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Monday, June 30, 2008

AI and Robots: What is AI (2)

This is a make up post! Continuing from previous post.

Traditionally, AI researchers believed that perception (sensor data) about the world feeds into cognition (the brain of the agent), and then cognition would issue commands for action (actuator) that will affect the world. This seemed to be the right model that mimic human behaviors. However, in mid-1980s, a then a junior faculty member at Stanford, Rodney Brooks, proposed a different model in which perception directly interacted with action, and cognition simply observes perception and action. He further followed this idea and started a new branch of AI called Behavior-based Robotics.

Rodney believes the path to creating intelligent creatures is only by building actual physical creatures that respond to the complexity of the environment in which they must navigate, and all the power of intelligence arose from the coupling of perception and actuation systems (even just the simple "muscle reflexes" ). The robot shown on the left is an example. It was able to balance, walk and prowl with simple reactive controls (in another word, it doesn't have a brain). It seemed that intelligent, complex behaviors emerged out of simple reactions. Later biology research was able to confirm that the balancing skills of cats come directly from the spinal cord, instead of the brain. As Rodney describes it, intelligence is "in the eye of the beholder".

For example, we all know that a sunflower always turns its "head" toward the sun (Heliotropism ). This appeared to be somewhat of an "intelligent" behavior. However, such behavior is simply the result of chemical reaction. With the increase of potassium ions the osmotic potential in the pulvinus cells becomes more negative and the cells absorb more water and elongate, turning the face of the flower to the sun.

If you are still not convinced, here's another exmaple (try at your own risk). Gently touch a burning stove top with your finger and then observer. If you ponder it carefully, you might realize that your hand moved away from the burning stove top before you actually felt the burning sensation. The seemingly "intelligent" behavior of moving your hand away happened before your brain could even sense the pain, so how could it issue a command to retract your hand? The answer is that the command didn't come from your brain at all.

That's why I tend to lean toward the last definition of artificial intelligence: systems that act rationally. It doesn't matter much how intelligence was achieved; what matters the most is that I made myself believe the agent displayed intelligent behaviors.

So where did the name "artificial intelligence" come from? In 1956 (probably the most important year in the history of AI), John McCarthy (shown in the picture on the right), a researcher at Dartmouth College then, convinced Marvin Minsky, Claude Shannon and Nathaniel Rochester to help him organize a two-month workshop at Dartmouth in the summer of 1956. There were 10 attendees in all, including Tranchard More, Arthur Samuel, Ray Solomonoff, Oliver Selfridge, Allen Newell, and Herbert Simon. The workshop didn't lead to any new breakthorughts, but it did introduce all the major figures to each other and for the next 20 years, the field would be dominated by these people and their students and colleagues. The most important thing that came out of the workshop was an agreement to adopt McCarthy's new name for the field: "artificial intelligence".

The term "Artificial Intelligence" is an oxymoron. How could something "artificial" be "intelligent"? That's why for most people, there's always a mythical component to it. An artifact appears "intelligent" because it seems to do intelligent things with magical power. However, once the secret of how the artifact was able to perform is revealed, all of a sudden, the sense of "intelligence" is diminished. It's almost like magician tricks. Once you know he hid the rabbit in the hat beforehand, it's not so impressive anymore.

For example, if you present a music box to a person from 1000 years ago, he would believe the box is magical (in a sense, "intelligent"), but if you let him take it apart and investigate further, he will for sure change his mind. The same applies to modern day artifacts. A car that parallel parks itself might make you go "wow" and appreciate the power of "artificial intelligence". However once I explain to you that the computer only issued simply driving commands following simple if-then rules based on sensor data, all of a sudden, the car doesn't seem so "intelligent" to you anymore.

This is a very interesting phenomenon, and is also a great challenge/motivation for AI researchers. It seems that all AI problems solved are no longer AI problems, because we already know the secrets/algorithms behind, and they are simply procedures to follow and conditions to check. Only AI problems unsolved still have the mysterious "intelligence" we have to identify and create.

This explains why AI is an evolving concepts. A purely mechanical device would have been considered "AI" in ancient days, but definitely not in present time. Maybe one day all the electronic computer related products "cease" to be "AI" and only biotechnology with cells acting as computers will be.

It's also worth noting that "AI" is almost everywhere in our everyday lives in almost every field you can think of. When you sit in your office, your PDA "intelligently" remind you of your appointments; your computer "intelligently" auto-fills text for you as you type, and the word processor "intelligently" point out the typos and syntax errors you made. When you pick up the phone to call for some kind of service, the computer telephone agent "intelligently" routes you to different departments based on your needs (or even handle it for you). When you drive on the street, the street lights "intelligently" change based on the traffic flow, the security cameras "intelligently" track down unusual behaviors (and "intelligently" take a picture of your license plate if you run the red light). When you sit comfortably in front of your home computer, whether browsing the Internet or do online shopping, the web site will "intelligently" recommend stories or products tailored specifically to you. Even your air conditioning system "intelligently" adjust the temperature for you while your sprinkler system "intelligently" kicks on to performs its routine task. I guess one great part about this is the amplitude of job prospects! ;)

Despite so many confusion and ambiguity, AI remains the "field I would most like to be in" by scientists in many disciplines. As Russell and Norvig described it: "A student in physics might reasonable feel that all the good ideas have already been taken by Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and the rest. AI, on the other hand, still has openings for several full-time Einsteins.

Now have I convinced you to become an AI researcher just like me? :)

Additional Information:
  • John McCarthy - Cognitive Scientist. 1971 Turing Award winner. Inventor of the Lisp programming language.

  • Marvin Minsky - Cognitive Scientist. Co-founder of MIT's AI lab.

  • Claude Shannon - Electronic Engineer and Mathematician. "Father of Information Theory."

  • Nathaniel Rochester - Computer Scientist. Invented IBM 701 and wrote first assembler.

  • Arthur Samuel - Pioneer in computer gaming. The Samuel Checkers-playing Program appears to be the world's first self-learning program.

  • Ray Solomonoff - Invented the concept of algorithmic probability around 1960.

  • Oliver Selfridge - "Father of Machine Perception."

  • Allen Newell - Researcher in computer science and cognitive psychology. 1975 Turing Award winner. He contributed to the Information Processing Language (1956) and two of the earliest AI programs, the Logic Theory Machine (1956) and the General Problem Solver (1957) (with Herbert Simon).

  • Herbert Simon - Political Scientist. One of the most influential social scientists of the 20th century. 1975 Turing Award winner. 1978 Nobel Prize in Economics winner.

Intelligence is "in the eye of the beholder" -- Rodney Brooks

Friday, June 27, 2008

AI and Robots: What is AI (1)

This is a make up post!

