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20 Bob Ross Quotes to Make Life Better

Bob Ross wasn’t just a skilled artist—he was unrivaled in his ability to spout verbal poetry faster than it took to paint one of those happy little clouds. Here are some of his best bits of wisdom.

1.On politics

"That's a crooked tree. We'll send him to Washington."

From "The Joy of Painting"

2. On yellow snow

“The only thing worse than yellow snow is green snow."

From "The Joy of Painting"

3. On violence

"I like to beat the brush."

From "The Joy of Painting"

4. On power

“In painting, you have unlimited power. You have the ability to move mountains. You can bend rivers. But when I get home, the only thing I have power over is the garbage.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

5. On the value of extremes

“You need the dark in order to show the light.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

6. On beauty

“Look around. Look at what we have. Beauty is everywhere—you only have to look to see it.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

7. On communing with nature

“Just go out and talk to a tree. Make friends with it.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

8. On befriending nature

“There's nothing wrong with having a tree as a friend.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

9. On why you really seriously should make friends with a tree

“Trees cover up a multitude of sins.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

10. On challenging the haters

“They say everything looks better with odd numbers of things. But sometimes I put even numbers—just to upset the critics."

From "The Joy of Painting"

11. On challenging yourself

“How do you make a round circle with a square knife? That’s your challenge for the day.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

12. On parental advice

“I remember when my Dad told me as a kid, ‘If you want to catch a rabbit, stand behind a tree and make a noise like a carrot. Then when the rabbit comes by you grab him.’ Works pretty good until you try to figure out what kind of noise a carrot makes…”

From "The Joy of Painting"

13. On the joys of painting

"We tell people sometimes: we're like drug dealers, come into town and get everybody absolutely addicted to painting. It doesn't take much to get you addicted."

From "The Joy of Painting"

14. On the power of belief

“The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

15. On laziness

“Water's like me. It's laaazy ... Boy, it always looks for the easiest way to do things”

From "The Joy of Painting"

16. On Uncle Sam

“Oooh, if you have never been to Alaska, go there while it is still wild. My favorite uncle asked me if I wanted to go there, Uncle Sam. He said if you don't go, you're going to jail. That is how Uncle Sam asks you.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

17. On the da Vinci within all of us

“I really believe that if you practice enough you could paint the 'Mona Lisa' with a two-inch brush.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

18. On abstract art

“If I paint something, I don't want to have to explain what it is.”

From an interview with The New York Times

19. On the temperament of the artist

“We artists are a different breed of people. We're a happy bunch.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

20. On making mistakes

“We don't make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

From "The Joy of Painting"

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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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