Tasting Notes: Seedlip Garden 108, an alcohol-free spirit

Seedlip and Elderflower tonic, with lime and Juniper berries
Seedlip and Elderflower tonic, with lime and Juniper berries

If you’re staying off alcohol for whatever reason, the options in restaurants and pubs are usually quite poor: single note, sugar-packed acidic drinks like Coke or fruit juice. I’ve been investigating alternatives, and Seedlip Garden 108 was one of the most interesting.

Seedlip took “The Art of Distillation”, the work of 17th century apothecary John French, and repurposed the methods described inside to create non-alcoholic, botanical-based spirits. Garden 108 (the “108” comes form the number of days it takes to grow their peas) is described on their site as:

A floral blend of hand-picked Peas & homegrown Hay from Ben Branson’s Farm with traditional garden herb distillates in celebration of the English countryside.


Tasting notes
First, I tried it straight out of the bottle at room temperature. As expected from the description I found the dominant notes to be hay and freshly-cut grass. Literally hay and freshly cut grass, not the euphemistic descriptions used in wine reviews. I have happy memories of eating peas straight from the pod in my grandparents’ garden, and the notes of pea-pod really brought them back. The finish includes a stronger deeper flavour that I can only describe as green shoots and leaves, with a bitter, woody undertone.

Since it is alcohol-free, it lacks the punch and ‘warmth’ of alcoholic drinks, which to my mind makes it much more drinkable, however it’s not something you can guzzle down like squash. It lacks that ‘hrngh’ that makes you wince and grimace when you drink neat whisky, for example, but the bitter notes and overall complexity of the flavour make for a much slower drink than fruit juice or cola.

With Fevertree Tonic, ice and lemon
My first mix used Garden as a gin-replacement in a gin and tonic. A ‘Garden and Tonic’, I guess. The botanical flavours of Garden sat nicely alongside the astringency of the quinine in the tonic without being overpowered. A slice of lemon felt slightly unwelcome and unnecessary among the English Garden flavours. Lime, mint, rose or a hibiscus flower would perhaps have been more appropriate.

With Fever Tree Aromatic Tonic Water
Don’t be fooled by the striking pinkish-blue iridescence: this is hardcore. Fever Tree’s Aromatic Tonic Water is made with Angostura bitters, and with Seedlip Garden results in something akin to drinking bark and pencil lead; it has a peculiar minimalist geometric quality. The flavours of dense woodlands, wooden fences in Summer with an overriding fresh cold bite to it. This is what you’d drink if engaged in a battle of wits across a chessboard, or networking at a corporate barbecue. The executive end of alcohol free drinks.

With Elderflower
I’m very fond of elderflower cordial. I always keep a bottle in the house, and it’s generally my go-to at restaurants. It has a gentle sweetness and floral quality about it that I thought would work well with Garden’s dryness.

I was not disappointed. The light aromatics of peas and hay complement the sweetness and floral flavours in elderflower cordial wonderfully, but it still lacked something. And so I eventually arrived at the following:

  • Seedlip Garden 108
  • Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic
  • A couple of dried Juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • Slice of Lime
  • Ice

And this is by far my favourite combination, with its playful and summery, fresh and bittersweet nature. The lime, elderflower, quinine and Garden form a satisfying quartet of sourness, sweetness, bitterness and freshness playing against each other. Just what I was looking for in a long Summer drink.

Conclusion
I’ll be keeping a bottle of this in as part of my regular store from now on, and asking for it when out and about. It tastes like ‘gardening’, is complex, slow to drink and herbal in character. Something to nestle and take your time over.

None of these are drinks you’d want to down quickly, the flavours simply don’t lend themselves to knocking them back. In particular, I found myself sipping the tonic mixtures over the course of a good hour or so each. The lack of sugar and caffeine also meant that I wasn’t getting completely wired by the end of the evening. A complex, long and refreshing alcohol-free option, highly recommended.

Seedlip garden can be bought from Amazon here.

Hello world! Well, WordPress anyway.

Dogsolitude_uk has just migrated to WordPress. There’s a lot of housekeeping to do now, involving admin user accounts, importing blog posts and sorting out a suitable development environment and coding workflow. At time of writing, this is not generally visible to the public, and has been hidden from Google using a <robots> tag. This should stop it being indexed until I’ve sorted out the Theme, content and changed the DNS records to point to the WordPress installation rather than my placeholder page.