The image you see here is from the famous chess match between Garry Kasparov, a world champion, and Deep Blue, a super computer built by IBM, that took place in 1997. The computer was able to "beat" the world champion. Despite the argument that this match was not "fair" to Kasparov, at least there's one thing we could all agree: Deep Blue certainly showed signs of Artificial Intelligence. But, what really is Artificial Intelligence? Is it simply intelligence created artificially?

In order to understand what is Artificial Intelligence, we might have to first define intelligence. But what is intelligence? Do the bacterias on the keyboard I am typing on have intelligence? Are the rose bushes in my garden (which adds more to my yard work load) intelligent? How about the butterfly sitting on the rose pedal? How about the planet called earth we all live on? Different people might have different answers. I don't want to get too philosophical here, so I'll simply define intelligence as the ability to reason and learn. I know this is still rather vague. Under my definition, all those things I mentioned above could still be categorized as intelligent beings. If you are still not satisfied, you are also welcome to read and modify the wikipedia page on intelligence.

So how should we define Artificial Intelligence then? Again, many people would give you very different definitions. Russel and Norvig summarized all the different definitions into four categories in the book "Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach":

Systems that think like humansSystems that think rationally
Systems that act like humansSystems that act rationally

The top ones focus on the ability to reason while the bottom ones emphasize on behavior. The left ones relate AI to human performance while the right ones only measure rationality. All these categories have their merits, but I personally lean toward the last one: Systems that act rationally.

When we try to create Artificial Intelligence, it is easy to try to model after human beings. Why? Because first of all, human beings are intelligent beings (arguably, there are stupid people too). Furthermore, we certainly understand ourselves easier than say, the white mice used in scientific experiments. We try to understand our reasoning and logic behind our thinking and behaviors, and then try to apply the same kind of ideas to an AI agent and have the agent mimic us. There are certainly still many things we don't know about ourselves, and the research in AI is actually a great way to try to understand ourselves better (individually or socially).

It is necessary here to mention the famous "Turing Test". Alan Turing (shown in the picture on the right) is often considered to be the father of modern computer science. The "Turing Award" named after him is considered the Nobel Prize in computing. In a 1950 paper he proposed an operational definition of measuring artificial intelligence: The computer passes the test if a human interrogator, after posing some written questions, cannot tell whether the written responses come from a person or not (Russell & Norvig). You can think of this in terms of a chat window. If you think who you are chatting with is human, but the other entity chatting with you is in fact a computer program, then this program would have passed the "Turing Test". (You can check out this chatbot if you know a little bit of Chinese.) Interestingly, some "flirting chatbots" are reported fooling lonely Russians into giving out their financial information. Can we say these AI agents passed the "Turing Test"?

There are other intelligent species on earth too, and many times we learn from them because they might do better in certain areas. Many AI researchers also get inspired by biological beings and develop AI algorithms accordingly to solve problems related to human. In my opinion, AI is really the study and expansion of human intelligence.

However, human also do stupid things. We pollute the world we live in, we destroy forests, and people get killed in wars or genocides. Sometimes we are also irrational; we let emotion take over and let that affect our judgment. Therefore, the rationality approach to the definition of AI has good reasons. So what is thinking and behaving rationally? Let me give you two examples and then you can decide yourself.

The first example comes from Russell and Norvig's book. If you see someone you know across the street, you look to the left and look to the right and made sure there is no traffic nearby before proceeding to cross the street. Meanwhile, at 33,000 feet, a cargo door falls off a passing airliner and flattens you before you make it to the other side. Have you acted rationally?

The second example comes from the novel "I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov (made into film in 2004 starring Will Smith). In this story, the robots came to the conclusion that in order to protect human from self-destruction, it is necessary for robots to take over. Have these robots acted rationally?

[To be continued...]

[Quote from the I, Robot movie (2004)]

Detective Del Spooner: Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a... canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?
Sonny: Can *you*?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Smiling Proud Wanderer: Chapter 21 (1)

Had a bad headache today and had to take a 7-hour nap during the day! Anyway, for completeness, here's what I already have for Chapter 21:

When Linghu Chong finally came around, he found himself surrounded by complete darkness, knowing neither where he was nor how long he had been out cold. The headache was so bad that he almost felt as though somebody had cracked his head open and loud thunder-like rings still rumbled continuously in his ears. He tried in vain to get back onto his feet but found no strength left in him at all.
“I must be dead already and have been buried into a grave,” he thought as the strong sense of grief and fuss quickly overwhelmed him and he fainted once again.
By the time he woke up the second time, although his headache didn’t get any better, the ringing in his ears did lighten up a great deal. He felt something cold and hard underneath him as though he was lying upon something made of iron or steel. A quick feel with his hand soon confirmed that it was indeed an iron plate underneath the straw mat. As soon as he moved his right hand, a light clank broke out, and at the same time he felt something icy-cold tied around his wrist. When he tried to feel it with his left hand, the clanking sound rose again. Turned out that his left wrist also had something tied around it. A mixed feeling of shock, joy, and fear soared in his heart. Now he was sure that he had not died but had been shackled. He felt it again with his left hand and then came to realization that it was a thin steel chain tied around his wrist. A slight move of his two feet also revealed steel chains shackled around his ankles. He opened his eyes as wide as he could and stared forward, but did not see even a glimmer of light.
“I was having a sword match with the Revered Mr. Ren right before I fainted. How did I fall for the machination of the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan?” he asked himself. “It looks as though I am also locked up in the dungeon underneath the lake. Have I been locked up in the same cell together with the Revered Mr. Ren?” At that thought, he called out immediately, “Revered Mr. Ren? Revered Mr. Ren?”
He called out twice, but did not hear anything in return. Feeling of great shock grew stronger and stronger in his heart and he called out even louder, “Mr. Ren! Mr. Ren!” But once again, all he could hear in the pitch black were his own hoarse and vexed cries.
As desperation began to sink in, he shouted out at the top of his lungs, “First Master! Fourth Master! Why have you locked me in here? Let me out! Let me out!” But other than his own shouting, there was not another sound all the while.
Soon panic turned into rage, and he began pouring our streams of abuses, “You despicable, brazen, evil scum! You couldn’t beat me in the sword matches, so you figured that you could lock me up here to get even? How shameless you are!” But the thought that he would be locked up in the dark dungeon underneath the lake for the rest of his life just like the Revered Mr. Ren instantly made his hair stand on end and his heart filled with despair. The more he thought about it, the more afraid he became, he couldn’t help but bawl on top of his lungs, and before he knew it, the bawling had turned into loud wails, and tears had streamed down his cheeks uncontrollably.
“You four…four despicable scoundrels…of the Plum Manor,” he cried in a hoarse voice, “If I can make it out of here one day, I’ll…I’ll blind…blind your eyes with my sword, and sever…sever both your arms and legs…. Once I escape the dark dungeon….” But suddenly he fell silent when a loud voice echoed in his head, “Will I ever escape the dark dungeon? Will I ever escape the dark dungeon? Even Revered Mr. Ren, such a capable man, can’t get out. How…how can I make a difference?” Anxiety immediately surged in his heart. Feeling really sick in his stomach, he vomited, and after a few gags of blood, he fainted again.
In the wooziness, he thought he heard a cracking sound, and immediately after, bright light dazzled his eyes. Waking up abruptly, he leapt to his feet, but he forgot that both of his wrists and ankles were still shackled by steel chains. Furthermore, he did not have much strength left in him, so only instants later, he fell back down heavily and all the bones in his body seemed to have been falling apart. Having been in complete darkness for a long while, his eyes were not adept to sudden lights, but for fear that the gleam of light might just vanish as abruptly as it appeared, voiding him of any opportunity to escape, he kept his eyes wide open and stared hard toward the origin of the light despite the stinging pain.
The gleam of light had come from a one-foot wide, square-shaped opening. And he remembered at once: the dungeon cell Revered Mr. Ren lived in also had a squared-shaped opening on the iron door. In fact, it had one exactly identical to this one. He took a quick glance around and then confirmed that he was, indeed, also locked in the same kind of dungeon cell.
“Let me out of here! Huang-Zhong, Black-White, you despicable scoundrels, let me out if you’ve got any guts!” he shouted out.
A large wooden tray came forth slowly through the square-shaped opening, on top of which was a large bowl of rice with some cooked food piled on top. There was also an earthen jar, which apparently held some soup or water.
This sight made Linghu Chong even angrier, thinking, “Bringing food and water to me only means that you want to lock me in here for an extended period.” So he cussed loudly, “You four dirty swine, listen up! If you want me dead, just come forward and give me your best shot. Stop playing games!”
But the wooden tray remained still. The person outside the door obviously wanted him to take the tray in. Infuriated, Linghu Chong reached out and struck it hard. Loud clangs echoed as the rice bowl and the earthen jar fell to the ground and smashed into pieces. Food and soup splashed everywhere. Slowly, the wooden tray retracted out of the opening.
In a storm of rage, Linghu Chong threw himself at the squared-shaped opening, and then he saw a completely gray-headed old man, a light in his left hand and the wooden tray in his right hand, turning away unhurriedly. Deep wrinkles covered the man’s entire face, a face Linghu Chong had never seen before.
“Go get Huang-Zhong or Black-White here! Tell those four shameless scoundrels to come here and fight me like a man if they’ve gotten any guts!” Linghu Chong shouted out.
But the old man didn’t pay him the slightest attention and kept walking further and further away unhurriedly, stooping low with his back.
Linghu Chong watched on as the man slowly disappeared around the corner of the tunnel. The light also gradually dimmed until it finally faded into gloom. After a short while, he vaguely heard the sounds of gates opening followed by sounds of the wooden gate and the iron gate closing down one after another. And then once again, the tunnel was enveloped by complete darkness, without a glimmer of light or the slightest of sound.
Linghu Chong felt another strong dizziness in his head. After staring blankly into the blackness for a moment, he decided to lie down on the bed for better concentration with his thoughts.
“The old man delivering food to me must have had strict orders to not exchange any word with me. It would be useless to shout at him,” he thought to himself. “This dungeon cell looks identical to the one Revered Mr. Ren lives in. I guess there are quite a few prison cells built under the Plum Manor. I wonder how many people they have locked up down here. If somehow I can connect with the Revered Mr. Ren, or with any other fellow prisoners here, by working together and uniting our efforts, who knows, we might be able to find a way out of here.”
At that thought, he extended his arm and knocked on the wall. But the clanking sounds clearly indicated that it was made of sheer steel. The sounds were both heavy and dull. Obviously there was no space on the other side of the wall except solid ground.
He walked to another wall and also knocked on it, but again, the responding sounds were both heavy and dull. Not willing to give up, Linghu Chong sat back on the bed and knocked on the wall behind him. Once again, the sounds were still the same.
Feeling his way along the walls, he carefully knocked on every inch of all the three walls, but other than the side of the wall with the iron door, this dungeon cell seemed to have been buried deep underground all alone. There, of course, had to be other dungeon cells underground, at lease one another, which had the Ren named old man locked in. But he had no clue where that dungeon cell might be or even how far it was from his own cell.
Leaning against the wall, he very carefully reviewed, in his head, the series of events that had happened before he fainted. He could remember how the old man’s sword moves became faster and faster as his shouting also became louder and louder. Then, all of a sudden, there was that earthshaking roar, right after which he lost his consciousness. But how on earth was he captured by the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan, and then sent to this prison cell, he couldn’t remember a thing about it.
“The four Manor Masters all appeared to be talented persons of poetic temperament on the surface, even their day-to-day amusements are related to Music, Gamesmanship, Calligraphy, and Painting these Four Arts. Who would have imaged that underneath their pretending skin, they were all filthy, contemptible characters who stop at no evil,” Linghu Chong thought to himself. “There were many vile characters like these in the Martial World and it shouldn’t have come to one’s surprise. But the strange thing was that these four Manor Masters did hold genuine interests in the art of music, gamesmanship, calligraphy, and painting, which would have been impossible for them to pretend. When Mr. Bald-Brush wrote the “General Pei Poem” on the wall, his writing was completely free from inhibition, something not a normal martial arts master could have accomplished.”
Then he thought, “Master once said, ‘Only people with extreme aptitude are capable of extreme evil.’ That is so true. The scam the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan pulled is indeed hard to guard against.”
Suddenly a thought struck him. He cried out and jumped back onto his feet, his heart pounding madly. “What happened to Big Brother Xiang? Has he fallen for their murderous scheme as well?” But then he thought, “Big Brother Xiang is a man of shrewdness and improvisation. He seems to have known about the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan’s conducts beforehand. As the Right Advisor of the Demon’s Cult, he has roamed the Martial World for many years. He won’t fall for their trap easily. And as long as he is not stranded by the Four Playfellows of Jiangnan, he will try to rescue me for sure. Even if I were to be locked up one thousand feet below ground, Big Brother Xiang would still be able to get me out of here. He has the ability to do that.” At that thought, he found himself much relaxed. Carrying a big grin on his face, he muttered to himself, “Linghu Chong! Linghu Chong! Did you know that you are a real coward? Scared into crying like a baby, where are you going to put your face if people find out about it?”
