Danger Traveling Will Robinsons!

Just when you thought you had your vacation plans set, Carnegie-Mellon University (motto: "Sweeter than honeydew and twice as hard") throws a wrench in the works. Literally. They're also throwing in some wires, solenoids, and tin heads that swivel. That's because they've just established the Robot Hall of Fame, and you know they're serious about it because they put a ™ next to the phrase in their press release.

The hall of fame will be on the school's campus in Pittsburgh, but before they build the exhibits they need some inductees. You know, like Will Robinson's sidekick on "Lost in Space," R2D2, and Aibo, Sony's robot dog. Anyone can nominate a robot -- hey, I just did, so can you! -- but you have to do it by August 31st. Then a panel of judges, which believe it or not includes the founder of the International Robocup Federation, a group dedicated to -- I kid you not -- creating soccer-playing robots which they hope will beat the human world-champion soccer team by the year 2050, will go through the entries, mark the misspellings with a red pencil, and return them with appropriately low scores. Hey, isn't that what college is all about?

The finalists that make it through the cut will appear on NBC's "Who Wants to Marry a Pile of Wires"? and you, the home viewer, will be able to call up and vote for the winner. Just kidding. Actually they'll be boring and make a decision and announce it, which is a shame since if they had any sense of fun and competition they'd pit them against each other on "Robot Wars" or "BattleBots." The only problem is both real and fictional robots are eligible to be nominated, so if they're going to do battle they'd need to put them on MTV's "Celebrity Robots Deathmatch," with the winner getting the place of honor.

It's surprising there isn't a Robot Hall of Fame already. After all, there's one for just about anything else you can think of. There are the popular ones like the Baseball Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and The National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. There's one for just about every sport, from swimming to basketball to volleyball to, yes, badminton. Music has its share of halls of fame, including ones for country music, gospel music, polkas, songwriters, and even the ukulele. That's right, if you're passing through Cranston, RI be sure to stop at the Ukulele Hall of Fame. And in case you're wondering, yes it's the same one that used to be in Duxbury, MA. Come on, you didn't think there were really two of them, did you?

Some of the lesser known ones include the Snowmobile Hall of Fame, the Plastics Hall of Fame, and the National Agriculture Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, KS, which honors innovators like Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin, and Enos Perry, who single handedly boosted the sale of turkey basters when he figured out how to artificially inseminate cows. One not to be missed is the Cockroach Hall of Fame in Plano, TX. Where else will you find displays of real (though dead) cockroaches which have been dressed up in costumes, including one created by an 85 year-old woman from Fort Worth who decked hers out in a white mink cape and has it sitting in front of a tiny piano? Of course she named him Liberoachi. Who wouldn't? There's also The Bates Roach Motel, Late Night with David Letteroach, and a spike-heeled, blonde-wigged Marilyn Monroach.

You have to take advantage of halls of fame when you come across them. A few years ago I was driving through Canada -- okay, I was lost -- and I passed the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame in Elliot Lake, Ontario. I didn't stop because I was in a rush to get to Sudbury so I could see the World's Largest Nickel. Hey, roadside attraction triage isn't a pretty thing. Luckily I didn't have that problem when I was in the neighborhood of the Exotic World/Burlesque Hall of Fame, which isn't in Canada but rather in Helendale, CA. True, it's hard to actually be in that neighborhood unless you've made a wrong turn, but I was nearby at the Roy Rogers Museum which was only 16 miles away. At least it was until they moved it to Branson, MO.

Halls of fame are, by definition, narrow in scope. And often narrow in interest. Though if you like the Family Camping Hall of Fame you'll probably enjoy the RV Hall of Fame. And most likely like stopping at the proposed National Cap Hall of Fame in Jackson, TN, though I might have that one backwards. But who wouldn't be intrigued by the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame in Chattanooga which honors the men and women who drive tow trucks?

Sometimes we have to decide which is the real hall of fame. Take burgers, for instance. There's the Hamburger Hall of Fame in Seymour, WI. as well as the International Hamburger Hall of Fame in Daytona Beach, FL. And I'm not even including the Hamburger Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY because it doesn't have any hamburger memorabilia on display, they're just cashing in on their proximity to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hopefully no one will try to compete with the Robot Hall of Fame. If they're smart they'll start something completely different, like maybe the Dryer Lint Sculptor Hall of Fame. Or the Turn Signal User Hall of Fame, which would be very small. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to be the one to go head-to-head with a hall of fame that could include The Terminator, Robocop, and Teddy Ruxpin. Though I would like to check it out. Unless, of course, it meant passing up the chance to see Cecil, Andy Warhol's stuffed Great Dane, at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. There's that roadside attraction triage problem again.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: md@maddogproductions.com

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