In our garage Tiger unbuckles the seatbelt and opens the door herself, but moves extremely cautiously to get out of the car. I put my hand atop her head to protect it from a bump; this is what she was looking for. Now she confidently stands up, closes the car, and walks right up to our door. What can she see and what not? We're going to find out. I unlock the door and signal her to precede me, so I can catch her if she trips on the step. Do I smell something baking?
Me: Kittens, I have a surprise! Don't all yell at once, please!
Of course they all do. They crowd around and hug Tiger, two on each leg, while Emerald makes a vertical beeline for the long-lost pocket. I ensure that he overshoots his mark and signal Tiger to hug him at chest level. I put my hand over her pocket as, I hope, a signal that he's no longer a pocket kitten. Mariposa waits her turn politely.
Me: Now remember, Tiger needs some peace and quiet to recover. Let's get disentangled now and let Tiger sit down, and then each of you can get a good hug. Emerald is getting his now, then Diamond and so on. Come on, break it up, people. When she's sitting, line up, and you can climb up on her right leg, but stay off her left leg, which is the one that was broken. OK?
Reluctantly they let go, and I guide Tiger to a chair. She could see the door; why not the chair? I use my wiles to extract Emerald, and Diamond gets his hug, then Claude, Bear and Attila, and finally (kneeling, not sitting) Mariposa. Tiger smells each person to identify him or her; evidently she can't do it by sight.
Claude: Tiger, Tiger, I was afraid you were never coming home!
Me: Sorry, Claude, she can't hear your words and she can't talk. It's going to be hard to communicate with Tiger.
Mariposa: If we want to call Tiger or ask her something, what do we do?
Me: You've seen how I stroke her and signal movements. And Tiger tries hard to understand, and she's not dumb even if she can't talk. It's going to be hard, but we're going to succeed.
Attila: Do you think she'd like a cookie? We made some this morning. What do I do?
Me: Bring her one and offer it. If she can't see it, put it in her hand. I'm not sure what she can see and what she can't see.
When being offered the cookie Tiger tries to focus on Attila rather than the food, but once Attila puts it in her hand she eats it and gives Attila a nice hug. But then she stands up and indicates her crotch: toilet time. She walks to me and takes my hand, then goes directly to the stairs. Clutching the rail she starts up cautiously, but her confidence grows with every step. On the balcony she clearly is counting doors: this is a significant datum, that she can count, and she gets the right one, to the bathroom. She looks at the commode from various angles, feels whether the seat is up or down, and raises it. I nudge her a little closer to the bowl. She presses buttons one and two, and lets fly, getting it all in the pot. Success! Attila and Bear, who have been watching, clap their hands, but Tiger doesn't respond.
I think Tiger is using infrared imagery to get around, and the things she can't see either are too small for the coarse resolution of our infrared sensors, or have poor contrast.
Next Tiger walks into our room and up to our bed. She feels around for the ladder, but thinks twice about climbing it. Instead she feels around on top and grabs a pillow, mine as it happens. She walks onto the exercise mat, drops the pillow, and fairly expertly lays down. She curls up on her right side, avoiding strain on the newly secured skull plate, and soon I can tell from her breathing that she's asleep. I shush Attila and Claude, who's snuck in front of Bear, and lead them out of the room.
About three o'clock I get a junk phone call. A guy named Caiden is unhappy that Tiger didn't attend some meeting. I'd assume it was a wrong number, except he asks for Tiger by name. He isn't very civil when I tell him Tiger is resting and can't be disturbed. No, I don't intend to convey to Tiger by hand signs his demand that she call him back immediately.
Before dinner, Tiger wakes up, edges down the stairs backwards (with my supervision), and gives Coyote a big hug, he having returned from school. Then she starts an odd behavior: she goes over to the kitchen counter, feels along it for the sink, and starts trying to climb into it, stretching her injured leg to get it in. Her position is pretty precarious and she lashes her tail as if to help keep her balance.
Coyote: What's she doing? Do you think we should stop her?
Me: It's neither polite nor safe to stop Tiger. You have to make her want to stop. I'm curious to find out what she's doing, but let's stand on either side of her in case she falls.
Mariposa and Attila have also noticed the strange behavior and are watching closely. No, she's not climbing into the sink, she's trying to wash her hand, and that's a two handed job, in which her foot can substitute. But she's paying equal or more attention to getting her foot clean, including the claws. Satisfied, she grips a dry paper towel with her toes that she just washed and walks on that to the refrigerator. She rummages in the vegetable bin and picks four zucchini squashes, which go into the sink. She holds each squash in her toes and rubs it all over with her hand, washing it. Then she puts the cutting board and a knife on the floor, on top of two paper towels, sits, and uses a similar technique to slice the squashes. Very ingenious! The pieces aren't as even as she used to be able to do, but they're acceptable, about at Attila's quality level. I give her a bowl to put the pieces in, help her up, and give her a really big hug. My Tiger intends not to just lay around and mope and be an invalid; she's going to be an active member of this family and she's starting that from the very beginning.
Tiger also cooks her squash, joined by some tomatoes sliced by Attila, and she does her part putting dishes in the dishwasher. It's very puzzling to understand what she can and can't see; she has to feel which slots are already occupied by dishes, but she seems to be able to put new dishes into the remaining slots with visual guidance alone. That can't be just infrared; an individual dish is much too small for us to make out. I hope someday we can ask her what she's seeing.
If we want to tell Tiger what to do, it's extremely difficult to communicate our desire to her, and we have to rely on her to take the initiative on most activities. Fortunately she's able to do that. After dinner she takes my hand and leads me upstairs to the shower. I ask Mariposa to lend Tiger a shower cap, to keep the water off her new incisions. Our shower is in the corner of the bathroom, not square as many people have, so there's a little more room, just enough for two people to fit, particularly if only three arms are involved. Washing Tiger, and being washed by her, is kind of fun as a socialization, besides being necessary since she can't reach quite a bit of fur with only one hand. Diamond and Claude come in at the end, and we both wash the two kittens.
