Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Squeeze

This weekend, a few friends and I did some canyoneering. We went through a canyon called The Squeeze in the southern part of the San Rafael Swell, in the Moroni Slopes to be exact. After driving through some back roads, we finally reached a tee in the road. Left led to a different canyon, right led to The Squeeze, and straight forward went off a cliff, but fortunately there was a sign forbidding the latter choice. Because, you know, we were considering driving straight off the cliff.

At the bottom of the picture you can see the Muddy River, which we followed on our way in. When the Muddy River disappears in to shadow, you can see a large canyon splitting off to the left. That's the Squeeze. We had already been hiking for an hour, and we then had to hike from where I took the picture all the way to the across the hills to the top of the Squeeze. All in all it took maybe three hours?

The four of us who went were Corin, me, Mike (Randall's brother), and Randall. The Squeeze is known for having keeper potholes full of icy cold water, so we all brought our heaviest wetsuits. As it turned out, the canyon was almost completely dry. We still got wet, but it was just from sweating in our wetsuits, so eventually we peeled back the top half.

We did find some water, however. Some of it was okay, but there was the usual nasty collection of floatsam that had been stewing in a pothole for who-knows-how-long, probably with dead things sitting at the bottom of it.

And I thought these green bubbles so intriguingly-nasty that they deserved a picture of their own.

Like I said, we did come across enough water in places to keep us from removing our wetsuits completely, but not until we had taken them off and put them on several times.

There were quite a few rappels, probably a couple dozen, but only two long ones. The following rappel is one of the 100-footers, although it was a two-stage rappel: 70 feet to the first ledge then another 30 feet to the bottom.

It always amazes me when I come across flowers in the desert. They just look so out-of-place among the sand and rocks.

Hiking to the head of the canyon we followed the Muddy River, but coming back we had on our water shoes and wetsuits so we just went straight through. To illustrate how winding this river was, we crossed it 8 times retracing.

The Hangin' Tree. Got a complainer in your group? Make a stop here.

I protest!

Everyone should have a cause. When my cousin picked up protesting Scientology as his cause, at first I thought that was pretty stupid. Then I thought to myself, "you know, someone who has Darfur, the independence of Tibet, or curing cancer as their cause might say the same thing about my volunteering at the animal shelter as my cause."

Every cause is importance, and I don't think anyone is qualified to judge the relative importance of causes. Not only that, but even causes that might be less "significant" need people, and everyone has different talents and interests. You don't tell me that my cause isn't important, and I won't tell you that yours isn't.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

(Human) Babies

Me: "Look, my friend had his baby!"
Child: "What is it?"
Me: "Um...human?"

I've been writing science fiction for too long.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Even though the vast majority of the animals we receive at the clinic are dogs and cats, we do cover some rural areas. At the moment, we have a goat, a few chickens, two pigs (I forget to get a picture of them), and we often have horses coming through.

Someone who's into LOL cats should come up with a caption for this. Preferably more unique then, "In your copier, jamming your paper."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It all makes sense now!

Child and I were talking this evening and something she said made several puzzle pieces fall into place. In short, she mentioned that the way her (extended) family shows another member of the (extended) family that they don't like them is by not Showing Up. For a graduation, birthday, wedding, family reunion, whatever. Absence = Dislike.

Not only did it make some of her family's behavior that I've observed make sense, it also explains why she was..."unhappy" about our wedding.

First, here are a few things about my family:
  1. My immediate family is large (I'm the second of 10 kids), and my extended family is more of the same.
  2. Even though no two of my mom's siblings live in the same state, there's always communication, ranging from family reunions to homeschooled kids being passed from family to family to casual spending the night on the way to somewhere else.
  3. My parents married off three of their kids (me, a brother, and a sister) in a five-month period--and with an extended family the size of ours, weddings, graduations, etc. happen with monotonous frequency.
  4. My relatives range geographically from Alaska to Arkansas.
As a result, it's not considered necessary, or even expected, for relatives to show up for every event. When you only have three kids (like my wife's parents), you might expect all the relatives to show up for each of their weddings, nicely spaced two years apart or whatever. When you have three weddings in five months (like my family), however, there's no way relatives can get time off work and collect from all corners of the U.S. to attend.

Thus, when Child and I were married, a few nearby aunts and uncles showed up to say hi and offer their congratulations, but that was about it. They didn't consider it a big deal, and neither did I.

Child, on the other hand, did. I think Child consciously understands that my relatives weren't trying to make some point by not attending, but I think her subconscious still equates their not Showing Up with an active dislike of her/us/whatever.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thesis Project

I guess I've never really described my thesis project in detail, and since my wife recently heard a horror story about a husband who had been pretending to go to school for, like, four years before his wife found out he wasn't, I decided it might be wise to show a little bit of what I'm currently doing.

