February 22nd, 2007

sewing machine

robot mania

My life's been invaded by robots. It all started with dag29580863 getting a robotic dog last fall, when he was still at IBM. At the time he was exploring cognitive computing and was hoping to use it for something involving that, but when he moved to Google it came home with him.

Then I got him a Lego Mindstorms NXT kit for xmas. We've played around with ideas of building a ballroom-dancing robot and a thermostat robot with it. This quarter, in Cliff Nass's lab, I'm working with a team doing studies on human-robot interaction ... and as part of an experiment we're running on attachment to robots, I borrowed dag29580863's kit back and built and programmed some robots to use in the study. (Yeah, I'm a terrible gift-giver in this case. "Here's a present! Now I'm going to play with it ..." I also feel like I'm back in undergraduate computer science in that I'm pulling all-nighters figuring out the advanced programming features of the NXT.) I've also talked to several friends who are doing research on various robots, including a fascinating project on the Mars Rover missions.

Finally, after recent allergy tests revealed that I am, in fact, allergic to lots of things (surprise surprise), yesterday we ordered a roomba that should arrive next week that should help us keep our place cleaner and less allergy-inducing.

I feel like my life's being taken over by robots! What will be next? Maybe I can incorporate these recent forays into robotics into my final paper for my (fabulous and fascinating) phenomenology class, just to continue the trend. :~) Or I can program a robot to sew ballroom dresses for me. (I'm trying to finish up two dresses for the performance I have this Saturday.)

Any other robots I should know about out there? Can they invade my life even more?

(P.S. Isn't this sewing userpic cool? I can't remember where I found it, but for many sewing machines are so opaque and this is just a great graphic for understanding what's really going on.)
pout, almost 2 years old

Zambia national debt lawsuit

Here's your daily dose of evil, as heard on NPR a few minutes ago. Donegal International bought a portion of Zambia's national debt, worth $55 million, for $3 million a few years ago, counting on rumors that Zambia's debts would be canceled (and relying on precedents of another vulture company successfully suing two Latin American countries for canceled debts it purchased). Sure enough, the Zambian debts were canceled, and now they're suing the Zambian government for the full value of their "investment." One Zambian official said that this amount could have hired 6,000 teachers and opened a hospital ... but instead it has to be spent on making some billionaires even richer. Sort of defeats the purpose of debt cancellation, dunnit?

"A British court recently ruled that Donegal International ... has the right to profit from its purchase of millions of dollars worth of Zambia’s debt – acquired for a tiny fraction of its face value eight years ago. ... The Donegal case in Zambia shows just how skewed the current financial system is towards the interests of the wealthy. Before reaching a debt cancellation agreement, an impoverished country must borrow from the international financial institutions in order to repay wealthy creditors and those same financial institutions."