It is dawn. From my bed I can see sunlight on the green pine tops outside the wall. Yawning, I roll off onto my exercise mat and stretch the sleep out of my legs. It takes time; Mr. Chernik says my legs are growing fast and I need to be patient with them. I use the time to plan which lessons I will do from the lion disc, so I don't forget any during the day. Then I do strength exercises: pushups, leg lifts, chinups and bend-overs, twenty of each, three times. Except, I can't quite do all the chinups on the last set. That will come in time when my arms catch up to the growth of my legs; even so, I consider myself strong as a lion, the words Mr. Chernik uses to encourage me. Finally I go out to the yard and run, ten minutes back and forth from the gray cinder block wall on one side of the yard to the wall on the other side. Adam has already started; and Charlie and finally gentle auburn Leo make their appearance in the yard. To finish, I go up and down the Douglas fir several times while Adam climbs the pine.
I like being high in the fir tree, and not just because of its fragrance. I like to look at the world outside the wall. When we're out there we're always doing something; there's not time to just hang on some tree and look. The air is very clear today and I could almost touch the mountains to the south. On the ridge, on the higher peak... I do the eye exercise I was taught; the dot is slightly clearer. It might be, I'm pretty sure it is some kind of house, not just a patch of bare rock. I wonder who lives there. Charlie finishes his running and climbing, and since the kitchen is his, that means breakfast is starting. I wonder if Charlie ate all the cantaloupe last night, because if not, I intend to finish it off; I'll slice it into my oatmeal.
I usually do math after breakfast until Mr. Chernik comes in to check on me. Today somehow I was thinking about the house a lot, but I didn't let that stop me from making progress in my lesson, progress that leads into a puzzle which I ask Mr. Chernik about when he shows up.
Me: I've got a question, Mr. Chernik. The quadratic formula is, you know, a formula, right? So when the parabola misses the axis, what I don't see is, it can't just decide not to answer, like I could, right? How does it wiggle out of the assignment?
Mr. Chernik: OK, Simba, which numbers squared give one?
Me: One and minus one, and the parabola goes under the axis. Now you're going to ask about minus one, and there aren't any numbers squared equal minus one. But it's a formula, see my problem?
Mr. Chernik: Hmm, maybe I do. You may be thinking that anything written on a lesson screen has to work all the time, every time.
Me: I would hope so.
Mr. Chernik: Welcome to the real world. If the forward map only covers half the numbers, the positive ones and zero, then the reverse map from the uncovered part, that's square root, isn't going to do anything, whether it's in a lesson or not. Does that help?
Me: I guess. I'm not going to get answers, but it still seems like somebody's cheating.
Mr. Chernik: Actually you're not the only one with that opinion. Later in the program Mr. Allerod shows how mathematicians deal with uncooperative square roots. Any more questions?
Me: Revenge of the mathematicians; that will be interesting. Um, there is one thing. Well, a different thing. I'll give you something this afternoon on Greek geography. I'm not going to do any more of that.
Mr. Chernik: OK, I'll see it then. Bye.
I nonchalantly smile at him, but inside I am shaky. He never misses anything; he had to have been deliberately ignoring what I said. And what had got into me? I was going to say, ``I think it's about time to wrap that up'', not ``I'll throw something at you and you'd better like it''. I'll have to apologize to Mr. Chernik this afternoon. And when I thought about telling him about the house, I felt angry at him and came up with that line. The house is really bothering me.
Panthera leo has a very direct style of dealing with things that bother it. I will learn from the lion. I had planned to write today about one of the Greek myths I'm reading, probably Theseus and the Minotaur, but that can wait; today's writing assignment will be an action plan about the house.
We normally take a break at midmorning, and either Willie or Cathy usually shows up in our yard, plus some younger kids. I'm happy to see Willie today because he's as good as me at climbing, even pines and firs. His bare feet stick to tree bark.
Me: Hey, Willie, I've got something to show you. Go up the tree and look south. There are two peaks in the hills, and near the top of the higher one there's a very tiny dot which I think is a house. Take a look.
Willie: So what if it's a house?
Me: Well, aren't you curious who lives there, and what they do, and why it's in such an odd location?
Willie: This had better be worth it, going up so high just to see a house. OK, I think I see something. I can't tell what it is. I'm coming down.
Me: How far away do you think it is? I'm going to do a project on it to find out as much as I can about it.