My thesis project, in short, is to show that letting a robot (well, 200 of them, in simulation) and an operator jointly decide the correctly level of autonomy (independence) results in them doing better (at a wilderness search and rescue mission) than if just the robots decided on the level of independence they wanted, or just the operator decided on the level of independence to give the robots.

(Officially: "Given a search task in a Wilderness Search and Rescue domain performed by a large heterogeneous group of agents, a mixed initiative system implementing both adaptive and adjustable autonomy performs better in a complex or high workload situation than a simply adjustable or adaptive system.")

This is the main window. The little yellow squares are the 200 robotic searchers, and the big yellow box is their current search area. At the moment they're on "Low Independence," indicated by their yellow color. If they were red, they'd be on "High Independence," which basically just means that they'd be creating their own search areas, rather than waiting for the supervisor to do it.

Somewhere on the map, there's a missing child. (Actually, there's five so we can average the length of time to find them.) The picture at the top is a picture of the kid(s), and the 16 items below him are his backpack items.

As the searchers search, they find items. Most of the items are "distracting" items, such as the three that they've currently found. If they look in the right place, however, they'll find the backpack items that the children lost as they wandered, which will let the supervisor narrow down their search and (hopefully) find the children.

I'm in the middle of having handfuls of experimenters come in so I can gather data, but I'm sort of simultaneously writing the thesis, at least the parts I can without actually having data.

As the initial results are showing, the scenarios where the robots make all the decisions take top marks in several measures (such as the amount of ground they can cover, and the speed of response when a backpack item is found), while the scenarios where the supervisor makes all the decisions takes top marks in several other measures (such as the number of backpack items found), but the scenarios where they jointly make decisions comes a close second in MOST of the measures.

So it's a tradeoff. What measures are the most important? And are you willing to sacrifice being best in a FEW measures to be second-best in a LOT of measures?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cat and Tape

Last night we had a friend over for some games, and amused ourselves by sticking little pieces of tape on Acouchi. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a proponent of cat-abuse, but Acouchi enjoyed it. She'd go crazy getting the tape off, then she'd race off and hide behind some furniture. A moment later she'd reappear stalking the abandoned piece of tape, then pounce on it and repeat the whole process over again when it became re-stuck to her. This morning, I'm sitting here typing while she's trying to eat the tape. I better take it away before it becomes stuck (heh heh) in her throat.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Songs 'n' Stuff

Liking an odd assortment of music, I thought it would be amusing to see what my answers to the following questions were, to I asked Prin to tag me. Note that I downloaded the entire torrent of 1500 songs from, so it dominates my collection of 2191 songs. As a result, statistically speaking, 70% of the songs should be game remixes. :) If the songs are game remixes, I've put the game (none of which I've played) in ( ).

1. How are you feeling today?
Just Chill (Chrono Cross) - The Pancake Chef - Surprisingly applicable.

2. Will you get far in your life?
Trisram Rock (Diablo) - mp - Unsurprisingly inapplicable, unless you read something into the game that the music comes from. In which case, I'm in trouble...

3. How do your friends see you?
Through the Dark (Chrono Trigger) - DarkSworde - Hmm. Do they see me through the Dark (it seems like it should be capitalized)? And is that because I'M in the Dark, or they are? Or is it just a Darkness separating us? Either way, it doesn't bode particularly good...

4. Will you every marry?
Explosive - Bond - Not sure how to take this. Since I'm already married, can I change the question to read "How will your married life be?" And can I assume that "explosive" refers to our love for each other, in a "fireworks" kind of way, rather than our daily interpersonal relationship in a "bombs" sort of way? :)

5. What is the favorite theme of your best friend?
To Far Away Timescapes (ChronoTrigger) - DJ StarChild - Apparently I either have a time-traveling friend, or he/she's just a history buff.

6. What is the story of your life?
Come Home (Secret of Mana) - JAXX - Interesting. Is it a plea for me to return home, or just a caustic note that I keep going home?

7. How was it like in high school?
Static Aversion (Silent Hill 2) - Steve Pordon - Well, I didn't attend high school, I took a correspondence course. Did I have an aversion to that? I didn't really care one way or the other, high school was more or less just something to get out the way so I could get to college. Maybe that's the "static" part of the aversion. Hmm.

8.How can you advance in life?
Mystery of a Planet (Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear) - Jared Hudson - Alright, apparently I need to drop computer science and go into astronomy. Or maybe it's saying to become a full-time science fiction author! I wouldn't mind that, since that's my hobby anyway.

9.What is the coolest thing about your friends?
Last Breath, First Breath (Phantasy Star 4) - djpretzel - My first free-form interpretation is that they'll be there for me whenever I need them. Sounds good.

10. What's in store for the weekend?
I Feel Love - Vanessa Mae - Alright! Finally, a good one! (And a good song, too.) Wife, are you reading this? Unfortunately, being Sunday night, I have another week to wait. Sigh.