Currently I have the following setup:

  • WordPress 4.9.8, using the Twenty Seventeen theme, installed both locally and remotely
  • A custom Child Theme that restyles some aspects of the CSS, images
  • …which in turn is held in a GIT repository to facilitate local development

At the moment it’s all very much work in progress. Ideally I’d like the whole installation on GIT so I can be confident it’s identical across my development and live environments, but for the time being just syncing the Theme files will do.

So far I’m very impressed with WordPress, and now I have my own installation (as opposed to working on someone else’s) I’m looking forward to really pulling it apart and seeing how it all fits together…

On becoming a homeowner in England

Renting your home is a demoralising Faustian pact in the UK. Due to a combination of the  high house prices here and various broken relationships, I made my way through most of adult life renting my home. Recently though, thanks to the generosity of my father (and stepmother) I was given a lump of money to use as a deposit. This brought the mortgage payments right down and made the jump on to the housing ladder much easier, so I found myself owning a mortgage on a home back in January.
In effect, I had gone from renting a home off a landlord, to renting the money to buy a home off of the bank (who never actually had it in the first place, but that’s another story). After the initial blustery circus and brouhaha of purchasing the place and moving had died down, I noticed a number of unexpected changes in my life.

More settled and grounded

Once moved in and settled, I felt more relaxed. Not just in a ‘phew, glad that’s over’ sense, but a more fundamental way. I now knew with a good degree of certainty I wasn’t going to get kicked out of the place with two month’s notice, and so I felt as if after 20+ years, I finally had a home rather than simply inhabiting someone else’ building for a monthly fee.
A few months later, I started to feel generally very grounded and connected with the community and my neighbours, more so than I had ever felt when I rented. I even took an interest in local history.
For example, I found out that my house had been built over 100 years ago to house agricultural labourers on a nearby farm (which is now a branch of Halfords, some car traders and a chunk of ring-road). The area across the road from me was used for archery practise and various mediaeval frolics, including riotous and anarchic games of football. There was a sense of ‘solidity’ in owning the place, a feeling of finally having a proper stake and investment in the society around me.

An unexpected change in social status

People seemed to treat me differently as well. I had always felt a subtle dividing line in our society between homeowners and renters, one which becomes apparent at any dinner party or barbecue when people start discussing gardening and having their kitchen done. As a tenant I could only stand around and nod, whilst looking for an opportunity to talk about something else or find someone else to talk to. This wasn’t out of envy or jealousy, more that these were things I could not relate to as a tenant, like having children for example, or liking football.
In any case, I now felt as if I had claimed a rightful place in wider society.

The fun part: DIY!

Having rented all my adult life, I’d never really done much DIY or painting and decorating. The landlord had done it (or rather, his guys had). The place I moved into required some work, and so I had to upskill myself. I had to invest in a set of good quality tools, and learn how to do things like fit carpet, replace light fittings, prep walls before decorating, apply paint effectively (including ‘cutting in’) and so forth. Youtube, my local library and the combined wisdom of my freinds and family were a big help here.
I found working with wood, tools, and ‘real’ items very satisfying after my day-job working on web code, which has a spritelike ephemeral quality. Plus, like gardening and having kitchens fitted, this was another point of bonding with the Homeowner Classes at work and outside.
But more fundamentally, it’s bloody good fun building things, making things and generally dicking around with drills.

Conclusions

In conclusion, I have felt a shift in my life in terms of practical responsibilities, and a sense of security and belonging in society. I now feel a greater sense of belonging and ease within myself. I no longer have anxiety dreams about getting a Section 21 Notice to Quit on the doormat, or of the landlord turning up and concreting over the garden to make a car park.
It is to my regret though that the circumstances behind my buying a home came down to luck on my part, and generosity on the part of my parents to whom I feel a very deep gratitude. I fully understand my privilege here – I am very much a ‘have’. Many of my peers, including my friends and colleagues, are not so lucky, and may never own their own homes.

The UK housing market is well out of reach for many people, leaving them in a very precarious situation as tenants in the private sector with an Assured Shorthold Tenancy: a landlord can chuck them out, with no reason given and just 2 months notice. There’s no protection against this, no appeal.
The thought of an entire generation of people in England and Wales* being unable to put down roots, to live with constant anxiety of being kicked out is chilling.