Willie: If it's a project, you need to measure the distance, not guess, and when you can't put a tape up to your target, you do it by triangulation. I read a book on George Washington; his first job was as a surveyor, and they told a little about how it was done.
Me: Can you show me?
Willie: I don't know enough to do it. But let's do the surveying part together, OK? I think it would be interesting to learn that.
Me: Sure! But let's have our break first. Indian wrestle?
Willie: I'll beat you.
Me: Not this time.
We tie 5-5, a common outcome. Willie is Mr. and Mrs. Ragland's kid. He's what they call black. He works as hard as we do, and he tries never to let us get ahead of him for long in anything. Of course it's hard for one to beat five all the time, and in lesson progress he, Cathy and the four of us form a single group in many topics. We want him to be happy to come to our yard, so we don't make a big deal when one of us excels at something he doesn't.
Inside on my computer, a few mouse clicks bring Willie and me an article on surveying. First we need two points a known distance apart from which we can see the house. The sight lines make a triangle whose angles we measure. So second we need an angle measurer. The project has a good telescope with angle markings for aiming it, and a tripod base for it, and a camera coupling so I can save a picture of the house. The final step is to learn enough trigonometry to interpret the measurements. We decide that we had better check out that last step first.
Willie: This is scary. I thought trigonometry came after geometry, which comes after algebra.
Me: Here's how I figure it. My writing has to be done before lunch, because I promised Mr. Chernik a map of Greece and I'm going to need all the time after lunch to do it. Writing will take half an hour, I hope, so we can try trigonometry for half an hour. If it's hopeless we've wasted half an hour, big deal.
Willie: I didn't mean I wasn't going to do it.
He hits the cross reference. It is not hopeless. Half an hour is enough to tell us how the sin and cos keys on the calculator would solve our problem, if the triangle were right-angled, which it won't be. We agree to make an hour a day, starting this afternoon, to work on trig and surveying, until we have our distance.
Writing takes more than half an hour. Goal: to find out as much as I can about the house. Issues: The project staff would never let me actually go there, so it would have to be all remote. I'm not so immature as to think there's any actual value in knowing about the house; all the effort has to be justifiable as a learning experience. Similarly, fantasies are fun, and I could and probably will write a story about the house and its occupants, but the actual project will include only live data such as... what, census data or something? Project resource use will be minimal, just web surfing, but already I've committed a significant block of time, and in the end the project could noticeably cut into my other lessons, a point which will have to be negotiated with Mr. Chernik -- and with myself, since I don't want to give up anything. Those are the issues I can see so far; there are probably others.
Now for the action: I will survey to find the distance to the house. But, I realize, what I really want to know is where it is. I draw a diagram for the report showing the project buildings at the center and the house on an arc at measured distance; I need to know the angle to the house relative to north, and more important: where are we actually? I would like to end up with a map and the house spotted on it, with terrain, forest type and related human activities in the vicinity. I would also really like to find out who lives there, and send mail to them and ask for details. We're allowed to post to newsgroups and send mail as long as we show the messages to Ms. Donegal, the project's lawyer, and take her advice on revising them.
For lunch in Charlie's kitchen, Artemis of the Silver Bow (that's Cathy) has venison (originally with feathers, sliced on a sandwich). Willie is here too. Adam doesn't think the surveying will work. It's not polite to just say, ``Adam, you're all wet so shut up'', but how can we answer him? Leo has a good idea: a test problem. We guess where the house is, compute what we would measure, and try to decide if we could actually do it. Since it's his computer, Charlie does the computation under direction from Willie and me. We have to simplify a lot because we only started learning trig, but the conclusion is clear: Adam is right. On our hilltop we can get at most fifty meters separation before the trees block our view, and assuming 15 Km to the house, the difference in angle of the sight lines would be no more than a fifth of a degree. Bummer.
When Panthera leo misses the leap he or she doesn't go off and starve; he tries again. So will we, after lunch games and afternoon lessons. In particular, I will have to deal with Mr. Chernik.
After lunch I start on the promised map. I draw it from memory, marking on it the major places mentioned in the myths, with an inset showing Asia Minor, specifically Troy, the Hellespont and the Dardanelles. It's hard to figure out a score, but comparing with an authentic map I've only gotten one city clearly out of place, and I'm satisfied. Mr. Chernik comes in as I finish the evaluation.