11. What song describes you best?
Track 2 - Unknown Artist - Awww. The story of my life: anonymity. Actually (does some research) the song is called "Ride On" from Final Fantasy VIII, by Nobuo Uematsu (one of my favorite composers). Hmm. I like that. "Ride On." No matter what happens, just keep pushing through. Don't let anything keep you down.

12. How about your grandparents?
Frame of Mind - Beyond Good and Evil - Kind of a random question to begin with, and not sure how to interpret the answer.

13. How is your life going?
The Beggars - Les Miserables - Aiee.

14. What song will play at your funeral?
Dead End - Nobuo Uematsu - Perfect! ...well, perfect except for my religious beliefs that death isn't, in fact, the end of much at all. Including but not limited to life, relationships, beliefs, and desires. So, not very perfect at all. But amusing. ;)

15. How does the world see you?
Cruella De Vil - 101 Dalmatians - Ouch.

16. Will you have a happy life?
Shoo-Rah! Shoo-Rah - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - I...think this is...good. Shoo-Rah!

17. What do your friends really think about you?
No Flesh Allowed (Castlevania 2) - goat - Someone, feel free to interpret this for me. Please.

18. Are there people that secretly want you?
Misery - Tran-Siberian Orchestra - Another...intriguing one. Misery for me? For them? As a result of them wanting me? Or not wanting me? Look, whoever you are, I'm happily married. ;)

19. How to make myself happy?
Angel - Shaggy - "Girl, you're my angel." I love you, Child. ;)

20. What should you do with your life?
Trippin' on Ecstasy (Sonic the Hedgehog 2) - PxFury - Uh, no thanks. However, this would have been even funnier if it had been the answer to the previous question...

Anyone interested in being tagged...?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Three and Nine

Child's coworker switched Days Off with her, so I was left with a day with no user studies to conduct and time on my hands. I headed down to the animal shelter, where things were moderately busy.

There was a border collie mix that I played with for a few minutes:

And we had a lab mix that had nine puppies a while ago. Today was their first day trying out "real food," although their little teeth were plenty sharp.

Their meal consisted of puppy food softened with warm water, mixed with meaty chunks of food samples, and garnished with liquid food meant to be fed through an IV (hey, we figured it had to have just about every vitamin and nutrient in it).

Yes, it's being prepared on the lid of a trash can (well washed). The idea was that it was the only thing big enough to seat nine, but then I made that rather moot by putting the food in the middle of it rather than around the edges.

The puppies' mother had been removed to let them eat in peace, and they were just starting to settle down for a nap when I took the food in.

It didn't take long for them to wake up, and pretty soon it wasn't a problem that I had piled the food in the middle of the trash can lid; the puppies took care of spreading it around.

And now, if you passed by the pictures of the border collie with nothing more than a "Oh, that's cute," Sherlock Holmes would cluck his tongue at you. Go back and look at the pictures again.

Monday, March 10, 2008


This is a picture that a school photograph took of our lab about a year ago. I believe it was for an alumni magazine or brochure that talked about advances in the Computer Science department.

Either way, the picture found its way to the BYU homepage, where it now links to an article about mentored learning, where undergraduates work with faculty on research. Rather amusing, since none of the people in the picture are undergraduates.

Another funny thing: the girl in the background doesn't even belong in our lab. She works up the hall, but anytime public pictures are taken, they call her in as a matter of form. She's female, Muslim, Indian, and (although you can't tell from this picture) is in a wheelchair. That's four minorities right there, and the department wants to display her whenever possible. Not to mention she pretty much has her pick of scholarships. She's a great person, and I've worked with her on several projects in classes we've taken together.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Lotsa Fur

I went to the shelter yesterday. It was crazy busy, so it was a lot of fun. Here's a key for organizations that use volunteers: keep them busy. There's no worse feeling for a volunteer than feeling that they aren't being useful.

A family came in that was interested in a malamute we had. I don't know if it was because of the spring-like weather we've had the past couple days, but the malamute was shedding huge clumps of fur. I put them in the Get Acquainted room, then got them a brush and told them to brush the dog. Twenty minutes later, they had an enormous pile of fur and had decided to adopt him.

Near closing time, a family came in that spoke only Spanish. From time-to-time we'd have inmates that spoke Spanish (human inmates, not animal), but no one at the shelter that day spoke Spanish. The family wandered around a little, looking at the animals, but couldn't really communicate what they wanted. I was thinking to myself, "You know, I could probably use the online Google Translator to talk to them...but it would be awkward, and they probably don't have the money to adopt an animal anyway." Yes, even I fall prey to stereotypes sometimes.

The dad and one of the daughters finally went out to the car, but the mother and another daughter paused in the lobby to look over our board of "Happy Tails" (success stories). Finally I decided to just go for it. I motioned the mother over, then pulled up Google Translator. It was still difficult, but I finally found out that they wanted to adopt a cat, and that the little girl had actually already picked out the one she wanted. They didn't have any problem with the adoption fee, and twenty minutes later they walked out with a new pet cat.