Afterward Tiger hangs onto my hand, but is clearly trying to decide something. Then she marches into our room, me in tow. She hugs Diamond, shoos him out, and closes the door. Tiger doesn't bother with complicated and subtle communication; she lays on the mat, pulling me by the hand down beside her, hits her buttons one and three, and hits mine too. Our carefully developed virtual border is clearly out the window, or buried under the overturned truck, as is the concept of being a guest in innermost territory. She is a tiger! As best she can with hand signs and tail strokes and by pushing on my hips, she encourages me to run with her, and though not used to that kind of abandon, I do my best to keep up. Finally she impales herself on my penis and we explode into orgasm. Our lake of liquid fire sloshes like a bathtub, threatening to ignite the countryside. The quiet time afterward is more relaxed, though much more active than has been our practice in the past. Jeez! I wish I were Coyote's age, to have enough energy to do this all the time. What am I thinking; I'm only 26 years old!
Perhaps Tiger, too, has an energy shortage, for she's fast asleep on my pillow. Well, that's not surprising for either of us considering the stress we've been through. I quietly sneak out, rinse my penis, then go downstairs.
Coyote: You didn't end up fighting, did you? I heard an awful lot of noise: thuds and clunks and things.
I just smile at Coyote.
Coyote: I see. What are you trying to do, make me jealous?
Me: Not on purpose. But I'm worn out. I'm going to get some hot chocolate and turn in early. Tiger's asleep already. It's been a very big day for both of us.
The odd part was, throughout the tempestuous lovemaking, and in fact ever since she was injured, Tiger has been entirely silent.
Next day Tiger was up at six, and did her regular stretching exercises. She acts as if she's determined to do one-handed pushups and chinups, though she can barely do one of each, presently. While Mariposa and I took the kittens on our regular run, Tiger walked her hundred meters with Coyote, who ran as soon as we returned. Tiger spent some time sitting outside and watching squirrels and birds, which apparently she can see when they move. We did our vision and hearing exercises. For most of the afternoon I did some research on the web about home business opportunities, while Tiger watched. Her comprehension of the web pages was similar to Diamond's; he was climbing on us. My impression was that Tiger was getting more and more bored.
We're now upstairs laying on our exercise mat. We haven't actually mated; rather, Tiger just wants to be held, and she lays there and shakes. This has been going on for about half an hour, and I don't like it a bit. I'm worried. What's she doing now? She hurls my pillow into the wall and slaps the mat: no claws, I'm glad to see. She rolls over twice and does a few leg lifts, then her solitary one-handed pushup; she gets up and does two or three bendovers and finishes with one chinup. She makes the point and circle sign over her injured skull, then the talking duck with her talking hand in front of her mouth, and then she stamps her foot like she does when one of the kittens refuses to mind her. She takes my hand and, hardly waiting for me to get up, she marches out the door.
Coyote's home. Tiger steams past him and starts getting out materials to make sushi. That's going to be a pretty challenging dish for her to do one-handed.
Me: She's pissed that she can't talk, and she's taking it out on the sushi.
On impulse I give Coyote a big hug, and Tiger joins in when I'm done. It really wasn't right for her to refuse to greet him, particularly when it's so hard to communicate with her. We all pitch in to start steaming the ingredients, and to roll it when they're cooked. I'm surprised: although the rice tends to stick to her fingers, Tiger gets it flattened out pretty well on the seaweed skin and bamboo rolling mat, and by putting all her dexterity into the job she gets it to roll up into a fairly cylindrical stick that holds together. However, she leaves the slicing to us; she's made her point for today of being competent, and I think you really need two hands and not a hand and a foot, to slice sushi without tearing it apart.
After dinner Tiger takes out several pieces of paper and a pencil, from the stash in the kitchen that we keep for the kittens. As most of the family watch, she goes through a writing exercise. Yes, she can hold the pencil. She traces around the edge of the paper, going on and off. Later circuits are more accurate. Evidently she's learning eye-hand coordination, or perhaps -- more likely -- she has trouble to see the edge of the paper and she's teaching herself what the edge looks like in her scrambled visual world. The next exercise is to make several rows of scribbles. Logically these should be letters. She draws a neat horizontal line through each row and hands the pencil to Coyote.
Me: Try writing a few letters, large ones, like ABCD.
Coyote does so. Tiger traces each letter several times, then copies the row twice. The copies are readable. Progress! Coyote asks for the pencil, and writes TIGER. Tiger repeats the performance. Then she turns the paper over and writes one row of four scribbles, and one row of five. She turns the paper back, front, back, front several times, and then draws a line through the scribbles. She traces the A again several times, turns the paper over, and writes an A, ending up more like a delta. Now the B: the two arcs are jagged. The C, after much struggle, has a single zigzag arc but really should be called a U. Tiger hands the paper to me; I lean over and hug her and stroke her. She draws a neat line through the three letters, crumples the paper one-handed into a ball and throws it in my face, hard.
Coyote: If I knew which were my name, I'd practice that one first. I think she's just copying shapes, and she can just barely remember one shape when she turns the paper over. I think she isn't going to communicate that way, and she knows it, and she wants you not to lie to her about what great progress she's making.
We both hug and stroke Tiger, and this time she strokes back. Next move: she takes another piece of paper, but rather than writing, she starts wiggling her fingers, one at a time, and not for our benefit, for some reason of her own. She pulls Coyote's hand in front of her face and trains him to copy her movements, which he does patiently. After about fifteen minutes of this she stops, then prods Coyote's hand. She manually moves his fingers.