Mr. Chernik: So, that's the something you have for me. You did a good job drawing it from memory, particularly on the outline of the land. I have a question for you though. Tell me why you show it to me rather than just leaving the file in your directory.
Me: Um, I didn't mean to be so abrupt with you this morning. I want to apologize for that, and maybe talk about what I was feeling.
Mr. Chernik: Hmm, apology accepted, but I'd like the answer to my question first.
Me: Working with Dr. Deutsch and Mr. Allerod and the other supervisors and the rest of the project staff, you know what lessons I need and which will help me learn best. I produce results because that's how you know if I've learned, and to know, you have to look at the results. Then you can advise me what to do next. Which I want to talk to you about.
Mr. Chernik: I'm sure you do, but there's a big gap in your answer. Try to find it.
Me: I'm, um, feeling frustrated and not very philosophical right now. I'd, you know, like to avoid an argument, but I'm charging up, if you know what I mean.
Mr. Chernik: You should feel frustrated. Tell me what frustrates you.
Me: You really want to know?
Mr. Chernik: I rarely ask questions that I don't want the answer to.
Me: OK, for once I want to do a project because I want to, not because it's good for me, and I've got one, and it's packed my schedule to my eyeballs, and you're probably going to explain to me oh so encouragingly how it really isn't that productive, and you have just the topic for me. Yaaah! Sorry to be unscientific but you asked how I felt.
Mr. Chernik: And when you finish this project what will you do?
Me: We'll all sit around and congratulate each other on what a good job we did, and you won't be invited. OK, I'll not waste your time. I have a report of goals, issues and action plan, which I did as my writing assignment for today. There's a list of what I want to find out. At the end I think each of us -- several people seem like they want to participate. Each person should write a separate report giving all the results and detailing the part which that person did. They'll go in the archives; I'd like to include Willie's report, and Cathy's if she joins us. Of course you can read both the plan and the final reports.
Mr. Chernik: Thank you. Now, why did you choose this project? Why did you rent your eyeballs to it? I don't mean what's in it for me to like, or how is it good for you, I mean the real reason for choosing it.
Me: The house bothers me. I think, you know, we run back and forth between the walls, and it's something in the real world. Does that make any sense? And as a project, well, the real project is to go there, but that's not going to happen, so the next best is to find out about it, you know, going there in virtual reality.
Mr. Chernik: A house, you say? I have a sense of deja vu. We talked about this issue in the staff meeting this morning. I'd like to circulate your project plan, possibly after revisions, for discussion next week. OK? I think the staff will be very interested in your way of getting out from between the walls. And the reason the topic came up just now is something we don't like and you're not going to like either. So let's get my question answered, and get on to the next topic.
Me: Something I did?
Mr. Chernik: Someone in Salt Lake did.
Me: Oh. OK, I'll try again. I show you the map, well, on the geography project I know why I did it and I can tell that I did enough, but on some projects it isn't so obvious, so you have to make the judgment.
Mr. Chernik: It isn't so obvious whether you learned thoroughly enough, or what to do next, right, but you still didn't answer the question. When you might misjudge, why not just do the best you can and plow ahead?
Me: When I'm grown up I may have to do that, but... I want to learn this stuff well, before I have to go out and do everything by myself, and I have a lot more confidence in choosing correctly if I check with you.
Mr. Chernik: Bingo! Try to factor my own motivation and see why I rejected your first answer.
Me: You want the same thing I do. Let's see if I can say this right. I want to be able to, to have the opportunity to decide on projects without being forced into them. OK, your question, I talked about you telling me what to do, and nothing about I check with you to make sure we both get to our goal. Is that answer enough?
Mr. Chernik: Enough. I suggest... What do you think is your best move for your frustration with me?
Me: I suggest a writing assignment. What I think I'm getting out of being supervised. I'll think of lots of connections, and you'll know what I'm thinking more coherently without having to drag it out of me, which isn't fun for me either. Do you agree?
Mr. Chernik: Check. Now on the other topic, we're going to be inspected. Ms. Donegal thinks she can stall for at least six months and possibly a year, but we'll lose in the end. This is the Utah State Education Office. They've gotten onto a kick that every cheiild in Utah has to get a decent education, and this includes the home study kids. Like you. And guess how that's to be verified? The public school kids take tests, but they think home study parents will do the tests for their kids, so... a visit from you know who.
Me: I can pass any test she comes up with. So can any of the kids. In stories people like that are always female, like witches.
