The Webb's are Okay

On December 24th at about 10PM my family and I were T-boned on our way home from my mother's but we are all okay.

I was in the front passenger seat and Darliegh was driving. We were in the lane adjacent the HOV lane. I had just finished reading, closed the book, shut off my reading light, and looked over to see a white Blazer take a hard left in the far right lane. I yelled at Darliegh to watch out but I don't think she even had time to register what I was saying before the passenger side headlight of the other vehicle met the point where our front passenger fender and front passenger door come together.

My son was asleep at the time of impact and suffice it to say the event woke him and completely freaked him out. He began yelling fairly immediately which made us worry that he was hurt. I had to force my door open and then his to get him out.

My daughter was also asleep at the time of the impact. Surprisingly it did not phase her. She did not even wake up.

Our vehicle settled in the HOV lane. After making sure that Darliegh and the kids were okay I ran across the freeway to check on the passengers of the other vehicle. When I got there I met three people. Two were witnesses that saw the accident and stopped to offer assistance. These are truly good people and I deeply appreciate their kindness.

The other person I met claimed to be the passenger of the Blazer and that the driver ran off. However there were no other foot prints in the snow leaving the vehicle and one of the witnesses believes he saw the man exit from the drivers side of the vehicle. Myself and at least one of the witnesses smelled alcohol on the man but he appeared completely sober so I don't believe this was the initial cause of the accident. It appeared to me that he hit a patch of ice and lost control. Of course it could have played a role in his ability retain or regain contorl. Assuming he was actually the driver.

It took a long time for the first sheriff to arrive. While waiting a passing EMT stopped and offered assistance. I told her I would be grateful if she would check out my children so she ran across the freeway and did so. She also checked out Darliegh and saw nothing concerning.

Also while waiting I called 911 again to ask if there was a way to get my family off the freeway while we waited. Instead of answering the question the operator decided to berate me stating "I told you and your wife to get back in your car." A suggestion I believed to be completely ill-advised and that I was not willing to do given the state of the car.

Unfortunately as the first officer arrived on the seen the unidentified man from the other car walked away. For reasons I don't understand the officer felt it was more important to chase the man down rather than help get my family off the freeway. At this point we do not know whether they found him or the supposed driver.

Awhile later a second sheriff showed up. I expressed my concern for my families' safety to her and asked what could be done to get my family off the freeway. She said she needed to go over there and then ended up sitting there in her vehicle while we awaited yet another officer.

When the third officer arrived one of the witnesses and I approached his vehicle and spoke with him. The witness pointed out that the first officer was chasing down the driver of the Blazer. I told him I was from the car still sitting in the middle of the freeway and that I had ran across the freeway. I also told him I was worried for the safety of my family. He asked the witnesses for statements and proceeded to check out the other vehicle.

A bit later a fire truck and ambulance showed up. When I saw them I realized I should fill out a statement and asked the third officer for a form to fill out in case I needed to leave in the ambulance. He responded "Oh, I thought you already filled one out. Which vehicle were you with?" I pointed to our car at which point he asked "how did you get over here?" Suffice it to say this annoyed me, but I repeated myself anyway. Instead of giving me a statement form he decided to lecture me on the dangers of running across the freeway. I found this even more frustrating since it was wasting time. At this point I noted that we were off topic and repeated my request for a form.

Fortunately the EMTs  did not feel it was necessary to go to the hospital though they did not check out Darliegh or myself, again for reasons I do not understand.

Finally after an hour the officers notified me that we should call someone to pick us up because they did not have enough space in there vehicles. A statement I found completely confusing given that they had six empty seats between there two cars. Fortunately for us our friend Alisha was willing to come pick us up at 11:30 on Christmas eve. One of the witnesses was also kind enough to offer us a ride much earlier but I told her that I thought we would be going to the hospital and thanked her for her kindness and told her that I did not want to make her wait around. She had already gone out of her way and her family was at home waiting for her.

I am thoroughly disappointed in the way this situation was handled by the emergency personnel but more importantly I am ecstatic that my family is okay.


Reflections of ICRA 2012 and ROScon 2012 -- Part II

"I don't want it. I just need it. To feel, to breathe, to know I'm alive." --Tool, Stinkfist

In this post I'm continuing to reflect on my experiences at at ICRA 2012 and ROScon 2012. Hence the name. If you have not read the previous post you may wish to do so as it will provide some context.

In the last post I mentioned my surprise by the number of ideas spawned by the numerous talks I saw and the conversations I had. While I can observe that I found the conferences very inspirational that doesn't do it justice. Truth be told I came back with a bit of research fever.

To manage my thoughts at the conferences I found it helpful, even necessary, to keep my notebook on hand. The initial intent was to keep track of questions that arose, of which there were plenty. But I ended up keep track of a number of other things.

For example I ended up making a "todo" list with many of the items being of the ilk "learn more about ..." and "what is ...?" The remaining items were related to projects I need to finish. Player/ROS drivers I have started but not submitted for example. Suffice it to say it's going to take some time to make it through this list.

I also started a list of new research ideas. This list wasn't as long as the other lists and obviously these ideas weren't all great. My thought was that in writing them down I could review them later and gauge them with a clearer head. Looking back at them most are just okay. However I like the idea of this list and plan to keep a copy readily available from now on. This blog was supposed to be in part a way for me to clarify my ideas but it doesn't make a good repository of random thoughts.

At this point I feel like I'm rambling and my mind keeps wandering back to a proof that I have been working on so I'm going to sign off for now.


Reflections of ICRA 2012 and ROScon 2012 -- Part I

"Teeter between tired and really really tired. I'm wiped and I'm wired but I guess it's just as well." --Ani DiFranco, Swan Dive

This quote describes, very well, an aspect of conferences I did not fully appreciate until spending the past week in St. Paul Minnesotta. Specifically I learned that they are as much about networking as anything else.

But let me back up. My advisor Dr. Jur van den Berg sent my colleagues and I to St. Paul Minnesota to see the state of the art in robotics and to meet others in our respective fields. Monday through Friday we attended the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). On Saturday and Sunday we attended ROScon, a conference on Robot Operating System (ROS).

Going in it seems obvious that one would meet a lot of people as research often involves collaboration. However, and maybe I'm alone in this revelation, but I underestimated the amount of time I would spend meeting new people and learning about their work. I guess I expected to meet a few people whose interests align with mine and this occurred. I did not expect to be awake from 7:30 AM until about 2:00 AM the next morning everyday.

Even with the lack of sleep I felt quite good. A couple cups of coffee in the morning to wake up and a few beers each night to ensure I rested well and I was raring to go. I think there was an additional dimension to this though. I did not expect the sheer number of "new" ideas spawned by seeing what others were doing (I qualify because not having done a literature review one cannot be certain whether any given idea is in fact new). With this came something of a high.

I don't believe I was the only one feeling this way though. A very common question was "so, what do yo do?" Granted this is a classic small talk question, but what better way is there to seek out new ideas? Suffice it to say that by the end of the week I felt almost choreographed in my response, save for the minor variations that arose based on the specialty of the person I was speaking with at any given moment.

From all this I met a lot of great people. Several that I have idolized, some with which I hope to collaborate, and a whole lot I'm glad to call friend. Thank you for making this past week so fun.