Coyote: Maybe I'm supposed to do it and she'll try to copy. Here goes.
He repeats the kinds of moves she made, slower than she did. He raises and lowers one finger at a time at the knuckle, or bends the finger. Tiger copies with poor accuracy, and I move her fingers to match Coyote. She gets better with practice. She's far from perfect, but we're all getting tired of wiggling fingers, no matter how good it is for her visual system. She saws off the practice, stands up, and gives both of us a big hug, and Mariposa too, who's been alternating between lion lessons and watching what we were doing.
But Tiger isn't done. She goes back to the paper and draws a neat row of ten small rectangles across the top, and connects them with lines. I've seen that pattern before...
Me: Mariposa, could you get something for me? Get my machine, and in Tiger's bookshelf there's a disc called Michigan Quantum Logic. I think that's a latched register she just drew, and I want to check if I'm right.
And there's more. Tiger puts her paw flat on the paper below the register, then from memory draws the outline, just a bit of her wrist. Then she gives the pencil to Coyote and replaces her hand on the paper. He gets the idea and finishes the outline. She takes over the pencil and draws a messy circle at each knuckle and phalange joint, where she's been wiggling. Neat rectangles, messy circles? Tiger's brain now has a unique logic, like Charlie has always had. On the neat right-angled grid Tiger connects alternate register outputs -- Mariposa has brought the disc and I'm right what the cells represent -- to knuckle and phalange joints of the respective fingers. Now she thinks hard, and maneuvers her fingers into an odd pattern: the thumb bent and curled under, the index finger bent in the middle, and the ring and little fingers bent at the knuckle. She looks a little like she's flipping someone off, with the middle finger sticking up straight. She waves her hand in this position at me and Coyote, then points triumphantly at herself. She insists that we both have to make the hand sign, and Mariposa too; she bends our fingers until we've copied it right, as Attila and Claude come over to see what's happening. Tiger gets up and jumps up and down, startling them, not too violently on her injured left leg, and she hugs me ecstatically, and makes her sign in the air like a Black Power salute. Then she drags me up to our room for what's obviously going to be a joyous horizontal celebration. But... Why does the hand sign symbolize her?
It's rather late when we come down. I intend to make hot chocolate for Tiger and put her to bed. So why are the kittens still up, and mostly looking at us? Diamond is yawning, and Emerald is curled up on Mariposa's arm, asleep. Coyote has a silly grin on his face, as if...
Me: OK, the coyote has just eaten what canary?
Coyote: While you two were upstairs enjoying yourselves for so long, we down here have been doing some serious work. I'll bet you were wondering what Tiger's hand sign means.
Me: And you cracked the code. Tell me.
Coyote: Look at the diagram Tiger drew. It's computer parts, so it's a computer code: binary numbers. What number is as much her name as the word Tiger is? Mariposa spotted that one; she's been doing a lesson on computers this week. Convert Tiger's scent number from octal to binary, and match it up with the finger positions. It fits! Except you have to omit the sex bit. We've added that back in: palm up for males and palm down for females. OK, kittens, one at a time, do your thing. Diamond?
Whereupon each kitten goes up to Tiger and makes a unique hand sign encoding his or her recognition code. They hold the positions long enough for Tiger and me to verify the bits, and Tiger gives each one a big hug and a frizzy rub, and kisses each kitten's hand. Emerald wakes up, and nestled in Mariposa's arms even he makes his sign (with two bits corrected by Coyote). This is Emerald's first word! Excepting the instinctive calls kittens make since birth. It's a magic moment. Quickly I work out my own hand sign and show it to Tiger and the kittens, and then we all hug, humans included, in a tangle of arms and legs.
Mariposa: We were just starting some web research when you came down. Besides our names we need some real words, like ``kitten''. We're looking for ideas in other languages, other than English and Spanish, that might be easier for Tiger. There's a category called constructed languages, and we've downloaded some descriptions. You want to read them with us?
Me: It's late.
Mariposa: It's important. We'll put the kittens to bed, then get back to work.
Me: OK, let's all have some hot chocolate before sending the kittens to bed. I think Tiger's also too sleepy, but she'll refuse to be left out, and I'll let her make her own choice in that.
When we return to the language design and I get myself logged in to Mariposa's NetBoard session, I find that they've done a fair amount of goals and issues, but there's not a whole lot of solid information yet, mostly ideas that they expect are doomed to failure. The goal of course is a language Tiger can handle, elaborating on the hand signs that she invented. Issues: the representation has to be hand signs, not voice, because Tiger has never yet attempted to speak, and doesn't seem to respond to our voices individually. All the evidence so far suggests that assembling either sounds or sights into words requires a brain region that has been smashed, so finger spelling is out. But there's a chance that a hieroglyphic representation, one symbol per word, might succeed, because that's what Tiger started us on. Tiger has only one hand to make signs with, and the kids have looked up but rejected American Sign Language for that reason. The kids thought to browse around the constructed languages next, in the hope of finding some useful ideas, and have downloaded a bunch of introductory abstracts. We split them three ways.
Among my articles, Volupuk and Voksigid have nothing to recommend them for Tiger. Esperanto has a very large number of devotees, and a literature, but it has all the disadvantages for Tiger that pure English or Spanish have, and nothing to make her life easier. Well, that was a dud, but I didn't waste much time on those languages, which is a blessing. Mariposa had no better luck.