Mr. Chernik: I'm sure you can, but let's just imagine Ms. Prune strolling in here. Oh, what a cute little student, will he slice my finger off with his dagger-like fangs?
Me: Not to mention the razor-sharp claws. That would be a problem. What can we do, move out of Utah?
Mr. Chernik: I don't think so. Evaluate your suggestion.
Me: Other states might be even more nosy. Vanishing into the bushes may solve some problems but not this one. Suppose we use the year of delays to go public, orderly, and then invite Ms. Prune?
Mr. Chernik: Basically that's what the staff plan to do, but there's a twist: we don't want you to be inspected, public or not. We don't trust their inspector; we know there are people who will react extremely badly to you kids, and if we get one of those, we don't pass.
Me: She'd fake the test results?
Mr. Chernik: She doesn't have to. There's a subjective judgment of adequacy of the learning environment. Our lawsuit -- we're joined with a really revolting pack of survivalists, tax protesters and religious nuts, as well as a few reasonable people, but we can't pick our partners in this. We're demanding objective standards, and Ms. Donegal thinks we have a chance on that, but it's far from assured. We're planning on losing the entire case. Fire team A holds off the adversaries while fire team B removes the payload, then team A evaporates into the bushes. The tentative plan is for you to get the GED, the general education diploma. This means they acknowledge that you know everything they require, so the inspection is moot.
Mr. Chernik: The issue is gone. Whatever the court decides, nothing different will happen, so the court will completely ignore eight little lions, and so will the Education Office. Just the way we want it. They'll inspect Willie and Cathy and Kristin and the other younger kids, but with you probably out of the building entirely, I think it will go OK. We got a study guide for the GED, and we put one of the practice tests in the special projects directory. We'd like each of you to do it, and identify areas you have trouble with. There's stuff you haven't studied. We want an idea how long it will take to get you ready to pass the GED. Read the instructions, and no aids like dictionaries or calculators.
Me: When do you want it? I'm signed up at the gunnery range, and I promised to do something with Willie, which I could change.
Mr. Chernik: Tomorrow evening will be fine. Are we all set? I'll be next door telling all this to Charlie if you think of any questions you need to ask me. Bye.
Going public! Life is going to get complicated real fast. But we'll get to see the public world, the real world. Maybe we can even hike up to my house.
It's time for my gunnery lesson. Shooting is not my favorite activity, but it has to be done. The range reeks of powder. Earplugs keep my ears from hurting but I feel real fear whenever a simulated adversary fires at me, or whenever I fire my weapon. We're supposed to remember that each bullet is a life lost, and I take that instruction seriously. The scenario is chaotic and ambiguous, projected in a virtual reality helmet; details, such as where the adversaries are hiding, vary randomly each time I try. I hit fewer friendlies this time, but I have many failures ahead of me before I can pass the scenario. Charlie tells me the next one is cool. I'm glad he can enjoy this kind of stuff; shooting is not my favorite activity.
I return to my room to meet Willie. The scenario is also chaotic; it seems that everyone is interested in the project and somebody new pops in every five minutes. My floor is awash in variously colored lion fur and human skin, never still. Finally I put my foot down.
Me: Willie and I need to learn some math; we need to learn how to do this surveying stuff. Artemis, would you do something? See if Mr. Ragland will let us borrow the telescope. Get all the parts, it lives in kind of a box or a pack, and learn how to make it work. OK? If there's a writeup how to use it, that would help. And Adam, you got the idea of what we're going to calculate; you were right that we can't just go up on the hilltop and do it, so could you try to come up with a better way? And of course we'll help, but we have to concentrate on the math right now.
Cathy: If he won't give it to me, is it OK if I say to check with Mr. Chernik?
Me: Yes, I told him and he's going along with it being our project. Leo, you want to do something? Get your computer and bring it over here, and start the trig lesson. It's not really a lesson, just kind of a description, but it's not hard to learn.
The only person missing is Charlie, but he'll rarely join a big group like this unless it's on his own territory where he feels in control. I mail him the URLs for the trig and the surveying material we're working on, in case he wants to join in privately. With other people doing stuff rather than bothering us, Willie and I make good progress. I ask Adam to get the tape measure he has. We measure the width of my oak storage chest, then use a protractor to estimate sight line angles to the brass handle of the sliding yard door. The calculation has to be done twice, due to a mistake, but we get the distance from the chest to the door accurate to 10 cm. Not wonderful, but it's a good beginning.