Feeling relieved, he stood up slowly, then immediately realized how thirsty and hungry he had been. “Too bad I threw a fit and knocked over the perfectly fine rice meal and the water. If I don’t stuff myself, after Big Brother Xiang rescue me out of here, where am I gonna find strength to battle the Four Skunks of Jiangnan? Ha-ha, that’s right, the Four Skunks of Jiangnan! How can such vile skunks be worthy of the title the ‘Four Playfellows of Jiangnan?’ Out of the four skunks, Mr. Black-White had to be the most sinister one, always wearing that blank, collected countenance on his face. He is probably the one who came up with the entire scheme. Once I break out of here, killing him will be the first thing on my to-do list. Mr. Paint, on the other hand, seems to be relatively frank; I might as well spare his despicable life. But in regard to his collection of great wines, ha-ha, I’ll drink them all up, leaving not even one drop behind.” At the thought of Mr. Paint’s great wine collection, he found his mouth burning with thirst.
“How long have I been unconscious? Why hasn’t Big Brother Xiang come to my rescue?” he wondered. Then another thought popped out, “Oh, no! If it were a fight one-on-one, Big Brother Xiang’s Kung Fu skills are more than sufficient to defeat any one of the Four Skunks of Jiangnan. But if those four skunks attack Big Brother Xiang all at once, then Big Brother Xiang would have a hard time winning the battle. Even if Big Brother Xiang gave full play to his ability and kill all four of them, it would be impossible for him to find the entrance of this underground dungeon. Who would have expected to find the dungeon entrance hidden underneath Mr. Huang-Zhong’s bed?”
Feeling completely worn out, he lay down on the bed when another thought suddenly came upon him. “The Revered Mr. Ren’s Kung Fu skills are undoubtedly greater than those of Big Brother Xiang’s, and his wit, experience and foresight also outclass that of Big Brother Xiang. Even he became a prisoner in the dungeon, what makes Big Brother Xiang so special that he could ensure victory? Straightforward gentlemen often fall prey of machination from the vile. It is well said that covert attack is far more difficult to defend against than overt attack. Since Big Brother Xiang hasn’t come to my rescue after such a long while, could he have fallen for their trap?” He instantly forgot all about his own trouble, but began worrying about Xiang Wentian’s safety, instead.
He let his thoughts went off into wild flights of fancy, and before long, he fell asleep. When he woke up again, he had no idea what time it was, and all he could see was still complete darkness.
“It is simply impossible for me to escape by myself,” he thought to himself. “If, unfortunately, Big Brother Xiang also falls for their scheme, then who else might come to free me? Master has announced to the entire world that I am expelled from the Huashan Sword School; of course people from the orthodox schools won’t be coming to my rescue. Ying-Ying, Ying-Ying….”
As soon as he thought of Ying-Ying, his spirit soared, and he sat up, thinking, “She asked Old Man to spread the word to the entire Martial World that she wants me killed; those people from the unorthodox schools of course won’t be coming to my rescue, but what about her, herself? If she learned that I am trapped here, she would surely come to save me. Many people from the unorthodox schools follow her command. All she needs to do is to let the word out. Ha-ha….” He suddenly chortled, thinking, “This girl is so bashful. What she fears the most is people saying that she likes me. Even if she does come to my rescue, she would surely come alone and would never ask for help from anyone. And if someone learns that she is coming to save me, he most probably would lose his life because of that. Alas, what goes on in a girl’s thinking is truly incomprehensible. Like, for example, Little Apprentice Sister….”
As soon as Little Apprentice Sister came to his mind, his heart ached, and the feeling of grief and despair deepened. “Why am I hoping that someone might come and rescue me? By now, Little Apprentice Sister and junior apprentice brother Lin probably have already wedded. Even if I can get out of here somehow, what’s there to look for outside? It’s probably much better if I get locked up in this dark dungeon for the rest of my life and I never find out what happens outside.”
Once he figured out the benefit of being locked up in the dungeon, his worries seemed to have slipped away and he even felt somewhat pleased with the situation. But the elated feeling did not last long when he was soon overwhelmed with hunger and thirst. Haunted by the memories of the great enjoyments he had when he drank bowls after bowls of wine served with large steaks in the various wine houses, he decided it would still be better if he could get out of the dungeon, after all.
“Well, if Little Apprentice Sister wedded junior apprentice brother Lin, so what? I’ve already been pushed around by them many times, anyhow. I am already an invalid with none of my inner strength left in me. Doctor Ping said that I don’t have many days left. Even if Little Apprentice Sister is willing to marry me, I can’t marry her. How can I let her stay a widow the rest of her life?”
But deep in his heart, he still felt that even though he wouldn’t let Yue Lingshan marry him even if she wanted to, Yue Lingshan’s falling in love with Lin Pingzhi was just too agonizing for him to withstand. But what could he wish for? “I wish Little Apprentice Sister were still the same as before. I wish none of this had ever happened, and I would still be practicing sword arts with her in the waterfall atop Mount Huashan, and junior apprentice brother Lin never came to Mount Huashan, and Little Apprentice Sister and I would be happily spending the rest of our lives together. Alas, Tian Boguang, Peach Valley’s Six Fairies, apprentice sister Yilin….”
At the thought of Heng-Shan Sword School’s little Sister Yilin, he could no longer hold a straight face and a gentle smile crept onto his lips. “I wonder how this apprentice sister Yilin is doing right now,” he thought. “If she learns that I am locked up here, she must be very worried. Her Master undoubtedly wouldn’t allow her to come and save me after reading the letter from my Master, but she might ask her father, Monk No Commandment, to do it for her. Who knows, Monk No Commandment might even invite the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies to tag along. Ha, those seven are a total mess and would only mess things up even more. But having people coming for my rescue is still better than having no one paying any attention.”
When he thought of the Peach Valley’s Six Fairies’ constant nagging and arguing, he couldn’t help but grin. When they were around him in the past, he did belittle the six brothers somewhat, but at this point in time, how he wished they could be accompanying him inside the prison cell. Their unintelligible remarks would have sounded like heavenly music to his ears at the moment. He let his thoughts run wild and soon dozed off once again.
In the pitch black dungeon cell he had no way of knowing the time. In his wooziness, he noticed a glimmer of faint light coming though the squared-shaped opening. Linghu Chong was ecstatic. He sat up immediately, his heart thumping wildly, thinking, “Who has come to rescue me?” But his joy did not last long. Soon came the sound of heavy and slow footsteps, apparently from the old man who brought food to him. Much dispirited, he let his body collapse back down.
“Ask those four skunks to come here; see if they’ve still got any guts to show their faces here!” Linghu Chong shouted.
He could hear the sound of the footsteps getting closer and closer. The light also became brighter and brighter. Then a wooden tray was pushed in from the squared-shaped opening on the door. On the wooden tray were a large bowl of rice and an earthen jar just like the last time. Linghu Chong had been fighting his hunger for a good while and his thirst had also become unbearable. After a slight hesitation, he reached out and took the wooden tray. As soon as the old man let go of the wooden tray, he turned around to walk away.
“Hey! Hey! Wait a second! I have something to ask you!” Linghu Chong called out.
But the old man completely ignored him. Sound of footsteps faded gradually as the old man dragged his feet along the way and the light also fainted gradually. Linghu Chong murmured a few curses and then picked up the earthen jar. Raising the jar next to his mouth, he poured the content into his mouth. Sure enough, the jar was filled with clear water. He drank up almost half jar of water in one breath before touching the bowl of rice. Piled on top of the rice were some vegetables. He tasted them in the dark and was able to tell there were some radish, tofu, and the like.
The same routine went on for seven or eight days. The old man would bring food to him once everyday and then collect the previous day’s utensils and water jar together with the jug for human waste. Regardless of what Linghu Chong said to him, his face remained expressionless. Then one day, as soon as Linghu Chong saw the light, he threw himself at the square-shaped opening and grabbed the wooden tray, shouting, “Why don’t you speak to me? Haven’t you heard me?”
The old man pointed at his own ear and shook his head, indicating that he was deaf. Then he opened his mouth. What Linghu Chong saw shocked him and he couldn’t help but gasp. The old man only had half of his tough left in his mouth; the scene was horrific.
“Someone cut your tongue off? Did the four god-damned Manor Masters do this to you?” Linghu Chong uttered.
The old man did not answer and simply pushed the wooden tray through the square-shaped opening. He obviously could not hear Linghu Chong’s words. Even if he could, he had no way of answering.
Linghu Chong was terrified. Even after the old man had long left, he couldn’t bring himself to eat. The terrifying image of the old man’s remaining portion of his tongue flashed again and again in front of his eyes.
“Those Four Skunks of Jiangnan are too evil,” he murmured to himself as hatred quickly filled his heart. “Unless I am locked up here for life, if one day Linghu Chong can escape from this dungeon, I swear that I’ll find the four skunks and one by one, I’ll cut off their tongues, drill their ears, and prick their eyes….”