  • How can they plan for having children or working?
  • How can they ever hope to connect and feel a real part of their neighbourhoods and community? They are already saddled with university debt, phantom jobs on the gig economy, and the potential disruption of the workplace from AI and next-generation automation.

Avocado Toast

    Berating young people for liking Avocado Toast as per property mogul Tim Gurner is an underhanded diversion, an attempt turn the issue of inequality into a moral issue rather than an economic one: previous generations enjoyed much lower house-price-to-earnings ratios, lower property prices when adjusted for inflation, and lower deposit-to-earnings ratios (whilst at the same time enjoying their own small luxuries). It hasn’t been tenants that have driven these trends, and if they’re irreversible, then we need to move to a more sustainable and secure rental model for the younger generation. Reform of the private rental sector is urgently needed to bring it into line with the European model, where tenants can keep pets, redecorate and refurbish under the protection of long term tenancies.

    This will, I believe, give tenants the ability to plan for their lives longer-term, build connections with their neighbours and communities, and give them the stability enjoyed by out European cousins.

    Epilogue

    Meanwhile, in the six months since I have moved in, inflation has already knocked a few hundred off my mortgage, and the value of my home has risen by nearly £10k. Earning money from investments is not ‘hard work’. Plant money, it grows. But you have to have the seeds and the soil, the opportunity and resources to invest in the first place.

    *Scottish law is different to English and Welsh law in this regard. The Scottish Parliament has already passed a law to restrict evictions.

    Notes from a long lost blog

    A couple of days ago I found this old blog of mine. I had completely forgotten I had it, as I must have been busy with other things over the last few years, but still, it was a nice surprise: rather like finding an old bicycle or computer in the loft that still sort-of works.

    I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, but in the meantime I’ve reskinned it with a new CSS theme.

    In the meantime, here’s a picture of a cat, because everyone likes cats and it’s what the internet was invented for:

    Back to it…

    Back into developing my skillset now, and thoroughly enjoying picking new things up. In the last 12 months I’ve started working with node-webkit (I was looking for a way of knocking up small HTML/Javascript desktop apps that would work across Linux and Windows now that adobe’s killed off Air for Linux), as well as Bootstrap and SASS.

    It’s the thing I love about web development: it keeps you busy and there are always many more things to learn.

    For now though I’m revising my long-neglected ASP.NET skills (what, we’re on 4.5 already?), and also learning a bit about F# for the forthcoming NorDevCon, where I will be attending the ‘Machine Learning and F#’ workshop.

    I’m also back into blogging as well.

    Adventures in Linux

    For the last week I’ve not actually booted into Windows at all (well, unless I’ve been at work). Instead at home I’ve been using the wonderful Linux Mint.

    I’m not entirely sure why I started doing this. There was certainly no cut-off point where I thought ‘right, that’s it, no more Windows ever again!’. I do recall a few months back having wondered what it would be like to have Linux on my actual desktop PC rather than just using it as a kind of necromantic spell with which to revive any dead PCs that people give me, but that was about it.

    My introduction to the world of Linux had what I imagine to be a fairly typical starting point. A few years back I moved into my flat. The previous tenant was a friend of mine who’d left a few bits and bobs behind. One of these bits and bobs was a purportedly ‘dead’ PC which couldn’t be used because the hard drive was screwed. It was an old IDE hard drive, but I managed to find a replacement, and found myself wondering how to get it working. I thought about buying an old OEM copy of Win XP for it, but something in my baulked at shelling out for an OS for an old computer. Why not try Linux? So I did: Ubuntu looked easy (and it was), and so on it went.

    So up until recently, if someone had given me a dead laptop or some computer parts I’d usually have installed Ubuntu. I like brown for a start (cue synaesthetic mixed metaphor: it was like having a chocolate and coffee flavoured OS, purring away like a Burmese cat on a warm summers evening), and the out-of-the-box Gnome 2 desktop was a bit like a friendlier version of Windows. Plus it was free, and so were all the weird little bits of software on it, so I didn’t have to worry about nasty license restrictions should I upgrade or find myself reinstalling anything. All in all a very happy option that I was pleased to use.

