Robot Juggling

Okay, I admit it.  As any reader of this blog knows, I have a weakness for news about robots (especially weird robots) and robot technology.  I bet you didn’t know, however, that I also have a weakness for juggling.  And when you combine robots and juggling, I am helpless.

Who would have thought that running a search on YouTube for “robot juggling” would yield such a rich bounty?  If we can create juggling robots, can household robots who wait on us hand and foot be far behind?

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2011 Columbus Arts Festival

This weekend is the 50th Columbus Arts Festival.  The Festival is being held in the Discovery District neighborhood of downtown Columbus, adjacent to the Columbus College of Art & Design, the Columbus Museum of Art, and Columbus State Community College.  The area is just a few blocks down Gay Street from my office.  So, when I finished up with work a little after noon today, I walked down to have a look.

It was a brilliantly sunny day, and there was a large crowd.  The Festival is set up in a rectangular pattern around a two-block area, providing good foot traffic flow and making it easy to see all of the artist tents as well as the music and poetry stages, the food and drink areas, and the “hands on” activities that are being offered.  There was a wide variety of art on display and for sale — ranging from different styles of paintings, to some very interesting sculptures, to jewelry, to some distinctive kinds of folk art — and visitors were interested and, in some cases, buying.

Everyone seemed to be having a good time.  The only unpleasantness came when an officious woman who was manning a tent that sold painted ceramics came out and objected to my taking a picture, saying it could impair the value of the artist’s intellectual property.  (Sorry about that, lady!  Next time post a “No Photos” sign, and I promise I’ll avoid your “intellectual property” like the plague!)

The Arts Festival runs until 10 p.m. tonight, and from 11:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. tomorrow.  If you haven’t made a visit, it is well worth your time.  Just be careful with those cameras!

John Edwards, Cover-Ups, And Campaign Finance Laws

I think John Edwards is a despicable character.  Vain and insubstantial, a weak political reed in the wind, he cheated on his wife who was battling cancer, had an affair and impregnated a woman, and then tried to cover it up while he pursued his presidential campaign.  When the cover-up failed, as cover-ups always do, it produced an ugly scandal that torpedoed Edwards’ political ambitions.

Yesterday Edwards was indicted for his actions.  The indictment charges him with conspiring to violate campaign finance laws and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission in accepting more than $900,000 in contributions from large donors that were used, at least in part, in connection with the cover-up.  The government argues that the contributions really were political because they were intended to protect the campaign’s ability to project the image of Edwards as family man.  The head of the Justice Department’s criminal division said:  “As this indictment shows, we will not permit candidates for high office to abuse their special ability to access the coffers of their political supporters to circumvent our election laws.”

The government’s theory pushes the envelope of how campaign finance laws are construed.  The issue is whether politicians can get around the laws by accepting donations for claimed non-political purposes that nevertheless could have political implications — and a related issue is where you draw the line if you accept that interpretation.  With campaigns extending for years and becoming all-consuming endeavors, couldn’t just about any claimed non-political contribution be argued to have a political dimension?  If a high-roller friend hosts a candidate at a vacation home, are they making a political contribution because the period of relaxation will allow the candidate to recharge their batteries and be more effective down the home stretch?  Edwards’ lawyers no doubt will focus on whether the government’s charges should be thrown out as beyond the scope of federal election laws.

If the charges survive the legal challenge and the case goes to trial, Edwards’ defense will not be attractive.  His statement yesterday indicates that he will argue that yes, he was a cheater, and yes, he accepted money in an unsavory cover-up — but the cover-up was designed to deceive only his stricken wife, and not to deceive federal election regulators.  How will a jury react to that theme?