Suddenly he thought of something from deep within his memories. “Could it have been them…them…?” He remembered that night how he blinded the fifteen masked men’s eyes outside of the monastery, but as to the origin of those people, he never found out. “Could it be that they locked me up in this dungeon cell to take vengeance for their suffering?” At that thought, he heaved a long sigh, and much of the grudge and hatred built up in the past many days evaporated instantly. “I blinded those fifteen men’s eyes. It’s only natural that they want their revenge,” he thought aloud.
Once his anger eased off, each day seemed to be a bit easier to get by. There was no difference between days and nights in the underground prison; Linghu Chong completely lost track of days and could only tell that each day was hotter than the previous day. He figured that it must have been mid-summer already. There was not even a whiff of wind in the small dungeon cell. The humid heat just got worse and worse everyday. Then the day came when the heat became simply unbearable. With steel chains shackled around his wrists and ankles, he could not take off his clothes completely. Having no other alternatives, he could only pull his shirt upward and pushed his pants downward as much as he could. After rolling the ragged mat on the bed and placing it to a corner of the bed, he lay down on the steel plate half naked. Immediately, he felt cool and refreshing and his perspiration also improved dramatically. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep. A few hours went by quickly. In the daze, when he felt the part of steel plate under his body had been heated up by him, he moved his body inward to find a cooler spot. Pressing his left palm on the steel plate, he vaguely felt some kind of lines of patterns carved onto the steel plate, but in the heavy drowsiness, he paid no attention to it and soon was sound asleep.
This nap was so comfortable; when Linghu Chong woke up, he felt completely refreshed. Not long after, the old man came as usual, delivering food to him. Linghu Chong had great sympathy for the old man, and every time when the old man pushed the wooden tray in through the square-shaped opening, he would always squeeze the old man’s finger gently or pat a few times on the old man’s hand to show his compassion. This time was no exception. After he took the wooden tray and was just about to retract his arms, all of a sudden, under the dim light, he spotted three words imprinted on the back of his left hand. It clearly said, “Woxing gets stranded.”
Linghu Chong was dumbfounded, having no clue where these words had come from. After a short contemplation, he hurriedly placed the wooden tray on the floor and reached out to feel the steel plate on the bed. Turned out the steel plate was covered with carved words, so thickly dotted, he couldn’t even tell how many there were. Linghu Chong understood at once. The words were carved onto the steel plate before he even came, but because the steel plate had always been covered by the mat, he was never aware of it, until yesterday when he slept half-naked directly on top of the steel plate. That was how the words got imprinted on the back of his hand. Extending his hand to his backside he felt his back and his behind, and he was unable to stifle a laugh. There were words marked on his skin everywhere he felt. Each character was about the size of a copper coin. The strokes were very deep, but the handwriting was hasty and careless.
By then the old man who delivered the food had been long gone and the dungeon cell was once again engulfed in complete darkness. Linghu Chong’s curiosity overpowered his hunger. After taking a few quick drinks from the earthen jar, he began feeling the words carved on the steel plate slowly from the very beginning, one character at a time, and read them out in a soft voice:
“I have been straightforward and willful all my life, killing people like flies. Imprisonment underneath the lake probably is the retribution I deserve. Only that when the old fellow Ren Woxing gets stranded…” At this character, Linghu Chong thought, “So the words ‘Woxing gets stranded’ came from this sentence.” He went on feeling the characters and the words continued, “…here, his extraordinary divine art that exceeds lofty will inevitably perish together with the old fellow’s skeleton, and people in the aftertime would not have known his exceptional and magical power. What a great pity that would be!”
Linghu Chong paused and raised his head. “Old fellow Ren Woxing![1] Old fellow Ren Woxing!” he pondered. “Then the man who carved these words of course is named Ren Woxing. So this man’s last name is Ren as well. I wonder if he is related to the Revered Mr. Ren in anyway.” But then he thought better of it, “This underground prison probably was built a long time ago, and the man who carved these words probably passed away decades or even centuries ago.”
He went on feeling the characters and the carvings read, “That’s why I am writing down the succinct principles and secrets of my divine art, so people from the aftertime can practice the divine art and gain the ability to freely roam the world, then although the old man’s flesh will parish, his name will become immortal. Number one, Sitting Meditation….” Then what followed were various breathing exercises and meditation techniques.
Ever since Linghu Chong learned the “Dugu Nine Swords,” he was only fond of sword art in the many types of Martial Arts, and since he had lost all his inner strength, when he recognized the words “Sitting Meditation,” his heart was filled with disappointment. He hoped that somewhere within the remaining words from which he would be able to find a form of exceptional sword art and he might as well learn this sword art as self-entertainment inside the dark dungeon cell. The hope of escape had become more and more distant and indistinct. If he didn’t find something to occupy himself, life in prison could be very difficult. But the words afterwards were always terms for inner strength cultivation such as “breathing,” “concentrate the spirit in the lower abdomen,” “redirecting the strength to Jin-Jing,” “Ren Channel” and the like. He followed the characters all the way to the end of the steel plate and still couldn’t find even one character resembling the character “sword.”
Linghu Chong found himself utterly frustrated. “What extraordinary divine art that exceeds the lofty? This man has played a good joke on me! It could have been any other type of Martial Arts; why did it have to be an art of inner strength cultivation, the only one I cannot practice? As soon as I try to gather my inner strength, the energy streams inside my chest and abdomen would roll over and over, clashing with each other. I’d be asking for trouble myself if practice inner strength cultivation.” He heaved a heavy sigh and picked up the rice bowl to eat, thinking to himself, “What kind of person is this Ren Woxing? He was certainly very arrogant, talking about exceeding lofty and roaming the world, as though he had no match in the entire world. This dungeon turned out to be used specifically to imprison superior Kung Fu Masters.”
When he first discovered the words carved on the steel plate, his excitement soared high, but by now he had the least interest left in him, thinking, “Heaven can really play tricks on mortals. I probably wouldn’t feel so down if I never found these words.” Then he thought, “If that Ren Woxing was as capable as how he boasted himself, why he was still stranded here and couldn’t get away? Evidently this underground prison is simply too durable and secure to break out. Regardless of how capable the captive is, once he is locked in, all he could do is to slowly and painfully wait for his end to come.” Having come to a conclusion, he paid no more attention to the words on the steel plate.
The city of Hangzhou almost turned into a steam box in the hot summer time. The dungeon was located deep underneath the lake. Without getting the heat from the direct sunshine, it should have been much cooler, but firstly, the dungeon had no ventilation, and secondly, it had always been overly humid, it turned out a different type of misery for its occupant. Everyday Linghu Chong would strip off as much clothing as he could and sleep on the steel plate half-naked. Whenever he moved his hand, he would feel the carved characters on the steel plate. As days went by, he had memorized many of the words and sentences unconsciously. One day when he was wondering where his Master, Master-Wife and Little Apprentice Sister might be and whether they had returned to Mount Huashan, he suddenly heard the sound of footsteps coming toward him. This time, the sound was quick and light, completely different from the sound made by the food-delivering old man. After spending many days locked inside, he had not been as anxiously looking forward to a rescuer, so when he suddenly heard the sound of a different set of footsteps, the feeling of surprise and joy instantly welled up his heart. He wanted to leap to his foot, but the ecstasy was so strong and overwhelming, he suddenly lost all his strength and could only lie still on the bed, not able to move a single muscle. The sound of footsteps quickly approached the iron-door.
A voice came from outside the iron-door, “Mr. Ren, it has been very hot in the last coupon of days. May I ask if you still enjoy your good health?”
As soon as Linghu Chong heard the voice, he recognized it instantly. It was the voice of Mr. Black-White. If he had come to his cell one month before, Linghu Chong would have shouted all kinds of invective at him with no scruples. However, after many days of imprisonment, his anger had mollified a great deal and he was able to think calmly.
“Why did he call me Mr. Ren? Has he come to the wrong cell?” he thought to himself and decided to remain silent and listen on.
“Every two months, I come and ask the revered mister the same question. Today is the first day of July, so please allow me to ask once again: Will the revered mister grant my request?” Mr. Black-White continued, his tone respectful and cautious.
Linghu Chong laughed inwardly. “He got the prison cells all mixed up and must have thought I am the Revered Mr. Ren. How careless!” But immediately after, he felt a chill in his heart. “Mr. Black-White obviously is the most meticulous one among the four Masters of the Plum Manor. It might be possible for Mr. Bald-Brush or Mr. Paint to mix up the prison cells, but how could Mr. Black-White actually make such a mistake? There must be a reason behind this.” With that in mind, he kept his silence.

