Tech Talk

                A news item that amused me this week was the announcement that children are to be taught ‘computer language’ at school.  The first thought that struck me was ‘Good!’ because a large [and larger by the year] number of children entering school have no language whatsoever, or none that can be understood, and perhaps they will gain some means of communication. In a class of 5 and 6 year olds I taught a child repeatedly came to me and said ‘Srink!, srink!’. It took me some time to work out that this meant he would like to get a drink.

                And then I wondered when this teaching of computer language is to take place. During the last twenty years, any number of bits have been added to the school curriculum, and as far as I can tell, nothing has been subtracted. All this adds up to a mighty long day, surely? If they are to get enough sport-and this is in response to the growing obesity problem, begin to grow and cook their own food [does anyone besides a teacher know what the logistics of gardening and cooking with a class of 30 kids entails?], do enough literacy and numeracy [we are told every day how innumerate the population is becoming], study ‘citizenship’, learn how to be healthy, get a bit of religion and pick up some art, music, history, geography and dance [oh-and what about science and technology?], when is this language learning to take place? Did I leave anything out? I wonder, seriously if they should be allowed to go home at all, since they will have no time to eat dinner, wash or sleep.

                And who is going to teach it? During the 90s we all had to undergo some stringent training to be able to use and/or teach information technology-and yes, we did teach quite a bit of programming, even then. Remember the turtle, ‘pen down’ and programming it to draw patterns on paper the floor?

                I can see the time approaching when the middle man can be cut out entirely. Let’s not bother with teaching anyone about talking computer speak-let’s just let the computers talk to each other. I feel convinced they will make a much better job of conversation than the majority of humans will in the future. As I said in a long distant [but still much visited] post, The Art of Conversation is struggling to survive anyway and most people seem to commune exclusively with some kind of screen. In fact, I suppose in the end machines will rule the world and mankind will simply fade away to become an exhibit in a museum visited by robots.

A Matter of Time [part 2]

…For anyone who has stumbled here, this is the second part of a short story, part one of which can be read in the previous post…see ‘A Month of Stories’ for an explanation!-

There is a diminutive, amber globe attached to one of the plants, glowing like warm, evening sunlight. She bends to peer at its parent plant. There are two more ripening fruits clinging to the foliage, shining with impudent optimism. Frith stares then throws her head back, an almost hysterical laugh erupting from her lips and her eyes wet with tears.

The sound of footsteps crunching on the path causes her to turn and see the tall, bulky figure of Cal approaching then he is there filling the doorway, his woolly hat jammed tight over his dreadlocks and long scarf wound around his face and neck.

“A brace of coneys,” he tells her. “Not much meat on them but they don’t look to be in too bad a state. We’ll get some broth out of them anyway.”

Her eyes, turned to him are radiant. She shows him the tiny tomatoes illuminating their corner of the greenhouse. “Should we move the plant, do you think, Cal? We could take it inside the house. It might be special, have some immunity. And if we kept the seeds maybe they’d grow into stronger plants still!”

Cal reaches out to pull her to him, enclosing her in his arms, her cheek against the rough tweed of his overcoat. He looks over the top of her head towards the little plant with its defiant tomato warriors and thinks of the children he and Frith might have had. Her face, when it turns up to his, still damp from tears is itself reminiscent of a child’s.

“We’ll leave it be, love. If it is going to resist the blight it’ll do it here. Moving it will make no difference. Come back to the house now and help me skin the rabbits.”

He watches her later, staring at the flames flickering blue around the remnants of decaying logs in the fireplace and knows she is allowing herself to dream of a future.

“Frith love,” he murmurs. “Don’t get your hopes up. I know it was good to see, but not enough to signal any kind of recovery.”

She looks up, frowning, irritated; the extinction of possibility is hard to bear. He takes her hand. “We’ll keep watching it. It could be resistant. Only time will tell.” And he turns back to where the flames are ebbing in the fireplace, reducing the logs to glowing, flaky ash.