I was watching a programme —
with featuring Ray Mears — about bush-craft and survival in the rainforest, and caught myself avidly trying to work out how he made his hammock knots. "When", I thought to myself with a smile, "am I going to have to tie a hammock knot?" But ever since I can remember, I've been fascinated by learning how to do things. It doesn't really matter if I'll never have to use that knowledge, or if I can get along fine without it.
I used to have a book called 'How to Survive', which detailed all kinds of techniques for surviving in the wild, like first aid using plants, starting fires with no matches, and building shelters. The chances of me needing to build a bivouac out of pine branches, a solar still to collect water or a rabbit snare out of saplings in suburban Surrey were extremely slim, but I just loved learning how to do those very practical, very basic things. I spent hours trying to knapp flint at the top of the garden, but only succeeded in producing very blunt fragments which wouldn't cut butter.
I think that my current interest in learning programming languages is just an extension of my flint-knapping attempts. I will probably never be an expert, but I love the process of learning a skill, and being able to do something for myself, rather than waiting for another programmer to produce something I need. We all depend on objects we haven't made, food we haven't grown and machines that we don't really understand the workings of. It's good to get a little control and understanding back, even if it's very limited.