[1] Ren Woxing means “go anywhere I wish” in Chinese.

If you can dream it, you can do it. I dreamed that I won the lottery in my nap...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Happy Heroes: Chapter 1 (2)

Mowed my lawn today which took me 3 hours! Phew! Anyway, enjoy today's chunk of translation:

It was spring at that time. As the old sayings say, “The whole year’s work depends on a good start in spring.” Spring is a season good for many things and is also the best season for the escorting business.

The best season for the escorting business is also the best season for robbers and bandits.

Luo Zhenyi, the Chief Escort of the “Central Region Escort House”, an experienced escort despite his young age, naturally understood this very well. Therefore, he was extra careful on his escort trip. Besides, it was in the spring season and the goods he was escorting were especially valuable.

Yet, being careful alone is not enough to guarantee a successful escort trip. Also needed are fine Kung Fu skills and good luck.

Luo Zhenyi’s Kung Fu skills were not bad; nevertheless, his luck this time was no good. Of all the bandits he could have run into, he had to run into the most notorious and vicious gangster of the entire region, Brotherhood of Ouyang.

Brotherhood of Ouyang was not a gang with two, three, or more members. Brotherhood of Ouyang is the name of a single person.

Although he was only a single person, he was more difficult to fend off than a gang of forty. Wielding a short dagger in his left hand, a long knife in his right, he could still launch seven or eight types of projectiles at the same time. No one could tell where those missiles and darts were launched from.

Luo Zhenyi couldn’t, either. He had barely dodged away from three “Brocade-Back Crossbow Arrows” and a batch of “Shooting-Star Throwing Arrows”, when Brotherhood of Ouyang turned the back of his knife and shot out a pair of “Icy needles.”

These deadly needles came out from places where no one could have guessed and landed on Luo Zhenyi’s right shoulder squarely. Although these needles didn’t kill him right away, all he could do was to wait for Brotherhood of Ouyang to finish him off.

Even if Brotherhood of Ouyang didn’t kill him, once he lost the escorted goods, he would have no choice but to finish himself off, whether to hang himself or drown in the river or slit his own throat.

Right at that moment, all of a sudden, there came a galloping horse from afar. The horse was a fast horse, but the rider was even faster. Before the horse had approached, the rider had already arrived. Brotherhood of Ouyang only saw a figure falling out of the sky. He didn’t even have a chance to shoot out any one of his eight kinds of projectiles, when both of his wrists had been slashed by a sword.

The savior falling out of the sky was, of course, none other than Guo Dalu.

Luo Zhenyi not only was grateful to this savior, but also felt great admiration for him, so much that he almost groveled before him. After escorting the goods to the final destination, he firmly insisted on inviting the savior to visit the Escort House.

Naturally, Guo Dalu went. He didn’t have anything else to do anyway.

Even if he had other things, he would have gone anyway.

This was the first time he ever fought someone for real. He suddenly realized that he had not only fine Kung Fu skills, but also fine personalities.

That made Luo Zhenyi wonder, so he asked, “Brother Guo has such excellent Kung Fu skills! Why aren’t you an escort?”

Guo Dalu didn’t even ask, “Why people with good Kung Fu skills must become escorts?” He simply thought that being an escort would make him look quite awe-inspiring and sounded like a fun idea.

For a man who just barely left home to become the Deputy Chief Escort, it was awe-inspiring and impressive, indeed!

Guo Dalu had only one regret: The ‘Central Region Escort House’ was not the largest escort house in the Central Region. It couldn’t even be considered a first-class escort house.

The first business only came after he had waited for several days, and it wasn’t even a significant one. All they were asked to do was to escort a few thousand taels from Kaifeng to Luoyang[1].

