Sunday, June 30, 2013

ms roboto

This noon my family had a lighter moment over lunch.  We had gone to church, of course, and after speaking with many people and thanking them for prayers for Mom, we went out to lunch.  I think it must have started when my sister misread the restaurant sign and referred to Trailer Park Restaurant and Grille.  Not quite what it actually said.  We're getting a little punchy at times, so the rest of us thought this was hilarious. After further embroidering (Ye Olde Trailer Park Grille, etc.), we were seated and kept talking.  That is, my sisters and I talked, and my father looked on in unusual silence.  He's the extravert in the family; normally he'd be the one leading the conversation.  However, my youngest sister had just gotten back from a robotics seminar (prepaid by the school where she teaches physics, so she had to go despite the current situation).  Discussion of robotics led into a discussion of hospital robots (more on that momentarily) and, of all things, diagramming sentences in team competition.

How, you might ask, is robotics related to diagramming?  Hmmm....
Here are some points of comparison:
1.  logic and diagrams
2.  team competitions as part of pedagogy

For all you English teachers out there, there is a reason my sisters and I loved diagramming sentences.  No, not because we are just geeks.  OK, maybe we are.  But that's not the reason: our classes all loved it.  We always started by creating the most complicated (but correct) sentences and trading them to see if the other team could diagram them.  However, the best part was when Mrs. Fettig had us create complex blank diagrams and give them to the other teams, who would then try to create sentences to match.  When you have a blank diagram that fills up half a page with its complexity, you have potential for much fun.

My sister described several team competitions with these mini robots.  She pulled up a little video later on, which I've included below, of student creations.  What reminded us of competitive sentence diagramming was an exercise in which they graph a story (I'll spare you) - even a fairy tale - and then make the mobot follow it to act it out; then they can trade stories or trade graphs to make a story to match.

This robotics discussion meandered back to the hospital, too.  They have robots here.  Remember in Star Wars, where there are little robots wandering the halls taking messages? Nothing so complex as R2D2 or C3PO - just the little grey ones running through the halls. I have a vague recollection of Chewbacca growling at one and scaring it.  

Well, they have grey robot carts in the hospital here.  It's just bizarre to see this cart of linens coming down the hall alone, no track in sight.  If a poorly parked wheelchair is in the way, its sensors stop and make it back up, do a little turning, and move around it.  In the middle of the day with people all around, you can walk right past without thinking much of it, but at 4AM when you are sleepily leaving ICU to find the facilities (none on the ward for those of us who are just staying), it's slightly surreal.

Ms. Roboto (Robota?)
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And it talks.

She talks, that is.

"Crossing... Hallway...  Crossing.... Hallway."  A woman's voice.

Sounds like Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey.  My sister has been doing imitations. "I'm sorry, Dave.  I'm afraid I can't do that."

She can open doors and take the elevator by herself, too.

Linen Carts Run Amok - the next scary movie of the summer?  3AM, empty hospital corridor, the linen cart approaches... and says...

Think of the possibilities.

Did I mention we've been getting a little punchy?  

I think we've all needed to laugh.  And Mom has actually been helping.  It's amazing what she can communicate with one raised eyebrow or the faintest of eye rolls.  She can't speak, she can't move other than to wiggle fingers and toes, but at times when she isn't too drugged up, she still manages to communicate with the faintest of head shakes or nods along with these facial expressions.  We have wondered aloud in her presence just what she'll be saying to us when she can finally talk again.  Save it up, Mom!  Wouldn't it be neat if she had one of those machines that follows directions from minimal movements - more robots, more incredible technology.

Meanwhile, we're relying on something better.  Mom's condition is improving - she's had several extended periods of time off the vent - but she's still in critical condition and will have her most serious surgery yet on Tuesday morning.  I ask your prayers.

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