Adam: May I try something? Let's move the chest right up to the door. Slide the door open.
Willie: What's the plan?
Adam: We're going to survey the distance to the corner of the wall opposite Simba's room. And then we're going to use that as a baseline for surveying the whole length of the wall, down to my end. See how we apply it? We go up on the hilltop and look for some other spot where we can see the target. From the hilltop we survey the distance to the other place, using our fifty meter baseline. We get the angle to the target. Then we move to the second place and repeat.
Willie: Yeah! And I'll bet I know where the second place could be, a kind of rockpile. This is cool!
Adam: Careful! You almost put the chest on my tail.
It actually works. From end to end of the wall is 13 meters by surveying, and 12 meters by tape measure. The accuracy isn't great, but I hope we can do better with the telescope, which Cathy, I mean Artemis, has been fiddling with.
And it's time for dinner. We're careful to stop what we're doing and eat at 1800, because it's not polite to Mrs. Ragland to ignore the food she's made. Willie and Cathy bring our food from the kitchen into Charlie's place, while Willie's parents take food to the other group. Charlie reports that he has read the references I mailed him, as I expected, but he really wants to talk about the inspection. His tail posture sets the mood.
Charlie: That's really lousy. If they send someone onto my territory they had better think how they're going to get that person back, and in what condition.
Leo: Watch it, Charlie! We have to live with these people, and you'll mess it up for all of us if you slash first and ask questions later.
Charlie: I don't have to like it. I can get mad if I want. I know I have to be charming in the reality, but that doesn't change how I feel. And anyway, if this plan works out we'll never see the inspector.
Cathy: What plan? What inspector?
Charlie: I guess nobody told you; our supervisors told us this afternoon. The Education Office will eventually inspect how we, I mean the project, teaches us kids. But we're going to try to pass the GED test, which puts us out of reach of the inspector.
Me: That's General Education Diploma. It means we've finished high school.
Willie: High school? That's a joke!
Me: No, it isn't. We're smart, we work hard, and we have at least six months to prepare if we need it. Mr. Chernik says there are topics we haven't studied yet. I'm going to do the practice test right after dinner; I want to take the telescope up on the hilltop tomorrow morning.
Willie: Are we supposed to do it too?
Adam: Mr. Lewis talked about lion people. They don't want the inspector to mess with us. But he says he doesn't doubt we'll pass if only the humans, that's you, are inspected. You know, that seems lousy. We work together and we study pretty much the same lessons, so you ought to take the GED too.
Me: How is Kristin doing? I hardly ever see her on our side. Mr. Chernik mentioned her.
Cathy: She thinks you guys play too rough. I think the real reason is that a certain predator makes her very nervous. She's mostly with the other group. In lessons, she's almost as advanced as I am -- more advanced than I was at that age.
Charlie: I didn't do it deliberately. I don't even remember what happened, or when. If I scared her, I'll send her a nice message, a charming message, apologizing and assuring her that I don't eat people. That I don't regard her as prey. I may be weird, but I get lonely just like the rest of you and I don't want to scare away friends. If she can handle the test she ought to take it with us. I'll invite her and I'll offer to study the new stuff together with her. Do you think she'd like that?
Willie: Charming Charlie, that's a new one. But you know, this high school thing feels weird! In public schools I'd just be starting junior high.
Me: The test is in the special projects directory under GED. No calculator or dictionary, and you have to finish in two hours, and it's long. Imagine you're trying to beat us; that'll get you through it.
Willie: I didn't say I'd have trouble getting through it. It's just so weird.
Willie and Cathy stay in Charlie's room to write the test, while I return to mine. I submerge in a surreal world of green boxes and checkbuttons in groups of five. I'm not used to two hours of concentrated work, and I'm wrung out at the end. The instructions say to check answers if you have time, but either I know the answers or I don't, and I'm afraid of changing a right answer to wrong, so I quit that half way through, with fifteen minutes unused. I go next door to make some hot chocolate, but Charlie isn't finished; I flop with Willie and Cathy on his exercise mat. Adam and Leo drop in too, and finally Charlie is done. He sent his apology to Kristin before starting.
