what he really meant was, “I regret nothing, except for snacking on those cherries.”

13. Millard Fillmore

“The nourishment is palatable.” He was commenting about some soup he had just been fed. By the way, does Fillmore look particularly attractive to you? Queen Victoria once said he was the most handsome man she had ever laid eyes upon.

14. Franklin Pierce

No last words seem to have been recorded for Pierce, though given his tragic life, perhaps they were words of relief that it was finally ending. In lieu of Franklin Pierce, I give you Ben Franklin's final words: "A dying man can do nothing easy,” he said, after his daughter asked him to change positions in bed.

15. James Buchanan

“Oh, Lord God Almighty, as thou wilt!”

16. Abraham Lincoln

“She won’t think anything about it.” His remark was to his wife, who was wondering what their female theater companion would think if she saw Mary Todd "hanging" on her husband so.

17. Andrew Johnson

“Oh, do not cry. Be good children and we shall meet in heaven.” Rather similar to Andrew Jackson's last words, aren't they?

18. Ulysses S. Grant

“Water.” Grant was suffering from throat cancer and couldn't speak much, but he did write something more poignant shortly before his death: "There was never one more willing to go than I am."

19. Rutherford B. Hayes

“I know I am going where Lucy is.” His wife, teetotaling "Lemonade" Lucy, had died four years before.

20. James Garfield

“Swaim, can’t you stop the pain?” Garfield, who had been shot by an assassin months before, was napping in his room in the company of good friends General David Swaim and Colonel A.F. Rockwell. About 15 minutes into his nap, he awoke, clutching his heart, and spoke his final words to Swaim.

21. Chester A. Arthur

They’re apparently not recorded, a friend said “almost” his last words were, “Life is not worth living.”

22. Grover Cleveland

“I have tried so hard to do right.”

23. Benjamin Harrison

“Are the doctors here? Doctor, my lungs...” Harrison died of pneumonia.

24. William McKinley

“Goodbye, all, goodbye. It is God’s way. His will be done.”

25. Teddy Roosevelt

“Put out the light.” He was speaking to his valet right before he went to sleep. He died sometime during the night.

26. William Howard Taft

His words were not recorded for posterity, but I thought you might enjoy a picture of him anyway.

27. Woodrow Wilson

“When the machinery is broken... I am ready."

28. Warren G. Harding

“That’s good. Go on, read some more.” His wife had been reading him an article about himself from the  Saturday Evening Post.

29. Calvin Coolidge

“Good morning, Robert.” He greeted a carpenter working on his house, then died of coronary thrombosis shortly thereafter.

What he told a friend not long before his death is perhaps more fitting: "I feel I no longer fit in with these times."

30. Herbert Hoover

We don’t know the last words he spoke, but the last words he is known to have written were a get well message to Harry Truman, who hit his head on the bathtub after slipping in his bathroom. In a telegram, Hoover wrote, “Bathtubs are a menace to ex-presidents for as you may recall a bathtub rose up and fractured my vertebrae when I was in Venezuela on your world famine mission in 1946. My warmest sympathy and best wishes for your speedy recovery.”

31. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“I have a terrific headache.” He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage a few minutes later.

32. Harry Truman

Truman's words are unknown, but his Vice President's last words were actually caught on tape. Veep Alben W. Barkley was giving a keynote address and had just said the words, "I'm glad to sit on the back row, for I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty," when a heart attack struck him on stage.

33. Dwight D. Eisenhower

“I want to go. God take me.”

34. John F. Kennedy

"No, you certainly can't." Kennedy said this in response to his fellow passenger, Nellie Connally, the wife of governor John Connally. She had just remarked, "You certainly can’t say that the people of Dallas haven’t given you a nice welcome, Mr. President."

You'll occasionally read that Kennedy's last words were “My God, I’ve been hit."

35. Lyndon B. Johnson

“Send Mike immediately.” Mike was his Secret Service agent who was housed in a compound 100 yards away from the main house at Johnson's Texas ranch. When agents arrived in Johnson's bedroom, he was already dead.

36. Richard Nixon

“Help.” He said this to a housekeeper as he had a stroke in 1994. Though he remained alert for a period of time after he was taken to the hospital, he was unable to speak.

37. Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford's last words are not known.

38. Ronald Reagan

Reagan's last words have not been shared with the public, but his daughter Patti shared his final moments:

At the last moment when his breathing told us this was it, he opened his eyes and looked straight at my mother. Eyes that hadn‘t opened for days, did. And they weren‘t chalky or vague. They were clear, and blue, and full of love. If a death can be lovely, his was. In his last moment, he taught me that there is nothing stronger than love between two people, two souls ... It was the last thing he could do in this world to show my mother how entwined their souls are ... and it was everything.

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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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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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