Quine anecdote: success with limitations

From: Matt Jensen (mattj@newsblip.com)
Date: Tue Jan 16 2001 - 14:59:02 PST

W. V. Quine died last month, at 92. The Times has a great obituary[1],
with this closing anecdote:

'Mr. Quine never wrote on a computer, always preferring the 1927 Remington
typewriter that he first used for his doctoral thesis. Because that
project contained so many special symbols, he had to have the machine
adjusted by removing the second period, the second comma and the question

"You don't miss the question mark?" a reporter once asked him.

"Well, you see," he replied, "I deal in certainties." '

Reminds me of that old problem-solving saw about only having a hammer.
Usually the person gets a hammer and never learns about other tools. In
this case, Quine started with a full toolbox and carefully rejected the
tools that didn't interest him.

Say, if you give your kid a typewriter with no "e", will she grow up to be
a natural Oulipoist? [2]

-Matt Jensen

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/29/arts/29QUIN.html?pagewanted=all
[2] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0947757961/

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