Friday, January 18, 2008



Paul Grayson of Control Engineering, a cutting edge pub touching on the often overlooked and essential field of Robotics has tipped his hat to Team FredNet. The latter are heavily involved with the Google Lunar X Prize and may be among the first teams announced next month. Reading his column turned out to be one of those "Manifest Deja'vu" experiences, as when you discuss Elvis with someone, hang up your cellphone, and "Are You Lonely Tonight?" is the next very next song you hear when you turn up the radio.

East Carolina University with it's exceptional pioneering use of robotics in surgery is eliminating a lot of grossly traumatic open thorastic proceedures and replacing them with sometimes hands-free bilateral rib operations, an obviously far less invasive snip snip than "the old Black and Decker," as Jerry Lewis once described it.

This is happening at East Carolina University's Biomechanics and Robotics Exploration for Information Technology Literacy and Skills Project, an outreach to the engineers who will likely one day be replacing your liver over the Internet. Right in the operating room, my daughter Valerie tells me, is the Uncle of a friend who contracted Hepititis C while ever-learning to become one of the most skilled chest men on Earth. Rather than allow that set-back, which banned him from the operating room, stop him, he instead became devoted to remote procedures, which is akin to watching real surgery online, except he is actually performing this surgery online. He might yet be in the next room, but some procedures he's partnered with already over the web, and at great distances. As much as we are talking about the future of health care in politics these days, whether to socialize or about "single-payer" insurance, etc., few are talking about the advancements, which are astounding.

The grand debate over Internal Improvements in the early United States, whether Charleston Teriffs collected as federal revenue should pay for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, for example, is long over. Whether governments should facilitate commerce, by building roads rather than concentrating on agenda-driven regulation, is not discussed any longer. That's why we need Libertarians and Liberals, particularly to remind us of what matter and what doesn't.

In lunching as I do weekly with Lobbyist X, always rotating the location to some great and some common locations, I discussed these things with him in the context of my own experience with getting completely off pain medications to treat symptoms related to facet arthrothopy, which I have written about elsewhere. He reminded me about ECU, with that wink that is not a wink that indicates he is giving me yet another clue about what his secretive clients are up to. That it involves Space Exploration, Earth's relatively large natural satellite the Moon, and North Carolina obviously means it involves robotics.

Their interest in eastern North Carolina makes more sense yet agan. As my former employer and good friend Patrick Ballantine once said, the "economic engine that drives" the feeble "economy" of my home region "is the" boom city "of Greenville, home of ECU" and as excellent a hospital in Pitt County Memorial Hospital as can be found on the planet.

I'm assured by Lobbyist X that none of those he is working for are "officially" (he repeated that twice) involved with the Google X Prize, always insisting "they're going for a different magilla."

The weekly meetings are becoming more interesting, and the latest venue was also telling. We ate lunch yesterday surrounded by virtual dinosaurs and other state government administrative types at the rooftop cafeteria in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. You can't miss it. It's firectly in front of North Carolina's General Assembly, where, in the interests of full disclosure, I work for House Republican Leader Paul Stam.

Once again, I should point out because of the Post-Speaker Black ethics legislation that Lobbyist X and I always split the tab. He never pays for my lunch or gasoline nor anything else when we meet. We also have yet to discuss passed, pending, or possible legislation, directly or indirectly, outside the formal settings of the General Assembly's proper facilities. Although I've known LX since 1999, we talk only about the future, and he feeds me information which I share here about his employers activities. While he's said his clients are talking with NC's Department of Commerce, I have no idea what that might be about or why. I can guess, sure. But I don't.

We share an interest, LX and I, in amateur astronomy and the history of space exploration. And being too stupid to know how, I haven't profited and probably never will from our conversations except in life experiences.

And yet, it's very much like when you're driving down the road and a street light blinks off as you drive under it when talk turns to robotics at ECU and within a few minutes you are Emailed an article from a friend hundreds of miles away and in another state and who wouldn't know LX from "Adam's housecat" where Paul Grayson, an expert in the subject, is talking about Team FredNet and Destination Moon.

"Quite a world," said David Ossman, wrapping it all up and tying the package with a red ribbon.

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