The aroma of hot chocolate fills the room, and its smooth flavor soothes us. We'll score the test later, but our experiences were fairly similar. The math was all simple, mostly related to finance, but there were a lot of questions. The hardest one was some kind of tax where the rate depended on the amount of money you had; the trap was that the person had prepaid too much, and they were testing if you could handle the negative balance, which of course we could do in our sleep. The reading comprehension, the main problem was to not lose focus, because again the questions were easy if you paid attention, but there were so many of them. Grammar and spelling, even the little kids should be able to pass that part. History, Charlie says it was easy. I've read quite a number of the books Charlie recommended: he'll try anything with ``war'' in the title. I didn't know a lot of the answers, but I did know well over half of them, which is pretty good considering the quantity. The others struggled with that section, and obviously all of us but Charlie will have to study history real fast. There was kind of a tail to the history section which puzzled all of us; it seemed to focus on which government officers do what, and we mostly agree on the answers, but that topic should be studied too. The last part of the test was on science and public health. I had no idea what was the proper immunization schedule for a human child, but I knew the rest. Cathy, but not Willie, knew about immunizations.
Cathy: If you've finished your hot chocolate, let's set up the telescope and look at some stars. Turn out all the lights.
Me: You've got to be kidding! I could go to bed right now, right on Charlie's mat.
Cathy: No, really. Remember you said you needed an angle from north? The instruction book tells how to line up the telescope so zero degrees is north. Let's try it.
Me: You're not tired?
Cathy: Of course I'm tired, but Artemis of the Silver Bow is strong as a lion and tough as nails, and if you aren't coming, I'm going to do it by myself.
With that kind of challenge, of course she gets full participation. Aligning the axis is simple given the writeup, and obvious once explained, but I would never have figured it out myself, and neither would any of the rest of us. And despite being nearly asleep, I'm able to figure out that we can use the near-noon sun for alignment just like any other star, viewing the image projected on a piece of white cardboard like the writeup says. The tripod base has a bubble level, and we verify that we can set the elevation, move the telescope, and have the elevation angle come back right without having to watch star motions. So thanks to Artemis we can get our data. I send a message to Mr. Chernik saying that we'll be out all morning, and drop into my bed.
Mid-morning the next day finds us hiking up our hill amid purple lupine and temporarily green grass in the gaps between trees. I have the heavy telescope box strapped to a mountain pack frame, and Charlie has the tripod. Humans vary a lot; for example, Cathy and Willie think nothing of tramping up here in bare feet, like me, whereas Mr. Chernik never does such a thing and in fact cautioned us pointedly about sharp sticks and rocks, and to watch for rattlesnakes. I have rarely seen any snake and never a rattlesnake. Ticks can afflict the humans; I have tender parts but most of my skin is full of opal leaflets and is impervious to ticks. Or to a rattlesnake, for that matter; Dr. Newman has to have needles specially made with an ultra-hard titanium nitride coating to draw our blood and give us immunizations.
On the hilltop Willie's pile of gray rock is clearly visible at the edge of the small canyon below. We each take a job; we have to work efficiently because we're due back at noon so the other group can come outside. Willie and Adam measure the baseline and mark its ends with sticks. Artemis of the Silver Bow assumes her proper attire and Leo, a better climber, takes her yellow shirt into one of the trees and ties it to a branch. She assembles the telescope over the baseline end where the house can be seen, and aligns the polar axis with north by measuring drift of the sun's image. There are several sunspots and we look at them using the cardboard while waiting for the drift to build up. Charlie has the camera and my laptop computer, and we set up the software for recording photos.
Finally all is in readiness. First we hunt for the house. Most of us can see the dot faintly by eyeball, but getting it on the telescope is another matter. Finally... It's not a house, it's some kind of tower. We record the angles and download a picture to the computer, using the telescope's camera coupler. We quickly take a sight to the rockpile and to Artemis' shirt in the tree. Now we relocate the telescope to the other end of the baseline, realign to north, and again sight the shirt and the rockpile. A group photo is not forgotten.
Time is passing, and we think it prudent to run down, except for the steepest parts where I might lose my balance and break the telescope. It takes a few minutes working along the canyon edge to find the rockpile, and it's not flat, but by adjusting the tripod legs we can set up just about over the spot we sighted at, and the house is not blocked behind treetops, and knowing the angles measured on the hilltop we're able to find it almost on the first try. The line of sight from the telescope to Artemis' shirt is blocked by a branch, though we can see it clearly by eyeball. Charlie climbs the offending tree and pulls the branch to the side, and we are then able to measure and record the angles. By this time it's ten minutes to noon.
Me: Jeez, what now? We'll never get the telescope packed in time.