    Unfortunately Ubuntu utterly shot themselves in both feet with the ‘Unity’ desktop. Like Windows 8’s Metro and touch-interface obsession and Skyrim’s completely unsuitable UI on the PC, this was a triumph of ‘Vision’ over usability and common-sense, which shot my workflow to hell and rendered using the OS a hopeless mess. Meanwhile Gnome 3 was doing something similar in it’s gnomey cave, thus similarly alienating its user base.

    Sadly I had to put Ubuntu to bed as a result of this ‘blue sky’ meddling by the Unity visionaries, and didn’t bother with Linux much after that. However, the idea of having a free operating system, thus reducing my dependence on Windows, kept its appeal. I kept finding myself contemplating different imaginary scenarios where I’d work almost entirely with free/open source software, and so searched around for another distro that would be attractive, pleasant to use and, erm, actually usable.

    For the benefit of Windows users reading this, it’s here that one of the most striking differences between Linux and Windows becomes apparent: the interface (desktop, windows, menus, buttons etc) is in fact seperate(ish) from the actual operating system itself. This means that you can have Linux installed, and depending on your hardware or your UI preferences, you can choose between different ‘Windows-ish’ setups. Up until recently there have been two main contenders, Gnome and KDE. Both of these offered a Windows-like experience, together with the various widgets, multiple workspaces and so on. Switching between different workspaces is great if you’re into multi-tasking, and is something I miss when working with Windows. There were subtle differences between Gnome and KDE, and these have become more marked as both have sought to make use of accelerated graphics hardware in different ways.

    Neither Gnome 3, nor KDE really appealed to me. Ubuntu’s Unity was awful due to the way it hampered my ability to rapidly switch between tasks, Gnome 3 did similar, and KDE never really felt particularly ‘solid’.

    Lately though, whilst Googling different versions of Linux, I found Linux Mint. I had used it before (when to my innocent mind it was just a ‘green’ version of Ubuntu), but not extensively. I saw that Clem Lefebvre and his Linux Mint team had heeded the criticisms levelled by the Linux community at Unity and Gnome 3, and set about finding solutions that would enable them to maintain a usable and pleasant Linux Distro that didn’t piss people off or crash their PCs. Thus Linux Mint is available with two Desktop environments: Cinnamon and MATE. Both are simple and enjoyable to use, and although they’re both very new they both feel and behave in a solid fashion. What’s most cheering about these projects is the way that folks working on both the MATE and Cinnamon projects have been careful to listen to the needs and the wishes of their userbases, improving those things that need to be improved whilst keeping the things that work well.

    Since installing Linux Mint 12 as a second OS on my desktop PC, I’ve been tinkering around with it quite a bit. It was only yesterday that I noticed that the tinkering had become full-time use for the last week, and that I hadn’t actually used Windows at all at home during that period.

    Mint boots quickly on my PC, doesn’t pester me with security updates, and doesn’t spend the first half hour working at a crawl whilst the antivirus updates itself. I can just get on with whatever everyday tasks I want to do, and Mint gets out of the way. The desktop customisation means that I’ve been able to arrange things in a manner that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional, and I’ve been learning about Linux on the way as well.

    In fact, it’s the last bit that’s been the most satisfying, because even though there are icons on the desktop and menus here and there just like Windows, Linux differs to Windows in many ways so there’s been loads of new things to discover. I’ve been finding out about the file structure, the way permissions are used and also how to use scripts and terminal commands.

    I’ll still be using Windows for music production (I swear by Orion and Komplete) and learning ASP.NET stuff (Visual Studio 2010 has no parallel). Oh, and AAA games like Skyrim too, but for everyday stuff I’ll stick with Mint.

    On Windows 8 Consumer Preview

    I’ve been using Microsoft’s Windows 8 Consumer Preview for the last week or so now, running it in Virtualbox on my XP machine. In fact, I’m working with it right now as I type this.

    Windows 8 is a frustrating experience, because there’s so much here that Microsoft got right mixed with a bunch of missed opportunities, and a number of infuriating deliberate decisions which appear to have been implemented out of pure spite towards people who prefer working with as *ahem* the ‘old desktop paradigm’.

    So, here’s my brief take on Redmond’s latest…

    I like to end on positive notes, so I’ll start on the downers.

