this day that had begun like any other, with a simple and traditional ontology of states and events, was turning in to quite a circus.
luddie in tow, i’d met simon at the eagle. luddie insisted on calling it “the watson and crick pub” and on speaking very loudly despite that we were the lone patrons of a small, quiet, space. after a few pints, he began calling it “the dna pub” and interspersed this pithy observation with the phrase “wattle and daub,” of which he was evidently fond.
simon and i talked around him until, about ninety minutes later, the others arrived. by then it was clear luddie had won and i would not only have to go back to work, but would physically have to assist my captor in taking me in.
“it’s a thing better done sooner, rather than later,” i remember saying as i excused myself from the table, pulling luddie to his feet after me. jump cut and i’m here at this screen, in a windowless room, listening to and looking at this waveform, hour upon hour, a three second loop.
“Is it English,” the smiley guy from the company poked his head in the door walking by.
“we don’t even know if it’s language, sir, but we’ll keep you posted,” answers luddie.
please go away i think as pleasantly as i can.
the work is tedious and painstaking. searching for patterns blind in a gobi desert of data sand. what is the granular structure of the message? is it lexical, graphical, musical, numeric?
“about the only thing we do know,” i joked, “is that it ain’t chemical.” i was thinking of the Bain’s Chemical Telegraph exhibit i’d seen last week at the london museum of science. but no one else knew that and no one else laughed. i laughed for them, thinking it’s always good to know you’ve ruled out something. little by little at first, then all at once, that’s how mysteries are revealed, don’t you know.
there it was, the wisconsin influence, “doncha know,” noticing it made me laugh again and this time, eric shot me a look and narrowed his eyes purposefully.
“what’s so funny?”
“this is,” i answer quietly as i launch in to the story of how i’d unwittingly lost a whole day last week on one floor of the science museum. telegraphy, telephony, computing, it was all there on parade. my friend and i spent the day making up and trying to break each other’s codes, using everything from cell phone text messaging to cafeteria forks.
“i never thought i’d have more fun with signal and character encoding than that,” i finished.
“you talk too much.”
“you asked and this is what i find funny. more fun with character encoding you can not have,” i got up to get myself a cup of tea as i spoke and that was my mistake.
in the logical space where event is defined as a change of state or location, i ought to have finished my statement, then moved. by moving as i spoke i’d made my statement an event. i talked too much. i moved too much. but at least i lived my own generative grammar, thank you. in state and event schemas where extra semantic detail is forced back into the verb, where it belongs.