Willie: Artemis and I will take care of the telescope. Leave me the pack frame; I'm just as strong as you and can carry it back. Run now, and pretend I'm trying to beat you.
Me: Thanks loads! Shall I ask someone to get someone from the other group out here to help?
Artemis: Run! Don't worry, we can handle it.
We run at top speed, tails streaming behind, faster than the morning exercise, kicking green and brown fern fronds out of the way. Both Willie and Cathy are faster than we are, though we can run farther, but we are by no means slow. We pile through the door under the gaze of Mr. Chernik and Mr. Lewis with seconds to spare. Outside time is important when we're so restricted. We rely on the other group to be fair to us, and we're fair to them, even if we can never see them. Our supervisors walk with us to Charlie's room as we let our hearts stop pounding.
Mr. Chernik: Should I be asking?
Me: I'm not in a snit any more. We got all the data. Charlie and I planned to analyze it on the rockpile but there wasn't time. But I think the data is accurate. Willie and Artemis, I mean Cathy, are bringing the telescope back.
Mr. Chernik: Not to be nosy on your project, but I look forward to reading your report. Since we have you all together, do you mind talking about the GED for a moment? We were impressed how well you did on most of the sections. And yes, Charlie, I see you; praise to you on all the sections. How fast do you think you can learn history and government? The next sitting of the GED is in three weeks, and a month after that, and Ms. Donegal says it would be really helpful, given the hearing schedule, if we could make it on one of those dates. We need to know about a week ahead if we're going. So, what can you do in two or six weeks?
Adam: The test we took, the real test will have all different questions, right? It's useless to just learn the facts on the practice test.
Charlie: I'm not trying to show off here, but you learn history for a reason, to know what the old people did that might be useful for you. Besides just being interesting for itself. Is there a book or something that, I mean, king lists and stuff like that are important as a framework, and that's the style of testing, do you know who shot Alexander Hamilton and when, but is there a book where we could learn that kind of stuff which we need for the test, but also what Hamilton was doing that didn't get finished because he died? That kind of stuff; a test like the GED is too stupid to handle questions like that.
Mr. Chernik: As a matter of fact, we have a choice of two CDs. Dr. Newman's college roommate is in American history and suggested them as something ``a bunch of bright kids'' could do well with. But not in two weeks, and marginally in six. Here's what I suggest. The book the sample test came out of is a cram guide. You're going to cram, and you're going to learn the way Charlie says is all wrong. And he's right, so you're also going to pick one or the other CD. And you'll have the advantage of having your president list down cold, rather than having to memorize it as you go along in the CD. But you can finish the history sequence as your schedule has room, after the GED is history. What I mean is, there's no deadline for finishing; you can start as soon as you finish some other lesson set.
Me: Your suggestion is very specific.
Mr. Chernik: Maybe you should tell the others what we concluded in our discussion yesterday.
Me: To quote Willie, I didn't say I wouldn't do it.
Willie: To quote me what? We're back.
Mr. Chernik: I wish, Cathy, that you wouldn't run around naked in the halls.
Cathy: Sorry, Mr. Chernik, but this is kid territory and I'm on official business, and my clothes, or at least my shirt, is on official business up a tree as a surveying target. The business is, Simba, the other group are enthusiastic about the project and they want to repeat the measurements this afternoon. After which I get my shirt back. I thought I should check with you first, but the idea is to give them the telescope now.
But it's my project! (I think, not say.) But...
Me: Answering Mr. Chernik's question, I was feeling bad because I felt I couldn't control my projects and lessons. The supervisors and the kids are supposed to be working together so everyone learns what they need to be adults, and that means we have to work with our supervisors choosing project topics, not just always have the supervisors give them to us. They do all the work and we feel frustrated, that's not right; we both should put into all our projects, you know, like how we kids organized the surveying. It's my project, I thought of it, but everyone contributed ideas how to make it work, and made measurements and all that. So everyone had fun, and everyone learned stuff I wouldn't have believed. Trigonometry, imagine! We should work with our supervisors like that. And as for the other group, I said to myself just now, it's my project and I want to keep it for myself. But I told you our goal, and I said against the goal. Artemis, tell them that it will work better if they read the lessons and do some practice surveying, like we did, before taking the telescope up on the hill. You could ask one of them to get your shirt, and then put it back up in the tree when they're ready.