    First off the obvious: the Metro Start Screen. I can see this working very well on a tablet, where one has no mouse, and can swipe horizontally. It’s become an intuitive, learned behaviour for millions of people, and is an efficient way of navigating through a horizontal tapestry of icons and information. The tiles show useful little bits of information too, and the Metro app tiles in particular have that distinctive minimalist Metro look about them, so no shiny faux-glass surfaces or drop shadows here.

    The desktop is a little icon itself. I think the idea here is that the desktop is now to be thought of as an app, rather than the main interface with the operating system.

    The problem I have with the Start Screen is the lack of configurability. One cannot, for example, shrink the tiles in any way, or reduce them to an ordered list of programs like you can icons in Explorer. On my monitor they are about an inch square. You can unpin them and move them about though.

    Also, in a rather bizarre decision that flies in the face of intuitive UI design, if you’re using keyboard and mouse, rolling the mouse wheel up and down scrolls it left and right. You can’t ‘grab’ the right hand side with a mouse and fling it to the left, but there is a scrollbar.

    OK, nothing much to complain about I guess, but it’s a radically different environment to the desktop, and this is where Microsoft screwed up.

    On previous versions of Windows we had a Start menu on the desktop, which gave us quick access to a few pinned programs, the ‘Run’ command, the power off/hibernate/logoff commands, the search function, control panel etc.

    It was unobtrusive, just a little button in the corner, and behaved rather like a toolbelt. When not in use it would collapse back out of sight leaving your desktop free of clutter – there was no need to have icons and shortcuts dotted all over the place. Unfortunately Microsoft has done away with it forcing you to use the Start Screen instead.

    This for me is a major problem. Opening a program from the Start Menu was like reaching for your toolbelt and grabbing what you need. There was no break of concentration, you could keep half an eye on your already-open apps, and your attention and workflow were largely uninterrupted.

    However, the Start Menu is not like that. It’s as if Microsoft are forcing you to go next door to your neighbour’s garage to fetch a tool, each and every time you need to use a new one, rather than let you keep it on your belt. It’s distracting and unnecessary, and smacks of railroading users into some kind of UI ‘vision’.

    Not convinced by this, I must say.

    Chess Tactics with Fritz 12 (and probably 13 as well)

    Fritz is one of those bits of software that has so many weird little settings and buttons buried inside it, that it’s easy to miss certain functionality.

    I’m a big fan of chess tactics puzzles of the kind found in the Chess Tactics Server, but what I didn’t know, after having Fritz installed on my PC for over two years, was that I could use Fritz to trawl through a database of games, spot blunders and turn them into Tactics problems.

    I found out how to do this on the Chessbase website, where Albert Silver takes you through the process. For me this is a bit like being a chocolate addict who’s been shown how to grow cacao and turn it into Bournville by pressing a few buttons.

    In a nutshell, the process goes something like this:

    First, collect a suitable collection of games into a ‘source’ database. Approx 100 games works well. A collection of classic games perhaps.

    • Start Fritz
    • F12 to open the database manager window
    • Application Menu Button (big round one, top left of window) → Open your ‘source’ Database
    • Database tab → Blunder Check
    • Select the following options in the pop up window:
      • Depth = 12
      • Threshold = 80
      • Tick ‘Training’ box (IMPORTANT!)
      • Click ‘OK’

    Wait for an interminable length of time for Fritz to analyse those games. The time taken will depend on the specs of your machine. I left it to get on with the job whilst having dinner, and it took about an hour and a half to analyse the games in the Capelle-La-Grande database suggested by the Chessbase website.

    When it’s done, you’ll still have all the games in the database, but not all of them will have had identifiable ‘Blunders’ to use for tactics training. We can fish the ‘Tactics’ games out using the filter, and put them in a separate database, like so:

    • Home tab → Filter games
      • Annotations tab → Training
      • Click ‘OK’

    The resulting collection of games are ones that Fritz found Blunders in. They are now Tactics training games, and you can copy these into a new ‘Tactics’ database.

    • Ctrl-A to select all games (in other words, all the games that were in the ‘filter’ result)
    • Button → New → New Database
    • Give it a name e.g. Capelle-La-Grande-Tactics.cbh
    • Ctrl-V to paste your Tactics games into the new database
    • Click OK

    Now you can load in the database whenever you feel like it, select a game on there and spend a panicky five seconds trying to find the best move that some IM missed in the heat of an international tournament. You’ll find the ‘Load Next Game’ button comes in handy if you want to spend a whole evening solving these positions.

