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9 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to Abe Lincoln

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Known widely as a great orator, Abraham Lincoln said (and wrote) many inspiring things during his life and presidency. From the “House Divided” speech to his lesser-known letters and writings, there are plenty of motivational phrases to be found. However, in the decades and centuries following his death, many quotes have been wrongly attributed and disseminated in various publications, with the Internet spurring it all on. Prepare to be disappointed: Here are nine quotes you thought were by Honest Abe, but actually aren’t.

1. “Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

This quote was first attributed to Lincoln in 1914—50 years after his death—as part of a column in the Syracuse Herald written by Dr. Frank Crane about New Year’s resolutions. Following that instance, it appeared in many other publications attributed to the president, but no evidence exists to suggest those attributions are correct.

2. “Whatever you are, be a good one.”

First attributed to Lincoln about 80 years following his death in a compendium of inspiring quotations, credit for this quote should actually go elsewhere. Laurence Hutton wrote a memoir in 1897 in which he described meeting William Makepeace Thackeray, during which meeting Thackeray is quoted as saying, “Whatever you are, try to be a good one.” The accuracy of even that attribution, however, depends on the accuracy of Hutton’s memory while penning his memoir.

3. “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

This quote is often attributed to Winston Churchill as well as Lincoln, but was first found in a 1953 book on public speaking, where it wasn’t credited at all. Similarly phrased quotes (“In short they go from failure to failure, but always on the up-grade”) were found in articles as early as 1913, but by the 1980s it was wrongly being ascribed to Churchill. In 2001, a newspaper in New Orleans attributed it to Lincoln, the first association of his name with the quote.

4. “Great things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

Despite many references on the Internet to Lincoln saying this quote, there is no evidence to support it. Within The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, he says the phrase “things may” only three times, and never says “things may come,” “things left,” or the word “hustle.” Furthermore, in Lincoln’s era, “hustle” meant to obtain something rather than to put in an energetic effort.

5. “You can’t fool all the people all the time.”

While first used by politicians in relatively the same era as Abraham Lincoln, no evidence exists that suggests Lincoln said this quote himself. Its earliest use was in French in 1684 in Traité de la Vérité de la Religion Chrétienne, a work of apologetics by Jacques Abbadie, a French Protestant. The quote wasn’t attributed to Lincoln until 1886 in an article in the Springfield Globe-Republic, and was widely disseminated after that.

6. “Here I stand—warts and all.”

George H.W. Bush attributed this quote to Abraham Lincoln in 1988. In reality, it was a mash-up of two other famous people’s phrases: “Here I stand,” part of Martin Luther’s popular phrase, “Here I stand. I can do no other,” and, “warts and all,” attributed to Oliver Cromwell who is said to have said something to that effect to a painter when commissioning a portrait.

7. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

There is a biblical proverb that is similar to this phrase, Proverbs 17:28:

"Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue."

In 1931, this quote was attributed to Lincoln in The Yale Book of Quotations, which turned out to be the first (and very late) instance where it appeared as credited to the president. The quote is also widely attributed to Mark Twain, though there is little evidence of this, either. In fact, in the 2001 Ken Burns documentary on the author, a companion book was released in which this phrase was listed in a section titled “What Twain Didn’t Say.” A similar quote was included in 1907 in Mrs. Goose, Her Book, by Maurice Switzer, so he is usually credited with coining the phrase.

8. “You can’t build a little guy up by tearing a big guy down.”

Most recently misquoted by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, this quote was originally written by Rev. William J. H. Boetcker, who was published in a pamphlet alongside Lincoln quotations in 1916, and the quote was confused as one of Lincoln’s sayings.

9. "You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.”

Like the quote about the inability to build someone up by bringing someone else down, this quote should also be attributed to Rev. Boetcker, thanks to that same pamphlet confusion.

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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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