The trip is short and the goods are unimportant. Besides, the Deputy Chief Escort would be going. Naturally, the Chief Escort had no worries, and felt very comfortable to stay at his comfortable home for a recovery.

It was still in the season of spring. In the morning, the escort wagons left right on time.

[1] Both Kaifeng and Luoyang are cities in the Henan Province in China.

One cannot reason with a pregnant woman!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Random Thoughts: Lanny-5, Your Personal Robot

This is something I wrote a while back as an assignment for a machine learning class. Enjoy!

Old Ben sat at the breakfast table, feeling grumpy. It had started raining since last night and his joints were hurting badly again. It was a quiet morning just as it had always been, with no one he could talk to, except Lanny-5, an assistive robot his son had insisted on giving him on his 70th birthday last month because he had insisted on keeping the house and living in it alone. Out of boredom, he cast a side glance at the robot. It just stood there stupidly as though it was deep in thought.

[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Initialize neural network … retrieve date, time, weather, temperature, humidity, past action history … evaluate training set, test set, validation set … train … probability of arthritis pain at 87% … determine action …

“Would you like me to get you some painkillers?” Lanny-5 turned his head toward Old Ben and asked, an artificial smile blooming on his metal face.

That’s interesting! This is the first time it offered that without me asking, Old Ben thought. “Will you?” he confirmed.

“My pleasure!” Lanny-5 replied joyfully and proceeded to retrieve the medicine.

Old Ben watched as the robot swiftly navigated toward the medicine cabinet, pulled the drawer open, and retrieved some Tylenol. As forgetful as he was, he could still clearly remember the day when it first arrived. The technician showed it around the house, and among many things, also taught it hand-by-hand how to get the right medicines from the cabinet. It was called something like “learning by demonstration” as explained by the technician, a term he vaguely remembered and could care less for.

Swallowing the pills down improved Old Ben’s feelings somewhat, but he didn’t show that on his face, just as usual.

[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Initialize facial expression recognition … train … identify expression using Bayes Net … probability of grumpiness at 95% … determine action …

“Would you like to hear a joke?” Lanny-5 said, an artificial tone of excitement present.

“Why not!” Old Ben gave up.

[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Initialize wireless connection to Internet … download jokes … initialize Decision Tree to select … train on training set accumulated … when the word Bush is present, remove joke from collection due to bad past experience) … alert: all jokes removed … repeat from downloading step … appropriate joke identified …

“John walked into a bar. ‘Ouch!’”, Lanny-5 said, using a random funny tone selected from his database.

“Why don’t you give me the news headlines?” Old Ben suggested, clearly not appreciating the sense of humor from the robot.

“Certainly!” replied the robot.

[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Skip news headlines from from reinforcement learning penalties (flying beer cans) … download headlines from … filter out all headlines with the word “Iraq” from reinforcement learning penalties (flying beer cans) … select headlines …

“ headline news: Biggest single jackpot winner remains mysterious. Woman run over trying to rescue dog,” Lanny-5 went on reading.

Hearing nothing interesting, Old Ben had had enough with the robot. “I am going to read a book now. Get me an apple and then leave me alone,” he commanded.

“Of course!” Lanny-5 replied, and then proceeded to retrieve the apple.

[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Retrieve apple images from Google Image … extract features of an apple … learn possible locations for apple retrieval … calculate probability of possible locations user really meant … delete grocery store, apple tree, Circuit City, etc. from list … most probably locations identified: refrigerator with 34% probability and kitchen counter with 62% probability … construct a probability distribution map of apple locations … extract features of the map … train using past map dataset … classify most efficient algorithm for path planning … plan path … turn gimbaled camera following plan … navigate following plan … apple identified with probability at 92% … initialize retrieve routine …


Three hours later, Old Ben threw the book onto the couch and yawned.

“Did anyone call me while I was reading?” he asked.

“You had one legit incoming call from your son, Steve, and three sales calls, which I’ve taken the liberty to remove. Would you like me to play the message for you?” Lanny-5 said delightedly.


Immediately, the excited voice of his son echoed in the room.

“Hi Dad, remember the book you haven’t been able to find? Turned out Emma took it and hid it under the mattress of her toddler bed. Guess what I found in the book??!! Oh my god! You wouldn’t believe this! The lottery ticket you used as a bookmark is the winning ticket for the Jackpot! You’ve won 400 million dollars!! Dad!! You are the mysterious winner everyone has been talking about! This is crazy…”

Old Ben felt a sudden difficulty to breath and sharp pain shot out of his heart. Slowly, his body leaned backward until it rested on the back of the couch. He tried to scream, but nothing came out of his mouth. He wanted to raise his arms so he could grab onto something, anything, but they only became heavier and heavier. Three minutes later, all become still and his body turned rigid with a blank stare in his still-open eyes.

[Meanwhile, inside Lanny-5’s head:] Initialize facial expression recognition … train … identify expression using Bayes Net … probability of grumpiness at 81% … determine action …

“Would you like to hear a joke?” Lanny-5 said in the same artificial tone of excitement as before, a big artificial smile blooming on his metal face…

Never be afraid to ask stupid questions!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Happy Heroes: Chapter 1 (1)

A few words first: Survived the class in Spring!! And started teaching a class today for Summer. Since today is Monday and is the first day of the Summer term, it is a good day to start blogging regularly. I'll try to post daily starting from today. And here below is a chunk of translation:
Guo Dalu’s name fits him well. “Dalu”, in the mother tongue, is normally used to describe someone somewhat bighearted, yet reckless and careless, even muddle-headed some times, who doesn’t really care much about anything. And Guo Dalu is indeed a very “Dalu” person.
Wang Dong, where Dong means move in the mother tongue, however, doesn’t like to move.
“Dalu” people are usually very poor. Guo Dalu is especially poor, so exceptionally poor that he is completely off the chart.
In fact, he shouldn’t have been so poor at all.
In fact, he could even be considered a very wealthy man to begin with. When a wealthy man suddenly becomes dirt poor, there are only two possible explanations: 1) he must be dumb; 2) he must be lazy.
But Guo Dalu is not dumb. He knows more skills than most people and is better at them than most people. For example –
Horse-riding. He can ride the fastest horse and tame the most violent-tempered horse.
Fencing. His thrust can pierce a knight’s suit of armor; it can also pierce the willow catkin dancing in the spring breeze.
If you are a friend of his, and when he happens to be in a very good mood, he might dive into the Yellow River and catch a few carps with bare hands before leaping out from the water to snatch a couple of wild geese, so he could cook you some steamed fish and roasted goose, and watch you gulfing down the delicious dish. You won’t be disappointed once you taste them, since his cooking skill is no less than any famed cook in the entire capital city.
He can sing poet Su Shi’s “East Going Yangtze River” with iron pad and copper pi-pa[1]. He can also play a bandore and sing poet Liu Yong’s “Willow shore, morning breeze and lingering moon.”[2] Hearing him singing, you would probably have thought he had been singing for a living all his life.
Someone even believes that he knows how to do everything except giving birth.
He is not lazy, either. Actually, he is always looking for things to do and have done all kinds of work. How can a man like this be poor?
The first job he had was an escort.
At that time, he just finished vigil beside his parents’ grave, and had just got rid of the family land, sold some and gave away some. He wanted to adventure the world with his various skills.
Of course, he is not a very capable businessman and is not interested to become one, either. Hence, the farmland worth three hundred taels[3] per acre only sold for one hundred and seventy. Then after he gave a bunch of taels away to poor relatives and friends, there was not much left.
However, there were still enough taels left to buy him a fast horse, to make a sharp sword, to order a few suits of handsome robes, to live in the best hotel, and to enjoy the best restaurant.