Coyote: Here's a thing called Lojban, which is verbal only, but it's designed for computer compatibility. It has an extensive set of lessons and word lists, and ``see spot run'' kinds of texts to practice on. If we keep about sixty percent of the Lojban words, we can fit them into hand signs on five fingers. Now the one that catches my eye is identified as a derivative of Lojban, but what makes it attractive to me is that its word list is organized into groups, like foods, or two person activities, or directions. We could code the groups on some of the fingers, and memorize those, and then the word within the group would be on the other fingers, and it would be a lot easier to memorize using the groupings. I'm sure you had that lesson on the lion disc. Another good point is that the guy claims his grammar is a hundred times simpler than Lojban, and Lojban is a hundred times simpler than English, so he says. I don't know if Tiger will have trouble with grammar, but that's certainly a feature that I like. Let's take some time on this one.
Me: It looks like the best of a bad lot. And from what I've heard, we aren't going to do any better in natural languages; they're all messy. Can you find us a description that's a little more detailed? I want to get something for Tiger to lay her head on.
Tiger can't keep her eyes open, but neither will she give up participating in rebuilding her life, even if all she can do at this point is to watch us surf the net. I roll up two dishtowels to be a pillow, and let her rest her head on that as she sits on the table. She's soon snoring quietly.
Coyote: Here's something. Let's all go over it together and try to understand it. It isn't too long.
In my opinion the key quote on the page is this one: Language expresses relations between things, for example, ``the cat eats the mouse''. The things are potential arguments or operands of relations; for example ``eat'' yields ``food'' and also ``predator''. The job of grammar is to show the listener which word is the main relation and which are designating things, and which argument each thing is. We wouldn't want to hear that ``the food mouses the cat'', would we? Subordinate clauses are a kind of hybrid between a main relation and an argument. The less the grammar does beyond these jobs, the better.
Mariposa: He says it's simple, but this is all new for me. I'm going to have to see how that works specifically. There aren't any examples that show how his language does it.
Coyote: They're later, but they're also irrelevant. Here's what we do: if you make the hand sign with the palm, let's see, palm up is the farthest it goes, then it's a relation. Three positions rotating to the left are three arguments, as in ``I give Tiger a mouse'', and palm down is a subordinate clause. Neat, eh?
Me: I think you're rushing ahead; the guy shows us some issues in his examples, like arguments in arguments. For example, ``the mouse goes in the doghouse''; he gives that example, and for him, ``dog'' is an argument of ``house'': who lives there. But ``house'' is already an argument of ``go''. Read that section.
We go back and forth, and we're able to adapt Coyote's hand rotation scheme to fit the grammar described in the web article. Tiger is sacked out with her head on the table and Emerald is fast asleep on Coyote's lap, having transferred at one point from Mariposa. It's three AM.
Me: OK, kids, I think we've done a real good job on this. We're all on duty tomorrow, so let's put the files away and go to bed.
Coyote: But we need to assign category codes, and a few words!
Coyote: But you'll go ahead without me!
Me: In theory you could cut class.
Coyote: I hate it when you say it like that.
Me: We all have about five hours sleep that we have to make up tomorrow. Make sure you take naps tomorrow; I certainly will. And not in class or when driving. I'm going to bed. That's a hint. Wake up, Tiger!
Of course she ignores my voice, but gentle stroking gets her 25% awake and moving up the stairs.
Each day for a week, as soon as Coyote comes home from junior college, we all put in about an hour of intensive language practice, mainly continuous chatter in pairs of people, and we do it again after dinner. Tiger works with a different person every ten minutes or so, so her vision gets used to each family member's finger accent and so everyone gets used to her own peculiar slant on our language. The kittens can't take a full hour of work, and Claude and Diamond have particularly short attention spans, but they drift in and out of the group, and they're actually making quicker progress than we oldsters are. Even Emerald has learned to produce two hand signs in addition to his name: ``eat'' and ``climb''. I didn't know a kitten so young had any language ability at all.
Beside the formal practice we all try to do most of our conversation in hand signs, which may be where the kittens are doing most of their learning. Attila and Bear often invite friends over, and the human kids were confused at first by the hand signs, but now they're using a few basic ones, just for fun. Mrs. Fisher thinks the hand signs may be necessary for Tiger to communicate, but they give her the creeps. Coyote's Linda thinks it's cool to have your own private language, and has started to learn with him. I noticed them discussing the word pair ``explosion stroke''...
I have a database application for assigning numbers to words, and our rule is that up to about six hundred words, if we need to say something and we can't figure out a word combination that works, we'll assign a code. After that we'll study what we've got, and make a formal plan for using the remaining 400 codes. So far we're up to about 450 words assigned. Learning so many words in a week is really fast. But a good feature of this language is that most meanings are carried by pairs of words, a general one and a more specific modifier, so 450 words lets us talk about thousands of topics without learning thousands of vocabulary items.
Today is when Dr. Furukawa told Tiger to come back for a checkup. Jeez, is he in for a surprise! Tiger and I planned my role for today, which is going to be very much in the background. Tiger is leading the way through the corridors, though she can't read signs and I give her subtle cues which way to turn, touching her hip on the correct side. Bare white walls are so boring. The hospital people should paint murals over the white corridor walls, like we did at home. They should also try to find a floor cleaner that doesn't smell like a hospital. OK, we're here, right turn, in the door. This is the neurology specialty area. Tiger hands her clinic card to the receptionist, who (after the usual lion double take) tells her to have a seat. Tiger can interpret her gesture and I don't poke her in contradiction. So far so good. We wait.
Receptionist: Dr. Furukawa can see you now.
Tiger earlier said, using hand signs, that while she can see eyes she can't really tell if someone is looking at her.
Me (in hand signs): Our turn now.
Dr. Furukawa is in the inside hall, probably wondering if he's going to have to help carry Tiger in. She shakes his hand, as a greeting. His hand sign to enter the office is clear.
Dr. Furukawa: My, Tiger's doing well!
