April 9th, 2006

ozarque figure

Personal note....

I'm way behind in answering your comments, and wanted to explain briefly why that is. The comments are very much appreciated, and they're not being ignored, just stashed in a file where I can get to them as quickly as possible -- especially the ones that require lengthy responses.

It's because I'm up to my eyebrows in mother/grandmother duty right now -- batches of birthdays and graduations all over the place, all at once -- plus three newsletters for May/June to be written and sent out, plus getting ready for WisCon, plus a lot of urgent correspondence to be dealt with, plus [vamp till ready]. I have to be away much of today, and most of Easter Sunday as well, and will be away about ten days for WisCon, which won't speed things up.

Thanks for your patience.
ozarque figure

Linguistics; touch language; small sampler of quotes...

Some of my favorite quotes about touch, or quotes in touch language, or both....

1. "I was a terrible student. I couldn't take that stuff off the page and get it into my head."

[Tom Watson of IBM, quoted in "Adventures (and Misadventures) of Watson Fellows," by Ted Gup, pp. 68-80, Smithsonian Magazine, September 1994; on page 78. My favorite description of learning difficulties as they are perceived by touch dominant students.]

2. "With my index finger dripping brake fluid... I delicately assess the bore of a brake cylinder. I am feeling for pits in the metal that could render it unfit for further service... I am alone with my customer's life in the narrow span of my greasy palm."

[Don Sharp, "Aristotle's Garage: A Mechanic's Metaphysics," Harper's, March 1982, pp. 91-93; on pp. 91-92. If you can find this article, I recommend it wholeheartedly; touch language from beginning to end.]

3. "At last he takes her hand, raising it in both of his own. Now he bends over the bed in a kind of crouching stance... His eyes are closed as he feels for her pulse. In a moment he has found the spot, and for the next half hour he remains thus ... holding the pulse of the woman beneath his fingers, cradling her hand in his."

[Richard Selzer, "The Art of Surgery: Trespassing on Sacred Ground," Harper's, January 1976, pp. 75-78; on page 78. He's writing about his observation of the Dalai Lama's personal physician taking a pulse. It's worth noting that Chinese patients often talk about visits to the doctor as "going to have my pulse felt"; in the U.S. we go "see" the doctor and are told, "The doctor will see you now."]

4. "When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner's pick, a woodcarver's gouge, a surgeon's probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow."

[Annie Dillard, on page 3 of The Writing Life, Harper & Row 1989.]

5. "Up to your shoulder inside a cow, you feel the hot heavy squeeze of her, but I'll never forget my startled delight the first time I withdrew my hand slowly and felt the cow's muscles contract and release me one after another, like a row of people shaking hands with me in a receiving line. I wonder if this is how it feels to be born."

[Diane Ackerman, on page 81 of A Natural History of the Senses, Random House 1990.]

6. "From the alarm clock a spherical shock wave traveling at Mach 1 starts growing outward, spreading and spreading till it hits the wall. Some of the energy it carries causes the curtains over the window to heat up from the friction of the onslaught; much of the rest rebounds back, enters the ears of two sleepers, and finally rouses them awake. There's a rolling of eyes and a stirring of head.... "

[David Bodanis, on page 11 of The Secret House, Simon & Schuster 1986.]

7. "We must ask, 'Why isn't the material reaching the student?' rather than 'Why isn't the student grasping the material'?"

[Barbara Meister Vitale, on page vii of Unicorns Are Real, Jalmar Press 1982.]