East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Four weeks in February


As I mentioned, I’d love to spend the month of February learning a new skill. February will begin on a Monday, four clean weeks, 28 days in which I might be able to set aside the time needed to acquire a new competence. As a way to clean the rust off my brain, and also as an opportunity to enrich my life.

But what should I try and do?
Once again, I am open to suggestions, but in the meantime, let me write down a few simple rules, or a sort of wish list

  • I plan to learn something practical – there’s a lot of courses out there about the environment, and history, that look very interesting, but for this go I’d want something more hands-on
  • I need something I can manage to acquire in four weeks – and yes, one can get a smattering of a completely foreign language (say, Korean) in four weeks, but that’s not what I’m aiming for
  • I want to tackle something that will not cost me a lot of money to set up – I’ll use the occasional handbook, online free courses and video tutorials, and I’d like to keep things on the cheap as far as materials are concerned

And right now there’s five possible skills I might look into to chose from…

Juggling – I have a set of three juggling balls here on my shelf, and they have been there forever; it might be nice to finally give them a spin, so to speak. There’s plenty of online tutorials for three-balls juggling, it’s good for brain and coordination, and who knows, in a pinch I might just stand on a street corner and juggle for dinner.
This would be a completely free skill to acquire.

Playing the blues harp – again, I have here a brand new, ultra-cheap harmonica and there’s a lot of high-quality tutorials on Youtube. It would be fun (for me at least, less so for my brother that shares the house with me). The harmonica is a nice pocket musical instrument, cheap and versatile, and it’s not like I don’t have music theory books to back up my practice.
Once again, a cost-free skill to acquire, and manageable.
I also looked into picking up the ukulele, but a good uke would set me back eighty bucks or more – not today, but who knows, maybe someday…

Knitting – now this is a useful skill, and I might knit scarves for my friends, and caps and stuff. A ton of tutorials online, and I already have three handbooks – one for the basics, and two for patterns and special advanced techniques (books I got via Humble Bundle); and of course my grandmother had a huge bag of yarn and needles and stuff … but turns out my father gave it all away after my grandmother died. Damn.
So this skill would cost me about twenty bucks for starters ( a set of needles and a bunch of ultracheap yarn), plus a trip to the haberdasher’s shop in Nizza.

Terrariums – fascinating subject, and I have a huge pile of glass vases I could turn into mini-terrariums (or is it terraria?); once again, I’ve a couple of handbooks acquired in the past and while I’ve no idea of how I’d go about it… well, terraria (or -iums) are the sort of things that one could always sell on Etsy or something.

Knots: the cheapest of the cheap skills to acquire, all you need is a length of paracord and a simple handbook (most Boyscouts websites carry one); and it’s indeed the sort of thing that can turn handy in the house and the garden. Granted, it’s not the most exciting of the skills to get, but once again, it’s free, and it would certainly be the less time-intensive of these learning experiences.

So, it’s really an embarrassment of riches already, and I’ve yet three weeks to go. More ideas will come.
As things stand now, there’s a couple of the above ideas that I find particularly attractive.
And should it work, I can move on to the other skills throughout the year.
Sure beats watching daytime TV like a senile old man.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “Four weeks in February

  1. Knitting can be very relaxing, once you’ve learned to do it (rage inducing at the very beginning). But you need a teacher (or a good video tutorial). Manuals are not good to learn from zero imo. I have learned the basics a couple of years ago with my GF and we discovered very good youtube channels.

    You should be careful with the posture because it can be taxing on the back/shoulder/neck muscles.


    • Yes, I heard about the posture problems.
      And thanks for the suggestion – I should have asked my grandmother when she was alive … but she would probably feel shocked at the idea of a man knitting (which is nonsense, but she was old, and very… traditional).


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