Cool Stuff to Learn
February 5, 2010 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Learnable Cool Skills? I'm looking for either Gladwellesque stuff along the lines of Ekman's Facial Action Coding System for human emotion, or James Bond type stuff like that described in Cracked's '6 most badass skills you can learn in a week.'
posted by leotrotsky to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
Almost this exact question was asked previously here.
posted by rancidchickn at 10:33 AM on February 5, 2010

Learning the IPA is neat and surprisingly useful. Also, transcription, morse code, conversation analysis, and braille. Those are all linguistical things, but I tend to think linguistics is pretty badass.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:41 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Learn Chinese. Become a distance runner. Become proficient with a handgun at a shooting range. Learn how to speed read. Read the classic western cannon. Read the greeks. Read Shakespeare. Learn Spanish. Get really good at swimming and non-tank diving. Learn how to vert skate/BMX. Learn how to cook one really good breakfast dish, one really good lunch dish, and two really good dinners. Do a shitload of chinups. Force yourself to write for an hour a day. Learn how to play the stand-up bass and join a jazz quartet. Join a dodgeball league. Buy a cheap movie camera, learn it inside and out, and go film a documentary short. Learn some basic piano. Learn long-form journalism, pitch articles to niche magazines. Learn how to box. Learn how to weld, either for function or for art. Learn how to rock climb.
posted by Damn That Television at 10:44 AM on February 5, 2010 [10 favorites]

machining & welding.
posted by spaghetti at 10:49 AM on February 5, 2010

You should check out the "This American Life" episode about superpowers. Specifically the segment about "Zora". As i recall, this was a woman who as a child fantasized about being a superhero and made a long list of all the things that she would need to learn to become one.
posted by madmethods at 11:02 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding welding, and any trade or hobby that lends to usable art such as pottery, glassblowing, blacksmithing, soldering, woodworking, sewing, knitting, etc. Three dimensional creative problem solving is a valuable skill that will benefit you for life. But competitive eating or fire-breathing will really impress your friends. And learning the basics of tantric massage or reiki will be appreciated by your partner.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 11:13 AM on February 5, 2010

posted by everichon at 11:37 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been (slowly) engaged in a similar pursuit, and so far I'm pretty good at mending/tailoring my clothes, and have delved into leatherwork, and have volunteered in the lab of a community clinic for the past year. Next up really is "learn Chinese," followed by "learn phlebotomy" (dovetailing with "learn other lay healthcare worker skills").
posted by soviet sleepover at 11:52 AM on February 5, 2010

Learn how to tie knots, especially the bowline, sheet bend, and tautline / clove hitch
posted by kaizen at 11:58 AM on February 5, 2010

Best answer: FACS isn't nearly as interesting as Ekman's Microexpressions.

There are a lot of great Mentalists (magicians that focus on psychological type magic), including the amazing Derren Brown.

They learn all sorts of tricks about how the mind works to accomplish all sorts of seemingly miraculous stuff that's actually ... well 50% is just pure trickery, but 50% is actually based on reading people.

Check out some instructional books & dvds for some really mind blowingly cool stuff.
posted by MesoFilter at 12:01 PM on February 5, 2010

It takes a bit of memorization, but you could learn to be a Human Calendar.
posted by carsonb at 12:05 PM on February 5, 2010

Response by poster: There's actually an easy mnemonic for any calendar date for a given year.


above are the first occurring Sundays of each month for the year 2010

once you know the first Sunday, add 7s to get to the correct week, then increment to get to the proper date

example, what day is March 13th (my b-day), well, March 7 is a Sun + 6 = 13.
6 days after Sunday is Saturday.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:19 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

- Gestural communication, particularly sign language and military hand signals. Best used with a friend, of course, but cool to know anyway.
- The real NLP, not that subliminal sex stuff
- Seconding EMT or first responder-type medical interventions
- I would rack up as many licenses for different types of vehicles as I could
- Akido or some hard/soft martial art.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:36 PM on February 5, 2010

Learn how to grow things to eat and learn how to cook them.
posted by emeiji at 12:41 PM on February 5, 2010

Learn how to have lucid dreams. Some people can do it naturally, but for the rest of us it takes a few weeks of consistent work -- mainly writing down your dreams each morning to improve your recall and practicing "reality tests" at regular intervals during the day (so that you'll eventually do it out of habit in a dream and realize you're in one).

Some of the guides to it sound like new-agey astral projection-type hooey, but it's actually a real neurological phenomenon. I've had limited success with it before, but my sleep schedule is usually too erratic and I'm bad about doing the preparatory stuff consistently. But if you can develop the skill to competence, it's pretty amazing to be able to consciously experience your dreams instead of dimly remembering them the next morning for a few minutes.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:24 PM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

FACS is not really a useful skill, and what it's coding is Eckman's microexpressions. I know Eckman's gotten an awful lot of press lately what with his TV show and all, and while learning muscular control of one's own face is pretty badass, mostly what you do with FACS is watch long, boring videos of faces, frame by frame, carefully coding the movements of each muscular contraction. It is not a thing where all of a sudden you can just up and read people in actual conversation.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:27 AM on February 6, 2010

I've always thought it would be cool to learn how to do a cold reading.

Learn to use emacs.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 2:54 PM on February 8, 2010

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