Mr. Chernik rumples the fur on my neck, a frizzy rub, and Artemis gives me a big hug. I feel embarrassed at all the attention over an obvious correction of a misjudgment.
Mr. Chernik: Simba, that summary was good. The supervisors have agreed that we want to turn up your initiative, and turn down our initiative, in lesson management. But the GED study is really the worst topic for the new policy because we have to move fast and unnaturally. OK? Now since Willie and ``Artemis'' have joined us, we scored your tests. Kristin also turned one in. They were generally similar to what the lions did, which is very good except for history and government. We didn't ask you to take the GED, though, because we don't anticipate any legal problems when humans inspect humans. You did get a briefing about the issues, I assume.
Cathy: They told us. I think we're members of this group and we shouldn't be left out.
Willie: To quote Simba, what are the issues here? Why is it you didn't ask us? Is it extra work for you that you could do without? Or is it extra work for us, I mean the human kids, that we could skip if we want? Or will it mess up the lions' chances if we're included?
Mr. Chernik: The middle reason. The lions have to pass; you don't.
Willie: My dad told me about when he was in public school. The Mexican kids had turf wars and beat up the niggers. My mom's school was hardly better; underprivileged minorities need special classes that don't strain their feeble brains, you know. If I never see the inside of one of those places... The GED gets me that, and I want to take it. And it will make my parents so proud. I'm, like, a part of them, and when I'm strong and tough and smart as a lion, and when we run right through what adults think we can do, it's like a part of them is that good too. Trigonometry!
Mr. Chernik: Good for you. We welcome any human kids who want to take the test. But there are some things that will be lions only. You know that you don't take the test on the net; you have to be physically present in their building, and that means the general public are going to see the lion people go in and go out, and the examiners are going to spend two hours staring at them. We're going public, and we want to do it right. We plan to put on a dog and pony show that morning, whichever day we go, and we want lions only on the stage. Not even us supervisors.
Charlie: What are we going to do?! Let's say that again as a lion should: what are the goals, issues and action? Goal, people come to see us and get to know us. It has to happen eventually; we can't stay in our rooms forever. Issues, they'll ask questions. Do we have to let them feel us, or can we insist on no touch. How many will there be; we couldn't handle the whole state of Utah. Hey, what's the other group doing while we're on stage? You have to work out a sharing arrangement. Action...
Mr. Chernik: Good work, Charlie. We don't have all the answers yet, and we'll be consulting with you to negotiate some of them. The keyword is ``press conference''; don't expect any references under ``dog and pony show''. Here's an action item for all of you: watch a recent press conference by the President, on video, and see how he handles it. And as for scope, the humans physically present will be reporters. Most people will see you on video.
Leo: That will be interesting. May you live in interesting times.
Mr. Chernik: Yeah. Here's something to look forward to: you're going to meet the other group.
Adam: Hey, wait a minute, is that prudent? Of course I want to meet them, but I want a mate when I grow up, and I'm not going to trade that for one meeting now.
Mr. Lewis: That's the first thing we considered. Mating incompatibility is likely to develop if you have a real relationship with the other person; if they're effectively in the same group as you. For example, ignoring the interspecies problem, you couldn't mate with Cathy or Willie, nor they with each other or with you. One meeting isn't going to mess that up. We never let the two groups meet around here because if we do it once, then the same situation will repeat over the years, and then we have the groups stuck together. The press conference isn't going to repeat, not if we can help it.
Leo: I have a feeling that watching that video isn't the last work we'll do to get ready. Preparing for the press conference may take more work than cramming history. What's going to happen to the rest of our lessons?
Mr. Lewis: Remember what we said about initiative? You tell me, and then I'll make possibly pointed comments.
Leo: We bring some of them to a quick end. We abandon some; we can pick them up again when the storm is over. We keep as much as we have time for. We play less computer games. We make a list of what to dump and what to keep, and check it with you.
Mr. Lewis: Good analysis. But leave yourself time for fun and games, OK? This experience is going to be a big lesson for all of you, humans included, and the lesson is in surviving a shock from outside without losing your balance. I don't want you to get in the habit of taking on so much work that you warp your mind. Lazy, no; manic, no; balanced, yes, and you'll put out a large but finite amount of high quality work. Do you all understand what I'm trying to say?
I understand; and I think I might have been pushing a little too hard with the house project. Discussion is animated over lunch, but afterward I go to my room and politely discourage Leo, who wants to continue it. I need time to think.