    In closing I would very much like to thank Albert Silver for putting this on the Chessbase website. I don’t think I’m ever going to get bored with this.

      Using a Vocoder in Orion

      A vocoder brings together two signals, a  carrier signal and a modulator signal, and combines them into an output signal. If the modulator signal is a vocal recording, and the carrier signal is a synthesiser sound, then the result is a robotic effect, a bit like Cylons in the old Battlestar Galactica (according to Wikipedia, they used an EMS Vocoder 2000).

      Here’s how to do something similar using a vocal recording and a synth of your choice in Synapse’s Orion… We’ll assume that you have a suitable vocal signal for the modulator (perhaps a long vocal sample) on one mxing channel and a  good, solid and simple synth waveform (keep it simple, use something like Wasp or Triangle 2) on another.

      1. Send the carrier signal (i.e. your synth) to a bus, hard panned right
      2. Send the modulator signal (i.e. your vocals) to the same bus, hard panned left
      3. Open the master console, and add the vocoder to an insert slot (you’ll find the Orion Vocoder in the Direct X effects section)

      That’s your routing sorted. You’ll find that you’ll only hear anything if both the carrier AND the modulator are outputting something at the same time. This means that in your song playlist you’ll need to have any chords/notes sorted out in the carrier synth, and in sync with your modulator parts.

      Mess about with the workings of an RPG!

      Back in 2008 Microsoft released a the code for a small Japanese-style RPG to help folks get started with coding their own indie games. If you have a little experience with coding/compiling and want to mess about with it, here’s how to get hold of the latest version and poke about with it yourself.

      Download and install Visual C# 2010 Express

      Microsoft released a free (as in beer), trimmed-down version of Visual Studio specifically for coding C# .NET programs and apps. If you already have Visual Studio 2010, then skip this step.

      You also have the option of downloading the whole suite of ‘Express’ packages, including Visual Basic and the Web Developer package.

      Download and install Microsoft XNA 4.0

      Microsoft built the XNA code library specifically for coding games on Windows and the XBox. It contains routines for 3D graphics, sound, handling game saves, sprites and so forth.

      Once run, you can use the XNA 4.0 code libraries in Visual C# 2010 Express, and you will also be able to make use of game templates and compilation options that will enable you to export your code to an XBox 360.

      Download the Role-Playing-Game Starter Kit

      The starter kit comes in the form of a project that can be opened in Visual C# 2010 Express. All you have to do is download it and unpack the files to the correct place.

      1. Go to http://create.msdn.com/en-US/education/catalog/sample/roleplaying_game
      2. Download the file ‘RolePlayingGame_4_0_Win_Xbox.zip
      3. Unpack the zip file and copy the folder into your visual studio2010projects folder. You should be able to find this in your ‘My Documents’ folder. If not, just extract them to somewhere sensible where you will be able to find them later

      Get started!

      Everything should be in place now for you to get nosing around the code, debug it, and generally hack it about to your heart’s content

      • Start Visual C# 2010 Express
      • Go to File -> Open project
      • Navigate to where you unpacked the RPG Starter Kit
      • Open ‘RoleplayingGameWindows.sln
      • Visual C# will load in the files
      • Click the green ‘debug‘ arrow at the top to compile and run the game

      All being well, the game should start. Hit ‘Escape’ to get back to Visual C# 2010 Express.

      This is as far as I’ve got with it so far, and I’ll be spending some time inspecting the code and classes used. I’m particularly interested in the methods used for rendering the environment, and also handling character interaction. I suspect though that my first job will involve rebinding the keyboard controls…

      I make no secret of the fact that I like a lot of what Microsoft has done in the past, but occasionally they drive me nuts. I like the .NET framework, I like the free stuff, I like Windows 7, I like the old MS Flight Simulator and their keyboards and mouses seem to work well enough.

      Whereas I fully support any iniative to get young people coding their own games, I do sometimes wonder if C# is really the right place to start, and whether or not kids would be better off with something similar but based around, say, Python. Maybe I just hark after the old days, where one would switch on an 8-bit machine like a BBC Micro or a Spectrum, and immediately have access to the BASIC programming language. I believe something like that would do wonders for computing literacy