Me: She still can't hear or speak words, but we've worked out an alternative. I'll act as translator. Normally I translate to reasonable English, but we decided earlier that I'll repeat her words in pretty much the order they come out, so you can get a feel for the language. It takes time for Tiger to understand, so say about a sentence at a time and watch my eyes to know when you can say more. OK?
I transmit all this to Tiger, and enter translation mode. Tiger answers in hand signs, which I translate literally.
Tiger: Able am I to do many activities. Able am I to walk without I hit wall or door, and without I fall on uneven ground such as step. Every day increase route walk mine by one hundred meter. Not I pain bone mine which broken. I cook. If need I two hand, I use foot, example cut food. Able lion person hold with foot, better than human. I wash foot and hand together, not gross put foot which dirty in food. Skill I make rice roll (that's sushi) use one hand only; which proud I. Teach I kitten like before smash brain mine. Able kitten to talk use hand sign. Mate I Simba. Many activities special mate change I behave. Before, plan I feel or think other person. Now, act I what correct or fun per me. Yes not forget I other person, but less I care or worry. Think you what that?
Dr. Furukawa: Very impressive!
Me: You're supposed to tell her what you think about the behavior change.
Dr. Furukawa: OK. Do you feel you're impulsive, that is, you act without thinking? Or that you care less about other people?
Tiger: Yes care I less but not zero about other person, compare before injury. Yes, act I quick, but yes I think consequence, quick. Before injury able I to make sequence logic, example fact one imply fact two imply fact three, but after injury less easy make I sequence logic and more easy use I parallel logic, which quick. Before injury skill I use parallel logic, and after injury more easy but likely similar skill I use parallel logic. Likely smash brick part of sequence logic and less it loud talk in my head, so easy I hear parallel logic.
Dr. Furukawa: That's a very interesting description, if I've understood it. Simba, I think I have the feel for the language that you wanted; could we change to normal English translation please?
Me: Sure. Do you want me to repeat that last section?
Dr. Furukawa: No, I think I got it. Tiger, does the change in your behavior bother you?
Tiger: I'm angry that the brick smashed my brain. I'm angry that the truck caught my arm so Simba had to chew it off. The old Tiger is lost. The old Tiger and the new Tiger both much prefer that any changes should be chosen by them and not by a brick. But the new Tiger is what I am, and I'm not going to go around walking backward.
Dr. Furukawa: I admire your attitude. Can you tell me something about your hand signs?
Tiger: I can't see letters, or faces, or arcs, and neither can I draw them. I'm troubled and angry that I can't speak or hear or read or write human language. But I can manage straight lines, and hand and finger angles. I tested myself on that, and practiced it, and then I invented a numeric code represented in hand signs. I showed my family the word Tiger, and I was very happy. While I was celebrating by mating with Simba, Coyote discovered the code, and on the web Coyote and Mariposa discovered a human language which they could modify so I could speak it using my hand signs.
Dr. Furukawa: Wow! But how did you know what was the hand sign for your name?
Tiger: Maybe Simba translated for you wrong. Please give me paper. Look at this picture. This is a picture of the former name of the old Tiger, but it isn't my name. The brick smashed my ability to recognize any word, including that one. A lion person's scent is unique, and can be represented by a number. This hand sign, see it, represents my scent.
Dr. Furukawa: The unique scent is represented by a number, which is represented by the hand position. That's surreal! But you wrote your name so well. Suppose you were to practice...
Tiger: I didn't write my name. I drew a picture of the written word. It isn't the same thing. Because it's important, I practiced drawing that one word, simulating arcs by several straight lines. But ``write'' means to talk, using the pencil rather than the mouth. I can't use letters, from the pencil or from the mouth. I have an idea. Could you please be patient for an experiment?
Tiger slowly draws a set of three comblike glyphs in various orientations... No, they're hands with bent fingers!
Me: Aww, that's sweet! It means ``Tiger loves Simba''.
Tiger: I'm slow, but I've written for the very first time! The meaning is represented by a number, which is represented by the hand sign, which is represented by the glyph, and I can handle that. But if the meaning is represented by a sequence of letters or sounds, the brick smashed my assembly register.
Dr. Furukawa: So you just figured that out right now? I don't usually get patients who are so aggressive in dealing with their situation. But what you really need is a way to communicate with other people outside your family. Did you investigate American Sign Language? It has the format of one sign per meaning that you apparently need.
Tiger: That takes two hands, and some signs require arc finger positions or motions. Coyote and I both assessed American Sign Language, and rejected it. I had an idea to use my computer to communicate. For example, someone sends me a message in English, and a program translates it into hand signs, and shows me a picture of a hand which moves. Or I use a data glove to make hand signs which the computer can recognize and translate into English. I've asked Simba to program those apps.
Me: And I'm working on it but both problems are quite difficult. They'll take time.
Tiger: It's going to be very hard for me to talk to a person who doesn't know my hand signs.
Dr. Furukawa: Yes, with such massive damage in your language area, communication is going to be a big problem, and I don't really have any magic cure to offer you. It sounds like you're doing the best you can, which is pretty good. I'd like to ask about a different area: the business about arcs versus straight lines. That kind of differential damage is rare. Could you demonstrate some arcs and lines on the paper?
Tiger: I don't know the reason. See this square: it's easy. See this octagon which simulates a circle. Now see me try a real circle: it's messy and difficult. Watch me draw a cedar tree with straight branches and roots. I think it's a good picture, almost equal to what I drew before, except a real tree has curved branches. Now watch me draw a tree with curved branches. See, it's different.
Dr. Furukawa: Really it's not bad. I can see you hesitate drawing the curves, but they come out pretty natural.
Tiger: Simba says the same thing, but what can I say? Do you know the place in the eye where you can't see anything? Imagine a curved branch at that spot. What could you see? Tiger sees a curved branch similarly wherever it is. I can't see what I drew, so I say it's a failure.