[1] Iron pad and copper pi-pa are two ancient Chinese instruments that are commonly used to play resounding and heroic songs. “East Going Yangtze River” is a famous poem by poet Su Shi of the Song Dynasty. It was used as the lyric for a song with the same name, and the style of the song is courageous and heroic.
[2]Willow shore, morning breeze and lingering moon” is a famous poem by poet Liu Yong of the Song Dynasty. It was also used as the lyric for a song with the same name, and the style of the song is slow and gentle.
[3] Tael is a unit of weight (about 32.5 grams). It was popular as the unit for silver currency in ancient China.

"With great power comes great responsibility -- Spiderman"
"With a big yard comes lots of yardwork -- Lanny"

Picture of the Day:

Given that wife is happy and professor is happy, what it the probability of an ugly lawn?

European Cup (Started on 6/7/08)

Wife Out of Town (leaving Lanny home alone with the kid)



E W | P(b|E, W)
T T | 0.999
T F | 0.61
F T | 0.95
F F | 0.5

Ugly Lawn
L B S | P(u|L,B,S)
T T T | 0.999
T T F | 0.5
T F T | 0.88
T F F | 0.3
F T T | 0.92
F T F | 0.45
F F T | 0.85
F F F | 0.05

MCMC Lab Late
L B S | P(m|L,B,S)
T T T | 0.9
T T F | 0.71
T F T | 0.76
T F F | 0.01
F T T | 0.89
F T F | 0.7
F F T | 0.75
F F F | 0.02

Wife Happy
U | P(w|U)
T | 0.01
F | 0.4

Prof. Happy
M | P(p|M)
T | 0.75
F | 0.90

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Finally, The Beginning

Hello there, and welcome to my blog. I had wanted to start this blog a year and a half ago, hence the title. And for all those who I have told about my intention to start the blog, here it is, finally!!

As described in the title above, Lannyland is a land of imagination. I strongly believe that one cannot live without imagination. Children are always blessed with the gift of imagination. As we grow older, we tend to get bogged down by choirs, daily routines and fixed schedules, and forget that we still are capable of imagination. I sure hope reading my blog provides inspiration for you to use your imagination again, which leads to creativity and passion. In this blog, I will share with you things I am VERY passionate about, things that always inspire my imagination and creativity. Maybe after reading my posts, you will become passionate about them too! Then maybe I've contributed to making the world a better place!

So what kind of things am I passionate about? I have to admit that I have many hobbies and am passionate about many things. However, in this blog, I will focus on two subjects: AI Robotics, and Wuxia (武侠) novels.

Ever since I was little, I've always being a great fan of science fiction novels. Specifically, I have always been fascinated by the many varieties of robots. That passion grew throughout the years as technology advances rapidly. Eventually the passion grew so strong that I quited my job and went back to school. I am currently a PhD candidate student at BYU (under Dr. Goodrich) researching Artificial Intelligence in Robotics. In this blog you can read about many cool robots that have been developed, great ideas people are working on, and ideas I have relating to my research. I'd love to read about your opinions and bright ideas, so don't be shy in commenting! One thing I can promise is that it won't be boring. Come on, how could robots be boring? :)

I have read many books in the past. However, one book clearly stands out as my all-time favorite book, ever. In fact, I enjoyed this book so much that after reading it over 20 times, I simply had to own it. It is called "Smiling Proud Wanderer" (aka "State of Divinity", and "笑傲江湖" in Chinese) and is
a Martial Arts fiction novel written by the great Hong Kong author, Mr. Louis Cha (aka "Jin Yong", and "金庸" in Chinese). This is one famous book in China (also Southeast Asia). Many movies (including one featuring Jet Li) and TV series have been made based on the story. If you have any Chinese friends, ask them about this book. Chances are that they have read it and watched it on TV or in a theater, and immensely enjoyed it. The book falls under the genre called "武侠" (meaning Martial Heroes). Books in this genre are like fairy tales for adults and normally tell stories about Martial Heroes who are great martial artists who uphold justice with their amazing Kung Fu skills.

I guess one main reason why I liked the book so much is because I see myself reflected in the main character of the story. Of course the great story and the great writing skills of the author also had great impacts. I liked the book so much that I wanted to share it with all the non-Chinese speaking people in the world. That's how the translation project started. During the project, I met many friends from all over the world (Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, to name a few) who also enjoyed the story immensely and had a great time reading it. I got as far as half way through (20 chapters and over 1000 pages). However, life got busier, and the project was put on hold. Ever since then, I have received hundreds of emails from fans inquiring about the status of the translation project, but I have kept many of the waiting. Sorry! One reader suggested that I translate just a little bit everyday to keep the momentum going. I think it is a good idea. That is also the reason why I am doing this blog. I hope that by posting smaller chunks of the translation, I will continue on with the project and eventually finish it. For all those people out there who got hung up with the story, I sincerely apologize. The good news is: I am back working on the project again! For all those of you who have not heard about this book, trust me, you will enjoy reading it! So here is how it works: I will post small sections in this blog once in a few days. By the time I have a good chunk translated, I'll still post it at the translation web site where you can find all finished chapters.

I also would like to post translations of two other "武侠" novels by great Mr. Gu Long. They are: "Happy Heroes" (欢乐英雄) and "Full Moon Crescent Saber" (圆月弯刀). I hope you'd enjoy them too.

Occasionally, I will share my random thoughts on things too. Once I took an online IQ test out of boredom, and the result indicated that I should really be a "Visionary Philosopher". So if I sometimes get too philosophical, don't be surprised.

It is 3:45 am right now, but I would still consider it Monday! Good night! (And shout out for Boyce!)

The hardest part to make dream come true is to gather enough courage and actually start doing it. I quit my job and went to Grad School; I finally started this blog. What do you want to do?

Picture of the Day:

To mow or not to mow, that is the question!

Have not had the time or energy to mow my lawn. (Compare mine to neighbor's lawn in the background!) They are actually seeding now. And what's shown here is only 1/20 of the workload.... This picture was actually taken on June 4. It is even worse by now.