Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In the Name of Jesus, Where the Fuck are They?

Last night there was a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs outside my apartment.  The blood belonged to a young man, no more than half my age, who, due either to a fatal misstep or a glass too much, plunged from the third floor landing to the concrete below.

He was attending a birthday party at the apartment of a young couple that live directly above me.  The party was loud and boisterous.  And, of course, the drink flowed freely, or so the smell of alcohol on some of the other party-goers would indicate.  When he fell and hit the ground it seemed to shake the entire apartment building.  There were screams and the sound of hurried footsteps on the staircase.

I was not home at the time.  Mrs. B related the story to me later.  She went out to see what the commotion was and was staggered by the scene.  My glorious wife is made of pretty stern stuff.  It takes a lot to rattle her.  Believe me, I know.  I've tried.  But the sight of copious amounts of blood gushing from a young man's skull will shock anyone.  As the man's friends ran to his aid, bringing towels and rags to help stop the bleeding, Mrs. B called 911.  The operator said they had already received several calls for the incident.

My wife went back out to see if she could help.  Of course, there's not much one can do in a situation like that, except pray.  And pray she did.  She raised her hands to God and asked for help for that poor young man in Jesus' name.  Many of the man's friends did the same.  Our downstairs neighbor came out and laid hands on the victim, praying to Jesus.

It seemed to take forever for the paramedics to arrive.  At one point, one of the young man's friends cried out, "In the name of Jesus, where the fuck are they?"  Many people would be shocked and disgusted to here the Lord's name used in such a way.  But to me, somehow, considering the dire nature of the situation, it seems appropriate.

I'm not really sure why I felt the need to write about this.  Perhaps to show how fine the thread is that holds us in this life.  And how, especially at a young age, we tend to take immortality for granted.  Let's face it, no one goes to a party thinking, hey, I may not get through this night alive.  He was probably just thinking about getting drunk and having a good time.  Maybe about the possibility of getting laid later.  Or maybe, if he was married or had a girlfriend, ruing the fact that he had to go home with, or to, her later.

Neither my wife nor I know whether this young man lived through the night or went to meet his Creator.  He regained conciousness at some point before being taken away in the ambulance but with a traumatic head injury one can never predict the outcome.  He left behind nothing to show he was ever there, except for a thick, dark, red pool of blood congealing on the concrete breezeway and a few bloody hand prints made by his friends as they ran up and down the staircase retrieving items to help save him.  Mrs. B cleaned the hand prints from the railing after I got home from work that night.  Today, when I went to work, the concrete had been washed clean of any indication of how precariously a young life had hung in the balance just a few hours before.

I remember when my wife told me that the gathering upstairs was a birthday party, I thought, I hope it wasn't his birthday.  Then I realized that it didn't really matter.  Now I keep thinking, I sure hope it wasn't his last.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Where Are All The Robots?

The purpose of this post is two-pronged.  First, here I am with a blog titled, "Robot Rhetoric" and yet, outside of my profile mentioning that I am a wannabe roboticist, you won't find one mention of robots or robotics anywhere in the entire blog.  I plan to remedy that (I can hear the yawns already).

But really, robotics is one of my life long passions.  Which is why I chose the name for this blog.  However, I have not been very passionate about this particular interest lately.  Like a lot of things it had been pushed to the back of a cluttered drawer and gathered dust.  After starting this blog, I found that I had nothing to write about robots.  I had not been keeping up with any of the innovations or advances in probably the last 15 years.  The dust had grown thick.  That has begun to change.  I have now scoured the internet and found sites that have articles, videos, news and all the fun stuff I had been missing.  I have a lot of catching up to do and I plan to share it here with all the fans of this blog (both of you -- thanks Mom and Dad).

The second prong has to do with the lack of robots in general society.  I mean, by now, at least according to those "The Future is Bright"-type films and TV shows (in glorious black-and-white) that I saw as a kid, we should have robots to do everything for us -- cook, clean, do the shopping, make repairs, babysit the kids.  But, like the flying cars and interplanetary travel, it just never materialized.  Sure, you can get a small robot to vacuum your floors (iRobot Roomba) or a larger one to mow the lawn (Lawnbotts, or Robomow).  You can buy your kid a RoboRaptor from Lego or a robot puppy dog (Aibo) from Sony (oops, if you want an Aibo, you'll have to buy it used.  Sony pulled the plug on it.  See what I mean?  Out of touch).  But that's about it as far as consumer robots go.  What about the robot chauffeur?  Or Rosie, the robot maid from the Jetson's?  Where are all the robots?  What happened to the robot revolution?

Well, it's happening.  Slowly.  Very slowly here in The States.  Japan, Korea, and Germany all have a national robotics agenda.  America does not.  This could put us way behind in the field of technology, a category in which we have always been a leader.  What does not having a national agenda really mean?  It means a lack of capital investment in robotics research and development, at the government, academic, and industrial level. There are a few signs that this will change.  Let's hope it does.

Why hasn't the robot revolution happened already, as all the sci-fi (and SyFy) prophets predicted?  Well, people always tend to think that things will happen faster than they do; that technology will jump ahead like a lightning bolt.  And that does tend to happen, but, like lightning, it's only in short bursts followed by longer periods of apparent inactivity.  Think of it as the occasional lightning bolt without the rolling thunder.  Instead of repeatedly asking "Are we there yet?" like a child on a long road trip, we should try considering how far we've  already come from where we began.  The robots will come.  Eventually.

Meanwhile, there are tons of resources for the hobbyist interested in building and experimenting with robots.  I will be entering this realm in depth as soon as I can scrape together the time to research and figure out what I want to buy first and the money to be able to buy it.

So, where are all the robots?  Well, they are around.  Mostly in other countries.  But soon they will be coming to my house.  And possibly yours.  In the meantime, I will continue to explore, and hopefully post about, the underground robot revolution.

Power to the Promethians!