Dr. Furukawa: Do the lines just fade out? Can you be more specific about what you can't see, what's missing from the image?
Tiger: I can see the arcs, but they fail to join the picture. When I draw an arc I have to use parallel logic: I draw without guidance. A straight line joins the picture, and to draw it I can guide the pencil carefully.
Dr. Furukawa: It's too bad that the arcs won't join your images. But I've heard that what you call parallel logic is the best way to draw or paint. Could you draw something else for me? And let's see what happens if you use parallel logic as much as possible. Use a new sheet of paper.
Tiger draws a cat in what she calls cubist style. It's bizarre, but kind of appealing. In fact, now that I can see the whole shape emerging, it's very good. She seems to be taking Dr. Furukawa's advice; she's drawing with very free lines, not her usual carefully plotted ones. She fills in hints of fur, just enough to give the idea. Hmm, she's going to do another drawing, on a new sheet. This is a squirrel, with a head composed of two arcs, a curved backbone, and a gracefully arched tail. How can she do that without seeing? The squirrel, particularly the tail, requires a lot more fur, which is no problem for Tiger, since it's composed of straight lines.
Me: Tiger, those are as good as any you ever did! Dr. Furukawa, may I take these and scan them, for the archives?
Dr. Furukawa: Sure, but I would like them back. Tell this to Tiger: I really like the pictures. I wish you could appreciate the squirrel, because it's just as good as the cat is.
Tiger: I'm relying on your judgment of that.
Dr. Furukawa: To make arcs like that, which fit the squirrel picture, you must have something in your brain that's planning them. You talked about serial logic being muted so you could hear the parallel logic. Maybe if you listen for the sound of the arcs among the parallel information, you could find it and use it to substitute for your regular sensation of arcs.
Tiger: You're right and I'm so stupid. I was angry that I lost arcs, and I failed to hunt for arcs in the other symbol stream. I'll practice that, until I see you next.
Dr. Furukawa: I look forward to seeing what comes out of this. Now, I'm very surprised at how much progress you've made. I'd like to squeeze you in for another NMR scan, to compare with the one we took just before you went home. I hadn't planned on doing one for several months, but if there's any change in your brain, which might explain the fast progress, I want to know about it.
Tiger: No problem.
A week has passed, and we've all improved our skill at Tiger signs. I have the very basic subroutines working for Tiger's communication programs, which in particular help us to practice written Tiger signs, but none of the programs are anywhere near ready for prime time yet.
Last night's and this morning's big job was the autumn shedding. Tiger's coat came out not her usual midnight black but with a frosted appearance, since she missed her color hormones for almost two weeks and the ends of the hairs grew in lion color. In my opinion it's kind of handsome, and she's of course living with it, but she resents having an important and visible symbol of selfhood altered by an outside influence. Anyway she now has fur on her head, even if not quite the right color, and no longer looks like, as she called herself, a scalped monkey. Previously she was ambivalent about interacting with human friends, given the hassle of not being able to recognize their faces, or tell if they were talking to her, and having to have every word translated into Tiger signs, plus the degrading, wrecked appearance of her head and the missing arm, plus assorted shaved patches elsewhere on her good arm, her legs and her thorax. She'll just have to bear the change in body image caused by the amputation, but now at least the rest of her is presentable, not looking as if, her words again, rats had been gnawing on a corpse.
So today we've driven over to Whinx to visit Tiger's co-workers. Her best friend Anne was very excited about seeing her when I phoned. In this building at least, Whinx has nice plants in the common areas; they've hired a commercial plant service. Tiger's cube farm has a ficus and a corn dracaena in the entry area. But somehow the smell of soil from just two plants, even if fairly large, can't overcome the odor of burnt laser printer ink. The walls of the area are notably bland and boring: no art, not even any announcements or used car ads. From previous visits I remember colorful posters here and in the individual cubes, but they aren't visible now.
Anne: Tiger, Tiger! It's so nice to see you! You're looking good, for such a terrible accident.
Me: Take it slow; I have to translate for Tiger, and she's not that fast even with her own language. Also she can't recognize faces and I have to tell her who everyone is. I know you, Anne, but I don't know everyone. And we have to assign names for all of you and I have to memorize them.
Tiger hugs Anne and gives her a frizzy rub, one handed.
Tiger: I've been so lonely. I love my mate and family but I really enjoyed working with you people and I miss it. But I don't know how long it will be before I can come back, because I can't drag Simba or one of the kittens with me all the time to translate. We're working on something but it's going slowly.
Anne: Can you talk at all?
Tiger: Not a bit. I can manage one symbol per word, slowly, and I can even write and read this language, slowly, but I can't even recognize my former name.
Anne: That's too bad. I'm glad you're walking!
Tiger: So am I; the brick missed my motor centers. But I'm angry about losing my arm. For some two-handed tasks I can use a hand and a foot. I can cook! And of course I wash my hand and foot first; that's a two-handed job.
Anne: Good for you. You said you were working on some communication aid.
Tiger: Simba, could you just tell her, so we don't have to struggle through all the translation?
Me: Talking for her and for myself can get a bit confusing. We bought a data glove, and I have a program that can translate finger angles and wrist rotation into sentences in Tiger's language, that is, into a byte stream. We actually put together a spoken version and the machine representation is alphabetic for that. I also have a tap so the data glove emulates a mouse. The challenge is to feed this data stream into what would normally be the keyboard and mouse channels without locking up both of them, and for the input method to know when it's doing language and when it's doing mouse pointing. Now for output, I have an app that Tiger can set over any picture element, such as a button label, and given a list of possible fonts, it will backmap the label's pixels to the original English text, and that to a Tiger sign, and show a picture of a hand. For reading mail or generic text this is better than nothing, but not much, because there's so much English vocabulary that has to be mapped to 1024 Tiger signs, of which we're using only about 600 so far, and I just fake the grammar, which gives Tiger a royal pain. I also have a real simple program to do the same translation on a text file into either the moving hand picture, or written Tiger signs. Tiger can't type command names; the most she's been able to manage is to memorize the sequence of keystrokes for her login ID, and she has a new password that she's memorized the keystrokes for. So I'm also going to have to essentially write from scratch a mouseable shell, with lots of aliases from Tiger signs. When all of those projects are done, Tiger can try to log in here and see if it's feasible to design something. I hope it's worth it. Tiger says, I hope so too.
Anne: I hope so too, and not just to make you feel better. We're really behind on the communication controller project, and the higher-ups are getting crazy. Did you hear about Art?
Me: That's Art Dennison, her boss, right? What's the news?
Co-worker: I'm Phil. Art got demoted and he's stuck over in ASIC design.
Me: Tiger says that's outrageous, and who's replaced him, and why? Also, you'll have to tell us what your relation to Tiger was, so she can figure out who you are.
Phil: I was working on the memory buffer; does that help?
Tiger: Got it. What's happening; this is all crazy!
Phil: The way I heard it, Caiden eased Art out when management started getting antsy over the schedule. You need to be reminded who he is? He has the team for the channel assignment processor.
Tiger: So who's leading that team now?
Phil: Caiden. He took us under his wing, as he puts it.
Anne: More like under his ass. Look what he did to your cubicle!
Tiger: What happened to my pictures? I have trouble with vision, but I can recognize a bare wall. And the pictures in the common area are gone too; the waterfall, the rainforest, they're all gone! Why? And where are they now?
Anne: We have to promote a professional, businesslike workplace environment. Your pictures are behind your desk, and the people who bought the other pictures grabbed them back.
Tiger: Has management gone crazy? Did all the groups get their decorations taken away?
Phil: ASICs still have theirs. Caiden forbade me to talk to Art, but I visited him anyway.
Tiger: Who's working on the ALU now?
Co-worker: I'm Fran; I was handling the indexing contingencies before you were injured. I'm doing both now.
Tiger: I remember you. How far have you gotten? I had the ALU close to done; I'd expect the multiplier to be finished by now, and getting integrated with the sections that I finished.
Fran: On the sections Caiden ordered changed, you spent three months according to your progress file. Of course it's doubly hard because I have to make progress on both projects to satisfy Caiden, so I have to flip from one to the other every day.
Phil: Look out behind you.
I sign to Tiger who's coming.
Mr. Caiden: You're Tiger, right?
Me: She's Tiger. She can't hear your voice or speak, and I'm translating for her. You'll need to give me time to send, and get an answer back. I'm Simba Leones.
Mr. Caiden: Well, well. It's nice to meet you. Are you finally coming back to work?
Me: In this voice I'm speaking for Tiger. She says: It's nice to see you again. We met at the company picnic last spring.
Mr. Caiden: I mean, to meet as boss and subordinate. Are you back to work?
Tiger: No, my language software isn't yet up to handling unsupervised text, but I'm practicing and Simba is adding to the vocabulary and grammar files.
Mr. Caiden: We need you here. I assigned Fran to do your ALU assignment, but her progress has been disappointing. When can we expect you?
Tiger: I'm tempted to tell you a date in the moderately near future, but in recovering from an injury, and in developing automatic translation software for a language that didn't even exist until two weeks ago, exact schedules can be stated but can't be kept. I'll not disappoint you in the future by giving you a date now.
Mr. Caiden: That's not very satisfactory.
Tiger: You're not the only one who's frustrated with my injury. I intend to practice using the cell editor using my language software. It would be very helpful if Simba and I had the source code for that, so we can make it label the cells with Tiger signs. Could you get us a copy of that, please? The info services people can contact Simba for how to deliver it.
Mr. Caiden: I doubt that will be possible. There's no need for special labels.
Mr. Caiden: Well?
Me: I think you were going to tell Tiger how to read English fonts.
Mr. Caiden: What is this crap? Everybody can read them!
Me: That's not quite true. At least Tiger isn't blind; she can see the cell arrays and contingency symbols.
Mr. Caiden: Well, if she's lost the ability to read, she isn't much use around here.
Me: Tiger says: I haven't lost the ability to read, just the ability to see fonts with arcs in them, or to assemble letters into words. Tiger signs represent words directly, and are composed of straight segments, so I can manage reading and writing them, and ``speaking'' with my hands. Now according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer is required to make reasonable accommodations in the workplace for, what is the term, the differently abled. Providing me with source code for our editor seems highly reasonable, particularly since I'm not asking the info services department to put in the modifications. I'm sure we'll be able to work things out over the coming weeks or months, but the quicker I have that editor with readable symbology, the quicker I can edit chip designs.
Mr. Caiden: Are you making a demand?
Tiger: I'm sure we can work things out. Now, you understand I'm quite weak from my ordeal, and I really need to find a place to lie down and rest. Perhaps the couch in the females' toilet. It was nice meeting you, Mr. Caiden, as boss and subordinate. Oh, one item popped into my mind: I expect you have lots and lots of meetings. We'll have to find some other way for me to report my progress. I used a very effective method for the former boss of this team; most of us did. At that time it was a good idea; now with my accident it's going to be essential if you're to know what I'm up to. I'll leave you to think about the meeting issue until our next discussion.
Mr. Caiden: Tiger! I'm not done with you! You are forbidden to talk about this project with Dennison. Any violation will make you subject to severe disciplinary action.
Tiger: Oh, that won't be a problem. It will be years, if ever, before I'll be able to talk with anybody. Nice seeing you, Mr. Caiden.
Tiger has been working on using her tail more effectively as a sign of emotion, as other animals do, and as Tiger walks out on Caiden, leaving him to yap after us, if he had any powers of observation he would be very worried about the message coming from Tiger's tail. When we're around a corner out of sight, she continues...
Tiger: I'm furious! I want to disembowel that piece of crap! I'm going to talk, I mean handsign, to my old boss; did you catch his name? I want to know what's going on! If we go to the front office we can find who he is and where he is. I seem to be able to remember places, and I think if we turn here we can get back to the front office without going through Caiden territory.
The door guard is able to direct us to Art Dennison's location of exile.
Art: Tiger and Simba! My, you're battered around the edges but you're looking like you used to: fire in the eye. Tell me what's happening.
Me: She can only do a specialized language in hand signs. I'm translating for her. She says, you tell me; the whole place is crazy!
Art: Well, I kind of failed you people. Porter promised the front office this ridiculous schedule on the satellite comm chip set, not with my concurrence, you might remember. I told him what we planned to do: deliver a product that worked, and if he had promised it on a certain date and it wasn't ready, crying over the penalty wasn't going to speed anything up. I thought he understood that, but apparently he thought, or Caiden convinced him, it was just the techno-weenies dragging their heels. When I wouldn't roll over and promise in writing to meet the deadline, he kicked me out and replaced me with Caiden. And of course when Caiden can't meet the penalty date it's all my fault. From what I hear the project is going backward.
Me: Hold on while I finish uploading all that. Here's Tiger's response: I swear, I'm going to find a way to castrate that bastard. Both of them! I just met Caiden: how nice it is to meet you as boss and subordinate, he says. Pfaugh! It took all my discipline to be charming and not slash his throat right there!
Art: Keep the faith, lion! About a week after I was reassigned, guess who took me out for dinner? Frank Encke. We had a very frank talk, if you'll pardon the pun.
Me: Encke? The name sounds familiar; tell me what his relation is to Tiger so I can assign a name in Tiger signs.
Art: I've got to find out about these Tiger signs you're using. He's the number three man in the company.
Tiger: He hired me; he's my first supervisor here. I think I've got mail working enough to send you a URL for Tiger signs. Or see my lion home page. They'd be fun if they were only a game. So what does Encke intend to do about Caiden? And you never told us how much the penalty was.
Art: A cool million on October 15, and three million on December first, and the contract is off end of January. Encke has already written off the first million in his head. He says to me, if he can play chicken with three million bucks, I can sit down here and make nice ASICs for a couple months before I start sending out resumes. Hmm, I'll bet you're posting a progress file on your condition somewhere. It might help Encke if you send him the URL for that.
Tiger: I am, as a matter of fact. I'll put in veiled references to my readiness for work, when and if I'm ready. But I'm not sure I can take it, working for Caiden. The brain damage changed my personality slightly and I'm more impulsive and less disciplined. Do you know what that piece of shit did? He make everyone take down their pictures. My nice Yosemite poster and the jaguar and the parrots flying. That really pisses me off. Hey, I had an impulsive thought: how far behind schedule is Caiden's own project? If yours is in an uproar all the attention will be there, and delays on the channel assignment chip can be blamed on the central processor being late.
Art: Shit, that's devious! You were always good at seeing relations, and apparently the brain damage didn't affect that skill. Does it bother you to talk about that?
Tiger: It bothers me a lot to be brain damaged and minus an arm, but I have to work around what I lost and refusing to talk about it just makes that harder. About Caiden, I've impulsively decided that I'm not going to survive under him, under his ass, so do you have any feel for possible transfer positions?
Art: Having had personal experience with your stubbornness, I think you're making the right choice. Well, designing ASICs is a waste of your talent, but Sandra can always use someone sharp down here.
Tiger: That's a good idea. Look, if I'm going to get back to duty I'm going to need something: mods to the cell editor to label the cells in Tiger signs. I asked Caiden for the sources but he's not going to lift a finger for me. Obviously. How would you suggest I proceed?
Art: Well... This sounds like an ADA thing, and Hacik is in charge of all those kinds of compliance issues, ADA, OHSA and so on. I suggest you tell him what you told me. It's totally reasonable, and it's not like the cell editor is some big trade secret thing; you can get the original version from Michigan by FTP. Mention how Caiden reacted, and likely Hacik will have a little chat with Caiden and the sources will make an appearance. Of course Caiden won't be happy, but I doubt you care.
Tiger: Actually I was reviewing the procedure I learned for castrating humans.
Art: Remember what you told me: stay steady. You do your part, and Encke will do his, and the titans will battle it out with quiet, genteel voices, and maybe we'll get stepped on and maybe we won't. Stay steady, and be ready to leap.
Tiger: Good advice. It was really nice talking to you, a big comfort for me, but now I'd better let you get back to your ASICs. Simba, I was being snide to Caiden about being weak from my ordeal, pfaugh! But this visit really has taken a lot out of me. I want to go home, run in the park for half an hour, and then sleep and work it out in nightmares.
Me: 2500 meters, no more!
Tiger: To hell with Furukawa! I can feel my bones, and the breaks were rock solid a week ago. I run very lightly. And I'm a lion, remember, not a damned human, and if I'm wrong the bones will splinter gradually and I'll feel it, and I'll just stop and walk back.
Me: Jeez, you're stubborn. I assume talking about prudence will just make both of us aggravated.
Tiger: You assume right. I'm already being prudent by not doing it for an hour, which is what I really need. Bye, Art, and I hope our next meeting will be over a pair of bleeding corpses.
Art: Smiling faces to you too. Bye.
Jeez, this visit turned out a lot different from what we expected. But no matter the circumstances, it's good to get back together with old friends. It's also important for a person's mental health.